Monday, April 29, 2013

Looking for a New Budgeting Tool

Now that I officially have a full-time job after graduation, I'm starting to plan for the real world. I will be moving back home for a few months to save some money and get settled into my new job.

While I don't need to jump and find a new place to live right away, I will eventually want to move out of Mom and Dad's house. In addition to that, I am looking to buy a new car in the near future. Regardless of what I buy first, I will need to save money over the next few months. I've never been a budgeter but I've always been good about saving money and being careful with what I spend.

But now with a new job, I will have a nice salary... which will make it harder to justify sticking to a budget. Lately I've been doing a lot of research on ways to effectively budget. I've found a number of great articles and blogs with several different tips and suggestions including using the budgeting tool is a cloud based budgeting tool that pulls from your bank accounts to create interactive graphics to help you manage your money. It sounds like a great idea and that it will be very useful to visualize how you're spending your money, but what makes me nervous is the way the website pulls from your accounts.

In order to access you have add your usernames and passwords for your credit card, savings and checking accounts - which is a risk concern for me. I have read several reviews such as this one from the New York Times, but none have actually helped me make up my mind about the site.

Does any one use or another budgeting tool? What are your thoughts about these tools and would you recommend signing up?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From Trash to Cash

Even with all of the rain that has blown through Peoria in the past week, I am confident that nice spring weather is on the way. With spring, comes change. For seniors graduating, big changes are on the horizon.

I remember this time of year when I was a sophomore, two years ago. I was eager to move out of my sorority house and into an off-campus house with four other roommates. It was going to be an exciting adventure and I couldn't wait to finally have my own room. One thing I was particularly worried about was finding (and affording) furniture to fill our off-campus house. I had never rented my own housing before and I never had to accumulate furniture for living spaces. Not only that, but any random furniture my parents had lying around was passed on to my brother years before.

Instead of going straight to Bed, Bath and Beyond, I raided the houses of girls who were graduating from my sorority. Many were moving out of state or back home and didn't want transport some of the larger items they owned. I managed to find some great pieces including a couple of lamps, dishes and a nightstand and dresser.

Of the many things the girls were able to sell or give away, not all items were worn down and overused. In fact, the majority of items were fairly new. While the girls didn't make a large profit from their sales, I greatly benefited. I was able to fill my room, and several areas of the house for cheap.

For those who are moving into off-campus houses I would highly suggest asking upperclassmen about items they are looking to rid of before hitting the mall. Same with those who are graduating. If you will need furniture to complete a new apartment, what better place to look than the houses of your neighbors and friends.

If you're looking to lighten your load, rather than build it, don't hesitate to sell your items. Whether it be a lamp, a set of plastic cups or even an old vacuum cleaner, you might as well make some money before tossing it to the trash.

In these next few weeks I'll be pulling out several items to sell to underclassmen I know and I know many people will be doing the same.

Happy moving!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Managing Student Loans

While I'm am getting excited for graduation, which is right around the corner, I can't help to think about the amount of student loans that will follow me. Today I completed my exit survey for some of the student loans I have, while the amount of loans I have to pay back is lower than I expected... It is still a high number.

I was browsing through a blog a friend recently refernced called "Making Sense of Cents." On the blog there are several posts about paying back loans in the most efficient and cost saving ways. One post, titled "How to Stay Motivated with Debt Repayment" is just one that I enjoyed reading and will take a few tips away from.

If you are worrying about your loans I suggest looking at a few of the debt and loan posts on the blog as well as being aware of your finances.

1. Know how much you owe, and what your daily interest is.- This will help you project your budget and put in perspective how much you're losing each day you wait to pay your bill.

2.  Set long term goals and stick to them. Don't just say you're going to pay your loans off in under 10 years... DO IT!

3. Adjust payback plans. If you have state loans, be sure to adjust your plans in the future to best suit your needs, if you lose your job or income- there are plans that are more flexible and accommodating.

4. Relax. It will take some time, but you'll eventually be student loan free!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Movie Night In

One of my fondest memories growing up was going to Family Video every Friday night after dinner. Each weekend as a family, or just with my siblings, we would watch movies- new and old. The store managers knew me by name and I had memorized the layout of the store. It was nothing more than a routine then, but looking back now I guess you could say we were movie junkies.

Nowadays there is something old fashioned about actually going to a movie store to browse aisles of DVDs. A lot of people opt to visit a Redbox or just stream a movie from home. While a video store may not be as convenient as alternative options, there is a limited selection of movies that are available online or at a Redbox.

On top of the fact that there is a larger selection to choose from at a movie store, it is also less expensive. At Family Video, new release movies are about $2 and newly released and other older movies are just $1. Movies that are not a new release can typically be rented for 2-5 days. There are several Family Video locations in the area, and if you are a new customer- you're in luck. When you first sign up you get half-price movies for a whole month. On top of that, they send you home with a packet of coupons to use another time.

To be honest, I don't understand why people prefer to visit the movie store!

Just last weekend I rented two new release movies for about $2. It was awesome. Next time you consider visiting a Rebox don't forget about Family Video. Not only will they have that obscure movie you've been in the mood to see, but it will be less expensive too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Spring is my favorite time of year. The weather is warmer but tolerable, everyone's moods are lifted after a midwest winter and everything turns green... what's not to love?

The weather isn't the only great thing about Spring. Spring also means baseball season. Baseball is my favorite sport and there is nothing better than spending an afternoon under the sun in a ballpark.

I have always loved baseball, but my dedication to the sport grew stronger two summers ago when I interned with the Peoria Chiefs. The Peoria Chiefs is a minor league baseball team located right here in Peoria.

While it was a long summer, the time I spent at the Chief's stadium was full of memories. As a marketing and promotions intern I coordinated in-game promotions, interacted with fans and danced on the dugouts. I made great friends that I still get together with several times a year and I learned to love baseball in a new way.

This is why I'm excited for the Chief's season to begin. Opening day is this Thursday. If I'm not exhausted after a long day of work, you'll find me there. But it's not just the atmosphere that keeps me going back to the stadium.

 The Chief's have great deals and promotions all season long. From $1 hot dogs, pops and chips on Wednesday to free giveaways you'll get more bang for your buck.

My personal favorite is Thirsty Thursday. During Thursday games 16 oz. draft beers are $1. That's right $1. AND they have Summer Shandy on tap for any Lienenkugel fans.

A complete list of Chief's games and promotions are available here- I hope to see you at a game!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Art

Dates are expensive. They don't always have to be, but when you're searching for something new and fun to do it often comes with a price tag.

Because I'm cheap, dates with my boyfriend are usually dinner out and renting a movie. While we often try new restaurants, it typically doesn't stray too far from that.

Last week we decided to try the Rhythm Kitchen for the first time. There is live jazz music after 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesdays, which was nice, but I wasn't impressed with my meal.

Regardless, on our way out we stopped to look in the window of an art studio in the same building. We were only stopped for a minute when a smaller, middle aged women came to the window and waved us in and we decide to explore.

The woman's name was Jody and she was the owner of the studio, The Hive. Even though there was a painting class in session, she brought us into the small studio and told us a little bit about her business.

The Hive is just a month old and is managed by Jody, who is retired. The Hive offers a variety of art lessons throughout the month. For just $35 you will receive materials as well as a two hour lesson. These lessons aren't just about the art of painting or sketching, The Hive offers lessons such as Cupcake Pop Art and a crafting lesson with wine corks.

Not only does the studio offer two hour lessons, it also has walk-in hours on Fridays which The Hive calls "Happy Art." During Happy Art hours, you can come into the studio and paint. For just $10 you receive a small canvass and paints and you can stay as long as you want and be creative.

For me the idea of a blank canvass is exciting. While my boyfriend, on the other hand, is doubtful of his creative abilities. We both agreed to come back soon for Happy Art and paint together. Even if you aren't on a date, painting and art lessons is a fun way to relax. If I hadn't agreed to go with my boyfriend, I would have already dragged my girlfriends there!

I'm excited to make my trip to The Hive and I couldn't help but share. For more information about the studio, visit their website, or like them on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Meal for One Made Easy

Unlike many of my friends, I am not on a luxurious Spring Break trip. Instead I'm spending the week working in Peoria. However, I was able to go home for the weekend, before returning on Monday. Driving back to Peoria I knew my fridge was empty and I wouldn't last long without going to the grocery store.

 It has been only recently that I started shopping at Hyvee. And since I discovered their new Fuel Saver program, my visits have been more frequent. Monday after work I ran over to Aldi and Hyvee and that's when I discovered Hyvee's prepared meats section.

From marinated chicken to stuffed pork chops, Hyvee has a large variety to choose from. Because I often cook for myself, I was excited that there are several fresh meats available that not only spice up a meal, but would cut preparation time.

The best part is it was all inexpensive. Each marinated chicken breast was $1.67 (3 for $5), the stuffed pork chops were about $3 each. In addition there was also a large variety of twice baked potatoes for $1 each. I decided to try three different marinated chicken breast, italian, garlic butter and pesto parmesan seasoned. I also got a a cheddar bacon twice baked potato.

In addition to the prepared fresh meat, Hyvee also sells pre-made meals from their kitchen such as orange chicken and pasta salad. Depending on the meal and portion some items were inexpensive while others were more than what I would like to spend.

If you often cook for yourself, or are looking for something different to spice up your meals take a walk past the Hyvee butcher counter. You just might find something you like!