Tuesday, March 20, 2007

St. Patty's Was Fun, But...

Yes this is getting labeled as part of my blog where I talk about saving money. Here is an easy one for those of you who still go out every night on the weekends and want to save a few dollars. Drink water! Yeah, it is good advise to help deter a hangover, but it is also a great way to save some money. Think about the normal night at a bar, and how many drinks you order. If you are recently out of college, or like to pretend like you are still in college, you probably have a pretty high tolerance. This means you will most likely continue to order drinks until the bartender calls last call. It's not a matter of how much alcohol you drink, it's more a matter of having something to drink. If you were to replace 2 or 3 cocktails each night you go out with a glass of water, you would wind up saving yourself a good $10-20 every time you went out. Keep that in mind the next time you ring up a $70 bar tab downtown.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Using Quicken to Save Money

Money management is one of the reasons I am capable of surviving in the DC area on $25,000 a year. After getting Quicken on my computer, I downloaded every bank transaction I had done that was still online, and went thru and categorized everything. I then started using my check card or credit card for everything, so that when I downloaded my bank transactions that week I could keep track of where my money was going. When you first start you will be amazed to find out what you really do with your money. One of the first things I noticed was the amount of money I spent at places like Starbucks, McDonalds, 7-11, and other fast food places.

I realized that if I brewed my own coffee, brought my lunch to work a couple days a week, and cooked my own food most nights, that I would save hundreds of dollars. I knew that those places cost me money, but I didn't realize how much it added up to. This doesn't mean that I stopped going entirely. If I am in a hurry I will still occasionally wind up at a fast food place, or if my caffeine addiction kicks in I'll get the hankering for a caramel machiato, but I have cut back a lot on all of these things, and I keep track of how much I spend at places like this.

One of the best ways to save money is to just know where it is going in the first place. Another great thing about Quicken is that it figures out what you regularly pay. Stuff like rent, phone bill, student loans, etc pops up near when it is due. You can then look at a cash flow forecast, punch in any other payments you are expecting, and you can figure out how much money you will have for months to come. Want to plan a vacation in August? Well start tucking away money in April for it and keep track of how much you have away for the vacation, and when it comes around you are ready.

Using computers to track expenses can make life much easier.

Monday, March 12, 2007

St. Patty's Day

So after seeing all the green shirts around on Saturday for Shamrock Fest, I hope everyone didn't party all the Irish out of them before St. Patrick's Day. I've got friends coming into town and there is going to be a ton to do. Chris Bruno from the Lloyd Dobler Effect is playing at O'Sullivan's in Arlington during the day, there is a big outdoor thing going on at Front Page in Ballston, and at night Everyone But Pete is playing at the Auld Shebeen in Fairfax. These are just a few of the things to do, OnTap Magazine has a whole list of things to do all week.

What are your plans for St. Patty's???

Time Is Money: Peapod

I'm going to put blogs on here on a regular basis where I talk about ways to save time. Some of them may cost money, others save you tons of money. I won't post anything I don't already use. For example the first one I'm posting about Peapod, I've been going to Giant since I started grocery shopping. After losing my license I tried taking a cab to the grocery store, cost me $20; I tried just getting stuff from the mart down the street, stuff that usually would cost me $30 wound up being $40; and I tried carrying stuff the mile from the store to my place and almost lost my hand from the loss of circulation. Peapod has made my life easier.

As I think I've said before, I'm a very busy person. I also don't drive. So there are many different things I have found online that save me time or keep me from having to find rides places. One thing that I have found very useful is Peapod by Giant. Just the delivery of the groceries alone is worth it. The delivery cost for my order I placed last night which included about 10 gallons of beverages was only $7.95. If you think about it, if you spend more than half an hour driving to and from your grocery store and carrying all the stuff inside, your time is worth more than the delivery costs. To top it all off, they keep track of all the groceries you have previously ordered and over the time you take to place your order takes less and less time. There is even a feature on there where you can cut and paste your grocery list into a notepad type window just like what I type my blog in, and it will figure out what you want with uncanny accuracy. Also, all the specials are right there for you to look thru. Click on the link at the bottom of this blog and you'll save $10 off of your first order. Thats more than the delivery costs, plus you still get all the discounts in the store.

Peapod - Lighten the Load this Spring with $10 in Free Groceries (234x60)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

iTunes iMix

So I was trying to figure out how to best keep people up to date with my music, and iTunes figured it out for me. I created an iMix, called C.J.'s Mix, that I can update as much as I want. It's only going to have music that you can download from iTunes, but thats better than nothing, right? This is the first time posting it, so if it looks off the first time, I'm sorry. Click the link below and it'll send you to my iMix. You need iTunes installed in order for it to work. Check it out and tell me what you think!

C.J.'s iMix in iTunesicon

Credit Repair Part 1

When I returned to the D.C. area my credit wasn't, well still isn't, that great. In my first college stint I had racked up a bunch of credit card debt. I was one of those people who, after realizing the hole I had put myself in, paid off all the cards and then proceeded to cancel them. Well that was a stupid mistake. Not only did I add all the negative credit remarks to my report, but I then eliminated all of my available credit. Now, after getting life back on track, finding a full time job, and stabilizing my spending I am trying to fix my credit. The first thing I learned is that none of the major credit card companies wanted me back.

That left me with two options: get one of those 'for bad credit' cards offered by companies like Orchard Bank that charge you $150 just to open the account; or get a secured card. I opted for the secured card. After looking at a few banks I settled on Bank of America. Not only do they have secured credit cards thru MBNA, right now they are offering up to $50 for opening up a checking account. If you are interested in learning how to get that $50 drop me a comment and I'll send you the referral link.

One of the first things I learned was that getting the secured card isn't as easy as it sounds. First you need to have an account at BofA, then you need to send them the $300(that's the minimum), and then it can take up to a month for them to actually get the card to you. So if you are planning on using that card right away, forget about it.

Once you have the card, plan how you are going to use it. I get my statement on the 20th, and my payment is due on the 10th. I spend around $200-300 a month on groceries. So I make my payment on the 1st of the month(payday), and then do my grocery shopping throughout the month. At the end of the month I pay off the entire balance. This showed up on my credit report the month after I received the card. It shows that I am currently making full payments each month.

Stay tuned to learn other methods of getting good items onto your credit report.

Monday, March 5, 2007


So I left it out of the title for my blog, but music is also a huge part of my life. I am proud to know a ton of musicians in the Washington DC area, and several who can be considered national recording artists or who have moved to different parts of the world. My love for music has provided me with great friends, things to do, and a sense of belonging to a community. I can actually say that on several occasions I have even turned a profit from promoting something I love. In the coming weeks, I'll occasionally post about a band, a concert venue, an event, or a person whom I feel deserves a hand for their contributions to the music industry. I hope I don't bite off more topics than I can chew, but because this whole thing is so that I can voice an opinion that I already have in my head, I figure why not try?