Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up


1. The most I've spend this last week was on Christmas presents. No worries, though, rent is due this week. :/

2. Today I feel cautiously optimistic towards money (I feel like I may have said this before). :)

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was make homemade biscuits! (I confess, that was this morning, but I'm pretty sure it cost me about $1 to make 11 biscuits!)

4. I will consider this week a success if I get all this clean laundry off my bedroom floor...and wash all the stuff in the hamper.

5. My favorite holiday song is there are too many to choose from!...the Peanuts Song, Canon in D, Silent Night, Do You Hear What I Hear?, and many more!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Money Monday

So today is my most shameful Money Monday post to date. :( Not only was I over budget in almost every category, but I forgot to reset my budget and prepare for this period's check/budget. I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow. In my defense, Thanksgiving happened, and then I got sick. So rather than go through my budgets like I usually do, I'm going to share my (current) feelings about mint.com.

I have to say, so far I don't like it. That's not fair. I don't completely understand it yet, and am still a little overwhelmed by it. And I tend to dislike things I don't understand. However, it has given me some useful insight on what credit card would be good for me to apply for, and after Christmas I'm looking forward to using the goal setting feature.

It also breaks up my expenses into pre-determined categories, which I'm not sure I like. But maybe it's my categories that are the problem. Maybe I'm the one making this whole budgeting thing more difficult than it needs to be. (Throwing Christmas into the mix right now isn't really helping either.)

I also have to say that the actual interface is pretty appealing. It was a little overwhelming at first but I like it more each time I look at it. I think my main problem with it is that I just don't know how to use it yet. So, I'm hoping the more I learn, the more I like it. I'll keep you posted.

That's all for now but check back later for the Weekly Money Check-Up (courtesy of My Pretty Pennies).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our "First" Thanksgiving

This post is a couple days late but I've been a little under the weather...

So first, let's give you a quick rundown of my last few Thanksgivings...
2005: home for 36 hours
2006: home (i think)
2007: Cracker Barrel after Football practice
2008: in Maryland with friends (the time of literally injecting the turkey)
2009: IHOP after football practice (Manny was overseas)

In the last couple years, I've barely even noticed that the holiday season was upon me until all the sudden it was Thanksgiving Day and I was sitting in an IHOP with the other football grad assistant after we had taken naps and recovered from that morning's football practice, not to mention Manny was overseas so he didn't have Thanksgiving either. So this year I really wanted to have a "traditional" Thanksgiving even though we weren't going home to see our families. I was determined to have turkey and pie and spend the day with friends and nowhere near an IHOP. So we made it happen. We teamed up with another couple, invited some friends, and had more food than we could have possibly eaten. It was really awesome. I got a little stressed out near the end because while all the planning was really fun, when it came time to actually cook all that food I got nervous...just for a minute. :) But the day turned out great. We had great food with great friends and ate ourselves sick. A perfectly traditional Thanksgiving. :) I'm very thankful for having the time and energy to really enjoy the holidays this year. :) So even though it isn't the first Thanksgiving since we've been together, it's the first that we'll actually get to spend together.

And now here are some pictures from our "first" Thanksgiving...
Manny's Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
My homemade Apple Pie (I must confess, Manny did the lattice)
Baked Mac and Cheese
me stirring some soon-to-be Mashed Potatoes

Manny enjoying a much deserved beer

So somehow, in the midst of all this cooking and festivities....we forgot to take a picture of the turkey. :( I'll just go ahead and say it was damn good. I know I'm biased and everything but it really was awesome.  There were also way more sides and way more desserts than the pictures show. Maybe I'll get an album up at some point. But I think our "first" Thanksgiving was quite a success.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get Excited!

I love saving money. Right now since I'm young and without any kids, I love thinking of all the fun stuff I could buy if I hadn't spent $120 on fast food and Starbucks a couple months ago. Yes, seriously, that much. I got a little nauseous when I added it up. Just frivolous crap I really could have done without. Now I would by no means consider all of my spending frivolous, but some of it could really do with being redirected. I love thinking of all the stuff I could save up for like Christmas gifts, a present for Manny's birthday, a really cute pair of boots I've been eyeing for months, and whatever else I feel like saving up for. I digress.

Anther thing I really love is finding great sales! Especially on stuff I need to buy anyway. Ever gone to Kroger on your weekly grocery run only to find out your favorite deli cheese is $3/pound less than normal!?! Bliss! Or, finding out that the shirt you bought your brother for Christmas is $10 cheaper than you originally thought! Ah, happiness!

The point I'm trying to make here is that getting excited about saving money makes it way easier to do it. Whether you do that with color-coded spread sheet, loading tons of coupons to your KrogerPlus card, or just scouting around for great sales, get excited!

(Speaking of KrogerPlus...I finished up my Thanksgiving shopping yesterday and saved $29 using my KrogerPlus card and coupons I had printed! And I only spent about $60 total so it's like everything was 33% off, so exciting!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cross Stitch Update: a lot of stuff

So, I've been busily stitching lately but haven't managed to take any pictures since I finished an ornament for my brother. Since then I've started and finished a bookmark (I won't say for whom as it's a Christmas present)...

and "finished" two ornaments...

I've also begun work on another brother's ornament...

Once I'm done with this (I'm a little sick of stockings), I think I may make some sort of cute Christmas-y wall hanging. Whatever it is, it's going to be a Christmas present, so it'll be cute. :) And I'll try to stay a little more up to date on the updates. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Money Monday

Ugh. Is it really already time to talk about money again? We had a really fun weekend (though it did involve some money spending) We saw Harry Potter 7, and it was awesome!!! And Manny has a bake sale thing for work Monday (today) and we baked 200 cookies, 2 pans of brownies, 3 pumpkin pies, and 3 loaves of pumpkin bread. It really didn't cost us too much money as only 44 of the cookies and the pie crusts were store bought. The rest was just money spent on sugar, flour, and all that other stuff you need for baking. We did buy a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but we'll talk about that another day. Anyway, now we'll check in with the budget:

Car Insurance: still right on ;)
Gasoline: still under (for now)
Grocery: under (but not for long)
Eating Out: still over but not more over than it was last Monday :)
Christmas: over over over
Fun Money: under (mainly because I feel guilty spending money for myself with Christmas right around the corner
Miscellaneous: over over over

So I guess we're doing pretty ok, and I get paid Friday. :) I think my budget still needs to be tweaked a bit, a reallocating of funds if you will.

Next on the list for Money Monday...mint.com. So I signed up to see what was what. Honestly, I don't like it so far but I think it's because I don't understand it yet. So I'll write again when I have more time to play with it.

Now the Weekly Money Checkup courtesy of My Pretty Pennies...

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on groceries.
2. Today I feel icky towards money.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was finishing up some cross-stitching projects! (pictures coming soon!)
4. I will consider this week a success if I don't spend too much more money before payday.
5. My favorite food at Thanksgiving is green bean casserole and baked macaroni and cheese.
Have a great week!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Etiquette Series: Part III

I have some opinions on etiquette, I know you're shocked. :) And the other day, a friend and I were talking about the many social faux pas that people our age (twenty-somethings) tend to make, so I thought it may be a good idea to do a little series on etiquette, especially with the holidays right around the corner. You may disagree with some of what I say, and that's just fine. These are just my personal opinions, and I am well aware that there are exceptions to every rule. :)

If you're new, check out Part I and Part II here!

Part III - People Skills

Recently, I've had a quite a few encounters with people possessing terrible people skills. Do they just not realize they're being rude? Do they care? I don't care if you're the busiest, most stressed out person in the world, you can still afford to take time for a few simple social niceties...especially if you work with people in any way!

1. Say please and thank you. This is a given right? Wrong. You'd be surprised how many people fail to do this, and how much of a difference it makes when people do.

2. Acknowledge others. This is mainly for those of you in customer service professions (aren't they all?), including myself. :) It drives me crazy when I have to search through a store for someone to ring up my items. Or worse to walk up to a register and be ignored by the clerk. Just a smile and a "I'll be right with you" makes me feel SO much better than being ignored.

3. Don't be rude. Another given. This goes for both the customer and the store/clinic/whatever employee. If you're the customer, I'm all for seeing that you're treated fairly, but even if someone is being rude to you, remaining pleasant will do a world of good. Same goes if you're the employee. If you get a sassy customer, and you are rude back, then you, too, look like an idiot.

Now I'm going to break tradition a little and share a scenario that I encountered recently that inspired me to write this post. 

Scenario 1:
Customer: Do you have any more coupons?
Cashier: Oh yes, sir, we still have them. (to store manager) Bob, since they're buying two ****** do you want me to take $0.50 off each item or $1 off the total order?
Store Manager (in a very snarky/exasperated tone): What?! Why would we take $1 off? 
Cashier: Um, sir, well, there's a coupon.
Store Manager:  Ugh, I'm on the phone! I don't understand why we would ever take $1 off their order. Why are you asking if we would take $1 off? Why would we do that?
Customer: (to the poor cashier who looks like she's about to cry) Don't worry about it, it's no big deal.
Ok Mr. Jerky Store Manager, get off your high horse and (1) be aware of specials your store is running and (2) don't ever speak to an employee in a demeaning manner, especially in front of customers. Jerk. How about instead saying "Mary, I'm not sure what coupons you're talking about?" or "I'm not sure we have any specials running at the moment."

I just think that it's not that hard to be polite. I'm really trying not to rant here, so as we're approaching the Holiday season, maybe we can all try to be a little nicer and little more polite. :)

Next Week: well, I'm not sure yet...I'll let you know when I decide. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Like the New Look?

You may have noticed that the blog looks a LOT different. I'm trying out some new layouts and color schemes to try and find something I think really fits. I have done this several times in the past and have (obviously) not yet come to a permanent solution. So, what are your thoughts? Do we like the minimalistic look better? I already have one vote against it. ;) But I kinda like it. Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Errors in Budgeting and a New Frontier

I made two silly money mistakes this week that have cost me $35. :( Actually, when I look at it like that it doesn't seem so bad...I guess. It's just very frustrating knowing that had I not made those two errors in judgement, I would have that $35 to do whatever I want with. Grrr. However, in the grand scheme of things, it's only $35 and life will go on.

In other news, something called mint.com was recommended to me by a friend yesterday. I've done some researching and would like to try it, but am frankly a little overwhelmed. Mint.com is an online money management program. It's free (and according to the website, committed to staying free) and has all sorts of bells and whistles for managing your money. For a person who has one checking account, one savings account, and no credit cards, this is a little overwhelming. I keep thinking, do I really need all this to manage my money? But, as I'm getting older, I'm realizing I need to do things like build my credit and plan for retirement. I'll say it again, overwhelming. But I think my mid-twenties is a perfectly good time to start learning about all this. Better than waiting until my mid-thirties. ;) So, I think I'm going to give it a try. I'm nervous, but right now I manage my money from three different places: a random app on my iPhone that I am only marginally satisfied with, an Excel spreadsheet of my own making, and my bank's website. So if I could condense these all to one website with a matching iPhone app....yay? I think I need to pull the trigger and just do it. Even as I'm writing this I'm getting anxious about setting it up. So off I go, into the wild green yonder.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our First Turkey

This Thanksgiving we're cooking our first turkey. Correction, Manny is cooking our first turkey while I hand him things and make sides/desserts. We have a lovely 15 pound turkey sitting in the freezer just waiting for our friends to drool over. But neither of us have ever cooked a turkey. (Ok, well I assisted one other time but it was with another athletic trainer and when the instructions called for us to "inject" the turkey with its own juices, we did it the only way we knew how. With a 400cc syringe and a 14 gauge needle. It worked great, but I'm not sure that's what they meant.) Anyway, Manny being the smarty pants that he is, researched how to cook a turkey. He found this really yummy recipe by Alton Brown so as long as we do it right we should be ok. Manny is admittedly nervous about cooking the turkey, since the turkey is, after all, the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal. I would be too, that's why he's doing it and not me. ;) I'm sure the turkey will be great and we have about a billion sides to go with it. :) And 3 pies. We don't mess around with food in this house.

As for how we're celebrating, it's not the most traditional, we're not headed home to spend it with our family. But among military friends/family, our plan is probably pretty normal. I teamed up with another girl and we're cooking for our friends who can't/aren't going home this Thanksgiving. As I spent last Thanksgiving in an IHOP (more on that another day), I'm really very excited about having a traditional meal with good friends.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

This post is linked to My Pretty Pennies' Weekly Money Check-Up.

1. The most I've spent this last week was on Christmas presents! See why here.

2. Today I feel a little nervous but mostly ok towards money.

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was watch my adorable puppy run around with complete abandon while playing with Manny.

4. I will consider this week a success if I get some cross-stitching done!

5. I am afraid of anything that flies and stings.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Money Monday

I would like to begin by telling you that I've given my Christmas budget the finger. I realized this weekend (with some help from my wonderful boyfriend) that since I'm an adult, I have no children, I have a full time job, and live in a two income household (really three because we have a roommate)...I can stop being such a cheap ass about Christmas. Seriously, in this wonderful season of giving I'm going to act like I'm still a broke college student? Negative. So I have changed my Christmas budgeting tune. Don't worry Dad, I'm not going to spend my life savings on one Christmas, but I can loosen the purse strings a bit. 

Ok, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's check in with the budget. As promised, I will tell you that the only things that managed to stay in budget from last week were gas and groceries, I'll leave it at that. But here's how this bi-weekly budget is going (mind you, it's only 3 days old).

Car Insurance: right on (that's a gimme)
Gasoline: under
Grocery: haven't even touched it yet!
Eating Out: over (I'm thinking I may need to re-evaluate the reality of this budget
Fun Money: under
Miscellaneous: under, but it's going to be hard to stay that way
Christmas: over (is anyone surprised? I am a Stanley after all)

The way that I budgeted for Christmas is that I basically split my Christmas budget up over the next 3 paychecks. So if I'm a little over, I'm just going to take it out of savings and repay my savings with the next paycheck. And honestly, I'd rather spend some extra money on Christmas presents than act like Scrooge. Who cares if my savings take a small hit during Christmas? That's what January is for. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Etiquette Series: Part II

I have some opinions on etiquette, I know you're shocked. :) And the other day, a friend and I were talking about the many social faux pas that people our age (twenty-somethings) tend to make, so I thought it may be a good idea to do a little series on etiquette, especially with the holidays right around the corner. You may disagree with some of what I say, and that's just fine. These are just my personal opinions, and I am well aware that there are exceptions to every rule. :)

If you missed Part I, check it out!

Part II - Being a Good Party Guest

1. Be "on time." Getting there 10 minutes late so you're not the first awkward party guest is one thing, getting there 3 hours late because you just had to have your stylist professionally straighten your hair is rude.

2. Don't go empty handed. If it's a pot luck dinner, bring food. If you're doing White Elephant or Dirty Santa gifts, bring a present. Don't be the only ding dong walking in empty handed when everyone else has contributed their share.

3. Don't get hammered. There are very few situations where this is acceptable, your mother-in-law's hoity toity Christmas tea party is not one of those situations.

4. Have fun! Who cares if you've had a crappy day at work or a fight with your boyfriend. It's a party and all the other guests do not want to hear your woe-is-me tales during an otherwise upbeat holiday party.

5. Don't bring uninvited guests. This doesn't really need explanation, just don't do it.

6. Dress appropriately. If it's an office party, I might advise against your sequined mini-dress. Though that might be totally appropriate for your best friend's party. Just make sure you know what the attire should be before you go.

7. Bring a small gift for the host/hostess. I'm talking super small, like a candle or something else thoughtful. Just a little something that says thanks for inviting me. 

Stay tuned for more in the Sunday Etiquette Series. Next Week: People Skills

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Things I Saw at the Gym Yesterday

So we went to the gym on base today. You'd expect there to be a somewhat normal crowd there, lots of guys with crew cuts and stuff. But, guess what, the base gym is just as filled with weirdos as the next. Ok, well maybe not quite, but here are some interesting sights I saw.

1. Guy with a comb-over so severe I could not figure out which side it came from. (I was trying not to stare too hard.)

2. A very small, very blonde, very tan woman, complete with gold watch and finger-less weight lifting gloves doing some serious leg presses with perfectly coiffed hair.

3. A super-jacked 40-ish dude wearing a racer-back muscle shirt (did anyone else know they actually made those for guys?).

4. Personal trainer and trainee both with perfect hair, make-up, earrings, and perfectly put together gym outfits. (Maybe I should take the hint?)

5. Guy next to us while we were stretching doing very loud, apparently very strenuous, push-ups. And I say very strenuous because he grunted very loudly with every push-up. Seriously? Is that necessary?

So there you have it, my strange gym creature sightings. I just wish I had pictures. I hope they brought at least a little amusement into your day. They certainly did to mine. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Picking a Credit Card

Can you tell I'm a little focused on money at the moment? I basically have no credit. Not bad credit, just none, which apparently is just as unappealing to creditors. A year or so ago I tried applying for several cards so that I could begin building my credit but to no avail. Though at the time I was a graduate student making barely $1000 a month, not exactly a great credit candidate. So after being rejected 3 or 4 times, I gave up, lest I ruin my credit forever. But now that I have my big girl job, I've decided that it's time again to try and build up some credit. I've looked at a couple different ones (basically just Target and Amazon) and am currently wondering to myself if it really matters which I get. They both have no annual fee and offer rewards of some sort. And basically I'm just looking to use this to build credit, not to make purchases out of my price range.

Basically my fear is that one of these days it will be time to buy a car or a house and I won't be able to because I have no credit. Manny thinks it's silly of me to worry but that's because he already has good credit! Lucky duck.

How have you built up your credit? Any great credit card suggestions? Is it better to get a store card or a bank card? Does it really matter as long as you watch your spending and make payments on time?

On a slightly different note, my new budget starts tomorrow! I'm unnaturally excited. I think it's because the budget for the past couple weeks was (it seemed) a big fat fail. More on that Monday. I'm really excited to start a new budget cycle and try to stay in budget once more! Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trying to Grow My Savings

I work best when I have a goal. My super linear brain needs to have an end in sight, a point we're trying to work towards. So it's no wonder that since my savings account was just a plain old savings account, with no distinct path, it tends not to grow too much. There was no goal, no end point I was trying to reach. So, I made goals. I itemized my savings. I have specific categories for which to save. I have no idea if this is going to work, but I'm going to give it a whirl. My savings account is still just one account, but my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet has everything laid out nice and pretty. Currently, I have things broken down into these categories:

General Savings: used for when I maybe need a little extra for a plane ticket home or something similar; kind of like a small buffer to my bi-weekly budgets, just in case
Emergency Fund: this is my emergency, oh my God, I've lost my job and still need to make rent, fund
Horseback Riding: I pay for horseback riding 10 lessons at a time to get a discount, and I really dislike paying it all out of one check
Christmas: self-explanatory, however, next year I intend to have this category year round

At the moment I don't have a whole lot else I'm actively saving for. I'm sure there are some things that need some attention but I can very easily add them as I go along. My Excel spreadsheet has color coded categories and even shows me what percentage of my savings goal I have accomplished. Below is a mock spreadsheet (I'm not comfortable sharing my exact finances on my blog, even if almost no one reads it), but it will help you get the picture. No pun intended. ;)

So, my budget is not nearly this exciting but I started having fun with the colors. :) I really like to have everything literally laid out before me so I can see exactly what goes where. How do you keep track of your savings?

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I am by no means a financial professional or qualified to give financial advice in any way. These are simply my little opinions.. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weekly Money Check Up

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on a plane ticket home for Christmas.
2. Today I feel surprisingly content towards money.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was taking my puppy to the dog park!
4. I will consider this week a success if I come in under budget on ANY category.
5. My go-to recipe is breaded baked chicken. I am in no way culinarily inclined.
This post is linked to the Weekly Money Check Up.

Cross Stitch Update: Ev's Ornament

Adapted from Ornament's Galore: Volume 2 Stocking Pattern
Stitched on Oatmeal 14-count Aida
personal color selection

Stitching on Ev's ornament in finished! And it's about time too. I really need to get moving on these Christmas presents/ornaments if I'm going to finish them in time. If I'm counting correctly I think I have about 8 more things to stitch before Christmas. Eek! I really like these ornament patterns and how easily adaptable they are. The plan was to do cross-stitched stocking ornaments for everyone who was getting an ornament but stitching the same thing over and over does not do well for my ADD nature. So I think I'm going to change it up a little bit. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Money Monday

The past week(ish) has definitely been a learning experience on where my money goes. At this point, I'm a little more than half way through my biweekly budget. Something I've had to repeat to myself over and over this week is that I'm not going to get such a structured budget perfectly right the first time around. I need to just stick with it, learn from it, and do better on the next one. Here's a look at what I'm over and under budget on this week.

Groceries: under 
Eating Out: way way over. :(
Gas: under
Miscellaneous: way way over
Rent: right on the money (but that's kind of a gimme)
Utilities: under 

My Eating Out and Miscellaneous budgets were epic fails this time around. Why? Well, I was doing great until Manny and I went out to eat last night to watch the football game, and then had lunch at the mall today while doing some Christmas shopping. And Miscellaneous? I'm honestly not 100% sure what happened there. Too many trips to Target perhaps? The problem is it all seemed necessary at the time. Also, if you count the plane ticket home for the holidays (which I didn't) that would make me even more over budget. But that came out of savings so it kind of didn't count.

Another budgeting issue that's been on my mind a lot lately is Christmas. I actually had a little baby Christmas budget melt down this weekend before I realized that it's really going to be just fine. Goal for next year? Save for Christmas year round. Hence the itemized savings idea. More on that later.

Well, that's all for now. My new bi-weekly budget starts Friday so I'm sure my budget will look great next week! But don't worry, I'm also going to check in with how this term's budget ended up. Gulp. :) Have a fabulous week!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Etiquette Series: Part I

I have some opinions on etiquette, I know you're shocked. :) And the other day, a friend and I were talking about the many social faux pas that people our age (twenty-somethings) tend to make, so I thought it may be a good idea to do a little series on etiquette, especially with the holidays right around the corner. You may disagree with some of what I say, and that's just fine. These are just my personal opinions, and I am well aware that there are exceptions to every rule. :)

Part I - Being a Good Houseguest
In my opinion, being a good houseguest is more necessary than you may think. It's very important for the person who has invited you to stay in their home to know that you are thankful and appreciative of that. Otherwise they may not do so again. ;) 

1: Respect customs and traditions of that household.
For example, if the family you're staying with prefers not to watch television after 8pm, don't insist on turning on the TV at 9pm because you can't bear to miss Desperate Housewives.

2. Always, always, always, no matter how much you don't want to, offer to help with dishes and other household chores (especially if you're staying for an extended period of time). Many hostesses will refuse your offer but it's important that you offer, preferably after every meal.
Please do not be the disappearing houseguest who mysteriously disappears during dinner clean-up and then re-appears just in time for dessert.

3. Keep your junk in your trunk. Ok, not literally. But don't spread your crap out everywhere. Try to keep your things packed away when you're not using them, except for maybe a book on the bed stand or something else small.
I know my parents are literally rolling on the floor laughing right now, but in truth, I try really hard to do this when I'm not staying with Mom and Dad or a very close friend. (Sorry, Elizabeth)

4. Go with the flow. If the family/friends you're staying with are doing something as a group that you're not particularly interested in, do it anyway for the sake of being social. Don't insist on doing your own thing and going against the grain, it's irritating, and rude.
Obviously if the people you're with are insisting on doing drugs or something else illegal then, duh, don't do it. But if they're just going to a restaurant you don't care for, get your butt in the car and go, and be happy about it while you're at it.

5. Like the Girl Scouts say, leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.
I'm by no means saying you need to have a marathon cleaning session before you leave, but for the love of God, please don't leave your toenail clippings on the bathroom floor.

6. Finally, by all means thank your host/hostess before leaving. Be sure they know that you appreciate them opening their home to you, because they could have made you pay for a hotel. ;)
After you leave, some would consider it appropriate to send a thank you note or small gift thanking your host/hostess. I think the longer your stay, the more you should consider a thank you note/gift. Use your judgement depending on the situation.

Stay tuned for more in the Sunday Etiquette Series. Next week: Being a Good Party Guest.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Photographic Fun

So, recently I've decided to take up another hobby...taking pictures. Why don't I call it photography? Because at the moment what I do is not photography, it's taking pictures. :) But it's lots of fun all the same. I decided the other day that since we have this wonderful camera sitting around, and since I've always enjoyed taking pictures...why not take it up a notch? Well, on Thursday I took Louis to the dog park, and caught this adorable moment on camera...

Cute, right? 

Then last night Manny gave me a quick lesson on things like focal length and shutter speed. I'm still not sure I 100% understand the focal length thing but I'm getting there. Then we had a quick photo editing tutorial. We have Aperture which I think is super awesome...and though I really have no idea what else is out there, but I sure had fun with it. :) The photo of Louis (above) is not edited (well, it's cropped but that doesn't really count). But I went out and played around with the camera today and then came in and played with the editing software...and here's what I came up with.

For some reason I just loved the pumpkin picture. Maybe it's because I'm really excited about fall and the holiday season coming up. But anyway, now here's the edited version...

Fun, right?! The look a little psychedelically orange but I like it. We have a camera book around somewhere which I will be reading shortly. I've aways liked taking pictures and would get really excited when one turned out great. Now that I have the equipment handy, I'm learning how to make sure pictures turn out great...or at least better than before. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finding Your Budget Style

Not everyone's budget is going to look the same. You're thinking, well, duh, not everyone makes the same amount of money. But what I mean is that how you shape and keep track of your budget is going to be different for everyone. Me, personally? I need things laid out where I can see them. I tried creating a monthly budget recently, which is pretty much the gold standard. And that's all fine and good, but I get paid every 2 weeks and different bills and such fall on the different paychecks. And as I'm still fairly young and without a ton of savings, I still live "paycheck to paycheck" so to speak. The monthly budget was just a little too overwhelming at this point. I've decided that a good way for me to enter the world of structured budgeting is by creating a bi-weekly budget rather than a monthly budget (at least for now). This is going to require a little bit more work on my part but I think it's definitely the best option for me right now. It will help me "see" things better. And seeing as how this months budget was kind of a fail, I need to try something different!

I've also decided to "itemize" my savings. Basically I'm going to look at my overall savings and create different categories. That way when I'm saving up for something in particular (or paying myself back for something like the plane ticket I just bought) I can know down to the dollar what belongs where.

So just remember, just because almost everyone uses a monthly budget doesn't mean you have to. If that's too overwhelming or just not practical for you, do you own thing. You could even make a weekly budget if you really want to. :)

Like I said before, my biggest goal in this whole budgeting thing (at the moment) is to simply know where my money is going and make sure I'm spending purposefully.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cross Stitch Progress: Ev's Ornament

I recently started making a stocking ornament for one of my brothers. Ev, if you're reading this, stop now! :) I'm using the same pattern as for Helena's, just changing the colors and such.

Adapted from Ornaments Galore: Volume 2

As you can probably tell, blue is his favorite color. :) The reason for the monochrome is, well, he's a boy and I wasn't sure the cutesy stripes would really work. :)

The "B" Word

Budgeting. For most people, that word brings on at least a little anxiety. Up until recently, I've been living strictly by the "don't-take-more-out-than-you-put-in" budget. Which, while effective, was not the most sophisticated of budgets. I'm am trying (not for the first time) to develop (and stick to) a more structured budget.

Why? Honestly, there are several reasons as to why. And they're not all "well I'm getting older and I need to save for a wedding, kids, and a house" type reasons...though those are good ones. But one of my major motivators is that I know I'm making a lot more money than I ever have (i.e. Grown-Up Salary vs. Grad Student stipend) and I want to make sure it's being put to good use and not just being pissed away. Whether this is saving up for a new pair of boots or building an emergency fund, I just want to make sure my money is being spent purposefully, even if it is on a new pair of boots (are we sensing a trend?).

How? I'm doing a few different things. One of the first and scariest is a little spending analysis (more on this later). Second, I downloaded a budgeting app for my iPhone. I haven't decided whether or not this is going to be a permanent fixture, but I'm giving it a whirl. Lastly, I created a good old fashioned budget spreadsheet (well, as old fashioned as you can be creating a color-coded spreadsheet on Excel). A lot of this is going to be trial and error (hence blogging about it so maybe you guys will have a little less error). 

Goals: Well this part is a little more fuzzy. I think as I work through getting this budget thing figured out I will have some more clear goals. For now I want to work towards setting up an emergency fund and figuring out where I spend my money and budgeting/altering accordingly. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Direction...or just direction...

Lately (for quite a while really) I've wanted my blog better direction. I've been doing some research and talking to fellow bloggers (mainly just Elizabeth), and trying to figure out what to do with my life...well, my blog life anyway. :)

I really started to get serious about this a couple weeks ago when I was going through old posts and applying labels. I felt like as I went down the line, I just kept creating more and more labels. I know every blog does not have to be dead set on one (or several) topics, and that randomness is (supposedly) part of my charm, but I'd just like some consistency. For one thing I feel like it would certainly help me blog more frequently, which has been a (failed) goal of mine for some time.

So, like I said, I've been looking around for some inspiration. I found that most of the blogs I follow consistently have some sort of consistent content basis. Whether it be cooking, being frugal, a craft or hobby, etc, everyone seems to have something they blog about most often.

I've come up with a couple ideas so far, but was wondering whether you guys have any amazing ideas that you're just waiting to throw my way? ;)

So far, here's what you can look forward to:
- more posts about budgeting, money saving, and random awesome deals I find
- more cross stitch posts (in particular, some step-by-step tutorials)

Stay tuned for a new and improved blog!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cross Stitch Progress: Helena's Ornament

Ok, so I wasn't sure whether or not to put this on but I'm 99.9% sure my sister doesn't read my blog (she's only 10) so I'm going to post the picture. However, if you are reading this, Helena, STOP NOW! :)

Ok, moving on...

So, this design is actually adapted from the Joy Ornament pattern you saw last post. If you're interested in the pattern book (which has tons of cute stuff) it's Ornaments Galore: Volume 2. I'm actually on the search for Ornaments Galore: Volume 1. I haven't really tried that hard yet. I'm sure I could find it on Amazon.

Anyway, the stitching is finished on this ornament, I just haven't turned it into an ornament quite yet.

Pattern adapted from Ornaments Galore: Volume 2
Stitched on White 14 count Aida fabric

Cute, right? :) I'm pretty excited about it. Next I'm starting ornaments for my younger brothers. (Note: Spence or Ev, if you read this, better tell me now so I don't post pictures).