Thursday, August 31, 2006

Last Post Before the Wedding and a Confession

Folks, This will be my last post before the wedding and honeymoon. I am pretty happy with my decision to iron my own wedding dress. I talked to a couple of places and the quotes I got to press my dress was between $45-$75. I borrowed my sister's iron and ironing board and spent about a total of 2 hours working on it. It looks fine. All of my friends were kind of scared that I'd ruin my dress. If I ended up doing that, my backup plan was to borrow my sister's dress. I am happy to say that there is no need.

Tomorrow we have the rehearsal and I have a low-key bachelorette party. On Saturday we have a BBQ. Then Sunday is the big day! We're not leaving for our honeymoon until Tuesday night.

My confession is . . . my fiance doesn't know about my blog. To my knowledge, no one I know in real life knows about this site. I am planning on telling him about it soon after we get married. I am a bit apprehensive about telling my fiance about my blog since thought it was weird that someone would blog about their financial life when I showed him the article in BusinessWeek (or was it Newsweek) about Jonathan.

Expect no posting for 3 weeks or so. Have a great labor day!

My Raise - The Percentage

Ok, so since I only received one comment to this post, John gets to know my raise percentage increase. It was about 12.5%.

This is a mid-year raise since I was promoted. We do performance reviews twice a year - one at mid-year and once at the end of the year. I expect to get another raise at the end of the year, hopefully with a similar percentage, but I doubt it. Almost everyone gets a raise at the end of the year. I know of colleagues who have only received a 3% increase with promotion, but their original salaries were greater than mine.

Half.Com really works

I posted 12 or so books for sale last week and I have already made 3 sales! As I mentioned here, now is a good time to sell your books, especially books that might be required for a class. All the books I listed last week were all from the same class I took in college. I think I spent a fortune on those books - at least I'm getting a little bit back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Raise

As I mentioned here, I am getting a raise and promotion, effective September 1, 2006. I just found out what the number is. Now to my loyal readers (if any of you are out there), would you rather know the dollar amount or the percentage of the increase? Please let me know by 9 a.m. August 31, 2006 Pacific time by commenting.

I think I am a bit underpaid. I detailed my lack of salary negotiation before starting my jobs as 2 of my largest financial mistakes. See my post here.

So while, I did get a pretty big percentage increase, I do not think the raise is that much dollar-wise.

Convenience Costs A Lot

I think most people know it's typically cheaper to buy a large box of something than to buy prepackaged snack packs (this isn't 100% true all the time, so I would still check the per ounce prices). What I mean is when you do not plan ahead, you end up spending more money.

For example this week, my fiance and I were working on our wedding programs at his house. Then I realized that I forgot the paper we were going to print the programs on at my house. My sister and her husband were coming over soon to help us work on the programs. So we had to go back to my house and get the paper. Unfortunately I do not have a printer and my fiance's house was too far away so we had to go to Kinko's. Total cost, about $25.

All the little things add up when you don't plan ahead - the afternoon snack when you're starving, dinners out because there's no food in the refrigerator.

My point is, plan ahead and save some money!

Start Buying Your Christmas Gifts Now

I, like most Americans, often wait until the last minute to buy Christmas gifts. This year I decided to try and do something differntly. I try to shop a little as the year goes by - especially now. I am on the lookout for items that I think my friends and family will want. I then buy them now, or sometime wait for them to go on sale. Then once they're home, I wrap them up.

I personally love to wrap presents, but I hate to do it when I have a gazillion other things to do. Buying gifts slowly gives me pleasure since I spending money on others and I get the joy of wrapping presents for them.

Of course, there are some gifts that are a better price during the holiday season (or even right after the holiday season). On those items, it might be better to wait for the big sales.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Made My First Sale at!!!

I was happy to check my email and see I sold a book for $18 on! This was a book I had purchased brand new about 4 years ago. I was one of the lowest listing price despite the book being in almost brand new condition since I was interested in getting it out the door. I'm excited about getting it sold!

If you have old textbooks or books that may be used for a class, this is the time to list them! New students will be interested in buying books in the next couple of weeks!

Moving Day went Well

I wish I could say that I am all moved into my new home, but not quite. My fiance and his parents came over with a borrowed pickup truck and their largest car in an attempt to move all of my stuff over to our new home. We made a valiant effort, but I do have a lot of stuff. I also have a lot of random consumable items that will be helpful in our new home, such as laundry stuff that my mother does not use.

We were able to get most of my stuff over. A few more pieces of furniture are going to be moved over such as: one more dresser, a desk chair, some bookcases.

Things we have already moved over: 1 Twin bed & boxspring, 1 large desk, 2 dressers, 1 nightstand, 2 large shelves, 1 lamp,and several boxes of books.

My room at home is much nicer with less furniture. It allowed me to rearrange my furniture for the first time since I left college. This made me value simplicity more.

After college, I moved a lot of my furniture from my apartment to my room at home since I still wanted to keep it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Lot of Exercise for my Credit Cards

This week has been a huge spending week. Last Sunday was the two week mark before the wedding, which meant a lot of payments were due. I have one main credit card that I use for my everyday purchases. I have some other credit cards, but I normally don't even carry those around with me. I put the rest of the tab for our reception on my regular credit card. The $8,000 charge was initially denied. My credit limit is $10,000 and I had already charged $1,500 for the month. Then I tried to have them put $5,000 on the card and it was denied again. I figured the credit card company thought someone had stolen my card. I can't remember what the largest item I had put on that card was, but it couldn't have been more than $1,000. I called the company and they did say they thought these charges were unauthorized. They removed the hold and I was able to charge the $8,000 to my credit card.

We also had to pay our photographer the a bulk of her fee. That was another $2,000. However since I was so close to the credit limit on my main card, I had to use another credit card. I decided to use my AMEX through work. I think that may have been against our policies, but I paid it off today, so there's no way the company would be liable for my charges.

We also need to make sure all of our credit cards are paid off before we embark on our honeymoon and they we don't charge too much on them while vacationing!

Hopefully my cards won't be getting too much exercise in the future.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I Have a Lot of Crap

I will be the first to admit that I am a pack rat and I keep many things I do not need. Being involved in the PF community has made me much more aware of the benefits of simplifying my life. I appreciate Seattle Simplicity and Stop Buying Crap.

In getting ready to move, I have realized how much stuff I have accumulated over the past twenty some years. Moving across the country forces you to minimize the amount of stuff you are willing to keep. However, having a mother who is willing to store your stuff allows you to accumulate even more. So even when I was living in New York, I had a ton of stuff here in California.

I keep many things because I think that I may need them in the future. I have already pared down my wardrobe to clothes that I like. I will admit that there are many clothes that I keep more for sentimental reasons than because I want to wear them. In addition, my frugality makes me think that someday when this or that wears out, I will want to wear that other item.

My mom is planning to sell her house in about 2-3 years. That means that all of my crap will have to be out of here, whether it finds a place in my new home or in someone else’s home.

I have a box of items that I want to sell, but not having a digital camera puts a damper on that. Once my fiancé and I move to SF, it should be easier to sell things off craigslist and I will have full access to his digital camera.

I really need to think about future non-consumable purchases (of course consumable purchases need to be thought about as well). I do not really need any more books. I have a lot of clothes. I do not think I could really give up buying clothes, but I am going to think about my purchases a lot more.

One thing I see myself buying stuff is with my rubber stamps and paper craft materials. This is a nice hobby, but I will have to set a strict budget for this.

How Much Should I Spend to Furnish my House?

After our wedding, my fiance and I will be moving into a house. A 3 bedroom house with a living room, dining room, and kitchen. We have both been living with our parents.

This is the furniture we are taking with us from our childhood homes:
Full size bed for our room
Twin bed for guest room
large dresser
2 or 3 small dressers (2 of them are part of a bedroom set for a girl)
1 nightstand
1 small desk
1 large desk
1 papasan chair
1 tall bookcase
1 short bookcase
1 desk chair
1 small tv (13")
1 large tv (27") , but really really old
1 TV stand
1 rug
2 lamps

Things we have gotten from other sources:
1 leather couch (free from a friend)
1 side table (on loan)
1 Dining room table & 4 chairs ($55 off craigslist)

Now we need to figure out what else we need and how much we want to spend. There is room in the kitchen and dining room for a table, but I don't think we need another table.

I think we need:
some lamps and/or lamp shades
coffee table
another chair (recliner type)

Other than that, I think we should be pretty set. We will end up needing lots of other small household items like extension cords, tools, wall decoration, cleaning supplies, etc.

Making this list has made me feel a lot better since I don't think we have anything big to buy. I think I will tell my fiance that we have a $500-$1000 budget on things for our new home (this includes the $55 we already spent on the dining room table). I will talk it over with him to come up with a solid number.

Things I Wish I Had Done Differently on my Wedding

I think it might be a little bit early to be posting on this since the wedding hasn't happened yet! However there are a few things I wish I had done differently or put more consideration into:

1. Hiring a wedding planner. A good planner is supposed to at the minimum, save you her comission. I think it might have been easier if I had hired one especially since I was so short on time. The main place she may have been able to save me money would be the reception venue.
2. Bought a used dress. I was thinking about wearing my sister's dress, but in the end, I decided that I wanted something different than what she had. There is a used dress store near my home, but I was so busy that I felt the need to order my dress before getting a chance to browse there.
3. Not paid $120 to have my dress made for my height. The dress is still too long by about an inch. I still need to decide if I have time to alter it (and if I want to spend the money).
4. Made stronger suggestions for different bridesmaid dresses. My ladies are going to look lovely, however, everyone had to get their dress altered. The other dresses we were considering were $70 more, but I think they would have been less trouble for everyone and they would have fit better. In the end, one friend's mom is altering 4 of the 6 dresses.
5. Reconsidered our wedding venue. It's really really beautiful, but it required a 200 person minimum. We could have been happy having a wedding with 150 people.
6. Had the wedding and reception at the same place. I think this would have made things easier logistically, but in the end, I wanted to get married in a church.

A Detailed Wedding Budget

Our Wedding Budget - Total Budget $25,000
Currently at: $24,048

Reception: $12,000
Church: $600
Pastor: TBD, probably $500 (friend's father)
Marriage License: $64
Total: $13,164

Clothing and Accessories
Bridal Gown: $840 (includes paying $120 to have gown made to my height, but it is still 1 inch too long)
Other Alterations: $25
Veil: $0, borrowing from sister
Hairpiece: $110
Jewelry (earrings only, already had necklace): $30
Shoes: $90
Wedding Bands: $2000
Hair & Makeup: $820
Tux Rental: $0 (free with a certain number of wedding party rentals)
Pre-wedding pampering: $100
Total: $4015

Cake: $410
Chair Covers: $550
Total: $960

Flowers: $100 (a florist friend is doing the flowers for free, so we are probably going to spend $100 to buy him a gift)
DJ: $400
Photography: $3650
Total: $4150

Invitations (we made our own)
Paper (for invitations, programs, save the date cards, thank you cards: $50
Ribbons $55
Envelopes: $30
Postage for Invitations: $140
Postage for Thank you cards : $65
Postage for Save the Date cards: gift from bridesmaid
Accessories to make invitations: $20
Total: $360

Gifts for Bridesmaids: $310
Gifts for Groomsmen: $250
Gifts for other ceremony participants: $270
Favors: $410
Total: $1240

Flower Girl Baskets (2): $14
Runner: $20
Guest Book: $0, made by sister
Paper for Pictures: $100 (we are going to have a digital camera printer so we can print pictures at the wedding to put into the guest book
Money Box $0, made by sister
Books and Magazines: $25
Total: $159

We saved money by:
1. Being really good friends with a florist. I've been friends with him for about 7 years. I would help him for free when he was busy while I was in college for 3 out of my 4 years (e.g. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, college graduations) and he always promised he would do my wedding flowers.
2. Not having a videographer. Two friends are going to tape it and then I'll see if I can get someone to edit it.
3. Driving ourselves during the wedding (the fiance and I had some disagreements about this, but I won).
4. Using a semi-professional DJ. He's done many weddings and other events, but it's not his main occupation.
5. Going to a Chinese Bakery to get our cake. We figure no one really cares about it.
6. Making our own invitations. I like doing paper crafts, so this was fun, but time consuming.
7. Having other people make us stuff. My sister made us a really nice guest book. To be honest, the materials alone probably cost about the same as a regular guest book, but ours is super nice.

Some items are still estimates, but this is pretty close to final. I'm sure some other small costs will come up, so we still might go over $25,000, but I'm trying my best to keep us under budget.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Money Rules

I read a lot of other personal finance blogs and I don't want to repeat what they say. However, here are some of my financial principles that I live by:

1. Never put anything on your credit card if you cannot pay it off that month.
2. Save as much money as you can.
3. Make all your savings automatic so you are not tempted to spend it.
4. Max out your Roth IRA as early in the year as possible.
5. Max out your 401K, if you can.
6. Do not be ashamed to live with your parents - it can save you a LOT of money.
7. Buy everything you can on sale. Become friendly with the sales staff and find out when your favorite stores have sales.
8. Do not buy something you do not need or will not use because it is on sale.
9. Open a high yield savings account for your emergency fund. Fund it with at least $5,000 or 3 months living expenses, whichever is higher.
10. Be willing to splurge once in a while. It's no fun to always be on a budget, even better, put the splurge in your budget.

There are many more rules, but ten is a nice and even number.

Gym Membership for Life

My fiancé and I had talked about getting new gym memberships. He currently has one to a gym that does not have a location near our new home in SF. I normally do not go to the gym or just use the one at the hotels when I travel. 24 Hour Fitness was the obvious choice for us, but we needed to know more information about the prices. 24 Hour is especially good for me since I travel, allowing me to use the gym while I am out in other parts of the country as well.

His friend had gotten a deal where he paid $750 for the first 3 years and $99/year thereafter. This type of membership obviously benefits someone who knows they will be going for a long time and the club benefits from those who get decide they are going to start working out all the time and then do not stick with it.

Yesterday my fiancé went to the gym with his friend and asked if they had any three-year specials. Here is the deal we received: $600 for the first 3 years and $49/year after that. In the first 3 years, that calculates out to be an average of $200/year and $17/month. In subsequent years, it’s only $4/month. Of course, the benefit for the club is they make their money upfront since we had to pay $600 for each of our memberships yesterday. My fiancé’s friend even thought about switching to the new deal since it would save him money in the long run (after more than 12 years), but he decided not to. We can use all 24 Hour Fitness gyms except for one or two really nice ones, which is fine by us.

That means no excuses from me that the gym is too expensive. It is now a sunk cost for us, so we better use it and enjoy it! It also means that 24 Hour needs to stay in business and we need to work out A LOT to decrease our cost per use.

Comparative monthly gym prices (note this might be out of date since it was 2 years ago when I was looking to join a gym and these gyms are mostly in NYC):

NYSC: $80 discounted all-clubs access

Reebok Sports Club in NYC: $180 - the NICEST gym I have ever been to. What other gym has a 40 foot rock climbing wall?

Equinox Fitness, mostly in NYC : $100

Monday, August 21, 2006

Money in the Mail

This past week has been a very fruitful one. I try to find different ways of making money, then I often forget that I'm supposed to receive something. On Saturday I received a $50 Amazon gift card for writing 50 reviews for InsiderPages in 2 weeks. It was a special SF Bay Area promotion. I'm not sure if they're still running it. It was pretty time consuming. They ran the promotion earlier and I wrote 2 reviews before giving up.

I also received a $103 voucher for the Microsoft class action lawsuit (I think this might be a California only thing). So that means if I provide $103 worth of receipts for any computer/printer related items, they will send me a refund.


I also received some very generous checks from my relatives as wedding gifts, but that's a separate topic.

Getting Married = New Budget

I've been thinking a lot about how my future husband and I are going to spend our money after we get married. He recently finished school and is still looking for a job. He's in a pretty specialized profession and we want to live in a specific area, so there are only a couple of places where he can work.

I anticipate our combined income to be somewhere between $110K and $150K. I know that's a pretty big range. I know I will be getting a raise and promotion in the first week of September, but I've been told that I won't find out the dollar amount until September, so I am adding my raise into the range.

I'll take the average and assume we will be making $130K. If that is the case, this is how I see our annual budget breakdown:

$30K 401Ks
$13K tithe
$22K taxes (25% on $87K)
$8K Roth IRA
$24K rent (rent should actually be a little bit less, but not much)
$18K misc monthly expenses (inc. utilities, food, gas, student loans etc)
$15K down payment

This brings me to the question - is it more important to max out our retirement savings or save for a downpayment? We already have about $75K saved for a downpayment (remember we live in the Bay Area, so we need quite a bit of $ - we only plan on renting for 1 year since we want to live in SF). I anticipate exiting the workforce, or at least working part-time while raising our kids, so I want to max out my retirement savings while I can. I also plan on living well into my 90's since I had 3 grandparents do that - my grandfather is almost 100!

We will have to figure this out once my fiance actually gets a job and we move into our new place and see what our actual monthly expenses are.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More Wedding Updates

It's been a long time since I posted since I've been so busy with wedding planning. Right now it looks like we might come in under budget, but I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch. Our budget is $25,000. We were able to save some money by: getting a wedding cake at a Chinese bakery ($410), not hiring a videographer (one of my friends is going to do it - we might get someone professional to edit it), and buying cheaper wedding rings than we had budgeted. Originally wedding rings was one place we had planned to splurge since it's something we plan to have for the rest of our lives. Our original budget for wedding rings was $3,000 and we ended up getting them for $2,000. Therefore, I think it'll be close, but I'm really trying to push Tony and me into saving money. My fiancé is great since he wants me to have the best, but he encourages me to spend more money! Last weekend, I was picking up a hair clip and then I decided to try on veils. I expected them to be about $150, but they ended up being $75. I was able to stay strong since I knew I had my sister's veil. I liked the veil at the store better, but I wanted to sentimentality of wearing her veil.

We are also having a rehearsal dinner and a pre-wedding BBQ. I am not counting the expenses for those items as part of our wedding budget, but maybe I should. If I counted those expenses, we'd definitely be over $25K.

Since I will be working from home next week, I should get a chance to post more. But expect a 3 week hiatus from the last week of August to mid September as I finish up wedding planning, participate in the wedding, and go on our honeymoon. We're going to Fiji (that is also not part of our $25K budget). If we include the wedding, rehearsal dinner, BBQ, and honeymoon we will probably spend around $32K.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I found $50 (sort of)

Several months ago, my healthcare provider Cinga offered us $50 for doing an online health profile. I did it and promptly forgot about it. Then about a month ago, I was reviewing my pay statements and I saw that I had $50 of imputed income, which I decided was from the health survey. However, I had not seen any money. Well it turns out that they sent the check to my sister's house (I stay there part time and at my mom's part time). It's basically like a free $50 that I found. I am happy about that!