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.