Friday, May 23, 2008

The Quarter is Ending!

Finals are just around the corner. I have one next week and then eight papers (two of which are over twelve pages) due the week of finals which is the week after next. I'm nearly delusional with all the writing I've been doing.

Financially? Eek! I've been so crazed with school that the last thing I'm thinking of is budgeting. I'm hammering out a new one for the month and trying to sort out my cash flow at the moment. Expect a budget by the end of tonight.

Much to my chagrin, I still haven't gotten my stimulus check. As soon as I get that, I can put the money I pulled out of savings back in. I have direct deposit and the letter said I should have gotten by today. Hmmmm?

My pretty little garden is doing wonderfully. The basil is amazing and the first jalapeno just appeared!

I'm attempting to catch up with everyone right now. I predict lots of reading for the next couple weeks. I miss everyone's blogs!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

There goes my savings.

For whatever reason, my university is going to require that I pay out of pocket for my summer tuition and eventually get reimbursed in July. That will drain ALL of my savings (1,200 dollars) and leave little to pay for books. I'm not even sure how I'll pay for books.

Time to start selling stuff. Oy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The economy has caused me a 30% pay cut.

Lately, I feel like I'm suffocating. I can hardly keep up with all the schoolwork. It's causing me to be forgetful which has resulted in two parking tickets. Oh, and I need to buy like four more books for my classes. That equates to about 200 dollars. I'm expecting my stimulus check to catch me up at the moment.

The economy has really hit my restaurant. I've gone from averaging a hundred dollars a day, to eighty five dollars a day... to seventy dollars a day.. That's a 30% pay cut. I love my job, but regretfully, I'm going to have to leave to a better bar and/or restaurant. I have a girlfriend of mine who averages two hundred dollars a day at a fancy schmancy hotel in Pasadena. I'm willing to make a forty five minute drive (no traffic) to earn that type of money.

Oh, and the corportate restaurant chain I work for may get audited. Lovely. Fucking lovely.

The herb garden is wonderful. I've already used the basil and rosemary. The tomato and jalapeno plants are blossoming.

(Pardon the cursing. Oh, and I updated my bars!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Quick and Dirty.

It's the third week of the quarter and I'm dieing. Taking an extra class is kicking my ass. On top of that, I've been working closer to 35 hours a week while taking more than a full load. I'm also picking up an extra shift Thursday before I go to school all day (oy!). I'm virtually working full-time these days. I can't do this.

What does this all equate to?

My finances are looking awfully good. I've been spending more money on food at school, but able to curtail going out since my life is AT school.

On the downside, I haven't been able to post here on the blog or read other people's blogs. I have to admit, I'm sorely missing it. A heavy dose of Strange Bird, Gilded Butterfly, Well-Heeled or countless other PF Bloggers would be lovely right now... but I have to go write a five page paper!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Saving Money With Being Eco-Friendly

I've always been an eco-friendly gal. In fact, I have quite a few friends who refer to me as the "hippy". It's not just the interest I've had in environmentalism since I was a child (seriously, my mother would buy me books on the subject), but my liberal stance on many issues.

I've realized lately though that I'm definetly not doing my share in the world. I use paper towels; I print up plenty of stuff for school that I could attempt not to; I don't buy all organic products (although in the shift).

How does this effect me financially? I've been wanting to subscribe to two different magazines for some time now. I LOVE getting magazine subscriptions in the mail. I nearly sent off for a subscription today when I took another moment to think about it. How much paper would that be using up just to sate my lust for reading? How many books do I already own (over 300)? How many pieces of paper, trees, and pollution went into that? In reality, I could read wine reviews online easily. I could find political articles like they have in Vanity Fair easily online.

In reality, I don't need magazine subscriptions when I can get that information online. In the process, I save myself money as well as helping the environment.

Beyond that, there are so many ways that eco-friendly products will save you money in the long run. A pack of dishtowels will cost more initially, but over time will last a lot longer than the equivalent rolls of paper towels in terms of price. My previous post on starting an herb garden will require an initial output of money, but once again will save me uber-amounts of money in the long run. B and I use garlic, jalapenos, green onions, cilantro and tomatoes on a weekly basis. I use rosemary and thyme a couple times a week. We'll be saving money, but we'll know for a fact that we are gardening our products without pesticides. Furthermore, the products won't be shipped.

I currently re-use the stockpile of Trader Joe paper bags I have. Once those give out, I'm going to get a cloth bag to carry my groceries in. B and I will often walk to little eateries around here instead of driving. There's lots of little changes that can add up in the long run.

How do you save money while being eco-friendly?

Saving Money With An Indoor Herb Garden (Part I)

For my boyfriend’s birthday next month I’m planting an herb garden. We’ve been discussing the idea for a good three months now. B and I only go out to eat maybe once a month. The rest of the time is spent at home nibbling and cooking up new items. Hence, an herb garden is a good investment for us. I’m also considering a tomato plant and some sort of chili pepper for the patio. Green onions are also on the list. We tend to use these three items more than anything else seeing as Mexican food is are typical fare, followed by Italian.

The herb portion of the garden is going to be indoors. He has a set of windows in the kitchen that extend out of the house. There has to be a term for them that I’m not aware of. Anyhow, they are currently barren and provide ample space for the project.

After scouting quite a few sites, I ended up finding Backyard Gardener. It is quite comprehensive and sorted alphabetically. This enables me to look up the specific herbs B and I have wanted to plant. It also details how to plant these items in pots. Garden Guides has an article specifically on growing herb gardens indoors.

Basil, Thyme, Green Onion (Chives), Cilantro (Coriander), Rosemary and Garlic are on my list. From what I’ve read, they will all grow well indoors.

As for what chili pepper to grow, I decided on jalapeno, as that is B’s favorite. We make pico de gallo once a week which utilizes jalapeno, tomato, cilantro and green onion. Just think how much money that will save us! Plus, B always feels like he has to make a huge amount of pico de gallo since he wants to use up everything he bought. Now we can make smaller amounts. Oh, and from what I read on Pepper Joe’s, jalapenos grow well indoors and are a smaller variety than other pepper plants.

With tomatoes, it seems I need to start them off first indoors and then "harden" them before transplanting outside. I also have the option of purchasing ones that are ready to be transplanted already.

The next step is too look into where I will purchase the seeds, soil, pots and fish emulsion oil (organic food for plants). It seems I will also need a spray bottle for the fish emulsion oil. Look forward to a Part Two of this endeavor.!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Budget: Version 2.0

Between the fact that my tips have declined, my paychecks have increased (I've been trying to pick up extra shifts) and I blew the first budget to hell, it's time for a new one!

Foremost, I want to state that considering I don't have a fixed income, it's somewhat difficult to come up with a budget. Originally for my income, I figured that I make on average a hundred dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of roughly 150. That gave me the grand total of 1900 dollars a month (16 working days x 100 dollars + 150 dollar checks x 2 pay periods). Unfortunately, tips have declined with the economy going down. So, I need to reconsider my income. Now, I'm figuring that I make on average 85 dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of 200. That gives me a grand total of 1760(16 working days x 85 dollars + 200 dollar checks x 2 pay periods).

Fixed Expenses:
Rent: 600
Car Payment: 272
Auto Insurance: 181
Gym: 45
Cell Phone: 86

Flexible Expenses:
Gas: 100
Credit Card: 200
Savings: 150
Food/Entertainment/Everything: 126

Oh, dear, god. That's not a lot to get by on in terms of going out and food. I totally admit that I'm the standard 22 year old who likes going out. A LOT. Curses. Drats.

Where in the world is Vixen On A Budget?

Funny you should ask. Finals went well. I escaped unscathed! I ended up with my grades being three A's and one B. I'm really psyched about the grades because I expected to be more like: A, A-, B+, C+. Yay!

Finals lead into Spring Break. I worked six days straight right after my last final. Then an overnight trip to the desert to visit my grandparents. More work followed by an impromptu trip to LAS VEGAS! I've never been as an adult and it was quite a bit of fun. Everything was far more affordable than I imagined.

I got back from Vegas at like 12pm yesterday and headed right to school for my first class of the quarter. Heh. Fall quarter I took twelve units. Last quarter I took fourteen. This quarter I am taking TWENTY.

It's going to be quite the quarter.

Financially, everything is stable but I blew the budget to high hell. I made up a new budget while in a four-hour long class yesterday (multi-tasking!). My tips have dropped and I want that reflected in my budget. My income isn't quite as much as it was a few months ago. I'll put up the new budget today.

Now... I have two weeks worth of blog reading to get done. May the force be with me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Finals this week.

I have two finals tomorrow and another on Thursday. I'll resurface later this week from the piles of studying I need to do. I might have to pull an all-nighter! Ugh.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sudden Technorati Boost?

For the longest time my authority level on Technorati has been a meager 1. I've seen other newer blogs have higher authority scores. Furthermore, it has never accounted for any new posts. The little display icon has always been from the very first day I registered it.

No more!

I happened to glance at it today and found that it had suddenly spiked to 25! Okay, I know, nothing fantastically high, but still! It's finally receiving the pings for my newer posts. I don't know what happened to suddenly cause the site to start receiving my updates but I'm thrilled.

Still sticking to your resolutions?

We all made resolutions for the new year, but are you still sticking to them? I want to search for some sort of public poll done that surveys people as to how long they keep their resolutions for. Like last month, let's take a look at mine:

Create, tweak and come up with a functioning budget: I came up with a budget for last month. I still haven't even reviewed it and it is four days into this month. While I'm happy I took a mid-month look at it, I'm disappointed that I haven't taken the time to review it or develop another one for this month. I really need to prioritize my time and devote more to personal finance. I'm making a promise to myself to make a Version 2.0 in the next 24 hours. Grade: C-

Keep all receipts: I've actually started getting pretty good at this one. I've been religiously tucking receipts away and using my debt card for everything. If I spend cash, I don't remember at all. Grade: A

Have two thousand invested in a high-interest savings account: This is by far the goal I kicked ass at last month! I put half my tax refund right into savings and bumped it up to almost a thousand. Now I just need to open an ING or Emigrant account and keep saving. Grade: A+

Credit Cards paid off: I'm steadily working away at this one. I moved from one-third paid off to over 42% this month. 300 more dollars will go to it this month. Grade: A

Invest 500 into wardrobe: I lumped clothes and auto fund into one for my budget. I used up the entirety of that last month. So far, fifty spent on clothes this year. Grade: D

Develop dietary and exercise plan that fits my schedule: I started the month out strong, but about a week and a half ago, everything fell by the wayside. I've been so ridiculously busy with classes and work. I really need to prioritize this better. I've been good about making healthier choices, but haven't gone to the gym in a week and a half. Grrr! Grade: C

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oy! The Carnival of Personal Finance is huge this week!

Wow! I can't believe how many submissions there were. Lots of great articles. I submitted Learning To Be Content On Birthdays in light of the one I just celebrated. By the way, the birthday party Saturday night was absolutely insane and wonderful. I had sssuuuccchhh a good time! I still feel a little hung over. Heh.

Amanda over at Value For Your Life wrote a great article on Risk-Taking For Regular People that argues the merits of making educated risks.

I'm quite glad I came across Sudden Windfalls over at Small Cents because it is such a neat little blog! I smell something new I'll be reading often.

One of the most ethical posts featured in this Carnival is over at Money and Values: Is Your Money Funding Genocide? While I avoid certain corporations that are unethical in their practices, this post addresses investing in Mutual Funds that may be supporting the Sudanese government with ethnic cleansing of non-Arab Darfurians.

I absolutely love Debt-Free Revolution's post on using a budget to get out of consumer debt. This quote particularly stood out, "Yes, my first three budgets were actually the nightmares the dreaded “B” word tends to conjure up." I just had my first month of budgeting, and erm, I need to tweak it. Desperately! This post was perfectly timed for me considering I was about to throw the concept out the window.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Earning Money Via Survey Sites.

I just redeemed my first check over at MySurvey. That will be ten dollars in the mail. All in all, I prefer Pinecone more, but MySurvey's questionarre's are generally more brief (you receive less dinero as well) and you can complete them in a two or three minutes. Considering I probably did a half hour's work to accumulate that ten dollars, I'm quite satisfied. If you are thinking of joining, it's really easy and simple. Just click on my affiliate link!

On another note, I just received another check from Pinecone today. That's two I'll be depositing with my paycheck today.

I'm going to spend the next hour cleaning out my car. That will be followed by calling Toyota and finding out if my warranty covers a timing belt because Lilith (my car) is making funny noises. Take a shower, go pick up my check, deposit it and come back home in time to review last month's budget, adjust a new budget for March, review how my goal's for the year are going and LAST create a few mini-goals for this month.

I'm officially 22 as of yesterday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Learning to Be Content on Birthdays.

I grew up a Jehovah's Witness and consequently not celebrating holidays. I don't feel as though my childhood was ever deprived out of the lack of holidays. Yet, now that I'm grown and have decided that religion wasn't the one for me, I love holidays. Like seriously, I really get into it. My birthday is no exception. The past two years I threw ridiculously large birthday parties that included me taking the day off work and shelling out hundreds of dollars. I think I spent about three to four hundred on each party: decorations, food, and lots of alcohol. Not only the parties, but all the going out with friends beforehand (and after).

This year is quite different. Tomorrow is my 22nd birthday. I'm still having a party this year (on Saturday), but this time I let a friend do the planning. Furthermore, I'm not spending nearly as much money on it. I have forty dollars in gift cards to Target and will buy any food or mixers there. I don't plan on spending more than seventy-five out of my own pocket. Last, I'm still going to work that day.

Beyond the party, I'm not doing any heavy going-out this year. I don't feel the need to like I did the previous two years. I go out enough as it already is as I've found out by examining my spending this month. Today I have the day off from both work and classes and I'm not picking my sister up from school as I usually do (she has try-outs). Instead, I'm actually on campus and working on homework, studying, etc. Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm still going to all my classes. My man is taking me out somewhere afterwards and that sounds perfect.

I'm content not doing a whole week of celebrating my birthday. Hell, I don't care if the party doesn't have 80-100 people like the previous years. I'll be happy if just fifteen of my good friends show up and it is a low-key kickback.

I obviously am still celebrating my birthday via a party and going to dinner the night of, but I'm learning to be content with not having a huge Mardi Gras festival.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where does your tip go?

Over at QueerCents, Mike wrote a fantastic article, "Tipping Etiquette: Why Do We Tip?". He gives a balanced perspective on questioning the tipping system and ultimately that he still does tip his servers because that is the bulk of their wage and the job is physically (and mentally!) demanding. What is seldom mentioned that commenter Mary Sue points out is that servers don't keep all of their tips. It is often split with buspersons, hosts, expediters and/or bartenders. Furthermore, servers have to claim a mandatory 8-10% in tips every night whether they made that money or not. In the comments section, I left a hefty comment that breaks it down:

"As a waitress and bartender, I obviously have some passionate opinions about this subject. All in all, I make very good tips because I go the extra mile for customers. I remember people’s allergies; I offer free dessert if the cook’s take too long on the entree; I bring a refill before you need to ask. That said, I will still have people sometimes that tell me I was fantastic and then leave only three dollars on a fifty dollar check.

What people don’t realize is that I’m being taxed on my overall sales, not the actual tips. If I do a thousand dollars in sales, the government expects me to claim that I made 80-100 dollars in tips (8-10%). In reality, at least a third of people don’t tip 15%. Let’s say I made 120 dollars that night (12%). Out of that, I give 18 dollars to the busperson, another five to the bartender and ten to the expediter (the person who runs out the food). That leaves me with 87 dollars or 8.7% gratuity over the course of the night. What if the food was taking a long time that night and I only made 10% off the bat? I’d be walking with seventy dollars or 7%… yet the government still expects me to have made more. I don’t want to risk an audit so I claim that I made more than I did. I get taxed on money I didn’t even make to avoid an audit."

March Lunch Challenge

Krystal over at Give Me Back My Five Bucks has initiated a challenge for the month of March (and even beginning in February for some of us eager beavers): No spending money on lunch, snacks or coffee while at work for the month of March. Considering that I work in a restaurant and usually get free meals, I've expanded mine to no spending while at school. Which is next to impossible for me.

With that said, I have a salad, granola bar, diet soda, water bottle, and two mini-boxes of junior mints in my backpack. Of course, resisting to spend at school is going to get harder through the next month. Especially when finals roll around. Here's to reducing needless spending!

Two other ladies on my blogroll are participating as well:
Strange Bird
Saving Diva

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My head is spinning off into space!

It feels as though the last few days has been a mad frenzy of action. I can hardly keep my head screwed on straight. Here's my spending for the last few days before I forget what I've spent my money on:

Going out: 34.67
Medical stuff: 44.99
Car expenses (oil change, etc.): 35.47
Groceries: 20.53

Friday Tips: 100
Saturday Tips: 85
Sunday Tips: 93
Monday Tips: 87
Check: 274.53
Pinecone: 3.00

To Do List (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Clean Out Car
Organize Bedroom
Weed Through and Donate Old Clothes
Make Phone Call to Office of Transcript Evaluations
Prepare for Spanish Composition
Incorporate Weights Into Exercise Routine

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February Budget In Review

An important part of maintaining your budget is examining how well you are doing throughout the month. Waiting until the end of the month to see that you went a hundred dollars over in food expenses could have been prevented if half way through you realized you were already twenty dollars over. That said, let's take a look at my budget:

Foremost, I want to state that considering I don't have a fixed income, it's somewhat difficult to come up with a budget. For my income, I figured that I make on average a hundred dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of roughly 150. That gave me the grand total of 1900 dollars a month (16 working days x 100 dollars + 150 dollar checks x two pay periods).

Fixed Expenses-Amount Spent-Difference
Rent: 600- 600- 0
Auto Insurance: 181- 181- 0
Car Payment: 272- 272- 0
Cell Phone: 86- Not paid yet- n/a
Credit Cards: 300- 300- 0
Savings: 150- 190- +40.00

Flexible Expenses-Amount Spent- Difference/Amount Left
Clothing/Auto: 50- 0.00- 50.00
Gas: 80- 16.43- 63.57
School Supplies: 10- 12.94- -2.94
Household Items: 11- 8.43- 2.57
Entertainment/Going Out: 60- 36.10- 23.90
Food: 100- 49.89- 50.11

Income- Amount Expected- Difference
Checks: 242.76- 150.00- +92.76
Tips: 624.00- 800.00- -176.00
Pinecone: 6.00- 0- +6.00

Total Income: 872.76- 950.00- -77.24

For my fixed expenses, I only need to pay off my cell phone at the end of the month. Everything else is already taken care of. My uncle slipped me forty dollars last night so I put it towards my savings. I resisted the urge to get my toenails done or blow it on delicious wine. As for my flexible expenses, most of the categories still have money remaining in them. I've already used up two thirds of my 'going out money'. Le sigh. As for food, thirty dollars was towards Valentine's alone. I doubt I'll use the rest of the fifty this month. I went slightly over in school expenses, but I had to buy a reader for a class. Nothing I could do to avoid that.

My real concern is in my income. Tips have been considerably less this month. That bothers me. I've been averaging 89 dollars a night instead of my usual 100. Fortunately, my checks are higher because I've been picking up extra hours with training to be a manager. Hmph. We need to do something about that income! At least I get a third paycheck this month, although I want to spend the least amount possible out of it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Is A Success (thus far)!

I'm currently awaiting the arrival of the boyfriend. Everything is done! Here's a list of everything I prepared for my inexpensive yet fantastic Valentines:
-Hot Olives (tri-blend of olives with a bunch of spices-Rachael Ray Recipe)
-Cacio e Pepe Chickpeas (chickpeas with Pecorino and pepper-Rachael Ray Recipe)
-Manitaropita (pastry filled with mushrooms in a white wine sauce-Trader Joe's)
-Garlic Hummus (TJ)
-Artichoke Parmesan Dip (TJ)
-Cold Black Olives
-Olive Loaf (thinly sliced and toasted-TJ)
-Brie Cheese (TJ)
-Green Leaf Lettuce leaves

-Dark Chocolate Truffles with Blackberries and a Dollop of Whipped Cream

I'm serving it with Sauvignon Blanc. I laid out a spare comforter on the floor along with a bunch of pillows. The food is going to be laid out buffet style one the coffee table. The only slight problem is that I can't figure out how to get the fireplace on! Curses!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Additional Income: Bartending Net Profits

The bartending gig went really well. I had a BLAST. In terms of money, I made enough money to cover the initial overhead costs of buying my own bartending equipment, gas and some extra leftover. Seriously, it didn't even feel like I was working. I was essentially getting paid to mingle and party. Now that I have my own equipment, the next gigs will all be pure net profit (minus gas).

Now I just need to figure out how to get frequent gigs!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Additional Income: Bartending

Similar to not writing about things going on at work until everything was secure, I haven't wrote about my newest source of income: bartending. I'm now a private bartender. I put out an ad on Craigslist advertising bartending for private parties. I'm already booked for this Saturday night. Current emotions include nervousness, anxiety and excitement. I booked the party over a week and a half ago and have already spoke with the woman a couple times regarding what types of liquor, garnishes and accoutrements they should buy. Furthermore, I made up a menu list of all the possible drinks I could make with the items available.

I'm uber-nervous. This little side project also involves me going and purchasing bartending supplies. I've been looking around online at places around me that carry bar supplies. Not a good selection. I'm going to buy a few staples now, but purchase the bulk of my liquor pourers online.

Oh, and I printed up business cards a week and a half ago.

Why am I so nervous? It's seriously just a party of thirty to forty people. Nothing big; nothing too fancy. Just a plain old Valentine's party. I've been bartending on Sundays at work and I know how to make drinks. Like over two hundred of them. I'm fine. Erg.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ridiculously cheap, meaningful and romantic Valentine's.

If you are visiting from the link over at The Street, please check the updated Valentine's post.

I knew what I was doing for Valentine's last month. It hit me like a lightning bolt from Zeus (thank you divine inspiration). My man and I first started dating nearly a year ago. Our first two months of dating were filled with amazing moments and memories. Like two or three months in, he was over on an extremely warm May day and I decided on a whim to take him to a local creek that I love. He brought the blanket, wine glasses and two buck chuck. We stopped by Trader Joe's and picked up raspberries, pita bread, hummus, a gorgonzola spinach salad and dark chocolate. We hiked far from humanity and spent three hours under the canopy of trees (it's a preserve of sorts) discussing philosophy, the plausibility of reincarnation and destiny. It was amazing... in every way possible.

This year: We are both so busy. I'm going full steam on my B.A. and he recently went back to school after nearly ten years to get his M.A. (he's quite a bit older than me). I waitress and balance friends and family; he works full time as a high school Language Arts teacher. Tuesdays I get off school earlier than usual, but he has class until ten pm. It's the only time I am at his house before he is. Soooo, I'm going to turn the fire on, lay out blankets and pillows and set up a picnic on the coffee table. I'm still debating whether to have the original food items from the picnic or to make us dinner. Regardless, I know he will love it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Your Money or Your Grades.

Midterms are this week and students are scrambling to pull all-nighters to study. I have both my midterms on Thursday and was so busy with work over the weekend that I didn't get a chance to study. I found myself facing a dilemma yesterday: was it worth it to take the night off work to devote to studying?

-I'm not scrounging to pay the bills; missing one day of work will not set me behind in the scheme of things. Actually, not being able to afford food might be a good thing at this point.

-Furthermore, I can always pick up a Wednesday night shift later this month when I'm no longer concerned about midterms.

-I know that studying really does improve my grades on tests. It wouldn't be time wasted.

-These grades are going to affect my potential for future earnings. I got a 4.0 last quarter and am aiming for at least a 3.5 this quarter.

-One of the midterms accounts for a third of my grade in a class while the other is HALF the grade for the class. These are not tests I can afford to do mediocre on.

Final Decision: I ended up taking the night off work to devote to studying. I made huge headway and in retrospect am really glad I took the night off. There is a lot more material to cover than I originally predicted. The extra night may be what gives me the edge on Thursday.

Monday, February 4, 2008

How are your resolutions going?

Oddly enough, a professor asked my class last week how many of us had made resolutions for the new year. Only two other students raised their hands! I was blown away by this. Not to mention dismayed. Does that mean that young people my age have no goals in their life? In light of this, let's take a look at how my goals are going.

Create, tweak and come up with a functioning budget: I came up with a budget that I think will work for me. I'm actually going to post a tweak to it. Last, time will tell if it is functioning. I have full confidences in Version 1.0, but I'm sure there will a couple adjustments. Grade: A (so far)

Keep all receipts: I have about 90% of my receipts from last month. I'm really, really, really, really trying on this one. Grade: A-

Have two thousand invested in a high-interest savings account: Erm. Um. Yeah. Not good on that one, but in the budget I'm using for this month, I'll be contibuting 150 into it. Grade: F

Credit Cards Paid Off: I'm one-third of the way there and planning on paying 300 off this month. Debts will be paid off within four months. Grade: B

Invest 500 into wardrobe: I actually spent fifty dollars on clothes last month and got great deals. I purchased two pairs of pants, two tops and a sweater. Another fifty will go towards clothes this month. Grade: A

Develop dietary and exercise plan that fits my schedule: I've been kicking ass and taking names! Heh. I've been going to the gym in ridiculous amounts. We're talking four to five days a week. Investing in a gym membership was one of the best things I've done for my health. My diet has also vastly improved although working in a restaurant has so many pitfalls. Grade: Exercising is an A and Diet is a B

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Significantly Higher Paycheck.

Quick and dirty update as I'm studying for midterms:

Feb. 1st:
+242.76 - Paycheck (!! See below !!)
+6.00 - Two Pinecone Survey checks
+107.00 - Tips
-9.54 - Groceries

Feb. 2nd:
+123.00 -Tips

Why is my paycheck far higher than my normal 150-175 range? I'm attributing it to the fact that I have been picking up an extra shift for the last few weeks and that in California the minimum wage increased by a dollar.

Back to studying I go.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Never Too Young To Know Your Credit History.

While I wasn't willing to shell out money to find out my credit score, I haven't checked my credit report in eons. Using recommendations over at The Simple Dollar, I went with All I had to fill out was my name, date of birth, social security number, and previous address. Next, I clicked on using Equifax and was asked two questions regarding my auto loan (who it was through and what category my payment fell into). Voila! I had my credit report right there.

Here's what I learned:

I rock!

Well, more like, I make all my payments on time. Even though I'm only 21, I already have three years and five months of perfect credit history. Nothing outstanding; no stolen identity; nothing to worry about. Well, besides my debt ratio to available credit. Basically, I have a little over 13k for my auto loan and another 5k pulled out for school. I'm not worried over the school debt as it is subsidized and is GOOD debt. As for my auto loan, as soon as I pay off my credit cards, I'm throwing everything at it. Furthermore, I don't have too many credit inquiries nor do I have too many open lines of credit. For the record, I only have three credit cards. I may possibly go down to just two.

I'm happy. Now, off to class I go!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Rebuttal to "Proven Methods For Servers To Increase Their Tips"

I'm absolutely blown away by some of the comments people left on Get Rich Slowly's post on Proven Methods for Servers to Increase Their Tips. Appalled even. What the heck are in people's minds?! Last time I checked, providing good, friendly service does NOT mean I'm attempting to manipulate people. It means I'm doing my job correctly. Management wouldn't be attempting to keep me around otherwise. I'll take the time to address some of the tips in the post along with some of the items featured in comments. As one person mentioned, the server can't win.

Wear Something Unusual: At my work, we have standard garb and can only wear stud earrings, one ring per hand and no other jewelry. It doesn't leave much room for being unique.

Introduce Yourself By Name: Someone commented that they hated when servers do this. At my restaurant, it's considered a standard to do so and if a server falsifies their name, it's a potential write-up. The concept behind this is that I want my customers to know who I am. I always appreciate it when someone DOES remember my name. If they happen to need their check immediately to leave and grab another server to get me, they can ask for Vixen, not for "a short red head". This is part of the server exam at the end of training.

Squat Next To The Table: I'm 4'11. I'm usually close to eye-level with the men I serve and not much taller than women. Heh. But, I do know a server who is over six feet that will squat next to a table for his own personal ease.

Repeat Customer's Order: Standard procedure to make sure that you didn't screw up the order, especially when it is an order with five modifications to it. This is part of the server exam at the end of training.

Smile At Customers: If you aren't doing this, you aren't doing your job well. Once again, part of the server exam. I mean really, who wants a server that doesn't smile? I'm a natural smiler; sometimes it's a big one, other times a soft one.

Sell, Sell, Sell: At my restaurant, a server has to offer drinks, specific appetizer, point to promo menu, offer to add on soup or salad, pie, ice cream with the pie, and coffee! If the manager happens to walk by when you are taking an order and you don't offer to add on a salad, you get in trouble. At the end of our receipts, a survey prints up (reward if you complete it), if the customer says you missed more than two upsell items, you get written up. No joke. This isn't manipulation; this is us keeping our jobs.

Touch Customers: I absolutely do not touch customers except for a few regular women who insist on hugging me. I feel uncomfortable if a person at the table touches me and hence I refrain from doing it as well. My best friend works with me and she is a lot more touchy-feely than I am. I notice she gets better tips from men when she cocktails. I'm not willing to flirt with my customers. I deliver excellent service and I'm a sweetheart; men don't get any special attention.

Write 'Thank You' On The Receipt: Most of the servers I know do this, but I sheerly don't have the time for it. I verbalize 'thank you' when I drop the check anyhow.

Give Customers Candy: I'm not dipping into my own pocket, wasting the space in my pocket or anything else like that. Furthermore, if I start doing that, tables will expect that out of other servers in my restaurant.

Now, in regards to some of the comments people left:

-I don't understand the sliding into booths either.
-I remember my regulars usual drinks or idiosyncrasies.
-One person complains about servers not being attentive enough, yet another complains that she doesn't like servers being too attentive.
-At my restaurant, we recommend using 'folks' instead of 'guys'. It's a generational thing with my age group.
-Regards to chatting with coworkers, it's inevitable. Communication is key in the serving industry. As a shift lead, I delegate tasks to people or hold cast calls. I do understand if they are talking about their weekend plans and you have no ice tea.
-The better servers rarely write down orders. It's all in our heads. It takes too much time to whip out paper and pen and then search for it later. I always recommend for new servers to write everything down though.
-Furthermore, when we drop food, we are suppose to quietly announce the plate.
-One person cites they don't want their ice tea topped off, but they don't want it to be too low either. I'm sorry, do we servers need to be telepathic to the ratio of beverage to glass space that you desire?
-It's required at my job to check back on the table within two minutes of them receiving their food. It is to ensure satisfaction with the order, not to disturb your conversation.
-Oh, Frugal Bachelor, you dog you! :-D
-J.D., at my restaurant we aren't allowed to leave pitchers on the table (or even set them down) unless there are ten people in the party. I once had a gentleman ask for a pitcher lemonade, so I brought him five glasses. Heh.

All in all, go a little easy on your server. We are just trying to do our job. If you didn't tip us, the restaurants would have to pay us more hourly and the cost of the food would go up astronomically. We really aren't trying to manipulate you, just trying to deliver good customer service.

Before Class Round-Up

I've been catching up on my blog roll and there have been so many gems in the past week! Here's a few of my favorites:

Madame X features a post citing a study regarding how women are less likely to get hired after a certain age. It goes into plastic surgery and remaining 'hip'. Erg. Society.

Think your family's finances are hard to manage? Try having a 'throuple' household which involves a three-person long-term relationship. I'm very open to the idea of relationships involving multiple people, but have never thought about the consequences or details. Thanks to Nina over at QueerCents for this.

Over at The Digerati Life there is a great post up featuring "12 Effective Ways To Afford Big Ticket Items". Lots of little reminders on how you can manage to purchase those expensive, yet necessary, items in life.

Another set of 12 tips are featured over at The Simple Dollar. These show how you can find time (and money) to get things done on a daily basis. Number 7 and 12 are my favorites.

Run over to Well-Heeled and tell her what your food budget is!

Give Me Back My Five Bucks is an excellent example of how an emergency fund saved her during a time when she was unemployed. Please don't look at the current status of my EF. Ugh.

I have eight minutes to run to class! Off I go!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Overwhelmed Over Job Security.

As the title indicates, I've been feeling quite overwhelmed lately. The primary concern has been over work. I don't know why I didn't write about it in here earlier, but I nearly had to look for a new job. The company I work for was bought out by an East Coast corporation and one of the changes being enacted is that they are getting rid of shift leads. Basically, my position in the company is being eliminated. I still could waitress and train other servers, but I would lose my job security. As a shift lead, I am there for six to eight hours. Other servers are there anywhere from two to six hours depending on how busy we are. I cannot come in to work and be sent home after making twenty dollars. I have to make a hundred a shift. Furthermore, work has been incredibly slow for the previous week and a half (although it started picking up on Friday) and I have been making 50-70% of my normal tips.

Needless to say, I was fearing I'd have to leave and go to a busier/more stable restaurant. Fortunately, management enjoys having me there and values me as an employee. I'm taking over bartending shifts on Sunday nights which is a guaranteed six hour shift. Management also discussed with me that the might not get rid of leads, or at the very least, rename them as a different position and keep them on. Last, I was offered a managing position! I'd be an hourly manager which means that I'd work when one of the managers get sick, go on vacation or if they just need an extra manager around. Furthermore, the general manager indicated that she'd probably have me do opening shifts or mid-shifts so that they wouldn't interfere with my normal serving shifts. I'd come in before I go to school, or pick up my sister on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. I start training immediately and as a manager I'd be making a base pay of fourteen an hour. Essentially it would just be extra money in my pocket because I'd continue to work my regular shifts as well.

Last, to supplement my income in this volatile time, I've started looking for something to do on the side.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Student Health Fee: Providing Students With Invaluable Services.

Every term, students begrudgingly pay the often obligatory 'health fee'. In the past, I've paid twelve dollars for this fee, upwards to the fifty five dollars I pay each quarter now. What I didn't realize before was all the items included in this fee! A nurse from the health center on my campus spoke to class today and handed out fliers for a number of services. We're talking dental, reproductive, fitness, nutrition and a bunch of other services. On a more amusing note, she also passed around a bag full of strawberry dams and flavored condoms. She recommended against trying the chocolate condoms!

Family PACT program: If you go to school in California, check and see if your campus provides this California State Department of Health Services program. It provides access to family planning services for low income residents of California (it's not limited to just students!!!). What's also neat about this is that you don't have to provide documentation such as taxes or pay stubs. All a student has to do is fill out the application and you are notified within fifteen minutes if you qualify. FREE services provided through this program include: all FDA approved contraceptive methods (cervical caps, diaphragms, Depo-Provera, sterilization, etc.), physical exam, pap smear, HIV testing, condoms, STI testing, family planning counseling, UTI services and dysplasia services. Seriously, free. All of this.

Counseling Services: My university offers counseling with licensed professionals for an extensive list of issues/problems. Even if you just need someone to talk to about the stresses of being a student, their doors are wide open. They even allow same day appointments.

Fitness Facilities and Nutritional Clinic: The previous campus I went to required a fee for students to use the gym. At this university, students are able to use the swimming pool and fitness room during limited hours at no charge. Furthermore, there is a 'campus walk' that is 1.5 miles and highlighted for students with a spare half hour between classes. No gear is needed to take the quick and refreshing walk. Furthermore, nutritional counseling, diet analysis, body fat assessment and dietary supplement facts are offered completely free by the Nutrition Clinic on campus. Nifty pamphlets/fliers are also created that give nutritional facts for the fast food places on campus, as well as a list of different activities students can do on campus to get exercise in (along with the calories burned per hour for these activities).

Chiropractic Clinic: I will definitely make an appointment within the upcoming weeks here. Chiropractic interns supervised by a faculty member offer spinal adjustments, prevention and treatment for low back and neck problems. They also provide patients with related exercises to improve posture, flexibility, coordination and pain.

Doctor's Visits: If you are filling ill or running a fever while at school, it costs nothing to drop in to the health center for an immediate consultation. They even provide sterilized environments for sick students to lay down.

The following four services require fees, but often are significantly lower than you'd pay elsewhere:

Pharmacy: According to the nurse who gave the presentation, the pharmacy on campus offers lower prices than competitors due to low overhead costs. She recommended that students check out filling their prescriptions on campus rather than going to a drug store to save money.

Dental Clinic: Cleaning, x-ray and oral exam are performed by a doctor along with a written evaluation for a mere fifty dollars. Furthermore, fillings range from forty to fifty dollars!

Optometry Clinic: Eye exams including visual screening (with dilation) and refraction are a mere forty dollars. Further more, glasses start at 115 dollars. Contact lenses and exam are sixty five dollars.

Massage Therapy: When I went and got a massage some time back, I paid sixty five dollars for an hour massage. On my campus, the same is offered for twenty five dollars! Furthermore, half hour massages are only fifteen dollars. This is ridiculously cheap.

Acupuncture Services: While I won't be trying this out, it is only twenty five dollars an hour with a half hour being fifteen dollars. Our acupuncturist on campus uses Neuro-Anatomical Acupuncture which is suppose to have a stronger scientific leaning rather than mystical.

All in all, I'm amazed at all the services offered on my campus and encourage other students to check out what their health fee pays for.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Budget: Version 1.0

Foremost, I want to state that considering I don't have a fixed income, it's somewhat difficult to come up with a budget. For my income, I figured that I make on average a hundred dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of roughly 150. That gave me the grand total of 1900 dollars a month (16 working days x 100 dollars + 150 dollar checks x two pay periods).

Fixed Expenses
Rent: 600
Auto Insurance: 181
Car Payment: 272
Cell Phone: 86
Credit Cards: 300
Savings: 150

Flexible Expenses
Clothing/Auto: 50
Gas: 80
School Supplies: 10
Household Items: 11
Entertainment/Going Out: 60
Food: 100

The Explanation
Obviously, rent, auto insurance, car payment and cell phone are fixed items. I definitely could do something about lowering my phone bill though! I rarely use up all the minutes although I put the texting to good use. I think I use texts more than minutes. As for the credit cards and savings, with that sort of progress in my budget, I could pay off my credit card bills in four to five months! After I pay off the credit cards, that money is going to be divvied up between extra on my car payment and more into savings. Once the savings goal is met, it's going to be all thrown at my car.

As for the flexible expenses, part of my resolutions for the new year is to buy more clothes. I figure I'll start a clothing/auto fund that will pay for any oil changes that occur, along with buying some new clothes. Gas is a major expense for me. I commute back and forth out to Los Angeles for school. School supplies are hardly needed although do occur (paper, pens, scantrons, etc.). Same goes for household expenses. I seem not to go through shampoo, toothpaste or detergent terribly often. The following two are my biggest weaknesses that I've already gone WAY over this budget for this month. I am twenty-one... and I love to go out! Furthermore, since I spend upwards of twelve hours at school on some days, I inevitably buy food on campus.

I'm quite satisfied with this budget. Although, I'm fully aware that I'll prolly have to make some adjustments as time goes on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Resolutions for 2008 (Finally!)

I've been mulling over what my goals would be for 2008. It took me two weeks into this year to figure out what I wanted to accomplish. I'm actually happy that it took me this much time; I came up with goals that are realistic and plausible.

Create, tweak and come up with a functioning budget. This is by far the most important thing on the list. Hence, it's number one. Budgeting is a new thing for me. By the end of 2008, I want to have developed a flexible budget that will take into consideration all the facets of working, going to school and attempting to thrive.

Keep all receipts. Obviously this ties in with the first goal; I want to track my finances immacutely. I find that I tend to overlook certain expenses because I never hold on to receipts. Furthermore, next year, I want to take deductions on my taxes and I'll need to have saved my receipts for that.

Have two thousand dollars invested in a high-interest savings account. This is a multi-part goal. First, I need to save up some money. Second, I need to research which type of high-interest savings account will be best for me. Third will be to open an account. Last, reach my savings goal!

Credit Cards paid off. I need to dedicate a significant portion of my income to paying off my cards... quickly. I feel guilty that that debt exists.

Invest 500 into wardrobe. This is at the bottom of my list of resolutions, yet still here. I have a horrid habit of never buying clothes. Ever. It's partly because of my body image and partly because I never feel the need to spend money on it. I tend to buy a couple pieces of clothing once every like four or five months and then wear them out before buying a couple more. I spend MAYBE 200 on clothes each year. Well-Heeled is having the opposite problem that I'm having, ironically.

Not related to my fiscal well-being, but very important: Develop dietary and exercise plan that fits my schedule. I have a really hard time sticking to diets because I feel like I just don't have the time for them. I need to find something that works for me. I'm not setting a weight goal to lose during the year. Physical well-being and satisfaction with my body is what I'm looking for.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The latter end of the week is shaping up.

How about we not look at my spending habits for the beginning of this week. Ugh.

Parking: 6
Parking Permit for rest of quarter: 84
Gas: 25
Textbooks: 155
Coffee & Croissant: 5
Dinner: 76 (My treat)

Coffee: 3
Lunch: 2
Dinner w/ sister: 18

Lunch: 2.79

Grocery Shopping: 2.33 (used 25 gift card)

At least I didn't spend any money yesterday? Oy. So, the groceries I bought on Friday are suppose to last me at least through the next week. Taking food to school is such a task for me. Erg. I'm at school for upwards 12 hours on some days. As for income, I made 112 on Monday, didn't work Friday due to a head cold, and 95 yesterday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Textbook Prices: Professors To Blame.

When students gripe about the costs of textbooks (like the hundred and sixty dollars I spent yesterday for one class!), the finger is nearly always pointed at the school bookstore. I'm looking in a different direction: the professors.

School bookstores do make a profit off of selling used and new textbooks. A profit that is used to pay the salaries a few staff members and the bulk towards providing jobs on campus for students. Look at a school bookstore. There are dozens of students working shifts that cater to their class schedule and maybe five permanent 'adult' staff members. The rest of the profit incurred goes towards paying students to shelve books at the library and providing other jobs for students that the state budget doesn't have room for.

The small profit the bookstore makes doesn't begin to compare to what the professors gain. Professors are wined, dined and catered to by publishing companies. Ever wonder why some professors don't use textbooks or pick one that is relatively low in cost while others require a pricey new edition every year? Collusion between faculty and publishing houses has existed for years. Based on privileged knowledge, I know for a fact that one professor accepted a new flat-screen plasma television in return for switching to a different textbook at Mount San Antonio College. Other professors receive lump sums, such as Amy Staples did to the tune of four grand.

Students suffer when professors accept bribes and kickbacks from textbook companies. By using a new edition, students are unable to sell their edition back to the school bookstore. School bookstores can't purchase them because they can only carry on the shelves the textbooks the professors are requiring. If the professor requires the new sixth edition, the bookstore can't sell the used version of the fifth. Furthermore, by requiring a new edition, students have no opportunity to buy the book at a lower used price. Students are being ripped off by the greed of professors.

The absolute worst comes from professors who require their own books to be purchased by students; books that they directly receive royalties from. How ethical is that? The same goes for departments that decide to use a book that was penned by the department and furthermore refuse to allow the bookstore to buy back copies, demanding that only new ones be bought.

Universities need to put an end to professors accepting kickbacks and bribes by textbook companies. It's hard to fathom that even state-run schools turn a blind eye to the situation and allow the practice to go on. I could accept it a little more easy out of private schools, but out of state schools it's disgusting. Even when the practice is brought up by the faculty of school bookstores, the idea of banning it is promptly shut down. It explains why so many professors dislike the campus bookstore.

Joseph Gray put it succinctly when he said:
Our governments investigate businesses like Microsoft, phone companies and
satellite radio companies over concerns about monopolistic practices, price
fixing and dirty deals. What about taking a look at the textbook industry?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What is poor service? (Dining Out; part 1)

I had a heated debate with someone the other night about tipping. As a waitress, I won't date someone who doesn't tip properly. I won't even go out with an acquaintance who doesn't abide by the principle of tipping. Hell, I don't think I can be friends with someone like that.

I understand that in some countries tipping isn't a custom. In the United States it is. Servers are paid minimum wage (or a lot less in some states!) and hence the bulk of our income is derived from tipping. Furthermore, we tip out of the tips that we accumulate in the night or tip out based on our sales. Not tipping us effects not only our personal pockets but the busboy, the bartender and the expo. Even more so, we get taxed not on how much tips we make BUT our overall sales for the night.

Poor service merits a poor tip. Poor service to me has nothing to do with how fast I get the food, whether there is an error in the order or if the server doesn't refill my glass the moment it is half-full. The time it takes to get your food is caused by the cooks, not the server. The majority of the time, errors are caused by cooks or expos (the people who run out the food), not by servers. As for refills, if the server is busy and appears frantic, I give them a break. I understand what it is like to get sat three tables at once or to have a table that is making your life miserable. Giving grief to a server is bad karma.

What is poor service? It's when you see your server standing around gabbing it up and your glass has been empty the last half hour. Poor service is when you politely ask for another side of dressing and they make it seem as though you just asked for the world. It's when your server acts as though serving you is a chore. As a waitress, I am the first to hate bad service. I can't stand rude, abrupt and arrogant servers. I will go so far as to leave a note explaining to the person that they were horrible. On the other hand, if I get amazing service, I will go so far as to notify the manager PLUS leaving a good tip.

The next time you go to a restaurant, if you have a really nice but exasperated server, cut the person some slack. There are many factors outside of our control. We smile, we serve, we apologize, we hold our tongues when someone yells at us. Please just leave us a decent tip?

Part one in a series on dining out at restaurants.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Economic Turn Around.

I accidentally mentioned to a friend that I have a financial blog and it is now his life's mission to find this. Erm. I like my anonymity. I don't want him to know all my spending habits; not that his spending is any good. His is actually out of control. He's at least twenty five grand in debt and he's only a few months older than me. He's paying off an SUV and he has a motorcycle he's ridden once sitting in the garage. Fortunately though, he has decided to take a step back and reevaluate his economic position. My friend is taking a year off school to work two jobs and pay down his debt. He's created a goal to be out of debt in two years. In case he finds this, I have confidence in you!

Moneywise for me, the last few days have looked a bit like this:
Belated Christmas gift- 20
Overpriced dinner- 26
Textbook- 68.37

Income has looked like:
Friday: 115
Saturday: 75
Sunday: 112
Paycheck: 164.37

Speaking of which, I need to head to the bank to deposit my cash.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Still Wavering.

I'm still going back and forth on my goals for the new year. Who knew such a thing would be so hard?

Everything is still quite hectic. I started back school today; I'm also watching my relationship erode. I wish getting out of those things was easier.

Expenses for books this quarter are looking astronomical. Gulp. Not good. I'm looking at the 400 dollar range. Eep! None of the books are in the library like some were last quarter.

Today, I spent 9.44 on groceries and 6 on parking (that reminds me; I need to purchase a parking permit for the new quarter!). Yesterday I went out to dinner with friends to celebrate the birth of my goddaughter(!) and spent 22 dollars. Although, I'm going to divvy that up on my spreadsheet between the alcohol and food portion. I want to start tracking how much I spend on alcohol. Hm, I know one of my goals for the new year is to keep all my receipts. Now to figure out the rest.