Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be back August 4th!

I’ll be wed on July 27, 2008 and then we will be on our honeymoon in Jamaica!

While this is, by far, the most expensive trip we’ve been on as a couple; we found ways to save money even on our honeymoon.

We booked our trip during the green season of Jamaica (which is also a euphemism for hurricane season- so please keep us in your thoughts!) which is much cheaper than high season.

We also booked during a 30% off special months ago.

But by far the biggest cost saver for this honeymoon is:
Our honeymoon registry!

Yes, we adore Crate and Barrel, but we already have two apartments worth of stuff in our current apartment. So, we have been incredibly grateful to the people who have already contributed over $1,500 towards our honeymoon!

While it took some cajoling to get my parents to sign on, and a few raised eyebrows to ignore; the step from people giving us gift cards to C&B to giving us a gift card for our honeymoon wasn’t the leap we expected it to be.

How do people feel about honeymoon registries?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Going to the chapel of thrifty love

Wow- it’s been a whirl wind last week. I had a great time with all the girls this past weekend, and my fiancé and I have been practicing our dancing. With so many last minute details to look over (cancelations meant new table arrangements, who knew signs could take so long to make?, we broke an electric razor and our digital camera) it hasn’t been an easy or cheap (tiny airline approved bottles=very expensive toothpaste per ounce) experience.

While my parents have been overly generous by paying for the wedding, we did try to be prudent with our spending. Here are some of the ways we tried to wrangle in the budget:

I picked three areas I wanted to spend the most money on:
location, food, and photography
All the other areas (flowers, paper goods, favors) we wheeled and dealed with vendors to get bare bones prices.

We booked my top location on a Sunday, to save on price (and it was the only day open for a year…)

We loved our caterer, and decided to go with a lunch to save money. At lunch time people only need a salad and a main course, no additional desserts beyond the cake, and drink less alcohol (in fact we only have wine and beer which we purchased ourselves). Since the lunch is served, we don’t have to pay for leftover wasted buffet food.

We booked a top notch photographer and an assistant while only paying half the fee by agreeing to edit and organize my own album using his digital negatives (I use to be a photo editor in the year 2000).

I made our invitations through VistaPrint, an online printing service, by creating my own invitation, postcard response card (less postage to furnish), and envelope. It was completely personalized and professional without being ecologically wasteful (who really needs all those extra envelopes and papers?).

Our florist knew how to stretch our flower budget and made some smart suggestions:
Using ceremony decorations at the cocktail tables, tucking big glossy leaves under our arrangements so that we could use fewer flowers (without having ugly filler flowers), and allowing us to make our own vases (birch bark wrapped mason jars) saved us from a $15+ per vase charge.

The favors are small silver frames (on clearance at an online store) that also hold the escort card (a free blank business card courtesy of Vista Print on which we typed each name). Later we intend to send a wedding photo with our thank you card that they can put it in this frame.

We are also bringing in some of our own decorations: family photos for a hutch in the cake area, a branch turned into a photo tree display, wooden monograms made by my Dad carved into our initials, and lots of moss! These items where cheap to bring in and I will be able to have in our home as decorative items that I will cherish forever.

These are just a few of the things that my family and I have thought up as cost saving measures over this last year. What are some of yours?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Girls’ weekend!

I’m excited to announce that I got selected for my first Carnival! It was put on by ThisWritersWallet and you can view it at:

I’ve also realized that since I’ve never been involved in one of these things, that I’m not sure if it’s an honor, or if it’s like little league where everyone gets a participation trophy… oh well. Either way, I’m always excited that people actually read what I write!

Beyond that, I’m leaving for my long Girls Weekend. We’re heading to a beach shack on the central coast for lots of sun, fun, and wine. I’m excited about getting away from wedding planning and having an old fashion sleep-over with a handful of my favorite friends. I’ll probably do a couple posts early next week, but then I’ll be gone for my wedding and honeymoon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eyes on the money

I’ve been utilizing my newly acquired health insurance (regular physical- check!) and yesterday I went to the eye doctor. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten new contacts or glasses in over 4 years so I was certainly due. After my time with the doctor it was time to sit down with the stern lady in black who explains to you your bill.

Here was mine:
$10 co-pay
$65 not coverage by insurance for tests
$160 not coverage by insurance for 6 months of contacts
Total: $235

Thank goodness they take CC, because I only keep $200 in my checking account!

While we have the money to pay this, I was wondering at what point it would be more beneficial to have Lasik. While I would want to accomplish my other financial goals first, I have to wonder if the surgery was successful, how long would it take to pay it off in contacts?

Figuring that Lasik is about $3000, and my contacts cost me $320 a year, it would take a little over 9 years for the costs to even out. While the convenience is worth well beyond that (I’m almost blind- I can’t see faces at about three feet) it still doesn’t make it fiscally possible.

How about you? Anyone else had or is considering this surgery?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finally Stimulated!

It finally arrived- yes, I am one of the last Americans ever to receive their stimulus check!

While I had contemplated what to do with it, and it had been hard, I decided to put it in my ROTH. I’m trying to reach $3K so that I can get into a new fund and further diversify my portfolio with some value funds. That seemed like a better idea than paying down my student loans because in the end, I can afford to keep paying $115 a month for the loan. However, it could cost my retirement portfolio much more over the next 40 years if the portfolio is not well balanced.

What do people think of this decision?

His and Her’s (and Our’s)

As you may recall my fiancé and I were having issues trying to reconcile plans for our financial future together. And, I’m happy to report, we have come to an initial plan!

Right now, without me working, we’re not able to meet these goals. However, after the wedding it’s either a job at a community college (all my applications are out right now!!!) or substitute teaching in the local school district. Consequently, once August comes, I’ll be gainfully employed once again.

So… once we’re both working here is the plan:

As a couple:
$100k for a down payment on a home

As individuals:
EACH $14k in individual money-market accounts for emergencies (together this is a 6 month cushion)

Continue his own savings, investments, and fun money

$3K for this year’s ROTH
$15K for a new car
The rest is fun money

I’ve got some of these goals posted in my sidebar to keep them- literally in my face- reminding me of them.

His salary will continue to pay our living expenses (it’s all automatically deducted from his accounts already- why change it?). Then we take my checks and divide them into three for our savings and investments: third money for him, a third for our joint accounts, and a third for my accounts.

It’s kind of complicated, but it was the best arrangement that we could think of. At the end of August, I’ll tell you how it has (or hasn’t) worked out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ill-begotten finances

While I have been diligent about chronicling my road to fiscal savvy, I was detoured by a double whammy last week: regularly scheduled wedding prep vs. family emergency.

After spending a lot of time worrying about this individual and creating the best seating plans for 150, I was left tired with a full blown sinus infection. The crisis part of the family emergency is over, but will continue to be an issue weeks and even months to come.

The one good part of all this stress is that it reminded me about the importance of being protected financially. The impact of the emergency alone was more stress than most families can bear, but coupled with the prospect of $100,000 of care required for the uninsured person was an unimaginable burden for the family.

After a week, the insurance decided to pony up, and one burden was lifted. However, medical emergencies still rank as a top reason for bankruptcy ( According to a report put out by the government’s link to the courts the average person filing for bankruptcy is a 41-year-old mother with some college education WITH health insurance (not your average dead-beat, huh?) and almost half the debtors meet the requirement of having enough debt to qualify for major medical bankruptcy ( Even though someone has accumulated the status markers of a respectable life (higher education, family-oriented, middle age, insured) all it took was one medical issue (normally a heart attack) to put them into financial ruin.

(For the whole article go to: OR search Market Watch and David U. Hirnmelstein, Elizabeth Warren, Deborah Thorne, and Steffle Woolhandler)

Incidentally, as this drama was unfolding, my soon-to-be-married insurance through my fiancé kicked in. I am no longer a slave to my high-deductible plan and I now have good coverage with a regular doctor. With my old plan when I got sick I always had to decide where to seek services, and before I was treated find out how much they would cost. No dental check-ups, no eye exams or new contacts. Now, I can actually use my health insurance (wow- what a thought!) giving me some peace of mind. I feel blessed to have my family safe and my own fiscal protection policies in place as best I can.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Famous Quotes

“From birth to age eighteen a girl needs good parents.
From eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks.
From thirty-five to fifty-five she needs a good personality.
From fifty-five on she needs cash.”
~Sophie Tucker
via Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich

What do people think about this?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This nice girl isn't rich

I’m finishing up Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich by Lois Frankel and it’s been an interesting look at what fiscal problems specifically plague women. I like the format of the book in that you start by taking a self-assessment and then each chapter addresses each of these questions sequentially. That way one can check out the areas that are most relevant to that individual. While I don’t always agree with everything she says- I came across another definition of wealth for my register.

“If you don’t already have some kind of retirement or investment account in your name with at least your age x $2,000 in it, get going fast.” P.170

While this obviously has some ceiling/floor effects issues here’s what it means:

25-years-old = need $50,000 in my own name (not in a joint account!)


Monday, July 7, 2008

My own Mastercard commercial

Two (cancelled) flights to fly into San Francisco and finally landing in Oakland $54.72
Pesto crepe at Crepe Vine $8.11
Enjoying lemon curd filed Kara’s Cupcakes $3.25
Whole Foods takeaway for three people $18.92

Bundled up watching fireworks disappear into the fog with family and friends-


Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

I'll be watching the fireworks explode over the Golden Gate tonight with a group of friends! I hope that you too are spending this national birthday somewhere wonderful with your family and friends.

I'll leave you with this quote I found in Nice Girls Don't Get Rich by Lois Frankel:

"Remember, Columbus would never have made it to America if Queen Isabella hadn't financed the trip."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chatting about guidelines

I’ve just finished Jean Chatzky’s You Don’t Have to be Rich and I loved it. It gets at some of the psychological issues people have with money that I find fascinating! She cleverly wraps in relevant personal finance advice in order to help everyone enact good money management practices.

One of my favorite nuggets of information that she gives it this:
A quick estimate of how to construct your asset allocation is “roughly, 100 percent minus your average age is the amount you want in stocks, with the rest split between bonds and cash”.

So for us it would be:
100-25.5=74.5 (oh heck I’ll round up- it’s only four months until my birthday)

So 75% in stocks, 12.5% in bonds, and 12.5% in cash.

Granted, this is a rough estimate.
I feel like we should have more stocks and cash in part because I just don’t get bonds. I understand that they help reduce risk in a portfolio, but it seems that they (at least the safe AA rated ones) don’t give that much more return than money-market accounts. Are they really worth it?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A day at the beach

We have some friends that live about a mile from Newport Beach. This past weekend we went and saw them and had a perfect beach day.

We started at their home in Costa Mesa (this area is also a place with free day parking) and got bags filled with:

Tennis rackets and Balls
Beach wear

Here is a map of the route. We hopped on our bikes and took Victoria to the bike trail through Talbert Park and the US Army watershed. While oil refineries line the northern trail, the south side trail has marshes filled with sea birds and fishermen (the water is reclaimed, so I wouldn’t eat those fish…). This trail is also used by serious bikers, but if you’re not the type for full body spandex just stay to the right. Take this all the way out to PCH and go south. Cross PCH at Orange and continue down Seashore until 57th. One side is dwarfed by million dollar beach homes and rentals, while the other is a nice grassy park with benches, picnic tables, tennis courts, racquetball courts, and other facilities.

After an hour of hitting the ball around, we girls walked to Big Belly Deli for some serious sandwiches. The place is always packed, so call ahead and order your sandwiches to go (phone: 949.645.2888 web menu: My favorite is the 6310- a big sandwich that feeds two people for $6.89 and has: turkey, bacon, avocado, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, mayo on grilled foccacia bread. If you forget to order ahead, order a beer and watch the latest game at the bar.

Grabbing this and a drink and back to the courts we went. The boys staked out a picnic table for us in the shade and we devoured our lunches. After changing into our beach gear we went back up to Orange Street and headed west. There is a big lifeguard station at this part of the beach so it’s fairly family friendly.

The water is cold and the wind makes you chill, but afterwards laying on the warm sand is a hedonic experience.

Sandy and beachified we struggled back into biking clothes for the ride back. The last hill up Victoria is impossible in a beach cruiser, so just walk it. This trail makes for a great mid-day jaunt. Following this up with a poolside BBQ would be the perfect way to finish the day. Overall, it is a cheap activity ($8.00 for lunch for two), but having wonderful friends to share it with makes it priceless.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just starting out

My mother-in-law-to-be called last night. She was wondering why we hadn’t deposited one of her friend’s checks.

We looked blankly at one another.
“What check?” we said.

It turned out that her friend sent us a small wedding gift and a nice $100 check in the envelope.


We had never seen an envelope, let alone a check.

Here is rare proof that sometimes being lazy can be to one’s advantage, because I hadn’t taken the big stack of boxes from early wedding gifts downstairs yet. I had just let them pile up where a dining room table should be.

After much digging and scrutinizing wads of gift wrap, we found it jammed between the cardboard folds on the end of a box.


This discovery prompted a very exciting turn of events. Just last night we opened our first joint account! A joint savings/money market account at an online institution with a good rate of return (currently a guaranteed 3%). We seeded it with that (almost lost) check that was our first cash wedding gift.

There had been much discussion about registering for monetary gifts (we have a honeymoon registry in addition to traditional registries), but it was a bumpy ride with a variety of family member’s conflicting opinions. While views on this issue still rage, I know I’ll cherish the family silver as well as monetary gifts. I’m envisioning that day in the future when we turn the key to a place we own; we’ll feel the support of the families that gave us seed money to invest all those years ago.