Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Tips for Selling Your Wedding Dress

In a previous post, I shared some places where you can sell your wedding dress (or buy a pre-owned one).  I successfully sold my dress with RecycledBride and I wanted to share my experience and some tips.

I bought my dress and floral sash from David’s Bridal for $718.68 including tax.  I sold mine for a total $415, almost 60% of the original cost.

Tips for Selling your Dress Online

  1. Price your dress right.  The listing sites suggest listing the dress from 50%-75% of the original price.  If you price your dress too high, it will not sell.  My listing price was $375 for the dress and $40 for the sash.  I’m assuming that I priced it just right, since I received five inquiries within a week
  2. List on multiple sites, but avoid those with listing fees.  With sites that don’t require a fee, why list them on ones that do? Especially when a sale is not guaranteed?
  3. Include plenty of pictures from a variety of angles.  Your first two pictures should come off of the designer’s website with their model wearing the dress.  That way, if a bride-to-be is looking for a particular dress from a certain designer, she would be able to instantly recognize it.  The next few should be picture of you wearing the dress at different angles.  A woman looking for a size 8 dress will want to make sure that it looks good on a size 8 woman.  A dress that looks good on a size 0 model might not be flattering for someone wearing a different size.
  4. Write an honest, detailed description.  Let brides know whether the dress has been altered, if there is a small rip or stain, etc.  Be sure to include other accessories you may want to sell with the dress.
  5. Be prompt in answering inquiries about the dress.  Buyers love good customer service.
  6. Beware of scammers.  Never accept checks, cash, money orders or Western Union transfers.  Stick with Paypal and Escrow as your method of payment.
  7. Don’t underestimate shipping costs.  Remember that shipping cost also includes the box, packing material and tape in addition.  If the bride is not in a rush to receive the dress, the cheapest shipping option is the parcel post through USPS.  Make sure to spend the extra money to provide a tracking number and delivery confirmation.  It could potentially save you a lot of headaches.
  8. Dry clean the dress before you ship.
Side Note: In my area, drying cleaning a wedding dress starts at $130. In other words, it is not cheap to dry clean a wedding gown.  However, since my dress was simple with no extensive beading or lace, my dry cleaner charged me the prom dress dry cleaning rate of $30.  So, a less ornate dress will save you about $100 on dry cleaning, which is an expense that a lot of brides do not think about.
 
Have any of you bought a used wedding dress or tried selling one?
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Five Necessities I Hate Paying For

  1. Oil Changes and Car Maintenance: I hate spending extra money to keep something running.  I know it’s what you’re suppose to do, but I still don’t like paying for that kind of stuff.
  2. Health Insurance: It’s expensive, and from my experience, everytime I try to file a claim, the insurance company tries to find a reason to deny it, which means I spend over 45 minutes on hold with their customer service.  Yet, it would be foolish to go without it.
  3. Parking pass: I know that what I’m paying right now for downtown parking at my apartment is a bargin, but since I grew up in small towns, I’m not used to paying for parking.  Yes, I could park for free on the street four blocks away, but the neighborhood four blocks away is ranked the 14th most dangerous neighborhood in the US by NeighborhoodScoutReports.com.  I don’t plan on walking there by myself at night, so the better alternative is to shell out money for a parking pass.
  4. Gas: Yes, I listed another car-related item. For some reason, I always underestimate how much it would cost to fill up a tank.
  5. Tuition: This isn’t really a necessity, unless your career goals requires a degree. I don’t really mind tuition itself, but why does it have to be so expensive?

What are some necessities you hate paying for?

Week-In-Review

This past week, I finally changed my last name, got a new driver’s license, and updated my W-4 documents.  The next major task is opening a joint account for me and my husband at our credit union.

Here are some posts I liked this week:

Spending Update: May-June 2012

At an initial glance, May-June looked pretty good; it looked like I went under budget.  The problem was that I had overestimated my income.  I was almost $200 off!  I forgot to take into account the unpaid vacation days I took during the last pay period. My husband got his first paycheck so that is included in our total income, though I forgot to include it in our projected income, which turned out to be a good thing.  About half-way through the month I realized that my paychecks were not going to hit the $2400 mark, so I was able to curb some spending for the rest of the month.  Most of my savings came from taxes, since I guess I was a bracket lower than usual.  I ended up “borrowing” a small money from my Christmas fund to keep me from spending more than my income.

Projected income: $2400.00                                            Actual Income: $2203.90

 

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Rent $500.00 $500.00 $0.00
Tithe $240.00 $219.00 $21.00
Taxes $400.00 $230.85 $169.15
Cell Phone Bill $45.00 $43.00 $2.00
Gas $72.00 $52.99 $19.01
Car Insurance $100.00 $72.00 $28.00
Groceries $250.00 $246.80 $3.20
Health Insurance $99.04 $99.04 $0.00
Car Maintenance $30.00 $44.00 -$14.00
Doctor’s Appointment $70.00 $0.00 $70.00
Personal Care $25.00 $27.29 -$2.29
Home Supplies $10.00 $47.06 -$37.06
Medication/Contacts $130.00 $151.70 -$21.70
Roth IRA $150.00 $150.00 $0.00
Emergency Fund $75.00 $75.00 $0.00
Christmas Fund $35.00 $31.21 $3.79
Entertainment $178.00 $187.24 -$9.24
Miscellaneous $0.00 $25.90 -$25.90
Total $2,409.04 $2,203.08  $205.96

 

My lease to my apartment ends Jun 30, so I made my last rent payment.  Hopefully, there will be no more rent checks for awhile, which means that about $500 will be freed up in our budget.

Saving Money In College as a Resident Assistant

The tuition of a four-year university is already daunting, and the cost-of-attendence just keeps climbing.  Adding a bigger blow to the wallet is that many universities are requiring students to live in expensive campus housing and buy a meal plan.  One way to get around paying for the extra costs is getting a resident assistant (RA) position in one of the dormitories.

What is an RA?

An RA is a peer mentor who supervises students living in residence halls and dorms.  Responsibilities include conflict mediation between roommates, planning events for students, helping students transition to university life, helping with check-in and check-outs, submitting maintanance requests, and enforcing university rules.  RAs usually go through a rigorous training process.  Usually students cannot apply for an RA position until they are finish with their freshman year.

What are the benefits?

Compensation varies from institution to institution.  Usually, RAs will get free room and board.  Another perk is that RAs are not required to have a roommate, which is usually madatory in university housing.  Some universities will also pay an hourly wage on top of the room and board stipend.

What are the drawbacks?

The main drawback is having less freedom than the average student.  When my husband was an RA, he was required to be in the building by midnight during the week, and by 2 a.m. on weekends.  During holidays and breaks, he could not just go where ever he wanted whenever he wanted.  He had to divide holidays between the other RAs in his building.  For example, each year he had a two week Christmas break, but he had to either go home a week later or go back to school a week early.  He also spent one weekend a month on-call, which meant he could not leave the building the entire weekend, expect to take two hour-long breaks to get lunch and dinner. 

The second major draw back depends on what kind of students live on your assigned hall.  If the students are conciencious of others and well-behaved, then the RA will spend a lot of time having fun hanging out with their residents.  If the students are wild and immature, the RA will spend a lot time disciplining students and mediating conflicts.  One year, my husband was assigned to a floor of rowdy freshman boys.  He spent a lot of time busting residents for alcohol and drug violations and trying to clean inappropriate graffiti (use your imagination) off the walls. 

The Numbers

My husband spent two years of his undergraduate career as an RA, and just began a new RA position recently.  As an undergrad, he received a generous scholarship from the university that included full tuition and a $6700 annual stipend and an annual $2500 scholarship sponsored by the state (read about scholarships in Kentucky here and here).  So technically he did not need any extra money to pay for his living expenses while in school.  Since his RA position provided him free room and board, he pocketed stipend and stuck it in a bank account.  In two years, he saved $18400 from his stipends alone.  On top of that, he was paid an hourly wage of $6.90 for 13.25 hours a week for 37 weeks a year for a total of $3383 annually.  Assuming that he spent between $250-$300 a month on gas, entertainment, and eating out (this is a high estimate), he would not have needed to touch his stipend at all.  His biweekly paycheck was more than enough to cover his miscellaneous expenses.  Overall, my husband was able to pay a semester of dental school with his own savings.

Money saved in two years as an RA: $18400

Right my husband is starting his second gig as an RA in the graduate student housing complex.  Instead of trying to build his net worth (only to wipe it away paying for grad school), the goal of taking the position is to cut costs.  Right now, we get a free one-bedroom apartment that includes all utilities, internet, and cable.  The university charges $779 for the same room so in a year we will save $9348.  However, if he did not have the RA position, we would not live in campus housing and find someplace cheaper.  I estimate that an apartment, Internet, and utilites (we wouldn’t get cable) would be average $625/month or $7500 annually.  On top of that, he will get paid $7.50/hour for 15 hours/week for 52 weeks, which is a nice bonus since he would not be able to get a “regular” part time job.  So, his annual salary is $5850 which we will put directly into his tuition savings account.  With these savings combined with the money we had already saved, we may be able to delay taking out loans for another year.

Total Costs Cut: $13350/yr

Overall, a college student has the potential to either build a large savings account or greatly reduce the amount of loans needed.

Saving Money with a Scooter

My husband and I are always trying to find ways to cut costs, especially in the area of transportation.  We’ve already cut back to one vehicle since we both live in walking distance to school (for my husband) and work (for me).  The one car we have is old and has a ton of miles on it–over 310,000–so it’s not very dependable.  The car doesn’t like short five mile trips in the city (it likes to shut off at when it’s in reverse), which is what most of our driving consists of, but it usually does fine on the highway.  Also,  the car gets terrible gas mileage in the city.  Our solution?  Getting a scooter.

Note: I know that getting bikes is a great option in a lot of areas, but my city is not biker friendly.  Bike lanes are limited and bike racks are hard to find, even in the downtown area.  Several of my friends had been in biking accidents.  One got hit by a truck and another by a car.  A third friend passed out because of the heat and dehydration while biking to work.  Someone found him laying on the side of the street and took him to the nearest hospital. All three ended up in the emergency room with concussions, which is an expense I would like to avoid.

Scooters are extremely popular mode of transportation in other countries, and they seem to be gaining some popularity here, or at least among my husband’s dental school classmates.  An under-50 cc scooter gets between 75-100 miles per gallon, and does not require an extra license, tag, or registration in Kentucky (check the requirements/laws in your own state).  In other words, there are no extra costs other than gas and maintenance.   We should not need to spend too much money on maintenance since one of my husband’s good friends fixes motorcycles and scooters as a hobby and refurbished used ones for side income.

Weighing the Pros and Cons
Before deciding on making a large purchase, I like weighing the pros and cons, to make sure not we’re not making an impulse decision or just trying to keep up with the Joneses (which in this case would be my husband’s dental school class).

Pros to getting a scooter

  • They get great gas mileage,  between 75-100 miles per gallon, so more eco-friendly than a car  
  • They are great for running errands that don’t require the storage space of a car
  • A used scooter costs is fairly affordable typically costing less than $1000 (at least in this area)
  • No tag, license, or registration required if the engine is less than 50 cc, so no extra “taxes” like a car
  • Much easier to find parking in the city, can avoid paying for parking

Cons to getting a scooter

  • They cannot transport a lot of things
  • If the engine is under 50 cc you cannot ride it on the highway
  • Not much protection from bad weather, and it’s pretty much impossible to ride in the snow and ice.
  • Getting into an accident on a scooter is a scary thought
  • Seems like it would be easier to steal than a car

The verdict
We decided to buy a used scooter.  In regards to the cons list, I’m not too worried about the first two listed.  We  can use our car if we need to transport things, and each week the only trip that would require a car is going to the grocery.  Also, I don’t mind that we can’t ride the scooter on the highway.  I don’t know how I feel about cars zipping past me at 70+ mph.  The only major concerns I would have is that we can’t use the scooter for about three months out of the year because of snow, ice, and rain, that it doesn’t seem as safe as driving a car, and that it seems easy to steal.  I think that making safety a priority should lower the risk of theft or getting into an accident.  

Saving money on transportation is a huge priority for us.  Getting a scooter would cut our gas expenditures  by one-half or even two thirds.  Depending on how much gas prices are and judging by our previous driving habits, it would take between a year and a half to two years to break even, which is much faster than the estimates of break even points for hydrid cars.  

Paying for the Scooter
Once we decided that getting a scooter wasn’t a bad idea, we needed to figure out how to pay for it.  Were we going to start a scooter fund and contribute each month or were we going to use the extra money from cash wedding gifts or my husband’s tax refund? We decided to use my husband’s unexpected tax refund to purchase the scooter.  He didn’t send the tax refund before we got married and did not have any plans on how he was going to use the money. Plus, he wanted a scooter more than I did and would probably use it more often.  So, we did not need to take any money out of savings or our regular budget to purchase the scooter.  

So far, I think it has been a good purchase.  We’ve only had to take our car out once or twice a week, and it’s a good feeling when you spend about $2 to fill up the scooter’s tank.

Week-in-Review

Not too much has happened since my last update (I know it’s been awhile).  I started my first online class and I trying get the hang of doing coursework again.  Other than that, I finally feel settled into my new place.

Here are some posts I liked this week:

Cheap (or free) Summer Entertainment

I always have a lot more time to spare during the summer.  Over the years, I’ve learned to take advantage of the cheap/free entertainment offered in the city.  Here are my top 5 (not in any particular order)

  1. Movies under the stars: In my city, some of the parks will have a public amphitheater or outdoor stage.  On different days of the week, they will have a free movie nights opened to the public.  Most movies shown tend to be older and “family-friendly” in order to reach a wide audience, but who doesn’t love old Pixar films?  A lot of people will picnic at the park beforehand.
  2. Shakespeare Festival: Many cities have their own Shakespeare Festival at a park, and Louisville is no different.  Every year, a two or three plays are put on and they each run about a month long.  The best part is that it’s free (although they always ask for donations during the intermission)!
  3. Neighborhood Festivals and Block Parties: The fun factor and costs  depends on the event and/or neighborhood.  A lot of these have free concerts, food tastings, and games.
  4. July 4th Events: Free music and fireworks, what more can I ask for?
  5. Gallery Hops: A lot of cities have art districts.  Once a month we have free trolleys that take us up and down the art district.  Galleries and shops are opened late.  I always enjoy seeing contemporary art and discovering new, quirky shops (I usually leave my money at home to prevent any impulse purchases)

What kind of free entertainment do you take advantage of in your city/town?

Quarterly Financial Update:June 2012

A lot of financial things have changed the last few months.  Though we do not have a joint account yet (it’ll eventually get done, I promise), my husband and I have pooled our money together.  Here is a snapshot of what our current finances are like.

Net Worth

Total Cash: $36,672.60

  • Credit Union checking account #1: $17,188.43
  • Credit Union checking account #2: $2,094.26
  • Credit Union saving cccount #1: $404.26
  • Credit Union savings account #2: $25.05
  • Discover Bank savings account: $17,060.55

Total Investment Accounts: $3,525.93

  • Roth IRA: $3,525.93

Other Assets: $7500.00

  • Car #1: $5000.00
  • Car #2: $2500.00

Total Net Worth: $47,698.53

Right now we have a pretty large cash reserve.  At least half of it will be gone by the end of the summer once the tuition bill comes in.  In my last update, I had an additional investment account with Vanguard, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to use the money for.  I’ve decided that I wanted to use the money in that account to pay for my graduate school tuition.  I orginally planned on just taking out how much money I needed for the semester, but I would not have enough money to meet the minimum balance, so I cashed it all out.  It won’t pay for more than a couple semesters, but it’s better than taking out loans right away.

Targeted Savings

  • Dental School Fund: $22,939.65
  • Graduate School Fund: $3683.47
  • Emergency Fund: $5496.04
  • Vacation Fund: $414.71
  • Christmas Fund: $75.00

We ended up using most our honeymoon fund for something else, and we cancelled the mini-vacation to St. Louis we were going take this month.  Instead, we used the vacation money to pay for our wedding night hotel (it was a pretty big splurge).  The remaining money in the vacation fund will be for our delayed honeymoon next summer.  Other than that, we are about half-way to our goal of having $6000 in our emergency fund by the end of the year.

Blog Sale–Wedding Addition

Last week, I mentioned that I would post the things that I want to sell from my wedding. I bought a ton of things that I will never use again.  Living in a small apartment, I don’t have much space to store these things either.

Items can be grouped together for shipping.  If you’re interested in any of the items just shoot me an email at kalee854@yahoo.com.

Wedding Dress $375 (+$25 shipping)      Sold!  

This dress is part of Vera Wang’s White Collection from David’s Bridal (VW351000).  The orginal dress was a one-shoulder gown, but a professional steamstress converted it into a strapless dress as pictured.  She also added a bustle in the back. Size 0.

Floral Belt $30 (+ $5 shipping)         Sold!

This Vera Wang belt is also from David’s Bridal and matches the color of the dress perfectly.

Pink Lanterns $10 (+ $5 Shipping)

These lanterns come in a set of eight and have only been used once.  These do not have bulbs in them.  The are 14-inches in diameter.  I bought these off of the Luna Bazaar website.

Floating Candle Holder $12 for 4 / $20 for 8 (+ $8/$10 Shipping)

These vases are perfect for candles or flowers.  At the opening they measure about 8 inches in diameter.  I bought these at Hobby Lobby.

Bubble Vase  $18 for 8 / $32 for 16 ( + $10/$15 Shipping)

These measure about 3 inches in diameter at the opening, and 4 inches.  You can use this as a vase for small floral arrangements or as a candle holder.  I also bought these at Hobby Lobby.

“Love is Sweet” Banner $10 (+ $3 shipping)      Sold!

This banner is a great photo prop.  I also hung it on our dessert table.  The banner measures about 60 inch in length, and each triangle measures about 8 inches in height.  I bought this off an Etsy shop.

“Cards” Banner $3 (+ $2 shipping)

This is from the same Etsy shop as the previous item.  The banner measures about 15 inches in length, and each triangle measures about 3 inches in height.

Bridesmaid Bouquets $30 each qty 1-3 (+ $10 Shipping)

I have a total of six bridesmaid faux-floral bouquets.  It contains white  peonies and ivory roses.  They are about 7-8 inches in diameter.

Bridal Bouquet $45 (+ $10 Shipping)

The bouquet measures about 12 inches in diameter.  It contains an assortment of white, pink, and cream peonies.

Floral Centerpieces $15 for a set of 3 (+ $5 Shipping)

These are about 5 inches tall (the doily it’s sitting on is the size of a coaster to give you a frame of reference).  The center pieces are a perfect size for cocktail tables.

Apothecary Jars $5 small / $6 large / $6 tall / $15 set (+ $6-$10 Shipping)

Apothecary Jars are perfect for a dessert table, candy buffet, or center pieces.  The small one measures approximately 7 inches tall 5.5 inches at the  widest point.  The large one measures 8 inches tall and 6.5 inches wide, and the tall jar measures 10 inches tall and 3 inches wide.

Several bloggers have been selling their extra things on their blogs too.  Check out their blog sales here and here.

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