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Archive for January, 2009

Tracking spending - January results

January 31st, 2009 at 02:31 am

rent $951.00
student loan $141.00
electric bill $62.71
gas bills $13.14
groceries $292.82
household supplies (bounty, bulbs, etc.) $28.94
hygene (toothpaste, shaving, etc.) $6.98
laundry $0.00
Medical/dental $81.79
dry cleaning $0.00
pet food/litter, supplies $2.28
car insurance $240.00
gasoline $198.24
tolls $310.33
tickets/fines $75.00
car maintenance $68.23
car repairs $0.00
parking meter $8.00
NECESSITIES TO US (won't give up unless emergency):
triple play $149.72
Gifts and things for family (not ourselves) $470.10
grooming (haircuts, skincare, make-up) $111.18
game subscription $40.00
all food and drinks at work $275.21
clothing $463.99
house other (linens, utensils, decor etc.) $120.17
eating out $551.32
alcohol $260.05
Starbucks $9.55
skiing/weekend getaway $1,145.96
savings ROTH $300
savings non-retirement $800


And I tried to spend less. I cooked more, I fought myself not to buy more. A lot of effort for few hundred dollars.

So today I withdrew $800 walked over to my other bank and deposited what I managed to save into my savings account. I will try harder next month, challenging myself to do better than this.

Of course it is in contract! what was I hoping for! :(

January 29th, 2009 at 03:01 am

I saw this place and I could not believe it. I never saw a deal this good.

It had a yard!
I guarantee you, the square footage included the yard, so it is probably only 650sf internal, but still for that price with the yard and a kitchen area that big... it was the hottest deal I've ever seen in Manhattan.

So I emailed the realtor asking to see it 2 days ago and was imagining myself there ever since. Today, after still not hearing anything back I called the realtor and found out it is in contract. (he did not bother to even send a one-liner in response to my inquiry).

So I feel disappointed again. Any time I see anything nice it is instantly in contract and I feel like never even having a shot.

Where is that recession everyone is talking about?

Why do most people even need coats?

January 28th, 2009 at 10:43 pm

I wondered this a little today as I was walking in the freezing slush (30 minutes of my daily commute is by foot - to and from the subway).

I remembered our recent vacation in VT.
I assume that outside major cities it is the same.

People there park right outside their houses, there is parking right outside the stores, restaurants, there is parking right outside their work. So at most they have to walk 1/2-1 block to and from their car. Why do you even need a coat or warm clothing for that (I have not bothered putting it on except to ski - and it was cold and snowy. But since you go everywhere by car, what does it matter? You don't get cold in 1 minute if you are coming from warmth.

In metro areas where you walk everywhere, even if you have a car you go to the grocery store, to dry cleaners and almost everywhere by foot. You are in the cold and wind for prolonged periods of time.

So other than shoveling snow and winter sports for which ski jacket is sufficient, I wonder why do people who live in car oriented areas (most of the US) need all this winter stuff such as gloves, coats, hats...

I am sure I'm missing something, just curious what it is.

Luxuries that others take for granted.

January 25th, 2009 at 05:23 am

For anyone who thinks that my vacations and entertainment expenses are extravagant, here is another way to look at our lifestyle.

While we can afford things that others may not, I cannot afford things that many take for granted. Here are some of them:

A yard. Any yard, even 8x8' is a luxury. Or a balcony, a terrace... any outdoor space at all.

A tree outside the window.

Reserved parking space near your residence.

Commute of less than 3 hours a day. People who commute less than that and complain drive me crazy.

More than one bathroom in the apartment - amazing luxury! - not even friends with over million dollars in the bank have that. But people outside NYC almost expect it. "I have kids so we couldn't make it with one bathroom." Yes, you could, it is just not as much fun. But second bathroom is a luxury, not a basic need.

A kitchen that could fit a dining table over 31" in diameter. People don't appreciate it. New Yorkers understand. Today I served brunch to 5 people on that table and it was completely normal for everyone, as their apartments are similar.

A walk-in closet - ohhhhhhh.

A washer and a dryer!

And in general - SPACE. 800sf would be fine with us even if we had a baby. 1000sf would make me completely happy. 1200sf would make me feel like a queen. (in the city, that is).

So if I was not spending 20K a year on getaways and was saving the money instead, it would not bring me much closer to owning an 800sf co-op at ($1,000-$1,400 per square foot with 1k+ monthly maintenance on top of that.) Neither would few thousand dollars a year spend on eating out. So I max out retirement, but don't feel all that hopeful about homeownership and just live entertainment rich life. What else am I to do?

But no, I don't want to move from NYC. So I guess I am not willing to give up the life I have now for house bliss and these luxuries. But I just wanted to remind people that these are luxuries that they are lucky to enjoy and not necessities. That people can adjust to live without them. I think a lot of these things are taken for granted by those who have them.

Yes! I got a super hot deal on alcohol!

January 22nd, 2009 at 05:15 pm

It was a rare opportunity and I jumped on it!

I have a diplomat friend who is entitled to order liquor tax free though a special channel. He was ordering again and agreed to order some for me too.

Prices were amazing - like Contreau is $15 for a 700ml bottle (I pay $35 at the store - I love margaritas) Grand Marnier is $25 per liter, 1 liter of Absolute vodka - $10...

So I stocked up $160 worth. Unfortunately the selection is very limited so I still will have to buy some stuff in the store to make cocktails I like. But overall it will be much cheaper. And unlike food, spirits don't go bad/expire so I can take my sweet time finishing them.

I love getting hot deals. And brand name liquors never go on much of a sale - the most I see is a $3-$4 difference. So I am very pleased with myself.

4 day weekend leads to insane spending - when away from home mindset shifts

January 21st, 2009 at 04:56 pm

I knew what we bought, I kept track... But when I clicked the "sum" button in excel - it was a shock.

We went away for a 4 day weekend. Not a big deal right? But because I was tracking expenses it is starting to feel differently.

So we spend one day with our friends in Catskills and 3 days in Vermont. We only had to pay for 2 days of hotel. Yet our expenses were huge! Individually they seemed reasonable, but when added up it was a surprisingly high number, much more than I estimated.

Lunch DH $12
lunch me $4
dinner (on the way to Catskills after work) $51.71

rite aid (water, toothbrushes, hand warmers) $22.69
organic food store (paid for our host) $7.38
RL $190 (I know, I am horrible)

lunch on the way to Vermont $29.5
ski googles (I scrached mine last season) $134.77
ski jacket for DH (Killy - gorgeous, and he never had one - he was skiing in his colombia regualr jacket) $326
woodcraft store $10.06
car ice scraper with brush $11.23
Motel $92.65
gas $22.05
dinner $68.67
ann taylor $53.81
rite aid (water, hair bands) $6.29
coffee while driving $8

breakfast $33
lift tickets Bromely(special deal) $78
beer at ski lodge $14
dinner $51
hotel $134
rite aid $8

breakfast $31
theory $118
gas $14.84
lift tickets - Stratton $84
dinner $48.79
3 cases of Vermont local beers to take home $43.62

Total: $1,709.06

And it was not even a vacation - just a long weekend!

I think something happens in your brain and it is just so much easier to spend money when you are away. It feels different. You are relaxed. Everything around is cheaper, so you buy more of it...

I want to continue to ski and enjoy getaways, I just don't want to spend as much, to have my cake and eat it too. Frown

Having trouble classifying my expenses

January 15th, 2009 at 04:13 am

Now I have all these neat categories but sometimes it is not clear where a particular expense should be recorded.

For example, when we are eating out and order drinks with dinner, should it go under "alcohol" or under "eating out"? I am putting it under eating out, because it is simpler than trying to separate it, even though it could constitute 1/3 or more of the meal cost.

But if we are eating out because we are on a 4 day ski weekend in VT, does it go under eating out or under skiing? And should the hotel room go under "vacation" or "weekends away" or "skiing". If it not for skiing we would not be in that hotel room or eating that meal out.

I went to Papyrus and got gorgeous christmas wrapping paper and some other holiday stuff at 70% off - to use for next year. (They have really nice stuff that is too expensive at a regular price but perfect at 70% off) Under which category do I write this down?

Maybe I am obsessing about it too much Smile Just want to do it right.

I am STUCK with a Wii.

January 13th, 2009 at 05:07 pm

A while ago, when Wiis were hard to get, I stumbled at them being delivered to Toys R Us and bought 2. One for us, one for sale on Ebay.

The one for sale on ebay was bought by someone who asked for it to be shipped to the Philippines. (even though in my auction I specified I won't ship Wii internationally).

I checked out the rates for insured shipping to Philippines and they were astronomical. Long story short, the buyer never paid, I did not follow up or kept on top of things so I still got charged by ebay for the auction.

Bittered by the whole ebay experience I did not list it again and just forgot about it for a while. I missed the deadline to return it to the store.
(all my fault). I should have known my personality and not have attempted this in the first place.

So now I have an extra new Wii that I don't know how to get rid of. Even at retail or slightly below retail price.

I am kicking myself Frown

Returned a sweater, got a dress - no money spent.

January 10th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I returned a sweater that was lovely - fabric and design were great, but it was cut weirdly (they made it way too big in the stomach area) and it just did not sit on me right.

So I ordered this sweater dress(wool/cashmere blend) and some beautiful dress socks for DH.

I intend to wear it to work in the same way - with a white shirt(or a blue one, just one shade darker than the blog background), a tie(I bought some feminine smaller ties in asia once), and probably boots.

My total came to -$3.82 refund. So I am still keeping to my goal of not buying any new clothing this month. (I paid for the sweater over a month ago).

Lunches at work - our solution! Cheaper than bought and better than made.

January 9th, 2009 at 02:49 am

I never have time to make my lunch, but I am tired of everything I can buy - and it is expensive.

For the last few weeks we have come up with a new great arrangement in our office.

I have a co-worker who is an excellent cook and loves to do it. Eventually, a toaster oven, a panini grill, a microwave and the latest addition - an electric
skillet have made their way to the tiny kitchenette area.

With very basic utensils and no stove she can make amazing things in 20 minutes.
Here are some pictures of our office-made lunches:

Grilled salmon

Chicken with mango salsa and sweet potato

Crab cakes

Fettuccine alfredo (today's lunch - it was so delicious! oh, and we got real plates now)

We have a gourmet supermarket a block away. We all pitch in for the ingredients and it to anywhere from $3-$7.
A bought lunch is $8-$10 from a deli for a sandwich or salad or takeout.

This is cheaper, healthier, tastier, more varied, freshly made and hot!

Staying in a cheap motel to save money

January 8th, 2009 at 09:50 pm

We are going away for 4 days of skiing on MLK weekend. I am taking 2 days off and DH gets Mon. off so he only needs to take 1.

These things are quite expensive on a major holidays. So for the first time ever I am going to stay in a cheap motel!
B&Bs, hotels, VRBO and homeaway listings(that have cleaning fees added in).... their prices are quite high!

I was expecting better deals considering the recession.

There is plenty of availability, but prices are just not dropping, all the places insist on charging "holiday" rate and don't want to separate nights...

So I found the cheapest motel - $83 a night plus tax (also holiday price, but at least not $250-$300+ like a nicer B&B)
It is a pet friendly motel (I hope I won't come back with flees). Now I love pets, I just don't have that much faith in underpaid motel cleaning staff and pet owners I don't know.
Ok, maybe I do worry too much - but as I said, it is the first time.

On the bright side for our last night I found a normal hotel at a very good deal - this hotel for $120(this includes "resort fee") plus 9% tax.
If I could find other days under $250(my arbitrary ceiling for hotel room nights) I would gladly stay there, but.... it is a holiday.

I want to save money - but I don't want to sit at home or walk in the park. I want to ski, be active, enjoy myself, have nice food....
So I am planning my trip to get the things that are important to me and to save on things that are a little bit less important. I'll see how it goes.

$60 saved today - first challenge money of the year

January 6th, 2009 at 05:33 am

My aunt has a close friend visiting from Canada. She is a very warm friendly person who quickly made friends with everyone in my family. My mom showed her around NY and they quickly became friends.

Anyway, she is a stylist and she insisted giving us all haircuts(she even brought all her equipment with her!)
So DH and I got our great professional haircuts at home for free this month. So $60 to the challenge - I know these haircuts are more expensive than that, but I am being very conservative.