Friday, October 30, 2015

Monthly Spending in October 2015

Net Worth Change from Previous Month: +10.3%
Total Spent: $485.80

I hope I'm not jinxing anything by posting a day early, but so far, October has been pretty good, money-wise. My funds are finally back up to where they were before the little hiccough a few months ago, and although I spent more than I was hoping to again this month, I was able to spend $200 less than last month, which is a good thing. I have a few friends doing a "no spend November" and while I won't be going quite that far, I'm hoping to reign things in a bit more again.

I'm still going back and paying down the categories that I'd refreshed once or twice, which still show up as red in my "all time" view on Mint.com's budgets. In October, I cleared out my health and fitness budget ($27) and my shopping budget ($617), and started slowly working on my food budget (I put in an extra $111 this month). For the next few months, I'll be working on what's left: food ($1880), and "home," which is actually what "cash from the ATM" used to be filed under, and which was also mostly spent on food ($4,927). It's felt great to get some of these cleared up and know that I'll be able to really start fresh with an emergency fund and travel fund.

So, where did my money go? Weekends in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Albany. Eating out at lunch time. $100 of it went to my alma mater's capital campaign, $50 went to joining a local historic house and doing a fun ghost tour there, $18 went to a really lovely wool sweater on eBay. It was more than I was hoping to spend, but it wasn't the worst. (I also spent an additional $100 in old birthday money on another round of tennis classes, and $1000 on a work trip, but those don't really count in my mind.)

I brought in about $80 from selling a few things on eBay and at Powells, which was nice extra money to have. As I mentioned earlier this week, I took on a big freelance project, and then a day after that, took on a second, smaller freelance project, so I'll likely not be selling things during the holidays, though we'll see. The income from those two projects will go a huge, huge way to creating an emergency fund, and I'm really excited for that. (Plus the projects I'm working on are a lot of fun, so it hardly feels like work!)

In November, I'll be back on the $300 cash budget. I have a few showers I'll need to travel for and get gifts for, along with a trip home for Thanksgiving, but I think I should be able to do it without too much trouble if I'm more conscientious about my lunch spending. We're also certainly going to buy our tickets to India, but we've already agreed to use credit card points for that, so that will be a fun new adventure. I don't think any of my freelance income will come in until December, but that's alright. We'll get there!

[ETA: Welp, I went ahead and jinxed myself, I guess, because those medical bills I mentioned a few months back came calling, and I ended up paying $170 on one of them today. But, hopefully I can get through the next 36 hours without any other major losses cropping up!]

How's your budget going? Did you meet any exciting goals this month?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Campaign for Sarah Lawrence Launch Party


I had a really marvelous time last night at the launch for the public phase of The Campaign for Sarah Lawrence. The staff did a wonderful job of organizing it, and our emcee, Holly Robinson Peete, was fantastic.

The highlight of the evening for me was seeing Barbara Walters sing "The Titsworth Song" with our president and Ann Patchett. It was a joy, and I'm so glad Roger caught this video of it.


It was a really wonderful night, and I'm looking forward to following the campaign into its next phase. The school has already raised a bit more than half its goal of $200 million, so I think we're off to a great start!

If you'd like to see more photos from the evening, click here.

(And this is just a quick note to say that I've taken on a big freelance project, so my posts may be a bit sporadic—okay, even more sporadic than usual—over the next three or four months, but I'm still here and I still love you. Don't worry!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Hailey's Birthday Party

I had a really lovely weekend, spending lots of time with family and friends. On Saturday, my parents picked R. and me up and drove us out to Pennsylvania, to celebrate my cousin Hailey's third birthday. It was great to see everyone and spend some time together. (The delicious food and seeing how happy Hailey was when she opened her presents was pretty great, too.)




My parents dropped us off in Manhattan on their way home, and since the weather was so nice and we didn't have any plans for the night, we walked across town, through Little Italy and into Chinatown for dumplings. It's pretty rare that we find ourselves in Little Italy, but it was so charming that it made me want to play tourist and eat outside at one of the restaurants there.

On Sunday, we took a walk up to the Home Depot to buy some pots to transplant the big elephant ear plant R. bought on Friday. We found some nice ones and then spent the morning transplanting a few different plants and reorganizing the house a little. I think we've got quite enough in the way of plants now—but I love how they brighten up our place!

 



That afternoon, I headed to the Mega Swap clothing swap of my dreams. I'm a pretty big fan of clothing swaps, and this was probably the best one I've been to. I found some really lovely pieces (two nice blazers, a couple of sweaters, a lovely silk scarf) and it was great to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. I brought home way too much stuff, but it's all really high quality and I know I'll wear it all, so I feel good about it, even if my dresser is a little more crowded than it was before.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Veronica Zabczynski

I was really thrilled to find Veronica Zabczynski, a fellow poet, on The Financial Diet a few weeks after my own articles appeared there. Veronica is a freelance writer living in LA. Her poetry can be found in Extracts, Lost Coast Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. She created the blog wordslikelace.com as a one woman attempt to make poetry cool again. When she isn't writing, she's binge watching television (All hail Netflix!) while cuddling her fiance and two dogs. Also, we share a love of Philadelphia in common, so you know she's a good one.


Who are you? I'm Veronica Zabczynski. I've been living in Los Angeles with my fiance and our two dogs for over a year now and I can now say that I definitely miss seasons. Fall, where art thou? I work as a freelance writer but when I'm not writing, I'm usually binge watching television. Right now, I'm pretty obsessed with The Good Wife. My other obsessions include: to do lists, champagne, coffee, red lipstick and white truffle oil.

Where can you be found online? My articles on wedding planning and other various aspects of my life can be found on xojane.com, hellogiggles.com and thefinancialdiet.com. I also started the site wordslikelace.com as an attempt to make poetry more mainstream. After spending 26 year of life having no close friends really read poetry, I decided to try to rebrand poetry. I try to write poems that can appeal to a wide audience and incorporate things in pop culture like television shows or social media. I think poetry can and should be able to be enjoyed by anyone. There is no need for poetry to only be written about nature.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? It all happened fairly recently to be honest. I approached my writing career in a very old fashioned manner by mailing out submissions and looking down upon blogging. It wasn't until the past year or so that I realized bloggers were making living and reaching a wide audience by utilizing the internet. I stopped looking down upon capitalizing on the broad audience that the internet provides and I realized what a gift it is. Now, I'm in awe of poets like R. M. Drake and Tyler Knott, who have used social media platforms to grow audiences of hundred of thousands of followers.

Why do you write? I'm not really certain. It's something in my bones. I've written even since I was a little girl in many different forms, though I feel the most passionate about poetry. I think I'm just in love with the romance in storytelling and words.

Who inspires you? So many people! To be cliche, I love Sylvia Plath. She was the first poet I ever really became obsessed with. I'm also obsessed with Olena Kalytiak Davis and Richard Siken. I love any poetry that does confessional well. My one teacher always said that the more personal you make your writing, the more universal it is. I think this is true, as I'm always relating to the most personal writing I read. If you put a piece of yourself in whatever you write someone else will be able to see a piece of themselves too.

If you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? That's a tough one! When moving from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, my fiance and I drove across the country. That was an amazing experience. Ever since, I've been on a kick to see all 50 states. I'm half way there. I would probably put the all-expenses paid trip towards another road trip with my fiance to see all our remaining states.

What is your favorite place on earth? Philadelphia. I grew up there and it's such an underrated city. It's smaller than other cities so the foot traffic is manageable. There's so much history and beauty there as well. It's a great little city.

Anything else you'd like us to know? Nope :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Four Fun and Frugal Fall Activities

Even though I live in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, I'm always looking for ways to save money and still enjoy myself, and fall is one of my favorite seasons here, so I'm excited to share some of my favorite fall activities with you today! And, if you're looking for more ways to save for the upcoming holidays, you might find this free online software helpful.  


Enjoy a long walk and take in the foliage.
I love hiking, but I know it can be expensive to get out of the city very often. On weekends when we can't leave Brooklyn for one reason or another, I like to get in a quick walk in Greenwood Cemetery or Prospect Park. The foliage is pretty much perfect this time of year, and walks are free! If you have kids (or if you're a kid at heart), you could also make up a fun fall scavenger hunt, searching for certain fall items and photographing them.

Treat yourself to an affordable fall treat.
It's not free, but who can resist the call of a pumpkin spice latte, a fresh sweater, or an afternoon of apple picking? Certainly not me. Try to keep your fall treats to a minimum and save money where you can, but autumn is for enjoying yourself before the long winter. Figure out which fall items you really want, and then treat yourself responsibly. I've found that when I do that, it feels like even more of a treat than if I give myself everything I want all at once. 

Host a fall potluck.
Autumn is harvest season, and some of my very favorite foods come into season this time of year. I love all the varieties of squash I've ever tried, and pumpkin is perfect in desserts, smoothies, soups, and even beers. I won't even mention how much I love a good glass of spiced cider and a sugared doughnut. To enjoy all the foods of the season without breaking the bank, host a potluck or friendsgiving! (If you need some inspiration, here's what we did for Friendsgiving in 2013 and 2014.)

Get a head start on your holiday crafting.
It's often more affordable (and always more enjoyable) to make your holiday presents by hand. For me, fall is the perfect time to get started. I love cozying up with a new quilt design or scarf to knit on a rainy fall day, and other than the costs of supplies, it's a totally free way to while away an afternoon. Plus, if you start now, maybe you'll actually finish by Christmas!

What's your favorite frugal way to spend a fall day?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Philadelphia, PA

Way way back in June, when we were all at the HWS reunion, a little group of us agreed to meet up in Philadelphia. It took a few months to get it together, but last Friday, R. and I braved the rain and a completely clogged Lincoln Tunnel and made our way to Laura and Jeff's apartment in Philadelphia. They recently got engaged, so it was fun to congratulate them in person and see some friends we haven't seen in a few months.


Laura and Molly were nice enough to get us some tacos to eat when we arrived at around 10:30, and then after we all stayed up chatting a bit, Molly headed home and we went to sleep in Laura's living room. We woke up bright and early to greet Christine, who was coming in on an early train from Washington.



And then made our way to South Street Philly Bagel (I had an everything bagel with horseradish cheddar cream cheese and bacon, and wondered why I've never put bacon on a cream cheese bagel before - it was delicious!), and then to Ox Coffee, where we ate said bagels and enjoyed their coffee and their excellent bathroom decor:



We wandered around the Italian market, stopping in at Fante's, a great kitchen store where Laura is registered, and Molly's, a used book and record store.


Laura headed out for lunch with her future in-laws while the rest of us went to see Molly's apartment, which was gorgeous and right in the heart of the city. Molly is my fashion/decor/lifestyle idol, possibly against her will.


After resting there for a while, we headed to the Reading Terminal Market, where we got the best donuts ever at Beiler's, which also sells pickles and garlic cheese bread. The donuts were so light and fresh, and I chose mine based on which ones I watched get filled right in front of me. There was a line, but it moved quickly and the end result was worth the wait.


We also tried some really excellent cream cheeses at the Hatville Deli, and I probably would have bought some if there were an easy way to take them home. I never eat sweet cream cheese at home, so this has inspired me to try some here, too. They were very tasty on crackers!



After that, we met up with another HWS alum, Meghan, and checked out Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continually inhabited street in the US. I was really surprised to see some of the houses were for sale or rent - wouldn't it be fun to live there? We didn't have a chance to go into the museum there, but maybe one day. It was still a ton of fun to walk on the alley and see the beautiful houses and their lovely window displays.




After that, we were joined by yet another HWS alum (Philly is the place for HWSers, I guess!), Jenny, and we all walked up to Fishtown to check out some bars and restaurants there. Frankford Hall was probably my favorite of the night, with really tasty German treats and my favorite grapefruit beer still on top.


We hopped from bar to bar and restaurant to restaurant and generally enjoyed ourselves around town. Somehow, I woke up the next morning without a hangover. Ha!

The next morning, Laura made us all incredible Latvian crepes, which I probably enjoyed a bit too heartily, considering I was planning to meet up with more friends for brunch pretty soon after.


I met up with Alison, Leanne, and Sarah for brunch at Chhaya, where I enjoyed even more bacon and cream cheese. It was wonderful to meet Leanne's son (she was pregnant with him the last time I saw her) and we all had a really great brunch.


We closed out our time in Philly in Fishtown at the flagship La Colombe, which was gorgeous, and Pizza Brain, a fun little stop with good pizza and really great Philadelphia-style ice cream (pumpkin speculoos for the win!).





The weekend was over much too soon, but we had such a blast. Can't wait to come back soon!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Monthly Spending in September 2015


Net Worth Change from Previous Month: -3.3%
Total Spent: $619.00

My funds all took another hit last month, and I spent twice my budget, so September wasn't a great month as far as money goes.

But, here's something really exciting: this is the first month in years where I haven't been in the red in any categories, which feels sort of like a miracle! I finally "paid off" my travels, and now I'm going back and paying down the categories that I'd refreshed once or twice, which still show up as red in my "all time" view on Mint.com's budgets. In September, I cleared out my travel budget, my auto budget ($207 deficit), my clothes budget ($200), and most of my health budget ($270 - I still have $28 left in there). For the next few months, I'll be working on what's left: shopping ($617), food ($1990), and "home," which is actually what "cash from the ATM" used to be filed under, and which was also mostly spent on food ($4,927).

So, why did I double my budget in September? Ugh, I don't know. A lot of things probably. The first and biggest being that I didn't stick to my cash budget this month and guys, using your credit card is SO easy. I had a couple big expenses (a wedding gift, and travel to and from; signing up for the gym for the semester, and then signing up for a tennis class which has been a blast and worth every penny; buying tickets to visit Philly this weekend), and then the rest was just being more flippant than I should have been with lunches out and a few small clothing/make up purchases.

I did bring in a bit of extra cash through a freelance job and some more eBay sales, which was good. I don't think I'll have that going forward this month, so that's something for me to be aware of. However, for October, I'm definitely going back to my strict cash-only budget, so hopefully that helps.

I've already spent $100 on a donation to my alma mater, and I'm going to be traveling for two weekends (to Philly and DC), so it might be tight, but I learned my lesson last month that cash-only is the way to go and I'm hoping to come in at budget this month. (The one exception to this might be if we buy tickets for our trip to India this month, which we very well might. That will definitely put us back in the red for travel for a month or two. But, I've been diligently saving in my smarty big for that, so it's temporary and that's okay with me.)

How's your budget going? Did you meet any exciting goals this month?