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Bachelorettes have big dreams, small budgets

Amanda_bar_10Kiss_2Sometime earlier this year it was my privilege to become the Maid of Honor for my good friend Ashley's wedding.  But no wedding would be complete without the inebriated abandon of a proper bachelorette party.  And oh yea, Ashley forgot to mention the little fact that this was going to be all my responsibility - the planning, the plotting, and the execution (of my shattered nerves).  Having no experience whatsoever in any sort of party planning that involved more than a 24-pack of Bud Lite and some Dominos, I did what I thought was the best decision at the time - stress the hell out.  Not only did I have to take into consideration the fact that the bride and all three bridesmaids lived in different states, but we all had a budget to worry about.  Where was I supposed to hold the party that would be fair to everyone (let alone what city, what STATE)?  Are the bridesmaids supposed to split the cost of the bride's hotel room/meals, or do the bride's parents chip in?  And, most importantly, what would make the bride the happiest?

Img_0724_3 Thankfully some of my questions were given an easy answer via the upcoming bridal shower.  It was being held in Tampa, FL by the bride's close family, and I thought it would be the smartest and easiest thing to also host the bachelorette party in Tampa that weekend (since all of the bridesmaids, as well as the bride, would be going to the bridal shower).  Price-wise, this saved all four girls with having to buy additional plan tickets/tanks full of gas; in just one go we could kill two birds with one stone.  Also, the bride's mother helpfully said that she would chip in for the bride's lodging and food expense.  After the shower I had booked a very nice local restaurant (I paid over $100 for just myself and the bride, yikes!), and then we headed to the nearest Hard Rock where we each supplied the bride with $20 to gamble her heart out.  We kept the drinks flowing, the bachelorette games going, and before you know it we found Ashley the next morning with her head in the toilet.  She wanted a fun bachelorette party, and I call that a mission accomplished.

So let me break down my total bachelorette party spendings (estimated):
~ $60 on gas, to and from Tampa
~ $120 each for two nights in the hotel suite
~ $35 for a bridal shower gift
~ $100 for a "fancy" meal, as well as the bride's
~ $20 for the bride's gambling
~ $40 miscellaneous drinks/food
~ $80 on bachelorette party gifts, games, and decorations

In total I spent about $455, and that was with me scrimping and saving and attempting to cut corners.  I know that I really could have saved more money if I held back on the decorations, but what is a bachelorette party without balloons and partyware in the shape of...ahem...yes, well, use your imagination.  And when you're placed in the position where it's your duty to make someone happy, how low can you reasonably go?  I would love to hear any suggestions or opinions!

And if this leaves you in shock and awe (I know I'M still crying over it), just wait until you hear about the wedding!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:50 PM on September 30, 2008 in Clothing , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Conference Call with Chicken Little

David_bar_5The financial crisis finally hit home (my SoBe apartment) this morning.

I awoke to an email from my financial adviser informing me of an emergency conference call scheduled for 11:00 am. “Unprecedented market changes continue to cause volatility and anxiety,” the email read. “In an effort to keep you informed, we invite you to join Jeffrey Saut, Raymond James' Chief Investment Strategist, for a conference call.”

Jeffrey Saut

I didn’t even know I had a financial adviser. I certainly hadn’t received any advice from him before the Dow dropped 800 points on Monday.

But it turns out some stocks and mutual funds are squirreled away with my name on them, and this sounded serious. So a few minutes before 11:00, I dialed in to the conference call.

As I waited for the call to begin, Mozart piped through my speakerphone and into the newsroom of The Miami Herald. Listening to this sublime music turned out to be the most soothing part of the experience.

Saut, a fast talker with a Southern twang (and apparently one of the sharper tacks at Raymond James), came on the line with guns blazing.

The news wasn’t good.

“I think the odds of a recession have gone up rather dramatically for ‘09,” Saut said. “You’re going to start seeing more business closings.”

He described the current crisis as “the unruly unwinding of credit across the globe,” and said “the Fed is printing money with reckless abandon,” raising concerns about inflation.

Saut’s only optimistic remarks were backhanded. “The news on housing is not going to get a whole lot worse from here,” he said. “And it’s hard to imagine the credit markets are going seize up any more than they are now.”

As for suggestions, Saut suggested sticking with stocks, but playing it safe. “You want clean balance sheets, decent fundamentals, and dividend yields,” he said. In particular, Saut advised buying convertible preferred “B” shares of pharmaceutical company Schering Plough, which have a good yield right now.

These few coherent pieces of analysis and advice were interspersed with jargon and acronyms only a trader could understand. There was something about the ratio of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) over the Fed Fund rate. Something else about the actions of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

If the call was meant to reassure average investors, it didn’t work. This was more “Mad Money” than Money 101.

While professional money managers might have gleaned some good advice from Saut’s rapid-fire, pedestrians such as myself were left to wonder what’s coming next. Nor was there any mention of what, precisely, my adviser would be doing with my money.

But along with his grim forecast, Saut, who is based in St. Petersburg, Fl., had some wry, if practical, advice for homeowners: “Here in Florida you see handymen willing to take jobs they wouldn’t have taken a year ago,” he said. “It’s a good time to remodel your house.”

For the homeowners out there, that's a rare piece of good news.

Posted by David Gelles at 06:38 PM on September 30, 2008 in Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Waving At Wall Street From Such Great Heights

Brayden_bar_5I'm sitting on Wall Street. 44 Wall Street, to be exact, eighth floor, Metro NY newsroom. The view from here is phenomenal. Glad I'm not on the ground floor, though. Down on The Street a great chaos is brewing. Millions of dollars (none of them mine) are being lost to greed. One bank collapses. Then another. The dominoes are falling, one by one. Eventually, one of them could hit me. Eventually, we will all be hit. So for now I maintain the high ground.

We send photographers down into the NYSE. They come back with photos of suit-heavy professionals, thick with frown. Heads rest in hands. Mouths park wide open in what appears to be... wait, is that disgust? No, no. Not disgust. That's shock. Complete and utter shock.

Too many of these sad, fat faces are wholly aghast; stupefied; amazed; taken by surprise. Too many, because they didn't see this coming. For whatever reason -- be it hubris, arrogance, or just good-old-fashioned stupidity -- they thought the sub-prime gravy train would ride into the everlasting sunset. They thought that, well, money breeds more money, therefore the supply is never ending. They thought buy low, sell high, you gotta pay to play. They thought; or they didn't. Perhaps not much thought went into this process at all. That could be why we're -- all of us, America, the rich, the poor, the whole god damned world -- sitting on the floor with our heads in our hands.

It hasn't even been two months that I've lived in New York. It took me one month to find a job. Who knows, maybe this big crash will mean I'll soon be out of one again. That's OK -- I've already begun lamenting my employment. There's so little time to play when all your time is slated for work.

From where I'm sitting, the view is pretty bleak. But I'm right here, in the belly of the beast. No parades today, not on Wall Street. Maybe it's a bit more festive in your neck of the woods?

Fill me in, in the comments section. I want to know: Does your financial outlook look as dour as mine?

Posted by Brayden Simms at 09:39 PM on September 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's our crashing economy!

Amanda_bar_11Hello readers, Amanda here!  It's been several months since I last left you off with tales of my irresponsible and hedonistic spending (see Chicks & Balances for a refresher!).  Some (ahem, hello Mom) would be happy to hear that my outlook on such frivolous spending has changed somewhat since I last updated.  The economy is shifting, and for once I think I actually feel the pressure of responsibility breathing down my neck...oh.  Wait.  No, that's just my roommate Bridget.

Ww_2 Well, regardless of how this new influence came about, I think it's safe to say that I've attempted to show an unusual amount of restraint lately when it comes to my outlet store purges.  Attempted being the key word.  Unfortunately I haven't been able to actually alter my spending habits to reflect my new mindset.  The problem?  Those annoying and persistent gnats of society that we call lawyers social obligations (DUN DUN DUN!!).  It feels as if my wallet has been turned over & emptied over the past several months, and for once I'm none too happy about it.  But hey, I suppose someone has to single-handedly save the economy.  And I'll do it one purchase at a time.

Stay tuned for my shopping tales of woes and misadventures!  I'm sure hilarity will ensue.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 06:35 PM on September 28, 2008 in Impulsive spending , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Think coupon cutting is a waste of time? My CVS receipt says otherwise.

Bridget_bar2_3Hi folks, it's good to be blogging again in the No-Spend Zone. And as you can see from the sidebar, I'm not the only one. We are all in our 20s and will be writing about the financial issues we face, along with ways to cut back on our spending without cutting into our fun.

It's been five months since you last heard from me and Amanda, my roommate. Back in April, we moved away from the parents and into our first post-college abode. We quite had a few clashes in spending philosophies while furnishing the place. Now that we're settled in, the stress is less about joint purchases and more about being smart with our everyday spending.

I've still been cutting coupons and hunting for deals. But I haven't been putting much away in savings this past month. I just booked a trip to Disney for October, bought a Halloween costume and picked up some Halloween decorations. I'm not as stressed about spending as I used to be. After all, I save so I won't be stressed to splurge on trips and parties. I'd like to be a more disciplined with my savings, but holidays get me in the shopping mood. Sigh. Maybe this blog can encourage me to get in better financial shape.

I'll let Amanda tell you about her saving issues. In short, going to her friend's out-of-state wedding this month has made it hard to add to her savings account.

I'm now off to do my weekly shopping. I can't tell you how great it is to have a CVS right next to the Publix where I live. I'm a CVS deal-hunting hound. I buy practically all my non-perishables there, because it's so easy to save when I pile their deals and coupons on top of manufacturer's coupons.

Last week, the receipt said my year-to-date savings there was $179.19! (I only started shopping at CVS in April, so that's what I've saved in six months.) It also tells you how much I spent in all of summer 2008: $179.03. Just last week my coupons and member deals saved me $15.43, and I ended up spending $15.40 -- that's half off my whole purchase! The week before that I saved $18 and spent $18.77. And when I'm done with that, I just walk over to Publix to do my food shopping.

It's fun to shop for deals at the mall, but it's hard to beat the shopping satisfaction I get when that CVS receipt reminds me how nicely my coupon cutting has been paying off. 

Posted by Bridget Carey at 09:44 AM on September 28, 2008 in Coupons , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Times They Are A-Changin'

                         "Come writers and critics
                         Who prophesize with your pen
                         And keep your eyes wide
                         The chance won't come again''

                                                                -Bob Dylan

The No-Spend Zone is changing too. With prelims, architecture crits, jobs and ski team practice, Brian and I are getting a bit tied up. We've documented our experiences as we've tried to be thrifty while setting up a new apartment and adjusting to a new school year.

On Sunday though No-Spend Zone will be relaunched with a new format. No we won't give it away, you'll just have to click in and see. School permitting, Brian and I will still be writing in the No-Spend-Zone from time to time. But, for now our studies are calling.

Au Revoir,

Ali & Brian

Posted by Account Deleted at 04:11 PM on September 27, 2008 in College finances | Permalink | Comments (2)

Homebodies= Savings

Misoshiru Last night, instead of hitting up some expensive restaurant for Korean cuisine, my friends Tansy and Natalya came over for dinner.  No purchasing was involved for a good night in with friends.  We made Korean food:, Kimchi and rice with tofu and soybean paste soup.  Now, of course, I didn’t have all of the ingredients for this meal but between the three of us we were set.  I had the pots and pans, potatoes, onions, broth, and spices.  Natalya brought her rice cooker, the soybean paste, and Kimchi.  Tansy brought the rice and some additional spices.  All in all it was a good meal - better than the Korean restaurant.  We chatted while taking in glimpses of one of the Oceans movies and parts of "Sweet Home Alabama".  Tansy and I had an architecture critique on Friday that went well. After an all-nighter, a good meal was in order.

Instead of going out with friends, plan a dinner party with a close-knit group.  Decide on the meal you want to cook and divide the ingredients up and then have a good time making the meal together.  You could also try potluck dinners, where you make your own dish and everyone else does too, then you have an entire meal for the cost of one dish.

Satisfying to the stomach and the wallet.

Posted by Account Deleted at 04:00 PM on September 27, 2008 in College finances , Food | Permalink | Comments (1)

Selling Your Soul to General Mills

Shadow2 A few days ago I talked about how I accepted a free Philly Cheese Steak from Domino's Pizza, and by doing so sold my soul to Corporate America.  This idea is nothing new in America - politicians used to give away shots of whiskey for your vote, advertisers regularly line the streets of New York, Boston, Miami, etc. handing out free samples, and more recently, businesses have started buying the exteriors of cars to advertise.  Advertisements have entered every aspect of American consumer life - and I thought the only place I was safe was in the depths of the library, spooning with my Linear Algebra textbook... until now. 

Not wanting to miss a single person, companies such as General Mills, AT&T, Altoids, and Volvo have started shelling out free notebooks  for college students.  An act of philanthropy to support the growing minds in America as they struggle to afford their education?  Nope.  These new notebooks are riddled with advertisements so that while you're flipping through my notes on Bernoulli's Principle, thinking to myself "Why did I choose to be an engineer, this sucks, I hate my life" you can flip to page 15 and go "Wow, I really want an Altoid".  Harvard, MIT, and Arizona State are among the first campuses to latch onto this idea.  No word yet from my school Cornell. 

Maybe I'm being too hard on these notebooks - but I think people sometimes forget that these notebooks aren't completely free.  By subjecting yourself to more advertising, you are paying a price.  I guess in our society we're so overexposed that it's just a drop in the bucket. 

Posted by Brian Macpherson at 09:53 AM on September 26, 2008 in College finances | Permalink | Comments (1)

Architecture Calling Once Again

Lucky Me.  I get to stay up all night tonight.  I have a review Friday and way too much work for the number of hours in the day.  Do I see a theme developing?   At least I have a partner for this project.  This means that the $20 piece of plexiglass for our model can be split by two and cost only $10.  But architecture supplies are just so expensive that they devour my budget. My paycheck seems to end up in chipboard, glue, and bass wood every two weeks.

On top of not sleeping, I am fortunate enough to have an expensive major as well.  I guess the good thing about all this is that because I have been so busy lately I haven’t had time to spend money on anything besides architectural supplies.  Still, I must mention my trip to Wegman’s where I spent only $22 for a week's worth of groceries .  Oh how I pride myself. 

  Anyway here’s my tip of the day: Become so invested in your studies that you don’t have time for anything else. If you pick any other major besides architecture, you should save tons of money.

Happy Studies (tear)!

Posted by Account Deleted at 09:03 PM on September 25, 2008 in College finances , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fasten Your Seatbelts

777takeoff It's hard to turn on the news right now and avoid hearing about America's financial crisis.  There is a whole lot of other huge news that is barely making the headlines, including the presidential election, various things in the Middle East, and most importantly, Lindsay Lohan announcing that she's bisexual.

Basically people are starting to come to the conclusion that we're in deep trouble and that prices are going up for just about everything.  This is bad news as I start to plan for upcoming trips I'll be taking, especially when they involve flying and exchanging currency.  The American dollar is dropping like a stone against Canadian currency, and I expect the Euro is even worse.  There's really no way to avoid rising costs no matter where you are headed on a trip.

I am currently in the beginning stages of planning a trip with my entire ski team to Quebec City as well as to a ski race in Winter Park, Colorado.  There will be flying, driving, hotels, Canadian currency... a financial nightmare.  To try to keep costs low I plan to:
1) Start looking early for plane tickets.  I like www.kayak.com because they show hidden costs other websites don't.
2) Stay in hostels or with friends as much as possible.
3) Avoid eating at restaurants.  I feel like during many trips you spend half of your time at restaurants.  You can save a lot of money by hitting up the local Super Wal-Mart (or Couche-Tard if you're in Quebec)

Posted by Brian Macpherson at 07:33 PM on September 24, 2008 in College finances | Permalink | Comments (0)

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