Friday, February 27, 2009

No Eat Out Month

Part two of my Suze Orman challenge. I have picked the month of March to not eat out unless someone else is paying for the meal.

Now this is a hard one because my birthday is March 1 and I will be on vacation in Orlando. So how do I not eat out? Well I have some options.

1. Hope my sister takes me out to eat. I only need one big meal.

2. Maybe I will have leftovers from our dinner out on Saturday so I can eat that on Sunday.

3. Set aside money from my February eat out budget to spend on March 1.

4. The place I'm staying has a kitchen so if I go grocery shopping sometime this weekend I can cook and eat-in.

5. Make March 1 the exception because it is my birthday.

6. Make the no eat out month run from March 2 to April 1st instead of March 1 to March 31st.

Everyone can't celebrate my birthday on March 1 because I will be on vacation so maybe the celebrating can be spread out through the month in the forms of folks taking ME out to eat. We all know I LOVE to eat.

As with the last challenge I have no idea how much money I will save on not eating out. Personally I don't think I will save anything because I will spend it on groceries instead.

What do you think I should do about the March 1 dilemma in my no eat out month plan? Anyone want to join me for a month of dining in? Can you pick a month to not go out to eat?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

29 Things About Me

Since it's getting close to my 29th birthday and I have been tagged quite a few times on other peoples 25 things about me postings I have decided to do 29 things about me. Hopefully by the time you see this blog I will be on my way to Orlando for my 29th birthday vacation.

1. My favorite color is Carolina Blue.

2. I LOVE to eat.

3. I want a boyfriend so I need to seriously get back in to the dating game.

4. I read A LOT...newspapers, magazines, books, websites...if it's interesting I'm reading it.

5. I'm a disciple of Suze Orman. Most people don't know that I've been studying personal finance and it has been a passion of mine for the last 3 years.

6. No matter what I do my hair stays the same length. The minute it starts to grow it starts breaking off or falling out (from stress) and I end up cutting it back to the length it was before.

7. I spend more Friday and Saturday nights home alone than I think people realize.

8. I'm a chronic lister. I make lists for EVERYTHING.

9. My celebrity lookalike is Halle Berry (or at least that's what I have been told). And I dance like Beyonce.

10. Can't figure out why I have better relationships with the Dad's of the guys I have dated versus the guys themselves. Maybe it's a sign I need to date older men.

11. I suffer from chronic mind chatter. Blogging and journaling helps.

12. I really miss my Dad and my Grandma. It has been twenty three years and fifteen years respectively since they each died and I still feel the loss like it was yesterday. I wonder if they would be proud of me. Nothing has impacted my life more than my dad dying shortly after I turned 6.

13. If I could sell my house in Atlanta I would. It's a liability, not an asset. Read Rich Dad/Poor Dad and you'll understand why.

14. I worry a lot, especially about family members.

15. Here are 29 places I want to visit: Costa Rica, Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, Australia, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, London, Dubai, Jamaica, somewhere in Canada, Japan, Thailand, Tahiti, back to South Africa, Brazil, Beijing China, Turks & Caicos, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Morocco, India, Egypt, Italy, Germany, Macau China, Greece, Columbia, and Cuba.

16. Here are 29 states and countries I have visited: NY, NJ, PA, VA, DE, MD, DC, NC, SC, GA, FL, LA, MA, CT, VT, CA, NV, MN, WI, WA, AL, TX, IL, OH, Mexico, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Spain, Bahamas

17. There are quite a few people that cross my mind that I haven't talked too in weeks, months, years...

18. When I was 5 or 6 years old I beat up a little boy with my Winnie the Pooh because he pulled one of the flowers off the basket of my bike. I got a whipping for beating up the boy. Apparently the bear injured him because I kept hitting him with the black plastic nose on the bear. They don't make bears like they used to anymore.

19. I love watching movies...notice I didn't say going to the movies. I don't have patience but when it comes to movies I can ALWAYS wait for it to be on DVD.

20. I had more than 29 things I wanted to share about me but when I started writing this I forgot a bunch of them....LOL.

21. I write all my blog posts weeks in advance and reorganize and reschedule them as I write more posts.

22. I have scoliosis and a slight case of arthritis in my neck so I have to see a chiropractor at least twice a month. When I say I have a pain in my neck I mean it literally.

23. I want to go skydiving in some place exotic like Costa Rica.

24. One of my nicknames is Video Vixen and I sometimes wish I had the means to pursue dance. It would be a dream come true to get to be in a music video or be someone like Beyonce's backup dancer...if only for an 8 count.

25. The secret to my career success: networking and transferable skills. How else does a sports junkie end up at a celebrity fashion and beauty website? It was who I knew and who knew me AND I can do what I do for any website no matter what the topic is. Skills required are still the same. As one person described it...I am content agnostic.

26. I wish I had a better relationship with my family but I have always accepted that we would never be "The Cosby's."

27. If I wasn't in my current profession I would be a librarian.

28. If I could have my own business it would be a 24 hour laundromat.

29. My biggest fear is not having a baby before my mother dies. She turns 70 this year so the pressure is on, most days I ignore it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Season of Sacrifice - Answer

Thanks EVERYONE for your input. So after weighing all my sacrificial options I chose to give up wine (but not all alcohol). Wish me luck, I think I'm going to need it in order to not fall off the wagon. If Jesus could die for me the least I could do is give up wine for 40 days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Season of Sacrifice

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season. In Lent, it's traditional to give up something that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in. This 'giving up' is done :
* as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from the chase after material things,
* to identify with Christ's sufferings, and remember what the true pleasures are for followers of Christ,
* as an act of sorrow over our wrongdoings.

The most common thing is to fast for Lent. But if giving up food isn't much of a task for you, choose something else that you have to make an effort to give up. For many people, that means 40 days without television, gambling, shopping, etc.

I thought about giving up alcohol but my birthday falls during Lent and I hope someone(s) will buy me a drank. I think thought maybe I should give up wine. Last few months I have been drinking quite a bit of wine so I could do for a 40 day break. I considered giving up soda. But I already drink a lot less now that I'm over my Coca Cola addiction. So not sure if that would count as cheating.

I contemplated giving up cursing but I know if I didn't verbally curse I would be cursing in my head. So isn't cursing in my thoughts a violation? Next on the list was sex but then I had to remind myself that you have to give up something that you do a lot and find pleasure in. I'm not getting enough sex to give it up. Sad but true.

I could give up TV BUT only if I had a DVR to record the 40 days of TV I would be missing. Next on my list of maybe was DVD's...put my netflix membership on hold for 40 days and avoid the dvd library at work so I wouldn't be tempted to watch a movie.

It's the day before and I have to decide. So what do you think I should give up? What do you plan on sacrificing for Lent?

Monday, February 23, 2009

What Suze Orman Says You Should Do With Your Tax Refund

So last Friday I posted about what to do with your refund. And then of course my money guru Suze Orman sends out this email:


You read that correctly. The tax refund you may be getting should be saved, not spent. Instead of blowing the refund today on a plasma-screen TV or a weekend getaway, your tax refund delivers the perfect opportunity to pay down debt, build your emergency savings fund or open a retirement account.

Pay it Off
If you have credit card debt, this could be your chance to put a big dent into that unpaid balance. Right now, the stock market is taking us all on a roller coaster ride, but if you pay off a credit card balance that's charging you 18 percent interest, you give yourself a guaranteed 18 percent return on your money. Even when the stock market is at its best, it's hard to get that kind of a return.

Sock it Away
If you haven't paid attention to this message in the past, please pay attention now. A weak economy and a volatile stock market make it more important than ever to have eight months of living expenses saved. Use your Save Yourself account at TD AMERITRADE to help do just yourself. In fact, I think it makes sense to direct deposit your refund into your Save Yourself account so you avoid being tempted to spend it. (She even included the instructions for direct deposit of your tax refund if you have a TD AMERITRADE account.)

Invest in Your Future
If you already have an emergency savings fund and don't have any credit card debt, great! I still want you to stash this cash. Assuming you have at least 10 years before you plan to retire, use your refund to help fund a new Roth (or Traditional) IRA.

So I think Suze would agree with my answer on Friday of what I'm going to do with my refund. Has reading what Suze said changed your mind about what you are going to do with your tax refund?

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Will You Do With Your Refund?

I was reading an article on and a reader asked the following:

QUESTION: What is the best way to spend your income tax refund? Pay down debt, save or both?-Denelle Hammond, Washington, D.C.

ANSWER FROM TANESHA SYKES, ESSENCE BUSINESS EDITOR: I'd say both, but before you do anything, have a plan for the money. As a part of your money plan, set up an emergency fund. If you can afford to, set aside half--that's right--50 percent of your income tax refund toward this goal. Why? Because the economy is shaky, layoffs are increasing and companies are closing at a rapid pace. We are in serious trouble economically, and it's important, now more than ever to have the financial stability to support ourselves in case of an emergency. Next, take 25 percent and pay down a portion of a major, high-interest debt, such as a credit card. If you owe $1,000 on your favorite department store card, pay $250 toward it. Last, spend the remainder on yourself! Otherwise, you'll start feeling deprived and it's a good way to make our economy thrive. Use this formula for whenever you get an unexpected windfall and let me know how it works.

I like her answer but you really have to do what is best for you. Personally I think I'm going to put it all towards a credit card that had a really good balance transfer offer (3.99% for the life of the balance). So I'll make sure the card has no balance and then transfer my other cards to it. What do you have planned for your refund?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Volunteering has something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My family never had a lot of money but we had ourselves and our time to donate. I was always taught to help others because you never know when you might be the person needing help.

But as you get older the one thing you have less and less of is time. It's a good year if I'm able to participate in one or two volunteer projects. So now I try to put my money towards causes that I believe in. I don't have a lot of money to donate but I have even less time to donate.

I am getting ready for tax time and I went through my folder of charitable contributions and I didn't realize how much I have given to Goodwill. I'm talking over 10 garbage size bags of clothes and shoes. I remember how good it felt to be able to purge my closets and drawers. I live in NYC so I don't have enough space to hold on to everything. But I felt even better thinking about the clothes that were too big for me or that I never wore that someone else could get use out of. And the best part, all charitable contributions are tax deductible so you are helping yourself as you are helping others.

When was the last time you shared a little good will towards others or gave to Goodwill?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I finally took some time to clean out my LinkedIn mailbox. I always tell students that they need to join LinkedIn but is that really true?

I'm an advocate for networking. Networking has been a large part of how my career has advanced. But I can't say I network as much as I used too and clearly I'm not always the best resource because I can be extremely difficult to get in contact with.

LinkedIn is supposed to be the professional version of Facebook BUT does it really help with networking? I'm hoping most professionals aren't like me, meaning they check their LinkedIn inbox more than once a year. I say all this to say that I think I'm undecided on LinkedIn. I haven't really used it in any professional capacity.

What do you think about LinkedIn? Have you used it to network? Has it worked for you? What should people expect to get out of it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Videos Never Made

I know you are thinking what the hell does she mean by "Best Videos Never Made." There are a lot of songs that are or were hot on the radio or that we just personally liked and videos were never shot for them. Only 2 songs come to mind right now....Lovers & Friends; Usher, Lil Jon and Ludacris and A Milli remix; Lil Wayne featuring Jay Z. Can you think of any other songs that never had videos for them, but should have?

Monday, February 16, 2009

32 Ways to Waste Money

I know you are thinking I have been doing all these blog postings about savings why in the heck would I suggest ways to waste money. I'm actually not. These are really some areas that we are all wasting our money when we could be doing something different and saving.

1. Use Paper Towels
Anything you can do with a paper towel, you can do with a dishcloth or some kind of reusable cloth. It doesn't cost as much to wash the dishcloth as the paper towels cost.

2. Tanning Salons
This doesn't apply to most of my friends. I used to go to tanning salons to even out tans. I actually haven't been to a tanning salon in 4 years. I enjoy laying/sleeping in the sun on the beach. All that tanning will just lead to skin cancer and then you have an even bigger expense for treatment.

3. Movie Rentals
Before you PAY to rent a movie, check first with your local or county library, they have 1000's of movies you can take out for FREE. You are paying for this through your taxes so why not get the benefit. Now I love my Netflix so I'm not giving it up. And when I first moved to NYC I used to go to the library a lot and I would use them for those in between Netflix rental times.

4. Disposable Razors
You spend $10 on a razor with blades and you throw them away and have to spend another $5-10 the next month for replacement blades. That's $65 to 120 a year. So why not invest in a good electric razor. You can spend $60.00 one time and buy a good electric razor and have it for 3-4 years and save in the long term.

5. Pet Clothing
We love man's best friend but man's best friend does not need his own wardrobe. That's what their fur is for. The prices of pet clothing & accessories are ridiculous.

6. Shopping at the Corner Store
In NYC there is a bodega on every corner. But it is an overpriced convenience. You would spend less if you just went to the grocery store and was more efficient about what you bought.

7. Nail Salons
I've said this before. Spending money every week or every other week is a waste money. Go once a month and take care your nails and toes yourself. And if you are the type of person that is willing to cut your own cuticles you can go once every 2 months or not at all.

8. Eating Out for Lunch
Packing your lunch is not only a healthier choice, but also saves you a good amount of money that could be spent elsewhere. If you're eating out every day, spending about $7 a day, you could save around $700 a year, just by packing your lunch two times per week.

9. Energy Loss
Not shutting the lights off behind you is one of the biggest money wasters in the U.S. Energy saved is energy produced. An average household can save at least 10%-12% off their monthly electricity bills. Offices can save much more!

10. Caring for Lawns
This is not an issue for me because I live in NYC and my HOA pays for the landscaping but the amount of money people will spend to have the greenest grass or biggest flowers are wasting time and money.

11. Insurance
Make sure you have the right amount of coverage for you and a high deductible. Why pay for insurance that you won't use. Have enough to cover yourself but don't pay for more insurance than you need.

12. Duplicate Spending
Have you ever bought something because you thought you were out of it to get home and see you have a brand new bottle of it already. This is why I keep a shopping list and regularly check out what is in my cabinets.

13. Clothes Dryers
I live in NYC so what I'm about to suggest is not really an option for me. Hang your clothes to dry or use a dryer only for socks, underwear and other small items you would feel odd hanging outside. You can also use a drying rack. Dryers use lots of electricity and gas, plus ruin your clothes over the long term. Dryer 'lint' is your clothing falling apart!

14. Buying a New Car
You lose a huge chunk of value just driving it off the lot! Buy a 1- to 3-year-old vehicle and you get the same warranties at a much cheaper price.

15. Designer Handbags
I know some people are going to be offended by this one but I have never spent more than $50 on a purse. Don't get me wrong, I have a few coach purses. But I bought them at the outlet store or on Ebay. If you must have the latest, greatest designer handbag then you might want to look in to a membership with Bag, Borrow or Steal.

16. Children's Birthday Parties
You know you love your kids and they know you love them as well. So you don't need to show it by having a big overpriced birthday party. What happened to everyone coming over for cake and ice cream? Why must we spend hundreds of dollars?

17. Big Houses
So many people think that if you have a big house you seem more important. No, you don't. You should buy a house that is the right size for your family.

18. Alcohol at Restaurants and Bars
It is ridiculous some of the prices restaurants and bars charge. Buy two mixed drinks and you could have gone and bought the ingredients to make your own and have a few friends join you at home.

19. Buying Supreme Gas
Why waste money on higher priced gas? It has no effect on the efficiency of your engine.

20. Energy Drinks
I don't like energy drinks. I think they taste bad or leave a bad after taste. They are overprice and it's either the high level of sugar or caffeine in them that makes me have to run to the bathroom almost as soon as I finish the drink. The high levels of caffeine are addictive, so people get completely hooked. I know many people who drink 2-3 energy drinks a day at $2-3 each. That's $4-9 a day.

21. Plastic Cups
Just use a glass. Why pay for a cup everytime you drink at home? I take it a step further if I do use a plastic cup I wash it and reuse it.

22. Junk Food
Just think how much money you could save if you avoided the daily trip to the snack machine to get your through the afternoon. The items are always overpriced. It would be cheaper to bring snacks from home.

23. Disposable Cleaning Supplies
I know you love your Swiffer but it creates waste. Reusable scrubbers, brushes, mops and rags are far more economical and environmentally friendly.

24. Playing the Lottery
I have plenty of family members who play every day because they believe the day they don't they will miss out on winning. I'm SO glad this is a habit I never formed. can't see spending hundreds of dollars a month or a week, just to get thrilled over winning $25-50.

25. The Wedding Industry
It is amazing to me how expensive weddings can be. I know it's a special day and it's about celebrating love and making memories but do you have to go broke to do it? In NYC they just opened a newly renovated wedding chapel across the street from city hall. NYC wants to be the Las Vegas of the east coast. Don't get me wrong, if I was to get married I would have a wedding but I would keep the costs to a minimum. Recently had a story of someone who had here wedding for $6,000.

26. Individual drinks
Buying individually bottled or canned drinks is the biggest waste of money and adds up fast, if you do it daily.

27. Four Year Universities
I love UNC...I bleed Tarhell blue BUT if I was thinking economically when shopping for colleges I should have went to a local two-year college for the first two years. Most two-year colleges have 2+2 programs with most universities. My niece and nephew are doing that. They are attending Bergen Community College for their first 2 years. They will save 17-20 thousand dollars and I'll still be paying off my student loans.

28. Designer Skincare
The best way to take care of your skin is vitamins, water, sleep, genetics and sunblock. Spending hundreds of dollars on skincare is a waste. I won't get in to overpriced makeup although my girly card was revoked long ago.

29. Extended Warranties
It's a waste of money to purchase an extended warranty for small inexpensive items such as radios, DVD players, vacuums, etc. The manufacturer's warranty is sufficient. Retailers and dealers will always offer extended warranties -- but they are not always necessary.

30. Brand Names
We make jokes about generic brands...particularly the names of some cereals or Tussin instead of Robitussin. Food brands add marketing and advertising costs ... Is Bayer or Advil so much better than "I-don't-know-this-brand" aspirin and ibuprofen. Sometimes it is, but very rarely. Marketing and advertising don't make products taste or work better they just add to the final price of a product.

31. Hotels
When you go on vacation you don't need to spend for a luxury hotel room. You don't go on vacation to stay in your hotel room all day. Unless you are going to spend 24 hours in your room, why would anyone want to spend $200-$300 a night to sleep?

32. Driving a Gas Guzzler
I should have put this one right after Big Houses. Buying an SUV or other large vehicle is the biggest waste of money and it will get even worse as oil prices inevitably will keep rising.

Can you think of other ways that you or people you know waste money?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Will You Marry Me?

Those are the four words almost every woman I know wants to hear. I'm not a girly girl so I don't usual buy in to the whole daydreaming about your wedding day. But it's the season of love, Valentine's weekend and I have several weddings to attend this year. So in honor of Cupid I came up with a list of the best ways to propose to ME.

1. Las Vegas
EVERYONE knows how much I LOVE Vegas. And if you don't know that then you really don't know me. If a man wants to spend the rest of his life with me it would be a bonus for him to ask me in the city I love.

2. Dave & Busters
D&B is one of my "happy places." Some people have a happy place that they go to in their mind. I have happy places that I actually visit when I need a boost. Just picture it, as I'm playing the Super Trivia game...Will You Marry Me?...A-Yes, B-No, Or as I'm playing Deal or No Deal and I've held out to beat the dealer and also score an engagement ring.

3. Top of the Rock
When the love of my life is with me I want him to feel like he is on top of the world. So what better place to ask than on Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center for you non-New Yorkers).

4. Circle Yes or No
Remember in elementary school a guy would pass you a note saying "Will you be my yes or no?" That method of asking is guaranteed to get a yes AND waterworks cause the nostalgia of it all would make me cry.

5. Put Me on the Spot
In front of some large crowd or group of our friends. Just unexpectedly grab the mic, get on bended knee and ask me.

6. At A Sporting Event
Live from the kiss cam at Madison Square Garden or on the big screen at Yankee Stadium...pick just about any sporting event and I would be thrilled.

7. Some Place I Have Never Been Before
So I think it's just a vacation to Paris or Costa Rica or some other place I've always wanted to go and never been. But it's a trip that I'll never forget for a reason I didn't fathom.

The one thing that all of these ideas have in common is the element of surprise.
Meaning that the best time to ask is when I least expect to be asked. Y'all are my friends, y'all know me well...don't these examples of proposals completely fit me? Any suggestions of other ways to pop the question? How would you like someone to propose to you?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Credit Score No More

I know y'all are probably getting tired of all my blogs about personal finance. But I'm doing it for y'all as well as myself. There is just all kinds of stuff going on that we may not be aware of.

I just read in the New York Times that after February 14th you will not be able to see your Experian credit score. NOTE: I said you won't be able to SEE your score I didn't say the score was going away.

Basically, to overly summarize and simplify the New York Times article, Experian is in a legal battle with Fair Isaac, also know as So after February 14th you will not be able to view your Experian FICO score. BUT if you go and apply for a loan or a credit card that determination may be made based upon a score YOU can't even see. The last time I got my credit score the Experian score was the lowest, Equifax the highest and TransUnion was right in the middle. It's like a teacher giving you a grade but never telling you the grade you got. The grade could be an F and you would never know it or be able to fix it or change it because you don't know it's an F.

Experian says you can still get your credit report and check for errors and correct errors BUT you just won't be able to know what score they are giving you. How is that right? How is that even fair? If I apply for any loan or credit card can I request that they use a particular reporting agency? Probably not.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to order your credit score before 2/14 so you can get all 3 scores for what might be the last time? Is it possible to tell a creditor which credit reporting agency to use?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cell Phones for Soldiers

If you have recently ordered anything from (Amazon directly and not a seller on Amazon) you might have gotten a prepaid mailer to recycle your cell phones for soldiers. I loved the concept. Because I had 2 old cell phones and no idea what to do with them.

So I started with my family and asked who had any cell phones they wanted to get rid of and now I'm reaching out to you, my friends. It is EXTREMELY easy. Just go to this website: and click on the "All other visitors, please click here to print a FREE postage paid, shipping-label." You indicate if you are shipping less than 4 phones or 4 or more phones and that determines the postage label you will be able to print. It's also tax deductible and you can print a donation receipt right from the website.

I, like most people, don't have money to give these days. But I do have my time and in this case old cell phones to give. So please, take a few minutes, find your old cell phones, print out a label and support our troops.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beanie Babies

In 1996 my high school sweetheart bought me my first Beanie Baby when he left to go to college. And that is how my Beanie Baby collection began.

I was lonely and I thought my little Beanie Baby puppy, Spunky the cocker spaniel, needed a friend too. And that's when I bought my first Beanie Baby. I bought a Spunky for my Mom. (She still has hers as well but she hasn't taken as good care...hers is dusty from sitting on top of her TV since 1996.) I was a very serious collector from 1996 to 2002. My Beanie Babies were like little, cute, adorable stock options. They were such a hot item in their heyday I thought for sure they would be worth something in the future.

I took extremely good care of my Beanie Babies. They are each in individual Ziploc bags and they all have tag protectors. (the condition of the tag is a big part of determining their value). But I stopped collecting in 2002 because it was a choice between being able to put gas in my car (I was a broke college student) or buy a Beanie Baby. Gas won. But also I thought I had collected enough. I have over 100 Beanie Babies. So 2002 I moved my Beanie Babies in to my mom's attic and I started my journalism career in South Africa.

Fast forward to 2009. It's been 13 years since I started collecting. And I have what I thought would be very valuable Beanie Babies because I have a lot of retired bears. Like the Princess Diana bear or the Peace bear or the Millennium bear. So my Mom is getting the attic redone and she told me to come and collect my Beanie Babies or they would end up in the dumpster. So I thought this was just as good a time as ever to cash in on my Beanie Baby investment. I went through and picked out the Beanies I was willing to part with and then I did some research online.

Words cannot describe how disappointed I was in how the value of my Beanies has plummeted. In 2004 my Princess Diana bear was worth $75 and Tank the Armadillo was worth $95. Today you can find both on EBay for $.99 (plus shipping). NINETY NINE CENTS!!! I was in shock. It looks like I missed the Beanie Baby bubble. Beanie Baby stock has officially crashed. If this was the stock market it would be a penny stock.

So now I don't know what to do. Do I still try to sell them? Do I hold on to them for a few more years in the hope that they go back up in value? Do I donate them to good will for a tax break? Do I save them for my future daughter(s) to some day have? I still can't believe that even what should be the most expensive retired Beanie Babies that I have are selling for pennies.

Monday, February 09, 2009

No Spend Week Results

I was trying to figure out how much I saved from not spending last week. But that's a lot harder than it sounds.

If I was a normal New Yorker this is how much a typical New Yorker spends in a week.

Cup of Coffee every morning - $10-20 a week
Lunch - $25-50 a week
Dinner - $50-100 a week
Drinks/Night(s) out - $100 a week
Misc. (newspaper, gum, manicure, pedicure, haircut, etc) - $100
So based on these estimates I think New Yorkers spend about $285 to $370 a week.

But I'm not the average New Yorker...I don't drink coffee. I HATE coffee. So I might drink some tea but I get that free at work. Most days I don't eat lunch. I know that's probably not good but I get so busy at work that sometimes I just forget to eat or I don't have time to go and grab a bite. Dinner is probably an expense I saved on although I don't think much. A meal for me is chicken and lamb over rice from the cart on the street for $5 and that might last me for 2 meals or a slice of pizza and a jamba juice. So if I spend $50 a week on dinner that would be a lot. Now if I go out for drinks or dinner that would be about $100-200 a week. And I agree on the Misc. amount.

So based on that I think I might have saved $250 by not spending for a week. But did I really save or am I just going to spend it later? Like instead of getting my hair done this week I'm getting it done next week. But either way I think Suze Orman would be proud of me. Her challenge was just to not spend for a day but I went a week without spending.

Did anyone else try the No Spend challenge?

Friday, February 06, 2009


I will go through bouts of insomnia...where no matter what I do I just have a heard time sleeping. My biggest problem is mind chatter. Where your head won't stop thinking in order for you to peacefully sleep. I'll admit I have some weird tactics and some pretty common ones.

1. Run the dishwasher
The sound of the dishwasher is soothing to me.

2. Read
Sometimes reading a newspaper, magazine or book helps me to go to sleep but sometimes it makes the insomnia worse because I'll start thinking about what I read.

3. Play on my Wii
When my insomnia is at its worse I can play for HOURS. You would think I'd be in great physical condition based on how often I play with my Wii.

4. Write blog entries
Some of my best blog entries have been written when I couldn't get any sleep.

5. Journal
I'll try to write down my thought so maybe I can figure out what is bothering me and preventing me from sleeping.

6. Watch a movie
Although if I fall asleep on a movie that must mean it's not a good movie.

7. Work
If I can't sleep I might as well be productive. Work is my #1 stressor and I think the source of why I can't sleep most nights because I think about all that I have to do the next day. So instead of waiting for the next day, I do it when I can't sleep.

8. Take a benedryll or nyquil or sleeping pill
This method is a method of last resort because taking stuff gives me the most fucked up dreams. I mean seriously weird and fucked up dreams.

9. Bedtime buddy
There is a certain person that when I sleep next to them my mind goes silent. No sex involved. Just laying next to this person helps me to sleep. But I don't cash in this chip too often because I was told when I sleep better they don't...go figure.

10. Clean
I'll start going through my clothes, organizing my kitchen, sorting through papers. Anything to use up whatever energy I have.

So those are my sleep insomnia methods. What do you do when you suffer from some insomnia?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wall Street Hits Main Street

For the most part people aren't sure exactly how this economic crisis will directly impact them. As I have said many many times I love Suze Orman. I also listen to Ric Edelman's weekly radio show online. I also like Michelle Singletary at the Washington Post. Personal finance has been one of my personal hobbies/personal growth areas since about 2005 when I bought my house. I read a lot of books, magazines, blogs and online articles on the topic. Below is the list of ways I have learned that we will be impacted on an individual basis.

1. Layoffs
I blogged several months ago about what it was like to have to layoff some of my co-workers/friends. And we are still feeling the impact of the loss and restructuring. But the job losses are not over. A staggering 2.6 million jobs disappeared in 2008 and the pain is only getting worse with 11 million Americans out of work and searching. Unemployment hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent in December and could be headed for 10 percent or even higher by year's end. I have said this several times. Job security no longer exists. All of us are vulnerable.

2. Credit Card Limits Reduced
Even if you have a high credit score and a blemish-free payment history, your credit limit may have been cut. Credit card companies are trying to reduce their risk. The easiest way to do that is have less credit available to their customers.

3. Limited Student Loan Lending
It's not just banks and mortgage lenders that are suffering. The student loan industry is in crisis. Private lenders are going under and some state agencies and large banks, including Bank of America and Wachovia, have stopped issuing student loans. I know this is happening because my niece is going through this turmoil now.

4. Money Market Mutual Funds Safer
To stave off investor panic after one prominent money market fund "broke the buck," or posted a small decline in value, the government has promised it would cover any losses. Not all funds are covered in the new program, so check with your fund company if you are worried. With this added protection, money market funds are now just as safe as bank savings accounts.

5. More Incentives to Open Bank Accounts
One result of the credit crisis is that banks are trying to attract more deposits. Chase is currently offering $125 (at least in New York City) to open an account with direct deposit. Citibank is beefing up its "Thank You" rewards program. Refer a friend, and Bank of America will give you both $25. Remember, low fees and high interest on savings are more important than one-time incentives when choosing a bank.

6. Easier to Get a Loan With Good Credit
Don't forget, even in the current crisis, banks want to stay in business. So they are continuing to make loans to borrowers with good credit records and plenty of assets. There are good deals on home equity lines of credit and businesses have found short-term loans easier to come by since the bailout talks began.

7. Harder to Get Loan if You Have Weak Credit
If you have a tarnished credit history, don't expect to get a loan any time soon -- even if you're willing to pay high interest rates. Banks continue to tighten their lending standards as the credit crisis deepens.

8. More Store Deals
The results are in and the stores did not meet their projections during the holiday sales. So expect to find even more deals and steals.

9. Investment Returns Are Down
We all know the stock market is down. Just look at the returns on your 401K. The worst thing you can do is panic and sell at the bottom. Instead, make sure your investments are diversified and use the upswings to sell some stocks if you realize now that you've taken on more risk than you can handle.

10. Stimulus plan tax provision
One tax provision would provide a $500 tax cut for most workers and $1,000 for couples, at a cost of about $140 billion to $150 billion over two years. The individual tax cuts may be awarded by withholding less from worker paychecks, effectively making checks about $10 to $20 larger each week.

Has anyone else identified other ways we will directly be impacted by the current economic crisis?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More Ways to Save

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about ways to save. Well here are some more ways to save that I have come up with.

1. Borrow from others
I keep my Netflix membership to 1 movie a week so for those in between times I borrow DVD's from friends and from the research library at work. It helps to have DVD's to trade with friends.

2. Pay bills online
It may not be a lot but I save on stamps by paying most of my bills online. I wish I could pay all my bills online. The only I can't pay are my rent and mortgage. Mortgage company charges a fee to deduct the payment monthly, which I think is crazy, how are you going to charge me from withdrawing from my checking account? It's not like I'm paying my mortgage with a credit card, then I could understand the transaction fee. I tried online bill paying for my rent but there was a huge delay in processing by my management company because they act like they couldn't figure out which account to credit the money since the monthly slip was not included with the payment. So I have to rely on snail mail for those bills.

3. Start a side hustle
Remember all those great business ideas you once wished you had time to pursue? Well, many of us now have the time, and while, sure, the economy sucks, a good idea diligently pursued can still succeed. Perhaps now is the right time to begin a side business, to pad your take-home pay and cushion you against a sudden job loss.

4. Work for the census
Talk about perfect timing; just as the nation's unemployment rate skyrockets, the U.S. Census Bureau begins staffing up for the 2010 nose count. If you have a curious nature and a desire to make some extra coin in 2009 and beyond, the Bureau is accepting applications now. And the Census is only one Federal opportunity.

5. Argue for Tax Abatement (see this youtube video for more info)
You could be paying more for you home in property taxes than what it is actually worth. Check with your municipality on when you can challenge your assessment. When you are next able to, file the appropriate paperwork. Be prepared, however, to prove to the assessor's office that your real estate has a lower value. You can do that by comparing it to similar properties that have recently sold in your neighborhood, the assessments of like properties near yours, or a recent appraisal of your property. Getting a proper value assigned to your house can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. A little homework on property values can go a long way toward putting more money in your pocket.

6. Put Your Savings Auto Pilot
By now, you've likely automated everything from your cable bill to student loan payments, so why not automate your savings? Setting up an automated savings plan is incredibly simple and automatically paying yourself every month is a great way to avoid living paycheck to paycheck.

7. Have an enormous garage sale
I mentioned last time that you should sell your junk. Well I didn't tell you how to sell your junk. Most of you will probably do it on ebay or craig's list but there is the good old fashioned way. A garage sale. You'll be thrilled with how much you make, and the empty spaces left behind could be good for your soul.

8. Use Coupons
When I was a kid I would go through the Sunday paper and cut out coupons for my Mom. When we went grocery shopping I would have to remind her we have a coupon for this or we have a coupon for that. My Mom wasn't really big on cutting the coupons and keep track of what you have coupons for. When I got out on my own I used to have coupon shopping trips. If I didn't have a coupon for it I didn't buy it. But there are now digital coupons and some stores have gotten hip to the coupon just show up on X day and the savings discount is automatic.

9. Buy I Bonds
Now this is new to me and I'm still doing some investigation of this. But so far I have learned that I Bonds are a low-risk, liquid savings product. While you own them they earn interest and protect you from inflation. You may purchase I Bonds via TreasuryDirect, at most local financial institutions or through payroll deduction. The current annual interest rate for I Bonds is 5.64%. Not an all-time high, but compared to the alternatives, an appealing investment. Right now that's a higher interest rate than my Roth IRA and Money Market Deposit account.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

No Spend Week Violations

I need y'alls help deciding if I'm in violation of "No Spend Week." I have 3 potential violations that I want to get y'alls opinion on.

1. On 1/28, my girlfriend sent out an email about wanting to go ice skating. The date she wanted to go was in the middle of my no spend week. I estimated the cost to be about $20 so I put the money in an envelope. Am I in violation of "no spend week" if I spend money that I had set aside previously to be able to go ice skating with her? Technically I took it out of last week's entertainment budget to apply it to this week's activity.

2. Every week I go to the chiropractor and my allergy specialist. I pay the co-pay with the debit card provided as part of my health care flexible spending account. Am I in violation of "no spend week" if I go to the doctor and use my preset health care debit card? Technically it's money that was set aside starting January 1st for me to use throughout the year. I could skip a week at my doctors but my body would hate me for it.

3. I have an EZPass. For those who don't live in states that charge tolls for use of roads and bridges, it's an automated money pass. So when I go to see my Mom in NJ, money is automatically deducted from the EZPass to cover the toll. I don't have to physically pay at the toll booth. If I go to see my Mom, there is no way to do that without paying a toll or if I don't drive, I have to pay bus fare. Like I said, the money is already on the EZPass and gets deducted every time I go through a toll booth. Am I in violation of "no spend week" if my pass pays for a toll?

I know y'all might be like are you serious? But I'm curious to see what counts as a spending violation. When I thought about doing "No Spend Week" I didn't think about the ways I passively spend money. It's one thing to pull $25 out of my wallet to pay a medical co-pay. It's another to have it deducted from a preset health care account. But then again, maybe it isn't. I need y'all to help me to decide.

Monday, February 02, 2009

No Spend Week

Remember when I blogged about Suze Orman's challenge in her latest book. Well I started my "no spend" week yesterday. So from February 1 - February 7 I will not spend any money.

My Metro card expires during this week so I bought the next 30 day pass in advance of my no spend week. I have plenty of food so I won't need to go out to eat or go to the grocery store. I also spent yesterday cooking food for the week. So it's also bring lunch to work week. No need to buy any plane tickets, my next 2 trips are already paid for. Nothing I need to buy in terms of clothes or anything else. The gas tank is full and I don't really plan on driving anywhere.

The one thing I'm not sure about, exactly how much will I be saving by not spending this week? As I stated in the blog about the Suze Orman challenge, I have plenty of days where I don't spend. Two days in a row here, 3 days in a row there, I'm not tempted nor do I need to spend money on a daily basis.

Any estimates on what you think I might save? Anyone want to join me in not spending this week? Or do you have a week set where you vow not to spend? How much do you think you would save if you took one week off from spending?