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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 16, 2011

Yes, I know it is not technically Thanksgiving yet but since I have to work at the hat shop over Thanksgiving weekend, I went home last weekend to celebrate with the family! Not only will I be working at the shop over the Holiday weekend, but I will also be running in my first official 5k race, which I am super excited about!

My only plans for my long weekend at home were to spend time with my family, catch up with some high school friends, and visit my cousin and her newborn baby! I was not at all expecting my parents to actually cook a Thanksgiving meal while I was home, but to my surprise, that is exactly what they had planned!

mmmmmm delicious!!

Since my parents were cooking the entire meal, I decided to contribute dessert!

mmmmmmm pumpkin roll!!

I have never made a pumpkin roll before, but I just followed the recipe on the Libby’s pumpkin can and it was pretty darn easy! I will probably be making one again soon considering my roommate and I have a few cans of pumpkin laying around here…

Now on to the highlight of the weekend – a baby!! Have you ever seen a week old baby in person before? This was the first time for me and it was one of the greatest feelings ever!! Sooooo sweet and adorable!! Look at him!!! Love!!!

Oh! Lastly, I wanted to share my latest grocery savings with you guys – I am SO  excited about this one!!

Do you see that savings value?!?! 29%!!! I think that is a record for me. This was achieved simply by coupon cutting and paying attention to the weekly store sales. You guys can do it too, all it takes is a little prep work before you got to the store.

Yes, I realize this is a very random post but I feel like this is reflective of my life recently. I feel like life has become cluttered lately; like I am going straight from one thing to the next without taking the time to properly follow through and reflect on the last thing before I move on. Kind of like I have lost control and just going, going, going… This is true for work projects, graduate school applications, social outings, going out of town, etc. Does that even make sense? It is hard to explain how I am feeling but it makes sense in my head…

Do you ever feel like life is “cluttered” (for lack of a better word)? What do you do to clear up this feeling and get back in control?

October Finance Tracking!

November 2, 2011

Since yesterday was the last day I have the month, I took some time this evening to look at my finances and break them down and analyze them like I always do.

I knew I had gone a little crazy going out to eat this month, but luckily the outcome wasn’t as bad as I was expecting! Here is a look at the October stats:

- 19% of my October income was spent on food ( 42% of that in restaraunts and 58% in stores).

- 5% was spent on Fun

- 2% was spent with cash from the ATM

- 6% from the Miscellaneous category

-4% on shopping

- 52% on rent & utilities (!!!!!)

Luckily, I was able to save 12% of the money I made during the month of October. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be any savings at all this month, so I am pleased as punch!

October was a fun month and that is definitely reflected by the amount of times I ate out with friends or met them for drinks. I plan to try to balance this our in November by planning more get-togethers with friends that do not involve spending so much money! Wish me luck!

I will leave you with some pictures to prove that October was a blast! Bring it on November!! I hope you are just as fun but in a less expensive way!

Fell’s Fest in Baltimore

Visiting with college friends in Baltimore

In our neighborhood bar on a Friday

Before heading out to the Halloween party

HAPPY NOVEMBER!!

Quality Reading?

October 27, 2011

So, what have I been reading for the rest of October since I finished my book club book so early?

Lots and lots of MAGAZINES! I looooove reading magazines! I can’t explain why, but I always have. This hobby can add up if you are not careful. Buying a single magazine each month can cost you $2.99, $3.99, or even $4.99 each – this is why getting a subscription is the most sensible way to go.

My roommate and I may or may not get 9 subscriptions sent to our apartment: Glamour, Self, Health, Fitness, Vegetarian, Lucky, The New Yorker, Time, & Bloomberg Business. (It might be a little self-depricating if I told you which were mine and which were hers, so I will let you guess!!) You may be thinking that this seems expensive but it is not at all – the majority of the subscriptions we got for free or for hardly paid any money at all!

Magazines are dying to sell subscriptions to new readers so they usually have great deals. If you check their website at any given time there will be some sort of promotion. For example, I just went to Lucky Magazine’s website and you can get 12 issues for $9.97 (.83 per issue) or 24 issues for $15 (.63 per issue). And you don’t even have to go to the store to pick it up, it comes right to your door! If you were to buy Lucky at 3.99 for one year you would pay upwards of $48 plus tax! If it is a magazine you like and know you plan to read often, this seems like a no brainer to me! (Did I mention that magazine subscriptions make good gifts?)

My other trick for cheap magazines is Magazines.com! Now, I am going to warn you that they send A LOT of emails but since I have gotten so many free/ cheap subscriptions from them I don’t mind putting up with the junk mail. Magazines.com is constantly sending out $5 and $10 coupons to use towards their site. The subscriptions are already cheaper on this site than straight form the magazine themselves and they are constantly having sales. Using these online coupons, you can get some magazine completely free and other for less than a dollar!

The only problem with getting so many magazines is finding time to read them all! Which is what I am going to do now…

Do you get paper/ magazine subscriptions or do you read everything on your computer/ ipad? Personally, I hope paper magazines will never go away!!

ALSO, looks what DC Savvy mom sent me in the mail!!!

A new batch of COUPONS!!! Lots of savings to be found. Can’t wait to cut them and categorize them!!

You must read this book!

October 17, 2011

My book club has been picking AWESOME books lately!! You must read our October book, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I finished it in 4 days! I literally could not put it down. I went out for a few drinks with friends on Friday, and when I got home, I just had to stay up to finish the book!

This book is a fiction story about a true event – the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundup in Paris, France. I am sad to admit that I did not know anything about the French involvement in the Holocaust and this book is quite eye-opening. It ties together the stories of a young girl whose family gets taken in the roundup in 1942 and a journalist of today who is researching this event. I highly doubt you will be able to put this down once you start reading – I am not saying that it is a happy, feel good book but it is a good, quality read.

Also, it looks like there is a French movie of the book – I might just have to see this.

I was kind of bummed this month because I actually had to buy the book. I usually try to reserve it at the library, so I can pick it up at my convenience. Every single copy of this book was checked out from the DC Public Library system (my first hint that this was going to be a good one). None of them were going to be returned until midway through October, which I guess wouldn’t have been a problem if I knew I was going to finish it in 4 days!!

In the past, I have been able to find cheap used books online (when we read The Red Tent, I got it for 50 cents!), but that was not the case this time. All of the books, new and used, were pretty comparable to what I could find at the stores if you included the shipping.

Before I gave in and paid full price, I decided to check out Second Story Books, one of my favorite used book stores in Dupont Circle!

I have had lots of success in finding current/ recent best sellers at Second Story Books. Luckily for my wallet, I was able to find Sarah’s Key here for only $7 – success! Hopefully, I can get nest month’s book at the library!

SOME Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger

October 12, 2011

Guess what I did yesterday?

I signed up for my first official 5k race! My friend, Sonia, and I decided to create a team to run the race and raise money for So Others Might Eat, a nonprofit in DC that helps feed homeless individuals in the DC area. There are a lot of Thanksgiving Day 5ks in the DC metro area, but we chose this one because 1) it supported a good cause and 2) it is convenient for us to get to considering we don’t have cars and it is a holiday!

Our team name is 5k to Couch (get it? ha ha ha!). We are hoping that some of our friends will be in DC for Thanksgiving and decide to join us at the race! If we can get a few more team members, then I am confident that we will have no problem reaching our desired goal of raising $250 for SOME!

Check out our team page here (like the graphic?) for more information on SOME, to join the team, or to donate to the cause!

Do you have any plans to run a race on Thanksgiving Day or in the near future?

Hiking Old Rag Mountain (again!)

October 10, 2011

Yesterday, the BF and I hiked Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park! Hiking is one of my favorite fall activities!

  • It is great exercise! In fact, the Old Rag Mountain Hike website has a calorie counter on it so you can see how many calories you burned on the hike. You just enter your weight and it will calculate it for you.
  • You can see beautiful foliage!
  • I love being outside in cooler weather when I am not getting sweaty. The weather was perfect yesterday, not too cold and not too h0t.
  • It is free! (Mostly – I think you do have to pay a few dollars to hike Old Rag and some of the other trails in Shenandoah but luckily we were able to borrow a friends year long pass. There are plenty of free hikes in the DC metro area too. The Billy Goat Trail is one of my favorites!)

Old Rag is a pretty popular trail (though it is not an easy one), so it is not ideal if you want to be alone with nature. Even Tina Fey hiked it and recapped her experience in Bossypants (you can read the Old Rag segment here!).

This was our second time climbing Old Rag Mountain. The 1 mile rock scramble was just as challenging the second time around!

May 2011

October 2011

I know there are tons of great hikes in the area and I have only tackled a small portion of them  in the 2.5 years I have lived in DC. I can’t wait to get out and explore more.

Do you have any favorite hikes in the DC metro area?

Do you have any favorite fall activities?

I will leave you with more views from the top of Old Rag Mountain…

Monthly Finance Tracking

October 2, 2011

One way that I keep track of my spending, is by creating an excel chart that documents all of my expenses for the month. I categorize each purchase, then I add up the totals for each category. After doing this it is easy for me to see where my money has gone that month and find areas where I can improve my habits such as eating out too much, going to Starbucks too often, etc in order to be able to move as much money into savings as possible.

The categories I use are:

  • Food (further broken down into restaurants and grocery stores)
  • Fun (this includes drinks at bars, getting frozen yogurt, etc.)
  • ATM (I do not keep track of cash purchases, but I do keep track of how much I take out of the ATM on a monthly basis)
  • Miscellaneous (this includes places like Target, CVS, Starbucks and things like hair cuts, doctor’s appointments, etc)
  • Shopping (self explanatory)
  • Rent/ Utilities
  • Income

Once I finish filling in the chart with every purchase on bank and credit card statements, I calculate the total amount of money I spent during the month. I then do a separate calculation of how much I spent NOT including rent and utilities. Then, of course, I find out the difference of the money I earned and the total amount spent to determine how much to move over to my savings account.

I also try to make not of any out of the ordinary expenses I may have had that month – plane tickets, surgery, etc.

I had an expensive summer with moving costs, minor surgery, plane tickets for weddings and trips, paying double rent in June, astronomical utility bills, etc. so I have to say that I am very pleased with my monetary outcome for the month of September. It seems like things are finally settling down and my expenses are getting back to normal which is great news for my savings account!

Check out my September stats:

-12.48% of the total money spent was spent on food (of that 31% was spent in restaurants and 69% was spent in grocery stores)

-3.86% of the total money spent was spent on fun

-6.53% of total money spent was with cash from the ATM

-5.52% of total money spent were purchases that fell into the Misc category

-6.14% of total money spent was spent on shopping

-65.47% of total money spent went towards rent and utilities (YIKES!!!!)

-And I am happy to say that I was able to move 20.45% of total earnings for the month into savings. woohoo!

-There were no major/ unexpected expenditures in the month of September

I do this at the end of every month and, I am not going to lie, it is a bit time consuming but I think it is worth it. I feel in control of my spending and budget and can track where my money has gone.There are plenty of online tools that can help you do this if you do not have the time to spend tracking your own finances. Before I started doing my own tracking, I used www.mint.com. I found it very easy to use and it served its purpose!

Do you have any techniques you use to make sure you are staying on your budget?

 

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