Tag Archives: budget

How Do You Focus?

This post is mostly going to be about my lack of focus right now. So, if you want to learn how NOT to focus, please read on :)

I have so many ideas!!! This is not unusual for me, as I am person with a very active imagination. I dream, dream, and dream while I do my practical chores of the day.

My husband and I often share ideas of what we want. Well, actually it’s usually me blabbing and him listening. I share my aspirations and what I want to do. It’s great. He’s a very good listener, and doesn’t pressure me to do anything. While I’m fast and furious, he’s more relaxed. Takes things slower. But I can’t help if my brain operates 24/7!

My challenge right is now focus and implementation.Here is some insight into my very confused, scattered, and excited mind.


Start a legal business entity ( Now we are not quitting our day jobs). But I think it’s wise if we want to start exploring options for side ventures.

  • Need to file paperwork in Texas. Cost $300
  • This is a short term goal. I can easily get this paperwork finished this month.

Start a couple more websites:

  • Create a basic professional website for the “real” me. This will establish an online presence for my career. (“Real” means the non-anonymous SFL me).
  • Create a blog geared towards business strategy. I read so much about business strategy, company’s future, etc., the site would be a great forum to share my voice. Plus, it would give the “real” me an online presence.
  • Create a niche finance/life choices blog (more details to come).
  • Help my husband launch his blog geared towards sports ( I keep saying I want to help him, but haven’t done it)
  • SHORT TERM GOAL (By end of 2013)

Buy a house and go all HGTV on it

  • Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating on how HGTV I’m going to be around my house. But I would really like to add home remodeling to my skill set. My husband and I have definitely given thought to rental home business by slowly acquiring property and fixing it up. Like Mrs. and Mr. POP. 

Start a new Master’s degree

  •  So I have mentioned before I want to start a new Master’s degree. I would only do about 1 class every 4 months. I’m hoping it will improve my soft skill set, and help me advance in my career. But, I do worry. What if I don’t have enough time? I have to figure out my priorities. This is my 3rd master’s degree, and I’m really in no rush to finish it. LONG TERM GOAL (Next 4 years?)
  • Toastmaster’s competent leadership and communicator certifications. So I want to get these two certifications under my belt, but they are not super high in my priority list. I’m basically doing it for fun, and to improve my communication skills and confidence. LONG TERM GOAL (Next 1 year?)

Start Investing

  • I want to learn more about investing.
  • 1st order of business – read “The Intelligent Investor.” I bought last year, but haven’t really make it past Ch 1.

So, there it is. I’m putting myself out there. I know it’s sometimes hard for me to share my dreams because it makes them more real. Somehow sharing them with people other than my husband makes me feel accountable.

How do you focus?

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www.aadesignbuild.com, A&A Design Build Remodeling, Kitchen Remodeling, Germantown, Potomac, Rockville, Bethesda, Maryland, Interior Design, Gourmet Cooking, Aging in Place (Photo credit: A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc.)

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Ways to Have Fun Without Dipping Into Savings

Check out my staff post on Dimespring. It’s titled Ways to Have Fun Without Dipping Into Savings.

It seems like bills never end. I finish paying off the electricity bill, only to have the Internet bill show up. I know lots of families struggle to make ends meet. My husband and I jokingly say that at this point in our lives, we work to survive. After all, most of our budget goes to food and living expenses. So it’s a relief for our pocketbooks when we find ways to entertain ourselves for less.

Check out the different ways you can have fun on the cheap.

Let me know what you think!

Summer Fun, 1983

Summer Fun, 1983 (Photo credit: Franklin B Thompson)


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The $3,000 Budget

How far does $3,000 go in Dallas, Texas for a couple?

I cannot believe how much has changed since April. Remember my post “Working on our First Post School Budget?” I did not have a car, a job, or anything really! After working some numbers, I believe I have our first budget. Here it is:

Let’s just say it’s pretty tight. Despite the fact that $3,000 is a lot of money, it doesn’t seem to go very far! :( And I live in Dallas, TX, an affordable city! I totally feel for the PF bloggers living in pricey cities! We have a $111 buffer, which I believe we may spend sooner rather later during the month. I am hoping the gasoline bill is not as high as I am predicting. We are going to be living 5-10 minutes away from my job, and I hope my hubby finds a job nearby! Everything is also five minutes down the road.  I, also, don’t know if my company will pay for my cellphone. I hope they do, at least partially.

Line Items:

  • Rent is an estimate. I have been looking at apartments and they all range between $700 to $900 depending on location and amenities. The cheaper the apartment, the more buffer.
  • Cash Allowance- I have budgeted a cash allowance for my hubby and I. Right now, I plan for a $50/ a week for each of us.
  • Car maintenance fund- I have also budgeted $100 for car maintenance. This should help pay for tires, oil changes, etc.
  • Christmas fund-  I am putting away $100 a month for Christmas gifts, so when the time comes we won’t go over budget.
  • Vacation Fund- Budgeting $100 a month for vacation expenses.
Some thoughts:
  • I am not sure how families do it. $3,000 for 2 people seems like a lot, but then it just disappears on rent, car insurance, etc. Hats off to the families who can. I know my mother always managed to find the money to pay stuff, and her budget was/is LESS $3,000 per month for 4 people.
  • I am so grateful to NOT have loans of any kind. I don’t know if I could pay off additional debt and stay under our budget. This is motivation for me not to rack up any debt.
  • You might notice that I say “I” or “me” when I talk about the budget. I am married, but  in the end I am the one who handles the finances. My hubby doesn’t like setting limits or paying bills or setting financial priorities. He leaves it to me.

What do you think? What is your budget like? Do you stay under it usually?


I bought a car!

Friday was an awesome day for me. I bought my first car!!! Here is how the process went:

  • I started looking at cars from dealerships. We test drove a Hyundai Elantra (too small), Nissan Sentra (ok), Mitsubishi Lancer, Honda Civic Sedan, Honda Civic Coupe.
  • During my run Wednesday, I saw a Honda Civic Coupe for sale in the neighborhood and immediately called the owner to test drive. We test drove it that night, and I fell in love with the car. After test driving so many other cars, the coupe was the king.

Negotiation Process:

  • We looked up KBB and Edmunds value to compare. We, also, saw the car fax to make sure the car had received proper maintenance.
  • We sat down with the private owner and showed him the cash we were willing to offer. Cash talks! The private owner was asking $13,900 for a 2007 Honda Civic EX Coupe with 58K miles, navigation system, leather seats, and sunroof. We brought $12,500 to the negotiation. He, only, went down to $13,000.
  • We decided to walk away from the negotiation to consider the deal. In reality, $13,000 was our max price, so at that point we were ready to pay for it. We called back an hour later to accept the $13K price. We, also, asked for permission to take the car to the nearest Honda dealership to get a Pre Purchase Inspection.
  • We took the car to get a Pre Purchase Inspection ($100). The service department came up with a couple of minor things (brake light, power steering flush, side motor mount replacement because its worn out a little bit, and the need for new tires in the next 5K to 10K miles). The total came up to be $1200. A little overprice due to dealership inflation. However, we used these facts to further negotiate a better price!
  • After the PPI, we sat down with the owner and explained to him what the inspection found out. We convinced him to drop the price by $500. After a couple minutes of agony, he agreed. He signed over the title and we gave him $12500 in cash!
  • We paid $700 in taxes, title, and license (TTL).
  • In total, my car came out to $13,300 ($12500 + $100 + $700). The best thing is that I will have no car loan to pay in the future! The car is all mine :) Evil laugh.

Lessons Learned

  • Dealing with a dealership is a hassle.  They wasted so much of my time with small talk! Plus, they never wanted to negotiate price unless you were willing to sign right then and there. I would have paid more than $15K for the car I just bought. Eliminate the middleman!
  • The process of buying the car was so much easier through a private owner. I think it helped that the private owner lives 3 minutes away from my in-laws. It felt good knowing the money was going to a friendly neighbor. I, also, did not have to sign pages and pages of fine print. When we decided on a price, we made a note explaining how much the car was bought for, and the title was signed over.
  • Always get a Pre Purchase Inspection if you are buying form a private owner. For us, it was a great investment that dropped the price of our car. It paid back in less than an hour. Plus, the things a dealership quotes, can usually be done by you or a trusted mechanic for less. As far, as the tires, I probably won’t need new ones until the winter.
  • Be friendly during negotiations. In the end, both parties felt satisfied with the negotiation. I was happy because I got my car for a great price. The owner was satisfied with the price we offered. I’m sure he was glad to be done!
Meeting my needs and budget
  • I really wanted to stay under $13K for my car. $10K would have been great, but I quickly found out I could not get the car I needed for $10K. I only went over by $300 and I stayed under $15K.
  • My parents did not want me to buy a used car. They really wanted me to get a new car with warranty so I would not have to worry about anything. They suggested I put down the $13k as a down payment and finance the rest. I put my foot down and explained that I did not want a loan and I wanted to stay under my budget.
  • Check out my post Buying a Car Part 1 to see what I originally wanted. I got the best price, great gas mileage, a car that drives well, ok insurance :) , and on the plus side, a great interior!
  • I am really, really hoping this car lasts me till 150,00 miles :) . Maybe even 200,000 miles!

What do you think???


How to Save on College Medical Bills

As a college student, my budget is pretty tight. Unless it’s extremely urgent and I am about to die, I basically avoid doctors. Healthcare is super expensive! I already pay about $110 on medicine every month I need. I have my yearly checkup with my doctor back home :) . However, there are times when I cannot avoid a doctor. There are a couple of ways I saved on my medical bills in college.

First, take advantage of your school clinics! I really love my on campus clinic. When I had tonsillitis freshman year, I went to my on campus clinic, the doctor diagnosed me and gave me medicine.

Second, if you are stressed or going through some hard stuff, make an appointment with your on campus counseling center. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to have someone listen to you. I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit, but I actually went to the counseling center freshman year. I was having some anxiety issues and reached out for help.

Third, if you need any dental work, check out your local dental school. I had to get my wisdom teeth removed, and it was going to be very expensive. Instead of paying $2,000, I paid $500 to get them removed. It took a bit longer to do, but the students and doctors were awesome! I would go there again to have dental work.

Fourth, working out keeps your body healthy and strong. Your immune system is stronger so you are less likely to get sick. Take some group fitness classes at your school gym, or join intramural teams, or sport clubs! They are a lot of fun and you can make friends quickly. I was in my Honors program intramural flag football and volleyball team freshman year. We sucked, but it was fun!!! I actually regret not continuing to do this after freshman year.

Hope this helps you save on some medical bills!

Three more weeks until I turn in my last assignment. It’s going to be tough. I am already stressed out! I, also, heard from one of the jobs I was interested in landing. I did not make the 2nd round. Probably because of my lack of work experience, bah. Oh well, have to stay optimistic! Crossing my fingers. Please send good vibes :)

What do you think? How much do you pay in medical bills? Do you have any more tips?


P.S. 21 Days to Go!!!!

Balancing Personal Finance and Family Obligations

Check out my guest post at Money after graduation! Thanks Bridget for allowing me to guest post.

Bridget started blogging when she was in graduate school, where she used to be an aspiring scientist. However, she realized a career in research was not for her and on a whim, left with her MSc. only half-way done and joined the workforce (well, after she got back from living in Paris for a month that is). Now she labors for the love of financial freedom.

After she left graduate school, she owed $20,580 in student loans. She has ten years to pay it off, but is planning to do it in two. Six months into her repayment plan, she has $17,000 left to go! You can check out her progress here.