Thursday, April 29, 2010

Money Talks

This week Kelly's Korner is talking about saving money.

I'm sure you've heard that money is one of the main things that married couples fight about and Newlyweds are no exception. So I wanted to give you a couple of my Newlywed money management tips.

Tip #1: Savings Account Management

I shared this savings tactic via a guest post on my favorite money-saving blog, Lean with Green.

My best "saving" tip is to divide your savings account into multiple sub-accounts.

That's right, break that one big savings account into several smaller sub-accounts for the key things you save money for. For example your sub-accounts could be: Emergency Fund, Home Improvement Account, Travel Account, and General Savings Account.

This can be done really easily through Bank of American or ING. Here is what our ING Savings Accounts look like:

What this is great is that is makes you realize how little money you actually have in savings once you divvy it up into those piles and can see it split that way.

For example, say you have $10,000 in general savings. That seems like a huge chunk of change. But once you break it into $5000 for emergency fund, $2000 for house fund, $2000 for Travel Fund, then you only have like $1000 of misc savings you realize that you should be saving more.

Now that we've divided up the accounts, we've set goals for each one to $x in Emergency, $x in Travel, etc.

Creating sub-accounts helps us realize our financial goals faster and it even makes saving a little more fun!

Tip #2: Budgeting and Tracking

Start tracking all of the money that goes out and all of the money that comes in - this will help you set a realistic budget. I track it all our income, spending, saving via a giant excel spreadsheet with formulas. I've been doing this since September 2009 and it's revolutionized our finances. Is it tough? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

Once you have 6 months to a year of financial spending data you can set a realistic budget and really manage against that. Don’t worry if you don’t do well the first few months; it can take a while to get adjusted to the budget.

One tracking tip I have is to use credit cards to track your spending, because they can easily show you exactly what you've spent money on where... but that brings me to tip #3...

Tip #3: Credit Card Management

Credit cards can provide a lot of benefits if you use them properly. We get hotel points, cash back, airline miles, and much much more as result of our credit cards. But they can come with hefty fees if you don't pay them on time or let them revolve. When we got married we suddenly had five credit cards and we were always getting confused as to which ones we had/had not paid. We had to argue with Chase and Amex a couple of times when we accidentally paid late.

So to avoid this I went online and figured out the date that all of our credit cards closed each month and the date they were due each month and put it an excel table in date order like this:

Also, we never let our credit cards revolve. The interest rates on credit cards are just ridiculous so we pay the full amount each month. Budgeting and tracking helps to make sure we don't spend beyond our means on a credit card.

Tip #4: Be a homebody sometimes

As lame as it is to admit, the Mr. and I try to get our entertainment at home.

We joined Netflix and get 2 movies at a time (unlimited monthly rentals) as well as Netflix on demand. Our monthly Netflix bill is less than seeing one movie in the Theater for two - so we rarely go to the Theater to see movies. So what if we have to wait a few more months to see new releases?

Reading is great source of in-home entertainment, so I joined Paperback Swap to share and swap books for free.

We try to eat at home and drink wine at home some weekend nights. You can get a $15 bottle of wine at Trader Joe's and see the same bottle of restaurant menu for $50.

When getting together with friends, love to have people over to BBQ and swim in our pool rather than always going out to eat.

(Entertaining at home a couple of weeks ago)

Are there any other Newlyweds out there that have tips from merging finances, creating a budget together, or just dealing with dollars in general? I'd love to hear your comments!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"We're" Repainting

When I was brand new 'lil baby homeowner two years ago I made a few small mistakes with regards to paint.

My first mistake was thinking that the Mr. and I were capable of paining our own home. We are not. We just don't have the painting gene. Or patience. Or any talent at all.

Seriously, we spent an entire weekend painting and all we had to show for it were two rooms with some seriously uneven paint and jagged trim. We then hired painters to fix our awful paint job and to complete the rest of the house. Outsourcing lesson learned. We. Do. Not. Paint.

My second mistake was thinking I could figure out what an entire wall or room would look like based on paint swatch. Wow those little paint swatches can be deceiving!

I've always loved the colors we chose for our bathrooms and master bedroom -- but the paint scheme in the other rooms just never quite did it for me. I blame the tiny swatches.

So as part of kitchen upgrade project "we're" repainting our entryway, kitchen, dining room/living room, and hallway. And just for fun, the office too. (note: click the links to see how they look currently)

And this time around we're doing it right...

First, we've hired painters. That why "we're" repainting is quotes.

Second, we bought little paint pot samples in several colors from Home Depot. Then we tested the paint on several giant pieces of poster board and taped the poster board to the walls to visualize the color better. It's SO much easier to tell how the color will look when it's covering a wall when it's on poster board!

And this weekend we decided on the following colors...

For the entryway, hallway, kitchen, and living room/dining we chose, "Sand Fossil" by Behr.

And as a small accent color for the living room we chose "Mojave Sunset" by Behr.

And finally for our beachy office we chose "Surfer" by Behr.

The painter is coming this week to give us the final estimate based on what's being painted and should get started painting next week. I can't wait!

Did you make any painting mistake as a new homeowner? How often do you repaint your home?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eurotrippin' Out

Remember a couple months ago when I joyfully announced that the Mr. and I were going to spend two blissful weeks in Europe touring Germany and Italy in May?

And after that I was merrily collecting travel books, inquiring about shoes, and planning our trip.

Then Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland in erupted. Halting air traffic to Europe for a week and throwing travel plans into turmoil.

All I could think was "thank goodness this happend now, rather than next month when we're trying to get into and out of Europe."

Then I learned about

Katla is 10 times bigger neighbor of Eyjafjallajokul and is overdue an eruption. Based on past trends some geophysicists fear Eyjafjallajoku could be the trigger for Katla. In fact, every time Eyjafjallajökull has erupted in the past 1,000 years, Katla has followed soon after. Awesome.

Now I'm totally tripping out.

I've almost stopped planning out of fear that our trip won't happen.

Every morning when I get to the office I look up "Katla" on Google News to see if there has been any volcanic activity. So far, so good.

We leave in about 2.5 weeks. I'm just praying that Kalta will be calm until then.

And in case you're interested... here is our final itinerary...

(Click to enlarge)

I definitely took a lot of your suggestions into account. Special thanks to Becky and Latte Love for their advice and detail blog posts about Italy!

Did Eyjafjallajoku ruin any of your travel plans? Do you think I'm crazy to be worried about another volcanic eruption?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Continuing to Clear Wedding "Clutter"

Can you believe that after a year and half of marriage, I'm still working on wedding projects?

Well, I am.

I've been trying to get our wedding photos in order. I made a digital scrapbook our of "Pre-Wedding Festivities." And I ordered our official wedding album back in February, but it STILL has not come. Note: I'm not sure what company my photographer ordered it from, but remind me never to use them again.

Even after making a wedding shadow box of my favorite wedding memorabilia I still had an entire box of wedding stuff sitting in my closet for over a year. Note: You can see more about my Wedding Shadow Box Project here.

Most of the box was actually bridal shower and wedding cards from friends and family. Does anyone else have a problem getting rid of cards? I just can't part with them!

So I decided to make a scrapbook of wedding cards and other wedding memorabilia.

First I cut apart all of cards and made collages of the messages like this:

Then for my favorite imagines from the fronts of the cards, I made collages like this:

I also made some collages of my wedding memorabilia (save the date, invitation, program, place cards, etc.) like this:

I love how it turned out. It's a great way to see all the messages from loved ones and cherish my wedding memories whenever I want!

Then what I didn't put into the shadow box or in the scrapbook, I tossed.

One giant box of clutter gone!

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's a Love Story: The Night We Met

It was a hot summer evening at the University of Southern California (USC). Campus was the alive with the energy for the second week of classes on that fateful Tuesday night of September 9, 2003.

The University of Southern California

I started off the evening in my Sorority house – where I lived with most of my bestest friends in the world.

I was studying (who am I kidding, it was only the second week of classes, I was probably watching a movie) when one of my best friends, Marisa popped by my room, and asked, “do you want to do margarita Tuesday at La Barca with Matt and I tonight?”

“Ugh, I’m not sure if I’m going to out tonight. I’m all tired from rush and all the parties last week. I might just stay here.” I replied.

“Pleeeease come out with us” Marisa begged. “I’m sick of it just being Matt and me as a couple. It’s more fun to go out with more people.

“Fine, I’ll go.” I said cheerfully, giving in. I’ve always caved to peer pressure easily. Good thing that I did NOT stay in that night.

So an hour later we piled into Matt's truck and spent the next few hours enjoying cheep burritos and margaritas at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. It was one of those perfect dinners – all laughs, and toasts, and stories of summer.

This picture was taken a couple of months later but I was wearing this exact shirt the night I met the Mr.

We arrived back at our sorority keyed up from our dinner and margaritas. No way were we ending this night early. So we grabbed a couple of sorority sisters and walked to the just down-the-street, campus dive bar, the 901 Club, or as the locals call it, the 9-0.

The 9-0

We showed our “IDs” to the bouncer and he let us in. When you walk into the 9-0 the smell of the beer-soak floors hits you like ton of bricks. But we didn’t care. We went for the crowd, not the ambiance.

That night the 9-0 was jam-packed with every sorority girl, jock, fraternity boy, and GDI looking to be a part of the whos-who USC social-scene. It was too crowded to really even dance but that didn’t stop us. It was uncharacteristically hot for a Los Angeles night – maybe 80-some degrees outside and 100 degrees inside of the jam-packed bar.

I was out on the dance floor and ran into a guy that I had dated sophomore year. We exchanged pleasantries and he introduced me to an acquaintance of his, his freshman year apartment-mate, J. In the dark bar I couldn’t really see his face, but I could see that he was very tall. And I love tall guys.

I don't know if it I believe in love at first site, but I like to say it was "chemistry" at first site.

Ben turned to me and asked if I wanted to dance. And I did.

After a song or two on the make-shift dance floor, J leaned over to me and asked, “Do you want to get out of here? It’s so hot!”

“Yes!” I replied enthusiastically because I was sweltering. And the next thing I knew we were out the door.

“Where are we going?” I asked him.

“Oh my fraternity house is just across the street, let’s go there,” he replied.

About a million things raced through my mind. Was he a sketchy guy? A total player? Did he think that I was going to hook up with him after knowing him for less than an hour? I should have never left with him just because I was so hot. Dang this LA heat!

I wanted to just run home, but something inside me said that I should stay.

And my instincts were right. We ended up just sitting on his couch all night talking. We talked about our families, home towns, majors, passions, dreams, and more. We were the same grade, both Greek, and lived within a block of each other -- we felt like we'd known each other for years. I think we talked until 4:00 AM before he finally walked me home. As we were getting ready to leave his house, he gave me a quick kiss and asked me for my phone number. I gave it to him and exactly two days later he called me to go out.

And a couple of months later we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend.

But that’s just the beginning of the story. The real story is how we turned a random chance meeting at bar into a lasting love and marriage. But that's a story for another day!

One of our first pictures as a couple taken at one of my sorority invites.

Want to read more about our early relationship? You can see our first love letters here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bad News / Good News

Whenever my Dad calls me with news he asks me if I want the good news or the bad news first. I usually ask for the bad first to get it over with.

Today my Dad gave me some bad news...

His cat / my cat when I was young, that I got when I was 13, Chewy, died today. Chewy (short for Chewbacca, don't hate, I had just seen the re-release Starwars in the the theater when we got him) lived a wonderful 13 years - chasing mice in the San Diego countryside, relaxing in the sun, and being a sweet pal. My Dad found him dead this morning - he said he looked peaceful and I'm glad he did not suffer. It's still hard to say goodbye. I keep finding myself holding back tears at my desk.

Here's a picture of Chewy that I took at Christmas a couple of years ago...

(Note: Don't worry, my Cat, Judah is fine. I can't wait to get home from work and give him a big snuggle. Chewy lived at my parents house.)

The IRS also gave me some bad news today. Our 2008 taxes are being audited. Yikes! Good thing we have all of our documents in line and have a good CPA.

My Dad also gave me some good news, which is my Grandma who broke her hip, is doing better each day! Hurray!

Also, Emily from Living our Own Fairy Tale, gave me some good news. I won her giveaway! Yay! I can't wait to see the new cake stand/punchbowl in my kitchen!

How about you, do you like to get the good news first or the bad news first?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Closet Organization

One of my spring cleaning projects was to tackle my closet.

My dream is to have a big, beautiful walk-in closet like this:

(Originally posted by Blue-Eyed Bride here)

But this what our closets look like:

By no means ideal, but pretty good for an 1,100 sq ft. condo.

I'm a pretty organized person, but there were a few things bothering me about closet and I felt like my closet was constantly a mess. So I decided to do a bit of reorganizing.

Here a look at the before and after...

(click to enlarge)

So what did I do? Just three small things...

First, see the pile crap and a white board in the lower right-hand corner of the "before" photo. Those are my shoes on a small, dysfunctional shoe rack. So I knew the first thing I had to tackle were my shoes.

I purchased an "Over-the-Door Shoe Rack" at Bed Bath and Beyond. And got my shoes up off the floor. Check it out...

Much better! And room for more shoes. Yippee! (Oh and shout out to the Mr. for helping me install it!)

Second, I did a clothing purge. The kind where you try on all of your "iffy" outfits, ya know, the ones you never wear but think you will, and have an honest discussion with yourself about if you'll ever really wear it. The purge yielded a couple of bags of clothing to donate to Goodwill. (Yay tax write-off!)

Third, I purchased some cloth containers/bins at Bed Bath & Beyond to hold the sweaters and purses that I was storing on the top shelves that would always come tumbling down and hit me in the head.

By putting items in containers you give them a "home" that they can return to, it keeps them together, and makes them easy to find.

(Note: I actually still need to purchase a couple more bins to really contain everything)

So lets recap. Three small things got my closet in shape.

1. Functional shoe rack
2. Clothing purge
3. Containerize, containerize, containerize (everything needs a "home")

One more time just for kicks... the before and after...

What do you do to organize your closet and keep it organized?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Home: The Kitchen

I'd like to be the first to welcome you to our new and very improved kitchen!

Um can I just say "wow?!" Actually every time I walk in there I do. I love it!

Here's a close up...

And since everyone loves before and after pictures...

Don't you just love baby Judah, and big Judah?!

Doesn't just 19 square feet of tile completely change the room?! I am so stinkin' happy that we did this!

When I first posted about potentially undertaking this project I asked my dear readers three questions...

1. How much do you think the purchase and installation of a small backsplash would cost?
2. Our granite is a blackish-green color and our floors are a beige marble. What color would you do for the backsplash?
3. Would I need to remove the the granite the comes up onto the wall or just add a backsplash above it?

And now I'm now going to answer my own questions...

1. The tile cost $560 with tax. The installation, grouting, and sealing cost $500. So we did it all for just over $1000. Now mind you that we live in Southern California - I'm sure it would be a less expensive if we lived in say, Texas, or most other places in the US.
(Note: I hate talking about money and how much things cost, but I could not for the life of me estimate out how much this project would cost when I was considering it, so I'm hoping revealing this $ amount will help other people who are thinking of installing a backsplash in their kitchen. And yes, you can save money by installing it yourself, but the Mr and I are just about the least handy people ever, so we knew going in that we'd be getting professional installation.)
2. I ended up going with a tile blend called the "Coto Blend" -- it has beige, green, brown, and orange small tiles in various shades.
3. Nope! It looks just fine with the 4" granite trim.

But our kitchen is not done! Up next... accent lighting and new paint! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Where I've Been

I know it's pretty cruel to write a post about the meaning of life and then just disappear for weeks.

Some of you were probably wondering if I retreated to a secluded mountaintop or lake to ponder my existence and/or write the sequel to Walden.

I did not.

Rather, I was busy with work, attended a wedding in Seattle, went to corporate training in Chicago, and visited my grandmother in the hospital.

Yup, my grandma fell and broke her hip. Poor thing. She had a hip replacement and is doing remarkably well. That old Swedish lady really is strong as an ox! Prayers are definitely appreciated.

On to happier things...

The highlight of past few weeks was visiting Seattle. We stayed with some high school friends of the Mr's and had a blast at his friend's wedding.

One of the best things about being married is the merging of the friends. Through Thanksgivings and other trips to the Northwest, I've become friends with the Mr's High School friends and have such a great time hanging out with them.

Here we are, Squinty in Seattle

The Mr and his friend that we stayed with at the original Starbucks.

Obligatory picture of the Space Needle.

Obligatory picture of Pike Place Market.

Waterfront dinner with a friend. Being goofy.

View from our dinner table.

Us at the wedding.

With Stacy, a HS friend of the Mr's. Love her!

(BTW - Stacy is an amazing graphic designer and makes stunning wedding invitations, placecards, programs, stationary, etc. She was once even featured on
Style Me Pretty. She works with Brides across the country and you can check her out on her website here!)

I'm so glad you didn't abandon me because I've got a bunch of great posts coming up about our kitchen remodel, wedding album, closet organization, and much much more!

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