Archive for May, 2008

Friday lights

I tend to get a little bit more dressed up on Fridays… because that’s usually when I see CB. So today, I have slipped on dark red patent leather heels ($15 at Ross! When I got home, I googled the brand and found that they retail for $100+ on Zappos, and was even more satisfied with my purchase that I already was) and swiped on some lip gloss.

CB and I are going on 5 years, and things can get (and have gone) badly, but little things like this gives me hope. Because 5 years, and I still put on heels and smile myself silly when he tells me I’m pretty.

Sincere compliments from strangers are wonderful, but sincere compliments from the people you love? Even better.

And because this post needs some personal finance, here’s my tidbit of the day: I’ve set up an automatic investment feature with the Freedom Fund. $750 will go from my checking account to the Fund every paycheck. I hope this helps me stem the rush of spending I’ve been doing lately.


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I tried to take a full-length practice exam (2.5 hours+) tonight, but my brain is so fried. Is it possible to feel it physically hurting?

So, for now I will leave 1/2 of Verbal to go… I really need to go to bed. I’ll come back and finish the last bit tomorrow, and though I know that the score won’t be a good indicator because I didn’t take it under exact, timed conditions, and I skipped the essays section for now. At least I’ll have a rough baseline from which to proceed. I don’t need to take the test this early in the process as I don’t plan on applying for several years, but the test is good for 5 years, so… why not get it out of the way?

Quant was fairly very tough, so I’m hoping the baseline won’t be TOO low. My very first diagnostic was a 620, so I’m very anxious to at least better that score.

In an exercise to avoid the GMAT, I’ve begun thinking about more, er, pleasant thoughts – such as… financing my grad school education!

By all accounts, a full 2-year program will cost in the ball park of $120,000+ for tuition, books, and living expenses. As of right now, I can take out $20,500 per year in Federal Stafford Loans. My family has also indicated that they’d be willing to help out (for which I am immensely grateful). The rest will probably be a combination of personal and private loans.

Just looking a little bit ahead, my goal for 2009 would be to contribute $20,000 to retirement ($15,000 401K and $5000 Roth IRA), then save $5,000 to fund my future educational endeavors. I expect a significant portion of my Freedom Fund would go towards application expenses and then later, living expenses. Isn’t it ironic that I am using my Freedom Fund dollars to undertake an endeavor that would require decades of debt servicing (thereby reducing my freedom, at least in the short term)?

Of course, going to grad school has long been a goal of mine, for professional and personal development reasons. I know I can do it. I can get there, all in due time.

But before I have the privilege of applying for admissions, I must take the test.

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Indiana Jones!

Saw it this weekend. Did you like?

More movies I’m excited about:
Sex and the City
The Dark Knight

By the way, I get $7.50 AMC or Regal Entertainment tickets at Costco (good any time, anywhere… except in Manhattan where I believe there is a $1.50 surcharge), and they have helped me to keep my movie costs down. The theater closest to my home charges $12 for an evening ticket!

Oh, and this weekend, I just filled up my car for $4.05 / gallon. I guess this is only a hint of things to come.

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So, right before I depart for a weekend get-away, I sat down, combed through my credit card activities, and manually entered in all my expenditures into my trusty PearBudget spreadsheet.

Yeah, I admit, I got a little tired of entering in every. single. expense., but guess what? Actually typing in $66 (dinner with CB) or $132 (tickets to Disneyland) is different than just seeing the figures on my credit card statement on a screen. The former prompts the reaction: “oh, wow, I’ve been a little liberal with the spending there, should rein it in…”, and the latter inspires more of a, “hmmm, that’s nice. Great modern technology helping me keep track of my spending” attitude.

So I guess just the act of typing in some not-so-big numbers that ADDS UP to pretty big numbers is different than passively viewing the figures.

I don’t doubt that there won’t be times I stray from PearBudget, but I’ll probably find my way back. My wallet will thank me for it.

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Experience, not stuff

I’ve decided to make the above my mantra to live by.

It’ll be hard, because I like nice things (ex: shoes), but…

Guess which of the following I remember the most?

(a) A $100 leather jacket purchased in Buenos Aires, that I’ve worn ONCE in 3 years.

(b) A $45 hour-long horse ride on the coastline of Patagonia, just me, the horse, and a cowboy tour guide. I rode on the beach as the waves lapped the sand.

So… spending $$$ to go to Disneyland? Fine. Spending $$$ on food at nice restaurants? Yes, please. Spending $$$ on prep classes? That too. Spending $$$ on a trip to Hawaii to visit a good friend? You betcha. Spending $$$ to go to graduate school down the road. Yes sir.

Money can buy me a lot of stuff or a lot of experience. I think when I’m old and gray, my memories will be those of things I’ve done, places I’ve been, people I’ve met (which, granted, all require money in one way or the other… which is why saving is fundamental!).

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Why is today a happy day?

(a) I signed up for a prep course
(b) Freedom Fund hit over $10,000 for the first time
(c) Blog hits over 185,000

While, I am truly grateful for (a), (b), AND (c), it’s still (b) that stands out. Just a little. 🙂 

So… what does this mean? That I have ten grand in freedom? I don’t know exactly, but it’s a good feeling.

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Decision 2008

Willpower is apparently a scarce commodity, so I’ve made an executive decision on several personal and financial matters in my life.

1. I am now letting Mint.com keep track of my spending instead of manually entering in my receipts.

2. As long as I save around ~$1,400 to $1,500 a month, I’m content. No need to agonize over a $2 bagel in the morning.

3. All willpower (and brain power, so it seems) is now to be directed toward Project GMAT until August. By the way, did you know that a prime number is a number greater than 1 that is divisible by only itself and 1? I forgot… until now.

4. Non-work life will now focus on studying on weekdays, and class + CB on weekends. And sleep, of course. Can’t forget that.

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The best article ever

Well, maybe not ever, but in a long, long while.

I’d encourage you all to read this insightful and funny essay – it’d well worth the time.

Then… let me know what you think!

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I’d rather be happy. At least in a couple of cases.

First, I’m increasing my $2,000/month budget by $100 to $200 a month – eating out with friends, going on day trips (and vacations) and buying new dresses really do make me feel better, even though they might be not the “right” thing to do for a pf blogger. 😉

I am still saving at least 25% of my gross income (including bonuses & tax refunds it’ll be closer to 30%) towards retirement and shorter-term savings. So I’ll never get featured on CNN’s Extreme Savers, but I’m a-okay with that.

Second, I am practicing just being happy with CB, because he makes me really happy, so much so that I’d subconsciously pick fights just to protect myself from what-if. But that’s got to stop. I’m going to pray, enjoy, and let go of the past hurts I’ve been holding on to as an insurance policy… one that says, see, it’s dangerous to be so happy.

It’s going to take practice… but practice makes perfect, right?

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Life in the country?

My secret is that I love listening to country music (my friends all make fun of me for it), but I like how the songs tell a story. Anyhow, I listened to Sweet Southern Comfort from Buddy Jewell, and the chorus is just so beautiful.

From Carolina down to Georgia,
Smell the jasmine and magnolia,
Sleepy Sweet home Alabama,
Roll tide roll,
Muddy water, Misssissippi,
Blessed Graceland whispers to me,
Carry on, Carry on,
Sweet Southern Comfort carry on

I’ve lived in big cities all my life, I’ve only visited the 2 coasts (and Dallas… if you count a layover), I don’t know anyone who’s even FROM the South. I’d really love to visit Charleston one day, though, just to see if it live up to its reputation of being the “best-mannered city in the U.S.

So, I guess, if I have any readers from the Southern states, what’s it like? What are some common misconceptions? What do you love about the South? What do you dislike? Is the pace of life really slower? How does a city in the South (say, Atlanta or Austin) compare with LA or San Francisco?

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