My Real Wedding Budget Part 1

There are many fellow PF bloggers that are engaged and planning their wedding right now.  I don’t know if there’s similar number of engaged PF bloggers every year, but it seems like a lot of the ladies/men got engaged last year.  I’ve been meaning to post my own budget for a while, but my lazy butt got me again.  I remember getting frustrated when I was searching for real wedding budgets that other average American brides were spending.  Stuff I found were either extravagant $100k weddings or super frugal ones with $8k budget.  No matter how I changed the numbers around and searched and searched, I could not get my numbers that low for 100 people wedding.  So even though it’s been a few years since I got married, I wanted to post my wedding budget to tell you to not feel bad either way.  I felt like I was too poor to have a nice wedding and I also felt like I wasn’t frugal and smart enough to pull a real budget friendly wedding.  It’s your wedding, so as long as you can afford it and it makes you, your fiancé, and your family happy, don’t think about what other people are spending.  It goes without saying though that you should be smart about it and get the best deal possible.

1. Flowers $1,500.00 – My theme color was deep purple with hot pink as secondary color, so the main flowers used were lisianthus and hot pink roses and other flowers as fillers.  But I specifically asked to not use daisies, mums, carnations, and lilies.  Because I ruled out a lot of cheap flowers that can be used as filler, the price went up.  Now that I think about it, I should’ve let her use some of those flowers and cut the price by few hundred dollars.  But the flowers turned out well in general.  I didn’t really care for the flower girl basket or the way she decorated the cake, but I loved my bouquet and the head table arrangement.

So the pieces that were included in the price was: -1 theme color bride bouquet -3 ivory and cream bridesmaids bouquets – 1 theme color groom boutonniere – 3 ivory and cream groomsmen boutonnieres – 7 boutonnieres for family, pastor, ushers – 1 mixed color welcome table arrangement – 8 theme color aisle chair arrangements – 1 flower girl basket – 1 theme color head table arrangement – hot pink rose pedals for cake table and the aisle – 10 mixed color centerpieces for reception tables – 2 theme color altar arrangements

2. Cake $300.00 – This price included 3 tier cake for 74 servings, VT football shape groom’s cake for 12 servings, 7 cupcakes, and delivery fee.  I was really happy with all the cakes she brought.  They looked gorgeous, flavors were rich, and the cake was so moist.  I didn’t do a bouquet toss and instead I had the baker put a silver ring that I gave her ahead of time to one of the cupcakes and did a cupcake pick.  I had 7 single girls out in the front and had them pick a cupcake and eat it.  Whoever found the ring got to keep it.  Overall, money well spent.

3. Venue for ceremony and reception $6,648.28 – We got married at a mansion on a golf course.  This place is pretty inclusive of many things needed for the wedding reception.  Basically you pay for the food and meet the minimum spending amount with food, then the tables, coordinating, servers, candle vases, tables, chairs, covers, and most everything is included.  We got a great deal at $44.76 per person.  Ceremony fee was $249.95 and host bar tab came out to be $726.30.  It was a lunch wedding and our friends don’t drink that much.  Plus, their host bar drink price was pretty good.  The total amount includes the tax and service charge of 20%.  Overall, I’m really happy that I chose this place.  They were easy to work with and they didn’t nickel and dime me.  Since they’re pretty much all inclusive, I didn’t have to rent anything or pay for anything additionally as little thing as table number stand.  They even included projector and screen service for free.  The place is beautiful and the food was great.  We didn’t do steak, but instead went with chicken.  I was a little worried if people might complain about the lack of choice or the fact that I didn’t serve beef, but quite a few people came and told me after the wedding how they liked the food.  The service was attentive and quick.  My wedding day had thunderstorm all day, so they had to move the ceremony indoor.  They did it quick and although I was upset I didn’t get to have my outdoor wedding, the set up was gorgeous and made me stop whining.

4. Rehearsal dinner $579.80 – We had our rehearsal dinner at the same venue as our wedding, but they have a pub/café in a separate building right next to the mansion.  After the rehearsal, everyone walked over there for dinner.  It was $28.76 per person and this included little candle light decoration, plated Italian dinner, displayed appetizer, and dessert.  Also included in the price was coffee/tea station, tax, and service charge.  We had a host bar set up as well and that price was included with the reception host bar total.  Not much drink was consumed on rehearsal dinner night.  Since our wedding was at lunch time that meant that the girls had to wake up at 5am and the wedding venue is about an hour away from where most of the people lived.  Most of our friends don’t drink much anyway, so we all went home pretty early in the evening.

5. Invitations $200.00 –  We didn’t make a custom designed invitations.  We ordered invitations from Korea since printing in both Korean and English is super expensive in the U.S..  The price includes 200 invitations, envelopes, stickers, shipping, and currency conversion rate.  I couldn’t order it myself online, so I had my friend in Korea order it for me and she shipped it to my address.  I had to wire funds to her account, so it was a little complicated, but still cheaper than what I was quoted here.  We designed and printed a simple RSVP inserts ourselves and put it with the invitation.  We had them RSVP through just calling our moms or posting it on our wedding website.  So no separate envelopes for the RSVP cards.  I really like the design of our invitation.  It’s very simple and has traditional Korean feel in a modern way.  Everything printed correctly without any problem.  I had no high expectation, so that’s good enough for me~

6. DJ $674.00 – This was for 4 hours of service from ceremony to reception.  I went to a bridal show and got a coupon for $550.00 discount.  It would’ve been well over $1,000.00, which I don’t think is worth it at all.  I didn’t have live instrument for the ceremony and just had the DJ play all the music for us.  This included the microphone equipment, tip, and tax.  Overall, it was whatever.  During our slideshow, the video only showed half of the screen for some reason and he played the wrong music when the ceremony was done and my hubby and I were talking out for the first time as hubby and wife.  The dance portion of our reception, he didn’t hype people up.  I think it would’ve been better to use Ipod and just use the money for lighting service to make it more intimate and make the atmosphere more pop.  Even with the discount, I don’t think this was worth it.

7. Photography $1,500.00 – The photographer is someone we know through church and we had our couple’s photo session done with him when we were dating.  Although he’s talented, I wanted to look around for a  different photographer since he uses photo shop heavily and I wanted more natural looking pictures.  However, my hubby insisted that we go with him since he hates taking pictures already and it’d be better to deal with someone he’s comfortable with.  That’s the one thing he asked for during our wedding planning process, so I gave in.  The price included session starting from when we were getting ready to ceremony, cocktail hour, and through reception.  400 4×6 prints, 1000 enhanced digital proofs in a CD, 1 20-page coffee table album, one picture canvas signing board were included as well.  We had a quick picture session before the wedding for him to make the signing board, which turned out great.  I really didn’t looked into pricing of other photographers that I liked looking through blogs, so I can’t compare my photographer to others in terms of combined value of price and quality.  But I’d give him B.  I wanted an A+ on photography since this is what lasts, but it is what it is.

8. Pre-marriage class $50.00 – We had a 4 week 2 hour group sessions at our church.  It forced us to talk about things that we never discussed in detail and it opened us up more.  We even fought while doing homework from this class one time because we actually talked about important real things that we needed to sort through.  Fighting part wasn’t good, but talking about tough topics and questions was necessary.

9. Church $300.00 – We made an offering of $300.00 to our church for our pastor officiating our wedding.  No doubt it was worth it.

10. Facial $360.00 – I had one of the worst acne problem during this time and I bought 10 sessions of facial on a discount.  One week before the wedding, my face calmed down and I looked great, but 2 days before the wedding I broke out again.  I wasn’t getting much sleep and was so stressed out, it kind of reversed the effect of few months of facial in a few days.  Getting facial was good, but I should’ve gotten some prescription acne pill too.  I had to cake on makeup to cover up my bumpy face on my wedding day.

11. First dance lesson $50.00 – This was a nice surprise from hubby.  He bought a groupon deal for 2 group sessions and 2 personal sessions for $50.00.  It wasn’t enough time to get a whole choreographed routine, but we got our simple steps down and the intro and ending.  We weren’t planning to do anything fancy, so it was fine.  I recommend dance lesson to any couple period.  It was lots of fun and I felt so close to him learning this together.  One thing I didn’t like about it was how they’d call us over and over to sign up for regular dance classes.  We told them it’s not in our budget.  Haha~   

12. Videography $300.00 – My nephew (second cousin) is a videography major and it was a lot to ask of him to do this since he was coming from California.  But I put my thick skin on and asked him.  He gladly accepted it and I’m so grateful for his generosity.  I basically made him work on my wedding day.  He sent the finished product to me a few months after.  He was so apologetic to me saying that he wasn’t able to put much time into it because of his school and work.  I didn’t care since I just wanted something.  But it didn’t matter, because it’s great.  I sent him a VISA gift card for $300.00.  I wanted to give him more, but we had to be brutal with our money at this point.

This is just part 1 of my real wedding budget.  I will reveal the grand total after I list all my categories of expenses.  I hope this is helpful to someone and it’s also fun for me to reminisce about my big day.

What were your biggest wedding day expenses?  What do you regret spending money on for your wedding?

Debt-Free Bucket List

I’ve seen a few posts last year about people making debt free bucket list.  Until I read those posts, I never really thought about what I’d do once I’m debt free.  I mean I was going to save more for my retirement, eat out more without crunching numbers too much, and go shopping more or something.  But I didn’t have any specific things that I was waiting until I’m debt free or that the debt freeness(?) would allow me to do.  I know I have quite a debt to pay off still, but I wanted to join in on the fun of imagining my life after debt and what it would afford me to experience.  My definition of debt freedom in this scenario is no other debt except mortgage and I’m assuming that I saved 20% for a down payment to have bought a house already.

1. I want to celebrate my debt freedom in style by going on a trip and of course, that trip has to be paid in cash.  So there would a several month gap between the final payment and the actual trip to save the money and make plans, but that’s fine by me.  Although it would be fun to go on a long trip, both my hubby and I have to work, so I’ll settle with a 2 week trip.  Who knows where we will end up, but I’m thinking of a few options.  I’m thinking of a north east trip with a few cities in Canada since it’s a neighboring country that I didn’t explore other than Niagara Falls.  I want to visit Quebec city, Montreal, Prince Edward Island (tribute to Anne of Green Gables) and stop by Maine for some lobsters.  Another option is to visit Italy and Greece.  I want to visit Tuscany, Naples, Athens, and Santorini.  Third option I’d include here would be to do a Napa valley wine tour and also visit San Francisco.  Just thinking about these trips makes me excited.

2. Less exciting thing is to make sure each of us is putting 15% toward our retirement and paying extra payments to our mortgage, so that we won’t have mortgage for 30 years.

3. I want to take my brother to visit South Korea.  Since our family moved to the states, he hasn’t visited Korea, not once.  He tried when he was in the Navy to go there with my mom and I.  But his boss or boss’s boss didn’t send a request to the Pentagon, so he couldn’t go with us.  I guess he could’ve just went, but he didn’t want to take the chance of going there without an approval and something happen.  He’s the one who bought flight tickets for us, but he couldn’t go.  So I want to take him there to see our extended family and go to different regions and try all kinds of yummy food.  I want to make sure I take him to Jeju island as well.

4. Buy our cars with cash.  Other than the first car I had when I was 16 that was a complete mess, all my other cars have been financed to the max for 5 years.  Once we become debt free, we’ll be able to save money quickly to buy a car with cash.  The thousands we’re throwing away now for car payments, tuitions, and student loan payments will be our money to keep, so we can save that to buy a car in cash.  I awesome it would feel to negotiate the deal with such confidence and walk out with a car still debt free.

5. Churn credit cards to travel cheaper.  I know many PF bloggers are already doing this and some still have debt.  I’m just not comfortable doing this while in debt.  But once I’m debt free, I want to study this and participate in it myself to earn rewards and travel cheaper with those reward points.  I want to make sure I fly first class.  I so want to fly in first class and have some leg room, eat caviar, and drink champagne.

6. I want to go back to school.  Not that I like school, but I want to get my Master’s degree.  While I was doing my Bachelor’s, that was always my goal.  But after taking forever to graduate taking part time course, I just got sick of doing it anymore.  But I think I got enough rest just working 40 hours without anything else.  By the time we’re debt free, my hubby will already have his MBA so I want to save money to go to school and cash flow the whole thing.

7. I want to sponsor more children.  I mentioned about Compassion International early last year.  My hubby and I have been sponsoring a child each through this organization since we first started dating.  I want to sponsor another child together on our 5th wedding anniversary.  But this is going to happen regardless whether we’re debt free or not.  But once we’re debt free, we want to sponsor another child.  Our desire to be debt free was not to just get more stuff for ourselves, but to be able to give more.  I do have another task before I do this though.  I need to be better at writing to my child more often.  I write to my girl, Andrea, once every quarter or so.  But I need to step it up and write once a month.  It takes longer to get there anyway with translation and processing.

8. Get laser treatment for my acne scars.  I’ve mentioned about my crazy acne problem and it’s messy scars that’s still on my face.  It’s way too expensive for me to get laser treatments to remove scars and even my tone.  And I have to make sure I go to a reputable doctor with great track record with Asian skin.  Once I’m debt free, I’m going to indulge in a series of laser treatments to fade my acne scars.  As much as I try to accept my skin type, I hate looking at red and dark patches all over my face.  This makes me want to cake on more make up to hide it.  Hopefully, when I do get this treatment, I’ll have clearer and more even skin tone.

9. Get a personal trainer.  You know I hate going to the gym.  I already feel like I’m wasting my money on monthly gym membership.  But once I’m debt free, I want to invest in a personal training session to get a good routine set up for me.  I don’t know exactly how many sessions will be sufficient, but I’m going to sign up for it and make myself go and learn what to do on my own.  I think I need a major push to get in the habit of exercising.  I’m not saying I’m going to wait until then to start exercising, but I always wanted a personal training session, so I’ll finally get it when I’m debt free.

10. Save my entire paychecks and only use hubby’s pay checks for all expenses and bills.  Once we’re debt free, we’ll be able to live just on our hubby’s pay checks and all my pay checks can be saved to do all the stuff I listed above.  That would be really cool to have that much buffer.  I don’t make much money, but it’s good to be able to save for a rainy day or indulge in wants time to time.

11.  Maintain 6 months of emergency fund.  I know some people think this is a waste and money that can be used to earn more money.  But I need peace of mind.  I want to set aside money that we can easily access if something were to happen.  Of course the 6 month only counts all the important bills like mortgage and utilities, but not personal trainer fee.

In general, I want to travel more once we’re debt free.  But we’ll still have bills to pay and money to buy food and other items.  It’s not like we’ll have unlimited money to spend on.  So we will continue to have a budget and stay frugal.  We’ll just have freed up money from debt payment to build wealth and enjoy life more.  Writing this forced me to imagine my life after debt and it just put me into a happy place.  Even though it’s raining outside (actually it just turned to snow when I looked out the window), my mind and heart is in a warm and cozy place~

What’s on your debt free bucket list?

Changes That Helped Me Financially

Last year was a big year for my hubby and I in terms of our finances.  We decided to get our heads out of the sand and watch where our money’s going when we tell it where to go.  This of course affected our daily lives by changing the way we make decisions and communicate to each other.  I’ve read many how-to articles and lists to get ideas to save a few bucks here and there.  Budgeting is the most important aspect, so I’ll just state that here and not include it in the list.  Here’s what we ended up doing to change our habits and some had bigger impact than others, but they all helped in how we did last year and will continue in 2014.

1. Home cooked dinner – This helped us with our finances as well as with our health.  I know I don’t use some disgustingly used oil for my food and I definitely know I don’t use MSG.  I know exactly what’s in the food that we’re eating and roaches aren’t one of them.  Of course there were many nights when I didn’t want to lift a finger after work other than to call a carry out place.  But the number of nights we ate home cook dinners increased greatly.  This leads to number 2 on the list.

2. Bring lunch from home – When I’m cooking dinner, I usually cook enough food to have left overs that we can take to work for lunch the next day. This not only saves money eating out for lunch, but save time as well.  I don’t have to look through menus to try to figure out where to go and what to get.  I certainly don’t have to drive out to pick up the food or pay extra for delivery.  I didn’t get to bring lunch every work day, but I tried to bring lunch 3 times a week average.

3. No window shopping – When my hubby and I were dating, we used to go to the mall all the time.  We didn’t have things to buy, we just went there when we didn’t have any special date planned which was most of the time.  We’d get coffee there and window shop, but always ended up coming home with few purchases.  We’d eat dinner at one of the restaurants there and sometimes go watch a movie there.  It was our one stop date spot where we can do multiple things without driving to different places.  But we stopped going to the mall for “window shopping”.  Since there’s always some sale going on that trick us into thinking it’s a great deal and we needed those stuff anyway even though those items never entered our mind until we went there.  This kept our impulse buying to minimum since we cut ourselves from the environment.

4. Meet for lunch or just drinks – I felt really cheap when I started this in the beginning, but now I feel smarter doing this.  When my allowance fund isn’t enough to have dinner and drinks with my girlfriends, I’d suggest to meet up for lunch or just for drinks after dinner time.  If they want to meet up for dinner, that’s fine.  I can grab something to eat from home and join them afterwards.

5. Share your entrée and skip the soda– If you’ve been outside the U.S., you probably already noticed that food portions outside the U.S. is much smaller.  Unless you want left over for next day’s lunch, you can always order a dish and share with your friend or your significant other.  You can share a dessert after if you have some room left in your stomach.  I used to be a cokeaholic.  I’d drink 4-5 cans of coca cola classic every day without a single drop of water.  I think I mentioned that before to explain how my skin went crazy after that.  So not ordering a soda at a restaurant was crazy talk to me.  But aside from trying to hydrate my skin better, I have another reason to try to drink more water which is to save money.  I don’t like the taste of tap water, so I just ask for a slice of lemon.  It makes it easier for me to drink water.

6. Check your account and budget regularly – You don’t have to check it every day as long as you know exactly where you are with your money and how much you have left to spend in your budget.  But I did, because to be honest, it was fun looking at the numbers and tweak it here and there and see my numbers match up.  What’s the point of making a budget if you don’t use it or let it go off the radar?

7. Plan ahead – This is part of budgeting, but I learned it throughout last year that in order for your budget to work, you have to really think ahead and plan well.  If you don’t budget for things ahead, you’re going to end up using your credit card or savings or end up with some kind of fees associated with it.  Look back to previous years and figure out who’s birthday’s when, how much you pay for your registration, how much for your taxes, maybe for your out of town wedding trip, and etc.  But you have to be able to cut things that you can’t afford.  My priority was to pay down our student loans and save some for hubby’s tuition, so vacation wasn’t planned at all last year and this year.

8. Use coupons and check your receipts – I started using coupons and signed up for e-coupons to just use my phone.  I didn’t save thousands of dollars or something, but I saved some money and I realized how much of a mistake grocery stores make when you check your receipt.  I had to go get my money back many times by checking my receipt.  Most of times their error happened when I used the e-coupons and it didn’t take off the correct amount.  One time I bought a bundle of scallion which came out to be like $6.00 and I can tell from the receipt that the clerk entered 12 instead of 1.  I also make sure I check the bill at restaurants too since it’s entirely possible that someone else’s bill can end up at my table.  I don’t care if I end up paying less or more, I just want to pay for what I consumed.

9. Decrease special occasion budget – I love getting red roses and I’m very particular about my roses.  I like huge blooms with deep velvety red roses that I get from this one florist.  And Yes, they are quite expensive.  My hubby used to order from them all the time for my birthday, Valentine’s day, and our anniversary.  But I asked him to stop buying those roses for me.  As much as I love those roses, it’s not in our budget and I’m not going to increase my budget to fit this luxury item.  I can wait until our debt payment plan is over or for something more special that’s not happening every year.  We decided to not buy presents for each other on Valentine’s day or anniversary day.  We still go out for dinner and make it special, but no more expensive gifts.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love celebrating Valentine’s day and other special days.  I’m just not ready to indulge in those things yet financially.  They will be celebrated bigger later on when we’re debt free.

10. Budgeted shopping trips – I mentioned above that I don’t window shop as much as I used to.  But I still need clothes and other items throughout the year.  So last year, I decided to save up certain amount by certain time and have a shopping day.  I’d bring cash and only spend what’s in my wallet.  I kind of thought of it as a game where I’d win if I don’t go over budget and snag great deals.  I timed these shopping trips around big holiday sale weekends.

11. Buy presents ahead of time – I started Christmas shopping in September last year and was done by early December.  But I’m not just talking about Christmas presents.  You know when your family and close friends’ birthdays are.  If you see a great deal or find something for someone specific that fits your budget, by all means don’t wait until the week of and buy it.  When I had 20% coupon from Sephora, I bought a few gifts for my girlfriends several months before their actual birthdays.  When you wait to buy presents, you end up buying out of desperation.  You have no time to wait for sale or new shipment, and etc.  This helps you with your money since you’re getting good deals on things that you already need to buy and it puts your mind at ease being prepared.

12. Use your coffeemaker – We got our coffeemaker as a wedding gift 3 years ago.  But we didn’t really use it until last year.  We used to buy coffee at coffee shops around 5 times a week.  Assuming $3.00 per drink, my hubby and I basically spent $30.00 on coffee per week.  Now we go out to buy coffee once a week or once every other week and that’s mostly when we’re out with other people.  We drink coffee that’s provided by our employers in the morning and we try not to drink coffee at night since it’s starting to affect us going to sleep since we’re not “young” anymore.

These are some of the noticeable changes that my hubby and I applied in our lives to reach our 2013 goals.  I will be continuing to practice these and hopefully get better at them.  I hope I find more habits that’ll transform us even more and someday I want to be able to call myself frugal with pride.

What habits helped you to save more and spend less?

 

2012 vs. 2013

After I decided to try budgeting, I decided to not keep track of every penny I spent and I didn’t put them into very specific categories either.  I had a weekly budget to spend for that week including gas, groceries and etc., but didn’t make separate budget for each category.  I chose to do this because I was lazy and didn’t want to commit to that, but now that I’m trying to assess how I improved from previous year, I don’t have specific numbers to compare. So I looked through the bank statements for the last few months of 2013 and averaged out what we spent in 4 categories.  I already have the one for 2012 since I used that figure to come up with my 2013 weekly budget.  I adjusted a little bit for the extra money we spent while my niece was here since that’s an anomaly.  I’m a little disappointed with the final numbers though.  Yes, we did better than 2012, but I expected our numbers to be much lower.  I think I got a little tired of it towards the end of the year.  The last part of 2013 probably doesn’t reflect the whole year, but I’ll use this number since that’s the part I used for 2012 too.

Category 1:
Monthly eat out average amount for 2012 $496.50
Monthly eat out average amount for 2013 $356.34
Difference is $140.16
My target for 2013 was to keep our eat out budget to $100 a month other than where we budget for special occasions like Valentine’s day or birthday.  That went way over as you can see.  It seems like $100 a month for eat out budget was too much for us.  So to keep it more realistic and to continue our effort in slimming down this category, my new target for this year would be to keep it under $200.00 a month for our eat out budget.  We have to cut a little over $100.00 a month and I think it’s manageable.  $356.34 is probably inflated with end of the year outings and get together, so I think $200.00 is a very doable figure.  We don’t know of any other family members coming over or any other foreseeable events that would hinder us from keeping target this year.

Category 2:
Monthly grocery average amount for 2012 $354.66
Monthly grocery average amount for 2013 $331.46
Difference $23.20
My target for 2013 was to keep our weekly grocery budget to around $100.00, but not go over $400.00 a month.  We are doing well with that, but maybe our grocery budget is too high.  But since this includes all the cleaning products and other misc. things needed at the house, I’ll keep the target amount as it is at $400.00 a month for now

Category 3:
Monthly gas average amount for 2012 $214.08
Monthly gas average amount for 2013 $275.54
Difference -$61.46
Although we were able to keep this under $300.00 a month, which was our target, average amount we spent on gas went up in 2013 from 2012.  It could be the varying gas price or maybe we just drove more than before.  I’ll keep the target amount at $300.00 a month, but try to drive my car more than my hubby’s car when we go out together since my car is more fuel efficient and uses cheaper gas than my hubby’s.

Category 4:
Monthly shopping/misc. average amount for 2012 $838.49
Monthly shopping/misc. average amount for 2013 $727.79
Difference $110.70
This figure does not reflect the correct amount for the year since Christmas shopping that was budgeted was also added here.  The figure from 2012 was purely done with credit cards and the figure from 2013 was budgeted and paid for with cash.  I need to keep better records of this throughout the year, so I won’t run into this problem.  But my target was $100 a month without the few budgeted big shopping trips.  I think the real figure runs around $300 a month for 2013, which is still way over the target.  I know we didn’t go shopping that much other than the planned shopping trips, but we still ended up buying stupid stuff and wasted money on things that weren’t planned well.  So my new target for this year is $200.00 a month for shopping/misc. purchases.

Overall, we did improve our spending habit since I started blogging.  But as you can see from the numbers above, we still have so much to improve on.  The difference is though that we didn’t use credit cards for these purchases and we planned many of expected expenses and if we didn’t, we were still able to manage it without depending on credit cards.  Another difference is that we paid a big chunk of our debt.

I already have a set of new goals for this year and improving on our spending habits in these 4 categories will definitely help us achieve those goals.  I won’t dwell in the past, but use those half failed half success experiences to be better now and in the future.

How did you do last year compared to the year before?        

Snow Storm 101

We just had another snow storm in the east coast and to be honest, I’m so done with Winter this year.  This Winter has been one of the coldest Winter that I’ve experienced and too many snow storms that’s big enough to make many peoples’ lives difficult, but small enough that we have to drag ourselves to work.  But over the years, I’ve learned a few things to do ahead of time or during to make my life a little easier to leave for work the day after the snow storm.  This has to do with your safety, your sanity, and your budget.  If you get into an accident, your physical and mental health will suffer as well as your bank account.  One thing to keep in mind though is that I’m in Northern Virginia.  So it doesn’t get as cold or crazy as some other northern states, so my preps wouldn’t be as hard core as those people up there.

1. Make sure all the fluids are full in your car.  From my experience, you need to be sure to check that you have enough windshield wiping fluid.  One time, I cleaned all the snow and ice off my car and I was driving to work and there was a small ice patch that I didn’t get off on the far right corner.  I should’ve left it alone, but I turned on the windshield wiper and the fluid.  There was no fluid and the windshield wiper made the whole windshield dirty and it was hard to see.  It’s really unsettling to drive with a dirty windshield when the roads are covered in ice.  It can get very dangerous.  So don’t be a dummy like me.

2. Don’t wait until the morning or the evening to clean the snow off your car.  This depends on when the snow storm hits, but try to get your car cleaned before it freezes overnight.  It’s easier to clean when the snow is still fluffy and you can just swipe it off the car.  When it freezes over, you have to really put some strength in it.  Even if the snow storm doesn’t stop for hour and hours, try to go out when it slows down before the whole foot of snow freezes around your car.  It’ll make it easier for you later.

3. Be sure to clean the top of your car.  This is one of my pet peeves when people drive with a thick snow or ice on top of their cars.  Because they don’t just stay there forever or wait for you to be parked to melt.  They fly off when you’re driving and it can cause accidents.  It’s very dangerous, but people only clean what they see in their eye level.  I’ve witnessed some crazy stuff with people trying to dodge a flying sheet of thick ice and I’ve experienced it myself and it’s not fun at all.  Most of the times though, the people who are the cause of it don’t even know what kind of dangerous chaos they’re creating behind them.  So please remember to clean the top of your cars!!!

4. Check your tires before Winter starts.  Long time ago, I had cheap, tiny, and old tires on my small car that didn’t have much power.  During a snow storm, I was almost stuck on the highway.  I mean, I wasn’t stuck, but every time I was trying to go over 30 mph my car would skid and I was scared.  Everyone was honking at me and I desperately wanted to get out of there fast alive.  That was the only time, I would get stuck everywhere that I just a tiny slope.  Now I make sure I don’t get the cheapest tires and before Winter I make sure my tires are okay to go.  I just replaced all my tires last October, so I’m good to go.

5. Snow scraper does scratch your car.  I don’t know about other people, but once I start scraping ice and snow off my car, I go nuts on it.  For some dumb reason, I decided that it won’t ever scratch  my car.  My husband did the same thing and scratched his car with his as I did to my car.  Be sure to not use the scraper if there’s any crack or chip on it.  Those surfaces that touch the car will do some damage.  And go easy on it.  Don’t be like a scraping maniac like I was at times.

6. Save “looking cute” for later.  You can pack your nice pair of pumps to change into at work and wear something less warm underneath to show later, but you better be prepared to face the cold wind and icy parking lot before you get to your work building.  Aside from being embarrassed when caught by someone when you fall on your butt, falling on icy sidewalk, stairs, or parking lot is a very dangerous situation.  You can crack, break, bruise, twist, bleed, scratch, or scrape any part of your body.  What if you hurt yourself bad enough you can’t even move and there’s no one to help you until hours later.  You might even have to add hypothermia or frostbite to your injury at that point.  So please, wear your snow boots, gloves, layers of clothes, scarves, ear muffs and other clothes to keep yourself warm and not fall on your butt.

I know these sound like common sense, but you’d be surprise how many people don’t take these simple steps in consideration.  I didn’t until I found myself in an annoying or dangerous situation.  Just to add one more, don’t walk on the icy road with your hands in the pocket.  It makes me very nervous seeing people do that.  I hope everyone stay safe and warm.

Do you have any tip to add to preparing for the snow storm?  If you’re in the area that don’t have snow storm, what natural disaster do you have to prepare for?     

 

Hosting Family Members

I’m still recovering from this past weekend when my hubby’s cousin visited us for the weekend.  We didn’t party like a rock star or anything, but it was just a cold, wet weekend trying to keep an early twenty-something girl occupied.  This is the second time we’re hosting a family member over for more than a day since we got married other than our immediate family.  Last time someone from my side visited, it was on and off at our house for 3 months while she was interning in DC.  She would stay for the weekend at our house here and there and we would go to her to eat out and hang out.  Most of our 2013 eat out and entertainment spending was during this time and it went way over what we initially budgeted for the year.  We could’ve went on a nice Caribbean vacation.  But it was a great time to get to know each other since we hardly get to see our extended family.  She also was very grateful that we were there to ease her homesickness.

We barely just recovered financially from hosting my niece and we had to host my hubby’s cousin for 3 days again.  It’s nothing compared to the time we spent with my niece, but since this girl was going back to South Korea after her internship at Disney World, we needed to make sure she doesn’t just sit around at our house.  Thankfully, she visited Northern Virginia about 5 years ago and did all the typical DC tours, so she didn’t want to do that again.  We had to brainstorm quickly though since we only got a couple of weeks’ notice and not much time to save money for the occasion.  As much as we didn’t want to overspend again, we didn’t want to send her away doing nothing even more.  So here’s the breakdown of what we did and how much we spent.

Friday: After picking her up, we took her to a Japanese restaurant that we love and had lunch there.  Their Chirashi is the best and the total was ($51.55).  She didn’t get to sleep much the night before, so she wanted to rest at home before doing anything else and after a few hours of rest, we took her to a mall.  I wanted to get her a gift to remember us by and just so she has something pretty.  So I bought her a pair of stud earrings from Tous which totaled  ($111.30).  Of course, I had her pick the design she wanted.  We took her out to a Thai restaurant for dinner after the mall and she loved Pad Thai and the total was ($63.80).  We came home and helped her pack some stuff to mail to Korea straight since she had way too much stuff in her 3 large luggage.  I don’t even know how she travelled with those by herself and she already spent around couple of hundred dollars bringing those from Florida.  She had one more destination before Korea, so it made more financial sense to send it out before she left.

Saturday:  Hubby had a 6 hour class since his Winter session started.  So most of Saturday was spent without him until in the evening time.  I took her to an international delivery service place and we sent a 87lb box to Korea.  Then I took her to a cozy brunch place that has all kinds of crepes and specialty coffee.  The service, food, and the ambience were all great and the bill came out to ($31.82).  I was going to take her to a nearby winery to do a tasting and a tour, but when we got there, she remembered that she didn’t have her passport.  Doh!!! Wines are overpriced in Korea and I don’t even know if there’s any winery there, so I wanted her to experience this.  But what can we do.  So I took her to a sporting goods store to see if they have Wizards t-shirt for her to wear that night since we were going to the game later.  No luck there either.  I then took her to bunch of stores for her to buy stuff that she might not be able to get her hands on easily in Korea.  We ended up at the mall near our house since she needed to stop by couple of clothing shops.  Then she saw Cheesecake Factory.  She didn’t get a chance to visit there, so even though we weren’t hungry we stopped by to get lemonade and a slice of cheesecake to share which came to be ($20.38).  We took the metro to get to DC for the basketball game.  The whole weekend, we spent ($57.70) in public transportation fee.  We may have been able to save a little more by driving, but the parking in DC sucks and it’s just easier to take the metro and not worry about getting lost since I never drive there.  I don’t have the basketball ticket price on hand, but for three 100level tickets, we spent around ($220.00).  The tickets weren’t that bad, but they tack on service charges like crazy!!!  We ordered this ahead as soon as we found out that she was coming and she wanted to go to any kind of sporting event.  While watching the game, we bought snacks for ($20.47).  There was a leak from the ceiling during the game, so we wasted around 40 minutes waiting for them to fix the problem.  By the time we got out after the game, we all were starving.  We went to a tapas restaurant which totaled ($84.40).  The food was great, but their sangria was too strong and bitter and of course, she didn’t get to drink it since we keep forgetting that she didn’t have her passport with her.

Sunday: We all woke up late since I made all of us take PM cold medicine the night before and we felt drowsy.  Everyone sounded like they were getting sick, so I had to be a nagging mother figure and gave them medicine before tucking them in.  We went to church together and she’s been talking about Chipotle since she got here, so we finally took her to Chipotle.  She said it was better than she imagined and the cost was ($26.77).  Then we took her to National Zoo in DC since someone she knows told her to not miss the Zoo.  I don’t know why though.  When we got there, not many animals were out since it’s Winter and the Giant Panda bear exhibit wasn’t even open to the public yet.  There’s no entrance fee, so that’s good ($0.00).  Before we went to the zoo, we were all wanting some coffee and walked into a Dunkin Donut store.  I saw a sign outside saying Free Medium Coffee.  We assumed we had to buy something to get that deal, but when we asked they said it’s just free since it’s their customer appreciation day.  So we got 3 medium coffee for free ($0.00)!!  So we walked around the free zoo with free coffee in our hands.  The best thing we saw were the sea lions.  They were the most active and cute animals we saw that day.  After that, we stopped by this crawfish place that has this amazing Vietnamese influenced sauce.  We didn’t want to eat much, but of course we ended up eating a lot.  The total for dinner was ($40.63).  I didn’t take Monday off and we were all feeling super cold staying outside for a long time, we decided to come home.  I knew she would sleep in before leaving for the airport, so I said goodbye to her before going to sleep, but after the Golden Globes. Haha~

Monday:  Restaurant week started, so my hubby took her to one of the restaurants for lunch and dropped her off at the airport.  Lunch came out to be ($50.96).

The grand total for hosting my hubby’s cousin this weekend was $695.38.  It is a lot of money we spent, but it’s not like we get to spend time with her a lot and I also wanted to show my husband’s side my love.  My hubby was so good to my niece while she was here, I wanted to make sure my hubby’s cousin had a great time too.  She became comfortable enough with me that she even confided in me about her boyfriend and other family things.

I could’ve done a few things better to spend less money like not ordering the nasty sangria which was $20.00 and driving to DC and going around and around to find a free parking.  But at the end of the day, we all had great food, conversation, and overall great time.

Are you guys hosting guests anytime soon?  What are you doing to stay on budget for hosting guests?       

2013 Wardrobe Building Recap

Last March in this post, I mentioned how my closet is full of old and cheap clothes that I can hardly build a decent outfit with.  And I listed a bunch of “classic” items that I wanted to eventually fill my close with to finally have a grown up wardrobe.  Since it’s been almost a year, I wanted to see how much of the list I was able to cross off, if I need to change anything on the list, and how much more I need to build a “basic” wardrobe.

Tops and dresses: silk blouse – yes, cashmere sweater or cardigan – no, good quality t-shirt – yes need more though, well tailored suit – yes, polo shirt – no, silk camisole – yes, long over-sized wrap cardigan – yes, cable knit sweater – yes need more though, crisp white button down shirt – no, gingham or plaid button down shirt – no, shirt dress – no, little black dress – yes, over-sized sweater – no

Bottoms: well fitted black pants – no, white skinny jeans – yes, black pencil skirt – yes, A-line skirt – no, well fitted dark skinny jeans – yes, black leather leggings or pants – yes, denim shorts – no, denim skirt – yes, khaki trousers – yes need more though, well fitted light skinny jeans – yes

Outerwear: classic mid-length coat – no, well fitted white and black blazer – yes, trench coat – yes, shawl – yes

Accessories: leopard print scarf – no, black opaque tights – yes, over-sized watch – yes, statement necklaces – yes need more though, pearl necklace and pearl studs – no, diamond studs – no, casual tote – no, evening clutch – no, wide leather belt – no, skinny colored belt – no

Shoes: loafers – no, black and cream pumps – yes, black ankle boots – yes, black flats – no, bright colored flats – yes, black ankle strap open-toe heels – no, colored Toms – no, black knee-high boots – no, brown riding boots – don’t want it anymore

I still have a long way to go and things like diamond studs will probably have to wait until our school loans are paid off.  I’m not complaining though.  I’m perfectly happy with wearing cubic zirconia until then.  If I really want to wear diamonds, I can always wear and admire my engagement ring.  For the limited budget I had on clothing in 2013, I think I did pretty well at acquiring needed items and not waste money on stupid stuff that won’t last more than one season.

How’s your grown up wardrobe building process going?  Is there something I should add to my list?

Pride and Money

I know this topic has been talked about by many bloggers before, but it came to my attention again last weekend.  My hubby and I met up with my friend and her husband for dinner to celebrate her birthday.  My friend’s husband mentioned during dinner how his father in law bought a practically new pair of shoes for their daughter.  They both said the shoes still had the tag and looked new, but it was bought second hand from someone instead of a store.  I was expecting him to say something like how it was a great deal, but instead he said he didn’t want his daughter to wear it.  He doesn’t want her wearing anything second hand.  He couldn’t say anything to the father in law and his daughter loves the new shoes, so he can’t do anything about it.  But he did not appreciate that at all.

To be honest, he caught me off guard.  I just said something like, I wouldn’t mind at all since it was a gift, it was pretty much new, and kids grow up so fast.  I knew he’s stubborn and he wouldn’t change his mind, but at least my reasons had practical aspects of it.  His reason for not liking anything second hand for his daughter is his pride and never mind the financial situation they’re in.  He basically said as a father, he wants what’s best for his daughter and if he can’t buy nice new things for her, he’s not a worthy father.  Of course, he had to add at the end about the fact that I’m not a parent and I wouldn’t understand until I become one.  Yes, I’m not a parent, but I don’t think I’d change my mind about that even if I had a kid of my own.  His value system and mine are very different. Amount of money spent, although it can mean something good, does not equal the amount of love I have for whoever the money is directed at.  Money is important, but it is not the source for my pride and self-worth. 

So this got me thinking.  What’s your pride preventing you from doing?  Not about not giving up Starbucks latte because you love it so much, but something that touches something more vulnerable within.  Even though I say money is not the source of my pride, I do have things that I let my stupid pride get in the way of.  For me, I have hard time asking for discount or special pricing because of my pride.  I feel embarrassed to haggle and bargain.  I know in my head it’s ok and it shouldn’t hurt my pride, but I can’t get the words out of my mouth.

Have you talked to other people about your pride tied to your money?  Do people around you have a similar money philosophy?

Tying Lose Ends

From many of the posts I wrote last year that I ended with “I’ll keep you guys updated.”, I haven’t really kept you guys in the loop of my final decisions. Since it’s the new year, I thought I’d tie up the loose ends from last year and start fresh with a new keep-you-updated list. It’s been in the back of my head nagging at me and I think it’s a good time to just round everything up in one post.

I talked about a little money I had left over after buying and selling single stocks for a couple of years. I started with $800.00 and ended up with a little over $1,700.00. I decided that I’m going to focus on paying down debt and not play with investments. Half of it went to hubby’s tuition, quarter of it went to student loan payment, and the last quarter was squandered. Well, some of it was squandered and some of it was used to treat my mom.

I started buying Christmas presents pretty early and I was all happy that I was under budget. However, the bottom line is actually in red. We ended up going out a little more than we anticipated and we spent way more money for my brother in law’s present than planned since he’s birthday is Christmas. But that’s ok. We can recover quickly unlike last year when it took us months to recover from Christmas.

My final decision on LASIK is that I’m not going through with it. It’s too much risk for my condition and as much as I hate wearing contacts and glasses, I’m going to just suck it up and deal with it. I’d rather have bad sight than no sight.

I mentioned about Clarisonic MIA 2 in my favorite things post before I even received it in the mail. Now I can officially say that it is one of my favorite things. Since I started using this, I haven’t had to take a single anti-biotic pill. I do still get pimples here and there, but they go away faster and it doesn’t spread like rash like it used to. I’m so glad I spent the money and my only regret is not buying this earlier.

I asked people to give me some tips on making new friends in my 30’s. Not a single new friend or an acquaintance since the post. I haven’t really tried either, but it’s still on my mind.

When my niece was here for her internship, I was contemplating how best I could talk to her about personal finance. After I wrote that post, she stayed with us for 5 days before leaving DC. But I didn’t have any time alone with her since we had other family members staying with us too. So I ended up just giving her the book with a letter I wrote on the way to the airport. I don’t know if she read it or not. But I hope she doesn’t follow my path of waiting until the 30’s to get my financial act together.

I think this is most of it. I’ll try to be better at “keeping you updated” and not wait a year to do a roundup of it. I guess that’s another new year’s resolution. The list keeps growing~^^

Did you make decisions to all your maybe’s from 2013?

MY Favorite Things

Happy New Year everyone!! I’m writing my first post for 2014 and I can’t believe I stuck with blogging for 11 months. It’s not a hugely successful blog, but it’s my baby and I’m proud of it. I wanted to start with my favorite things post for 2014 to ease my way in instead of being a hardcore budget Nazi. I already posted my goals for 2014 and did the 2013 recap, so let’s start with something happy and fun.

Here we go with the list:

Michael Kors rose gold watch – My brother in law was my secret Santa and he got me this watch. I’ve wanted this for a while, but my budget wouldn’t allow this splurge. I’m so in love with it. It goes well with everything and adds a little shine to my look. Not too flashy and definitely not boring.

Michael Kors Rose Gold Watch

Michael Kors Rose Gold Watch

Vegan leather pants – My hubby and I decided not to give gifts for each other since we’re doing secret Santa with the whole family. But he surprised me with this by saving his weekly allowance. I’ve casually mentioned that I wanted this while browsing through Pinterest without thinking about it too much. But he remembered what I said and bought me this nice pair of pants that costs more than most of my pants I already owned. He said he didn’t want to buy something that looked too cheap since he couldn’t afford real leather. He tried to find a great quality fake leather. Aside from the present, I’m just so touched that he remembered what I said and saved up his allowance to buy this for me. Thanks hon~

SAS shoes – I was my mom’s secret Santa and I bought her a pair of SAS shoes. She has a couple of pairs already, but this just reassured me how great those shoes are for my mom. My mom’s feet are swollen most of the times and since she has no movement in her left ankle and foot, it’s hard to put shoes on her. But SAS shoes come in wide and double wide, so feet don’t have to be squeezed and shoved in. The bottom of the shoes have cushions, so she feels very comfortable in them. Luckily they have a physical store near my house, so I can go buy it anytime easily. I personally don’t like their design, but for my mom super comfortable shoes with simple design are perfect.

Matching eye brow and hair color – I recently got my hair colored to lighter brown than my usual naturally dark, dark brown hair. I wanted to brighten my image a little and my hair stylist suggested to color my eye brows too so it won’t stand out so distinctly. I think it would’ve been fine left alone, but I definitely see the impact of my new hair color magnified by the lighter brow color as well. I quite like it. It’s not like he charged more or anything, just a swipe on each side while he’s doing my hair. It makes my hair look more natural and the color itself turned out nice. I felt like a model getting my eye brow colored since I’ve never even thought about doing it. Another favorite thing discovered!

Do you guys like any of my favorite things? What are yours?