Saturday, July 31, 2010

Small Step #2: Slightly Reducing Car Insurance

Geico let me change my limits a little bit--I took off rental car coverage (really, if my car ever breaks down/gets crashed into, I will hop a bus to Bellingham and borrow my mom's extra car for the time it takes to fix it.)  I also changed a couple of other car insurance limits--not drastically, but a little bit.  These things resulted in a savings of $5.75 per month.  Woo. 

Photo: Me and my readily insured Malibu.  By the lovely and talented Lydia Grimes. 

Curb Shopping


It is July 31st.  The last day of the month, AND a weekend day.  Double whammy for curb shopping.  I already found a totally sweet vest today and saw a bookshelf on the side of the road.  I plan on making some rounds before leaving town for the day. 

If you can, take a walk through your neighborhood and take in the junk!

**photo courtesy of**

Small Step #1: Gas Transaction Fee

My finances are looking bleaker as time goes on.  Maybe it's just because it's summer and business is slow, maybe it's because of the new car and my expenses are going up.  It's time for me to make some conscious small steps to get back on track.  Today:  eliminating that gas transaction fee.

I buy most of my gas at AMPM (Arco) because it's cheap.  Maybe not the best gas around, but I've never had any problems with it.  The thing that gets me the most is the 45 cent transaction fee.  Since I roll with debit almost all of the time and they don't take credit, I can't get away from it.

So I am signing up for their damn card.  Arco Debit Mastercard.  Links right to your checking account.  You can buy gas and eliminate the fee.  You can also get rewards for using it, but not on gas, go figure.  I may consider using it for other debit purchases, but we'll see how well it serves me, first. 

Total Savings:  About $2.25 per month.  Ramit would kill me, but it's something, right?

Friday, July 30, 2010

10 Minute Work Break - Question of the Day

What seemingly crappy cheap food item do you absolutely love?
Here's mine - Tetley Tea British Blend.  I started drinking this in college when I was poor and couldn't afford Numi, which is the bougiest tea in the world.  I thought Numi was so yummy and nice. 

After I started to make a little more money, I started buying fancy tea only to realize that Tetley British Blend is actually where it's at.  I can usually get a box for around $2.50 at Safeway.  80 teabags for $2.50!  That's, what, three cents a tea bag?  Three cents for a morning of caffeinated joy?  Plus you can sometimes use a teabag twice...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

QuickTip of the Day

Take advantage of every advantage possible that your employer offers.  Example for me today:  Mileage.  By filling out a simple form, I will get $14.90 next month to reimburse me for mileage driven.  Sweet. 

A lot of my coworkers DON'T take the time to do their mileage.  I think of it as free money (even though it isn't!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is my generation being set up for financial failure?

Most of the time when I purchase something, I use my debit card.  I very rarely carry cash, as it's not convenient to go to the ATM or band to withdraw cash.  Do you know anyone else like this? 

When my debit card comes out, so does my "Check Card Register" courtesy of the lovely Bank of America.  When that "Check Card Register" gets full of entries, I have to go to the BOA to request a new one. 

Often, when I request a new one, the bank employees have a hard time finding one. 

Each time I pull out my debit card register, I write the amount of the purchase down and subtract it from the money in my account.  It seems simple, but most of the time when I'm doing this I feel RUSHED.  There are people behind me waiting, and I have to move along. 

Quite often, the person I am with or the person behind the counter comments.  "You balance your checkbook?  You are SO good!" 

Growing up, my mom always balanced her check book when using a form other than cash at the store.  So did everyone else I saw.  Nowadays, it's a rarity. 

There are many factors that contribute to my perceived "being set up for financial failure."  But the speed and ease of transactions is something small that I feel like really contributes.  Doing things quickly and easily can take the thought out of an action--making money and purchases seem less concrete than they are. 

Also, what about checks?  I rarely write checks anymore.  While everything is automated and it's wonderful, it still takes time and thought to write a check.  Even wish cash you have to handle it and count it out.  It's more thought provoking than sliding a card. 

And credit cards!  Think of those!  I have one, I make meaningless purchases on it.  I'm guilty.  What if credit cards came with little registers to add up the balance?  Awesome.  I'm going to borrow one of the BOA ones I got to start doing this.  Awareness of what I'm charging will hopefully help. 

So, friends, what do you think?  Do you balance your checkbook?  Use a debit card?  Cash?  Credit card?  Checks all the time?  How does it affect your spending? 

(Photo:  My debit card register.  Never mind all the money I spent at Sureshot : )

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pantry Pantry Time Time: Meal 1: Pink Vegan Rice

I am lucky to have a good job and a pantry full of fun items.  This way, when I spend all the money that the good job brings me, I can piece together fun and healthy meals with items I have on hand.  Tonight:  Pink Vegan Rice

Step #1:  Google some ingredients that you have.  I googled "beets" and "rice" since those were two items in my pantry.  I came up with the following: 

Red as a Beet Rice at

It sounded good, but I wanted to make it different.  I omitted the basil, since I didn't have any, used vegetable broth in case my vegan friend came over and wanted to sample it, and fried it in Soy Free Earth Balance so that it would taste more buttery.  I also added garbanzo beans, vegan parmesean cheese and nutritional yeast for extra protein and flavor. 

The results:  yum.  Cheap, free of foods that I'm allergic to, and I didn't have to buy anything extra.  Until the baby-sitting picks up again, I will often be enjoying Pantry Pantry Time Time to the fullest extent. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The $30 Party

I'm getting back on track with my money management. I'm not in debt, really, just falling a little short each month. I still, of course, want to have fun! This may involve re-evaluating my version of fun, which I think is a great exercise.

A friend is turning thirty on Saturday. Big step in life! I gathered with another friend to plan her birthday party. Because it's such a short month and I've basically spent my whole paycheck, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it.

I decided to keep it simple. First of all, it's a short party--just three hours. It's also a surprise, so that will make it that much more exciting. Surprises can be such cheap thrills! For festivity, I picked up a fifty cen birthday banner at the Dollar Store that is shutting down by my work. I can reuse it. Decorations in general are mostly just clean up and waste anyway, but I needed a little festivity.

For food, I decided to make pizzas. I made a ton of dough last night with a jar of yeast and flour I already had. I think it has turned out well, but only tonight will tell. I'm using spaghetti sauce for the sauce, cause I have a lot of it. Hopefully no one will notice! I purchased some mozerella cheese, which I will use in moderation on the pizzas. My 30-year-old friend is also a vegetarian, which saves money on meat! I have some vegetarian meat leftover from another pizza party, and also got onions, green peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.

For a cake, I had some cake mix in my cupboard. For some reason my mom loves to buy me cake mix. I whipped up a 4 tiered cake last night. I purchased frosting, which is actually cheaper than making it, and bought sprinkles and candles. The cake is beautiful in it's ridiculousness, which I am happy about.

The birthday girl also requested hummus and carrots and broccoli, which I gathered up for about $7.

I encouraged everyone else to bring drinks, but I have a little vodka and blueberry-orange italian soda to mix up.

She THINKS we're going to have a nice quiet dinner, so how surprised will she be when she comes over and sees ten of her friends?! Very surprised, I hope.

When shopping and planning for this party, I kept the following in mind:
What is ABSOLUTELY necessary to make this fun and nourishing?
What do I ALREADY have that can be of help? I contemplated making my own hummus, but am not good enough yet and didn't have all the right ingredients.
What will make this MEMORABLE? Hopefully the crazy cake and the surprise factor will help.
Do I need to go ALL OUT? No. Sometimes simple is better.

I'll let you all know how it goes!
UPDATE:  It was a blast!  Everyone seemed to have fun and enjoy the food.  People also brought a lot of little appetizers and beer.  Success! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Still Alive.

I bought a new car.  I love love love it.  Need to sell the old one. 

I had to go into debt to buy the new car.  I currently owe $7500 on it.  Interest free.  I can do it, and hopefully quick! 

Otherwise life is just going.  Baby-sitting is waning at the moment, so money is not coming in as strongly as it was earlier in the year, but I'm just rolling with it and waiting for it to pick back up.  It's a little difficult, but I love a challenge.  A financial one, anyway. 

I need to concentrate my efforts in life to funnel in some happiness.  I'm taking some steps, different ones than before.  I'll keep you updated on their progress. 

One important step I've taken in the last month is buying a gym membership.  It sounds cheesy, but we all know physical activity is awesome for your levels of good brain chemicals.  Plus, doing Zumba and Hula Hooping Class and dancing around like a fool never hurt anyone. 

Any way to bring joy into my life, brain and heart is appreciated.  Working on it.