Friday, February 29, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 2/29/08

My favorite blog post this week was 5 Reasons to Abandon Television at The Wisdom Journal. My husband and I very rarely watch live tv. We do own the House tv series on DVD, but even then we only average about one episode a week and about one movie a month. There's so many other fun things to do with your life!

Check out this week's Carnival of Money Stories at Collecting My Cash. My story about getting my free credit report was included.

Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Hyrax Appliance

The Hyrax Appliance. Sounds like an instrument of torture, doesn't it? ....Yeah.

I found out that that is the name of the thing my orthodontist put in my mouth today. I have included a picture of it at the bottom of this post (on a plaster model, my teeth don't look like that!).

I do have one piece of good news! When the orthodontist first talked about this appliance, he said that since I'm an adult, I would be turning it (making it wider) once a week. If I was a child I'd do it daily. Well, today he told me that some adults do turn it more often than once a week and that I can if it works for me. My current plan is to start out every 6 days and then move it down to 5 or 4 days between turns if it doesn't hurt too much. My thought is that the sooner this thing comes off, the better!

Any words of advice or sympathy are appreciated. ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Getting the Best Deal on Airline Tickets

I'm fairly new to the world of buying airline tickets, and I finally have a system down. I'd love to share it with you and hear back if you know of a way to get a better price.

Step 1
About four months before a trip (provided I know about it four months in advance), I start to watch airline ticket prices for the trip I plan to take. All ticket search sites seem to find the same results, so I just use Yahoo! Travel since Yahoo! is my home page.
I keep a record of the date I checked, the price, and the airline. I'll do this at least once a week for a couple of weeks to get a feel for ticket prices on the trip I'm taking.

Step 2
I check This is actually a new step for me. I just used it last week before buying plane tickets for an upcoming trip to Arizona. The site is pretty neat because it tells you whether ticket prices for your flight are likely to go up or down in the next seven days and how sure it is of that prediction. There's also a little chart that shows the ticket price history.
This website came in handy because I had been watching the price of the Arizona tickets continually go up over the past couple of weeks. Early last week, they hit a new high and I got really nervous. I checked Farecast, which told me that prices were expected to drop back down. Whew! Sure enough, three days later, ticket prices were back down to their low since I'd started recording them. I checked Farecast again, and they predicted prices would go back up. I decided it was the right time to buy!

Step 3
I went to the airline's website to order the tickets. I have yet to find a website that can give me a better price than the airline itself. It's usually exactly $5 cheaper per ticket when I buy through the airline directly. I'm assuming that $5 must be the "finder's fee" other websites get for booking flights.
I also like the sense of security I get from knowing that there's no middleman to mess things up between me and the airline.

Step 4
Last, I relax and wait for my vacation to begin!

Have you found somewhere to get a better price than directly through the airline? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Invitations and Stationary

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about your invitations and other stationary. My total amount spent in this area was $111.82.

Here are some money-saving ideas for saving money on your wedding stationary purchases:

-Make Your Own. You can do this either by literally making your own invites and programs from scratch, or you can print your own on blank invites purchased at an office store. This works best for small weddings, but can also be done for large ones if you have the time and desire.
I did the second option. I stopped at a couple of office supply stores and at Walmart (their wedding section is actually pretty decent). I picked out the invitation that I liked, bought it, and brought it home to print on from my home computer. It was really easy to research proper invitation wording online.
The wedding programs were super-easy. They cost about $10 at Walmart and took one evening to write up and print out. You can't beat that!

-Order Online. My best friend did this. The nice part is that you can quickly and easily check multiple locations for the best price. This probably works better for a larger wedding as many websites have a minimum order requirement.
You can also combine the two above options to find an invitation online that you like and then create your own based off of the one you like. I have another friend who did this.

-Local Printer. Don't forget to check your local printer. You can even take an invitation that you find online and bring it to your printer. Ask him to beat the online price!

As you can see, you have many options for getting the perfect invitation and program without breaking the bank.

How did you do your wedding invitations? Do you think you got a good deal?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 2/22/08

I've had a nasty cold since last week Friday, but it's finally starting to get a little better. Most of this week, I just went to work, came home, and laid around/napped. I'm hoping it won't hang on too much longer!

My favorite blog post this week was from Gather Little by Little. It's the third part of a series on buying a new car at a dealership. I learned quite a bit about the tactics that dealerships use; you really have to check it out. Make sure you go back and read parts one and two, as well!

I was included in the Carnival of Money Stories hosted by College of Cash. I submitted my story about our $250 refund.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Getting Our Free Credit Report

The other night, my husband and I went to to get our free credit reports. Being newly married, we thought we were due to make sure everything was being recorded properly on our credit reports and that we knew about everything that was sitting out there.

About is the FTC's official website offering you one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). It's a good idea to run your report every so often to make sure there are no misreported late payments and that no unauthorized accounts have been opened in your name.

When you use this website, you get to pick which of the three agencies you want to get your report from. Even though all three should have the same information, you might want to switch it up each time, just in case something has been misreported to just one of the agencies. Each of the agencies will offer to let you get your credit score, as well, but please note that you will have to pay to get your score. There are no legitimate free websites out there (that I know of) to get your credit score.

Also, beware of "copycat" websites like is the only FTC official website. Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote about how is trying to rip you off.

What Did We Find?
My husband checked his credit report with TransUnion and I checked mine through Experian. Mine was completely accurate. All of the old accounts that I had closed showed up as closed and all of my current accounts showed up as well.
My husband found that he had three store credit cards open that he had no idea were open! None of them had balances or any activity, so we knew that they weren't opened by someone else. They were accounts that my husband opened years ago, probably to get a discount on something, and then never closed.
A nice feature of the credit reports is that they give the name and phone number of the credit issuer. We don't need to try to dig up old paperwork looking for information. My husband can just pull the phone numbers off of his report to call and cancel these cards, which is what he plans to do in the next couple of days.

I'm going to try to remember to do this at least yearly from now on. We don't plan on applying for new credit of any type any time soon, so there shouldn't be any need to check it more often than that.

When is the last time you checked your credit report?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Groom's Attire

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about the groom's attire. I think it's kind of humorous that it took four posts to get through the bride's attire and accessories, but I can get everything about the groom into one post! My total amount spent in this area was $120.

Groom's Attire
Men are simple creatures (no offense meant), so it's no surprise that getting them properly attired to be married is pretty simple as well.

Tuxes are probably the most common thing for a groom to wear to his wedding. Besides shopping around for the best price, here are some ways to save money:
-Get One Free. There are frequently promotions out there for the groom to get his tux rental for free when the groomsmen all get their rentals at the same place.
-Buy It. If a tux is only going to be worn once, it doesn't need to be high quality. You might want to check the rental cost against buying a cheap tux at JCPenney or the like.

Suits are my personal preference and what we did for our wedding. Some of the groomsmen already owned black suits, so that saved them a ton of money. We bought a cheap black suit for my husband, knowing that he would be able to use it again at a future wedding or for a job interview. We then bought matching ties for all of the men to go with our theme and the girls' dresses.

Of course, the groom doesn't need to wear a tux or a suit. Feel free to break from tradition and wear something out of your closet. That wouldn't cost you a dime!

Do you have any additional tips?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 2/15/08

My favorite blog post this week was posted at Get Rich Slowly but written by Lynnae at BeingFrugal. Here's the link:
How to Prepare for a Baby (Without Going Broke)
Sure, it's a little premature for me to be thinking about having a baby, but I really enjoy reading and learning about these things before the hormones kick in :) For example, I'd never even considered the idea of using cloth diapers instead of disposables or of using a midwife instead of going to the hospital. Now I have a couple of years to casually read about these topics as I see articles about them!

I was included in the Make It From Scratch carnival this week. I entered my recipe for Easy Lasagna. I definitely want to try out the recipe I saw for Dark Molten Chocolate Cakes - they look so delicious!

I was also included in the Carnival of 20-Something Finance. I entered one of my "Saving Money of Your Wedding" articles: Bridal Accessories.

Lastly, my husband did the sweetest thing for Valentine's Day. There were 3 roses in the bathroom when I got up. Later, I found 3 more by my breakfast bowl, 3 more by my hot chocolate mug, and 3 more by the front door! Each set of flowers was in a plastic water bottle with a handmade wrapper on it where he wrote something sweet.
Pictures are below. I sure do love that guy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Refund We Didn't Think We'd Get

We just got a refund of $250 onto our credit card, and I have my husband to thank. Here's the story:

As I've mentioned numerous times, my husband and I went on our honeymoon last month. Since we had never done an all-inclusive resort before, we decided to use a travel agent to book our trip. The travel agent told us that there was a promotion going on where we got a $250 spa credit to use at the resort's spa. We booked the trip and signed the paperwork.
Fast forward about 5 months to my husband and I standing at the front desk of the resort (we're in our swimsuits and sandals, of course!). After talking to about four different people, we're informed that the travel agency shouldn't have told us that we had a spa credit because the promotion expired before our trip was even booked.
I was really bummed. I hadn't painted my toenails before leaving for this tropical paradise specifically because of the spa credit. I had imagined myself relaxing amid palm trees with a strawberry daiquiri in my hand and a friendly lady giving me a wonderful pedicure. Now I was stuck with old, half-worn-off nail polish for the duration of my vacation.
I hate complaining to companies and my husband doesn't mind at all, so he called the travel agent when we got home. We expected to get a lame excuse and for someone to hand us a gift certificate to use on our next expensive tropical vacation (which would be completely useless to us). The travel agent didn't sound very hopeful and wanted my husband to call the company that the trip was booked with. He let her know that she should call them on our behalf (jeez, what were we paying her for?).
We were both extremely surprised when the travel agent called a few days later and said that the company would credit our credit card $250!
Despite the travel agent coming through for us in the end, we will probably never book a trip through a travel agency again. They didn't provide us with any better information than we had access to ourselves over the internet. It was a good lesson learned.
Oh, and by the way, I plan on using a little of that refund to finally get that well-deserved pedicure :)

I'd love to hear about any travel-related lessons you've learned the hard way!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Saving Money On Your Wedding: Hair & Make-up

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about the bride's and bridesmaids' hair and make-up. My total amount spent in this area was $48.

Hair and Make-up

I got really lucky in this area. My future sister-in-law did my hair (Since she's a professional stylist, I paid her) and one of my bridesmaids did my make-up. Here are some tips for you:

-If you know someone who does hair or make-up, ask them. I had my future sister-in-law and a friend of one of my bridesmaids meet at a friend's house and they did everyone's hair for a really decent price.

-Ask a friend who's hair or make-up you admire. One of my bridesmaids always has perfect-looking make-up, so I asked her to do my make-up for me. This could easily also work if you have a friend who like to play with hair.

-Do it yourself. I am a huge proponent of being nice (financially) to your bridesmaids. Even if you want your own hair and make-up done professionally, you can give your bridesmaids a break and not force them to spend that extra $50-100 to get their hair done. Nobody's going to be looking at them anyway. They'll be too busy admiring you!

As always, please add more ideas in the comments!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Easy Lasagna Recipe

I seem to be slowly becoming famous for my lasagna. I think it has something to do with the fact that lasagna is my husband's favorite food ;)

At any rate, I've been asked numerous times for my lasagna recipe, so I am going to post it today! I love this recipe because you don't have to cook the noodles. I hate handling cooked lasagna noodles, they're so hard to work with. This recipe is super-easy.

Easy Lasagna

- 3/4 of a 16 oz. box of lasagna noodles
- 1 pound cottage cheese (I use low-fat small-curd)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
- 32 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
- 1 can chopped mushrooms
- approximately 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Put a layer of uncooked noodles in the bottom a 13x9 dish. Mix cottage cheese, eggs, salt, and parsley. Spread 1/3 of this mixture over the noodles. Brown beef; drain. Add spaghetti sauce along with water, worchestershire sauce, and mushrooms. Simmer a few minutes. Spread 1/3 meat sauce over the cottage cheese layer, top with mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers; 3 layers in all. Cover with foil. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 2/8/08

Him over at Make Love, Not Debt had a funny article this week about his mom. There are links to past articles about his mom, as well. Him's mom sounds like she could be difficult to deal with, but he sure handles it well! Here's the article:
Mom's Ring Finger

In other news, I went back to the orthodontist on Wednesday. I got fitted for my "appliance" and then the annoying rubber band spacers went back in. I found out the appliance is going to have two metal bands that will be visible when I smile. I almost starting crying right there in the dentist chair, all 28 years of me. Pretty vain, huh? :)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Progress Bar

I want to send out a quick "thank you" to some people for helping me get my little progress bar up on the right side of the screen.

Thanks to Mrs. M&P for emailing the widget to me and thanks to my dear husband for tweaking it and helping me make it my own!

Now you can see how I'm doing with getting our Roth IRA's maxed out for 2007 before April 15th :)

3-5-08 Update: I've had someone get to this post from a search for "blog financial progress bar". If anyone out there would like a copy of the html coding of my progress bar, feel free to leave a comment with your email and I'll be glad to send it to you!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jamaican Honeymoon: The Finances

As I mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I just got back from our honeymoon in Jamaica. We had budgeted $1000 in spending money, which I also mentioned in a previous post. How did we do?

Excursions: $590
Pictures: $40
Food: $10
Parking: $40
Souvenirs/Misc: $50
Cash for tips, etc: $70
Total: $800

To expound a little, the excursions were the reason that we saved as much as we did. We swam with dolphins and went horseback riding in the ocean, two things that weren't included in our package and were very pricey! They were worth every penny, though. Also, we nearly ran out of tip money. If you ever go on a trip like this, I recommend at least $100 (especially if your husband is a big tipper!) and make sure it's almost all in $1 bills :)

I was very happy to come in under budget, especially since I'm worried about getting $4000 into each of our ROTH's before April 15th. The $200 we didn't spend in Jamaica is going right into our ROTH's.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Bridal Accessories

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about bridal accessories (veil, headpiece, shoes, etc.). My total amount spent in this area was $47.38.

Bridal Accessories
This is a part of your wedding budget where you can really save a lot of money.

-Free with purchase. As I said last week, ask if the bridal shop will give you an accessory free or deeply discounted with the purchase of your wedding dress.

-Make it. If you know anyone the least bit crafty, this could work really well with a veil. Take a look at a veil at the bridal store and you can see how simple they are to make. Tulle costs only a few dollars at a craft store and you can get a comb for under $10 just about anywhere.
My mother-in-law actually made my veil out of lace from my mom's wedding dress. Not only did it turn out beautifully (take a look!), but it has a lot of sentimental value as well.

-Borrow. This works really well with veils and headpieces. I had two friends offer to lend me their veil if the one made by my mother-in-law didn't work out.

-Get out of the bridal store! These places have a huge mark-up. Check your local hobby or craft store for a bridal department. The Hobby Lobby near me had veils, combs, headpieces, and lot more for under $10 each. I ended up finding my tiara at Claire's Boutique for under $15.

-Look for shoes everywhere. A good friend of mine got the shoes for her wedding on clearance at Walmart. I've bought bridesmaid shoes at Goodwill before.

I hate to admit it, but most of my $45 spent on accessories was blown on lingerie. *blush* I'm such a sucker for Victoria's Secret!

Feel free to add your stories and tips in the comments :)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 2/1/08

My favorite blog post this week goes along with the wedding posts I've been doing. Mrs. Micah said something that I've been wanting to say for a long time in her post Bridesmaid Dresses - we need a solution.
Make sure you check out the comments, as well. Did you know that in the UK, the bride pays for the bridesmaids' dresses and shoes?