Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that you are blessed today to be spending time with loved ones!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Ahh.. ‘tis the season of more online shopping and more online scams! Here’s an example of one I got earlier this week and my comments are in (parentheses).

PayPal investigation of an unauthorized activity claim: #PP-587-442-704‏ (nice and scary-huh?)
From: (who knew paypal had an international division- oh wait…they already are!)

You may not know this sender.Mark as safeMark as unsafe
Mon 11/24/08 3:32 PM
Dear *******, (not using my name= big tip off!)

We recently noticed that a transaction may have been made without yourknowledge or consent. We are currently investigating the followingtransaction: -----------------------------------Details of Disputed Transaction -----------------------------------

Seller's name: Hagio-HostSeller's

email: yawvaar@gmail.comSeller's

transaction ID: 7YW39066PT6017814

Transaction date: Nov 25, 2008

Transaction amount: -$80.94 USD (80 bucks! Oh no!)

Your transaction ID: 30L88064FF065545B Case number: PP-587-442-704

To see the details of this case, log in to your PayPal account by following the link below and go to the Resolution Center. (yeah, I’ll click on it and get what type of virus?)

The seller has been asked to provide information about this transaction.During this time the funds are not available in your account, but if theunauthorized activity claim is decided in your favor, we will fully refundyou for the amount of the transaction.Sincerely,Account Review Department

Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and youwill not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal accountand click the Help link in the top right corner of any PayPal page.BC:PP-587-442-704:R1:USD80.94:11/25/2008:30L88064FF065545B (nice touch!)

Wow… well of course I logged into paypal the traditional way and low-and-behold no funny transactions! Althought, I can see why emails like this could trip up the elderly or the unfamiliar with technology.

Just one more thing to watch out for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gift Card Troubles

I still had almost $100 on a gift card to Macy’s leftover from wedding gifts, so back in October I bought a suitcase since my old one took one too many abuses from airline personnel and gave up the ghost. It wasn’t the cutest suitcase, but it was functional and with tax it came in just under the gift card amount. I was pleased and looked forward to getting it.

Then, two weeks later in early November, I got an email that they ran out of my suitcase.


The problem was that when I made that purchase- I had cut up the gift card.

So, I called customer service and explained everything. After twenty minutes on the phone a representative said that they would send me a new card in the mail within two weeks.

Now, over two weeks later, I still don’t have the gift card.

So I called again. I got a new customer service person who said the last person didn’t properly put in the request for the new gift card. Another twenty minutes went by and she has assured me it will come in the next two weeks.

Anyone want to bet that I’ll actually get it in two weeks?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mentha award

This month’s Money magazine profiled and compared the top money management websites.

The top honors went to:!

(GO mint, mint, GO mint, mint)

Followed by:
A tie between Quicken and the moneycenter at yodlee
and trailing in last place….

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marriage (and credit score) on the rocks?

This month’s Money magazine had an interesting article highlighting a lawsuit against credit companies that use information from certain vendors you’ve visited to determine if they can reduce or cancel your line of credit.

These vendors include:
Massage parlors
Billiard halls
Night clubs
Marriage counselors

Wow- basically this discriminates against young singles or those who are already in great emotional distress! I can see why a sudden increase in these vendors may precede a monetary crisis in one’s life, but I also see most of these vendors as the staples of young single people’s lives.

To discriminate against them using these criterions is just bad business practices. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Kmart?

Since my first spotting of Christmas commericals on TV weeks ago, it seems like every big box store is eagerly thrusting their “deals” upon viewers everywhere. So I wasn’t surprised to see Kmart following suit. However, their ad was different. It was a wife going out to buy Christmas gifts and her husband nervously suggesting not to spend to much. She suavely replies, “don’t worry, I’m putting it on layaway.”

Even Kmart’s home page extols the virtues of layaway.

It seems easy enough:
Pick your item, pay a small down payment, make additional payments every two weeks, and then take home your item once it’s paid for.

It ensures that you get your item as opposed to trying to save up for it and then trying to buy the item the day before Christmas. It also seems better than charging something you can’t afford on a credit card and having a horrible reckoning day in January.

However, I’ve never done this before. Has anyone else done it? What was your experience like?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


My parent’s came down recently and they brought with them the last box of wedding planning leftovers. The week before the wedding I had a whole room full of boxes, binders, vases, and other wonderful things in their spare bedroom. Now, three months post-wedding, I’ve received the last remnants of the wedding planning.

I was sifting through all the stuff deciding what to throw away and what could be parlayed into another craft project, when I discovered all my bridal shower cards! It was so nice to read each one’s sentiments and re-look at so many cute greeting cards.

Then I pulled out my aunt’s card. It felt suspiciously full.
I opened it carefully and found… a $100 gift card to Pottery Barn!

This was way better than finding $5 in an old coat pocket- one hundred bucks! Who-hooo!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The (not so) free party

Last week Hubby’s work gave us free tickets to a ball!
I was so excited! Doesn’t that sound so grown-up?
“Sorry darling, I can’t chat- I’m getting ready for the ball tonight.”

I wore a dress I already owned, but to make it feel new again I bought all new accessories:
$25 shoes
$15 clutch
$12 for a necklace and earring set

It’s all stuff I’ll use again and all stuff I like, but it had me wondering: is it justifiable to spend $52 to go to a free event?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lots of festivities!

Wow.. this has been the week of holiday gift prep!

While I’ve exhausted my ideas for savvy presents, here are a couple more ideas for keeping holiday expenses down. I have a large extended family (each of my parents were the third child of five) plus my husband’s family makes for three (or more) Holiday gatherings per year!

Here’s how each family keep the fun going economically:

Grandpa’s birthday party- normally held a week before Christmas in celebration of my (now deceased) great- maternal grandpa’s birthday. It doubles as our Christmas celebration and we hold a giant 30+ person gift game.

The rules:
You must be 13 to play.
Bring a gift that cost about $30 and wrap it.
All people are assembled and gifts are piled in the middle.
Two hats are volunteered and one person takes it upon themselves to write out football teams and the cities the team is located in. The team names go in one hat and the team cities go in another. Everyone who is playing draws a team name.
A designated drawer draws out one team city out of the hat (normally this goes to an eager tween who can’t play, but wants to be involved)
When your team’s city is called you get to select a gift.
If you are the first person to go: you must select from the gift pile. You open it up and show everyone what it is.
If you are not the first person to go: you may select a wrapped gift or steal a gift from a person who has already gone.
There are three steals per round, and a round is over when someone opens a new wrapped present.
If you are stolen from you can not steal back your gift (you can, however, steal your spouse’s gift and your spouse can go steal the gift back for you!).
Everyone has a chance to play.
At the very end, the person who was first to go can choose to steal a gift if they have not been stolen from and they choose to go again. This keeps it fair in case the first person gets stuck with a sucky gift.

No one brings any other presents for any other adults. Young, non-gift-game-playing children may or may not get gifts, but it isn’t expected.

The family gifts- my Dad’s side of the family buys gifts for each family. Every family gets a similar gift and the gifts are of less than $20 in value.
Ex: My Hallmark crazy aunt gives every family an ornament, my aunt and uncle who went to Hawaii brought back every family a bag of macadamia nuts, or my aunt who can cook- canned peaches for every family. This means you only have to get seven of one gift for seven families, instead of 34 different presents! Cheaper and easier!

The in-law way- just get together. Bring food or even better a dessert! I’ll get my mother and father-in-law something, but I have a no-presents rule with my brother-in-law. These gifts, however, will be given in private- not at the large (40+ people) family party. Since most of the family is Jewish (practicing or not) the gift giving isn’t really emphasized. It's still fun, and a whole lot cheaper!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chic DIY presents

The last couple days I’ve been focusing on quality gifts at prices that won’t undo your holiday budget. A lot of these ideas are off of Design*Sponge (go Derek and Lauren!) and I encourage you to look at their DIY section to see if other ideas pique your interest!

Here are a couple ideas for people who want to make gifts with their own hands:

Tassel Earrings
For one stop by Michael's crafts and a few bucks you can make multiples of these chic earrings for all your girlfriends!

Eco-friendly notebook
With a handful of materials and even fewer steps, these notebooks are eco(nomically) friendly!

Family Portraits
More interesting than a standard portrait, these modern silhouettes are part traditional and part modern.

Felt Coasters
Make these in the colors of the gift recipient’s living room and they’ll know you were thinking of them!

Stenciled trivets
These require a steady hand to cut out, but the graphic could be anything you like. Try the person’s initial, a sweet saying, or a decal in the likeness of their pet!

Cake stands
I love this idea! At one point, I thought I’d do these for my wedding- but I didn’t… Still imagine these made with some garage sale milk glass… so sweet!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crafting X-mas gifts for non-crafters

Yesterday, I highlighted my strategies for buying holiday gifts in an economical way. Now I’d like to highlight some ideas for making meaningful gifts. For all those anti-crafty people who would like to tune out now: these are all gifts that you can make online! No scissor or glue required!

Three gifts to give from non-crafty people:

1. Family Calendar
Make a calendar that has all your personal holidays on there- yes it will have Valentine ’s Day and Halloween, but it can also have all your friend’s and family’s birthdays and anniversaries! It will save your friends and family the chore of transferring all those events from the ’08 calendar to ’09. VistaPrint is nice because you can choose from their stock photography or if you have your own photos (say photos of all the grandkids) choose a photo printer retailer.
Suggested vendors: Vista Print or any photo printing retailer (like Shutterfly or SnapFish)

2. Personalized items
Maybe you want a personalized stationary set, an engraved necklace, or monogrammed bed sheets. My first stop would be Alchemy at Etsy. You can write a description of what you’d like and what you’d like to pay and then crafters will bid on the project! You can also brows individual sellers sites through etsy and convo them asking them to make a personalized project for you. I’ve never been turned down, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Etsy vendors. Also, depending on what you want- just Google it. Don’t let your imagination be limited!

3. Make an investment for a gift recipient
Go to Treasury Direct and buy US savings bonds for them. You’ll buy them at a discounted rate and in a couple years they’ll be worth more to the individual than what you bought them for.

Or want to give the grandkids money, but not the kind they can use at the videogame store? Set up a 529 plan for them and help their parents save for their college years. You can set up a 529 plan through any brokerage house (Vanguard, Fidelity, etc.)

Fund someone’s ROTH IRA. If you know someone who is eligible for a ROTH IRA, but hasn’t funded it (i.e. college students or young working but struggling people), you can do it for them. Since the ROTH IRA limits ($5K if aged 49 and under) are under the amount of money you can give tax free to someone ($12K in 2008) there won’t be any surprises on your tax forms come April.

Give a charitable donation in their name. Any large charitable organization (to see how much of your donation goes to the cause see: charity navigator) will be able to handle this for you. Creative ideas include: giving a water buffalo or honeybees ( Heifer ), a tree (Arbor Day), or start a business in the developing world ( by making a loan at Kiva ).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The gifting season

Didn’t you know? It’s Christmas season (or at least that’s what retailers would like you to think)!On my birthday, last Thursday, November 6th, I saw my first Christmas shopping commercial. Also, on the same day, my local shopping mall had erected the giant silver 20-foot menorah.

Ah.. yes.. it’s dipped below 78 degrees and SoCal is envisioning a profitable Holiday season...

Now here’s the shocking part: I do (kind of) agree with them. It is time to think about holiday gifts, but only because you want to make and give sentimental well-priced gifts.

If you tend to be a person who just rolled their eyes at my “make ... holiday gifts” statement, then I suggest that now is the time to start looking for good deals on the gifts you want to buy for people.

Here are my suggestions for getting what you want at the price you want:

1) Make a list of all the people you want to give gifts to.
There are people in your life that you’ll want to gifts to every year. I like to keep a running list throughout the year with these people's names on it. Whenever someone expresses that they like something- I simply write it next to their name. Then I’ve got plenty of gift ideas when a special event comes along.

I also like to get three general gifts. I like to find either: candles, nice towels, simple jewelry or stationary that I can give if any surprises come my way. I actually plan for these gifts in case a gift doesn’t ship in time or someone extra shows up at a function and has a gift for me. These are gifts that are cheap for my wallet, but helpful for my heart because I know I won’t feel badly if something unexpected happens. I never buy more than three extra gifts and I always keep these receipts and return unused items in January.

2) Decide what you want to spend.
You can decide this on a per-gift basis or per event basis. For example, you may want to spend $20 per gift or $200 for all Christmas gifts.

3) Research!
Websites like PriceGrabber or NextTag can give you ideas on where you may want to buy the gift, and help you research if the gift you want to give is in your price range. I also like Amazon to look up reviews for individual products.

4) Shopping time!
Check out when the retailer you’re buying from is having sales or free shipping offers. Also make sure to buy all your gifts from each retailer at one time to save on shipping or time invested in going to that store.

If you are going to buy gifts in stores make sure that you go at a time where you can spend the time parking and shopping by yourself at leisure. You want to be in a good mood, well feed, have a water bottle, and all your self-control in check. Retailers will have special “deals” on stuff you don’t need. But you’ll want them- so stick to your list and don’t give in!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Splurging- without emptying your wallet

MSN shopping had an article posted today called: Wardrobe Economics: Save or Splurge. The idea was that with a tighter economy you’ll have to make some spending choices, and the article presented some guidelines for where to cut corners.

It had the following recommendations: Save on evening dresses (you’ll probably only wear them once), hosiery (all hosiery runs, why pay more?) and activewear (remember: you are going to go sweat in them).

However, it said to splurge on jeans. When I say splurge they recommend jeans in the $100-$200 range. Now I’ve spent $60 on jeans before and they’ve lasted me almost a decade. I’ve also had jeans that cost much less that have lasted 5+ years. I’ve also tried on those designer jeans and had little success with them fitting. So, I personally wouldn't spend that much for jeans.

It also suggests splurging on handbags- to the tune of over $200! With handbag trends changing every season, why would anyone (who is trying to save money) spend so much on a purse? There are good-enough quality bags at much lower prices points, and I don’t see why someone who is trying to save money in the short run would need to buy an investment-grade leather carryall.

I guess what I don’t like about articles like this is that they are really just mouthpieces for advertisers. I tend to buy good quality pieces that I can use through the years, but a $300 sweater and a $60 sweater will both fade and lose their shape after years of wearing. I also like buying trendy pieces, but only at trend store prices. Shoppers should splurge only if they are able to and only on an item that they know they personally will value. Also, a spurge doesn't have to mean that you spend more than three digits.

The moral of this article should really be: Any reasonably good shopper can find good quality at sensible price points. No matter what the item is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Financial update

The good news:
1) I reduced my student loan by $71 even after paying interest
2) I focused on my ROTH IRA this month and gained almost a 2% increase in it.
3) Since I made extra payments on my student loan and increased my cash holdings my NetWorth increased to only: -$1307!

The not-so-fabulous news:
1) ING rates have taken a dive with interest rates. It’s currently paying only 2.75%, but with the new rate cut that is also likely to decrease. So my accounts that I didn’t contribute to, didn’t have much interest. So my New Car, my Emergency, and my Home Down Payment funds didn’t budge.

Like many of you, I’ve found this past month both exciting and sickening. However, the things I could control (my spending, paying down debt, and where I’m putting my cash) have gone well. Being in control of those things- that’s satisfying in an uncontrollable world.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bittersweet Birthday

It’s true.
It’s official.
As of 7pm tonight, I enter the last year of my mid-twenties.

While many of my friends freaked out when they turned 25, it had been no big deal for me. However, that was last year. Last year I was recently graduated, employed and newly engaged. Everything was fabulous!

Now, unemployed and desperately awaiting my phone to ring for interviews- it makes me feel, well- uncertain.

This year, to me, 26 feels old. While I’m excited to be celebrating with friends and family, my emotions are mixed this year. This birthday, I don’t feel like I’m doing what I wanted to be doing at 26, and that’s hard.

However, I feel like my life is on a tipping point. I feel like this year, this year I’m going to be employed and full of joy. There is so much hope in this next year: jobs have just recently posted openings, I’m going to host our first big party at our apartment, and I’ve got two friends getting married! There is so much possibility this year, and I hope I can experience it all!

My birthday wishes:
1) A job.
2) A less volatile year. I’d like 26 to be fun and challenging, but a whole lot less stressful than 25 was.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This past weekend I was flying back home on Horizon. I was sleeping comfortably when the stewardesses wheeled the beverage cart right next to me. I lazily opened my eyes and saw that they were working on the rows in front of us, so I had more time to nap.

Then- all of a sudden- there was a burning hot sensation on my leg!

In one swift movement I was awake and unbuckled my seat belt to find that a stewardess had spilled hot coffee all over my lap! My husband said she had poured it out of the carafe and had set it on the cart. Then she hit it with her elbow.

She was most apologetic, and all the stewardesses rush me with paper towels, dry and wet. I was fine. It had been hot, but thankfully, not burning hot. I was fine and I told everyone so.

Then the guilty party said she’d be back to "comp. me". My ears perked up! Compensation? Cool! So... I’m thinking: how are they going to compensate me? The price of dry cleaning? A free flight? What?

Later in the flight she brings me over a form to get compensated. I scan it and it is clear that spilling a drink on a customer is the smallest infraction with piddlely compensation.

My choices:
1,000 air miles (but we don’t have the Horizon mileage plan, so that was out)
An e-certificate for $25 to
A $5 giftcard to Starbucks
Or, get this-
A teddy bear

Maybe I had gotten my hopes too high, but I kinda thought these were pathetic options. I mean, “sorry we spilled hot coffee on you, would you like $5 to get a new one?” Pretty sad.

Of course, before she said anything, I hadn’t even thought of being compensated. I’ve been a waitress, and while I never spilled a drink on anyone, I know accidents happen. However, this level of compensation still seems a bit weak to me.
What do you think?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008!

Really, nothing I could say could be more important than this:

Remember to vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Freaky Friday

I’ve been waiting for a call about an application I put in, so whenever I see SoCal area codes I flip out!

So I was soo excited when a SoCal area code popped onto my phone on Friday!

The conversation went like this:

“Hello, is (asked for me by my maiden name) there?”
“This is she.” I grumbled- I was w-a-y let down. It was obviously not for an interview, all my applications are in my married name.

Then the phone called got weirder.

“I’m calling from (something) dental and I’m wondering what you’re going to do about this $85 charge.”

“What charge?” I said totally flabbergasted. I went to a dentist office months ago, but this wasn’t a dentist I had seen.

She goes on I tell me about the services I supposedly had in two cities which I’ve never been to before!

I tell her I’ve never been to those offices- let alone those cities. She says that if I don’t pay them she’ll send them to a collection agency. I tell her that I’m not going to pay for services I never sought.

She asks me if I’ve ever gone by two other last names- one of which is my new married name and the other was Ludbeck (or something like that). I told her just this and she said “fine” and hung up on me.

SO I’m freaking out! I’m thinking: Is some collection agency going to come after me for fraudulent charges? What would I do about that? Or was someone else just using names and happened to use mine? Was it someone phishing for my information and I gave too much??!?!?

I checked my credit score and it was still the same, and I had no unusual charges on my credit cards. I placed a fraud alert on my credit and I’ll request a copy of my credit report when I get the offer in the mail. But beyond that- what do I do?

Nothing? Do I just sit and wait for something to happen? GRrrrr…. What would you do?