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Archive for August, 2009

Yes, I am finally in the process of moving my blog to its own domain sweet domain.

Please find me now at wellheeledblog.com. I’m working on directing this blog directly to wellheeledblog.com, hopefully it will happen within the next couple of days.

If you can be so kind to update my link on your blogroll, that’d be very, very much appreciated.

Thank you all. I look forward to continue talking about money and everything else over there. ūüôā

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I am a Servantless American Cook

I saw Julie & Julia tonight – and though I can never, ever imagine myself intrepid enough to conquer 536 recipes in 365 days, I figured I CAN strive to accomplish one task – the Boeuf Bourguignon.

And so I shall.

Before I embark on this mini-project, however, I will need to purchase a casserole. According to the recipe, I need a 9 to 10 inch fireproof casserole, 3 inches deep.

Anyone have advice on what sort of a casserole I should get? On the one hand, because I’m not going to turn into either Julie OR Julia, something for the budget-conscious would be appreciated. On the other hand, I don’t want to purchase a pot that would fall apart or be too thin or heat unevenly, or whatever it is that inferior bakeware does.

So, I am gathering the recipe, I will purchase the necessary cookware and supplies, and I will try to hold a little dinner party for the (un?)fortunate souls who will be trying my first and perhaps only attempt at French cooking. (Is it just me, or does boning a duck hold no appeal what so ever?)

For you guys, I promise a tally of what this project will cost me. And pictures. ūüôā

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It’s summer time, and love’s in the air.

The whole thing started when RevancheGS and I were chatting, and I (somehow having momentarily regressed to 8th grade), asked her who her male PF Blog Crush is. And I thought it’d be funny to ask that question to, well, other people.

The “rules” are such:

1. Your PF Blog Crush can be any personal finance blog written by a member opposite sex (or, a member of the sex you are attracted to in real life).

2. Add a couple sentences (or more, if you really can’t hold back) on why you find that particular blog / blogger attractive. I.e.,¬† “The way he budgets just makes my knees go weak!” Or, “She sounds so exciting when she talks about the deal she got at the tire store.”

3. It doesn’t matter if that blogger is attached (it’s all just fun. No homewrecking on this blog, promise!).

4. You can be a blogger or a reader. You can comment anonymously if you’re shy.

5. Please send this to your friends / tweet (please use shortened url at moourl.com/blogcrush) – the more people who chimes in, the more fun it’ll be.

Next week, I’ll do a little summary post on all the crushin’ going on in the PF blogosphere.

And…. let the commenting begin! ūüėČ

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Goodbye Caroline

‚ÄúCaroline‚ÄĚ and I were close friends in middle school.¬†We hung out a lot, slept over at each other‚Äôs houses,¬†checked out eyeshadow at the local Bath & Body Works, giggled about boys we had crushes on and worked as partners on a science project.

But after middle school, we headed to different high schools.¬†We gradually drifted apart. At first, I tried to stay in touch. I called, emailed, and AIM-ed her. We tried to set something up several times, but she was usually busy with other things. Then she got a boyfriend and got even more preoccupied. I wasn‚Äôt mad (okay, maybe I was a tiny bit mad) ‚Äď I understood that we were growing up and life gets busy and sometimes that means growing apart. We didn’t see each other in person again after middle school, even though we only lived 15 minutes apart.

I made an effort to stay in touch for a long time.¬†But eventually I realized¬†I was 19, still trying to resurrect a friendship that has faded away¬†five years prior. So I let it go. For a long time I was a bit¬†saddened that this wonderful friend¬†of my childhood¬†is now, for all intents and purposes, just another girl I’d pass by on the street.

A couple of years ago I saw her at a local CPK. Caroline didn’t notice me, and I didn’t go up to her and say hi. The whole reintroduction would’ve felt a little strained. Not because there are bad feelings between us, but because we are different people now, and even though we had been best friends at 13, we were almost strangers at 23.

I haven’t thought about Caroline for a long time. When I read Krystal‚Äôs post on a friend whom she is no longer close to, however, Caroline was the first name to leap to my mind. Last I heard, she is going to graduate school somewhere in California. I hope she is doing well.

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So it turns out that some waiters are trained to aim the check at the man – I never knew that!

Curiously, I received a comment from a reader who said that in her experience as a waitress, men tend to be better tippers. Another waitress commented that while the men tends to pay, she hasn’t noticed any difference between men and women tippers. According to the couple of surveys that I could find, men are definitely better tippers (see Hitched Mag and 2002 HCareers Survey).

Boyfriend and I are fairly close in terms of tipping (around 18%-20% for lunch and dinner). However, I think that my range of tipping is wider than his. For example, if I have received absolutely fantastic service, I would be more likely to tip 25% than he is. On the other hand, if the service is dismal, I have no problem tipping 10%, whereas boyfriend might feel that’s a little bit low.

Another interesting difference I’ve noticed is that boyfriend tip for take-out pick-up, whereas I usually¬†don’t. Boyfriend also puts his¬†change into those tip jars at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I hold on to my change (they come in handy when¬†I need coins for meter parking).¬†So, I guess in the grander scheme of things, boyfriend is probably the better tipper by a slim margin.

Even so, I’m not quite convinced that our difference can be attributed to gender¬†– boyfriend has a sibling who works in the service industry, so that aspect is probably more influential on his tipping practice than his gender.

I would like input from readers (especially those of you who has worked as waiters / waitresses) Рhave you noticed that either men or women tend to be better tippers? Why do you think that is?

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The Man Gets The Check?

When boyfriend and I go out to dinner, we usually split the check. Other times, one of us would pick up the whole tab.

I’ve noticed something interesting – when we ask for the check, sometimes the waiter/waitress would place the check towards boyfriend, clearly in his direction or¬†by his arms¬†(on the flip side, I’ve never received a check that was clearly in my direction – it’d be in the middle of the table).

Is the waiter subconsciously nodding to the traditional man-paying-for-dinner practice? Or maybe boyfriend always sits towards outside of the table.

I’m not offended, just found it curious.

Has anyone experienced something similar?

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Most financial experts recommend having two to three credit cards Рone or two primary card and another card in case something happens to the primary credit card (lost, stolen, etc.).

For my post-graduate life, however, I‚Äôve only had one credit card. Although I’ve been thinking that one card isn’t quite prudent, I never actually applied for a second card.

Here’s why I love having only 1 card:
1. Ease of tracking: One card = 1 website, 1 deadline, 1 credit limit, 1 username, and 1 password to remember.

2. Concentration of reward points: I put all credit card purchases on 1 card, so I accumulate points relatively quickly. Eveyr 10,000 points = $100 Sephora card!

Here’s why I think I might need another card:
1. Emergencies happen: if I lose my credit card now, I’ll have to wait for the company to cancel and mail me a replacement card. In the meantime, I’d have to rely on my debit card (which I don’t like to use for purchases).

2. Better credit score (?): If I get another credit card, my total available credit will be much higher, but my total credit use will still be the same. So, my percentage of credit used will decrease, and that should have a favorable impact on my credit score.

What do you think? How many credit cards do you have?

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One of the greatest joys of making money, I’ve decided, is that it enables me to¬†outsource those pesky chores that I’ve never gotten around doing (and frankly don’t do a great job of).

1. I don’t like doing laundry. When I lived in my previous apartment, I either took laundry home or used a¬†fluff ‘n fold¬†service at $1.50¬†a pound. Now that laundry is included in my rent and the machines are steps away from my apartment, I don’t mind this chore so much.

So, as my¬†dislike for¬†doing laundry has decreased, so has my willingness to pay someone else to do it for me.¬†I don’t use that service anymore.

2. When I moved out of my previous apartment, my roommate and I hired a cleaning company to give the place a good scrub-down. It cost $200 between the two of us, but if we did it ourselves, we’d be lucky if we could’ve gotten it half as clean in twice the time.

The funny thing is that when I was younger, Mom went over the apartment with a toothbrush (seriously – I still remember trying to clean the bathroom sinks!). But now, whenever she needs to get her rental place ready for a tenant, she hires a service.

3. Car wash. Because I’ve only lived in apartments in my post-college life, I don’t have a good place to wash my car. And apartment-living might be a convenient scapegoat, because even if I had a¬†house I don’t think I’d wash my car that much more frequently. So today I dropped it off at a hand-car-wash place near my work.

And for $20 (including $5 tip), my car was returned to me at 5PM squeaky clean. I can see my reflection off the hood. The interior was vacuumed. The windows were spotless.

What hated chores do you love to outsource?

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One of my cousins is heading¬†to a Seven Sisters college this fall. I am unbelievably excited for her. When we were little, I’d braid her hair and play dress-up. One summer, we made tents in the family room with chairs and sheets, and “camped” at night. How the years have flown.

In college, I didn’t have a good idea of details of personal finance and investing – all I knew was to spend less than I made. I had an emergency credit card that Mom cosigned. Senior year, I got my own credit card to begin establishing credit. I worked¬†part-time as a research assistant, and I was fortunate enough that the money I made can be used for discretionary purchases.

There weren’t that many things I would’ve changed in college, but if I can go back in time and counsel my 18-year-old self, this is what I would’ve done a little differently:

1. Opened a Roth IRA earlier. It would be nice to have another thousand or two in Roth right now. Although I can’t feel too badly about this one. I opened, and maxed out a Roth the first year I was able to. Frankly, despite PF tributes to the amazing wonders of compound interest, there’s usually not a huge difference if you started saving at 20 vs. 25, especially if most kids have only savings in the hundreds or low thousands. Earlier is better, sure, but it’s definitely not an insurmountable amount.

2. Valued money less. Let me explain: in college I won a fellowship to study in¬†Europe for a summer. While I was there, I had the chance to visit a friend in London. I didn’t take that trip because I thought it would’ve cost too much. If I can go back, I’d hop on a plane in a heartbeat. That’s not a mistake I lose any sleep over, exactly, but I knew it would’ve been a great, great experience with a good friend that now I’m no longer close to.

3. Taken even more time to get to know professors as people – as really successful, top-of-their-field professionals who have found their calling and who somehow manage to be good and genuine at the same time. One of my professors still give me alumni contacts when I have questions, and wrote me a thank-you card for a measly $10 donation that I made. Another one of my professor is a phenomenal woman who speaks 5 languages, has 3 kids, and is by far one of the most eloquent and thoughtful speakers I’ve ever known.

4. Stop stressing out so much. I once called Mom in tears because I was certain that I failed an economics exam (luckily, I didn’t). But in the grand schemes of things, feeling stupid because I didn’t understand a lesson or feeling bad because I got a B+ on a presentation when I expected at least an A- or feeling worried because I had the worst registration time in my class didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had amazing classroom experiences, did to the best of my abilities, and made some really good friends.

5. Taken more time to ponder. Think about not just how do I make a living, but also, how do I live a life. In between the classes and internships, I wish I would’ve spent just a bit more time thinking about the “bigger questions”: What kind of person do I want to be? How do I define success? And how can I achieve it? What do I need to do to¬†build the best life that I can?

College has taught me a lot. But as I’m discovering, many of the lessons it is still teaching¬†require perspective to appreciate and understand. As I move farther away from my college experience, I imagine I’ll be learning that much more.

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(or, here’s how I did it):
 
1. It’s such a gorgeous color.
2. It’s on sale to $28 from full-price of $98.
3. Oh, a nice fellow shopper just handed me a 30% off Friends & Family coupon = even more on sale!
4. The style and the cut reminds me of the ladies on Mad Men. 
5. I will wear this dress frequently. I can wear it to brunch, and lunch, and dinner! So cost per wear will be low. Pennies. No, fractions of pennies.
 
I often buy products for a feeling, for a little piece of a¬†mood¬†that I’d like to slip on.
 
A pink shift dress isn’t just a piece of clothing – it’s what I’ll wear¬†on a¬†visit to¬†an afternoon tea parlor, where I’ll sip tea and munch on finger sandwiches with a girlfriend.
 
A pair of black ruffled heels isn’t just a pair of shoes – it’s what will carrry me through a salsa party, when I want to feel lithe and graceful.¬†
 
A set of fancy white plates¬†isn’t just for holding food –¬†it’s for presenting meals I’ve¬†carefully crafted for a dinner party filled with good friends and¬†good conversation.
 
A hardcover book isn’t just for reading (I can, and do, visit the library for that), instead, it’s an addition to a well-edited¬†collection that will one day grace the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of my home.
 
It’s easy to reject a purchase on utilitarian grounds, but the pleasure of imaging a more stylish, more put-together and¬†more idealized¬†version of oneself is what ultimately makes me complete the transaction.

Hey, at least I realize it. ūüėČ

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