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And the loans keep piling up....

July 28th, 2010 at 08:04 pm

My Chase loan was certified today, which I have to take out in addition to federal student loans for my grad program. Initially I was ecstatic, because it's a weight off my shoulders, but that I realized what a private loan entails: a LOT of interest.

People always suggest that you make interest payments if nothing else while in school, but frankly I can't afford to do even that. With the rent I'm looking at, I can't afford much.

I guess I have to bite the bullet with this one, and at least feel good that I'm taking out the BARE MINIMUM.... I also will be working in a restaurant, which is not the most glamorous way to spend my time, but at least it will help with the bills.

Yikes. I'm in for a tough year.

Eating cheap - um, what's that?

July 26th, 2010 at 01:54 pm

I took a hiatus while I got settled, which was probably stupid because I spent exorbitant amounts of money in the interim. I thought I'd be ok, but it turns out I really need this blog and this community to keep me on track. You all inspire me to stop acting like an idiot.

My short-term sublet is up in a month, but I signed a lease today for a new apartment. It's a 5 bedroom (I'm only renting one room, of course), and I just dropped $3,700 on my security deposit and first month's rent. OUCH. From there, the rent is $1250/month. Believe it or not, this is a steal for my neighborhood.

My greatest fixed expense, then, will be rent (along with transportation ($89/month unlimited Metro Card and tuition $500/month). Unfortunately, I am a big spender when it comes to groceries. I can't help it - if I see truffle oil, goat cheese, or fresh pulled mozzarella, I have to put in the cart.

I need to start eating like the pauper I am. Right now, I spent about $75/week on groceries for myself alone. This is not cool (particularly since I also go out to eat a lot). I need to cap it at $50.

My first project will be creating a menu and a lifestyle that will allow me to eat with that kind of budget. Any ideas welcome. I don't even know where to begin...

Budget App

June 8th, 2010 at 03:59 pm

I have a tendency to over-budget, so I was hesitant to download a new app for it on my iPhone... They usually become a source of stress, which makes ANY expense anxiety-provoking for me. This would be okay except that I eventually end up in grouchy deprivation mode. Not good for all parties involved.

I did find a cute little app, HomeBudget, which seems to be the happy medium between my former budget overkill and my later recklessness. After trying PocketMoney for awhile, I've found this one to be much simpler and more intuitive. It's not going to be the next Quicken, but I think it'll do exactly what I need it to, and so far it's helped me stay on track.

Breaking the coffee habit.

June 2nd, 2010 at 09:41 pm

Like I said, my main goal here is to downgrade my lifestyle and lower my (material) expectations. I'm going generic.

Clothing and accessories will be the final battle, and one I'm not looking forward to, but I thought I'd start small by 86'ing store-bought coffee. When at all possible.

I used to buy a minimum of 3 espresso/tea drinks per week, usually before shifts or while running errands. That's not all that bad, especially since I get Americanos (espresso + water) which are far, far cheaper than the sugary alternatives. Still, I figure I can save $10/week but making due with my travel mugs. $40/month is nearly half my transportation costs.

Right now I'm crashing at my parents' house for a couple weeks while I make the transition from apartment to New York, so brewed coffee is legitimately free for me. I might as well make use of it.

Whoops, shopping.

June 1st, 2010 at 08:30 pm

I had to get some clothes for interviewing (among other things), so I went shopping today for basics. I spent $128 on a couple dresses - could be a lot worse, but that was a full day's work.

I have to find a way to justify it, so I've made the decision to not renew my gym membership for June. I'm only going to be here three weeks, which will mostly be spent working and packing, so it's not worth the $80-ish.

Free money.

May 31st, 2010 at 04:33 pm

Not really free, but I've been picking up shifts at the restaurant left and right. At this point, my theory is that if I'm alive & awake, I might as well be working. I only have 13 days left anyway.

I picked up a 4 hour closing shift last night that brought in a solid $150, and I picked another one up for tonight. I can't believe other servers are giving these away. I've already made $50 on the lunch shift, so if I can break $200 for the day I'll call it a success.

The best part is I've spent 0 money today and yesterday. I'm trying to teach myself to think in terms of averages, not windfalls, and not allowing a good night here and there to justify a spending spree.

[Edit: In other news, I only made $70 at dinner. Cool.]

I'm about to do something really stupid.

May 30th, 2010 at 11:00 am

Key facts:

1) I'm 23.
2) I have barely $5,000 to my name, and I'm $30,000 in debt from undergrad.
3) I don't have a frugal bone in my body.
4) I'm about to move to NYC.

My biggest challenge (and greatest fear) is that I don't know how to downsize my lifestyle. I'm not a rich kid by any means, but I'm single, in a town with a low cost-of-living, with a waitressing job that keeps a steady flow of cash coming in. I don't buy generic; I eat organic; I wear designer. Thus far, I've been able to do this while socking away $500/month. Not bad, service industry job - not bad.

I could support these habits in the southwest indefinitely, but in New York my rent/utilities/food costs/EVERYTHING are going to double, even triple. I know I'm going to have to learn to live modestly and like it, too.

In college, the only way I could lose weight was by tracking every calorie and noting the times I made the right choice - apple over brownie, oatmeal over donut, etc. I just needed to visual reminder that I possessed self-control after all.

So that's what I'm going to do here. I'm going to jot down the little decisions along the way, in hopes that frugal will eventually become the new normal. I know my saving strategies are kind of lame, in comparison to many of you. Buying $5 drugstore bronzer instead of my favorite $40 department store brand was a big deal for me, when a lot of people would forgo bronzer altogether (I say: "NEVER!"). I'm not going to defend it. I need baby steps.