Updated February 2012! :)

  1. Stick to my budget.
  2. Pay off the debt to my ex-BF.
  3. Increase my FICO score to at least 700.
  4. Pay off all credit cards.
  5. Sell all purses on Ebay.
  1. Exercise daily.
  2. Weigh in at 135 lbs.
  1. Take some language classes at the local community college - German, Spanish & Chinese. Re-learn Japanese.
  2. Begin to write creatively for fun again.
  1. Get a better paying job (goal is $80,000).
Life in General
  1. Travel to New York, France, Germany DONE 2010 and 2009, Australia, Japan, China, and the Caribbean. Drive up the coast and cross-country.
  2. READ, read, read as many books as I can. :)
  3. Learn to play the piano.

$50 gift card

I received a Visa gift card a couple months ago from work that's just been sitting in my purse. Since it's exactly the amount I budgeted for monthly food purchases at school, I'm going to use it for just that purpose. I'll also bring five $1 bills in my wallet to give me a little cushion (and let me use the vending machine!).

Since that saves me $50, I can divert that amount towards paying for my dental work (filling and 2nd cleaning - which will cost at least $150). I'll be dipping into my emergency fund and vacation fund to cover the rest.

Braces, part I - Update

It's been 5 days since the spacers have gone in, and they're still killing me. Ibuprofen hasn't done much, and Anbesol only lasts for 5 minutes, so I've switched to Aleve, and frequent warm salt water rinses. Unfortunately, I think I've been over-massaging my upper gums, and I've developed lots of tiny canker sores (which sting like hell when I do the salt water rinse). Ugh! Tomorrow I have a dentist appointment for cleaning and to check on cavities. I hope they really numb my mouth, because otherwise I won't be able to take it. Mouth related things never seem to go well for me; I always seem to take longer to heal/hurt more than most people. I don't think it's because I'm a wimp (as my bf lovingly chuckled earlier! bah) - maybe my mouth is just particularly sensitive? Or maybe I need to stop doing things to it while it's that time of the month! Either way, I hope the pain subsides soon. I have a paper to write, and it's been extremely difficult to concentrate.

Update to the Update: Just got back from the dentist. I need to get a filling next week in my upper left molar, and I have to come back for another cleaning next Monday. Joy. And I had to pay $118 (came out of my checking, NOT my credit card. I will probably switch $100 from my emergency fund to cover this). I need to switch to a PPO, asap. At least I have some positive teeth related news today - the spacers pain has significantly subsided. Yay!

Cash & Debt Totals

I returned one purse today. That means $427.55 went back on my debit card.

Current Totals
Checking Account - 10475.20
Joint Account - 2480.77 (includes 2100 for Oct rent, so really 380.77)

Mastercard - 5770.76
Visa - 8779.51

I said I needed $11,198 to live on for 4 months (Oct-Jan). Subtracting rent for next month, that leaves $10,148. So right now I DO have enough money to last through January, assuming I stick to my budget. However, my budget didn't take into account having a balance on the Mastercard. I have about $1800 left of things to sell, but then I'll have to make payments (so much for having the card paid off by Oct. 15th!). That means AT LEAST $100 extra per month has to be factored in - which means I'll need 10,548 to live on, leaving me at a loss of $73. So I will definitely need my paychecks in order to survive from now until January.

Meal Plan

Since a new month is upon us, I'm going to try to carefully plan out my food budget. I gave myself $250 to work with.

I'm at school 3 days a week (Tu/Wed/Thurs). Tu and Thurs I'm there for 10 hrs, so I HAVE to eat. Wed I'm there from 10:30-3:30, but was going to start staying until 4:30, and then going to play tennis with a friend. In that case, I'll have to eat something beforehand. Thankfully, the school cafeteria has soup and lots of juice, which may be the only things I can eat for the next month (due to the spacers/braces). In this previous post, I gave myself 12.50/wk (a total of 50/mo). Let's see how I can work with that.

Tu: lunch at home, dinner at school (soup: $3, juice: $2)
Wed: lunch (usually I just skip it), dinner at school (soup: $3, juice: $2)
Thurs: lunch at home, dinner at school (soup: $3, juice: $2)

That's $15/wk, which is exceeding my budget. Maybe instead of the juice on Wednesday, I just bring an extra bottle of water. That brings me down to 13/wk, or 52/mo. I'm going to try to bring cash ONLY to school, which will force me to stick to this budget.

That would leave me with 198/mo. I know I said I was going to earmark 50/mo for dining out with friends, but I'm going to try to reduce that to 40.

I'll have about 300 (my 150 plus my bf's 150) for the month's groceries and our eating out. I'm going to try to go to Costco the first Friday of every month, and then Ralph's 2 weeks later. Since I can only eat mushy stuff for the month (and have to stay away from certain foods for the next 10 months), I'm hoping that will reduce the bill of everything significantly... no more filet mignon for me!

My food list: yogurt, pudding, ice cream, fishsticks, applesauce, bananas, pasta, naked juice, orange tangerine juice, apple juice, grape juice, water, mashed potatoes, jell-o, soup, bread (to dip in the soup), soft cheeses, pancakes, eggs, and beans -- hopefully my bf won't mind eating this stuff as well. We're both big pasta and egg eaters, so I think he'll still be happy. ;)

Budget Musings

My monthly budget seems REALLY high... It's $33,594 for a year. That's almost more than I made at my old job! (I made $36,000/yr after taxes)

I guess I need to keep in mind that the $450 will drop off after 9 months, and the $370 will drop off in May 2011 (still quite a while away). The visa will take nearly 5 years to pay off if I only make $200 payments every month (this is assuming an $83 finance charge/mo, which I know isn't quite accurate).

So, in 9 mos (Aug '09) my budget will be: $2349/mo
In 2 yrs, 7 mos (May '11): $1917.50
But (and this is a big BUT) in 2 yrs, 1 mo (Nov '10), my student loan payments will begin. They will likely be $1000/mo (they may even be 1400/mo; I will find out for sure soon, but this is something I really don't want to think about now). So, my budget will have to be 3349/mo, and then will decrease to 2979/mo 6 mos later.

That's $35,748/year (an additional 2220 with the 6 mos of car payments, so 37,968 total). In order to survive (barely), I'll need a job that pays $60,0000/yr. (along with that will come health insurance, so at least that will kick down my budget by 100, but I need to factor in clothing; I'll have to buy at least one more suit)

I'm aiming for a job that pays at least $80,000. Otherwise, how utterly depressing to come out of law school and get paid less (or nearly the same) than you did going in! And for more work! Of course, I'll take what I can get, but man will I feel like an idiot. :(

Final, Final Budget

Braces, part I - Spacers & Payment

I went in for my records appointment today and had my spacers put in. I also paid for the braces. The receptionist told me that some people cry because the spacers hurt; I wanted to cry because of the cost. The total? $5100. My dental insurance coverage? A measly $300. I signed up for the insurance, thinking it was going to cover $3000! It was my own fault; I should have called them and clarified. I really regret not doing this 2 years ago - I would've paid $1500 less.

I had to make a down payment of $1200, and for 9 months, I'll have $450 payments. WOW. I estimated them as $200 in my budget... this will make a huge difference. The payments won't start until November 1st, so I have a little time to plan. I put the 1200 on my credit card, but I returned the $1000 leather jacket that I bought a couple months ago, so at least I sort of break even.

Where am I going to come up with an extra $250 per month? Sell everything I possibly can. Maybe next semester I'll get another part-time job. I'm not sure yet.

Update: Now the spacers are making me want to cry too! Maybe not cry... but it's definitely frustrating, and I want to reach in there and rip the damn things out. It's a dull, aching, insistent pain in the back of my mouth. I don't like taking too much Tylenol, so I've only taken two so far (one this morning and one at 2pm), but I think it's time for a third. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow. Along with the aching in my teeth, I have a headache behind my left eye! It's very distracting, but I'm going to try to get some studying done and then go to sleep.


I was recommended this site as an alternative to Ebay. It's absolutely free for sellers, which is great, because I was getting sick of Ebay (followed by Paypal) taking huge chunks of money out of my purse sales.

I'm a little wary though... it gets nowhere near as much traffic as Ebay. Had I kept my bags there, I probably would've already sold them. With Ecrater, it's going to take time. And when it comes to my credit card debt sitting there and charging me interest, time really is money.

I'll give it a try and see how long the bags take to sell. Ecrater's bound to have more of a following soon enough.

FICO Scores

I should really be studying, but instead I'm doing research on how to improve my credit score. At least I'm procrastinating productively!

I was reading Steps to Increase Your Credit Score, 10 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score, and Give Your Credit Score a Makeover.

There are a few things I know I can't fix, and one thing that I'm curious about. The things I can't fix: (1) the length of my credit history; (2) a charge-off that resulted from a relative using my name for a bill and then not paying it; and (3) a credit card that I never use reporting me for not paying a $19 annual fee (they didn't send me a letter and I didn't remember there was an annual fee - mostly my fault since I didn't update them with my new address and I should've kept track of their fees. dammit!).

What I'm curious about is how I can play around with my credit card balances to increase my score ("overnight" one site says). If I get the Visa below 70% of my limit, will that increase my score? Or does it have to be below 30%? (as this blog states)

How high does my score have to be to get the 0% balance transfer offers again? 700? I'll check my score again next week to see how I'm doing.

To get both my balances under 30%, I would have to pay off $3268 on my Mastercard and $6161 on my Visa. That is definitely NOT possible at this point in time. If we got a roommate, and I started subsisting on bread and water for 6 months, then maybe.

I tried to get two 0% cards the other day, and was denied both of them. It's very frustrating. Not too long ago my credit was so good I knew I wouldn't be denied anything... and now look at me!

New debt totals

I'm still waiting on $600 worth of returns to go through. I didn't subtract that from these totals because I'm not sure on what card the money will be credited.

At this point, I'm wondering - should I continue to pay down the Mastercard since it has such a high interest rate (24.99) or should I pay some of the Visa so that both will be below 30% of the limit? My thinking is getting them both at that mark will greatly increase my credit score, thus enabling me to obtain a third card with 0% interest balance transfers for a year.

Or maybe paying off the Mastercard will cost me less in the long run?
Mastercard: 5733 (67% of limit)
Visa: 8771 (97% of limit)
Total = 14504

Busy Weekend

I returned a bunch of clothing to various stores over the weekend. That felt good! Bofa's online banking is currently down, but as soon as it comes back up, I'll change the debt sidebars to my right. I still need to take back the Nordie's dress and the Uggs, but somehow they BOTH have gotten misplaced. I don't understand where they could've gone... if they don't turn up, that's $450 down the toilet! That's really depressing. I'm going to keep looking, and my relative said she would too... So maybe I'll have good news soon.

I also listed 3 bags for sale, which will bring me about $1200 if/when they sell.

I really doubt I'll be able to get the Mastercard paid off by October 1st, so I'm setting the new goal to October 15th. By that point, I (hopefully) will have gotten the funds from live.com's cashback program, funds from the sale of my 3 bags, and funds from the return of the aforementioned dress and shoes.

Nevermind about that vacation...

I checked my Worldpoints today to see if I really had enough to get a ticket to NY... and it's a no-go. I would need 10-15k more points to do it. It probably "costs" more in December, but that's the best time for the bf and I to go. I could either save up the points, or redeem them for a $200 visa card that I could use to get Christmas presents for my family/friends... I have to think about it.

I'm a little bummed about not going... I know my bf won't be, because he isn't fond of traveling (it was even a struggle to get him to travel to Europe - where he grew up and where his relatives/friends are - with me over the summer!).

I wish I could ask my relatives/friends to donate to my vacation fund rather than give me any presents... I'm always grateful for what they get me, but I honestly don't need any more "stuff."

A reminder of things to come

I had to plunk down $200 towards my BarBri fee today. It acts as my second deposit, securing my discounted rate, and allowing me to take the MPRE review for free this year.

It seriously pains me to see how much I'll have to pay in less than 2 years time... I have to really, really hope I find a job at a firm that offers reimbursements.

Anniversary Dress

My and the bf's anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks, so I decided to buy a dress... one that would last me through the Christmas/Birthday/New Year's parties too.

I settled on this one (Madison Marcus Galaxy Degrade Dress) and I paid in cash (I'm returning another dress that I bought a few months ago in exchange). I got it for 25% off from another boutique, so that made me feel better.

I really hope it looks good!

Braces, here I come...

I scheduled my Records Appointment for next week... so I'm really doing it! Scary!

I'm also trying to get a teeth cleaning scheduled before the ortho appointment. My old dentist doesn't accept my new insurance, so I need to go a new one. I'm bummed about that; I liked my old dentist! I was considering just going to her anyway and paying the full fee... but I decided that would be wasteful.

I'm also a little unsure about how the insurance coverage will work for the braces... Do I need to be referred by the dentist to the ortho? My insurance card states "dental services when furnished or approved by: (the dentist I'm assigned to)." I guess I have to read over the materials I received from the company.

I really hate HMOs. I miss the PPO from my old job...

Free Credit Score

Check out Credit Karma to get your credit score for free!

Before I started grad school, my score was in the mid 700s... now it's 632. :( I'll be working hard to bring it up again!

December vacation still possible!

I have enough Worldpoints (from my Visa) to redeem for a plane ticket anywhere in the continental US. I was thinking maybe New York? And the hotel could be a birthday present from my bf? ;) I don't know, maybe I'll just save up the points and eventually use them to fly to the Caribbean! Or to NYC during a sunnier month. I'm not fond of the cold.


My bf and I were briefly talking last night about getting a roommate (once my relative moves out). At first I was really opposed to it... but it wouldn't be so bad if we had someone pleasant, quiet, and paying $800-ish rent! Especially someone who likes video games. :) That extra 400 per month could go towards paying my Visa. Making $600 payments a month (keeping in mind the 83/mo finance charge), the card would be paid off in about a year and half!

My bf and I have lived with a roommate before... At our old apartment, with my (now former) best friend. And yes, the living situation definitely contributed to the demise of our relationship... I don't think I could live with a friend again unless we were VERY open, honest, and comfortable with one another. But I think a stranger would be ok. (though it has its own set of potential problems - besides all the horror movies out there, I've heard TONS of horror stories from friends. One in particular, the roomie (who seemed so sweet and innocuous; I met her many times and never would've suspected) entered my friend's room and routinely stole things from her (went so far as to steal a box of cash ($1000+) that was going to charity - that's when my friend called the cops). She stole things to fuel her designer jeans and purses habit!!) So that's kind of scary. I would prefer a guy, frankly. Partially because I haven't heard any scary stories about guys, and partially because I have a bit of a jealous streak and although my bf has NEVER given me reason to doubt him, I don't want to deal with some girl potentially putting the moves on him. (maybe unlikely, but... you never know!)

Is this a good idea? I'm not sure. I think once my relative moves out, my bf and I should give it a couple months just to enjoy the alone time. Then we can talk about it seriously again, and consider how we should hunt for someone... I'd prefer a grad student, so maybe I should post at my school or surrounding schools' message boards? Or Craigs List, but specify a student is preferred? And maybe this is selfish, but I don't really want them to bring people over. I don't want to come home to multiple strangers sitting in my living room! Is that too much to ask?

Credit Cards & Closet Reflections...

Mastercard: 7730
Visa: 8866

It's gone up from two weeks ago because of (1) finance charges (153 and 86); (2) $40 gas charge; and (3) ebay fees.

Here's how my finances stand right now.
My Checking: 13,000
Joint Checking: 700
Earnings: 500/mo (sans Dec)

My projected monthly budget: $2549.50

I'll need $10,198 to live on from Oct-Jan, when my 10k loan payment comes in. Food between my bf and I (600 for 4 mos) is pretty much covered. That leaves me with 9598. My 1500 earnings leaves me with 8098. And then finally the difference between what I have in my checking and what I need to live is $4902.

The below are in the process of being deducted from the above Mastercard balance:
$360 (Nordies)
$287 (live.com cashback)
$120 (Saks)
$139 (shoes.com)
$130 (shoes.com)

That leaves me with 6694. I could go ahead and make a 3000 payment, leaving me with a balance of $3694. I'm not sure what to do from there. I can try to sell off some purses (like I mentioned here) and I can also cut back on the frivolities for a couple months. Though my b-day is coming up at the end of the year, and the age I'm turning is a semi-milestone... I'd like to at least get my nails done! :( I also really wanted to go on a trip somewhere... but it's clear I can forget about that.

I'll see what I can do about the purses. I took them all out today to look at them, so I think I'll post a few on ebay tonight.

I'm also going to look at everything in my closet, see if there's anything that can go back. Despite all the stuff I have, I have now noticed a trend - the SAME pair of jeans everyday (or jean skirt); rotating between 5 t-shirts; the SAME black cardigan; the SAME black bag; and the SAME flip-flops. I'm reverting back to my college days! Probably more conservative than my college days, even. It's because I'm lazy, can't stand tight clothing (I sit for 9+ hrs a day at work and in class) and get cold... and my job occasionally involves moving heavy stuff, so I don't like to wear nice shoes. I'm using less than 10% of my wardrobe! How sad.

ANYWAY - goal is still to have this card paid off by October 1st. We'll see.

Gift-Giving & (Final) Updated Budget

I've had three friends with near-consecutive birthdays in the past two weeks, and it made me realize that even with all my edits to the budget, I was still missing something - namely gifts. My bf and I have always been big gift givers (both to family and friends). I need to take a break from that... like a 2 year break! Until I go back to working full-time. I think (hope) everyone will understand. It's harder in a way to buy cheaper gifts. You don't want to get them crap they won't use. It has to come more from the heart. This definitely means I need to buy gifts in advance (waay in advance)... I don't do "from the heart" very well when I'm rushing the day before their birthday trying to find something! It's much easier to just plunk $60 down on perfume. My mom is SO good at finding inexpensive but tasteful and usable gifts... maybe I need to get her to share her secrets rather than relying on her to bail me out (like she did with aforementioned friends this week!).

Anyway, here's the new budget (additions: gift-giving, visa payments, braces payments (assumed)), sans commentary:
Rent: $1050/mo
Gas: 100
Food: 250
Cell: 120
Car: 370
Health & Dental: 100
Drugstore: 30
Visa Payment: 200
Braces: 200 (ending after a year)

Yearly Expenses (1st figure is how much I should save per month to cover these)
Eyecare: 12.50 (150/yr)
Oil change: 15 (180/yr - 45/3 mos)
AAA: 8 (100/yr))
Costco: 5 (60/yr)
Gifts (b-day & xmas): 33 (400/yr; about 30 per person... going to be very hard when it comes to the parents; will have to figure out what to do when I get there)

Makeup: 20 (40/3 mos)
Pedicure: 16 (31/2 mos)
Haircut: 16 (100/6 mos)
Dry cleaning: 20

Grand Total = $2549.50
Note: I am very lucky to have my dad still paying for my car insurance, and my bf covering all the utilities other than our cell phones. I'm going to have to budget for the car insurance in the near future, but I'm reeeeally hoping his generosity won't run out until after I graduate. ;) And then as soon as I get a full-time job again, I'll go back to paying half of the utilities.

About $10,200 for four months (Oct-Jan). I have 13K in the bank. I make 500/mo (though I will probably make little or nothing during December, since I work on campus and I think I'll get a vacation from work & school simultaneously). So I'll earn about $1500 in the next 3 months. This is cutting it much closer than I thought! I'll have to do a follow-up post so I can figure out if I really can afford to pay off my Mastercard by the end of this month.....

More returns...

I still haven't taken back my two purchases from Nordies - partially because one purchase (a dress) got LOST! :( My relative misplaced it during her cleaning and so far has been unable to find it. I'm sure it'll turn up, but it's irritating.

Anyway, I will definitely be taking the Uggs back on Friday, as well as a couple purchases (cash, not credit!) from Macy's (a wallet for my bf that wasn't the right size) and two dresses (deeply discounted, but didn't fit). Also, a pair of tennis shoes that didn't fit or look right (I think I should stick to tennis shoe purchases from the store or shoes.com!). In total, about $262 back.

Should be updating my debt totals soon, after my old returns and these returns post. :)

Mastercard Finance Charge - gulp

This just reinforces the need to get this card quickly paid off. My finance charge for the month was... $153!!!

I need to try to negotiate the interest rate down asap. I assume it's best to wait until the card's paid off, and then they'll be more willing to negotiate?

Big expenses looming in the horizon...

There are a couple looming expenses that I've been in denial about. It's possible that I'll be reimbursed for one of the expenses, but unlikely. What expense am I talking about? Just the most important for my career - BarBri and the Bar. I checked my BarBri account yesterday to see how much I had put down first year ($50) and how much I had left to pay ($3500), and it made me a little sick.

There's also the MRPE, which I need to take this year, and which should cost me around $70.

Then the huge expense, right around the corner (I want to do this in the next few weeks) - braces. I'm self-conscious about my teeth (a self-consciousness nurtured throughout the year's by my dad's criticism - thanks, dad!)... and I think it'll help both my self-esteem and my career. I need to get it over with before I graduate; I don't really want to be the associate-with-braces. Yeah, this is superficial stuff, but people are superficial, and they (both employers and clients) hire people who look good. I've gotten one $5400 quote. My insurance covers roughly half ($2500), so that leaves me $2900 to pay. I'll probably end up doing the extended payment plan, so that'll cut into my budget every month. I'll go into the ortho's office either next week or the following week and then see where things stand, money-wise.

I hear I'll be in pain/extreme discomfort for awhile, so maybe it'll save me on food bills? ha.

Extra Money

Good news! I had forgotten all about the live.com cashback reward that I earned over the summer... I should be getting $287 by the end of the month. :) That'll go straight to my Mastercard.

August Wrap-up

I took back most of the things listed here, with the exception of $523 of stuff to Nordies (which will be taken back on Friday).

My current credit card balances:

Mastercard: $7271.00 (finally making a little progress)
Visa: $8876.00

I officially canceled the gym today, so no more wasted $37 payments! :)

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