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The Kate Spade Sample Sale Will Be My Downfall

I think the retail gods know that I'm trying hard to keep me personal finances in order, because they keep throwing Lilly Pulitzer gift-with-purchase and Kate Spade online sample sale e-mails at me. Absolute torture.
I'm going to blog out my shopping impulses right now, to avoid actually acting on them and making purchases I know are unwise right now...
Does it matter that I was already gifted this Knightsbridge purse in red over the holidays? Does it make ANY sense that I want another, just like it, in pink? I guess not. But this little purse is giving me *serious* heart palpitations!

Also... a baby bag???
Enough said.
Someone, help me break the spell these bags have on me!
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Valentine's Day

Today has been about a lot of surprises, a little bit of wine, and a heavy rotation of Juliette Greco.

I die into a thousand pieces every time I hear this song.

I didn't think a think about Valentine's Day, leading up to the 14th... In fact, I didn't even thing to plan anything until the night of the 13th, when I was driving home from carting the umpteenth load of the the weekend over to our new rental town home. I e-mailed the Mr, who was studying in the campus library, to see if I should pick up 'fancy' groceries on the way home in order to cook a Valentine's Day spread. His response? A plain and simple...


From then on out, today has been a real gem of a day.

He sent me flowers to work! A BIG surprise, since the last time he sent me flowers was when we were dating and he was living in Doha.

In 2006.

He's never been a 'send flowers' kinda guy, so you can imagine the shock.

Then, when I opened the front door after a stellar 1.5 hour commute in the car, there was dinner and wine waiting for me on the dining room table. And the Bobby Darin Pandora channel streaming through his laptop, which had been propped on top of the flip-top trach can.

My sweet Italian man had made a spread of house salad (with his Grandma Violet's signature homemade salad dressing), portobello mushroom and artichoke heart raviola a la puttanesca, and a killer tiramisu chilling in the fridge.

We ate, we reminisced, we slow danced in the living room.

It was simple. It was a surprise. It was wonderful.

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The Lust List

Now I know that I've been all 'be responsibile about your personal finances' up in here for the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been completely immune to all the wonderful Spring goodies all you stylish ladies have been posting... I'm not made of stone, for goodness's sakes! I have retail wants and needs!

I have serious shopping lust like many of you, and this time of year makes me particularly vulnerable... This time 2 years ago, I was steadfastly accumulating pieces for my honeymoon trousseau, which one of the most fun shopping experiences I've ever had. I think the emergence of straw hats, sandals, and swimsuits across the web each February will forever remind me of that honeymoon prep-and will have me itching to buy a slew of loosely coordinated swimsuits, cover ups, and dresses all over again!

I know that the Bible says 'Thou shall not covet', but good gracious... I'll admit that I am coveting these items in a major way! Here are a few things on my current Lust List-

Monogram Necklace by Jennifer Zeuner Jewelry


Tom Ford Anouk Sunnies (sadly last season and thus sold out)


Fantastically Retro Beach Blanket Bingo One-Piece Swimsuit


Monogrammed Derby Hat


Super Bright Lilly Seamus Dress


Chic Gold Wedges


What have you been lusting over so far this season?

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February Finance Challenge - An Update

I hope day 1 of the February Challenge was successful for you thus far!

I'm thrilled that a few of you have pointed out that using the website is a great way to automate part of the February Challenge- and you're right! For those of you who don't yet have Mint accounts, I highly recommend doing so. It's a free online tracking service for your personal spending, and has lots of great bells and whistles to take advantage of. I've been a Mint subscriber since early 2008, and have found it to be a very integral part of my personal finance journey.

Feel free to use Mint as a tool in your Challenge toolkit, but I want to point out a couple of things before you let Mint do all of the work for you this month.

The first may be a little obvious, but is worth making note- Mint cannot track any cash that you spend out of your pocket. It may be able to log that $40 ATM withdrawal you made yesterday, but what you ultimately spent that $40 on will remain a mystery to you if you don't track it. Did you buy lunch with that cash? Pay for parking at the airport? Get a Diet Coke from the office vending machine? Buy some new chapstick at the drugstore? Each behavior is different, and important, so please make sure your Challenge tracking reflects where your cash goes as well.

The second thing I want to draw attention to is that there may be more to tracking your spending with pen and paper than just learning where you put your hard-earned dollars. Some studies show that writing things down may help you learn better. You can read an interesting article on LifeHacker here about how you may learn better by writing things out instead of typing, as an example.

I'm not trying to get all psychological here and quote studies I don't know too many things about... I just know that for me personally, the act of taking notes by hand helps me connect more to the topic I'm actually writing. If you're the kind of person who benefits from hand writing your To Do lists, work notes, or the like, doing the whole month of pen and paper thing might help you to connect with your spending behavior in a new way.

That being said, you know yourself better than anyone else, so feel free to track your spending using the best method for *you*!

How did day 1 go thus far? Let me know!

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Are You Up For A Challenge?

Pop quiz, hot shot-

How much did you spend on gas in November?

What's the 12 month average on your electricity bill?

Do you know how much money it takes to feed yourself/your household each month?

Can you answer any of the above questions?

If not- that's ok! But you're going to learn how to do so, stat.

We have ourselves a February challenge, folks!

As you've probably guessed, the cornerstone of personal finance is the big, scary B word...


But first things first- A budget is really just a plan for how you're going to spend (or save!) your money each month, right? So let's change things up a bit and call it a Money Plan for now, shall we? I think the B word sounds so restrictive, and automatically conjures up thoughts of sacrificing fun stuff, going without, and setting yourself up for failure. NO FUN.

The term Money Plan, however, sounds a lot more proactive- you're planning on how YOU want to allocate your funds. You're in control. And being in control is a nice feeling to have when it comes to money!

Now that we've covered that, let's get back to the challenge...

The real question is this- how can you set a realistic Money Plan when you don't even know what your spending patterns are?

It would be all well and good for me to say "I think I'm going to allocate $250 for fuel in my Money Plan this month"... But guess what? I spent almost $450 in gas in the month of November alone because of my insane work commute (try not to envy me too much). If I just pulled a number out of the air and plugged it into my Money Plan, I just set myself up for a big fat fail.

You cannot create a successful Money Plan if you don't know what your spending habits are- so the challenge this month is to learn your spending habits.

I want you to write down EVERYTHING you spend for the next 28 days.

Now hear me out on this- I am not asking you to change your spending habits one bit. This isn't a challenge to cut down your spending or start using coupons or to change anything about your behavior.

I'm going to say this again, so it really sticks in your mind-

You cannot create a successful Money Plan if you don't know your spending habits!

All you need for this is a pen and a cheap little notebook and the commitment to log every penny for 28 days. It's not a difficult challenge, but I promise that if you're really interested in taking control of your finances, this challenge will do *wonders* for you.

Are you with me?

Ready, set, go!

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