Friday, April 30, 2010

Blessed Friday...

My Dad went in this morning for his heart procedure. He actually did have a blockage where the stint they put in last summer started to collapse from scar tissue. They put in another stint but this time a medicated stint to ward off any further scar tissue. Hopefully this will work and he won't become a candidate for bypass. I stayed with him all day since my poor Mom has to juggle him and my grandmother with alzheimers. He was doing really well following the procedure but they kept him in ICU until tomorrow when he comes home.

Today was a very blessed day! It was also a NO SPEND DAY!!! =)

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I got paid today!

Time to get my budget together for May, pay bills and draft my April recap.

My budget for May will include a planned savings draw for the first time. I have some extraordinary expenses to pay. More on that soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Car Repair…

The Check Engine light came on this morning in my car while I was driving to work. My initial thought was…D*MN!!!

My 2002 Nissan Altima (The Green Machine) needs some work. I am going to call and try to get an appointment for my car. I know it needs the 85,000 mile service but I was trying to put it off and just get the oil changed and the tires rotated. It has about 84,000 miles on it right now. I am going to call them to see what the 85,000 mile service entails and make sure they will check/rotate the tires, change the oil, and find out what is making the “check engine” light come on. Also the air conditioner/heat doesn’t work properly so I need to find out what’s wrong with that too.

I have no choice but to make sure that baby runs for a long while to come.

Oh Boy!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend Spending...

I got a pedicure on Friday. I planned a DIY pedicure but I used a gift card instead that I got for my birthday and paid the tip. It was the most relaxing hour that I'd had all week and the best $10 I spent all month. I also went to the movies as planned on Friday night for $15 and then went out for drinks. Unfortunately, the place also had a $10 cover so all together that was $20 that I didn't plan to spend.

Friday was a $45 discretionary spending day. Bad. I had only planned to spend $20 for the movie.

On Saturday, I didn't make it to Victoria Secret as planned to get the $25 gift card for my friend's bridal shower and I also realized I needed a card. So, I had to go to Walgreens to pick up a card and a $25 gift card. I resisted the urge to get the $50 gift card. I felt like I was being cheap with just a $25 gift but I had to tell myself that I will be writing a nice check for her wedding in just 3 weeks. So I still have the $25 visa gift card I got from Christmas to use for something else. I really heart gift cards. They come in handy. The shower gift ended up costing $32 with the almost $5 activation fee they charge.

To stave off a massive withdrawal headache, I made my first trip to Starbucks this month. Darn...$4.20 for a grande mocha. Won't be going back to Starbucks for a while. It didn't work either. I had to leave the shower early due to a massive headache. I stopped by the store on my way home as planned and picked up some bread, eggs and 3 bags of salad for the week. The entire grocery bill was just $9.20. I love Aldi!!!

Overall, I spent $57 more than I planned to spend this weekend. $10 for the pedicure, $20 for music/drinks, and $32 for the shower gift when I planned to use a gift card I already had to buy another gift. On the other hand, I still have the $25 gift card and I can use that to pay for something else.

Other than Metra train rides and $6 for parking on Wednesday for class, I plan on having another week of almost $0 discretionary spending. I get paid again on Thursday.

Friday, April 23, 2010


The weekend is here and I am truly grateful.

I just found out yesterday after my Dad went to the doctor that he will be having another heart procedure next Friday. He’s been having some discomfort/pain and since he had a massive heart attack last Summer, the cardiologist wants to go back in to check everything out. I believe the procedure will be relatively routine so I am hopeful and prayerful that he will have a very quick recovery.

I probably won’t be going to Kentucky for Derby next weekend since he’s having the procedure on Friday. If they need to repair anything, he may have to stay overnight in the hospital and I don’t want to be away. I know he’s going to be okay.

I may go to the movies tonight to see Death at a Funeral with Martin Lawrence. I could really use a laugh and I think it’s going to be pretty funny. Other than the bridal shower on Saturday, I will probably just hit the gym and relax this weekend. I may go over and sit with my Grandmother who has Alzheimers so that my Mom and Dad can go out to dinner and a movie.

I need to go to Aldi grocery store to pick up bread, eggs and potatoes for meals next week. It should cost less than $10. That’s about it. I am going to give myself a pedicure this weekend so overall, I don’t plan to spend more than $30 for the weekend with the groceries and the movie.

Have a terrific weekend everyone!!! Please say a prayer for my Dad. =)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trudging Along…

Chitown is trudging along. I have another week before I get paid again on the 29th and it feels like a really long time away. LOL

I have another NO SPEND day planned today and it feels good. I cannot believe that I made it almost ½ a week with NO Discretionary spending. Yeah!!!

I have a wedding shower to attend this Saturday. I have a Visa gift card for $25 from Christmas so I am going to use it to purchase another $25 gift card to Victoria Secret since it’s a lingerie shower. I think I already have a card at home. Her wedding is next month so I am also going to need to get her a wedding gift as well. I usually just write a check.

As for the next week, I think my primary expenses will be related to transportation. The weather is supposed to be pretty crappy here in Chicago this weekend so I hope that it will be a rather chill weekend with minimal spending. I need another 10-ride train pass ($40) and I need to fill up my gas tank since it is very close to empty ($40). I am going to focus on bringing my lunch next week as well so keeping my food & dining expense down will be key to minimizing the damage this month.

I have a lot of stuff planned for May.

My best friend is from Kentucky and she invited me down to Derby the first weekend in May. I asked her if it was going to cost a lot of money and she said everything was already paid for so my expenses would be minimal. We are staying with her Mom so lodging is also taken care of and they are cookers so I hope food expenses will also be minimal. We’ve been best buds for 14 years and I have never traveled down to KY so I am excited to see her world.

Mother’s Day weekend is going to be rather relaxed this year. I am only budgeting $50 for gifts for about 4 Moms so I am going to have to be creative. Any ideas??? I am also running a 5k fundraiser for the Black Alumni Association at my alma mater that will cost $25. I’ve been training for it a little and running so I hope the weather will be nice because my school and the running trail is right along Lake Michigan. Beautiful. =)

I need to get a prescription filled that is not covered by insurance. I can’t remember how much it cost before but I think it was close to $175. Ugh!!! I burned myself really bad when I dropped a curling iron on my chest about a year ago on vacation. The fade cream that my doctor prescribed does not come in generic nor is it covered by insurance. If the burn was anywhere else I would say forget it but the medication is working and I need to keep up with the regimen.

So….keeping my food/dining and grocery expense down in May will also be key to staying within budget.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On A Roll...

I went three days in a row without any spending. Go Chitown!!! the pasta and stretching it with protein sides helped a lot. I cooked a pot of jambalaya last night so I can stretch that for a few days as well.

I tried a new recipe for this Cajun Blackened Chicken last night that I found on my iPhone app and it turned out pretty good. Best thing about it was that I had all of the ingredients. My best friend was pretty amazed on Saturday at how well stocked my kitchen was with utensils and seasonings. I just need to put them to work.

I stopped by my parent's house last night and thought I was just going to come home and make a turkey sandwich and soup for dinner and that I didn't feel like cooking. It was about 5 minutes after I started defrosting the chicken breast when I remembered my original dinner plan. Oh well right...I was in it for the long run. So I cooked and now I have food for at least 2 days.

It's crazy though because I will sometimes have all this food and all I want is a PB&J sandwich. lol

I have class tonight so other than $6 for will be another day of NO discretionary spending. =)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Housing Value…

I currently value my condo at $165,000 but I am not so sure that is market value today. I got my place appraised as part of my refinance in November 2008 and it appraised at $165,000. There is a 3-Bedroom, 2-Bath condo currently on the market in my complex for $139,900. I paid $130,000 for my condo back in 2003.

Perhaps it would be best to value my condo at cost rather than at $165,000. This would kill my net worth but it might be more accurate. If the place sells at $130M, at least I am still afloat since my outstanding mortgage debt is $122M.

Another problem many condo owners are facing is that our complex and similar complexes are not FHA approved. It is difficult to find conventional buyers in today’s market. Heck, many of us weren’t conventional homeowners either but got out financing through some 80/20, 80/10/10 program. I know I did but these loans are no longer available it seems in today’s lending market.

What does this mean? Well, owners of distressed condo units are going to unload their properties for much less than the market value and depress the values of similar condos in hopes of finding a conventional Buyer. Consequently, many owners are also going to find themselves stuck and unable to sell since they now owe more than their condos are worth.

Things are just tough. I am fortunate that I can rent out my condo in the event I cannot sell.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Progress Report...

I had a great weekend. I invited my best friend over on Saturday to watch the Bulls vs. Cavs game and she gave me a cooking lesson. Hey...good food, good wine, good game and good company. I couldn't go wrong except I needed to buy groceries.

My best friend taught me how to make spaghetti which is definitely a meal that I can stretch. She is from Kentucky and the girl can cook. She agreed to come over and give me a few more lessons over the next few months. She understands what I am trying to do and is really very supportive. Love her!!! My grocery bill was a little higher this time around because I needed a few staples to cook the meal that I won't need the next time around.

I brought my breakfast and lunch today and I am going to cook something for dinner. I am also going to ask my mom to teach me how to make a few things like chicken salad and a turkey breast. Those are also meals that I can stretch.

I am overbudget and the excess came from savings. Anticipated expenses for the week are gas for my car (only the second fill up this month), parking for class on Wednesday night ($6) and maybe another 10-ride train pass which will be the last one for the month ($41).

I plan to bring my lunch all week and cook dinner. Then, I can make it through the rest of the month just needing about $100-$120 which will come from savings but will still leave my $2,000 efund in tact. Since I have one more month without paying all of my student loans, I should be able to put the $300 back into savings.

Lastly, I spoke with my Mom over the weekend. She and my Dad are probably going to help me with $300/month come June or July when my student loan payments increase. I told my Mom that I was thinking about getting a roomate and she was not pleased (I knew she wouldn't be) but I told her that I am running out of options. Mentally I am zapped from work and just thinking about having to get a second job makes me want to cry. She just said that I need to speak up and tell them I need help. So, I said I did and I will tell my Dad this week. He is going to agree with the snap of a finger which is just going to make me feel like crap too but oh well. I couldn't even go play golf with him this weekend because that was $40 I didn't have.

            • Utilities are $105 higher due to my quarterly water bill.
            • Transportation costs are $190 higher for parking passes.
            • Medical bill from physical therapy is under misc/irregular expenses.
            • My blow dryer died. I purchased a new one under personal care.
            • Food& Dining and Groceries are my main focus right now to reduce.

            Friday, April 16, 2010

            Financial Boot Camp...

            This is the first time I am getting “real” about my finances. I don’t pretend that I have all the answers and my income and committed monthly expenses will not stabilize until July. Until then, I am rolling with the punches and establishing new spending habits.

            How so you may ask since you spend $100/month on personal care, buy people gifts and go out to eat? All of my adult life, I spent with reckless abandon and enjoyed every single minute of it!!! I will not lie. Another thing I will not lie about…I miss it too!!! Since I know this, I come here to confess and I come here to celebrate my victories. It’s a sickness to an extent but I feel like I am winning the battle.

            I got my hair done every week to the tune of $200/month. I got a pedicure every two weeks in the Winter for $60/month and every week in the Summer for $120/month. I got a massage every 4 weeks at the Spa and I ate out every single day, sometimes taking a taxi just to get to my favorite restaurant. I was ridiculous and my spending was so out of control.

            It is really hard to change all of that imbedded spending behavior overnight but I am making great strides. For some, my progress may not be fast enough. For ME, progress is something I never made before so I am delighted and encouraged.

            What’s different now…well now is relative because it’s only been a few months since I got “real.” I get my hair done once a month for $50/month. I don’t get massages and I get a pedicure every two weeks for $50/month. That is my $100/month bill on personal care. This month, I cancelled my hair appointment.

            I bring my lunch 2 times a week. I will do this more in the Summer because I can then go out into the courtyard, sit outside, read and enjoy the Chicago weather. When I buy my lunch, I aim for under $10/day whereas I used to go to a sit down restaurant and the tip alone would be $5. When I buy lunch, I don’t buy dinner. I cook more. I never used to cook. My oven still looks brand new and I’ve lived in my place since 2003. This is the kicker though…I am finding that I like to cook and I like to eat what I make so I am sure there will be more of that on the horizon.

            I don’t give the extravagant gifts that I used to give. I used to spend at least $100 on my parents for Christmas, Birthdays and Mother’s and Father’s Day. I budget $50 now and everyone else gets a gift worth ~ $25 whereas it used to be $50. I look for other ways to give a gift and I am not ashamed to say that I have re-gifted a nice bottle of wine or a gift card to Macys. I just did this in February.

            I know I have a long way to go but I am encouraged and I know that better days are coming. As I get comfortable with my spending and my new budget and paying on my student loans, I know further cutbacks are on the horizon. Stick with me…Chitown is going to make it and not just make it…Thrive!!!

            Wednesday, April 14, 2010


            It is a beautiful day in Chicago. I am going to get out and enjoy it.

            Tuesday, April 13, 2010


            I am seriously struggling. Work is beyond crazy. I mean seriously!!! I have a portfolio of 30 clients and they are all mad…just mad!!! I want someone to act right!!!

            My 1 year old nephew got tubes in his ear yesterday and thankfully he is just fine.

            I am tired of thinking about money!!! I know I don’t have a choice but I am tired!!!

            I went back to my tracking and created a custom report from my last paycheck on March 30th through today and here is where I “really” am for this pay period. I’ve been looking at things on a monthly basis but I kept thinking…why don’t I have more cash in my checking account??? Well that would be because I spent some of my paycheck the last 2 days of last month!!! I should really report from paycheck to paycheck and not just monthly. I must do this going forward.

            There is no way I am going to meet budget this month. I have another 15 days before I get paid again.

            Monday, April 12, 2010

            Monthly Progress Report...

            I went grocery shopping this weekend and went over budget. I forgot I had to adjust my budget down from the usual $100 to $70 to account for the higher utilities this month. Consequently, I am adjusting my dining budget and I will just have to make it work. I need to accrue for my quarterly water bill. I also need to accrue for my yearly homeowner's insurance. I will have to pay roughly $250 for that in June or July. Thankfully, I have an extra $250 in savings already.

            The weekend was cool. I make it to the gym a couple of times and I also met my Dad at the golf range. Thankfully, he paid for the range.

                • Utilities are $105 higher due to my quarterly water bill.
                • Transportation costs are $190 higher for parking passes.
                • Medical bill from physical therapy is under misc/irregular expenses.
                • My blow dryer died. I purchased a new one under personal care.
                • Blew my grocery budget so I readjusted my dining budget.

                Friday, April 09, 2010

                No Spend Day...

                Today was my second NO SPEND DAY of the month!!!

                Spending Formula...

                Oprah had Jean Chatzky on her show a while back when she was doing the Debt Diet. Jean suggested the following as the ideal spending formula.

                I am completely out of balance and I have a lot of work to do.

                Right now my housing expense is 41% and my debt level is at 38%. Thankfully my car is paid off so I fall below the 15% transportation goal to just 8%. The sad thing is because I am overextended in housing and debt, I also fail to meet the 10% saving goal and I am only able to allot 13% for personal spending compared to the 25% goal.

                Below is how I will stack up against the spending formula for the rest of 2010.

                Thursday, April 08, 2010

                Credit Cards...

                Slowly BUT Surely, it is getting a lot easier for me to use cash and debit for all of my purchases. I wish I never used my credit cards and cannot wait to be free.

                I have a goal this year of no additional debt. I have kept that goal thus far and intend to keep the streak going. I know it may seem like I go back and forth with my finances but this is the first time I have truly buckled down to make a difference in the right direction.

                I am so grateful for my Blog Readers and for those that leave comments and ask questions. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

                Anticipated Budget…

                Here is my budget for the rest of 2010 unless rates change, I get a roommate, I find another job or I get offered a trip to the Moon. =)

                I am evaluating the roomate scenario. I have emails out to several friends/family members to see if they know anyone who needs a place to stay. I would feel better with a direct referral than going through a service.

                On another note, the new ex misses me. The breakup was sudden. He admitted that we didn't have a bad relationship but just not a great one and that he loves and misses me. I don't know what to do. He had become my best friend too.

                Wednesday, April 07, 2010

                Early Student Loan Repayment…

                I am a little bummed that my student loans are going into repayment a month earlier than I expected. On top of that, they were talking on the news today about when Bernanke was going to start raising interest rates again. I swear my heart started to palpitate.

                Tuesday, April 06, 2010

                One No Spend Day....

                I didn't spend any money on Easter Sunday and I spent $10 for lunch over the last two days. I badly need to go to the grocery store. I really really don't want to but I know I need to get some staples. My fridge is absolutely empty...such a bachelorette pad.

                I went to McDonalds today and got a Cheeseburger Happy Meal with an Apple Dipper. The entire meal was less than $4 and less than 700 calories. Now I know why McDonalds stock is still doing so well.

                I will be in the gym this evening. I just need to stop at home first to defrost salmon for dinner. I am going to try to make Thursday another no spend day. I have class tomorrow so I will need to pay at least $6 for parking in yet another garage.

                Monday, April 05, 2010

                Weekly Progess Report...

                April is here and today is the first day of my new life. Change is in the air. My boyfriend of a year and a half broke up with me on Friday. Apparently the feelings weren't mutual. Enough said there right? So now I am starting over and starting new.

                A lot of my dining, entertainment and transportation expenses increased with the relationship. For the first six months of 2009, my ex was unemployed and I superficially picked up the slack with dating expenses using debt. Since I will no longer be traveling into the city to stay/visit with him, my transportation expenses will decline. Just this month, I bought another 10 parking passes so I won't need them as often.

                After a long and tearful weekend and some really kind works from my new friend and blog buddy Aaren, I am going to close the book and start anew with better choices.

                Here is my monthly progress report thus far. Remember that I only get paid once a month so I pay ALL of my bills at the very beginning of the month and then I have to budget carefully until I get paid again at the end of the month. My next payday is not until April 29th. I am going to try for a lot of "no spend" days this month so I will often bring my lunch to work so that I can meet the $200 budgeted amount.

                • Utilities are $105 higher due to my quarterly water bill.
                • Transportation costs are $190 higher for parking passes.
                • Medical bill from physical therapy is under misc/irregular expenses.
                • My blow dryer died this weekend so I purchased a new one under personal care.

                Thursday, April 01, 2010

                March 2010 Report...

                1. Net worth improved from $153,834 to $151,994.
                2. 401k and Investment Accounts bounced back.
                3. Overall debt down $585. Come June that will be ~ $800/month.
                4. Cash accounts took a hit due to overspending.
                5. No additional debt or credit card use.
                6. Cashed in Capital One miles to boost my E-fund by $175.

                Here is a further Spending breakdown for March and my Credit Scores. Credit scores improved this month most likely due to debt reduction on my credit card. I am 90% to max on the card so that is definitely a negative.