Friday, April 25, 2008

Vacation Saving

Its starting to get warm outside and summer is just around the corner - time for all those summer vacations.

I thought I'd share how I plan and save for vacations, especially since this week I've been pushed to figure out my vacation plans since my new boss of two weeks told me I have to have my vacation request for the rest of the year to him no later than April 28th. (I've never had to turn in my vacation requests more than a few weeks in advance not 8 months in advance but thats neither here nor there).

I had to quickly plan a summer vacation if I wanted to have one this year, plus confirm plans for my cousin's wedding in September, Thanksgiving, and Christmas plans. At least those were slightly easier because there's less choices.

With the crazy hours I'm having to work on this new project by the time I get home each night I barely am able to find time to eat dinner and post here before I crash into bed to start the process all over again - I'm hopeful that this will eventually change but I don't see an end insight until we start the finishes in the building and move to 24 hour a day which will force us to have shifts so maybe I could work a normal amount of hours even if they are at odd times -- but I digress this post is about vacations. With the crazy hours I've been putting in, I didn't have the time to deal with trying to plan a vacation and with the rush to plan a summer vacation and not having the time to invest in researching my options, I could have easily over spent but I'm proud to say I haven't.

The way I plan for for irregular expenses like Vacation is by saving every month through out the year by utlizing a "dummy" transfer in my financial software even though it stays in my Money Market until needed. To come up with the amount to save each month for these irregular expenses is that I track my expenses from the previous year and then add 10%.

Last year my summer vacation was a 5-day weekend at Destin with Fashionista. I also took m 3 day weekend mini-vacations to Savannah, hiking, and Hilton Head. For the Destin Trip and my mini-vacations I spent $1020 excluding gas for driving (gas and maintence absorbed in my regular monthly budget).

So far I didn't have any plans for this year's vacation. Since Fashionista was going to Europe this summer and using up all of her vacation time then I knew our usual Destin trip would be out. I was talking to my mom and she brought up the two of us going on a cruise - we'd been talking about this for years but for one reason or another it just never worked out.

Niether one of us had ever been on a cruise and so thought it would be a fun adventure for us. My mom's not a planner so planning the cruise fell to me, I did a few quick google searches and found the options overwelming. I had no idea how to evaluate the options and which lines were the best. I ended up calling a family friend who's also a travel agent, told her what we were looking for in a cruise and with in a day she emailed me four options and the pros and cons of each cruise - plus two of them she'd actually sailed on herself.

My mom and I ended up choosing to go on a cruise to the Bahamas on a Royal Caribean for 5 nights. On top of the cruise we're going to go down two days early and stay at the beach. Total cost of this trip per person is $770. Yeah! Under budget and have seveal hundred dollars worth of spending money for the trip.

Moral of the story...when you're out of your league and short on time seek professional help. It can really pay off, by contacting a travel agent I saved both time and money.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How do you split Rent?

Last weekend Mr. Be-Mine, Car Enthusiast, Fashionist, Latest Beau one of my best friends who we’ll call The Councilor since she’s in grad school to be a career councilor plus a few other friends who will remain nameless since my creativity was used up after “The Councilor”, went to dinner and we were talking about Fashionist’s and mine apartment since we’d just moved in. They were curious to know how come Fashionist got the master bedroom and bathroom. I explained that Fashionist had requested it and offered to pay more based upon square footage.

Fashionist and I had already long since talked about how we were going to allocate bedrooms. In our previous apartment in the college ghetto the two bedrooms were nearly identical (her’s slightly larger but next to a neighbor and mine slightly smaller but surrounded by our apartment so noise was less) and shared a bathroom so we just split rent and we were both content with that.

This time we knew that the apartments we were going to be looking at would be different and have a master bedroom and a second bedroom. Fashionist, being the fashion diva that she is, requested to have the master but said she’s be willing to pay more for it based on square footage. The was fine by me, I’ve never had “master bed room” before so it was no big deal, plus I liked the idea of having a little less expensive rent, since the ½ way point for the rent of the apartments we were looking at was near the top end of what I wanted to pay. All and all we were both happy.

After explaining this Mr. Be-mine and Car Enthusiast had a field day making fun of us. Fashionist and I are both a little on the anal retentive side (probably why we are such good roommates together) so they couldn’t believe we’d gone thru the effort of calculating the square footage etc.

The Councilor, always being the peace maker said who care’s as long as the two of them are happy that’s all the matters – which I firmly believe. It makes both Fashionist and I happy – we have a planned method of how to share rent and it wasn’t based off a coin flip or anything so there’s no possibility of resentment. We do however split utilities 50/50 which I think is reasonable as well.

For all of you that split rent I thought I’d also give you a few links for tips about how to calculate rents:

Sylvia at About gives a formula for figuring rents

and Oh my apartment has these tips for splitting

Hope these help!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Right Move --- Wrong Time

I told you all almost a month ago about how my bedroom TV dieing about how I've really been wanting an LCD TV but couldn't justify the expense when I could borrow a TV. I eventually decided that I was going to go ahead and indulge myself with the luxury of a LCD TV but only after I had settled into my new apartment both physically and financially.

Well I'm almost physically settled (just a few more boxes to go) but financially I feel like I need to wait a few months for everything to balance back out BUT I've been handed a great deal on an LCD TV. A few days ago my mom was at Target and found a 26" Sony Bravia LCD TV on clearance marked down from $699 to $441. She went ahead and picked it up for me and showed up on my door step.

Before this TV fell into my lap I was planning to wait until June or July to buy a 19" TV (the same size screen as the one that died) and spending between $400 - $500 on an "average" brand TV.

Now I'm torn - do I take the bigger, better brand TV that's on clearance two-three months earlier than anticipated or do I return and wait for the right time and buy the more modest TV? Either way at least its the right price. I will say the longer the TV sits on my dresser waiting to be returned the more tempted I am to just go ahead and keep it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday's Money Funny

One of the regular features on my blog is "Monday's Money Funny" which are humorous (at least to me) articles/jokes/just about anything that I've discovered over the weekend when I catch up on all my on line reading that spark a need for knowledge. For example the previous Monday Money Funny was about Cell Phones.

This week's Monday Money Funny is from The Onion, a satirical news letter. The article is a poetic satire about the Asian Market Down turn.

Here's the highlights from the article, check out The Onion for the full article:

TOKYO, HONG KONG, SEOUL—Asian stocks closed one of the worst and most mournfully reflective months on record last week, with the falling American dollar negatively impacting trade volume and causing the markets to drift, like the faded cherry petals of spring blossoms, downward towards the shadowed sea of burgeoning recession, Eastern market analysts warned Monday.

"Our worst monthly drop; rate cuts make investors flee—to commodities," Nikkei Index vice commissioner Fukako Mishima said, claiming job creation by Mitsubishi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Sony failed to provide confidence in a market already as skittish as the aging husband of a teenage bride, forcing investors to shore up cash reserves with orders of durable goods and agricultural products. "Fading dollar's gleam, a feeble warning beacon: Seek bellies of pork."

Currency devaluation reflects silently on still and glassy water.

As with all Monday's Money Funnies this article promoted me to research. So here's some guides to coping with Market Down Turns, be it the Asian Market or the current American Housing Market.

The Market Oracle posted this guide of What to do Now shortly after the Asian Market. Also there's an older article but still good advice at rediff News called How to cope with Market Volatility.

Stay tuned for next week's Monday's Money Funny. If you run across any Money Funnies please email them to me at and if I use them I will give you credit and link to your blog.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekend Round Up

Yay! I'm down to only three more boxes that need to be unpacked so I thought I'd take a break and share with you some of the highlights from this week in the PFBloggers World:

Jonathan over at Master Your Card has shared a three part series on Identity Theft. I'm glad he's shared - I hope none of us have to use the advice.

Kevin @ No Debt Needed shared his advice about Buying Clothing off Season. I ran errands this weekend and one of them was to the mall to buy Fashionista a B-day present and I have to stay I got the clothes shopping bug. I've been pretty good for the last six months or so - I can't remember the last new article of clothing I've bought so maybe its about time to add a few pieces to my wardrobe.

If you came into $1M...? Is the question that Living Almost Large asked of her readers this week. What would you do if you came into $1M? Make sure and share your thoughts in her comments.

Mom at Wide Open Wallet did the cost calculations on hybrid cars as a follow up to Girls Just Wanna have Fund's Ginger's post about hybrid suv's. I'm glad to know that hybrids are still more expensive - I can't help question my decision 4 years ago to forgo a hybrid Honda Civic instead of my "regular" Honda Civic, at the time it came down to money but now with gas prices I question my original decision.

Following along the car theme of this Round Up - I appreciated JB's frustration about needing to drive and pay the rising gas costs. I feel his pain.

And last but not least, I recommend reading Seb's guide to buying car tires online posted at Pincing Copper. Most helpful - I never would have thought of buying tires on line but its perfect timing as I've started noticing wear on my tires.

Don't forget to check out all the other blogs in the network. I've conveniently listed them all in the left hand column for your use.

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