Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Spending Update: Apr-May 2012

I’m a little behind on a lot of things, but I finally finished tabulated my April-May spending

Projected Monthly Income: $2800.00
Actual Monthly Income: $3088.95

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Housing $700.00 $777.16 -$77.16
Tithe $280.00 $300.04 $20.04
Transportation $195.00 $180.84 $14.16
Health Care $120.00 $149.26 -$29.26
Food $180.00 $176.57 $3.43
Roth IRA $250.00 $250.00 $0.00
Targeted Savings $310.00 $354.00 -$54.00
Clothes $45.00 $90.20 -$45.2
Entertainment $80.00 $72.71 $7.29
Miscellaneous $150.00 $231.62 -$81.62
Tax Withholding $450.00 $490.64 $40.64
Total $2,760.00 $3073.04 -$313.04

I got married during the pay period, and my husband and I moved into our new place.  Even though our new apartment is free, we still have a few months left on the lease, so we will still be paying rent, utilities etc.  For all the other catagories, I pretty much just made up a number, hoping that the total amount of money spent is less than my paycheck.  Hopefully after a few months, I’ll have a better idea of how much money to allocate in each category.

The bulk of the extra money spend went towards buying new things for our new apartment.  Luckily, I ended up having a larger paycheck than expected so cash flow wise, we were still in the black.

Selling Your Wedding Dress Online

I’ve never had any intentions of holding onto my wedding dress.  It’s been only worn once and I’ll never wear again.  I can’t picture my future daughters wearing it either.  It’s just taking up space, so to me the only option that makes sense is to sell it. 

Now-a-days, there are many ways to sell a used wedding dress.  You can take it to the consignment store, sell it on ebay, or craigslist.  Other options include websites that only sell things related to weddings, Facebook, or on a blog.  I plan on trying the last three methods, but for this post I’ll focus on website that exclusively sell wedding related items.

OnceWed is one of the most popular wedding sites.  The listings are almost exclusively for dresses, though I saw a few listings for accessories.  The best part about using their listing service is that there is no listing fee or commission, except the the commission paid the the third party payment portal Escrow (Oncewed allows sellers to use any payment service but strongly recommends Escrow for the buyers and sellers’ security).  Listing the dress was really easy, and sellers can include up to five pictures.


In addition to secondhand dresses, Bravobride allows you to sell anything wedding related such as jewelery, accessories, flower girl baskets, and decorations.  The site as a $19.95 listing fee for dresses and wedding bands, but no listing fee for anything else.  Sellers also have the option of paying an extra $4.95 to have a highlighted listing or and $9.95 to have your dress show up first in buyers’ searches.  I decided not to list my dress on the site becuase of the listing fee.  I don’t want to pay anything upfront when my dress isn’t guarenteed to sell on this site.  I plan on selling my other items on this site.

Preowned Wedding Dresses is another popular site for budget-savvy brides.  This site is similar to Oncewed with a user-friendly search tool.  However, out of all the sites that I searched, this one had the steepest listing fee of $25.  Listings expire after 18 months. I will not list my dress on this site for the same reason I didn’t list it on BravoBride.

Recycled Bride

I recently learned about this site.  Like BravoBride, brides can sell other wedding-related items.  For the basic listing package, you can list one item for free.  Sellers can upgrade to the Plus package for $9.95 a month.  The upgraded package allows sellers to list up to 6 items, and have the items listed as a featured product.  There is a 6% commission if the item sells.  I went ahead and listed my dress on this site since I don’t have to pay extra fees if I sell through another website.

I also plan on creating a photo album of wedding items I’m selling on my personal Facebook page.  I have a lot of Facebook friends who are engaged and on a small budget.  As soon as get all my wedding pictures, I will also post them on this blog.

Do you plan on keeping or selling your wedding dress? If you have already sold yours, where did you sell it and how long did it take?

When Is It Appropriate to Use Your Emergency Fund?

One of the first pieces of advice any personal finance pro would give is to build an emergency fund that covers enough basic expenses for six months to one year.  So, the purpose of the emergency fund is to provide short-term cash in the event of a job loss.  However, other emergencies do crop up.  Cars break down, our health fails, the house floods.  So, the question is, when can you use your emergency fund?  Should you create other saving accounts specifically for car repairs, home repairs, etc instead?  For now, I think just having an emergency fund is enough for me.  Once I saved a suffiecient about, then I’ll start savings account for non-wage related emergencies.

I use a few guidelines for when I can use money from my emergency fund, other wage loss.

  • The event should be unexpected
  • The event requires immediate attention
  • I cannot cover the cost of with my regular budget

The emergency fund is not for expensive things that I want but don’t have funds to pay for right away.  In other words, I don’t let myself “borrow” money from my emergency fund.

So far, I have only used my emergency fund once, about a year ago, right after I graduated from college.  While in school, my parents help me cover part of rent, and I had a small meal plan that covered a few meals a week. I had a part-time job with a small biotech start up that covered all my other expenses.  My bills doubled upon graduation since my parents stopped covering part of rent and my roommates moved out.  My first paycheck as a post-college adult was $400 from working part-time the previous month, which was not even enough to cover rent at the time.  I began working full time right away, but wouldn’t get my paycheck a month later.  So, I used about $700 from my emergency fund to cover the rest of my bills and food my first month out of school.  I spent the rest of the year slowly replenishing my emergency fund back to $5000.

What guidelines do you use to determine whether you can take out money from your emergency fund? Have you ever taken out money from your emergency fund? What did you use the money for?

Financial Milestones for Twenty-Somethings

Several bloggers have been posting a list of financial milestones for those in their twenties.  I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon to see how many I can cross off the checklist.

  1. Finance a dream vacation in cash–I’ve paid for a vacation in cash but it was with a bunch of college friends right before graduation.  I don’t think sharing a three bedroom condo in Panama City, FL with nine other people qualifies as a dream vacation so I’m not going to count it.  Currently my husband and I are half-heartedly saving money for a delayed honeymoon
  2. Pay off your student loans–I didn’t have to take out any student loans thanks to the generosity of the Kentucky state government and the alumni at my school.  Check!
  3. Automate paying your credit cards in full–I always pay my credit cards in full.  Check!
  4. Get rid of all bad debt–I’ve never taken on any bad debt.  Check!
  5. Build an adequate emergency fund–I worked pretty hard to build up a $5000 emergency fund, but as soon as I accomplished my goal, circumstances changed and now the new goal is $7000.  I’m still going to count this, since $5000 was adequate at one point. Check!
  6. Max out a Roth and contribute to your 401(k)–I contribute to my Roth IRA but I’m no where close to maxing it out.  My employer does not offer any retirement accounts since the company is relatively new and very small.
  7. Get a degree that increases your earning power–I got a bachelors degree in biology last year, which is pretty useless where I live unless you have an advance degree.  I plan on going to graduate school soon for a counseling degree, but I doubt that will increase my earning power much.
  8. Make your first and last investment mistake–I made a pretty big investment mistake and I definitely suffered the consequence. When my sister decided to go to the same college as me, my parents thought it would be a great idea to get a condo for us.  They had just moved and bought a new house so they didn’t have enough cash on hand for the down payment.  They pitched the idea that my sister, parents, and I split the down payment with promise that we would split the profits when we sell it.  We ended up buying a condo (I didn’t see it before they made an offer) in a building that was falling apart with a third of the owners delinquent on their HOA fees.  My parents didn’t see the need to do an inspection, since the exterior parts of the building was the condo association’s responsibility to fix.  Unfortunately, they forgot that as owners, we would be part of the condo association and with a building needing extensive repairs, our HOA fee will increase.  So there’s a ton of extra expenses that my sister and I have to pay for since my parents consider us “shareholders” on the property even though neither one of our names are on the property.  I did not expect that I would be responsible for these costs, since it was not discussed before hand.  Also, my parents have been using the $12,000 I contributed to the down payment as leverage to try to control me (see #11).  At this point I don’t know if I will see any of that money again.  I definitely learned that I shouldn’t be too trusting of anyone trying to push me into partnering with them on an investment, and that family and investing don’t necessarily mix well.  I should have done my research and not passively agree with my parents investment “advise.”  Hopefully this would be the last investment mistake I make. Check!
  9. Develop a statement of cash flowCheck!
  10. Take a career risk–I was part of a program at my university that saves you a seat at its medical school (in effort to keep good students from going out of state for college) provided that you maintain halfway decent grades, get a respectable MCAT score, and don’t get arrested.  Students apply to the program during their last year of high school, and this program pretty much eliminates 99% of the stress that comes with being a pre-med student (I avoided hanging out with my pre-med classmates since they would hate me if they found out that I was in the program).  During my last year as an undergraduate student, I realized that I wanted become a doctor because my family expected me to.  I learned that no matter how much money and prestige a career in medicine would bring, I would never find happiness living a script that someone else has written for me.  It was not a decision I took lightly since my choice heavily strained my relationship with my parents.  By walking away, I now have a chance pursue a career that will fulfill me (I know that doctors can have a fulfilling career, but being a doctor won’t fulfill ME).  Check!
  11. Negotiate something–My wedding photographer charges an extra $200 for out-of-town weddings.   I got her to shave off $100.  I still went $100 over my photography budget, but the pictures she took was worth going over budget. Check!
  12. Earn your first side grand–I babysit about twice a month, but I don’t think I’ve made even close to a grand after three years.
  13. Start a sub-savings account for an upcoming goal–I don’t have a specific savings account at a bank for my targeted goals, but I keep track of everything on a spreadsheet.  Check!
  14. Set a target retirement date–Definitely have not done this yet.
  15. Monitor your credit–I always get the free annual credit reports.  Check!
  16. Say no to a financial salesman–I don’t think I’ve been approached by one yet nor have I sought one out.
  17. Give just enough to make it hurt–I’m not 100% sure if this counts since I’m not sure if giving up a honeymoon actually “hurts.”  Before the wedding, my husband and I were saving money for a honeymoon when a really bad tornado hit in March.  A family at my church was hit pretty hard.  The  tornado ripped the house off its foundation and carried it hundreds of yards.  The father broke 19 ribs and jaw. The mother shattered her pelvis, broke her shoulder, and had a collapsed lung.  One of the children broke his back, and another had a bruise liver and a seizure from a concussion. Between the medical bills, loss of their house and possessions, and lost work time, they definitely needed help and support.  The only extra money we had at the time was our honeymoon savings, and we felt the family needed that money a lot more than we did, so we gave it away.   I don’t normally donate that much for natural disasters, but I knew who was directly benefiting from the money.  The only “inconvenience” for me is that I will spend another year saving for my honeymoon, and I don’t regret it.  Check!
  18. Save a dollar for every dollar you spend–I still have a long way to go. Depending on the month, I save between $0.10-$0.20 for every dollar I spend.
  19. Start a 529 college savings plan–I don’t see a point in starting one if you don’t have kids, and I don’t plan on having kids until my husband graduates from dental school.
  20. Buy a house–I won’t be doing this for awhile.

I’ve complete 11/20 milestones, which I guess is okay for a 23 year old.

Check out the progress of other twenty-something PF bloggers:

Random Thoughts and Acronyms

From Shopping to Saving

Making Sense of Cents

My Alternate Life

Wedding Budget

I finally finished tabulating how much I ended up spending on my wedding.  I spent a grand total of $7565.41, which is less than $100 over my $7500 budget.  I was really scared to add everything up, since in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I felt like I was doing wedding related shopping every day, and a lot of things were a lot more expensive than I expected.  Here is the chart of our budget and actual expenses:

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Attire $900.00 $1,074.18 ($174.18)
Dress   $718.68  
–Alterations   $280.00  
–Hair, Makeup   $61.50  
–Fabric Tape   $14.00  
Reception $3,000.00 $3,406.77 ($406.77)
–Tent Rental   $2,356.55  
–Food & Drinks   $225.70  
–Decorations   $319.76  
–Flowers   $154.76  
–Wedding Cake   $350.00  
Ceremony $1,000.00 $741.32 $258.68
–Chair Rental   $605.13  
–License   $36.57  
–Basket & Pillow   $56.45  
–Decorations   $43.17  
Bouquets $500.00 $383.00 $117.00
Bridal Party Gifts $150.00 $161.51 ($11.51)
–Groomsmen   $107.06  
–Bridesmaids   $54.45  
Rings $350.00 $129.13 $220.87
–Groom   $44.95  
–Bride   $84.18  
Photography $1,300.00 $1,400.00 ($100.00)
Stationary $300.00 $269.50 $30.50
–Save the Dates   $24.39  
–Guestbook   $47.00  
–Invitations   $97.27  
–Programs   $60.00  
–Postage   $40.84  
Total $7,500.00 $7,565.41 ($65.41)

The chart does not include expenses that other people have covered or services offered as a gift, whic is why some of the line items look really low.  I did not include neither the $1200 cost of the venue nor the portable toilet (I’m estimating those to be about $200), since my parents-in-law decided to cover those expenses in exchange for upgrading to a roomier tent.  My husband’s parents also bought all the alcohol.  They stuck with wines that were less than $8/bottle and purchased a keg.  I’m estimating that alcohol totaled around $200.00.  You probably also noticed that the overall food cost I listed is really low.  I decided to have a dessert reception, and some friends and family volunteered to bake something.  I’m not exactly sure how much all of the ingredients for the brownies, cookies, fudge, chocolate covered strawberries, etc. costed.  Overall,  I think that  after including all these costs, overall the wedding was still under 10K.

I spent a lot less on decorations than I had expected. Since the ceremony venue was outside in a beautiful setting, I didn’t really need to decorate.  For the reception, I borrowed a lot of things from my mother-in-law.  I went with a vintage decorating palate, since lot of her candle holders, vases,  cake stands, trays, and other house decor were more ornate.  Flowers usually cost an arm and a leg, especially my favorite flower, the peony.  I cut down flower costs by using silk flowers for my bouquets and buying  individual stems from a wholesaler to create simple center pieces.

I definitely experienced a lot sticker shock for the tent  and chair rental.  The wedding venue required a tent and required you to use a certain rental company.  I don’t know how the rental company compared to other ones in terms of price, but I know that the general consensus is that tents are expensive no matter where you get it.  Overall, I spent about $3000 on rentals alone!

Overall, I am really pleased how my sub-10K wedding turned out.  I definitely  proved to myself that I could  have a beautiful wedding on a budget.

Soaring Cost of Prom & Cutting Costs

This past weekend, my husband and I went to P.F. Chang for dinner since we had a gift card.  Prom-goers swarmed the restaurant, which made me think about an article I read recently about soaring prom costs.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when it said that the average person spent $1000 on prom in 2011.  I knew that prom is a special night for high schoolers, but $1000 seems over the top for a dance.  Then I started thinking about how much I spent on my own prom.

I spent about $110 at JC Penney and $25 on alterations.  I made sure to get a shorter dress since they are usually cheaper than traditional prom gown.  Besides, I knew that I would more likely re-wear a shorter cocktail dress than a floor length gown.  I also chose a simpler one since it’s harder and more expensive to alter a dress with extensive beading. For shoes, I went to a discount store and bought a pair of heels for $20.  

Hair, Makeup, Accessories
I didn’t spend too much money on hair, just $20, but I spent more money than I had planned on for make-up.  I never wore make-up while I was in high school, so one of my friends set up an appointment the Estee Lauder makeup counter at the mall.  Getting make-up done was free if I purchased two items from the counter.  Unfortunately, going into this I had no idea how much nice make-up costed, so I experienced some sticker shock.  All together, I spent $55 on make-up.  While at the mall, I went ahead and bought a pair of nice earrings which were $23.

The parents of one of my good friends had a membership at a swanky country club, so we were able to get a discount for a really nice meal.  I ended up spending $30 for dinner, since I didn’t want my date to pick up the tab.  I still think $30 is a lot of money for one meal, but it was definitely one of the best meals I ever had.  

At my high school, the senior class didn’t have to buy a ticket for prom.  All we had to do was bring an ID, or make sure one of the teachers chaperoning recognized us.  I skipped out on most of the prom bells and whistles.  I didn’t go to the tanning bed like the rest of the girls in my class.  My friends and I didn’t get a fancy limo nor did we book a block of hotel rooms for the after party. We went over to a friend’s house afterwards, and the next morning another friend’s mom hosted a delicious brunch. I have no idea how much these things would have costed, but I’m sure I saved a lot of money.

So, my total prom tab: $283 which according to an online inflation calculator, is equivalent to $314 today.

I managed to keep my prom costs low, but I guess the $1000 average shouldn’t have surprised me too much.  I knew a girl who had traveled to Italy to buy her prom dress, and I one of my friends rented a Rolls Royce for the fifteen minute drive from her house to the country club that hosted our prom.

Ironically my sister, who has a tendency to blow lots of money shopping, spent way less than I did on her prom three years ago.  She borrowed one of my cocktail dresses that I had bought for a wedding, so she didn’t spend a dime on her dress.  Instead of picking a fancy up-do, she picked a hairstyle that she could easily recreate on her own: a side pony-tail with large curls.  An artsy friend did her makeup, and she made sure her date paid for her dinner.  The only money she spent was on a $50 pair of shoes.

Did you go “all out”for your prom, or did you try to reign in the costs?


This past week has been hectic between moving (still not quite finished), buying things we need for our new apartment, returning duplicate gifts, and figuring out where everthing goes.  My husband started working as soon as we got back from our wedding, so I also started working right away.  Hopefully things will settle down soon, so I can post more than once a week.

Here are some posts I like:

Post-Wedding To-do List

I’ve been pretty busy the last week or so between getting married and moving, hence the lack of updates.  Things are a bit chaotic.  I only took one day off work after the wedding.  I figured if my husband had to start his new job right away, I might as well start working again right away; I’m an hourly employee so I don’t get vacation time.

We started moving into a temporary room at the dorm my husband works at.  Our actual room is getting renovated and we’re told that we can move in within a month.  Knowing how slow things get done at the university, I’m guessing it probably won’t happen until August. 

So far, we have done the following:

  • Move his things to the dorm
  • Deposit checks given to us at the wedding
  • Deposit checks from bridesmaids (I wanted to order their dresses in one order to save on shipping)
  • Returned duplicate gifts that we have opened so far (the other half of the gifts are still at his parents’ house, we could fit them all in the car)
  • Bought some home essentials

We still have a ton of things to do including

  • Merging our bank accounts
  • Change our W-2’s
  • Calculate the total cost of the wedding
  • Make my husband an authorized user on my credit cards
  • Create our first budget together
  • Decide what to do with the wedding checks and his tax return
  • Change my name

We aren’t sure if we want to do all those things right away.  Should I wait to do them once we are settled in our permanent dorm room? I don’t want to keep on changing my address for everything. 


Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Sometimes we take shortcuts just to save a little money.  This past week, my fiance was penny wise, pound foolish.

Last Friday, he called me at work to vent a little bit.  He was a little frustrated at his new boss.  Even though he accepted his RA position in February, his boss waited until last Friday to tell him that he needed to turn in his payroll documents the following Monday.  In order for him to turn in his payroll documents, he needed to have his orginal social security card.  Unfortunately, my fiance’s social security card was at his parents’ house, which was an hour and a half away.  He could have gone home over the weekend to pick it up and visit his family, but he had three final exams on Monday and two on Tuesday.  So, he called his parents to ask them to overnight his social security card and offered to pay them back.  Overall, he spent $5 on postage.  He checked the mail on Saturday; no social security card.  He checked again on Monday and Tuesday, still no card.  At this point it looks like it is lost in the mail.  He made a few mistakes to save a little bit of money:

  1. He used the US postal service.  It’s pretty common knowlege that USPS is less realiable than UPS or FedEx. 
  2. He didn’t want to spend an extra $7 to guarentee overnight delivery.  I’m not sure why USPS has an option to mail something overnight, but not guarentee delivery in the proper time window. 
  3. He didn’t pay extra number for a tracking number.  Now we have no idea where it is; his social security card could be anywhere.

So what were the consequences of trying save a little bit of extra cash?  The immediate consquence is that he couldn’t get his payroll paperwork in time, so he may not be able to start working or get paid right away.  I’m not quite sure how much that will cost us. The long term consequence is the possibility of ID theft, and the headache of dealing with that down the road.

Knowing myself, I would have proabably done the same thing to save a little bit of money.  We’ve learned our lesson.  Next time we have to mail an important document we will pay the extra money to get guarenteed overnight and to get a tracking number and delivery confirmation.

Have you ever been penny wise but pound foolish? What consequences of trying to save a little bit of money?

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