Archive for April, 2008

This is the story of a girl in New Orleans… trying to go back to school after some time away.

I’m a 23 female living in New Orleans, LA. I went to school for 4 years and stopped after I was in a bad car accident last spring. I moved back home to get back on my feet. I also was unsure of where I was going and not doing so well in school, which I have discovered is due to recently diagnosed ADD, so I decided against immediately returning to school. I live rent free at home. In return for free rent, I am obligated to clean the house from top to bottom twice per month. Good deal, if you ask me.

It was about 9 months ago that I moved back home, and in that time I’ve impressed myself quite a bit – I paid off $3,000 in credit card debt, purchased a car with my own money, saved money, and held down a full time “real” job and been very successful, overall. I also have a 30 hour per week part time job. After taxes, 8% to my 401(k) at my full time job, and health care, I take home about $2,100 or so depending on my hours at my part time job.

My monthly expenses break down something like this:
Car Payment: $300
Tolls: $40
Gas: $150
Personal Care: $250 (includes entertainment, toiletries, food, clothing, pocket money)
Student Loan Payments: $200
Savings: $1200

About my auto expenses…they are high and they drive me crazy, however, I am overpaying on my car loan by $75 automatically to reduce the term of my loan so I can own my car sooner. I have a 40 mile commute, but if I didn’t commute, I would not have a job.

I would love to move out on my own, but following Katrina, rents have skyrocketed in New Orleans and I don’t feel paying 50+% of my income for a hole in the wall in a not-so-nice neighborhood. Despite the successes I’m having, I am not too happy with my current job or situation. Part of the reason I am saving so much in lieu of getting an apartment on my own (or buying anything for myself) is because by August or January, I want to go back to school to finish the year and a half it would take me to complete my degree. I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to do and am ready to commit to it. I wasn’t before. I think it took getting me out in the real(ish) world to figure out what I wanted my life to be and focus me.

In college, you can be as optimistic and dreamy as you want, but I don’t think anyone really knows what their goals will be once they step out. Personally, I think that will make me even more marketable once I get my degree. My degree will be thoughtful, not forced. I’m sure there are many people who know exactly what they want to do from the start and are able to do that – I’m not one of them. I’ve also decided that my life is going to be about happiness and success, not about working a job I hate (like I am now) for the sake of paying my bills and having stuff. I have dreams, and I finally figured out how I can do it. Or at least try it, anyway.

My parents have agreed to let me live with them rent free, but they’re not going to help pay for school again. My goal is to have at least $10,000 before I go back to school, although I’ll be more comfortable with $15,000, which I can accomplish if I wait until January. Since I plan on going to LSU (Louisiana State University) where rent is actually affordable, I should be able to live somewhat comfortable on that for a year with part time income supplementing.

As for my career aspirations, after I graduate, I actually don’t want to start working right away – I think I might go into the Peace Corps. I hope to find contacts and friends there who will help me find a job in the international realm working with emerging markets – specifically Africa. I spent half of 2006 in South Africa and hope to move back there on a more permanent basis eventually. I’m now willing to work for it – in college, frankly, I wasn’t.

That’s my story and I’m definitely sticking to it =)

Wow… Seasicksquid is working 70 hours a week (full time real job + 30 hour/week part-time job) AND has the time and energy to clean her house twice a month. I am impressed… that’s a hard schedule. I wish her the best of luck!


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Getting my Grey’s

I am so happy that Grey’s Anatomy is back!

Also, can anyone answer this… why can’t Meredith and Derek just be happy together?

I’m just wondering… if I have any readers out there who is (or studying to be) a doctor or a policemen or a firefighter or lawyer (regardless of all the lawyer jokes, when you’re in trouble you want the best!) … do you think you’d find these jobs more satisfying that other professional occupations (corporate lawyers, consultants, bankers, marketing executives, etc. etc.)

I’m just thinking… if you are a doctor/police officer you KNOW you are helping people, you are saving lives. And every day you encounter situations that reaffirms that (even if you fail sometimes). Every occupation contributes value, but the impact on people every day is less visceral, less individual.

For example, I can contribute to helping a company arrive at a solution for a particular issue, and that’s value being created. But somehow, it doesn’t have the punch of Meredith & Co., saving lives all day and all night (and somehow, still have the time and energy for various romantic complications!)

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The truth is

You guys are too nice.

The truth is that I’ve fallen off the wagon in a big way.

I spent $219.86 eating out this month, including a $50 meal at Chez Swanky. I also bought a lot of stuff. 5 articles of clothing (mostly dresses, a couple of sweaters / coats), shoes, shoe inserts, belt, calcium chews, book on Dracula (almost $300). Most of the purchases were not necessary. And I booked my tickets to Hawaii this month ($400).

So instead of following my $2,000 monthly budget, I spent almost $2,500. Yikes!

Must. Get. Spending. Under. Control.

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Finally, Uncle Sam!

So I got my state & federal tax refund (~$1,500)… I put basically everything into the Freedom Fund and retirement portfolio. (Sidebars updated).

But, as a little something something for myself, I bought a BCBG dress ($26 at Marshall’s) and red patent leather pumps ($10 at Ross). I know, I’ve TOTALLY fallen off the buy-less-stuff wagon.

I was very tempted by a pair of Coach heels, but I realized that I didn’t quite like the way the toe looked, and just because I found Coach shoes for $45 in my size doesn’t mean I have to buy it. I also passed on Michael Kors sandals for $30. So, it was a relief to find that although brand names still exert some influence over me, I am able to resist the temptation.


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Into the looking glass

A very good friend recently told me that I seem to have things figured out. She said to me, “you keep up with current events, manage your finances, live on your own and have a ‘together’ wardrobe”.

I didn’t know whether she said that because she’s an awesome girl who thinks highly of her friends (i.e., me) or whether she really feels that I have such a charmed life…

Then I thought, isn’t this part of the noise of the roaring twenties? How we are doing vs. how we expected to be doing vs. how we think our peers are doing? I wonder how many people look at my friend, and think she has the charmed life… after all, why wouldn’t they? She is smart and friendly, pretty and slim. She has shiny hair and a cute boyfriend and her graduate studies. Are those superficial things? I don’t know… but it can be hard to figure out what’s really going on, even in the lives of our closest friends.

I rarely talk about the questions or issues I have in my relationship because all my girl friends appear so secure in their relationships (or single-hood). When I was questioning whether my first job out of college was the right direction for me, I hesitated to talk to any peers because I felt like a failure. After I changed jobs, 2 or 3 more friends did the same. One friend, when we met up at a holiday party, expressed her frustration and loneliness with her feeling of having “failed” to find the ideal job in the first get-go. I listened and thought, wow, I wish we would’ve talked.

So as I catch glimpses of the lives of friends and peers, I remind myself that this looking glass is like the fun house mirrors at fairs and carnivals. There’s some truth in the reflection, sure, but many times it’s so distorted that I can’t figure out what exactly I’m looking at.

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Grammaton Cleric

I’m by no means a grammar-nazi (I’ve been guilty of many a mistake, and I certainly don’t proof my posts like I should… he who is without sin, cast the first stone).

BUT – now that I’m getting knee-deep into sentence correction, there are just things that bugs me, and I feel compelled to share. Please add your own in the comments.

1. Ridiculous, not rediculous. I’ve seen the word spelled incorrectly so often that it’s getting ridiculous. (Incidentally, in Spanish the word is ridículo, not ridiculoso).

2. Hopefully – “I hope to win” or “it is hoped that I win,” not, “hopefully I’ll win.” “Hopefully” is a synonym for “prayerfully”, as in, “the Jesuits lived hopefully and prayerfully.”

3. Since vs. Because: Since refers to time, because refers to causality. Since February, he has been studying. Because he studies, he is a good student.

4. “Everyone” is singular. Singular! Everyone needs his (or her) pencil. Not, everyone needs their pencil. I am all for the equality of men and women, but I gladly accept the concept of the “universal he” when it’s too cumbersome to write out his or her in every case, IF it will save us from the “everyone… their” fiasco.

5. It’s = a contraction of it is. Its = possessive of it. Its corner is scrapped. It’s such a shame he fell.

P.S. I know I have a lot of readers who work in publishing… so… this is your chance to educate the rest of us!
P.P.S. Does anyone know where the title of this post comes from? 🙂

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Just keep swimming

At work from 7 AM to 8 PM tonight.. and now it’s time to start crackin’ the books. 😦

This leaves no time for a post… so here’s a question instead:

What is one thing you are grateful for, RIGHT THIS MOMENT?

I’ll start: I’m grateful that I have a little space heater and a fuzzy bath robe – so I’m cozily warm while I study. 🙂

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Money is only money

So I thought about the Hawaiian vacation some more… and while I don’t think it’s irresponsible of me to go, the vacation will cost close to $1,000, and $1,000 is still $1,000 is still a not-insignificant part of my goal.

But you know what? Money is only money.

One summer in college, I got a scholarship worth 1,000 euros to study in continental Europe for 4 weeks. My university housing took up 350 euros. The bus/subway pass took 64 euros. I paid another 100 euros for a university-sponsored weekend trip. But really, no regret there, ’cause I saw a Vermeer (!!!) So I had less than 500 euros to last me 4 weeks (that might sound like a lot… but it was still took effort to not go over).

I splurged on some things (tickets to several museums and castles, riverboat tour, coffee with Baileys, calling cards home, a bottle of wine), but I also tried very hard to stay within the budget. I ate eggs and cereal most nights, I washed my clothes in the bathroom sink, and I managed to leave that summer with ~150 euros left over.

BUT, if I could do it all over again, I would do it differently. I had a good friend who was in London at the time, and he invited me to visit. But I didn’t because I was afraid of missing a couple days of class and because I wanted to save some money from my stipend. London isn’t going anywhere, I thought.

In hindsight, though, I should have gone. Now this friend is married and away at law school on the East Coast, and he’s in a complete different stage of life than I am, and we don’t really talk at all now because of our busy lives. Frankly it’ll probably be ages (if ever) before I see him again. London is there, sure, but London, in the summer, with a friend to show me around, while I’m in Europe as a carefree college student, isn’t.

And that’s why I say, fie on the price of jet fuel and airline bankruptcies driving up air fares. I bought my plane tickets last night. I’m going to Hawaii. Aloha indeed!

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I’ve decided to take a week-long vacation in the fall so I can 1. visit a dear friend, and 2. luxuriate in the sun.


Can we say, Hawaiian getaway!?! -Insert excitement here-

So along with the excitement of planning a vacation, there’s the equally exciting task of planning a vacation budget.

Flight: ~$400 round-trip (still have to buy the tickets…)
Accomodations: FREE! Perk of visiting a good friend!*
Gifts: $50 – for myself & friends / family
Food: $150… is that realistic? I can bump this up to $200 if necessary
Transportation / Entertainment on island: $200

So, at the high end, I’m looking at $900. A big chunk of my vacation budget, yes, but that’s what it’s there for… vacations! I have enough $$$ to enjoy six blissful days of fun-in-the-sun.

*Of course, I want to thank my friend & her parents for their hospitality, so I need to bring a hostess gift. Any ideas? And do I have any Hawaiian readers?

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Our next story is from a reader in Northern California.. about how she fell in love (and the credit debt trap), and what she’s doing about it right now.

Have I got a money story for you.

It started when I was in high school. My boyfriend came from a family that wasn’t very well off and he didn’t have a lot of money, and I came from a family that was very financially sound. Of course, being young and naive, I thought that in order to keep him, I should buy him everything under the sun.

A couple years went by and I eventually opened a couple of credit cards, with him as an authorized buyer, so that he could have and build some credit. We racked up some debt, but it was nothing compared to what was coming. A couple more years passed, and we decided to move in together. All this took place before I got wise to the game and began to really read about financial health.

During our first year together, we stupidly decided to buy some new furniture for the house, which meant that we spent almost $1000 on the credit card. Then his car broke down, which cost $800 to fix, also on the credit card. Then the car was towed; the woman who worked there gave us some wrong information and long story short, we needed to pay about $600 in towing storage fees, in cash. Of course, we didn’t have that type of money so where did we go? To the *good* old credit card. Needless to say, we are now over our heads in debt.

I am a twenty-something working professional that makes pretty good money, and my boyfriend is working as a sales associate. We live in Oakland but work in San Francisco. We are both attending school (I am in graduate school for psychology and he is getting his degree), which means that in addition to the ugly credit card debt, we also have major school loans.

I can’t tell you how stressful it is to have overwhelming debt and I kick myself everyday about making those unfortunate decisions. It also brings a lot of stress into our relationship because our budget is so tight. We’ll fight because he’ll go and spend money that I’ve budgeted for a credit card payment on something trivial.

I throw as much as we can at the debt, but it just seems to never go away. Reading your blog, as well as blogs of other people who have been there, gives me a source of inspiration to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We definitely have made a commitment to slay the beast together, so it helps our relationship that we’re on the same page about that. My boyfriend is trying to get a job that will start off at around 50k, and I am hoping that we can bring the monster down significantly before I have to leave my job or work part time during my internship / postdoc years. We’re working on it, slowly but surely.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my story as a warning to others about how easy it is to rack up a ginormous amount of debt in a small amount of time. Please be careful with those credit cards and live within your means!!

-Thanks for listening / reading.

MsBusyVee, thanks for sharing! Going into debt for a significant other (unless it’s “good debt” and you two are very committed, i.e., married) is rarely a good idea in my book.

Has any readers experienced something similar?

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