Well Heeled Blog » Save Money, Have Adventures, and Travel the World

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When CB and I were sharing our travel destination dreams, he mentioned that Japan is the one country that he really wants to visit. So… we are visiting the Land of the Rising Sun at the end of June. The whole reason we can afford this trip is because we redeemed our United miles for round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo. $2,600 worth of flights for only $78.80. Now THAT is a win in my book!

japan Konnichiwa Japan!

We will be spending 10 days and 10 nights in the country – 5 in Tokyo and 5 in Kyoto. Our accommodations are made via AirBnB, looks to be tiny by non-Japan standards, and averages out to $81 per night. I haven’t been back to Japan since 2005, and I’ve never seen Kyoto before, so that’s the part of the trip I’m looking forward to the most. Other than that, I’m excited about ramen, donburi, curry, and tempura! A luxe sushi dinner isn’t in the cards, nor is a stay at a Kyoto ryokan, nor do June/July have the best weather, but whatever… we are going to Japan!

Our budget for Japan:

  • Round-trip flights: $78.80 (paid already)
  • Hotels for 10 nights: $811 (paid already)
  • Food, budgeted at $45/person/day: $900
  • Attractions: Free is the way to go. Fortunately, many of the sights and temples do not charge an admissions fee. I may splurge on the 3,000 Yen fee to visit Koke-dera, or Moss Temple in Kyoto (~$60 for the both of us).
  • Transportation: $360. This includes round-trip bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto for the both of us, plus local transportation.

The whole trip should come down to $2,300 or $115/person/day.

Do you have tips and recommendations for Japan, particularly Kyoto and Tokyo? I’m all ears!

  • Leigh - I was in Japan last fall! The bullet train was pretty cool. I went to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto and it was gorgeous! http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/lang/01.html (I think it was actually free!) I also went to see one castle, near Kyoto. In Tokyo, I loved the Imperial Palace East Gardens and the zoo. I also went to the Botanical Gardens in Kyoto. I got a JR rail pass, which was somewhat useful, but it wasn’t useable on the metro in Tokyo or some of the buses in Kyoto, so it was a little annoying, but still made things convenient. I also went to an onsen (amazing!) and stayed in a ryokan in Tokyo. It was a pretty cool trip!

    I have a Charles Schwab checking account and they refund your ATM fees anywhere in the world, but I never had any ATM fees in Japan. I don’t know if you’ve been to Japan before, but very few places took credit cards, so I was carrying around large quantities of cash a lot. Not having to pay ATM fees made me feel better since I could carry around less cash at a time and go to an ATM more often.

    (Note: I’m a wandering around, gardens and castles, minimal museums kind of tourist.)

    Hope you enjoy your trip!!!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thank you! Your comment was so helpful – I’m adding Kiyomizu-dera Temple on my list. I love walking around and seeing temples and historic buildings, so I think Kyoto might just be my cup of tea. Good tip about the ATMs. I’ll make sure to investigate the cash situation before I go.ReplyCancel

      • Jenny - Chiming in to say that the ATM thing is an issue. In the last year or so, the ATMs in the 7-11s stopped taking certain American debit cards (including my bank’s debit card). A lot of foreigners depended on those locations heavily! I had a problem with this in Kyoto, but in Tokyo I always seem to be able to find an ATM that takes my card.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Wow sounds like an awesome deal! I’ve never been to Japan, but I would love to one day.ReplyCancel

  • anna - So excited for you and your husband! We only stayed in Tokyo, but would have loved to explore Kyoto and other areas. The people watching at Akihabara District is pretty cool, and the temples are beautiful. Looking forward to seeing your pics and traveling vicariously through you! :) ReplyCancel

  • Cassie - That’s awesome! I hope you do a recap of your trip, Japan is on my list of must see places :D Have a great time!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Urban Departures - Ah, got to love travel points- that’s a pretty good deal you got there! I would love to visit Japan one day. It’s definitely on the list.

    Have you watched the documentary Jiro’s Sushi? Care to pay $300/person for a meal? That’ll be 2/3 of your food budget, so I’m guessing not?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - $300 a person!?!? I hope one day I can afford that, but alas, that day is not today (or a few months from today).ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Thoughts on food prices in Tokyo — lunch sets during the week seem to be a good deal on eating out (900-1,000 JPY per person for a meal that might cost double at dinner time), konbini (convenience store) food is much better than in the US and, if you’re looking for a light breakfast you can get sliced fresh fruit for about 490JPY (serving for one person) plus any kind of drink for 100-200JPY. Knowing how well you research your trips, you probably know all this already :)

    If you want to do a (free!) guided tour of the Imperial Palace, you need to sign up in advance http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/koukyo.html but, as Leigh mentions, it’s also possible to walk through the gardens on your own (there is some signage in English!). The Imperial Palace is across the street from my office so maybe I can sneak out and say hello when you’re in the area! I go walking there on my lunch break often.

    If there are any restaurants you really want to go to, make a reservation in advance. Last weekend I was with friends walking through Nakameguro and we could not find a restaurant that would let us sit down (group of 4). If you need help with the reservation send me an email and I can arrange it.

    Finally, fun pf fact: no tipping in Japan!

    So excited to get your take on Tokyo and Kyoto.ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Whoa, that’s a nice deal you got there! I guess having a long-distance relationship means collecting a lot of air miles then? ;) Have fun in Japan!ReplyCancel

  • Karen - The majority of the buses in Kyoto have English signs and recordings. You board from the back and pay as you get off.
    You can get a multi-day pass (slip this in the reader when you get off). http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html (card pass. Lots of other bus and subway info).
    Japan-guide.com I think this is the world’s best info guide! It will tell you what to see, how to get there, admission costs, what’s under construction, how to pay respect at the shrines and temples, etc…Suggested itineraries: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2400_tokyo_9.html

    I suggest seeing Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

    Regarding ATMs http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2208.htmlReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I really want to visit Japan! I’m so full of envy right now. I particularly want to go to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Unfortunately, coming from Toronto, it’s WAY too pricy usually. :( Have fun! Take lots of photos!! :D ReplyCancel

  • John @ Coughupthedough - Wow, that is a awesome cope you got there! I really want to visit Japan. I think having a long-distance connection indicates gathering a lot of air kilometers then? Have fun!ReplyCancel

tax refund I LOVE Tax Refunds

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it againI love tax refunds. This love is exponentially increased when we are experiencing somewhat of a cash crunch and are trying desperately to bridge that gap between my full-time employment in August and the dwindling amounts in our saving accounts.

Last weekend, we stayed up until 2AM crunching the numbers, and it turns out that our Federal + State refunds netted out to $6,000. SIX THOUSAND. That sounds like a small fortune to us. Thank you Lifetime Learning Credit!

Did you get a tax refund? And what are you doing with it?

  • The Asian Pear - HOLY! NICE! I thought my $1500 tax refund was good too. WOW.ReplyCancel

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life - I always hope I don’t get too big of a refund because that means I gave the government an interest free loan. I’d rather have held onto that money and earned interest on it myself.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - That makes sense. Although in these low-yield environments even a $6,000 will get you < $50 in interest in a bank account.ReplyCancel

  • Money Beagle - I just wrote a post earlier this week about how we’re allocating our refund. Mostly toward savings goals and paying down some self-debt (you’ll have to read to understand), and a little toward fun. I was pretty excited to see that our refunds arrived in our bank account today!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - Holy cow Batman! I think ours is going to be around $1000, and it’s going straigh to savings… or a vacation. I don’t think we’ve decided yet.ReplyCancel

  • spiffi - I also LOVE my tax refund. I know technically it’s an interest-free loan blah blah but honestly, I love having a lump sum come available in April!

    My estimate was that I’d get about $4000 – but I ended up with about $1300 more than that!

    Since I’ve bought my house, I’ve been putting my tax refund toward the principal on my mortgage. This year I was weak, and only put the $4k I had estimated I’d get back, to the mortgage, and kept the “bonus” and it’s going into my vacation fund!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - WOW. $6,000 is a ton of money! I would so go on a vacation with that cash, haha. I am not getting a refund (in fact, I’ll owe probably around $2,000), and I think this will be one of the first years I am not getting anything back. My fiancé is getting a small refund of less than $500 but I am sure he will appreciate the extra money. Have fun with that cash!ReplyCancel

  • Terry - That’s a nice windfall!

    A couple years ago I put it toward paying off a car loan, last year a credit card. This year I’m using it for vacation.

    Maybe you could do a post on how you got such a big refund?ReplyCancel

An almost $300 nylon bag (albeit one that gets RAVE reviews?) - I need you to Tell Me I Should Not.

Here it is, the Lo and Sons’ O.M.G. bag at $275. I’m eyeing the Army Green or the Navy option.

loandsons omg Tell Me I Should Not

The O.M.G (Overnight & Medium Gym) bag was on sale a few days ago for select colors. I didn’t pounce and now that sale is done. But even on sale a bag was $220-$250, so it’s still a big purchase.

Anyhow, the O.M.G. bag looks like it’d be perfect as a carry-on bag that can double as a work tote, but the price! I got a Briggs & Riley suitcase that normally cost $450+ for $230, and it’s just really hard to swallow that a nylon bag – even a classy, well-designed one such as the O.M.G. - is worth almost $300. On the other hand, I will eventually need something that can hold my laptop, wallet, e-reader, toiletries, and even a change of shoes, and the O.M.G. fits the bill. On the imaginary third hand, again, the price. Plus, again, my not-working-no-income-grad-student status.

Tell me I should not, or at least I should wait. Or, alternatively, if you do have the O.M.G., share your thoughts on the quality and utility.icon smile Tell Me I Should Not

  • Kelley - I have two Lo and Sons bags, and LOVE them. But – definitely wait for one of their 20% off sales – they seem to happen frequently!ReplyCancel

  • A - I’m sorry, I can’t tell you not to get this :)

    I bought a Lo & Sons OG with part of my bonus last Christmas, and it’s the best travel purchase I’ve ever made. I love it so much. It looks very nice to take to meetings, and it travels well. The quality is fantastic. I wasn’t sure about a nylon bag at first, but I ended up liking it because it returns to its shape so easily, and I don’t feel like I’m damaging it if it gets a little wadded up under the seat or something.

    Plus, all the compartments make going through security easy.

    I got the navy, and it’s blue enough that I can carry it with black or brown and feel fine.

    You should wait until another sale comes, though. They’re always sending out coupons or having sales.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thanks enabler. ;)

      I do love the navy, great to hear you’ve had such a good experience with the bag!ReplyCancel

      • A - I know! I’m not a very good voice of reason…ReplyCancel

  • Rose - I’ve had this bag (in green) for three years. It’s still in great shape. I’ve thrown it in the washing machine. I’ve carried it on airplanes. I use it on my walking commute every day (and I LOVE that shoe pocket). It’s a great weekender, too. It’s been worth every single penny.ReplyCancel

  • Abby - I wouldn’t go for it, just because I personally don’t care for the style. I also think in that price range, you could do better than nylon. If I were in your situation, I’d probably go for one of the Everlane totes, which would look much nicer in a work environment.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I’ve been advised to get nylon because leather will be too heavy for travel. But yes, I agree – it’s hard to stomach that a nylon purse can cost so much when I’ve gotten great leather bags for half the price.ReplyCancel

  • tiffany - I can’t tell you because I’ve been dying to get that bag too! I have the same concerns that you do; be sure to let us know what you decide.ReplyCancel

  • Cassie - I think I’m still in the same line of thought on this bag as I was on the last bag – nope. Hold off on getting a bag until you’re working again. $250 for a nylon bag is kind of overpriced in my mind, but that may just be because I’m mentally comparing it to Longchamp. The last purse you looked at was better in my honest opinion.ReplyCancel

    • The Asian Pear - Agree with everything Cassie said. It’s the same argument before. It’s not needed now so hold off. It’s not like finding bags you like is hard. ;) Give yourself a chance have a reason to own it.ReplyCancel

  • j* - I have the Lo & Sons Catalina bag as well as a Kate Spade Saturday Weekender bag. Also eyed Everlane’s weekender bags. But the bag that I love the most in terms of bang for the buck is the LL Bean Zip Top Tote Bag. Not as chic looking but super durable and the large size is great for weekend trips.. best part is its only $30! http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/38534?page=hunters-tote-bag-zip-topReplyCancel

  • Jenny - I’m not familiar with this brand so I was really surprised to see how spendy it is based on its appearance. The B&R purchase makes sense to me, but this seems more of a nice-to-have not an essential. FWIW, I’d wait!ReplyCancel

  • SP - I really like the look of it, but way too expensive for what it is!

    For what it’s worth, I ended up with a bag like this (http://www.amazon.com/Knomo-Lola-24-254-BRZ-Laptop-Bag/dp/B007J8JKJ8/) after searching for my every day travel bag. It isn’t 100% perfect, but close enough, and I use it everyday as a laptop bag + purse combo. I wanted something just the right size, for a reasonable price, not leather but not cheap looking. Mine is red and black (that was the color that was on sale at zappos when I got it. Complaints? The angle of the straps and the lack of a little thing on the back to attach it to luggage handles.

    I don’t understand why the PERFECT $100 everyday tote simply doesn’t exist. Like the one above, but not brand name? It can’t possibly be that expensive to make.

    I also want a “weekender” but absolutely have no way to justify it to myself.ReplyCancel

  • Deena Dollars - STOP, I am usually so good at the “tell me I should not” game, but I just got back from a week of travel, and every time my carry on bag fell off my rolling suitcase, I daydreamed about this bag. So I will NOT tell you that you should NOT…ReplyCancel

I’m going to live with a roommate after graduation, and it’s going to be great.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was sure I would live alone once I graduated. After all, my city has extremely reasonable rents once you venture outside the fanciest part of town. I’ve gotten past the adventurous stage of my life where I wanted to look for roommates on Craigslist. But… I’m going to end up with a roommate, and far from being disappointed, I am very excited at this turn of events.

roommates Living with a roommate   its going to be great

We are hoping to find a little bungalow… like this one. But preferably more structurally sound.

My future roommate is a friend who is also moving out to the same city, who will be working in the same high-travel industry, and with whom I get along quite well. I’ve had pretty good luck with roommates (even with the folks I’ve found on Craigslist), and I don’t see any reason why my friend wouldn’t be just as great – or even better – than previous roommates.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to folks with frequent travel jobs. One is: “if I’m going to be on the road all the time, I want to come home to a place that’s nice and comfortable.” The other is: “if I’m going to be on the road all the time, I don’t want to pay for a nice apartment that I won’t get to enjoy 70% of the week.” My friend and I definitely lean more towards the second school of thought.

Therefore, we have decided to combine forces -and rent budgets- and live together so that we’ll have someone to come home to and save more money. Instead of each paying $650 or $700 for a 1-bedroom, we can easily get a 2-bedroom apartment for $950 and then only pay $475 a person. We’ll also share utilities / DSL. Then other added bonus for me is the one of reduced expectations. When I was looking at a one-bedroom, I felt the need to decorate and feather my nest to something Apartment Therapy-worthy. Now that I’m going to be living with a roommate, it’s almost a reality check. As long as things are functional and looks neat, that’s all I’m going to ask for. And functional + neat is a whole lot less expensive than chic and stylish.

I do wonder whether almost 30 is almost too old to share an apartment, but then I quickly banished the thought. It just makes sense – financially, personally, socially – to live with a friend/roommate in a city that is still quite new to both of us.

Also, the money saved! $200 a month is enough to pay my car note.

In the spirit of this post, share your BEST roommate stories.

  • Walnut - My roommate and I have lived together for six years. We were casual friends prior to sharing a residence, but are best friends now. She’s moving out at the end of this month and I don’t even think I realize right now how much I’m going to miss her.ReplyCancel

  • NZ Muse - I have NO good stories about living with others, alas.

    A flatmate who travels frequently would be the dream. When we first returned to NZ we considered a house share where the other person would travel a lot but unfortunately the house itself sucked.ReplyCancel

  • Fig @ Figuring Money Out - I’ve been out of the blog world for a while so maybe I missed this, but do you and your husband live in different cities?ReplyCancel

  • Leonard @ The Wallet Doctor - So long as the roommates get together, its a great choice to live together. Everything becomes more reasonable when its split. Way to go for finding a way that works!ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - Hey, saving money is nice. And since you’ll be traveling a lot, there’s no point in living alone, especially since your hubby is miles away.ReplyCancel

  • SP - So fun! At my last place, I became good friends with my neighbor, which was kind of the best of both worlds for me. No roommate (aside from my husband), but a friend I could visit any time!

    Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - That’s basically my dream scenario – live alone but have all my friends live very close by… kind of recreating the proximity of friends in a college setting, but in a grown-up life.ReplyCancel

      • SP - Yessssss! Completely agree. Like dorms, but way more space and way nicer.ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Who cares what age is too old to share an apartment? The average person has no savings and no retirement plan. Screw “normal”. ;)

    Seriously jealous, btw. $$650-$750 for a 1-bedroom? Want!ReplyCancel

  • Sally - That sounds like a GREAT way to save a bunch, to be honest, I am jealous! I feel like my housing costs are just way too high. My favorite roommate situation was in DC after college. I moved out from the place I shared with a college classmate after one year because she was moving out of the city. I found a place on craigslist and my roommate was a guy, which felt totally strange at first, but then it ended up being awesome. He wasn’t messy and we both traveled enough that the rare nights we were both in the house we would end up ordering takeout together and watching tv. We were very respectful of each other’s privacy but also would occasionally spend time just talking and having hour-long talks. It was nice that I never felt like I had to hang out with him, but a few times I would join him and his friends at a nearby bar, and they were such a different crowd than I usually hang out with (they were all lawyers and in the non-profit/international aid fields), that it was very interesting. I ended up leaving after about 6 or 8 months because I left DC but I remember it was a very positive experience. Good timing too because our rent was going up about $200 the next month!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - I’ve often thought about renting out our spare room to make some extra money, but I just like the privacy too much, and our house is really small, so it likely wouldn’t work. I have way too many roommate stories from college, likely inappropriate for a blog setting.ReplyCancel

  • Athena - I currently have a roommate and it’s awesome. My friend I knew through work ( she and I both work at different schools and only see each other professionally maybe 3-4x a year) was looking to rent out a room and I was looking into new places to live. She was able to negotiate a reasonably rate for me and I was able to rent a room. At the time, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live or sign a permanent lease ( I had just gone through a break up) so I’m glad I had the flexibility I did with her.

    It ended up really working out and I love living here. I don’t have too much stuff and I like living with someone. We are both busy people and we enjoy the occasional roomie date when we have a chance. :) ReplyCancel

  • Laura - I travel four days/week for work, and frequently travel for fun on weekends too, so I completely understand what you mean about not wanting to pay for an apartment you don’t use. However, when I recently moved to Colorado, I decided that I was going to finally live solo – and I couldn’t be happier. The nice thing is, apartment prices here are pretty cheap, and I did my research to rent when the market was at a low, so I’m living in a gorgeous two bedroom for only $1350/month! That is so worth it to me to not have a roommate and all this extra space.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I hear you! It is really nice to be able to have your own space. Will you be putting up any decor photos of your place? I’d love to live vicariously through your apartment. :) ReplyCancel

Washington D.C is America’s capital city and home to some of its most historical monuments and buildings. The capital attracts almost 19 million visitors per year who arrive not only for the history but also to enjoy the city’s natural attractions.

No first time sightseeing trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without a visit to the National Mall to view the famous monuments and memorials. However, if you want to escape the hordes of tourists and get back to nature then you’re sure to find a few secret treasures in this city. Washington stretches for nearly 177 square kilometers and has plenty of parks and wildlife centers that visitors often overlook (and consequently, miss out!). Most of these attractions are free to visit, so your stay in the city won’t be more expensive, and most good Washington hotels will be able to provide brochures or details.

The National Arboretum

The U.S. National Arboretum is located around four kilometers from the Capitol building and stretches for some 450 acres. The Arboretum is home to the Grove of State Trees, which features trees from 50 U.S. states. You can relax and wander amidst fauna and flora, sit by the koi pond or spend some time walking through the woods. Admission is free and there’s a 35 minute open-air tram service if you’d like a guided tour through the gardens.

Great Falls Park

You don’t have to travel far from the capital to explore one of the U.S’s famous parks. Great Falls Park lies just 15 minutes from Washington D.C. and comprises more than 800 acres of beauty. Take a hike along the Potomac River and spot chipmunks, coyotes, deer and turtles. The more adventurous traveler can kayak at the Potomac River Gorge, but you should only do so if you’re very experienced. Great Falls is part of the 7,374 acre George Washington Memorial Parkway and makes a great place for picnics while taking in the stunning natural scenery.

dcpix Going Green — Nature’s Beauty Spots in Washington D.C.

 

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

This is another city beauty spot and features paths that wind among numerous, giant lily-pad covered ponds. Wildlife is plentiful here and includes turtles, herons, and geese as well as a wealth of aquatic plant life. The park is open all year round and the snow- covered landscape instils the spot with extra beauty in winter. Here you can relax at no extra cost and take in nature while in one of the world’s major cities.

dcpix2 Going Green — Nature’s Beauty Spots in Washington D.C.

 

Washington D.C… it’s huge, it’s got lots going on it, but some tourists want to get away from all that and see a bit of greenery. They can, as the city provides lots of natural areas from them to relax and soak up some of the tranquility there’s also to be found in this majestic city.

This is a guest post on behalf of Hotel One. Images by bobistraveling and Ron Cogswell, used under Creative Commons license.

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - I love the Arboretum. DC is one of my favorite cities. So much history to soak in at every turn it seems. And it’s nice when you can enjoy some green scenery along the way.ReplyCancel

Save Spend Splurge alerted us to this gem on Twitter: a 4-figure (you read that right) headband, albeit with hand-painted silk flowers, that has already sold out on a luxury retail site.

1280headband $1,280 Headband

Screen shot of Net-a-Porter. Click on picture for link to add it to your wish list.

I don’t know WHAT I find more surprising: the fact that this headband by Dolce & Gabbana really do cost over $1,280 or that it has already sold out. Everything is relative, and when I see the cost of this headband, I almost think those $300 Hermes flip-flops were a steal! And the $240 Etsy headband that readers talked me out of (thank goodness) looks likes a veritable bargain next to this baby.

I’m usually rankled when people judge other people’s purchases, because one person’s luxury purse is another person’s Greek cruise is another person’s Michelin dinner. But in this case…. I’ll put my judge hat on, at least for a little bit. I suppose shopping, as with all things, really is about different strokes for different folks. But still, $1,280 for a fabric headband.

Wow.

  • Camille @ Challenge Mantra - Wow! The odd thing is I doubt this headband would have sold out in an Etsy shop, but attach D&G to the label and it becomes a highly desired commodity.ReplyCancel

  • jane savers @ solving the money puzzle - The problem with this head band is that you couldn’t wear it too many times before it would be an over used accessory.

    A good leather jacket can be worn frequently and a bag can go with many items but this head band is a where once then stick it in the drawer kind of thing especially if it is a bride wearing it.

    I could get a new dishwasher, mine is broken, and replace one of my basement windows for what the people paid for this head band.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Wow that is insane! I would never spend that amount on a headband.ReplyCancel

  • anna - I agree that sounds pretty excessive, even for D&G. I’m always curious to know who ended up buying it and what their lifestyle is like. :) ReplyCancel

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction - Headbands always hurt my head after wearing them for awhile, so there’s no way I’d drop one and a half months of rent on it :) ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I could make that for you… for $1k. A STEAL!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - That’s insane. It’s not even that pretty of a headband! I would expect it to have something incredibly special about it, for that price. I wouldn’t even spend more than $5 for a headband, but maybe I’m just cheap.ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I was flabbergasted when I saw that. Also, if it was pretty with Swarkovski crystals or something, I could see the value… But honestly? It’s ugly and made of fabric. I just don’t get it.ReplyCancel

If you have an hour free, I highly recommend this HBO documentary of Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old single mom of three who is raising her children and working full time as a Certified Nurse Assistant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVVdzfnWH7c

MUST FEED THE KITTY!

retirement kitty Big Milestone: $200,000 in Retirement Funds

We crossed the $100,000 mark in November 2011, then the $150,000 mark in April 2013, and now we’ve crossed the $200,000 mark. I’m glad. For a variety of reasons, I’ve been feeling very discouraged and uncertain for a while now when it came to many areas of our finances – almost like a shadow I can’t shake.  Getting to this point may be the encouragement I need to get my act together and really push for some big retirement saving goals.

In my $100K post, I wrote that:

By the time we reach our 30s, I would like to have $150,000 or even – if we are really disciplined and lucky – $200,000 in retirement. Given that we will be in graduate school for a couple of years, I expect retirement savings will dip a little (no more 401Ks!). But I am determined to continue to at least max out our Roth IRAs even through our graduate school years.

So again, very happy that we’ve reached this retirement milestone before the big 3-0. We haven’t finished our Roth IRA contributions for 2014 yet nor my 401K contributions for 2014, so our Retirement Kitty should hopefully grow by another $20,000 to $25,000 before the year is over. But WHEN is this magical compound interest supposed to kick in for us? I’m waiting for the day when our investment increases overtakes our contributions by leaps and bounds. At the very least, I hope that saving aggressively while we are young(ish) will help us to a mai tai retirement, or… avoid a ramen existence.

To celebrate, I booked an unplanned for trip to see my husband at the end of April. And we are going to go on a date.

  • Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth - I’m a little surprised that you didn’t see large returns in the last year, when your balance was growing from $150,000 to $200,000. My tiny 401k saw an annualized rate of return of 20.7%. But I guess a lot of that depends on what you’re invested in, your costs, and what you consider to be large returns. I’m in the index fund camp myself, and am currently invested in the Vanguard Institutional Index and the T Rowe Price New Horizons. The plan advisers consider this too risky, but I figure I’m young enough, and index funds are usually good about following the market. I saw more growth than a “target date retirement fund” would have for my age.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I did some mental math and I think you are right – our contributions since April 2013 were around $15,000-$18,000, and our total balance went up by $50,000, so obviously there has been capital gains.ReplyCancel

  • Leigh - Congrats! My investments went up about $17,000 last year from the stock market/interest/dividends, which is almost as much as I put into my 401(k). Are you sure yours didn’t go up a decent amount last year? Your retirement investments are valued a bit higher than mine. (I’m only around $140,000.)ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - You are right, there were capital gains. I suppose I was impatient and expecting to reach the crossover point way sooner than it’s likely to happen.ReplyCancel

      • Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth - Feeling impatient and personal finance seem to go hand in hand, don’t they? I always find myself feeling impatient that things aren’t moving along more quickly!ReplyCancel

  • Cassie - I am undeniably jealous of your retirement account! If I hit $35,000 by the time I turn 30 I’ll be stoked. $100,000 isn’t in the realm of possibility, let alone $200,000!

    Have fun on your date :D ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thank you! I’m only there for a weekend so trying to figure out what to do… maybe a hike + picnic, or maybe I can find an affordable kayak tour. We do have a bread-making date scheduled in May.ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - Nice job – this is an awesome balance. I will absolutely admit I thought it was a post on actual cats though :) ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - That’s incredible! I can’t believe we’re the same age. :) You are killing it!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - Wow, that’s pretty impressive! I need to take a page out of your book and increase my retirement savings. Most of my savings are through my work pension, and then a tax free savings account and a retirement savings account. While it’s nowhere near $200,000, it’s an alright amount for somebody my age so I’ll have to continue to save and get up there..ReplyCancel

  • SP - Congratulations! Each milestone is exciting, but it is weird how it never seems like enough, right?ReplyCancel

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life - Wow, congratulations! I won’t have nearly that much when I am your age, but I would like to hit a combined six figures before I hit 30 if possible. That would be amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Athena - Congratulations! This such an accomplishment. I myself am quite lacking in the retirement department and I definitely need to step my game up so I’m not eating cat food in the future. :) ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - Holy cow! That is amazing. Major congratulations are in order.ReplyCancel

Inspired by this post from Where My Soul Belongs:

Here are four things I used to think I need… and now I realized I don’t, anymore.

1. Meat to “complete” a meal

Growing up, a meal wasn’t a meal unless it included meat. I love meat and have no intention of ever giving it up, but for health and finance reasons I’ve been going meatless a few days of the week. Today, for example, I made a vegetarian omelet for lunch and an endive and apple dish for dinner. By limiting the quantity of meat I consume, I can increase the quality without spending a fortune.

appetizer no meat I Used To Think I Need...

Endives stuffed with apples, walnuts, almonds, and goat cheese. No meat, still delicious.

2. Expensive hair-straightening / hair-curling procedures

I’ve paid $250+ for strengthening and perming my hair, as my hair is too straight to be curly when I wanted it to be curly and too curly to be straight when I wanted it to be straight. In the past few years, however, I’ve come to terms with my natural hair texture. No more chemical procedures. My hair is healthier now, and my wallet is a little bit happier. I was so emboldened by my departure from outside assistance that I may or may not have even tried to cut my own hair a la this Youtube tutorial.

3. “Nice” brunches/dinners out

I still really enjoy nice dinners out, in places with great ambiance, service, and delicious food. But many of those places cost $30-$50/person, even when we hold off on the wine. Most of the time I’m more than satisfied with meals that are in the $15/person range. If I compare how happy I am with a taco dinner that cost $10 or a cheap-but-delicious Chinese dim sum at $15 a head, vs. a nice champagne brunch that costs $35/person, I realize that most of the time I am not $20 happier with the more expensive option. I like to say to CB (who always complain that I am a picky eater – I prefer the term “selective”) – I may be a snob about how food tastes but I’m not a snob about prices.

4. To live away from home

I’ve turned a complete 180 on this. When I was in college, my only goal was to find a job post-graduation that paid enough for me to not live at home – I did not want to be a boomerang kid. Now, I realized what would make me incredibly happy is to buy two houses (or a duplex) and live next door to my mom (I suggested we live together in one big house, she vetoed that idea), hang out with her on weekends, and enjoy her fried rice every other day. Seriously. As I and my parents get older, I feel like my desire to be close to them is blossoming in a way that I never quite expected. In fact, I made more of an effort to see my parents in grad school (across the country from them) than I did in college (40 minutes from them). At the end of the day, I just want my home to be close to their home. I just want our homes to be all together.

What are your “I used to think I need” items?

  • Daisy - I have never been into meat, but it’s not something we ate a lot of growing up and I didn’t eat it at all. I was a vegetarian at the age of 3 and continued until pretty much now. I too had the goal of living away from home. Now that I am older I dont’ think I’d want to live with my parents again, but living near them wouldn’t be so bad!

    I used to think I needed only $30,000/year income to survive and thrive, which is clearly not the case now, haha!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I want to live right next door to my parents… but apparently that’s considered quite strange among my peers. Hahha. I think my parents are pleasantly surprised though.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Vanderkam - I’ve been coloring my own hair for years. I’ve no doubt saved thousands of dollars that way. And while I used to think that I was compromising on quality, I’ve done it enough times that I’ve actually gotten pretty good at it (figuring out how to do highlights, etc.) I’ve had multiple people at high end hair salons, and hair/make-up people on TV shows tell me it looks like a pro did it. I won’t cut my hair myself though.ReplyCancel

  • Dear Debt - I used to think that I needed coffee out everyday, I thought all convenient food had to be bad for you (until I learned how to cook), and that I needed a boyfriend. It’s amazing what you can get by without, but you really think you need at the time.ReplyCancel

  • NZ Muse - LOL at your last point. I definitely appreciate my parents a lot more now (family and friends are a big reason why we wouldn’t want to move abroad) so I’m with you on that.ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - It took a long time for me to realize I didn’t need hair curlers. My hair is super-straight, even by Asian standards. I could spend a whole hour curling my hair and have it straighten back on its own in just half the time. I now use only no-heat methods, like tying my hair in a certain way and sleeping with it. It stays curled for longer and it’s better for my hair, too.ReplyCancel

  • E.M. - I used to be the same way with my hair. Air dried, it’s basically a wavy mess, but I think I was just too used to seeing it straight. For the past two years I’ve been embracing it, plus it takes less time to get ready in the morning! I love the idea of getting a duplex and having my parents next to me. Ever since they moved I’ve missed them a lot, and I can’t wait to move closer to them.ReplyCancel

  • Topics We’re Talking About: Defining Your Financial Habits - […] I Used to Think I Need… – Well Heeled Blog A great list of “used to need” stuff that offers great insight into how our spending stance changes over time. I used to think I needed a kombucha everyday… until I tallied up the monthly cost. Just goes to show you, habits you think you need aren’t always as permanent as you might think! […]ReplyCancel

  • Link love (Powered by late nights and new friends) | NZ Muse - […] Well Heeled Blog reflects on the things she used to think she needed  […]ReplyCancel

  • Pauline - I limit meat for health reasons and because I don’t appreciate it that much those days but in my town the best beef is $3 per pound and cheese is $10… so generally I lean toward meat.
    I used to need carbonated drinks almost every day now I can’t go without water.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Mmm cheese… I love a good cheese. Fortunately I’m close to Trader Joe’s which has one of the best and most affordable cheese selection I’ve seen. A nob of goat cheese cost $4 at TJ’s and $7 at another supermarket.ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - This is a great list!! Thanks for sharing your lessons! Cutting back on meat has made a huge difference in my budget as well.ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I still think I need meat in every meal. ^__^;
    I don’t eat it now with every meal… But it does feel like something is missing. heh.ReplyCancel

  • Erin @ Gen Y Finances - I used to think I needed straight hair for sure! But I’ve embraced the curl and don’t spend a dime on straightening services or products anymore.

    I used to think I needed a bunch of stuff and I needed to hit life milestones (kids, house, etc) when my peers did. These days, I don’t sweat it :) ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - I used to think I needed meat as well! Crazy how much I used to spend on it. Now we get meat as a rare treat. But man, I used to think I needed cable, a newer car, new clothes, Starbucks, and so many other stupid things. It’s incredible how perspectives can change so radically in such a short period of time.ReplyCancel

Can we have joint finances without having joint bank accounts? CB and I haven’t set up joint accounts nor do we have plans to do so in the near future (mostly for logistical reasons due to a long distance marriage), but we need a way stay updated on our total financial situation.

So I came up with the idea of a Shared Dropbox folder between the two of us.

couple finance Using Dropbox shared folder to track our joint finances

As you can see by the picture, the idea is that we can input our account/loan balance numbers into the Excel documents and upload our Credit Card statements in Excel format at our leisure. That way we’ll both be aware of what’s going on financially. Some couples have great success with Mint.com, but for a variety of reasons we decided that’s not the route for us. So we had to figure something else out – something quick, secure, and simple.

The Dropbox shared folder system fulfills our needs. We don’t have account numbers in the Dropbox (for example, a retirement account would be listed as Her Vanguard Roth IRA with a balance of $59,000). This way, even if the folder were to be compromised, there’s nothing super sensitive at stake.

I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to do this.

What system do you use to track finances with your partner?

  • amy - we have separate accounts but they’re all merged onto mint.com for easy viewing (although I’m the only one that cares)
    we didn’t do this until we had a mortgage and I was managing the ins and outflows every month though. it’s been great because I know exactly what our combined networth is and that’s really the only number that matters in the end!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I wanted to try Mint but CB was just really uncomfortable with potential credit fraud liability if someone got into Mint, so I’ve agreed to go another way.ReplyCancel

    • DEBt DEBs - We use mint too, Amy, and sometimes I feel like I’m also the only one who cares LOL… but he does get the alerts when we overspend on a budget item and asks me about it so that’s progress, right?

      I love tracking our net worth that way too. I actually do it on our bank site and in MINT. Look at the nerd I’ve become!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - That seems like a great idea for tracking joint finances when you have to spend time apart like that. We have joint accounts, so basically everything we spend is viewable to the other person. We actually have pretty much joint everything, except for employer sponsored 401(k) accounts, but I track those balances on a spreadsheet on our computer. We’re pretty fortunate in that regard.ReplyCancel

  • No Nonsense Landlord - My GF of 24 years and I have separate bank accounts. We have an investment property together. we own a car together, but all bank accounts separate.

    We have credit cards that have different point values for different things. Whoever has the higher point card for the given purchase, pays.

    And when we get the bill, I send a check…ReplyCancel

  • Marie Zalbe - I didn’t think that Dropbox can be a good track of finances. Me and my hubs have joint bank accounts and we registered it for online banking in that way we can easily track our savings and withdrawals.ReplyCancel

  • Leigh - What about Google Drive? That way, both people can see and edit at the same time and you can also have offline access on your phones. That’s what my boyfriend and I use for splitting various costs.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - That’s a great idea as well. If Dropbox doesn’t work out, we’ll give Google Drive a try.ReplyCancel

      • DEBt DEBs - I was going to suggest Google drive as well. I find it good for sharing spreadsheets although I do use dropbox for sharing photos with family who aren’t on FB (causes me more work, but they’re elderly and I’m not gonna make them join FB. I’m just glad they have a computer! hee hee)ReplyCancel

  • Jon @ Our Fine Adventure - We share a bank account, so that helps to keep track of things, obviously. Further, we try to talk about finances, and our goals, at least monthly. This really makes sure that we are on the same page and are encouraging each other!ReplyCancel

  • SP - This is somewhat similar to how we’ve ended up doing it. I do have access to all of his accounts and I use an aggregator and go through our spending, and do the fun excel stuff. Our file is also on dropbox!

    Prior to this year, it was more of a mess and we basically just… paid our own CC bills, I was generally responsible for the joint, but we often said things like “hey, can you take care of rent this month?” Not ideal at all!ReplyCancel

  • Arundhati - I use Mint to get a snapshot of all our expenses and assets. It has a few bugs but is still pretty good.ReplyCancel

Two of my unofficial goals for our marriage are to (1) add each other on Vanguard so we can check out each others’ retirement balances, and (2) have more fun dates.

I’ll talk about (1) at some point, but I figured (2) is a more interesting topic.

horse back riding date1 Having More Dates (and my thoughts on a long distance marriage)

Here are some of the dates I have planned / are planning to plan (all $ amounts for the both of us):

  1. hiking: free! except for gas to get to/from the site
  2. horse-back riding: $85
  3. beer brewery tour: $10
  4. special exhibits at museums: $15-$30
  5. tour of State Capitol buildings: free!
  6. bread-baking class at a local bakery: $65
  7. stand-up paddle boarding class & tour: $50-$80
  8. archery class for beginners: $10
  9. paint & wine night: $45-$50 + $20 for drinks
  10. observatory tour and drive: free!
  11. guided tour of elephant seal breeding grounds: $14
  12. game (or two) of pool at the local pool hall: $30

Why these dates? Two reasons. One: I read that doing new and exciting things on dates can help long-term couples rediscover that spark (scientifically known as “limerence”) they had during the first few years of a relationship:

Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment.

But several experiments show that novelty — simply doing new things together as a couple — may help bring the butterflies back, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship.

“We don’t really know what’s going on in the brain, but as you trigger and amp up this reward system in the brain that is associated with romantic love, it’s reasonable to suggest that it’s enabling you to feel more romantic love,” said the anthropologist Helen E. Fisher, of Rutgers, who has published several studies on the neural basis of romantic love. “You’re altering your brain chemistry.”

That article showed me that CB and I have doing the whole “dating” thing kind of wrong – a dinner at home followed by a movie on Netflix is just not going to cut it. We need limerence, people! I try to have some free dates sprinkled in with more expensive dates that I can find for cheaper on Travelzoo, Groupon, or Livingsocial, and I am making a concerted effort to do something active on our dates so that we are not just sitting around all the time.

The second reason is that we are in a long-distance marriage. If I am flying 6-8 hours to see CB during our once-a-month visits, there BETTER be something for us to look forward to (or else it will be all about setting up a joint banking account or filing for taxes or getting a passport application – all very important things, but if there isn’t the fun to balance those tasks out, I die a little inside).

Speaking of long distance marriages – I know quite a few people in those, especially many of my MBA friends who had jobs they just couldn’t turn down that are not in the same locale as their spouses. I never thought I would much care what other people are doing, but I am happier than I expect I would be when I find out about other long distance marriages. Not because I want people to be away from their husbands or wives, of course, but because those stories demonstrate that a long distance marriage isn’t weird or abnormal, it’s just another way of doing things, and it can work and it can work out pretty well. In fact, I’ve been pretty content with the long distance aspect of my marriage – content enough to continue it for at least another year or two. Sometimes it’s a balancing act between how much we connect and how independent we become, but I don’t think the distance causes any problems that we wouldn’t have without the distance.

Anyhow, back to the dates. If we only see each other once a month and we want to keep that spark, we need to make the times we do see each other extra fun and enjoyable. 

Share your date ideas for keeping the limerence strong!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life - I like a solid mix of the big time experience dates and the cooking dinner and cuddling with netflix dates. One of our favorite, “in between dates”, is to take our citibikes and ride over the bridge to brooklyn to try out a new restaurant for lunch.ReplyCancel

  • Jon @ Our Fine Adventure - I think you have a good strategy! While those low key dates are great most of the time, sometimes it’s important and refreshing to have a unique experience for a date. As you talk about, doing something different together will help you grow closer, and it’s a great memory you’ll always have!ReplyCancel

  • From Shopping to Saving - I should have a date list too! Such a great idea. I know what you mean about long distance marriages. My BF are practically married and the long distance has been tough, but definitely achievable if both people are committed. I’m not sure if I could do it for too long though. I like knowing when I can visit my man next…right now it’s summers and decembers and spring breaks haha.ReplyCancel

  • jane savers @ solving the money puzzle - Be careful with that bread baking class. My dad decided to try baking bread and it led to many arguments with my mother. My dad would bake incredible loaves of bread and we would gobble them up but my mother started to put on weight and demanded that he stop.

    My father told her just not to eat it but have you ever been in a kitchen with fresh baked bread? It is impossible to resist.ReplyCancel

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter - I love these ideas! Good for you :-) I am impressed that you found so many things to do. (Ahem, the un-joys of living in a small town.)
    Funny you should mention the Vanguard thing; the spouse and I were just trying to get our bank to let us see each other’s retirement and investment accounts, too.ReplyCancel

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline - Great ideas! I’m especially fond of the classes. Learning something new together is always a lot of fun, especially when you can relive the great memory by trying it again on your own.ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - I love these date ideas. I think dating your spouse is so important. It makes you feel more connected, gives you one on one time and helps build memories. I try to always prioritize date nights with my fiance.

    I have been wanting to get my fiance on a horse for years, and I doubt it’s going to happen. He’s just not into horses (I think he’s secretly afraid of them!) but I think I can borrow your paddle boarding idea. I saw a Groupon for that.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I love SUPing. I hope you and your fiance enjoy it!

      The best part about SUP is that there are usually lots of coupons/deals. The cost can work out to $20/person for 2 hours, which while not super cheap, is affordable enough for us to do once a month.ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - Awesome sounding date ideas. We like to take little road trips whenever we can squeeze them in, but any activity we can do that is memorable for it’s novelty is something we look forward to. When we were in PR on vacation last May, we did a few of these items and they were incredibly memorable. This might not be something a lot of PF bloggers might say, but every couple of years we get to a Casino and just sit down and play slot machines together. We both have a blast. Winning money (rare) makes it even that much better. Of course, we bet small amounts and don’t consider it gambling as much as spending on entertainment.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I’m going to PR in a couple of months – it’ll be our first time so we are very excited. Do you have recommendations?ReplyCancel

  • Link love (Powered by bowling and butter chicken) | NZ Muse - […] Fun date ideas from Well Heeled (2013 was a year of limerence for us, but even so we still need to shake things up once in a while) […]ReplyCancel

  • cantaloupe - I have also found breaking up with my boyfriend/exboyfriend to be extremely beneficial for our relationship, haha.

    All jokes aside, it is extremely important to mix things up. Our best times were when we just drove out of the city and stayed in a hotel and pretended we were on vacation. Sure it cost us a bit of money, but taking us away from our friends/jobs/city was exactly what we needed to connect to each other without having to spend the huge amount of money of an actual trip abroad. Hell, even when we stayed in the hotel literally next door to our favorite pub, we had the most amazing time. Instead ofgoing to our fav. pub we went to the bar in the hotel and had the band play a song for us and ate crappy Asian food and had the most intense moments of connection. Because it was just us doing us. And it was amazing.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I’m on board with everything you wrote except for bad Asian food. Life’s too short to eat bad Asian food. You gotta find good places! :) ReplyCancel

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life - We definitely need to mix things up. We spend many a night with a bottle of wine and Netflix, but still try to get out of the house together at least once a week. As the weather gets nicer, frugal activities are easier to find — so I’m looking forward to that :) ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Hmmm…I think we’re doing dates wrong too, then. Lately we’ve just been doing movies, dinners and lazing around at home. It doesn’t help that it’s been too cold to go outside the last few months! Off to Groupon for date ideas…ReplyCancel

  • Chris - Wait a second…. you’re 30 yrs old, you only see your guy once a month and you need “date ideas” to keep a spark?? I would think that each get together would have the intensity of an astronaut returning to earth or a jail time conjugal visit. If being apart at your age isn’t enough to trigger all kinds of fireworks, you better watch out when your mid 40′s hits and you’ve been married for a couple of decades.ReplyCancel

perfect summer job The Perfect Summer Job

I’ve always loved summer jobs. There’s something amazing about trying out a new role for the summer, making money, and knowing that after the summer you get to do something else (mostly school for me). I’ve had 5 summer jobs / internships in my life. My first two summer jobs were internships in government offices, my third summer job was a sales position at The Gap, and my fourth and fifth summer jobs were professional internship during college and business school. I made minimum wage or nothing at all at the first three positions; my last two summer jobs worked me a lot but paid enough for me to save enough money to max out Roth IRA and pay part of my tuition.

And now, I am trying to get my sixth summer job. In going through all my experiences, I’ve been thinking a lot about Perfect Summer Jobs.

A Perfect Summer Job, in my opinion, is one that:

  1. Is in an area that you are interested in or are interested in learning more about
  2. Will help you develop skills useful in your career / life, and expects substantive work
  3. Fits with your schedule of non-summer activities (i.e. you don’t have to miss an important wedding or family event because of the job)
  4. Is either in a part of the country/world that you want to explore, or it’s close to home if you want to be close to home
  5. Pays competitively.
  6. Leads to (or not) a full-time position according to your plans and wishes.

This is all to say that I am applying for a summer job that will check ALL of these boxes. The work seems to be a perfect blend of quantitative and coaching/mentoring, aimed a target audience that I am really passionate to work with, the pay is amazing for the program length, and the job fits neatly between all the traveling I’ll be doing. It’s The Perfect Summer Job.

I almost don’t want to blog about it because I’m afraid it will jinx it, but ah well. I am hoping it works out, because this really would be the Perfect Summer Job. I’m having a hard enough time NOT imagining how perfect it would be were I get to get this job and how much I would enjoy it and everything I’d be able to do with my paycheck. I’m asking y’all for good thoughts. 

What was/would be your perfect summer job?

  • Camille @ Challenge Mantra - Working at the Gap was one of my part time jobs, too! I think my perfect summer job was my first internship. It was with a small biotech company (my professional field) that was still in the upbeat and innovation driven phase of it’s lifecycle and the company was constantly throwing happy hours and field days to celebrate the joy of working together. It paid very competitively, but I would have worked there for far less just due to the atmosphere.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Agreed! A good work culture is so important, and it sounded like that company invested in creating a strong culture.ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - I had a great summer job that gave me a basis for doing a bunch of financy things in the future even though I don’t have an education in it.

    I was the accounts receivable clerk for the head office of 7 franchises. Did I mention I was 20, with no relevant business experience, yet they were trusting me to balance their incoming monies? :) This gave me a leg up in becoming the treasurer for many charities, and school societies.ReplyCancel

  • Pauline - I worked as a waitress on Paris’ Champs Elysées, the most touristic and exclusive street, so tips were HUGE. It was fun as all the team were students and in a good mood.
    My dream job was to work at Air France as a flight attendant (they recruit students for summer and pay around $2,000 a month plus free flights and hotels to awesome destinations) but I didn’t get the job because I didn’t have a perfect manicure on the interview.ReplyCancel

  • Addison @ Cashville Skylinr - I worked a ton of summer restaurant jobs, but I wish that I had tried living and working in another country for a summer. It’s harder to do when you’re older with more financial responsibilities.ReplyCancel

  • From Shopping to Saving - I went through that whole list and you’re so right. The job I’m waiting on has all of these factors. I really have to stop thinking about it. The funny part is that I’m supposed to hear back from another job about a job for the remainder of this summer. Idk if I’m crazy or what LOL. But I digress — thinking good thoughts for us!!! Fingers crossed!ReplyCancel

  • MakintheBacon - Although I am making a lot more than this summer job, I think the perfect summer job (more for high school or university students though) would be a lifeguard. You get to sit by the pool/beach all day and work on your tan. ;) ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - I usually worked retail summer jobs, and construction during time off in college, but I regret not doing something neat like working in Alaska for a summer, or finding a job in some great part of the world. At that point in time though, I was focused more on making money than making memories and experiencing new things.ReplyCancel

I have a credit freeze (also known as a security freeze) on all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. I think the credit freeze is an incredible tool that more people should consider using to protect their identity and their credit.

fico credit scores2 Why I have a credit freeze on my credit reports   and why you should as well

Why I placed a credit freeze

Some of you might remember that I had a scare with my credit a couple months back – a hiccup with one of my credit cards resulted in a blemish on my credit reports, which resulted in my FICO score dropping by more than 100 points, going from 750+ to 650. I nearly had a heart attack. I called, I disputed, I tried everything I could think of. And thanks be to the credit gods, it worked. My average FICO score is now back to the upper 700s.

Even though this incident wasn’t related to fraud, this experience made me realize how easy it is for your credit to be harmed, and what headache it is to get it resolved. An hour after I checked my updated credit reports and FICO scores (and shed a tear of relief), I place security freezes on my reports at all three bureaus.

What is a credit freeze? How does it reduce fraud?

A credit freeze or a credit security freeze prevents others from accessing your credit file. If lenders cannot check your credit history, they won’t issue credit in your name. This means that identity thieves that seek to open fraudulent accounts in your name (so called “new account origination fraud”) won’t be able to get credit, charge up thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and ruin your credit.

A credit freeze won’t stop all forms of fraud and won’t prevent all kinds of access to your credit. A thief who steals your credit card information will still be able to charge on an existing account, and businesses with whom you have dealings with can still monitor your credit. But a credit freeze DOES protect against new account origination fraud, a particularly insidious form of fraud that many consumer do not discover until they apply for a loan or mortgage, and discover at that point that identity thieves, in their name, have already defaulted on loan after loan.

What’s the catch?

Credit freezes can be a hassle. You have to keep track of a PIN number that will allow you to unfreeze your accounts (and if you lose said pin, you will have to request a new one by snail mail). You have to issue a thaw for a particular lender or issue a temporary lift when you are applying for new credit cards, new loans, a new apartment, or employment that require a credit check. You have to pay to freeze and unfreeze your credit. It cost me $10 to place a freeze at each of the credit bureaus (the fee is waived if you are a victim of credit fraud and may be reduced if you are above 65). Unfreezing the credit report costs another $10. It’s not exactly cheap, especially if you freeze/unfreeze frequently, but I view a credit freeze as an risk mitigation tool whose cost and inconvenience I am happy to incur.

How to place your credit freeze:

Just click on the links below to place a freeze on each of the credit bureaus.

Experian
Transunion
Equifax

Do you have a credit freeze? What are your tips for preventing credit fraud?

  • coreebrown - Thanks for this! I live abroad but keep a bank account and credit card open in the states' for student loan payments and purchases when I'm visiting but I always worried about the fact that I'm not as aware of what is going on as I should be. ReplyCancel

  • debtandthegirl - I have heard of people getting a credit freeze especially when their cards have been compromised. I think its a smart idea although it is inconvenient. I hope everything with your cards gets sorted out. ReplyCancel

  • Brianne - I was the victim of identity theft last year and I put fraud alerts and credit freezes in place. It didn't matter though because last week the thieves were still able to get a credit card from Chase. Luckily, everything was sent to my home address so I was able to close the card without it ever showing as being opened and I called all the companies that were smart enough to NOT issue me credit. Target, Walmart, and Office Depot all denied the credit but Chase apparently doesn't listen to the reporting agencies and issues credit cards that are applied for by thieves.

    (If you can't tell, I'm extremely agitated and will be closing all of my accounts with Chase bank.) ReplyCancel

  • @slofia - Interesting article about a topic I knew nothing about. Does this mean that if you have a high credit score and conduct a credit freeze it will remain at that number? Does it also mean you won't be able to increase your FICO score? Other than identity theft which luckily I haven't had a problem with (knock on wood), would there be any other reason you might want to freeze your credit? ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Your credit score will not remain static – i.e. you can still improve your score by paying on time, decreasing your percentage of credit used, etc.

      The biggest benefit of a credit freeze to add that one more layer of security against thieves from starting new accounts in your name. I’m not a worry monger but I’d rather do my best to prevent identity theft than have to deal with it once it happens.ReplyCancel

  • Bree - Does a freeze stop random inquires on your reports? The last time I checked my mine, I was appalled at all of the inquiries from companies I don't even do business with. ReplyCancel

  • Erin @ Gen Y Finances - I need to put a freeze on mine. We aren’t planning on applying for new credit any time soon and it would be nice to have it protected. Hmm, I’ll consider it!ReplyCancel

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter - Very interesting. I’ve never heard of a credit freeze before! As someone else has mentioned, I think that would be very useful for reducing unauthorized credit checks.ReplyCancel

I’ve had a few of these posts where you, my dear readers, have dissuaded me from purchases that I know I shouldn’t make but I really want to make. (Thanks to everyone who talked me out of the $240 wedding hairband, by the way – talk about a bullet dodged! I’m really happy I did not spend that money).

So this time, my eyes are on this gorgeous Brooks Brothers lizard embossed leather satchel. The color, the frame, even – I dare say – the price is perfect.

brooksbrotherssatchel Tell Me I Should Not

But I should not, because:

  1. the size may be too small to fit a laptop, mouse, folders, wallet, umbrella, etc., and all the other things I need to carry when I travel for work
  2. I don’t necessary NEED it, and I certainly don’t need it RIGHT NOW
  3. no job = no money. I should at the very least wait until I start collecting a paycheck before I buy a work purse
  4. I haven’t purchased a handbag since September 2013, wouldn’t it be nice if I get make it til… September 2014 without buying a handbag?!

Now… go! Tell me I should not.

  • deenadollars - It's very pretty — but I just looked back at your Europe post, and the amount of money on that handbag, even assuming no taxes or shipping, amounts to 7 person-days of food budget in Europe! (Or, whatever else you want to put it toward. THINK OF HOW MANY CROISSANTS YOU COULD BUY!)

    You're welcome. :) ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - Hold off — get it when you get a job. Make that your motivation! ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - Damn, that's a gorgeous bag! But hold off for now until (a) you have a job and (b) you know if it will meet your needs. Also make sure to recognize it for what it is — a luxury purchase. Who knows? Maybe after sleeping on it awhile, you'll lose interest. Maybe…it really is beautiful… ReplyCancel

  • impersonalfinanceroboto - That seems like a nice looking bag. But since I'm a guy, and not into that kind of thing, is there something similar you could find at a thrift store or something? Maybe that will allow you to buy something, but not spend as much on it? ReplyCancel

  • wmwo - Looking at the bag originally, I was having a hard time thinking of how I was going to convince you to not get it. Fortunately, you did the work for me! You don't have an income, and it's too small to carry everything you need for work anyway. Points #2 and #4 are kind of "meh", but points #1 and #3 are big red screaming beacons going "DON'T BUY ME!!!"

    But I hear ya, it is pretty :) ReplyCancel

  • spiffikins - Don't do it! I can't even contemplate spending that kind of money on a bag – that's 2/3 of a flight to Hawaii for me! ReplyCancel

  • janinenicolee - It is a lovely bag but I always worry about heavy bags like this hurting my shoulders when I have to carry them for long periods of time. That would be the main reason I would not buy, it's big and when filled with things it will be very heavy! ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Such a gorgeous bag…. ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - You can spend that money traveling instead! ;) ReplyCancel

  • Ms. Mintly - Okay, fantastic bag. The biggest "nay" for me is the fact that it isn't actually big enough to hold a laptop, though it looks as though it should be a beautiful and functional work bag from the first image on the website. When I clicked through, though, and saw it on the model, I was disappointed because it would simply be too small to be practical. Still, it's gorgeous. ReplyCancel

  • @CashvilleSky - This is a good looking bag that will likely always be in style and will probably hold up well, however, since you don't have a job you should hold off. It will still be there once you start working and may be discounted even further! :) ReplyCancel

  • Sally - WAIT! You will find something you really like, in person, when you are making the money :) in a few more months. ReplyCancel

Almost 2 years after our wedding, and one year after I asked you all what I should do with the pictures, I’m finally putting together an album. This endeavor gave me an excuse to go through my wedding photos again and reflect on that really lovely day. Almost everyone who has seen my pictures have commented on how beautiful they are – could be that I have extremely kind friends, but I do think my pictures turned out well. Almost equally as great is the fact that I only paid $900 for 4 hours of coverage and all user’s rights on CD, during a June wedding in an expensive part of Southern California. I was able to get this deal because I found my then-up-and-coming photographer through Craigslist.

wedding photographer craigslist How to Find a Great Wedding Photographer On Craigslist

Although this is a tip I almost never see on mainstream wedding websites, getting a wedding photographer on Craigslist can work out beautifully. I didn’t spend much at all on photography, especially by mainstream wedding standards, but I really love my photos. And that’s all thanks to finding a great wedding photographer on Craigslist. Let me share my tips on how we did it:

1. Post an ad on Craigslist Gigs with clear, concise description of who you are, where you are getting married, how much you can pay, and what style you are looking for. 

Our ad went something like this: “Wedding Photography Wanted for [Seaside Southern California City]. Hi. We are a 20-something couple getting married on [date] at [location]. We are looking for a photographer for 4 hours of wedding coverage and all digital user rights on a CD. We can pay up to $1,000 total, including tax. We really like journalistic style and candid photos, but would like a few more formal shots with family. Please email us if you are interested and send us a link to your portfolio.”

2. Once you get responses – you may want to set up a separate email for all the emails you will get – start grouping them into Yes’s, No’s, and Maybe’s.  

We got 60+ emails within 24 hours of the listing going up, so it took a week or so to sort through everything. Then I emailed all the Yes’s and asked them to send me a link with one complete wedding that they have shot before. This step is really important because a photographer’s portfolio is filled with the best shots from all of the wedding’s they have shot before (as it should be), but you need to see one complete wedding so you can get an idea of the best job they can do with a single wedding.

3. Set up a Skype call or an in-person meeting.

It’s important to jive with your photographer, so at the very least, get a Skype call. If you can afford it and you want to get more comfortable with your photographer before the wedding day, get an engagement shoot.

4. Don’t ask them to work for free.

Although I have seen ads that for free wedding coverage in exchange for “portfolio-building”, I would not ask photographers to work for free. For one, the most talented folks, even those new to wedding photography, will probably avoid shoot-for-free weddings. Secondly, I find that having remuneration and contract helps everyone stay on the same page regarding expectations. And thirdly, because there are so many “looking for free photographer” ads on Craigslist, just by willing to pay a reasonable amount will get your more responses.

5. Have a contract!

You need to have a contract. The most important things are: you get the digital user rights, there’s an alternate plan in place if the photographer gets sick, and the photographer has insurance.

6. Be reasonable and have reasonable expectations.

With any luck, you will get a great photographer who can provide you with some lovely images of the big day. We did, and I’m really happy with our photos and our photographer. But part of being reasonable is also understanding that you won’t get the most experienced photographer with the most Style Me Pretty or Wedding Wire accolades, and you won’t get 12-hour photography coverage with 2 or 3 assistant shooters. My photographer has shot about 20 weddings before she shot mine, but at the time that I booked her, I think she only had less than 8 weddings under her belt, although she has done plenty of other event photography. So yes, you are taking a chance because most of the photographers who will respond to Craigslist ads are up-and-coming or are transitioning into weddings, but the rewards can be pretty awesome.

  • marie - How far in advance did you book your photographer? ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I'm not sure… probably almost a year ahead. If you get married during high season I'd suggest that. If you are getting married in the winter (non-holiday), it might be OK to wait until 6 months out if you feel like it. ReplyCancel

  • Raquel@PracticalCents - This is a creative way to find a photographer. Looks like you picked a great one. ReplyCancel

whirlwind europe on a budget Planning a Big European Adventure

Come July, CB and I will embark on a 3-week, 6-country, multi-city whirlwind tour of Europe (also, what in the world made me think I could resist the allure of international travel?). Our full itinerary winds through England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Poland. I love it when my goals align with what I really love to do!icon wink Planning a Big European AdventureOur budget is $7,000 for the whole trip, or $175/person/day. From my research, it seems that $175/person/day is a quite a budget-conscious number, given the high number of places we are hitting on this trip. That’s why I christened this tour “Whirlwind Europe, on a budget.”

Whirlwind Europe Itinerary

This will be no slow-and-smell-the-roses travel. Instead, we are going to try to experience as much as we can, without blowing our budget and killing ourselves in the process. I know we can save money with “slow travel” – staying put in once place for longer time and cutting destinations from our list. I’m just not willing to do that right now. I see this trip as a sort of an introduction, and I fully expect to return to these cities/countries. At a $7,000 budget, this trip will cost as much as our wedding. Thus it only makes sense that I am as detailed and organized about this as I was about the wedding budget process. Hence, pie chart!

europe budget pie chart Planning a Big European Adventure

Flights:

As you can see, flights make up a large percentage of our budget at almost $2,500 – that’s the cheapest flight I could find within our date range, and even that is a price we will have EARNED with multiple layovers. We had enough miles to get free flights, but just could not get any award seats during the European high season of July/August. It’s a bummer, but we can now save our miles to go on a winter trip, perhaps for the Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria.

Accommodations:

We are doing a mix of AirBnB and hotel stays paid for with credit card points. Our accommodations spending is around $75/night, which I consider a great deal. In London, I looked at a few hostels, but like NZMuse found, the private rooms in hostels are just about as expensive as budget hotels. In the end we booked an AirBnB room in centrally-located flat for $116/night. We also did AirBnB for Amsterdam and Paris. We got free hotel stays at the Park Hyatt Hamburg and the Westin Warsaw, and used Hilton Points & Money to get rooms in Hilton Berlin for just $94/night. The most expensive place we are staying in is a bed & breakfast in Bruges, Belgium for $122/night.

Food:

We are budgeted to spend $40/person/day for food. This may be blasphemy, but my first stay in London, during which I ate nothing but scones, pre-made sandwiches, and cereal (had one proper sit-down dinner in 6 days of travel), taught me that food on a trip is less important than I thought it would be. I only spent an average of $28-$30 a day during my London trip, so I’m sure with some ingenuity we can keep our spending below $40/person for this European jaunt. I do want good food, but if I can get by with cheap, good, and filling, I’m really happy to save the money for something else… such as the next destination!

In London, I expect we will survive on sandwiches from Pret a Manger and scones and tea from museum shops, plus one dinner from my favorite Pakistani restaurant. In Europe, especially when we are staying in hotels, I envision lots of snacking along the day, buying fruit and yogurt to keep in our hotel rooms, and generally more walking, less eating. I expect to stuff myself with crepes in Paris, Belgian waffles in Bruges, and I’m eager to try fare at the milk bars in Warsaw - I have my eye on Bar Bambino.

Tours & attractions:

Our budget allows us to pay for 1-2 tours/attractions in every city. London is awesome because so many museums and attractions are free. We may splurge on the Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Palace, or Tower of London. We only have 2 days in Paris, so I’m going to focus on all the free things this city has to offer, being outdoors, and people-watching. Museums can wait til next time! In Bruges, I want to take a bike tour of the Flemish countryside.

Train & local transportation:

I’ve priced out some tickets with the help of seat61.com, and I think $1,000 all in is a reasonable figure for both of us. I hope we can come under this… less riding the Tube, more walking?

Why are we going to Europe?

Because we can. Because we have the time to this now. Because money is only money. We should use the $7,000 for CB’s tuition / save for retirement… but I’m trying not to think about that too much. This will be CB’s first trip to Europe, and my first time to France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Poland. We won’t get to hit Italy or Spain as I had hoped to in my 5-Year Travel Plan post, but I’m excited about the places on our itinerary. I’m really excited to do what I love (travel) with the person I love (my husband). And of course, it’s high time for our passports to get some stamps added!

  • save.spend.splurge. - 3 weeks!! So short.. but so worth it :)

    We did something similar for a number of years with short trips here and there, and a whole yearlong trip as well.

    We spend about $1500/week for 2 people overseas which is about $214/day going the "slow travel", so your $175/day is more than enough for the trip, I think!!! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Unfortunately, it's not "more than enough", it's enough – I budgeted the trip down to the last detail and now the only things we can cut even further is food and admission fees. We can't even cut out trains (nor do we want to) because we have already booked all our hotels/stays. ReplyCancel

      • save.spend.splurge. - OH RIGHT! I forgot about the transportation since you're switching from one city to another all the time.Still.. you should have a contingency budget of at least 10%. :| Sometimes they say one thing and you realize afterwards they tack on some processing fee or whatever… ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - Hey, you changed your blog's look! Nice! We want to go to Peru and are budgeting $3,000. Although I really hope we can do everything for under $2,500 for both of us. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thanks! It looks more streamlined now, and it works on mobile/tablets! I'm still trying to play with the blog template, there are a few things I want to fix.

      Since you are flying out of Dallas Latin America should be affordable/easy to get to. Peru would be incredible. ReplyCancel

  • Caitlyn - Have you thought about using EuroRail instead of flights? I spent a summer with a backpack working my way around Europe and a pass for a month of Rail travel was around $550! IT was a great way to see the country and meet other travelers!

    Also, just stumbled upon your blog and love it! ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - Sounds like a really fun trip. We had a 2 month trip planned for 2014, but it had to be put on hold. So, I will have to live through your trip! :) ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - If you need any advice on navigating the transport let me know! Paris and London tubes are fantastic. Amsterdam's transport isn't bad but everywhere is very walkable (we stayed on the outskirts and still walked everywhere) and Berlin's transport of course is also good.

    Haha, I'm trying to get my head about your food budget. Most of your cities aren't such big food destinations but you are gonna want to eat ALL the bakery goodness in Paris. The flan! The croissants!

    Have a fantastic time with CB, ReplyCancel

  • Ginna - I'm so excited for your trip! My husband and I are planning a trip for next year, and looks pretty similar to your itinerary. Have you thought about using credit card points to pay for the airfare? We signed up for the Chase Sapphire card, and you get 50,000 miles just by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months using it. Once we are done with those three months, my husband plans to apply so we'll have most of our airfare paid for via points. Something to consider as you plan your trip! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I love the Chase Sapphire card! We used our Chase Sapphire points on an upcoming trip to Japan. We probably had enough miles to fly to Europe, but couldn't find any availability. If you are counting on using miles to fly to Europe, I'd make sure you get the flights as soon as possible and/or avoid the summer high season. I looked at United in January for travel in July, and there's no award availability (United is usually pretty good with award seats). On the other hand, I flew to London last fall on miles, and I was able to get flights a month out because October isn't high season. ReplyCancel

  • Jan - Consider taking food with you – when I went to England, I took granola bars and packets of instant oatmeal, along with Ziploc bags of laundry detergent. The food and such is small enough that it won't take up that much space in your luggage and the granola bars turned out to be a real life-saver in a couple of instances! ReplyCancel

  • @brokeandbeau - This sounds incredible. There's a possibility that I'll be going to Hamburg and Amsterdam this year, I'd love to hear how your trip pans out there. ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Your trip sounds lovely! I've never been to Warsaw or Hamburg, but I love Berlin, Bruges and Paris. There is a great walking tour offered in Berlin (possibly some of the other cities too) that is free (though donations are welcomed); I'll send along the name when I find/remember it. ReplyCancel

  • @nickelbynickel - Why Haarlem? Everyone always wants to go to Amsterdam but I never hear of people going to Haarlem! Btw delft is gorgeous, try to be there in the evening. I had bitterballen and food and beers at stadscafe de waag (http://www.de-waag.nl/) back in November. I know it's awful because I am Dutch…. but I had never actually been to Delft before… I thought it was really lovely! Climbing the churches in Delft is really cheap btw ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I've heard wonderful things about Haarlem – some people even say it's better than Amsterdam. Thanks for the Delft in the evening tip. Vermeer is my favorite Dutch painter and his hometown is Delft. :-) ReplyCancel

  • SP - HAVE FUN!!!

    I want to plan a 3 week trip JUST to France. :) I kind of am in love with it right now. In reality, my next big trip is probably Argentina – hiking/trekking in patagonia specifically, the we'll see what else I can fit in from there. It isn't until January – we're skipping the "big" vacations this year! ReplyCancel

  • Katie - That sounds awesome! Can't wait to hear all about it! ReplyCancel

  • Our Fine Adventure - That looks like an amazing trip! It sounds so great… I can't wait to do more travel to Europe (when I was younger I went to France/Italy for 2 weeks total), it is so neat. Look forward to hearing more about your trip and your planning for it! ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - this sounds ABSOLUTELY fabulous! one of the main reasons I am holding out on children is so that we can squeeze one more BIG trip. I'd love to go to Thailand, and I still want to go back to Europe, but man oh man, I can't get it all done! ReplyCancel

  • Angie - I’m doing a similar trip this June, for our honeymoon! Switzerland, Paris, Ghent (with a side trip to Bruges), and last stop Brussels.

    The only lodging we’re missing is Paris. I’m so lost! Any tips? We’re trying to be as budget-friendly as possible as well. Already have an AirBNB set up in Ghent, which looks great.

    Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Angie - One more question – what are you doing for travel in between cities? Trains? Are you buying passes ahead of time? So many questions.. ;) ReplyCancel

  • Travel Plans for 2014 | Urban Departures - […] the last few weeks with the travel plans of various PF bloggers. Well Heeled Blog will be doing a whirlwind tour around Europe; Jordann at My Alternate Life is visiting England; Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks is going […]ReplyCancel

  • Kim - WHY DIDN’T WE TALK ABOUT THIS WHEN YOU WERE IN SF!?!?

    We should talk, because we did Paris, Bruges and Berlin on our honeymoon, and I have good friends near Amsterdam :) ReplyCancel

Yuuuuups, that just happened to me.

you are fired Getting fired... as a bridesmaid

My friend sent me a very nice email saying that because I’ve been so busy and am far away, she’d rather I have a great time at the wedding as a guest and not have to worry about bridesmaid obligations.

I’m not angry or upset, but I do worry that I didn’t offer my friend enough time and support during this process. I went with her to one wedding dress appointment, had dinner with her when I went back home, and I try to stay engaged over text. But I’m on the other side of the country from her and my schedule will not allow me to participate in many bridal party activities. So I understand, but that doesn’t mean I feel amazing about it.

Being a bridesmaid can get fairly expensive, so financially, getting fired from bridesmaid duty is great. My friend’s bridesmaids have budgeted $1,000-$1,200 for the bachelorette party in Las Vegas, flights, and bridesmaid dress. That’s money that I technically have, but spending that much would really put a damper on my budget before I have started working.

On the other hand, even the personal finance blogger in me can’t rejoice too much over this firing, as life is more about money. Then this morning, I saw on Facebook her beautiful pictures of the cute little notecards and desserts she made to “officially” ask her remaining bridesmaids to be bridesmaids. And I felt a little worse. Sometimes, Facebook really stink.

I just hope that my friend didn’t feel that I let her down.

  • Jenna - I am of the opinion that in our scattered world, standing next to your best friends when they marry is the only requirement of being a bridesmaid. Everything else is wonderful, but optional.

    This is awkward and unpleasant. Does it change how you feel about her? :( ReplyCancel

    • Emily @ evolvingPF - I agree. IMO the bridesmaid designation is in honor of the role you've played in the bride's life up to that point and shouldn't come with required attendance to anything other than the wedding or any additional work. And come to think of it, one of our groomsmen was not even present at our wedding and he was still regarded as a groomsman.

      But people obviously have different ideas about how their wedding attendants should behave. WH, if you were feeling any guilt or pressure, I hope that has been relieved and you will just enjoy the wedding! ReplyCancel

    • kimskitchensink - I'm with Jenna on this one. Some brides feel very strongly about the WIC's projection that bridesmaids are supposed to be your everything, and if they can't commit to All Of The Things they shouldn't be bridesmaids. I think your bridesmaids should be the people closest to you (emotionally)…but that's just my opinion. If it's important to your friend to have her bridesmaids be her in-person support system throughout, then hey, it is the way it is. ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Unique Gifter - Awe, that sucks! You will get to relax and hang out with your friends as a result though… silver linings! ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Very sorry that you're feeling down about this (and, yes, FB is of no help in these circumstances). I have to admit that I take the view that bridesmaid duties have come to the point of being entirely overblown and unrelated to what's really important about the wedding. So much so that I am currently actively campaigning to get myself fired as a bridesmaid. Grinch though I may be, your feelings are completely understandable. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I read your post on the bride in your life… sounds like a terrible situation. You are handling it with way more patience and class than I would have. ReplyCancel

  • Jen @ Jen Spends - I was fired as a bridesmaid and the bride (my cousin) never even bothered to tell me! Instead, she arranged to go dress shopping with the others and didn't invite me. I found out when I stopped in to visit my mom, and she was out with all of them. They ordered all the dresses that day. Needless to say, I was pretty hurt. I think it's a crappy thing to rescind on the offer once it's made. ReplyCancel

    • hereverycentcounts - Wow that sucks. I can't believe that people rescind on their offers like that. They should ask first if it's going to be an issue. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Aw I'm sorry. I can't remember if I blogged about it, but I also fired my one bridesmaid a couple weeks before the wedding. I tried to let her down gently. I felt I hadn't asked much of her – literally I told her I don't need a party, you can wear whatever you want, just let me know what you decide so my flower girls can figure out a colour. We can dress shop together or you can wear something you already have, I don't care. She just sort of stopped replying to me.

    Anyway I sent her an email telling her she didn't need to worry anymore and I would relieve her of her duties (I was feeling really bad about it, but come on!) She emailed me back if I remember rightly being really apologetic and explaining how stressed she was with work and her own wedding (she got engaged maybe a month or something before my wedding. And then there was a teary phone call and we both sort of broke down and bawled to each other. She insisted she still wanted to plan me a hen's night/bachelorette party anyway. Anyway, long story short they did, she wound up being my one bridesmaid and I asked my two best friends to join the party and be bridesmen and we figured out dresses for the flowergirls.

    I felt so terrible for putting her in that position but I think it was kind of necesary. Your situation sounds a bit different. I think you did as much as you realistically could, and your friend recognises that. I wouldn't have been easy for her and I am sure she wants the best for you as you know! No doubt it'll be hard to not be part of that inside ring, but it'll be less stress and as you say, cheaper. (hugs) ReplyCancel

  • hereverycentcounts - Aw, that's really sad. When I get married, co I know it will be expensive for my bridesmaids because they will be all over the country. I'll try to be reasonable with my requests on them and will ask them up front if they will have trouble paying for anything. Ideally I will be able to help them out if needed, because it's important to me to have my close friends and family as part of my wedding!

    I was recently asked by a friend of mine to be her bridesmaid and admittedly I was surprised! We are friends but don't see each other often and while I really like her I never thought of her as a close friend. We went to high school together and started to spend time together about once every time I visited my hometown. So I was shocked when she asked me to be in her wedding this year. She says she knows I live far away and doesn't have high expectations of me to help out — I'll be skyping in for their bridesmaid dress hunting adventure in a few weeks and I'll fly out for the bachelorette party whenever that is. So I guess it will cost a bit of money but as you said what's the point of life without spending your money? ReplyCancel

  • Fehm-Loans&Lifestyle - Sometimes in life, we want the best of everything, but that’s just not possible. It’s great that you’re staying positive and reminding yourself you’ve saved money, but at the same time, you do wish you could be there for her as a good friend. Sadly, life is full of compromising choices – perhaps you’ll get a different opportunity to be there for her after she is married. ReplyCancel

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses - I sort of fired a bridesmaid before. Well, it was more I gave her an out. She's moved to a different country and I knew she didn't want to break her promise to me but she also wasn't helping and probably wasn't going to make it, so I basically said she didn't have to be one anymore and it all worked out in the end (no bridges burned!). ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I think this is the only area where I was a little miffed. This friend was a part of my bridal party, and my expectations for my bridal party were literally “show up in a pinkish dress, stand with me on my wedding day, and be happy for me.” Like many of the previous comments, my views on bridesmaids are that you are my bridesmaid because you are an important part of my life, not because you can help me do XYZ / spend this much money.

      I do understand that people have different expectations for their bridal parties. ReplyCancel

  • Favorite Posts, Mentions, and Top Comments Weeks of 16 and 23 February 2014 - Evolving Personal Finance | Evolving Personal Finance - […] Well Heeled Blog is relieved that she was recently fired from being a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding. […]ReplyCancel

  • Blog Love - Hashtags & Warrior Poses - MoMoneyMoHouses : MoMoneyMoHouses - […] Getting Fired…as a Bridesmaid by Well Heeled Blog […]ReplyCancel

Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentines calendar Have a great Valentines Day celebration   dont have it on Valentines Day!

My secret to a stress-free Valentine’s Day celebration? It’s simple. Don’t celebrate it on the day of. And if you have procrastinated til today, forget about cobbling up something last minute. Restaurants will laugh at you when you call. Instead, use my simple 3-step process to save your sanity and your money (or at least, defer spending it). But seriously, don’t go on a rant to your significant other about how this holiday is all manufactured and useless. If both of you feel that way, great, there’s no need to beat a dead horse. And if your significant other doesn’t feel that way, all the “but this is a Hallmark holiday!” won’t save you.

Step 1:

Buy a card (or just take a plain white paper) and write a thoughtful message. FitnPoor has a great post on how to craft heartfelt love letters.

Step 2:

Talk about something romantic and meaningful that you will do: a weekend get-away at a bed & breakfast, a romantic dinner at the neighborhood bistro where you both met, or a kayaking date at the local lagoon. Highlight this. Or you can be super crafty and make a coupon out of it.

Step 3:

Do the above, 1-2 weekends AFTER Valentine’s Day / Valentine’s weekend. (And the best part is, even if you are a procrastinator, you will have a chance to book these events as you won’t be doing them til later).

I have come to realize that I hate hate hate going out on Valentine’s Day or the weekend immediately preceding/following Valentine’s Day. Not because I don’t value the holiday itself, but because going out on Valentine’s Day = mediocre service + expensive prices + crowds. It’s not very romantic at all.

Honestly, unless your significant other is dead-set on celebrating Valentine’s Day ON Valentine’s Day, deferring the celebration just a week later can save your wallet AND your sanity.

Double win.

  • eemusings - We didn't celebrate yesterday either. Probably going to go out early next week on one of the days T has off work, and I'll leave the office early :) It's CNY and the lantern festival is on all weekend here and there was a neat screening on Friday, so me and my best friend went along to that. T hung out with some of his friends. V-Day isn't a biggie for us :) ReplyCancel

  • Romantic Hotels UK - I think making a card or something like you suggested is definitely the best, this way you can get across your feelings but still not have to buy into the hallmark scam.

    It is nice to know as well that an arts and crafts shop that is probably struggling gets to make a few pounds from the holiday instead of just people selling cards and flowers.

    This year I made an exploding box and popped a charm into it (the charm was selling out a little) but the present showed thought and that is what the holiday is really about.

    Exploding boxes are relatively easy to make and are a bit of fun. http://www.thedatingdivas.com/you-me/show-him-theReplyCancel