I confess: I’m cheap

I struggle to pay for some things. I’ve taken cabs around Manhattan maybe a dozen times. A handful of those times were from the airport when I was weighed down with luggage and/or I had early morning or late night flights, and subway travel would be unsafe. I took cabs when I moved and when Superstorm Sandy rendered the downtown trains inoperable. Once I took a cab because I was running late for a class. And when I got nailed in the eye with a soccer ball and was holding a bag of peas against my face. And a couple times when I was showing my niece and nephew around because it’s a whole lot easier to get kids in cabs than on a train.

Hey, what are you buying?
Hey, what are you buying?

But for the most part, I don’t take cabs. Why would I? My trusty yellow metro pass will get me everywhere I need to be for one low monthly rate.

I also struggle to pay to send my laundry out. It’s the New York way, and I’ve done it a few times, but I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself, and it’s about half the price. Sure, it’s a pain to get cash and block off three hours to run back and forth to the laundromat and carry heavy bags down and up the stairs, but that additional $14 could buy Gatitio supplies or two lunches at work or a cheap happy hour with friends. All more important to me than picking up my clothes washed and folded. (Even though that’s so nice).

One thing I will pay for is having kitty supplies delivered. Wags.com is the greatest thing ever. Thank you for delivering my boxes of kitty litter. I’ve bought them at the Petco five blocks away, but let me tell you, it’s exhausting to carry those heavy boxes (they don’t sell small sizes!) home then up the stairs.

Time for me to put an order in, in fact.

The smiles just keep coming

Really, how can you not smile while holding dancer pose on a wobbly surfboard?
Really, how can you not smile while holding dancer pose on a wobbly surfboard?

I feel like everything is coming up Candace right now. I had a fantastic weekend that I can’t stop smiling about. It involved a trip to Brooklyn, winning a picture frame, SurfSet fitness class, riding oversized swings in an exhibit, cuddling by a fireplace and watching the Seahawks win.

I went to the office today and got good news that I actually earned more money in 2012 than I was paid, so I could expect a check this week with the retro pay. Plus, that gives me enough to qualify for a better apartment AND my company is sending me a desktop calendar!

My trainer told me I could come to Monday night kettlebell class tonight at no extra charge. So the happiness just continues.

Also, I must give more props to Quyn who told me not to settle for an apartment I don’t want. That girl is a genius!

Now if only I could connect with Tara, all would be right in my world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back on track

I took a long, hard look at my spending today and decided it’s time to make some changes if I ever want to get out of the small room. I realized I’ve been spending my entire paycheck each month. Well, also my paycheck got smaller when New York taxes started getting taken out in April. Yee-ouch! I have enough savings that I haven’t really noticed until now, but it’s time for that to stop. Spending everything is setting myself up for failure.

So here’s a look at some of the dumber things I’ve been doing and what I intend to change, or at least cut back on.

1.Buying lunch at work. My building is across from Rockerfeller Center. The restaurants downstairs gouge tourists. We get 10% off for working in the building, but even $1 off a $10 turkey sandwich is ridiculous. I can buy bread, turkey, cheese and lettuce and make my own.
2.Buying oatmeal at Starbucks. Again, I can buy a canister of oats, a bag of Craisins and some nuts for far less than I pay at Starbucks. Plus, it would generate less waste than the paper bowl and little packets of toppings.
3.Buying package deals and not using them. I just scheduled two barre classes for this week because the five-class package I bought back in February expires Wednesday. I decided I’m not that into barre anymore. I also have 8 yoga classes left at another place. And a massage-facial Groupon among others. Time to get these things scheduled, and start carefully considering my purchases in the future.
4.Paying full price. There’s really no reason to pay full price for theater tickets or dinners out. So many great apps exist that offer discounts wherever you are.
5.I love Amtrak. I love grabbing a bagel and coffee at Penn Station before boarding the train bound for another East Coast city. But I saved $300 this time by choosing the bus instead. That’s a good chunk of change.

For the record, “reigning in my spending” does not mean skipping food truck runs, never visiting my sister or sitting out on activities. It just means I’m going to pay better attention and make smarter decisions.

Show me the money!

I have a big date coming up with a very important, successful man.

Not a romantic date. I have a date with a financial planner. In preparation, I’ve been examining my spending. My monthly bills are listed. I have a year and a half of spending tracked on Mint (if you don’t use, sign up. I love it.) I’ve contacted HR about lowering my contribution to my 401(k), so I can start contributing 4 percent to my brand-new Roth IRA. I’ve done the homework. I’ve made some changes. I’m looking at making others. But, here are a few things I won’t give up. They’re worth the splurge.

1.Local produce. It costs a little more in both green & energy. You have to go to the farmers market on farmers market day at farmers market time. It’s not as convenient as stopping at Safeway after work. But when spinach, eggs or beef are recalled, you don’t have to check dates and throw out food. Yours is good. Local foods has less of an environmental impact & you can meet the people who grew your eats. It’s endlessly worth it.
2.Expensive jeans. I wear jeans about six days a week. I want jeans that look and feel good, not saggy & unflattering. I don’t spend $200+ on jeans, but I won’t buy the $30 ones at Target either. I’m thinking in the $80-$110 range.
3.Health. My employer offers two plan options. I opted for the more expensive one. I want to see the doctor I want to see – not the one the plan deems worthy. Yoga classes and therapy are also worthy of my dollars.
4.Travel. My family is in Minnesota & Virginia. I will pony up the $300-400 for plane tickets a couple times a year. Even on holidays. I also like to see new places. The money I spent on  trips to Chicago, London, Copenhagen and New York (not all in the same year) was well spent.
5.Lunch, dinner, cupcakes or drinks out with friends. Time with my friends is priceless to me. We’re reasonable. We don’t go to the Four Seasons for dinner every week, but if a friend asks me to join him or her for a drink, I’m going. Similarly, I like to take in a Mariners game or other sort of outing. I like to find discounts on Groupon & Living Social. Why pay full price?
6.Charitable contributions. I do not, will not give to the people with clipboards who ask me to “save the children” or “save the whales” on the sidewalk, but I have organizations I like to support. Some of my favorites are Red Cross, Toys for Tots and anything for sick or underprivileged children.

For the above, I am willing to go without:
1.Expensive home décor. My friend Betsy is a genius when it comes to making your pad first rate on a dime. She taught me the value of finding used furniture and making quick updates by sewing pillow covers.
2.Piles of stuff. I’d prefer to Netflix movies than to buy them; put my name on the list at the library rather than buy new books, etc. Less cost & less clutter.
3.A gym membership. This one was tough for me, but I can take a walk on my lunch break, run around the lake & do yoga videos at home to burn my calories. And I do! I actually lost more weight since I moved and left my gym membership behind.
4.A small home that I can easily afford and still put money in savings each month. Similarly, my car is 8 years old, paid off and just fine.
5.Expensive drinks. I’m happy with my $3 bottles of wine.
6.Pricey soaps, lotions & makeup. The drugstore stuff works just fine for me. I also consider manicures & spa services sometimes treats, not regular occurrences.

So tell me, what are you unwilling to compromise on? How do you balance that out?



A good budgeting tool

Financial calculators