Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cheap or Just Plain Clever?

I am pretty excited about this week.

On Thursday, I have an appointment for a very long overdue haircut. At the Aveda Institute in St. Petersburg, the prices are incredible. $12 for a haircut. $35 for a relaxing facial. $40 for an hour long massage. The services are performed by students, and in my experience, they are just as good as anybody else. Especially since they'll be working in a salon that charges triple those prices in six months.

I hate paying full price. For anything.

Growing up, my family didn't have extra money to eat out at nice restaurants, take vacations, or buy designer clothes.

Out of my entire family, I'm one of a handful who went to college.

This is the first time in my life that I have what you'd call "disposable income." Now that I'm in this position, with the economy the way it is, I want to save as much money as I can.

Right out of school, my first job paid (take home pay) the equivalent of about $9.00 an hour. Miraculously I was able to buy a condominium on that salary. Renting one of the bedrooms made this option cheaper than having an apartment. The only upgrade to the place I made was installing mirrors above the bathroom sinks and putting in toilet paper holders. In the two years I owned the condo, the value jumped close to 35% based on the price I sold it for in May of 2007.
I've also managed to conquer my student loans. They used to be close to $30,000. Now, I only have $8,127.54 to go. Much of that progress came thanks to the profit made from the condo sale.

I do have to set aside money every paycheck for my bi-annual car insurance premium and that kind of sucks.

In my current position, I'm making considerable more money and am finally trying to save up some money in an emergency fund. It's going slower than I anticipated though. Why is it that no matter how much money you make, it's always hard to save?

While many of my coworkers are living a comfortable life in the Tampa Bay area, I still sometimes feel like a college student.

I eat off of the dollar value menu at McDonald's a lot. I hate paying more than $30 for a pair of shoes. One pair of boots I own retailed for $200. I got them for $19.99.

My guy recently commented on the lack of furniture in my apartment. It's true. I have a hard time buying large ticket items sometimes. Although I do admit that I have a weakness for electronics, like a Nintendo Wii and an LCD TV.

On most days, I try to stick to a daily food budget of $5 give or take. This is not as difficult as it sounds. It does involve making sandwiches to bring to work, eating leftovers, drive-thru windows and the like. Lately I do find myself eating out more than I should, racking up the food bill quickly...

Priceline has become an ally of mine. For Thanksgiving I'm going to visit my parents in Buffalo. I got a great deal at $18 a day for the rental car. In a week and a half I'm going to Miami. Booked a three and a half star hotel with a bid for $40 a day. Woo hoo! On the hotel's web site, the cheapest room is $139 a night, and on discount sites rooms go for $120. Score another one for me!

So now my goal is to keep contributing to my emergency fund. I'd like to have at least 8-10 months of living expenses. When I get my tax refund, that's where that money is going.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Like Hanukkah

Every year at work, the company (a TV station) celebrates its anniversary with a 9 day celebration. It reminds me quite a bit of the Jewish celebration Hanukkah. And yes, there are presents. Each employee receives raffle tickets to enter drawings to win items like an iPod shuffle, a blender, air mattress, and the like. The winners will be announced tomorrow.

So far it's gone like this...

Day 1 "Gift Day" - Came into the office, and coworkers inform me that I'll never guess in a ten million years what is in my mailbox. They were right. It was a pizza cutter with the station logo on it. A pizza cutter.

Day 2 "Pizza Day" - Sensing a theme? Two deliveries arrived throughout the day at 11:30 and 4:45. Two meals covered! Luckily, the pies were already sliced so we did not have to use the pizza cutters.

Day 3 "Shirt Day" - Employees got to go to HR to pick up new logoed pique polo shirts. I got a size small. The shirts are white. When I took mine out of the plastic bag, I discovered that the underarm seam was destroyed on one side. So I exchanged it for another one. This one has a tiny stain on it, but I soaked it with my Tide stain stick pen. Hopefully it will be okay. The shirt is white. We are being encouraged to wear them tomorrow on Casual Friday. Perhaps I'll wear a colorful bra underneath? On second thought, no.

Tomorrow is Day 4 "Raffle Day" and I would very much like the blender or the air mattress.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Functioning on McD's

Something you might not know about me is that back in the day (high school) I would routinely eat five Big Mac sandwiches at McDonald's.

I'm not kidding.


At the time, there was a special promotion going on in which they were only 99 cents, so much more cost effective than doing that now.

At a height of 5'2" weighing in at 85 lbs. I wasn't unlike Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas the competitive eater.

My senior year of high school I was in the work study program. I'd already collected most of the credits to graduate. In the morning I took classes and in the afternoon I worked as an office clerk at PCB Piezotronics (they make sensors) in Depew, NY making minimum wage. I was so proud of that job. It was my first taste of independence and making my own money and driving my Dad's old car - a teal '93 Ford Escort station wagon. Those cars sure were everywhere in Western New York, let me tell you.

Unfortunately, I did not get to taste lunch at school. My schedule did not have room for a lunch period. If memory recalls correctly, my last class ended at 12:30 and I had to work from 1-5 p.m. Most days I would stop at McD's for a quick bite to eat. On a few occasions, I stooped to eating beef jerky while driving to the office. Breakfasts consisted of an entire large bag of Cheddar Bacon potato skin chips and a can of soda.

I was so into soda that I started a side business at school selling cans to classmates for 75 cents out of my locker. The vending machines at Lancaster High School would not turn on until after the school day was over to promote healthier choices. That meant monopoly for me! Every Sunday I would scour ads looking for the cheapest Pepsi or Coca-Cola soda, then would literally stock up and fill the trunk of the Escort. Since I grew up outside Buffalo, NY it was cold for the majority of the school year. When I brought a 12 pack into school, it was chilled and ready for sales. The cheaper the price, the higher the profit margin for me. By the end of the year I had about $300 in quarters, and that was after paying myself in soda. Not bad for a hobby that took up a few minutes of time each day plus shopping that I did anyways.

Those junk food memories are good to look back on and smile. At the end of my senior year, I still weighed about the same. How did that happen?

This week has been a bit of a flashback. Due to the Republican National Convention, I've been working 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. On the way to work, I've been stopping at McDonald's and getting the Happy Hour $1 iced coffee and chicken McNuggets. On the way home last night, I stopped there again to get a few items off the dollar menu. And earlier in the week, I took advantage of the 2 sausage egg McMuffin sandwiches for $2 deal.

Today will be a break from that though! This afternoon, we have a dining story shoot at a very nice steak house. Hopefully we will get to sample some of the fare. Definitely a good change of pace from my McD's diet.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

I like NOT working on Labor Day.

This has been yet another oddly weird week.
  • Sarah Palin - the relatively unknown Governor of Alaska is tapped by McCain
  • Gustav makes landfall in Louisiana
  • Somehow a group of anonymous girls ended up at a baseball stadium at 4 a.m.
  • My friend had a bounce house at her surprise birthday party
  • I'll never get seven hours of my life back spent at a certain crappy event in which complete morons asked me a string of pointless questions
  • Today's fortune cookie read: "Your spirit of adventure leads you down an exciting new path"... and for once, I believe it!

The past few months have meant turning point after turning point for me. Nothing's the same. Everything continues to change. I'm definitely not the same.