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Archive for September, 2015

Is DIY really cheaper?

September 29th, 2015 at 01:18 pm

With all the costs associated with a wedding, I'd decided to do my Save the Date invitations myself. I got permission from one of my work's higher ups to use the company printer to print them. There are 3 to a page, so less than 30 sheets total. I found this really cute idea online, and starting mocking up a template. Mine's a little different and still felt plain, so when I was buying the twine for the knots, I bought a couple of stamps and an inkpad. This totaled to about $70. Adding in the cost of the heavy brown paper, I'm at about $1 per invite. Seeing as printing them online would have been about $.75 per invite, I felt cheated. And then it occurred to me to just make life simpler and print the images directly on the invite, so I'm returning all the stamp stuff. Total cost will be about $50 (not counting postage) for the Save the Date cards. I'll post a picture of the finished product.

Amazon Prime is $67

September 25th, 2015 at 03:52 pm

Today, Amazon Prime is $67 for new members. (I also read something about existing members gifting themselves a subscription to get around the new member thing, but I'm not sure how valid that is...) This is almost a third off the regular price. We'd been debating Prime for awhile, so we're going to take the plunge and get it.

Date Night & Destination Wedding Etiquette

September 23rd, 2015 at 02:22 pm

Awhile back, I had bought DF and I tickets to Ed Sheeran (had I known he was going to propose, I may have just saved that money instead), so tonight is date night. Unfortunately, it coincides with the Pope's visit, so traffic is probably going to be a mess. Expenses include doggy day camp for the pups (my equivalent of babysitting: since we both are working and then going to be gone for the concert, I didn't want them to go stir crazy) and dinner (going to try and do HH somewhere so it's cheaper). I joked that we only had the budget for one shirt, so we'd have to share it to which DF responded 'You can just get one for yourself...so long as it's a medium...' Smile I don't go to concerts often, so I like to have the shirt as a tangible thing to bring back the memory, but we'll see how dinner shakes out.

For those who've had/attended a destination wedding (looking at you VS), did you (or the hosts) plan additional events around it? Since the wedding is 100 people, I was only planning to invite the bridal party to the rehearsal dinner, but all of my research indicates I should host at least one other meal as a thank you to everyone for attending. I was originally thinking a picnic brunch the day after the wedding. DF shot that idea down saying once the wedding was over, it was done. I still think we should do something, so my new thought was to still limit the rehearsal dinner to the bridal party/family, but then have an informal evening cocktail hour with some light apps. Should I also arrange some sort of excursion? I'm not sure what's the best way to show my appreciation for everyone's presence without going totally broke to do so...

Joint Finances

September 22nd, 2015 at 04:25 pm

There was a recent forum post on how married couples handle finances. This has been a well-discussed topic for DF and I lately. I'd always imagined that after we get married, we'd transition to a single account. He's pretty set on a having a joint account, but still keeping our individual accounts. I think we've finally decided on a compromise that will suit our needs. I wanted the single account for ease of financial management for our household. He wants to keep his account to have his 'fun' money that he can spend without feeling guilty or having to run it by me. So, we're going to combine our wants. After we get married, I will merge all of my stuff into our joint account and handle all of my finances out of that. DF will switch his direct deposit to go straight into our joint account, and then we will transfer an agreed-upon amount of 'fun' money to his bank account for him to do whatever he wants with. Currently, his paycheck goes to his account, and he transfers money into ours. I'm glad we were able to figure out something that will accommodate both of our wants.

Stress and weight gain

September 18th, 2015 at 06:08 pm

This is non-financial, but I've gained a ton (15 lbs) of weight in the past month. Due to everything we've got going on, DF and I have been drinking much more than usual. I finally got fed up with it when a dress that used to hang off of me now makes me look like I'm in the early stages of pregnancy. About a month ago, I had invested in the Cize DVDs, but never kept up with the workout. I did one last night, and it is super fun, so rather than add more stress by trying to do it every day, my goal is to do all six songs once a week. This can be spread out or in one long jam session on the weekends. Additionally, DF and I separated alcohol from entertainment in our budget, and the only money that goes into the alcohol budget is $5 each time one of us completes a workout. This way, we're combatting the weight gain.

Food, more food, and some financial stuff

September 17th, 2015 at 05:20 pm

I didn't mention it at the beginning of the month, but I scored a great deal on meats - $20 for 4 meals (chicken breasts, seasoned drumsticks, hamburgers, and steaks). These are meals designed for families of 4, so I immediately split them into ziploc bags and wrote out a meal plan for the month. We've done a couple of small supplementary trips, but I think we'll be well within our $300 grocery budget this month!

Yesterday was National Guacamole Day. DF and I planned a long time ago to take his parents out to this really great Mexican place that DF's friend owns. While I had budgeted for this, it turned out to be REALLY expensive. Fortunately, DF's friend ended up comping all of our food, so the drinks came out to only just over what we budgeted. It was extremely generous of him as our entrees were all relatively pricy.

In other news, we paid the full statement balance (~2300) of our Chase Marriott card yesterday. We've now earned the bonus 80k points which we'll use on our honeymoon.

Great Groupons and YNAB

September 16th, 2015 at 03:36 pm

Groupon had a 25% off two-day sale the other day and I picked up some great Groupons. I got two for 8.95 each for $20 at a burger joint and Italian place in Vegas. These are both right near the Planet Hollywood restaurant where we're staying and allows each of us to eat for less than 5 bucks each. I almost splurged a steak dinner, but since I just started YNAB, I made myself wait until I had money in the Vegas account.

Speaking of, I started the trial a few days ago. So far, I really like it except I'm still learning. I missed the class I signed up for, so I'll have to sign up for another one and actually attend since they select someone to win a free copy of YNAB. I also showed it to DF, and he really liked it. He actually took to it better than me. As I was showing him around, he's pointing out how to enter transactions and stuff while I was still searching for the right button :/

Other recent financial wins include paying off our couch in full and putting aside $500 for October deposits to wedding vendors. I'm thinking we'll need between $1500 and $2000 depending on who we go with for catering. Between my babysitting job and DF, we should be able to make it without asking our parents for help.

September Budgets

September 15th, 2015 at 06:57 pm

I apparently skipped posting August's budgets although I did do them. Even though the month's half over, here is September. Although since starting YNAB, I may roll with the punches and do some adjusting in the second half of the month. One other thing that I didn't note on August payments was that we paid the remainder of our couch in full, so yay!!

Below are our July budgets:

My Account (Still have $270 unaccounted for)
Capital One Savings: 25
Netflix: 9
Insurance: 88.68
Navient Loans: 155
ACS Loan: 170
Phone: 150
Wells Fargo: 50
Food/Gas: 90
Misc: 45
Mariner: 100
Chase Freedom CC: 100
Chase Slate CC: 25
NFL Points CC: 60
Apartment*: 1400

Our Account:
Rent: 1600
Electric: 140
Gas: 80
Verizon: 95
Groceries: 300
Entertainment: 100
Pets: 300
Chase Marriot: 2495.24
Capital One Venture CC: 100
Wedding Savings: 500

The apartment under my account is my contribution to our account.

Finally some August numbers...

September 15th, 2015 at 06:46 pm

I've been terrible about getting this up quickly after the end of the month. To be fair, there is a lot going on, but I really need to be better about it..

*Budgeted numbers in parentheses

My Account
Capital One Savings: 25 (25)
Netflix: 7.99 (9)
Insurance: 88.68 (88.68)
Navient Loans: 1555 (155)
ACS Loan: 169.70 (170)
Phone: 149.25 (150)
Wells Fargo: 50 (50)
Target: 0 (0)
Food/Gas: 137.75 (90)
Misc: 0 (31)
Mariner: 100 (100)
Chase Freedom CC: 785 (45)
Chase Slate CC: 25 (25)
NFL Points CC: 60 (60)
Car: 710.01 (0)
Misc: 602.65 (0)
Entertainment: 87.73 (0)
Wedding: 5.29 (0)
Apartment*: 1400 (1400)


Our Account:
Rent: 1630.95 (1600)
Gas: 92.47 (80)
Electric: 102.21 (140)
Verizon: 93.12 (95)
Groceries: 381.08 (300)
Entertainment 903.28 (100)
Misc: 1807.64 (0)
Couch: 649.95 (650)
Pets: 1205.64 (400)

As you can see, August was pretty brutal for us. We had plenty of money come in, but we also pretty much spent it all. The entertainment budget includes a rather sizable investment in camping gear, a weekend camping trip and a weekend hosting out-of-state friends. The miscellaneous is wedding spending which I will probably start adding to a wedding category. My own car was paid by the other driver's insurance when I was rear-ended. The miscellaneous from my own account was paying back my FSA. Ouch...glad August is over.

New Job, Benefits, and YNAB

September 11th, 2015 at 02:01 pm

I started the babysitting gig this week, so like all those with families, I'm suddenly adjusting to a 'school' routine. It's been rough waking up. I usually get up about 545/6 with the dogs, but I'm used to going back to sleep. Now, I have to stay up. On the plus side, it's $100/wk for making sure a 13 yo stays on her morning schedule and dropping her to school. Pretty easy and makes my FT job schedule more regular. Next week, she's off school the whole week. What's interesting is that it's written into my contract that if the girl is sick or misses school for any reason such as teacher workdays, then I still get paid the full week, so she said she'd still pay me next week even though I don't have to do anything. Since I've just started working for her, it felt strange accepting the money for a full week's work when I'm not needed. The daughter will be staying home all week and their house is right near my work, so I offered instead to swing by on lunchtimes and look in on her. I figure it's a fair alternative and makes me feel like I am actually earning the money. I've been waffling on what to do with the extra $400/month, but I think it will go half to the wedding and half to my CCs.

It's open enrollment time for my FT job. This year, we're offered 3 plan choices. Our standard plan , a local one which is cheaper with a more limited network, and a national plan which costs a little more with less of a deductible. I think I'm going to go with the local plan as my healthcare will possibly change once I'm married. I'm also considerably reducing my FSA as even with the $500 rollover, I still have almost a grand to use up this month. I am adding an AFLAC policy. I currently have 3, but since we anticipate starting a family not long after marriage, I'm going to add the hospital plan too, so we can take advantage of that.

With all the additional attention drawn to it lately, I've been doing some research into YNAB. I'm a little hesitant to dive in considering we have a big trip in October and then it's the holiday season...all while planning a wedding. However, I think all of that may be the perfect reason to jump in now. I'm going to really sit down and look into it this weekend, but I'm leaning towards doing the free trial starting next week. If that goes well, then at the end of the trial, I'd use part of my extra earnings to get it and really start both DF and I on it.

1 Trip, Many Purposes

September 8th, 2015 at 03:27 pm

I still owe August recaps and September budgets, but for today, I thought I'd make myself feel better by taking note of all my efforts to make the upcoming trip as effective as possible while minimizing costs.

Accommodations: I wasn't planning on a vacation this year. The Vegas trip came up when my mom received an offer for gambling a lot last year. It was 5 comped nights, $150 in freeplay, and BOGO show tickets. She asked if she could contribute and we could go for her birthday again. I agreed and we decided it would just be a mother-daughter trip. My mom decided 5 days wasn't enough and wanted to stay a week. That wasn't a problem as we play rewards programs which offer complimentary nights. However, DF's parents belong to a timeshare and had points to use up, so they graciously covered our other nights. It ended up working out that we'll be there 8 nights as the timeshare requires a 3-night stay. In July, DF proposed and we decided on Sedona. Flights to Phoenix are crazy expensive (close to $400/person). I realized Vegas is only about 5 hrs. drive away, so we decided to combine our vendor trip with the Vegas trip. I used my CC rewards to cover our hotel for our one night in Sedona.

Flights: Frontier has non-stop flights from DC-Vegas which are very reasonable. I've kept my eye on them. We got DF's roundtrip for $124. However, the DC-Vegas route is seasonal and stops on October 24th (terrible timing!!). We got one way flights for $187 for the two of us which includes our one checked bag. I'm still monitoring return flights, but it looks like it'll be about $220. So all told, my mom and I's flight will be about $200 each.

Entertainment & Food: I've mentioned before about two rewards programs which help make our trips a little cheaper: MyVegas and Social Rewards. MyVegas allows you to play slots for gold coins called Loyalty Points. You can then redeem the points for real-life rewards. They have several partners including MLife casinos, Station casinos, Royal Caribbean cruises, and Allegiant Air. Since my mom sometimes buys coins to play with, she has 4 MLife rewards while I have 3. We each got tickets to the Beatles Love cirque show and the Thunder from Down Under show. My mom's remaining rewards are for 2 free buffets and a $50 freeplay. My last reward will either be for another set of buffets or Shark Reef passes. The program also has restaurant rewards for Wolfgang Puck which we will use as well. The other program (Social Rewards) allows you to share things on social media and watch videos for points. Once you hit 1000 points, you can transfer that for $10 to use at any Caesar's property. You can earn about $10/month. There's a great little sandwich deli in Planet Hollywood, so we will probably use the $60 or so I have from that to eat lunch there several times. One of the places I really wanted to see was Fremont Street. There's a bus that runs downtown that we will take the day we go there. I'm also considering a $37 membership to Las Vegas Advisor which gives you a ton of coupons (most of which are for downtown). There are several $5, $10, and $25 free/match plays as well as a $50 credit to any Palms restaurant. I will most likely get it as the food credit alone pays for the membership and my mom could then spend the day hopping the casinos and playing. The hotel we're staying at the last 3 days has a kitchen, so I will most likely just buy food to keep in the room to cut down on eating out.

As the trip gets closer, I will be scouring groupon and living social for additional food/attraction deals. I will hold off on getting them until they have their extra 15/20% deals, so we can save even more! It should be a fun trip.

Bye bye money

September 3rd, 2015 at 01:42 pm

It feels like money is just disappearing on me. Between the wedding, the Vegas trip, and trying to get a handle on my finances in general, it's becoming a lot.

We are combining the Vegas trip with a quick side trip to Sedona to meet with all of our vendors. This will be the only trip out there prior to the wedding, so I'm staying on top of my game to make sure we do everything we need to. From everything I understand, our marriage license would be good for a year, so we're getting that. We've also already confirmed appointments with the venue, photographer, and florist. I'm coordinating still with the DJ, officiant, food, and cake vendors. I did score a pretty sweet deal on flights. I have a whole separate post planned on our Vegas trip and how we're maximizing the trip while minimizing expenses.

With the Vegas and Sedona trips comes extra spending/deposits for all of the vendors, so my payoffs will be less as I try to save/cash flow these expenses. We are saving quite a bit by combining the trips and driving between the locations. We also used CC rewards to cover the hotel while in Sedona.

I'm also making some changes to my health plan while in open enrollment which should free up some extra cash. Our company just started allowing us to roll over $500 of our FSA. Since I have $1300 to use by the end of September, I will definitely be rolling $500 over and plan to use the rest for new glasses/prescription sunglasses/refresh all the first aid kits. I'm going to lower my contributions significantly which should up my paychecks a bit.

On top of all that, DF and I had a mini date night going to a promo event for the DC United soccer team. He enjoyed himself so much and we actually ended up getting a single full season ticket. DF works so hard and has very little free time and this is one of his few indulgences. I was concerned that it'd be a waste since he can't make every game, but the exchange policy is super flexible and he's going to choose 9 games he wants to see, and exchanged the tickets for the rest of them, so he could bring someone to every game. It's a win because he gets to enjoy the matches with someone. We're on the payment plan since it is interest free and payments are spread out over a year. DF was so happy...he couldn't stop smiling. Some things mean more to me than money...although, I did tell him that covered Christmas and birthday gifts Smile