Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Joys of Budgeting

Budgeting is HARD

It's easy to sit down and create a budget on how much you are going to spend per month in each category but it is extremely difficult to stick to your budget.  I will admit that I still have difficulty staying on track.

Here are some common questions when it comes to budgeting:

1.) Do I have to stick to the exact numbers?
No.  Your budget should be viewed as a guideline.  Let's say for example, that you spent all of your food/grocery money by the 28th of the month and there is literally nothing to eat at your house.  Do you starve yourself until the beginning of the next month?  Obviously not.  If you already reached your food/grocery budget for the month it's okay to go get more food.  BUT it should only be for groceries and not for meals for dining out.

2.) Can my budget change every couple of months?
Of course.  Life brings on many exciting changes and you need to be able to be flexible to accomodate the neccessary changes.
I have a perfect real life scenerio.  A year ago, I started my first "big girl" job.  I try to be careful when I purchase clothes for work and try to select items that can be used for mutliple seasons.  However, living in the D.C. area, the winters can get very cold.  The only winter coat that I had was a fun sporty coat that I used in college.  Even though the coat kept me warm during my wonderful college years, I didn't view it as professional looking.  So in order to brace myself for the winter season, I invested in a high quality expensive coat that exceeded my shopping budget for the month.  However, I viewed this as a neccessary purchase.  I believe that it is important to be frugal but you need to know how/when to spend your money.  I could have gone to Forever 21 and purchased a cheap winter coat.  But it wouldn't have kept me warm nor would it have lasted between seasons.  I ended up buying a Calvin Klien peacoat but I know that I will be wearing it for many years to come.

3.) If you stick to such a strict budget every single month, how do you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself?
Budgeting does have it's limitations.  You might not be able to purchase a new purse every single month but I think it's a fabulous idea to treat yourself every once in awhile.  It could be something small as coffee from starbucks or something bigger like a mani/pedi.  How you treat yourself is up to you. But where does the money come from?  It can be from your savings category or shopping category or whatever you feel would be appropriate

Readers:  What is your biggest challenge when it comes to budgeting?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Budgeting 101

Sorry about the lack of posts. The hubby and I decided to move and it's been hectic for us.

One of the best things that you can do for yourselves is to create a budget. A wonderful source that I highly recommend is  It's a highly secure site that you can use to track your spending. 

The big question that many of us have is.. how much should I put into each category when I budget myself?  I don't think there is an exact answer but there are guidelines that we should follow and keep in mind when we are creating a budget. 

After doing some research, I discovered that different sources recommend different budgeting methods.  I took it upon myself to tweak what I found to fit into my life style. 

Here is what I found... I'm basing all of these numbers off of a $50,000 salary and your budget should be created before taxes.

So let me explain what is going on in my spreadsheet.  Based on a $50,000 salary, I would be making $4,166.67 per month BEFORE taxes. 

-Housing:  They recommend that you spend between 35%-45% on housing expenses.  This will vary based on your living situation and where you live.  In my housing expense, I include the water, electric and cable bills.  Since for the most part, they are fixed

-Transportation:  Budgeting website recommend that you put 18% in this budget.  I live in the DC area and I use public transportation to get around.  So my monthly transportation cost is lower than most peoples. 

-Food:  They say that you should budget about  13% towards food.  I put 10% towards food.  This includes groceries, going out to eat, and carry out food. Before I started budgeting myself, this was my biggest pitfall.  I spent WAY too much money on going out to eat.  Now I pack my food to take to work with me.  It has saved me tons of money.

-Savings:  I strictly try to save 25% per month.  There are times I save more, but 25% is my bare minimum.

-Personal Shopping:  I allocated 3% of my budget towards shopping for clothes, purses, make up, or anything else that is for my personal needs.  I try my best to stay within this budget.  For example, I have spent $0 on myself.  But who knows with the after Christmas sales.....

-Retirement:  You are never too young to start saving up for your retirement.  If your work has a 401k account, utilize it! I put 15% of my paycheck just towards my retirement.  I want to be able to enjoy my time off when I retire

-Living expenses:  Life happens and there are times when you have to pay for something that is unexpected.  That's why I have a living expense budget.  I put 5% of my paycheck towards it and it rolls over every single month. If nothing happens for 7 months, the amount accumulates.  If something happens in month 8, I use my living expenses budget to help cover the amount. 

These budgets are based off of my life style.  Other people's could vary. 

I'll post some more follow up budgeting posts in the next couple of days.  Stay tuned!

Readers: How do you budget yourself?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love for designer bags

I am a 25 year old female who loves Coach purses.  They are beautiful, classic and well expensive.  

Coach factory stores are becoming ever so popular.  More stores are being built and many people go find a bargain.  So many people wonder, what's the difference between a Coach store and a Coach factory store?

Well to begin with Coach factory stores are located at outlet malls.  While Coach stores are at regular malls.  Coach factory stores usually have a mix of coach factory products and last season's coach store products.  How do you spot the difference?

Look inside the bag.  All coach purses should have a "credo patch".  There should be a serial number inside of the bag.  However, smaller purses such as clutches or crossbodies do not have one.  Look at the serial number.  If it starts with a "F", it is made just for the factory.

Just because it is made just for the Coach factory does not mean it is a fake purse or of lower quality.  From my experience, there is just as good quality but less details.

I usually go to the back of the store and store in their sale selection to find the Coach purses that are from last season.  The best way to become educated about Coach purses is by looking at their website.  Become familiar with their current style and patch work.

Coach sometimes have a 25% off sales at their full price stores from time to time for their valued customers. These coupons are received through the mail. Right now, if you "like" the Coach Facebook page, you can score a 25% off coupon.  

While Coach outlet stores offers 20% or 30% off the lowest price to all of their customers.  They usually pass out these coupons at the front door of the store. 

I recently found an amazing deal at the Coach factory store.  There was a purse that I saw on their website that I have been craving for the last couple of months.  It is listed at $199
Ladies: This is the Kristen Signature Sateen Hippie

Gorgeous purse but a bit out of my price range.  With Coach's 25% off coupon, this purse would be $149.25.  Not TOO bad..


I found this exact same purse at the Coach factory stores.  $199 then 40% off then an additional 30% off!! Final cost: $83.58! Wahoo! This gorgeous beauty is now mine :)  I have given her an excellent home

Readers:  Do you have any amazing finds at the Coach factory stores?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ann Taylor Wool Grey Skirt

I love looking for bargain deal on high quality items.  I love getting deals at Target, but some of their items don't last between seasons.  Over the past couple of years, I have become very picky about the quality of my clothes.  I think that this prevents me from wasting my money on cheap clothes.  That being said, I do like to purchase clothes from Target if I think that I will get many uses out of it.

One of my favorite stores is Ann Taylor.  Their style is chic yet I can wear it work.  I love looking at their sale section for great bargains.  I have found out that I can get great pieces for amazing prices.

Take this skirt for example
It is a classic skirt that will never go out of style and it is 67% wool.  It will keep be very warm during the winter season.  This skirt can be found from the Ann Taylor website for $124.99.  It's original price is $128.  Right now, Ann Taylor is having a sale on all of their items, 50% off of all sale times.  So this skirt comes down to  $62.49.  It may like a deal but it's still a bit out of my budget.

I went ahead and looked in the stores and found this exact same skirt priced at $29.99! And on top of that 50% off! That's right.  I paid $14.99 for this amazing skirt.  Something that was priced $128 originally.  I know what you are thinking.  That these bargains are hard to find.  But that's exactly my point.  Yes, getting good deals is hard but it's worth it.  It also helps me keep myself in budget every single month. 

What I found from Ann Taylor is that different stores have different prices.  And their online items are different prices.  It is frustrating, however, it's worth looking at a few local stores.  You never know what bargains you will find

I would like to point out that just because something is a great deal, it isn't a great buy.  They had the matching jacket from Ann Taylor for $54.99 then 50%.  It would have been $27.49. Again, it was a fantastic deal but the jacket looked awkward on me. It didn't fit properly. I honestly would have never worn it.  So I put the jacket down and just bought the skirt which flattered my figure. 
Readers:  What great items have you found in the sale section of your favorite store?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coupon Email Address

I love coupons.  But I also hate getting junk email.

When you shop in stores, it's common at the end of your transaction for the store to ask for your email.  I know what you're thinking.  Ugh, they're going to sell my e-mail address and I'm going to get a whole bunch of junk email.  But think about all the coupons they can send you!

That's why I created a coupon email address completely separate from my personal email address.  This way, I won't get bombarded with junk email when I just want to go see if my college buddy sent me an email. 

Also, when I want to avoid the temptation of shopping, I won't check my email OR I'll just go ahead and click on delete all. 

Another thing that I would like to point out is that some places, send you coupons for free things! I love going into stores and getting a free panty from Victoria's Secret.  I know what you guys are thinking.  Those free panties from VS are usually the old grandma looking ones.  But free is free!

Readers:  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Affordable lunch at Subway? Yes, please!

Subway is having an awesome deal for the month of December.
For only $2, you can purchase either a 6 inch Cold Cut Combo sub or Meatball Marinara sub.  What an affordable lunch!

Wedding Registries

One of the many exciting parts of getting married is registering for gifts.  The store hands you a fun scanner and you get to scan all the things that you dreamed of getting.  I know that some people say that weddings are all about the bride.  But in reality, brides needs to be considerate of their guests.

1.) Register at places that are popular and has many store locations.  Also, think about stores that offer free shipping.  If your wedding guests are thinking about purchasing a wedding gift for you, you want to make it as convenient as possible for them. Consider registering at multiple stores.

2.) Pick items within different price ranges.  Hubby and I picked items that cost as low as $0.99 to $349.99.  But most of our items were under $100.  We wanted to keep things affordable for our guests knowing that a lot of them we either still in school or just starting their first job. We picked out an expensive $349.99 knife set but we knew that it was our "reach" gift. No one purchased the expensive knife set, but it was okay.  We never expected anyone to spend that much money

3.) Find out what completion program the store offers. For example, after your wedding day, Bed bath and beyond offers 20% off of the items that you did not receive. Different stores offer different rewards for the bride and groom.  Shop around and don't be afraid to ask what the perks are for registering at a certain store.  One of the reasons why Hubby and I scanned the expensive knife set was because we wanted to save 20% on the knife set after our wedding. 

Readers:  What do you think about honeymoon registries?  Awesome idea? Or tacky?