Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Random (Mostly) Personal Financial Thoughts

  • I am kind of bummed that I missed my middle school's (yes, middle school) informal reunion/happy hour last Friday. But I couldn't rationalize spending the money to travel to my hometown when I know I'll be home for Labor Day. It looked like it was a lot of fun from pics posted on Facebook though...
  • With the exception of a few tops and colorful tights, I'm done fall clothing shopping. I'm getting a lot of inspiration on how to wear stuff I already have from cruising my favorite style blogs on the Internet.
  • I'm going to start saving $50 more per month in my emergency fund, just because I would feel comfortable with having more saved than I currently do. I believe I was aiming kind of low with my annual goal.
  • I'm going to try my hand at teaching myself to sew before I spend money on lessons. I cringe everytime I have to take a piece of clothing the Cleaners to get tailored, the cost adds up. I'm currently investigating sewing machine options, any suggestions would be appreciated!
  • I've been ruminating on purchasing tickets for a concert this fall, I think I'm going to just go ahead and do it, because I believe the artist I want to see is worth it.

Textbooks don't have to cost a lot

Well, my little summer vacation is over and it's back to graduate school for me. I don't really mind the school work (much), but I always dread buying textbooks because they are so expensive! I got a bit of sticker shock when I checked the price of the textbook for my class that starts this week. The book was $232.00 brand new in my school's bookstore! I simply could not see myself spending that much money on a book I would probably use very little after I complete the class in December.

I checked Amazon and; the usual places where I purchase used textbooks, but I was still hesitant to spend $60 which was the cheapest price I could find for this particular book. I decided that I would check out this book rental website called I heard about from classmates and also read about in the newspaper this summer. You can also sell used books to Chegg and receive payment for them. Chegg plants a tree for every book donated. So not only are you saving money, you're 'being green' at the same time.

I found the book I was looking for on the site am renting it for the semester for $19.99! That sure beats buying it brand new for as much as I sometimes spend on food in a month! This site was around when I was in college, but I'd never heard of it back then (I could have saved SO much money...). If you are currently a student or know students and haven't heard of the site like me, check it out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If you can't 'remix' it, don't buy it

'Remix' is a term that fashion/style bloggers use to show they are wearing a piece of clothing in a different way than it's original intent. This could mean wearing a skirt as a shirt or simply wearing a piece of clothing with different tops or accessories than you do normally. I have as many fashion/style blogs in my Google Reader as I do personal finance blogs; I love fashion/style and personal finance equally. But going out and spending money on new clothing all the time does not fit my budget contraints, and I know I'm not the only one! My new clothing purchase rule is that: If I can't 'remix' an item at least four ways, I won't be purchasing it. This can also be a budget-friendly way of shopping, because it forces you to really think about your purchases and how they fit into your wardrobe. Shopping in thrift stores or clothing exchanges (like Buffalo Exchange if they are in your area) for big ticket clothing items can make your clothing budget stretch even further.

I've found several instances over the course of the summer just when I've thought I don't have anything to wear, I've been to inspired to wear something I already own in a new way by looking at how other people on the web create their outfits. This was especially helpful when I banned myself from buying new clothing in July.

Here are a few stylish ladies I've stumbled upon in my web surfing that are great at wardrobe 'remixing' and inspire me all the time:

And if you like taking pics of your outfits (like me) to show how you 'remix', here are a few style/fashion communities:

Here's to looking stylish on a budget!

Unexpected windfalls are fantastic!

My week was brightened unexpectedly by notice from my organization that we would be receiving bonus checks in thanks for the entire office's hard work! I know how easy it would be for me to go out and spend this money, but I've already decided that I'm going to save the whole thing. Half of my bonus will go to my emergency fund and the other half will go to my travel fund which is basically non-existent at the moment.

This lovely windfall makes the goal of paying for airfare for my international birthday trip (in March 2010) in the early fall more attainable. It would be great if I could start a tradition of going on one nice trip annually to some place I've never been. I think with proper planning (or saving to be specific), it's possible.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Living in the moment

Do any other twenty-somethings have a difficult time living in the moment and instead of focusing on the next big goal? I do! Always at the edge of my mind are:
  • The day when I can afford buy my own house (more specifically, condo)
  • The day when I complete my graduate degree
  • The day when I pay off ALL of my student loans
  • The day when I have one year of living expenses saved up
  • The day when I meet less important savings goals like saving up for my first car (yes, I've been out of college three years now and still haven't yet gotten a car-it's a want, not a need for my current lifestyle)
  • The day when I can afford to take an international trip on a whim
  • The day when I get married
  • The day when I start my own family
  • The day when I can afford to retire
  • The day when I publish a novel
  • I could go on and and on....
But the journey is sometimes just as important as the destination, and I am trying to remember that instead of focusing on the "next big thing." There are some great things about the point I am in my life right now and it's time for me to take a breath and just...enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Random (Mostly Financial) Thoughts

  • Home Ownership - I’ve been doing research for the past several weeks on home ownership in my area. I’ve gone to some workshops for some first time homebuyers programs and actually qualified for an FHA loan where I’d only have to put 3.5% down which is reasonable for the amount of mortgage I qualified for. BUT, I most likely could not afford to live in DC and would probably have to live somewhere else in the DC Metro area (NOVA or MD). I am a city girl through and through and don’t want to live anywhere else except DC unless I’m moving to an entirely different area. I love the neighborhood I currently live but am a long way off from being able to afford a home there. Purchasing a home at this time would also wipe out all of my savings which probably is not the smartest idea anyway. So, at this time in my life, though I could stretch to make it happen, home ownership still looks to be a few years off for me. Oh well…
  • Short-term Travel – I’d like to take a day-trip to the beach (not sure which one yet) and a day-trip to NYC before the summer ends. Both should be relatively inexpensive outside of travel costs, but I’ll have to make a budget for both.
  • Long-term Travel – I mentioned this before, but I really want to go on an international trip for my next birthday, and want to pay for my airfare by the early fall because the prices are very low right now but will probably start creeping back up soon. I also still have to renew my passport which is a summer goal, so I need to do it ASAP or else I won’t be going anywhere outside of the U.S.
  • Professional Development- I know am still in grad school, but I’ve already eyed a certificate program that I’d like to do to expand my skills. It could also be a side-hustle skill to bring in more income. I won’t be doing this until I complete graduate school in 2010, but I want to start looking at the cost so I can save up and pay out of pocket.
  • Side-projects – I need to step up my work on various side projects (blogging for one, I’ve been a slacker lately) I’ve either started or have been thinking about, I’ve been too complacent lately about where I am. This lady inspires me to work harder to reach my potential and I told her so on Twitter yesterday ; )
  • Other - I know what my next big goal is and though it’s not necessarily cost-effective, I believe it will make me happy. It’s a while off, so I won’t go into detail yet. I started a vision board for this goal recently and need to start making actionable steps toward it instead of just thinking about it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Being petite can be a good thing when clothing shopping

I don't really like shopping, but I do love clothing and style. I always feel more confident when I like what I'm wearing. This does not always mean buying something new, but wearing a favorite clothing item that makes me feel good. I focus more on quality rather than quality because of budget contraints, but I do add a few things to my wardrobe every season. And I never invest too much in trends; I love floral prints as much of the next person, but how many floral printed dresses or skirts does one person need? I suspect less than fashion magazines would lead you to think.

Being short and on the petite side, I have a hard time buying certain items I like because of fit. Coats, jackets and pants are particularly difficult. It's why I wear pants that are three, four and five years old because it's such a pain to find pants that fit well without any alteration. I am a dress or skirt-wearing person unless it's cold outside for this same reason. I am a stickler for fit because I hate nothing more than looking like I'm drowning in my clothes because they are too large or fit incorrectly. Learning to sew which is a long-term goal will help me to spend less for tailoring, but until this happens I have one short cut. I shop in the kids section for coats, jackets and blazers to ensure they fit well.

This only works when clothing doesn't have juvenile embelishments like embroidery or anything too shiny; but it works for me most of the time. My latest aquisition that was a blazer from the boys section of Macy's which looks a bit like this one, but mine is navy. So there goes my shopping budget for the month, but a blazer will carry me through the frigid air conditioning that leaves me shivering in almost all public places this time of year to the fall and winter months. I've learned to make my size work for me and still maintain my own sense of personal style. I also spend a little less money on my clothes than people expect because children's clothing is usually cheaper!

Do you have any shopping tricks to use your size to your advantage?