Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reflections on My 2009 New Year's Resolutions

I looked back on the resolutions I made at this time last year, and though I did accomplish some of the goals, I definitely want to push myself further in 2010. Here is the breakdown:

  • Take one non-family trip in honor of my 25th birthday.--YES! I went to NYC for my birthday and had a really nice time.
  • Study as much as it takes to get good grades (minimum of a 'B') in my Spring 09 semester classes.--YES!
  • Exercise on a regular basis (gym, exercise DVD's, etc). I don't need to lose weight, but I'd like to build more muscle, flexibility, and upper body strength. I'm sure there are 10 year olds stronger than me at the moment... --1/2 I really didn't put as much energy into this goal as I could have, my exercise schedule is still very sporadic.


  • Get Emergency Fund up to $3,000.--YES I accomplished this resolution but now realize I could have made that number higher.
  • Pay off $3,000 in credit card debt.--YES I accomplished this resolution but I still have a credit card balance on my VISA card but I really plan to throw as much extra money on that as possible to pay it down by the close of 2010.
  • Stick to my budget!--NO I really fell off on this resolution half-way through the year and simpley tracked my spending through Mint after the fact. I'll try budgeting in a more exact manner again in 2010.
  • Shopping moratorium for first 6 months of the year--NO In all honesty, my shopping moratorium was three months, but I might try another moratorium in 2010.

STRETCH GOALS: (1) Get car fund up to $1,000.--NO, I decided that I'd contribute to my travel fund instead. (2) Start contributing to a Roth IRA.--YES I did start a ROTH IRA and now contribute $200 per month into it.


  • Get a mentor and communicate with this person on a regular basis.--NO
  • Get at least two freelance writing gigs.--1/2 I started blogging for the Washington Examiner (albeit sporadically...)
  • Write/submit one grant proposal for non-profit (because I'd like to turn this into a marketable skill anyway).--NO I did do a bit of research on grants, but I didn't manage to write a grant proposal. This goal got eclipsed by school work.

In all honesty my focus on my finances (and blogging) kind of ebbed away at some point mid-way through the year, and I feel like I'm just getting back on track. I definitely did do some unnecessary spending and didn't save or pay off nearly as much debt as I could have with more discipline. But I feel excited for the upcoming year and look forward to accomplishing alot of goals. I'm going to make a vision board over the holidays to visualize what I want to accomplish in 2010. I'll write my 2010 resolutions and post them tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Do you even make resolutions (I know some people don't), and if so, did you accomplish them?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cool Holiday Gifts: Echo Gloves

I absolutely love my iPhone which I have had for several months now, but I'm sure all iPhone and iPod Touch users can relate to having cold hands now that the cold weather (and snow!) has descended upon the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic area. But with these gloves, you can have warm fingers and manipulate your iPhone! This could be a nice gift for friends and family members that are iPhone/iPod Touch users, or you could just buy them for yourself if you have some money leftover after buying your holiday gifts...

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's In My Medicine Cabinet?

This post was inspired by a recent post from Fabulously Broke in the City. So what’s in my medicine cabinet?

Are there “Greener” Options Out There?
I’m one of those girls that loves make-up and beauty products, but going forward, I plan to be much more discerning in the way I purchase products. I want to monitor my spending and buy “greener” products with less chemicals. I’ve heard of both Tarte and Josie Maran touted as “greener” make-up options but haven’t yet purchased products from either company. Perhaps when it’s time to replace make-up I have already at some point next year. I love fragrances also, but many of them have loads of chemicals as well, so I’ll start looking for less chemicalized options for those as well.

My Favorite Moisturizer
Shea butter is the best moisturizer I have found out there for dry skin. Other lotions with alcohol as an ingredient leave my skin drier than it was to begin with. Shea is pretty solid and not a creamy consistency in its natural form, so you have to rub it together with your hands before applying, but if you have dry/sensitive skin, it works wonders.

Frequency of Purchases
With the exception of tinted moisturizer, mascara, eye liner and blush, I only purchase make-up about once a year. I try to stretch tinted moisturizer to last beyond six months. I make exceptions when I have to dress up for a special event and may purchase eye shadow to complement my outfit, but since I’ve built up a little collection of options, I haven’t done that recently. I try to have at least one make-up free day a week to let my skin breathe. When I feel like I’ve had a product too long, especially a products like eye shadow, eye liner or mascara, I toss it. I plan to use all of the random items I have accumulated (samples, purchases I probably shouldn’t have made in the first place) and only replace the items below:

Make – up/Beauty Products (Daily)
MAC Studio Tinted Moisturizer
Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick Bronzer
Aveda stick blush
Body spray perfume (usually from my local drug Store or Bath and Body Works)

Make – up/Beauty Products (Occasionally)
Almay liquid liner
Bare Escentals Mineral Foundation
Maybelline Mascara
MAC Concealer (I’ve never actually purchased this, I’ve been using a sample from MAC)
Eye Shadows (brown, beige, blue, purple, green)
Brow Pencil
Marc Jacobs Original Perfume

Aveeno face wash
Aveeno facial moisturizer with 15 SPF
Tooth paste/Tooth Brush
Shea butter (used mainly in colder months)
Lotion with Shea Butter (used mainly in warmer weather. Pure Shea Butter can be a sticky mess in the summer)
Hot Six Oil (used to moisterize and remove make-up)
Giovanni’s Invigorating Shampoo, Tea Tree Triple Treat
Aveda Dry Remedy Conditioner
Carol’s Daughter Hair Elixir
Carol’s Daughter Hair Butter
Coconut Oil/Olive Oil (I use both for cooking and moisturizing my hair)

It seems like a lot now that I’ve written it down…

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I don't love money, I just love the freedom it gives me

I had a really random conversation with a fellow Metro train rider last night after leaving a blogger happy hour that My Pretty Pennies described today . I came to the conclusion during this conversation that I don't love money, I just love the freedom that it gives me. My fellow Metro rider, whose name I didn't catch during our brief convo saw me reading a book about money and the law of attraction I found at my local library. Now before some of you roll your eyes about my reading choice, while I am a bit skeptical about some of the things in the book, I believe that the major theme; thinking positively to reach your goals or "attract" them to yourself is very valid.

Now back to the conversation, here is a paraphrase of the conversation:

Fellow Metro rider: "So do you believe in this stuff *pointing
to my book*, that you can attract money?"

Me: In a way, yes, I believe that having positive, affirmative thoughts are important in reaching goals including attracting money. But it also takes concerted effort, it's not magic."

Fellow Metro rider: "Do you want to attract money?"

Me: "I really want to attract what money offers, which is freedom. I'm not money-hungry, or obsessed with it. I want the freedom to pursue my dreams that being financially comfortable offers. It would also allow me to give back to others in some way.

Fellow Metro rider: "So money can bring happiness?

"I believe money can make the physical aspects of living easier and sometimes more fun. But happiness to me comes from personal fulfillment and is more so determined by emotions than material stuff."

Fellow Metro rider: You would never know that some people have money.

*Followed by a brief tangent about Warren Buffett and how unassuming he is despite his wealth.*

Me: "Well this is my stop. Nice talking to you! *Hand-shake*

Fellow Metro rider: "You too!"
I can say a lot of (good and bad) things about taking public transportation in DC, but I always meet interesting people. I once had a random conversation about the poet Rumi with a fellow rider who saw me reading the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have the feeling that if I had rode a while longer with fellow rider, he would have launched into some sales pitch about a product he was selling or something; people that start random conversations with me about wealth and money usually do, but I could be wrong, I'll never know...

Have you had any interesting (or random) conversations about money lately?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good customer service means a lot to me

I've worked several customer service jobs in me teen and young adult years, so good customer service means a lot to me. After working a string of retail jobs and seeing alternately how extremely kind and appallingly rude people can be, it makes me think twice about how I spend my money on services. Take for instance this past weekend. I set an appointment at a hair salon in my neighborhood that I had never patronized before. It was walking distance from my apartment so I was able to arrive exactly on time. When I got into the shop, no one greeted me and I sat for 10 minutes before I was acknowledged and was told that it would be another few minutes before someone would start on my hair. I continued to sit and thumbed though a magazine in the seating area. I sat for another 20 minutes and after someone else came AFTER me and was taken right away, I decided to just leave. I didn't need my hair done that badly to be mistreated and then pay my hard-earned money. So maybe the woman that came in after me was a regular and the stylist that was doing her hair was different from the person who I assumed was doing mine, but I still felt like the customer service was shoddy. I've been in shops where I've waited no more than 10 minutes before someone started my hair and they were very apologetic for keeping me waiting. I think I'll be going backto the Aveda Institute for my next hair appointment.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Slightly Belated December Goals

We're almost mid-way through the month so my monthly goals are a bit late, but better late than never:

  1. Complete my Christmas shopping and stay under budget. I haven't even started my shopping yet, but that doesn't faze me because I know for the most part what gifts I plan to purchase.
  2. Read at least one book about positive thinking and one book about investing. Since my fall semester has just ended, I don't have to feel guilty for reading for pleasure for a few weeks. I already have a Norman Vincent Peale book I'd like to read and I'll go to my local library to check out a book on investing. Some suggestions on good introductory books on investing would be appreciated!
  3. Take at least one dance or yoga class. I found my ancient tap shoes from high school and replaced my ballet shoes. I haven't taken either a ballet or tap class for about seven years which is far too long. But almost a decade of childhood dance training should come back to me right? I've also been meaning to try a yoga class.
  4. Set savings, debt repayment, investing goals for 2010. I want to refocus on my finances in 2010 and setting some reasonable but challenging goals for myself on the front is a step in the right direction. Like most people, a new year signifies a fresh start for me and I'm looking forward to it.

So how did I do on my November goals?

  1. Blog more regularly - FAIL. I've still got to work on this one. But I've got several ideas for the remainder of the year for this blog and my other one.
  2. Exercise 3 times per week - 1/2 PASS. I exercised somewhat but not 3 times per week as I planned. With my fall classes being over now, I hope to get back on track with exercising.
  3. Cook at least one new dish and one baked good - PASS. I made an Apple Crisp and Chicken Fried rice. The fried rice wasn't vegetarian like I originally intended, but I'm okay with that.
  4. Contribute to holiday gift fund - PASS. I haven't actually started shopping yet, but I set aside the planned amount of $200 to purchase my gifts.
  5. Learn some Photoshop basics - FAIL. I looked up some tutorials online, but didn't actually play around with Photoshop as I intended.
  6. Limit extraneous spending - PASS. I didn't partake in the November sales during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. But I did buy some household items though. I could do much better, but it's a start in the right direction.
  7. Finalize my Spring semester schedule - PASS. I registered for classes and there were approved. I'm pretty sure I won't change my schedule again.

Winterizing my apartment to save money

There are many aspects of the cold weather that I like... drinking copious amounts of hot tea, watching snow fall before it gets dirty from foot/car traffic, winter accessories... I could go on. But one thing I don't like about the cold weather months is how my energy significantly spikes as the temperature falls. To avoid getting sticker shock every month when I look at the energy usage on my Pepco (the name of the energy company here in DC) bill I do the following:

  • Seal my windows with plastic to prevent cold air from coming through the cracks. I absolutely love my apartment, but my windows are a bit drafty, so this is an easy way to prevent the heat from escaping.
  • Lay a towel down by the crack at my front door to prevent the cold air from sneaking in. After all, I'm not paying to heat the hallway! Maybe eventually I'll find a more stylish option to block the door draft, but for now a towel or old pillowcase work just fine.
  • Keep the heat temperature relatively low (no higher than 65 degrees) and just use a space heater to get the room a comfortable temperature. I also only need to heat one room at a time.
  • All year-round I try to only turn lights on in the room I'm in at that given time. I love light, but it's kind of silly and a waste of money (and energy) to have every light in my apartment blazing when I'm home.
I do use budget billing for my Pepco bill because I like knowing how much my payment will be each month, but if my usage spikes significantly, my monthly payment can be raised, so I really try to monitor my usage year-round. These small steps make me more comfortable indoors and help me to manage my energy bill.

Do you have small tricks you implement to winterize your home?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are today's students grasping math?

The leading story in education news today were the math results of a national test given to 4th and 8th grade students. The scores of many urban school districts are still dismally low, but my city (Washington, D.C.) saw slight gains. Though D.C. had slight gains, the scores for public school students were still below the national average and the national average are still dismal in my opinion. The test measures achievement on a scale of 0 to 500, with 249 considered "proficient" in fourth grade and 214 "basic." The national average was 239.

So what does this have to do with personal finance? If students can't do basic math, what hope do they have of being able to manage their own finances in the future? From managing money from part-time work, to choosing the right college, to avoiding the pitfalls of credit card debt; youth today face financial-related issues every day. Maybe making math more relatable by using real life personal financial examples will help today's students grasp math concepts that will help them succeed in the future and take tests effectively. Teachers in my opinion have one the most important yet difficult jobs today and I commend all of them, especially math teachers for educating youth. I only hope that the gains my city has seen on this one measure of academic performance is the first of many... Just food for thought for your Wednesday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tips for Selling Clothing at Clothing Exchange Stores

Reselling clothing has become even more popular in the down economy. It may also be a feasible option for raising money to do your holiday shopping without raiding your savings. Stores that that I've mentioned before on this blog like the Buffalo Exchange, which has locations in several cities are popular with both women and men that want clothing but aren’t concerned with buying items brand new. Clothing exchange stores typically give you cash for a percentage of what the item will be priced on the rack. In my experience at both the Philadelphia Buffalo Exchange location and the Brooklyn, New York location of Beacon’s Closet, I was given about 40% of the cash value of the items I sold. Purchasing used items can also mean saving money (if you spend wisely). I’ve personally found some very high quality clothing items in clothing exchange stores.

Here are a few tips I suggest for reselling clothing:

Launder and iron pieces before taking them in to resell. Presentation is key when trying to resell clothing. If you skirt is balled up and wrinkled, it probably won’t matter to the clothing seller that it's of good quality and the seller will be more likely to reject your item.

Only try to sell clothing from the current weather season. The stock is usually put right on the racks as it comes in in stores, so if you have a lovely sundress that you want to part with for some cash, December is not the ideal time of year to try and sell it.

Don’t bother trying to sell clothing or accessories that are poorly constructed or outdated. Don’t try to sell something you couldn’t imagine another person wanting.

Have realistic expectations. Things like stock levels, popular styles and other considerations can determine whether your items will be wanted from a clothing exchange store. Don’t take it personally if your items aren’t picked. If you still think your items are in good condition, donate them to charity. In the clothing exchange stores I’ve been to, you can leave items that you don’t want to keep to be picked up by organizations like charities that need clothing donations.

Selling or purchasing clothes and accessories from clothing exchanges and thrift stores can save you a bit of cash and is a “greener” way to get your shopping fix. It takes more usually patience and you may have to dig to find really nice items you love among others you don’t care for. Quality of clothing can also run the gamut, from really good, to poor. So check out stores like the Buffalo Exchange, Beacon’s Closet or Plato’s Closet in your area and bring in your items to sell if you have some items you would like to give a new home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Dream Christmas List

I feel truly blessed, there is absolutely nothing I need for Christmas. I have food, clothing, shelter, a loving family and great friendships in my life. But here are a few of the more unrealistic items (I'd never ask for in real life) on my dream wish list.

Is there anything on your dream list Christmas list (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa...) you'd ask for if money weren't a contraint?

Images:, Modcloth,,