Thursday, April 30, 2009

April recap

Not having a car loan anymore is seriously a wonderful thing.  We finally sat down and made a budget for May and seeing all that money freed up was so exciting.  I was able to put $800 in savings in April, but the new budget is looking even better.

Income - $4780

Rent - $1500
Student Loans - $300
Laundry/Dry cleaning - $50
Cable - $120
Electricity - $100
Gas - $100
Groceries - $250
Drug store - $30
Going out - $150
Fun money - $300 ($150 each)
Car maintenance - $200
Misc - $100

Total - $3200

That's $1580 extra a month left over!

Right now, our emergency fund is about $4000, so obviously we need to get that number up quite a bit.  Our goal is to have a $15000 emergency fund for right now.  But since I will be able to save around $1500 a month, that won't take long at all.  

So in order to make us totally accountable, I'm going to list some goals for the rest of the year.

1. $15000 emergency fund
2. Open two Roth IRAs
3. Fully fund those Roth IRAs
4. Funnel extra money toward paying down my husband's student loans.
5. Save mad cash

So with my paycheck today, I just transferred $750 to savings.  I'm so excited that we have real goals now!

You can more April progress at Cents to Get Debt-Free and Money Saving Mom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rent success!

We finally heard back about our rent and it will be lowered to $1450 a month!  That is a savings of $600 a year based on what we paying now, but $1200 if you go by the $1550 a month that they were asking from us for next year.  Sweet!

I was so nervous about even asking because we were kicked out of our last apartment because my television made too much HEAT.  It is so nice to be dealing with a management company as opposed to my lunatic uncle.  But now, I'm really happy that we brought the rent issue up with the management.  I honestly wasn't expecting them to do anything, so this was a nice surprise.

I wonder how much money I've just given up throughout the years because I was too afraid to say anything.  A few weeks ago, my mom bought me a new macbook in exchange for doing MAJOR cleaning at her house.  We also bought a plastic case/sleeve for the computer, but I really hated it.  More than two weeks had passed and I had already opened the case, so I figured that it was just a lost cause.  But my persistent mom went back to the store yesterday and was able to return it without a problem.  There have been countless times that I purchased something and didn't like it, but just figured that I wouldn't be able to return it.

I'm learning these lessons slowly and I'm learning that I really need to speak up sometimes. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Anxious!

So theoretically we should hear back about our rent tomorrow. I'm not really expecting them to lower the rent, but I'm still trying to stay hopeful about it. If nothing else, maybe they will just keep the rent at $1500.

We still need to work on a budget, but I'm feeling pretty good since I was able to transfer $800 to the ING account this month. My husband keeps mentioning trying to sign a two year lease, and it makes me sad that we will probably still be here in two years and not in a home of our own yet.

In shopping news: after hearing all about reusable shopping bags last week because of Earth day, I finally bought some of my own. I decided on these Envirosax Flora Pouches. They were kind of pricey, but I had some Amazon credit that I earned from Swagbucks, so I only paid about $13.

Monday, April 20, 2009

rent update

So my husband sent the email to the management company about our rent increase versus the advertised price of the apartment.  They actually go back to him pretty quickly, and apparently the woman who would need to deal with the situation is on vacation this week.  But they forwarded his email to her as well as the manager of our particular building.  They were very polite and said that they would get back to us next week.

I'm anxious and nervous after all of our drama that we had with our apartment last year.  I don't want to have to move again, but at the same time, I don't want to be a sucker either.  This management company has been very professional so far, so hopefully this goes well.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rent stress!

We pay $1500 a month for our 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment.  We got a copy of our lease for renewal, and the rent will go up to $1550 for the next year.  Normally, I would be okay with this, because I had been worried that the rent would go up $100.  

But instead, I am feeling pretty aggravated about the rent because a few weeks ago we saw a sign on the main door of our apartment building advertising an open house where 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartments were going for $1375-$1425 and 2 bedroom/1.5 bathroom apartments were going for $1500.  Meaning our apartment would be $125-175 cheaper a month!

My husband wrote an email to the management company, but he hasn't sent it yet.  Basically he questions why our rent is so high, when the same apartments are being advertised (ON OUR DOOR) for so much cheaper.  He also pointed out that doing this wasn't very tactful on their part.  He doesn't act for anything specifically, just for more of an explanation.  He also points out that it seems that we would easily be able to save this money if we were to move to another apartment in the same building.  Also, we checked craigslist and found a bunch of listings for these apartments.  We wouldn't have even bothered to check online though, if it wasn't for the sign on the front door.

So here's my question: Do you think it is worth it to send the email?  Should we ask for something in particular, or just express our general dissatisfaction?

Weekly recap

I can't believe my week off is coming to an end.  Now we are in the final stretch until June.  So this week has been pretty productive.  Last Sunday, I tried making bread for the first time ever, and it was pretty successful.  Since then, I made bread two more times.  Even though it takes so long, the process is oddly satisfying.  I'm sad that with school starting again, I won't have time to make bread anymore. :(  

This is the recipe that I used.  Even though my bread was delicious, it never looked as perfect as it does in those pictures.

I met up with friends a few times this week as well, which was fun because once school starts I NEVER go out.

On Tuesday, my husband and I tried to go to a restaurant that I had received a gift certificate for through a promotion.  We've failed at trying to go to this restaurant before, so we were really excited.  Finally it seemed like it was going to work, until we found that the restaurant had closed down.  Thank goodness no one actually paid for the gift certificate, but still, it was pretty disappointing.

Then on Friday, we decided to take advantage of my husband's work ID that would let us both get into any museum for free.  We had initially planned to go to four museums, but then realized that would be kind of insane, so we went to MoMA and The Met.  We also went to Alice's Tea Cup, which is pretty amazing!  We got two pots of tea and the mad hatter tray with sandwiches, cookies, and these amazing pumpkin scones.  YUM!


Now I have another loaf of bread rising in the kitchen, almost ready to go in the oven.  I'm trying to enjoy my last day off, but I am SO SAD about going back to school tomorrow.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Frugality and Eco-Friendly: Where do you draw the line?

Don't you just love it when internet searches take you into uncharted territory?  So I was planning to make salmon for dinner tonight and I was searching the internet to find a cooking temperature and an amount of time, because I have messed that up in the past and cooked rubbery chewy salmon.

So as I am searching I find references to cooking salmon in the dishwasher.  Intrigued, I started clicking on links.  At first there were just references to poaching salmon in a seemingly empty dishwasher.  Basically you wrap it up in foil tightly with any seasonings, and put it on the top rack of the dishwasher.  Then you set the dishwasher on the highest setting and use the drying option as well.  Using an empty dishwasher seems kind of odd, but harmless enough, I suppose.

So then I found a link and video, of a man cooking salmon in a fully loaded dishwasher!  With soap!  He took it out and it looked okay, but I just can't get past the idea of eating something that was sitting next to dirty dishes and had soap all over it.  I guess I just don't trust foil that much.  The man conducted the experiment in order to use less energy.

Reading the comments was interesting.  Several people pointed out that using a dishwasher at all, wasn't very eco-friendly, though that seems to be a debatable point depending on how you wash your dishes - meaning do you fill up the sink and use that water or keep the water running as you wash.

But other comments, talked about other dishwasher recipes, such as Lasagna Florentine!  People lamented about wasted water used to boil tea, and a woman mentioned that she boils eggs in her tea water to save energy.

I'm not going to lie, these examples make me kind of squeamish (no that is too harsh, it is more like the step before squeamish).  I'm not sure I really see the benefit, especially since it involves FOOD.  If even a little bit of dishwasher soap got into that salmon, I would imagine that it could be pretty harmful.  Is it really worth it?

Now, on the other hand, I totally get other frugal/eco-friendly changes.  FB wrote all about eco-friendly hair care, and in that case I was very intrigued.  The labels on my beauty products scare me - and in this case there is no harm in experimentation.  You will not eat dish soap!  Maybe your hair won't look great (maybe it would look better!), but there is no ick factor at all.  In fact, this is something I might even experiment with during the summer when I am not working.

So what do you think?  Would you try dishwasher salmon?  

Monday, April 6, 2009

This mouse is ruining my budget!

Last night, at 2am, we were finally victorious against the mouse.  I am still so stressed and tired, and I can't just wait to put this drama behind us.  I'm very anxious, and I am just praying that this mouse was a lone wanderer and not a sign of something worse to come.

Dealing with this mouse is really starting to be a financial annoyance as well.  First of all, since the beast decided to run (and poop) all over the counters, we have to throw out some food: a five pound bag of flour, a bag of barley, a bag of lentils, a box of pop tarts.  Some bananas that were looking good for banana bread took a turn for the worse in the past few days that we have blocked off the kitchen, and had to be thrown out this morning as well.

My husband went out a bought a few glue traps (I think $3 each), but then his exterminator father brought us about 25 more glue traps.  After a particularly brazen incident, we created a perimeter of glue traps which ultimately led to the capture of the mouse.  I couldn't even imagine the expense of buying all those traps, and I feel like the sheer volume of them was the only thing that actually worked.

We also filled up holes in the walls, to try to keep the beasts out.  We used some weird foamy caulk stuff.  I don't know how much that cost since my husband's dad also brought that for us.

We did some research online and apparently mice really hate peppermint oil.  So there is another $7 gone for tiny bottles of oil.  We will dilute it in water and spray it around the kitchen.

Also, I still can't use the kitchen.  We are going to keep the traps down for a few more days, plus I am still completely disturbed from seeing the mouse running on the counters by the food.  I was going to buy breakfast and lunch today, but I just couldn't do it.  So my very kind husband helped me to gather some food.  We're going to grab some pizza tonight, but at least it wasn't as bad as buying food all day.

And also, apparently even though I understand that stress makes me want to shop, it doesn't matter, because I did order a few things from Banana Republic last night.

SIGH.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Understanding triggers...

The past few days have been extremely stressful around here.  On Thursday morning my husband told me that he saw a mouse in the apartment.  It ran into the closet and he shut it in and thought that it was trapped.  Later when he was ready to catch it, he opened the door and nothing was there.  He plugged up some holes around the closet and we hoped for the best.

On Friday night he saw the mouse again.  This time it was RUNNING ACROSS THE KITCHEN COUNTER.  So we set up more traps, but still, nothing.  Oh, except for poop ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!

Yesterday, we had planned to go out to eat and also to go to the mall since I needed a spring jacket.  We left the traps and basically spent the entire day being stressed about what we were going to find when we got home.

After we left the apartment, we were so sad and stressed about the mouse situation.  I turned to my husband in the elevator and said, "Listen, I can buy whatever I want today.  I can spend however much I want because I CAN'T DEAL WITH THIS."  Now usually determining triggers are not this clear cut for me, but I was willing to forgo all of our financial progress to help to ease my stress.

As the day wore on, we began to relax.  We went to dinner and spent as much as we had planned.  Then by the time we got to the mall, my shopping stress urges had gone away.  We focused on finding me a spring jacket, and that was the only thing that I bought.

Yesterday was a perfect example for me to realize that I MUST stay away from shopping when I am stressed out.  

Thursday, April 2, 2009

March recap!

Well, March was definitely an exciting month because I FINALLY paid off my car loan.  My husband has around 20k in student loans, so we are not debt free, but we are moving along.  Since our savings account is looking pretty skimpy at about 3k, I am going to spend the next few months focusing the extra money from the car and putting it into savings.  

I'm not really sure what our specific goals should be, since there are so many different directions that I need to go.  I still do not have a Roth IRA, but I have the paperwork sitting on my desk.  The student loan debt makes me sad.  Should I focus on getting a six month emergency fund in place before we do anything else?  

Also, we were paying a lot of money for cable.  It was $147 a month with premium channels.  Since some of the shows that we watched just ended, we canceled our premium channels.  I just got the bill for $117 a month, so that's nice.

We STILL haven't written out a proper budget.  I know we are doing okay, but I really need to sit down with my husband and figure everything out now.