Thursday, May 29, 2008

"A Netflix for purses"

In honor of the Most Important Movie of our Time being released across the country tomorrow night (Sex and the City, yes, I already bought tickets), I thought it'd be fabulous to highlight a new startup company that may or may not be changing the face of fashion, but definitely pacifying all Carries-in-training -- especially those on a budget. The company is called Bag Borrow or Steal (http://www.bagborroworsteal.com/), and I think its premise is brills, especially for all us savers who still want to be fashionable. I say carpe diem whenever you can bypass digging through a clearance bin, especially if that bypass leads you to a practically new Coach bag (complete with monogrammed silk Coach bow) for $60/month, or $20/week.

Bag Borrow or Steal truly acts as a "Netflix for purses" (what it's alluded to as in the SATC movie), in that it posts an arsenal of designer purses, along with designer sunglasses and jewelry, at different rental rates on their site, from low-end (Coach, Dooney and Bourke) to high-end (Fendi, Balenciaga). The only snag is that on top of the rental rate for each bag, you have to pay a monthly or annual fee upfront to be a member. But the fees aren't as extravagant as the handbags, ranging from a one month membership of $9.95, to three months for $19.95 (or $6.95/month), to one YEAR for $60 (or $5/month). Five dollars per month for unlimited access to a treasure trove of designer goodies I was only planning on accessing well into my mid- to late-30s? Let's just say this Brunette on a Budget is savoring every bite of this tantalizing morsel of information.

I've always wanted a Chloe Paddington bag. Like the Burberry trenchcoat I want oh-so-bad, the Paddington bag has always been near the peak of my extravagant interests. With Bag Borrow and Steal, I don't need to spend the $2,000 on its pricetag, but rather, I can relish in tasting it paired with my outfits I've envisioned matching it with. And after I've gotten my fix (I bore easily, this is why a tattoo would be all wrong for me), I can simply send it back -- much like a Netflix DVD -- and "try on" something else I've always wanted (Fendi spybags and Burberry Sunglasses, anyone?).

I love this idea because it makes everything we read about in fashion magazines more attainable and allows us to play without defaulting on a car payment or putting off buying a house. No, I'm not condoning partaking in such a site if you're essentially living paycheck-to-paycheck, or if your debt is spiraling out of control. But at the end of the month, if you've already paid yourself (including investing a fraction of your wealth) and your bills, I think it's OK for a girl to treat herself to something nice.

For some that might be a night out on the town; for me it's a week with a Paddington bag.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I am woman, hear me spend

There's a stereotype that's been perpetuated through the years and it goes a little something like this: Women are fickle and tend to spend more than their male counterparts. Not only that, but women tend to rely on men more for financial planning -- I don't necessarily mean shacking up with a sugar daddy, but statistically we lean on the men in our lives (our fathers, husbands, etc.) to help plan our financial matters. A lot of what could have been financially saavy dolls often find themselves not peddling through the Napa vineyards with their Love, but sitting infront of a personal accountant after being widowed or divorced, scratching their cutely coiffed hairdo that was just charged to their AmEx because they have $0 in their account and don't realize how they got there. And even if your future is void of divorces or deaths (fingers crossed), if you don't save now, you could still find yourself 40 and penniless, all because you thought all those lunches out with your friends and errant shopping trips here and there wouldn't really matter.

Guess what? In the long run, they do:

  • "At some point in our lives, 9 out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances.
  • The average age of widowhood in the U.S. is 56.
  • On average, women live 7 years longer than men.
  • Women live more than 19 years in retirement.
  • The median income for elderly women is $8,198.
  • Women collectively earn more than $1 trillion a year.
  • Nearly 70% of women say they have no idea how much money they'll need for
    retirement.
  • 53% of women are more likely to spend rather than save for their future."

Ladies, let's be serious -- for many of us, shopping is not only a hobby, it's a way of life, an addiction, if you will. But $1 trillion is a lot of potential savings. There have been many times in my life when I just think "oh, it's just one shirt . . . just one pair of heels," but all those "justs" add up to what could have been a substantiative amount to retire (hopefully early!) with. You can't make a pair of killer Christian Louboutins make money for you, but when invested right, you can make killer returns off your savings. I'm not advising to go cold turkey and wean yourself off bottle completely -- every stylish woman needs a cocktail once in a while and perhaps a cute handbag...or dress...or, you get the point. But you need to set your limits and know that before you buy anything, you need to pay yourself, which means setting aside a money after you get paid (and after your Roth is paid), that you can put into a CD or mutual fund, or, if you "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," invest in the stock market.

The stats I mentioned prove that while us women are bringing home the bacon, we have no.....er, bacon....to divy up at the end of the day. Here's why:
  • "We often don't set a monetary goal for where we need to be at retirement.
  • We start saving and investing later in our lives and don't have as many working years as men. The average woman spends 15% of her career out of the paid workforce, aka the "sandwich generation" -- caring for children, then elderly parents.
  • 76% of women are too conservative when it comes to investing, where only 64%
    of men consider themselves conservative investors. Women often pass up excellent investment opportunities because we are too afraid to take the leap.
  • Just 53% of women, versus 82% of men feel confident in their investment know-how. That often stops us from making necesarry decisions, also limiting our returns."

For all us money honeys out there, this is a wake-up call to begin planning your financial future. Don't know the first thing about investing? For a fabulous "how to" on all things investing, visit http://www.fool.com/school/basics/basics01.htm and educate yourself.

And here's a good start for now: Make a list of what you own (bank accounts, stocks and investment, real estate, retirement plans). Then figure out how much you owe (include all bills, i.e., car payments, credit cards, school loans, house payments, etc.).

Now how much money goes toward your List of Woes, I mean, Owes? It's not as easy as simply counting the big, reoccuring payments every month. What makes or breaks many woman's 10- or 20-year plan is that they don't budget for the basics. Can't live without getting your nails done? (This frugal saver would tell you do your nails yourself, but that's a different matter). Need your Starbuck's fix every morning? How much do you drive on average per month and what is that costing you in gas money? What's your monthly budget for clothes? It's these kind of dollars that hold many back from achieving their financial dreams because they aren't budgeted for in the present and quickly add up. I don't know about you, but I really want that villa in Tuscany, and I want to be able to retire early enough to enjoy it.

Bottom line: No one likes a micromanager, but in this case, micro managing can be a fabulous thing. Every dollar counts when you're saving now to live lavishly later!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cheap, Fun Date Ideas (Part 2)

Welcome back to making your dates tres chic without going broke. Read on!

Ideal Scenarios versus Creative Solutions (Part 2)

Ideal Scenario:

Napa, anyone? After a weekend of wine-tasting and gourmet dinners every night, and delicious fruit and crepe breakfasts every morning, you and your Love have decided to play hooky from work (wait, you co-own your own multi-million dollar company, you can do whatever you want!) and bask even longer in all the visual and hedonistic delights that Napa has to offer. On an unsuspecting Tuesday morning, you two decide to rent vintage red bicycles and peddle through the rolling Napa vineyards that drape the surrounding hills. As the crisp, coastal Northern California fog grazes past your face, kissing the orange Hermes scarf off your neck and onto the side of the small, two-lane road, you look over at your Love and think "I'm so happy I saved for the early part of my life, so I can afford this lifestyle now!"

Creative Solution: First thing's first: You'll be happy you saved, regardless of your Napa valley sojourn, Hermes scarf and all! Now onto a more realistic day for the two of you (for now): If neither of you own bicycles, rent them on the cheap. No matter where you live, from the deserts of the Southwestern United States to the corn fields of Idaho, I believe everyone lives near a setting that would be perfect for a romantic bicycle ride. What's that? You live in the Bronx? Break free in the 'burbs, just 20 miles away. The key to this date is to not get complacent with where you live -- every place has some kind of beauty to it, and why not experience that with the one you love, on wheels? It's even better when there's neighboring areas you lovebirds have yet to explore, and once again, it's a fabulous workout. There's no better way to burn calories than pedaling along undiscovered terrain with the apple of your eye. To add an even more romantic twist, rent a two-person tandem bicycle! Some might call is cheesy, but I call it classic. To get more ideas on where pedal your little hearts out, visit www.trails.com.

Ideal Scenario: On a whim, you two decide to jet off to the city formally known as Edo (Tokyo) for a romantic weekend full of cherry blossoms, Kabuki, and ... sushi! Although both of you have always had fresh Japanese sushi flown to your front door from Osaka, not to mention Kobe beef from, you guessed it, Kobe, the two of you have never ventured to the East. "You only live once," you two say, jumping on your private Learjet embossed with "The Lola" on the tail. After "The Lola" arrives on your private landing strip outside of Tokyo, the two of you are chauffeured into the bright lights of the big city, finally sitting down to enjoy a delectable spread of Hosomaki, Nigiri and (of course) fresh homespun Sake. Cheers!

Creative Solution: Cooking is not a lot of people's bags, but you'd be pleasantly surprised at how much fun it can be when you share the cooking experience with the one that lights your fire. The best place to start on this palatable pursuit? I think sushi is a fabulous place to start, and what's better, it's actually lot easier to make than you'd think. First off, you'll need the proper ingredients and dishes: Cost Plus World Imports (www.costplus.com) has a cheap selection of simple and/or ornated sushi dishware (Love and I recently took up this date idea, and spent a total $26 on enough sushi place settings for four people!). While you're there, wander over to the food section -- they have an excellent variety of sushi ingredients and sake on their shelves for a fraction of what you'd pay in a restaurant. Hand-rolling sushi with your Love can be romantic and fun; feeding each other starry-eyed and in amore can be even more so! And, as an added bonus, you can use all that money you would have spent on "The Lola" and put it toward your next international food date night. Forget the Swiss Alps when you can make a cozy pot of swiss fondue and eat cross-legged on the carpet, using the coffee table as your dining room du jour to create an intimate setting. Always wanted to visit New Delhi? Keep that dream a reality, by saving now and making Indian food on the fly (Trader Joe's has fabulous Indian food ingredients that take a second to make and are dirt cheap).

Ideal Scenario: Your close friend Oscar (de la Renta, do you even need to ask?) just named his newest bikini line after you, which means you get samples of all the new designs, of course. Just in time, too, because you and yours are currently lazing under a giant straw umbrella on a white sand beach in Cancun, as you tan in Oscar's latest design. The two of you toast with your Pina Coladas to what a fabulous get-away vacation idea Cancun was as the warm, aquamarine ocean stretches out infront of you to the horizon. Remember those Corona commercials where the couple tosses their ringing cell phone into the ocean? Yeah, this is just like that, except better.

Creative Solution: Having grown up in California (and will settle there after Love graduates from what could have been Stanford), I was lucky to always have easy access to the beach. It was a part of my daily life and I loved seeing the ocean everyday in some capacity. I realize, though, that everyone isn't as fortunate to live on any sort of coast. What about all the inland savers? This will sound positively ridiculous and you won't get an ounce of a tan (it's really not that good for your skin anyway), but head to your nearest Target! With the summer season almost upon us, Target has pulled out all the stops and cordoned off an area for patio furniture -- don't let it go to waste! For a funny, quirky, why-are-we-doing-this-except-to-laugh-at-ourselves date, if you two ever find yourself padding around Target on a routine visit for the essentials (toilet paper, dvds, soap -- you know the drill), why not stop by the patio furniture section for a little breather? Better yet, grab a couple slurpees from the food counter, take a seat in a padded outdoor loveseat under one of the display awnings and veg out. You'd be surprised at how fabulously lush Target's managed to make some of their better displays (running water fountains, fake plants, etc.). Aside from giggling together at how ridiculous you two are, it may actually be a great time to look over what's in your cart and dually surmise as to whether all that junk is really necessary. Even though I'm sure it's a great movie, do you really need that copy of "Big Trouble in Little China" just because it's $5.50? Didn't think so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cheap, Fun Date Ideas (Part 1)

Life can get a little drab at times from too much penny-pinching, but that’s when you need to get creative — especially when it comes to dates! We’d all love to get whisked away to some far-off metropolis for dinner and a night at the opera (a la Pretty Woman), but in the real world, most of us end up parked on the couch every night (if you’re lucky, with a Love of your own), watching What Not to Wear instead of La Boheme.

No offense to Stacey and Clinton (the show is a guilty pleasure of mine), but the art of saving becomes quite fun when you start to look at it as a challenge rather than an impediment.

Those dinner and a movie nights may be a distant memory now that you’re saving for the down payment on that fabulous new house you’ve had your eye on, but why completely quit date night just because you’re a forward-thinking guy or gal with a smart financial plan? Keep putting off date night now, thinking you two will end up “doing it up” when you’re older, and yes, you’ll eventually partake in opera nights and fancy dinners (you earned it, after all), but you’ll also be riddled with the all lovely little traits that come along with age (wrinkles, white hair, a lack of youthful energy and, quite possibly, a case of arthritis). It’s a whole lot better than being riddled with debt, but what’s a saver to do in the meantime?

In the words of Tim Gunn: “Make it work!” Below I’ve compiled a list of cheap, fun date ideas that won’t break your piggy bank, and (gasp!) might even bring the two of you closer. (Isn’t that the fundamental point of any kind of date in the first place?)

Ideal Scenarios vs. Creative Solutions (Part 1)

Ideal Scenario: You and your significant other are laughing and holding hands, as you stroll along the Champs Elysee in Paris, discussing the Mona Lisa painting the two of you just saw at the Louvre. The smell of warm croissants and frothy cappuccino wafts out the front door of a Parisian bistro, inviting you forth from the cobblestone street. While you’re not that hungry, the two of you say “What the heck,” you’re in Paris after all, and take a seat at an outdoor table. An hour later, you’ve ordered $150 dollars worth of fancy little French pastries and designer water, but the two of you don’t care. Paris is the city of love, and part of that is a love affair with its food.

Creative Solution: While the above would be perfection for most, it strays far from the reality of many. Instead, get all gussied up in a cute Spring dress as if you could be out strolling the streets of Paris, and take a little trip to the nearest local garden, beach, pond or lake. Before you go, pack a gourmet picnic lunch fit for amore (Trader Joe’s has lots of yummy picnic foods for very cheap). Pinot grigio salami slices wrapped in basil leaves, Jarlsberg Swiss cheese and crackers, Artichoke hearts drizzled with olive oil and garlic, and grapes and strawberries are all fun finger foods for you and your Love to eat and feed one another (I’m a romantic sap and I proud of it). To make it even more fun, try finding a cheap wicker picnic basket, with slots for food and plastic dishes, utensils, cups and a blanket. (Try http://www.picnicfun.com/, they have good finds for $50 or under. Remember, this is something you two will use over and over again). And don’t forget a good bottle of wine, a staple for both Parisian bistros and American picnics alike. (Try Trader Joe’s for wine — you can get a solid Italian white for under $4!).

Ideal Scenario: You and your soul mate are sitting FRONT ROW at an Aerosmith concert. The amphitheater is sold out, thousands of screaming bandanna-clad fans are facing the stage that is DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU, and you and yours are holding hands and gyrating to the blaring vocals emanating from Steven Tyler’s outlandishly large boca. While it's fun now, the real fun begins after the show, when you two join Steve & Co. backstage for beverages and post-concert socializing, naturally.

Creative Solution: It might not be as cool as seeing the real thing, but cover bands can be quite underrated. With ticket prices being a fraction of the price of seeing the real band, and all the same songs you know and love, all you have to do is sing along and have fun just being together, listening to good, live music. I know, not all cover bands are phenomenal, and seeing fake versus real performers is like buying Juicy Couture when all you really want is Prada, but have you ever seen a good Journey cover band? ’Nough said. To get some ideas on who to see and where, visit http://www.tribute-band.com/.

Ideal Scenario: You’ve never been that big of a fan of golf, but in this case, you don’t care. Standing on the Pebble Beach golf course, feeling the cool ocean breeze against your matching argyle sweaters and khakis as you wait to tee off, the two of you couldn’t be happier. A caddy boy has just brought you spots of champagne to enjoy as you wait to begin (hey, this is a fantasy, anything goes), and you two begin laughing at something George and Brad (Clooney and Pitt, respectively – they are members here, after all) just said. The four of you often golf together at Pebble, when you’re not all sunning on Roberto Cavalli’s yacht off the island of Capri or vacationing in your Mexican villa on the beaches of Acapulco.

Creative Solution: For about $8 for 80 golf balls, visit your nearest driving range, rent a bucket of golf balls and a couple drivers and practice your swing! For even more fun, get all suited up in a cute golf outfit and, if you’re like me and don’t know the technique that well, have your Love stand behind you, with his arms around you and hands covering yours on the driver, showing you how to golf like a pro. How clichĂ© date stereotype can you get? For under $20, who cares?!? For ideas on where to go, try www.golflink.com/golf-driving-ranges. Not only is it something cheap the two of you can do together, it’s also a fabulous workout for your arms and upper body — perfect preparation for when you eventually do need to don that bikini on Cavalli’s yacht!

Tune in next time to read Cheap, Fun date ideas (Part 2).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Something to marinate on

Love calls me crazy, but I have this reoccurring brilliant idea every once in a while that usually fails to transpire (due to my semi-laziness), but is brilliant nonetheless. The idea occurred again tonight and I thought I'd mention it since it's about making money, and well, this is a personal finance blog.

As I was pulling into the parking garage of our complex after kickboxing tonight, I noticed a bunch of furniture inside near the entrance that had been left there. Nothing shocking, people usually dump their furniture there when they're moving out and want to rid themselves of it, but this time, it was different.

After I parked the Accento de naranja (I know, it's really a Hyundai Accent, but it sounds more exotic in Spanish), I meandered over to the furniture and looked around -- THANKFULLY I did, because there were some gems, people. Try a set of four tres cute brand new patio chairs, a tv, some racks and cabinets of various sorts and a lone coffee maker (ew), among the fray. The chairs are what did me in. I called Love in a flurry lit by the thought of free stuff, and he laughed at me like I was crazy, refusing to come down and look. So of course, I had to go up and prod him to come down, masking it as "taking Lolar Bear on a walk" to assuage his resistance.

To make a long story short, nothing came of it and it played out just like I thought it would: I was a Price is Right model, showing him all the fabulous features of said furniture, and he was the disinterested customer, who, might I add, kept his distance (about 15 feet) from the panoply of what could have been our future possessions, as Lola's apathetic gaze turned to the entrance of the garage, unimpressed, avoiding the root of my glee.

It was then when we were walking away that Love made me realize something: I have a problem saying "no" to free stuff. I will take it, even if I don't want it or need it, just because it's free. It's as if my brain doesn't want to impulsively make a conscious effort to ascertain whether I need, or even really want, something if I know that it's free and I can put off making the decision to trash it myself later.

Which brings me to my brilliant idea. If there's something I don't need, there's always someone in the world who will! So what better way to make a few greenbacks then kicking up some photos on eBay or Craigslist of the "free" furniture and seeing what happens? It's at this point that Love is calling me "crazy" and "weird," while slinging epithets like "what's wrong with you?" between his laughter, but it really is brilliant if you break it down. It's FREE to you, so how hard it is to take a few pictures and post them (for FREE) to see what happens? And if no one bites the bait (as Love thinks would likely happen), well, then toss it -- it was going to be tossed anyway.

Like I said earlier, I've had this idea before, but in different capacities, though all with the same underlying theme. My senior year of high school, my best friend at the time and I were hanging out in Berkeley, right along Telegraph Avenue. Between the UC Berkeley intellectuals and the stoned hippie Dead heads, I had the brilliant idea to go to all the used bookstores (there are many on Telegraph), search around in their free book bins, and take whatever good books I found to neighboring used bookstores to sell and turn a profit. We spent all day up to our elbows in free books -- everything from chemical engineering manuals to outdated encyclopedias, traipsing from one bookstore to another, but to no avail. The answer at every counter after they had looked through our books was "you can leave them in our free book bin, or try down the street." Let's just say I was the winner in the end -- not from the $0 I had made with my idea -- but with a trunk full of riveting page-turners I got to leave Berkeley with.

This scenario was reminscient of the one I thought of my sophomore year of college, in that I thought it would be a great idea to take the textbooks that teachers leave as throw-aways on the bookshelves in faculty rooms and sell them to the campus bookstore -- for a profit! I didn't want to do this bad boy without a partner in crime, but all my friends chickened out when I propositioned them, calling me "crazy" and laughing at me, much like Love does. Well, I got the last laugh because even though the plan was never followed through, I knew they could never think of a profit-making scheme as brilliant. Someday, somwhere I'm sure someone will play it out.

But for now, there's delightful buffet of furniture and kitchen appliances downstairs, with an eBay posting written all over them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back that tax up

Just got my tax rebate (always late, but worth the wait), and was thrilled when I saw the number in my bank account! In total, it's about $2,800, which is a pittance compared to how much I actually gave the government, but I'm glad I at least got something back. Thanks to Love, that number was much higher than what I would've gotten if I had filed as a single instead of joint -- I guess it really does pay to take out humongous loans for higher ed!

But the $2,800 question is: How will I spend this enviable portion of moolah?

Let's start by a good teeth cleaning. Not for me, but for my poodle, Lola Belle Watkins (affectionately dubbed "Lolar Bear" by Love), who's penchant for pancakes and pasta has left a nice patina of plaque on her little fangs. Even though a margarita on the beaches of Cancun would be a nice respite from the daily drone that is my life Monday through Friday, the prescient image of Lola's teeth falling out of her head at the ripe old age of 13 just doesn't strike me as appealing. So, I figure I'll take $400 of my rebate and put it toward her dental needs, effectively ridding myself and her (at least for awhile) of the poodle breath that permeates from her tiny gullet.

That leaves me with $2,400, she says, rubbing her hands together nefariously as a sinister glint takes shape in her eyes. I have two options: Buy that $1,500 leopard Dolce and Gabbana bag I saw on clearance at Nordstroms (hey! it was on clearance) and use the remaining $1,000ish on the pinnacle of any possible purchase I could ever make in my life (ok, besides that giant mansion I want) -- a perfectly tailored Burberry trenchcoat. Fabulous purchases, indeed.

But you know what? What would I have to look forward to and save for if I buy something I've set as a distant goal to reward myself with in the future? What would I use as a pat on the back for "making it," if not with a Burberry trenchcoat? And really, how silly would I look driving my 2000 orange Hyundai Accent with my Burberry trenchcoat on, drowning my financial woes in chalupas at Taco Bell? Almost sillier than Hillary Clinton thinking she still has a shot at the Democratic nomination.

My point is that when life hands you lemons, make your goddamn lemonade (i.e., leverage that baby!). There's no such thing as free lemonade unless you make it all by yourself. If "Mama" really does "want a new Buick," the best thing said "Mama" can do is make her cash work for her. In my case, I'll leave a touch in my bank account (quite possibly to use for summer plane tickets for Lova, Lola and I to fly back to California with), and the rest I'm putting in the stock market.

Voila! No fabulous trenchcoat, but an addition to the downpayment of my future McMansion and a Southern belle of a poodle with no hint of halitosis!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Debt-free!....for now. Here's where I stand...

So here I am, just turned 26 and completely debt-free! (Well, ok, almost, but the last year has been a whirlwind moving to a new city, getting a new job, and marrying Love, who unlike little-debt-free me coming into the marriage, wasn't so lucky.) Even though I worked part-time, my parents covered college tuition/rent (UC Santa Barbara - undergrad, Boston University - grad school) during my formidable years...and come to think of it, my car insurance too. And my car (it was a birthday present - I miss the Miata!), and my groceries...

It seems college is where up-and-coming adults accrue the bulk of their initial debt, and realizing how lucky I was, you'd think I'd be some spoiled, I-spend-money-frivolously-and-think-the-world-should-be-handed-to
-me-on-a-silver-platter princess, but I'm really not. Actually, it's quite the opposite. I have an addiction and it begins with the letter "S." Before you conjure up any dirty thoughts, it has nothing to do with that but everything to do with saving, which to some people can be a dirty little word in itself. But I love it. I think people miss the point that if you shave off a few dollars here and there and leverage (my other favorite word) your savings, you end up with a lot in the long run. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't splurge once in a while, but buying that sleek new iPhone just because it'd be fabulous to have is not always the best decision.

Sure, I have my guilty pleasures (What girl doesn't? I love 7 for all Mankind jeans and have been dubbed Immelda Marcos on more than one occasion because of my extensive shoe collection), but I've taught myself to rein in how much I spend and what I spend my money on. Aside from the debt I accrued from marrying Love (and the subsequent debt from our wedding, a whole other post to come about that) and the burgeoning debt that will hit us after he graduates Georgetown Law, I feel free, clear and in the green. Currently, I have $6,000+ (not bad for a journalist) that I use to trade in the stock market (another of my addictions), a budding 401k account at work, more than enough cash in the bank and oh, about $250 in credit card debt. Our goal is to save up enough money in the next two years ($40,000, to be exact) to use as a down-payment on real estate when we move back to the Bay Area (San Francisco, to be exact). Then the real investing begins!!

From here on out, I'm excited to chronicle my musings on spending, saving and living, with the ultimate goal of stylishly retiring early!
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