27 Feb

Check me out my new site –> !


(PS if you’re seeing this and are incredibly confused at why I’m posting this a year and a half after I started writing at that “new” site… it’s because I had a ‘site redirect’ set up on THIS site, but now I’m canceling that to save the $13/yr. Soooo I figured I need a post like this up on the old site. Does that make sense? haha)



1 Jul

Do you ever have those moments where you’re talking to someone and they say something so ridiculous that you don’t even know how to respond?  It happens to me quite frequently at work :)

Today was one such example.  I was chatting with a coworker’s daughter (who is 20-21ish, I believe) and she was excitedly telling me about the purchase of her new vehicle- a Jeep Wrangler.

Jeep Wrangler Laredo

Kinda like this. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t get into specifics about the car, but it looked fairly new.  She continued on to tell me about the “great deal” she got on it… monthly payments of only $311 per month… for only 84 months!

Holy cow.  Is that normal for a car payment?  I had to dust off the calculator (I wish that was a joke,  I really need to brush up on my mental math) but figured out that is 7 years!  7 years of paying off one car?!  I think I much prefer the method of saving up until you can afford a vehicle and paying it in full.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that she’s spending close to $26k when all is said and done.  This girl doesn’t even have a full time job yet!  A $26,000 vehicle is really not necessary at this point in your life, chica.  Ughhh….

Am I the only one who sees craziness in this situation?  Please tell me I’m not alone! :)

Buying a New (Used) Car, v2

27 Jun

As I shared with you a few weeks ago, I recently bought a new-to-me car.  Everything went just dandy with the transaction, exceeeeept at the end.  I conveniently left it out of the original post since it was still unresolved, but I’m here to share the gory (okay, exaggeration) details now.

We left off with Step 10:  Register it.  Seemingly an easy step, right?  Well, it should be…

Let me flash back to the fateful day.  Friday, May 24.  I had just finished the pre-purchase inspection, gotten the cashier’s check, and had traveled back to the seller’s house to exchange my brand new car (!!!!) for a big ol’ check.  He took the plates off the car and went inside to grab the title.  He came back outside and handed it over to me, with one passing comment:  “Oh, just to let you know, we accidentally filled out this box right here.  We crossed it out though, and initialed the error, so you should be good.”

Title mistake

I shrugged the comment off and got in that glorious car and drove it straight to the DMV with all the papers in my hand.  [Enter 2 hour wait… ughhh]  As soon as they saw the title, it all went downhill.  That little oops-we-accidentally-filled-in-this-box was a deal breaker, in DMV land.  I had to come back with a clean title in order to register the car.  SERIOUSLY?!

So back home I go, excitement over the new car completely zapped.  I wrote an email to the seller and explained the situation.  Luckily, he sprung into action to request a new title*.  Unfortunately, he needed the original title.  [Enter in 1 day of waiting to be able to meet up and hand over said title].  Then, he had to go to the DMV, in person, and request a replacement title. [Enter 1 more day of waiting for him to be able to go to the DMV]. After handing over the title and requesting the new one, it would be 10 days before the new title would be mailed to him. [Enter 10 day wait]

I patiently (not so much) wait for the new title to arrive.  FINALLY, I get the text!  “I have the title” he says!  Ahh, much rejoicing.  We set plans to meet up the following day.  5 minutes later I receive a terrible text.  He had signed the title in the wrong place, ruining yet another title!  I wish I was kidding.  It was not funny at the time.  It is significantly more funny now. :)


(That picture he attached was showing me where he signed it incorrectly.  It was sad.)

Back to the waiting game.  Again, he requests a new title (this time online, so that saved a bit of time) and it comes within about 5 days.  We meet up again and I finally get that title in my hands.  And breathe a huge sigh of relief.

crop title

The last few steps were a (relative) breeze:  I had to get the car inspected, because it didn’t have a valid inspection.  And yes, you must do this before you take it to the DMV to register it if there is no valid inspection!  Then I went back over to do some more DMV-waiting.  Soon enough I was up at the counter, sweating bullets, nervous that they’d find something else wrong.  But luckily, nothing was wrong thsi time and I left with a registration and shiny new plates.  Success!

If I can pass along anything to you from this story… ANYTHING… it is that you inspect the title before you hand over the check.  If there is even one teeny tiny little problem wrong with that fancy piece of paper, ask the seller to request a new one.  Or ask them to accompany you to the DMV where you can find out if they will accept the title!  Tell the seller that you’ll hand over the check as soon as you know that the registration is good.  It was the worst feeling in the world to think that the seller had all my money, and I had an unregistered car with no valid title.  So many bad things could have happened– I’m luckily that the situation ended as happily as it did!

*I suppose at this point I should also include that the “seller” I refer to was not actually the owner of the car.  The real owner is living in Germany, and asked her friend to sell the car for her.  So to add one more wrinkle to the story, the man I was dealing with had to work as a middle man to request a new title on behalf of his friend in Germany.  I think some power of attorney papers were worked up, something ridiculously complicated.  Glad I wasn’t part of that debacle, at least…

Any other advice for used car buyers?  Have you run into a tricky problem like this?  Share your story!!

Cheap Meals: Ideas

19 Jun

Lately, I’ve been struggling with meal planning.  I think it’s because the BF and I are living together for the first time; now I feel like I need to make fancy, grownup food for every meal.  That is silly though, since he could totally care less about what he eats.  This guy can eat the same thing for every meal and not get tired of it.  Men are so strange.

So, in mostly an effort to jog my own brain, [and partly an effort to share ideas with you ;) ] here are a list of my favorite cheap and easy meals.

  • BBQ Shredded Chicken:  Place desired number of chicken breasts in slow cooker.  Pour BBQ sauce over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 8ish hours or high for 4ish hours (so precise, I know).  Shred the chicken.  Serve in tacos, over rice, on a bun, by itself… possibilities are endless.
  • Mexican Shredded Chicken:  Same recipe as above; substitute salsa and/or taco seasoning.
  • Mexican Egg Burrito:  Sautee diced vegetables/beans of choice (ex. green pepper, onion, zucchini, squash, eggplant, carrots, kidney beans, etc) with salt, pepper, and taco seasoning over medium-high heat.  While veggies are cooking, scramble 1-2 eggs.  Serve eggs and vegetables in a tortilla with salsa, avocado, cheese, and plain greek yogurt (tastes just like sour cream, seriously!)
  • Scrambled eggs and toast:  self-explanatory.
  • Grilled peanut butter and jelly:  also pretty self-explanatory.  Make a PB&J and toast it in a pan over medium heat.  Or in a toaster oven, if you are fancy like that!  You can add butter to each side to toast it up nicer.  Or do it without; it works both ways.
  • Turkey, avocado, and tomato sandwich:  on toasted bread, layer sliced turkey, sliced tomato, some sort of lettuce (whatever you have on hand- we usually have spinach or kale), avocado and drizzle balsamic dressing on top.
  • Pasta & Sauce:  you can just do pasta and plain sauce, or sautee some vegetables and add to the sauce; can also class it up with scrambled egg (don’t knock it til you try it), chicken, chick peas, ground turkey/chicken/beef, etc.
  • Tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad: by themselves, on a sandwich, or on a salad.
  • Quinoa Stir Fry

I also try to keep fresh vegetables (carrots, green pepper, cucumber, etc) and frozen veggies (green beans, peas) on hand at all times so that if we get lazy and decide to have PB&J for dinner, at least I can add some sort of vegetable and feel a little healthy ;)

What are your go-to meals when you’re feeling lazy? Please share, I love getting more ideas!!

Buying a New (Used) Car

6 Jun

To add to the craziness of moving in to a new apartment this past month, I also decided to purchase a new (used) car!  What can I say, I like to do it all at once?

My current car is 14 years old and has been costing me quite a bit of money in the past few years; it turned into one of those cars where everything just starts breaking and I was scared that something would fall off or explode every time I got in the car.  One day it started making some funny noises- ones I certainly hadn’t heard before- and I knew I had to do something drastic.  I was tired of shelling out money for a decomposing car! I vaguely knew what kind of new (used) car I wanted (Scion xA or xD) and had a budget in my mind ($10k).    So I turned to Craigslist for help… and what are the chances?  I found the perfect ad posted that day!  It was my ideal car (the xD) with low mileage, the right price, and a good ad.


At the risk of spoiling the surprise, I GOT IT!!!!  Isn’t she pretty?  :)

It was an exciting, educational, and slightly confusing process to buy a used car from a  private seller so I wanted to document it here.  Here’s how it all went down for me:

1.  Find one you like.  I found mine in an ad on Craigslist.  You might find something in the newspaper, or drive by a car parked in a lot with a sign, etc.  I liked the ad I found because it was really detailed and had tons of pictures.  The seller didn’t skim over the bad parts, either; he put it up front that the car needed new tires, had a door ding, etc.  I liked the vehicle, so I emailed the seller and set up a time to go see it.

2.  Go see it.  Important safety note here: bring someone with you to see the car!  (especially important if you are a woman)  Stranger danger, and all that bad stuff.

Anyway, go see the car.  Take a good look at everything- inside and outside.  Does it look good?  Does it smell good? (Seriously.  Who wants a stinky car?  Have you seen that Seinfeld episode where Jerry can’t get the smell out of his car?!) Ask why they are selling the car.  Ask any other questions you can think of.  I didn’t ask a whole lot, because I know next-to-nothing about cars, but that’s just me.

3.  Test drive.  The seller let my BF and I take it by ourselves, but every seller may vary; they may want to come with you.  We asked the seller for a good loop since we weren’t familiar with the area.  If there is an easily accessible highway, take the car on the highway.  Play with the turn signals, wipers, radio, air conditioning, heating, side mirrors.  Test the windows and locks.  Basically hit every button you can find and make sure they work properly.

4. Haggle.  We arrived back at the sellers house and I told him that I liked the car.  I hate price haggling so I asked him “what’s the best price you can do on this?”

He gave me a little info about how he priced it, saying, “I looked at Kelly blue book and went a little lower to account for the fact that the tires need to be replaced… What kind of price are you thinking?”

I asked for $250 less than his posting and he happily accepted. (Shoot, should I have asked for more? Oh well).  I told him I wanted the car but wanted to take the car to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.  We set up a tentative day for me to take the car to a mechanic, and I told him I’d touch base once I set up the appointment.

5.  Find an auto shop.  Once home, I set about researching a good auto mechanic in the general location of the seller’s house.  In my case, I live about 30-40 minutes from the seller, so my normal mechanic wouldn’t work.

I googled “auto service —-(city name)” and picked a place that had good reviews– a BP gas station about 5 minutes from the seller’s house.  Perfect!  I set up an appointment with them and let the seller know when I’d be by to get the car.  In my case, we set up the inspection for 3 days after I initially saw the car.  This probably isn’t ideal since that’s a long time to wait and hope that no one else buys the car out from under you.  But that’s how our schedules worked out, so I didn’t have much choice.  After the fact, the seller told me that a few other people came by between my two visits; if any had offered him a check I’m sure he would have taken it.  Yikes!

6.  Preparations.  I knew that I wanted to buy the car (barring any huge service problems found at the inspection) so I prepared a few things before I took the car to the mechanic.

a.  I printed out temporary tags for the trip home.  My state (VA) allows you to purchase a $5 trip permit that you print at home and tape in the back window of the vehicle while you drive it home.  This is important because most sellers will take their plates off once you purchase it, and you can’t drive a car with no plates.  It’s also illegal to take the plates off your current car and put them on the new one.  That would be MUCH easier, but it is what it is… Anyway, if you do the trip permit, remember to bring tape to tape it up in the window, too!  ;)

b.  If you have to pay in cashier’s check, research where you will get that check.  I lucked out in that my bank had a branch right down the road from the seller.  I suppose you could also get that check in advance, but I didn’t want to get a check out for the full amount in case we somehow haggled the price lower (due to things found at the pre-purchase inspection, etc).  I felt more comfortable getting the check once I was 100% sure of the sale.

c.  If you’re really gung-ho about buying the car, enlist someone to come with you.  If you’re going to buy the car, you can’t drive yourself over there solo; then you’d be stuck with 2 cars and only yourself to drive them home!

7.  Pre-purchase inspection.  I drove over to the sellers house with my mom and picked up the new car. We drove it to the service station and waited about an hour while they checked it out.  Once completed, the mechanic told me it was a great car (!!!!!) and pointed out a few things he found wrong (tires needed to be replaced, which I knew, and it needed new wiper blades).  This made me feel SO MUCH more at ease with the whole buying-from-Craigslist situation.  As I mentioned earlier, I know nothing about cars so having a professional check it out put my mind at ease.  This inspection cost me about $75 and I think was worth every penny.

8.  Get the dinero.  After hearing from the mechanic, I called the seller and told him I wanted to buy the car.  (sidenote: what an awkward conversation that is! “Hello, the inspection went great.  Can I buy this car?  Okay great, thanks.”)  I had to go get the cashier’s check, so I got the seller’s full name (to write the check out to) and I hopped over to my bank.

9.  Buy it.  With check in hand, I went back to the seller’s house.  He gave me the signed title and took off the old plates.  I had him sign my trip permit and taped it in the back window.

10.  Register it.  I happened to have a good block of time that afternoon so I took the car straight to the DMV to register.  But as luck would have it, that step was not so easy… but that’s a story for next time.

Have you ever purchased a car from a private seller?  Do you have any other tips or tricks to suggest?

Travel Tricks

20 May

When I was growing up, we never really traveled.  Sure, I remember a few family vacations, but for the most part, we stayed put in our house.

As I’ve gotten older, I have started realizing the awesomeness of traveling.  The BF is a major part of this revelation– he’s all about exploring new places, and I love it!  Together we’ve taken quite a few road trips, and learned a few tricks along the way.

Neither of these tricks are revolutionary, and I’m sure quite a few of you already use these without even thinking about it.  But for the rest of you (like me!) who don’t think about these things… this is for you :)

1.  Food

I have a love-hate relationship with car travel.  I enjoy getting to our destination, but often get bored after… oh, about hour 2.  On our most recent trip, I got smart and packed the one thing that entertains me.  FOOD.  I packed up 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a couple apples, and some water.  We each ate a PB&J around lunch time and then shared an apple a couple hours later.  When we reached our destination, we had another sandwich and that held us over until dinner time!  (and we saved the 2nd apple for the next day).


This was the perfect idea!  It saved us a ton of money (it probably would have been around $10 for lunch for both of us if we had stopped, plus another $5-10 for a snack once we reached our destination) and saved us from having to make a pitstop.  Win-win.

2.  Parking

I always assumed when visiting a new place that we would have to park somewhere pricey.  I would always write it off, figuring that we were traveling to a brand new to us place and there’s no way we would be able to find a cheap/free/safe parking area.  Boy, was I wrong.

Before we set off on trips now, we will google “free parking in (city name)” or we will just drive around to the slightly farther out areas (usually the industrial looking areas) of the city until we find a stretch of road with no ‘No Parking’ signs.  Most cities know that people won’t walk over .25-.5 mi to get into the city, so they never put meters too far out from the city center.  We’ve found maps like the one below that point you to the exact areas that have free parking.


The important thing to remember here is to make sure you feel comfortable leaving your car in these free areas.  As I just alluded to, many of these free spots will be fairly far away from the “downtown” area in a more industrial or less populated area, and it might be hard to swing by and check on your vehicle while you’re out sightseeing.  The location we parked in Montreal looked like this…


Not exactly a “pretty” area but it worked!  In this case, we scoped out a few spots before we found one that we were comfortable with.  Just make sure:

  • it’s on a well-traveled road
  • triple (or quadruple) check that there are absolutely no signs restricting your parking
  • triple/quadruple check that you’re not in a driveway of any sort (or near a fire hydrant!)
  • take a brief scan around you– check for any possibly shady characters who you wouldn’t want to leave your car near :)

It hasn’t happened to us (knock on wood!) but I’m sure there’s nothin’ worse than coming back from a long day of exploring to find out your car has been towed.  Just make sure you check everything!  We have successfully used this method to get free parking in Lake Placid, Montreal, and Philadelphia, and $3/day parking in Baltimore.  No towing in any place!

What are your favorite packable travel foods?  How do you normally find parking in new cities?

Sure Deposit vs. Security Deposit

7 May

The BF and I recently went through the glorious (that’s not sarcasm, I really do enjoy it!) process of apartment hunting.  We decided on an absolutely perfect place, and headed to the leasing office to begin the application process.


As we walked up to the office, we noticed a sign outside.  It advertised something called a “Sure Deposit” instead of a security deposit.  Interesting.  We walked inside, and the leasing agent started giving us the new-renter spiel.  She soon mentioned the security deposit; instead of paying the required $500 security deposit, we had the option to pay an $87.50 “Sure Deposit”.  Many people had been taking advantage of the Sure Deposit option, she told us.

In our (foolish, so foolish) minds, we thought the Sure Deposit meant that we could pay the $87.50 and be absolved of any and all future payments to the apartment complex.  We could move out and they wouldn’t be able to charge us anything (for dirty carpets, chipped  paint, etc) since we had paid the Sure Deposit.  We thought that was pretty cool, especially since we had read a few reviews of the apartment complex online which seemed to say that these apartments would nickel and dime you to keep as much security deposit as possible.

So, we signed up for it.  We wrote that check for $87.50 and walked out of the office, excited that we were “saving money”.

A few days later, the BF brought up the Sure Deposit again.  We started talking about it, and thinking through the whole process.  “So, we could totally wreck the apartment and we wouldn’t have to pay any money?  That seems too good to be true…”

We finally did what (hopefully) any smart renter would do– we googled Sure Deposit.  Turns out it wasn’t such a great service, after all.  You don’t get absolved of any further payments.  If the complex finds any problems after you move out, they bill Sure Deposit for the charges, and Sure Deposit turns around and bills YOU!  Essentially, that $87.50 Sure Deposit was “loaning” us the $500 security deposit that the complex charged.  If you do the math, that comes out to a 17.5% loan*!!!!!  Umm… NO THANKS!

We immediately called the complex and asked if we could switch to the traditional security deposit.  Later that week, I dropped off a check for $500 and ripped up that Sure Deposit check for $87.50.

Please, please, PLEASE– do not get pulled in by the siren song of Sure Deposit!  It is nothing but a very expensive loan.


*Their site actually says: “Using SureDeposit in place of your rental security deposit can help you keep more money on hand for the things that matter.”  Well, I hope that whatever “things that matter” to people are worth a 17.5% loan!

Thoughts on Saving

16 Apr

I apologize in advance for the jumble of thoughts in this post.  It’s one of those times that I just want to get my thoughts out without caring too much about how the ideas flow…

It can be tough to start a new financial journey.  (Most of us) have grown up in a very consumerist society where it is expected that you’ll spend a majority of your money buying things.  If you don’t buy things, people will think that you don’t have enough money and will worry about you.

I was taking a mini road trip with my mom this weekend and we got on the subject of saving money.  I mentioned to her that I’d been reading a lot of financial blogs that discuss the idea of saving a large percentage of your money in order to “retire” at an earlier age.  I told her that saving 40% when you’re younger can allow you to retire way earlier than usual.  She looked at me and said, “well yeah, but it is almost impossible save 40% of your paycheck!”  I looked back at her (okay, glanced back at her; I was driving during this conversation) and said, “Mom, I save over 40% of my paycheck right now.  Does it look like I’m living super frugally?”

She admitted that I didn’t live my life like I was poor, so I suppose I got some of my point across and she now knows it is possible.

I think that I’ve been reading so many blogs that talk about a high savings rate that I’ve become immune to it.  40% in my head doesn’t even sound high (in fact, it’s probably on the verge of laughable in many extreme-early-retirement communities) but to the average American, it’s practically unattainable.

I’m not one for “bragging” about my life, so I find it hard to bring up my savings rate to friends and family in an effort to change their way of operating.  I think it may be hard for people to come to terms with this “extreme saving” concept*- their immediate reaction will probably be much like my mom’s; that it’s a fairly impossible goal.  I’m torn between WANTING to brag and teach everyone that they don’t need to buy so much crap, and just keeping quiet to keep the peace.

But it’s sad- I hate to see my family members struggling financially when they could just change their mindset and cut out their useless spending.

*again, “extreme savings” here used in comparison to the average American.  40% is not so impressive to most financially-independent bloggers ;)

Do you tell friends and family about your financial goals?  Do they understand, or do they think you’re crazy?  Is it even possible to bring this up without sounding judgmental about people’s spending habits?

Cheap Meals: Quinoa Stir Fry

15 Apr

Get ready to learn how to make one of my absolute favorite meals… quinoa stir fry!

The concept is fairly simple:  mix cooked quinoa with any random veggies, meats, sauces you have on hand, and you’ve got a tasty meal!


Quinoa Stir Fry

serves 4


  • 1.5 c uncooked quinoa
  • 3 c water (or if you want to be fancy, you can use chicken or veggie broth)
  • 1 c various mix ins:  I like green beans, carrots, scrambled egg, and peas.  But seriously, almost anything works!
  • 1 t powdered ginger
  • soy sauce to taste- maybe 3-4 T? (or if you’re feelin fancy, use stir fry sauce or a combo of the two!)

Step 1:  Add quinoa and water to pot.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and let it simmer 15 minutes.

Step 2:  While quinoa is cooking, dice up your veggies.  Add to a pre-heated and greased pan (I use about 1 T olive oil), on medium-high heat.  Cook until desired doneness (is that a word?).  Once veggies are done, take out of pan (or leave ’em in the pan, whatever floats your boat) and add eggs.  Scramble up the eggs in the pan and let them cook until done.  Sprinkle everything with half the ginger powder.




Step 3: By this time, the quinoa should be done.  Fluff it with a fork, make sure all liquid was absorbed, and take off the heat.  Add the other half of the ginger powder and salt and pepper to taste.


Step 4: Add everything to the same pot and start mixing together.  Add the soy sauce and mix until incorporated.  Viola!  Quinoa stir fry is ready.





This makes a great dinner and also a great meal to throw in a tupperware to take to work for lunch, as evidenced below :)