Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That Time Of Year Again

Guess what time of year it is????? Pumpkin Spice Latte time.

Starbucks had a clue system that you could 'unlock' a secret code on Twitter (@therealpsl) to get the drink early. The twitter led you to a Tumblr account where you put in a code.

Luckily, the barista at my Starbucks just let me have it early since someone earlier in the day has already unlocked it.  Score!

I realize that a #psl is not in my budget, but how can I miss out on enjoying my favorite drink (that I can only get 4 months of the year), on the day it comes out? I am really trying to get stay away and only get it as a special treat. You can't buy the mix like you can the other flavors like cinammom dolce or vanilla.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Savings Account

I bit the bullet and opened a new online savings account.  I am really bad about having cash in my local savings account through my bank and transferring because I "need" something that is out of my budget.  I have heard of a few different online banks that you can get a higher savings rate than at a local bank, but never looked into them further.

Online banks can offer a higher saving rate because they do not have branches to pay overhead for.  Sure, they have hosting fees and other internet related expenses, but I'm sure (in relation to the # of customers) it doesn't compare to the cost of rent, utilities, etc that a traditional bank has.

I got a Paypal payment for $90 from various mystery shops I did last month and decided that instead of adding it to my regular bank account, I would open an online account.  Fingers crossed this will keep my money in a bank instead of retail stores. :)

I looked online and found two options that would be good for my needs.  Ally Bank and Capital One 360.  Ally Bank has a bit higher interest rate than Capital One 360, but when I tried to open an account, it was a pain in the rear! I  had to fill out an online form, call a number, was put on hold a few times (plus I was online the line for over 16 minutes and they couldn't figure out what was happening), and then I just decided to cancel that account and go with Capital One.  They wanted me to submit my social security card via email (totally unsecure, never do that!) and I was not about to do that!

Capital One was super easy to set up and I was able to complete the process quickly with no annoying phone calls or uploads.  It does take a few days for the opening deposit to be put in to my account, but it will be there soon.  Plus, it has a .75% savings rate vs my local bank is .10%, that is a .65% difference!

Oh, and if you sign up with them, we both get $20 (if your account is opened with $250 or more)!!!!  Go here and sign up!  Save that $$ and start budgeting! :)

For me, out of sight is out of mind.  I don't want to look at the balance or anything unless I am verifying that a deposit is made.  Is it just me, or do other people do that too?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kali's First Birthday

My niece, Kali, turned one a few weeks ago.  My sister lives in Wyoming, but came down for the birthday party that my parents threw for Kali.  Here are some cute pics of the birthday girl! :)

The party was princess themed (of course), and they went all out in the decorations.

Cole decided that he wanted to forego using a fork and just bite into the cake.  Weird (but super cute) kid!

Kali is very prim and proper.  She keeps her right hand in a fist and uses her left hand to do everything.  Maybe she will be left handed!!

Presents!  She was very excited to get presents.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Weekend Recap and Saturday's Texans Game

Last week, I won free tickets to the Houston Texans game against the Atlanta Falcons.  I was originally going to take my sister and nephews, but they decided they didn't want to go since it was pre-season.  Kids don’t usually care, but since their dad said that, they decided they didn't want to go.  Silly!

So, a girl’s night it was!  I told my sister that I would bring a friend and she could bring a friend and we both could enjoy the night.  I had posted on FB that I won the tickets and my friend Natalie said she wanted to go, so I texted her and asked if she was available. She was really excited and it was the first time she had been to a Texans game or even inside NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium.  Laura brought her friend Desiree that she knew from when they were on the PTA together at my nephew’s elementary school.

My Saturday was packed!  I woke up at 5:11 am to my alarm and got dressed to travel to Nacogdoches for the morning.  Driving Jacks officer retreat was that weekend and they asked if any alumni were free that weekend if they could come and speak.  There were about five of us that drove up for the day/weekend and we spoke about our time with Driving Jacks.  I meant to leave at 11 am, but I was talking with some of the officers and I couldn't leave on time. 

I left around 11:50 (so late!!!) and headed to Tarkington for a funeral.  My ex-stepmom, Tammy, had been battling cancer for a few months and succumbed last Tuesday.  Her funeral was held at her former church in Tarkington.  The funeral started at 1 pm, but I didn't get there until around 2 pm since I was running late.  I got there right as everyone was viewing the casket and saying their condolences to her family.  I was able to attend the graveside service and the lunch afterwards.  My dad had three kids with her; Bridgette, Joshua, and Shaun.  Shaun was here on emergency leave from the Navy and was dressed in his uniform. 

After the funeral I headed to my sister’s house to carpool to the game.  I thought I would have plenty of time to get there and hang out with the boys, but I got there and had just enough time to change before we had to leave.  Luckily, both Natalie and Desiree both live in the same neighborhood (my Mom’s neighborhood) so we were able to get on the road quickly.  We had a free parking pass to the game along with 4 awesome seats!! 

The seats were in the Verizon suite of NRG Stadium.  You had to have a special ticket to get in to that section and they had a special alcohol and food section with super short lines.  You still had to pay for all of it, but it was still nicer than the other sections of the stadium.

The Texans won by a lot of points (32-7) and we stayed until the very end.  A lot of people were leaving since it was clear that the Texans would win the game, but we stayed.  On the way out to the parking lot, there were two guys who were fighting, one with a knife!  The traffic cops stopped everyone so that cars could pass through, but none of us wanted to get stabbed with a knife from drunk people!  We were all pushing and trying to get away from the knife guy and the lady was yelling at us.  How in the heck did they get in the stadium with a knife?  Someone with a wand did not do their job!  Finally when she heard that there was a fight with a knife she called security and let us all through.  We made it back to our car and swiftly locked the doors. LOL. 


Anyway, it was a fun game and the Texans won!!  Whooo hoo!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Side Hustle: Surveys

In the past few weeks, I have been reading personal finance blogs and you might have noticed some increase on financial type posts.  They have inspired me to write a few on my blog and do a bit more savings/budgeting than I used to.

I realized that while I make a lot of money (*a lot is a relative term), I don't know where it all goes!  I know I (try) send about $600 a month to student loans, the rest seems to leave without me noticing.  I do spend a lot on going out to eat though. :/  I am working on that.

In order to increase my savings and have a way to save for birthdays/holidays, I started to do surveys online.  I signed up for a few companies and have made about $40 in a few weeks!  It isn't too much, but my budget for gifts is about $30/month or $360 per year.  I figure if I make about $30 every two weeks, that pays for holidays and birthdays for the year.  The companies either pay you in gift cards (to places like Amazon or Visa gift cards) or they can send the $$ to your PayPal account.

Here are a few if you want to try it yourself.
Inbox Dollars-you can make money off of searches (like google), paid emails (click on the link), surveys, referells, watch short videos, spin and win, purchases (I got $5 for purchasing through them a Groupon), etc.  Super easy! I have made the most $$ off of this one.  Sign up and get $5 automatically in your account.  They also have monthly sweepstakes you can enter.

Swag Bucks-pretty much the same as Inbox Dollars, but you get points instead of cash.  The points equal a certain $ amount that you redeem for points.  I haven't used this one too much, but I already have enough points for about $5.

Let me know how it works out for you!  If you have any other ideas how to make easy money online (not scams! LOL), post below. I have another post soon about mystery shopping.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Aramco Half Marathon Kickoff Party

Back in June, I got selected to be in the 2015 Aramco Half Marathon.  Just like with the full marathon, it was a lottery system. I really didn't want to be accepted, but I thought it would be good for me to apply anyway.  Let that be a lesson learned...do not apply for the 2016 lottery because you will probably get picked! LOL.

Anyway, last night was the kick-off party for the event that had been postponed due to weather a few times.  Luckily, it was a clear afternoon and rain free (it did rain later that night though).  I left right after work and went down Memorial Dr. to look for parking.  Let me tell you, Rush Hour Traffic + Kick-off party = nightmare for parking and traffic!  They had sections of the road blocked off and you couldn't park where they were having the party (a section of Memorial Park).

Well, lucky for me there was a small parking area a little ways down from the party that I thought I could just park easily.  No, it was hard getting in there since it was so packed.  I parked on the side of the lane and decided just to get my shirt and go, since it was so busy and I know a lot of other people were looking for parking as well.

I got to the site and found the shirt section easily.  I wanted to look around the different booths, but I knew the parking was bad and I didn't want to get towed or anything.

I got back to my car and found out that I as blocked in by 3 cars.  Three whole separate people decided to just leave their cars double parked.  They took their sweet time getting back too.  We were stuck for about 20 minutes waiting for the people to get back. So honestly, I could have just looked around more at the party and it wouldn't have mattered.  They had lots of tents set up for different charities (Run for a Reason) and various vendors giving out free food. I was this close to snagging a bagel or fruit, but I *thought* I needed to get back to my car asap.

I do like the shirt though.  The material has a vintage look to it,I'm not sure if you can tell by the picture. I can't wait to wear it, even if I CAN wait to train for the race. LOL. I didn't go to the party when I was training for my marathon, but I decided that since I was already in that area, I might as well go.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Houston Dash Game

Last night I was able to attend my first ever professional soccer game. I got 5 free tickets from work and I took my friend Angie and her kids with me.  It was my first time (their's too) to attend a soccer game in general and also my first time at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Houston Dash is a women's soccer league that joined the National Women's Soccer League in the 2014 season, making it Houston's newest sports team!  Honestly, I had never heard of the Dash and didn't know we had a woman's team in Houston.  I guess since it is their first season, we haven't heard too much about them.  At this game, they were playing the Seattle Reign.  We didn't know until half-time, but Hope Solo was there playing the goalie.  I had heard of her before, but since I do not follow soccer (at all), I wasn't sure what team she was on.


Anyway, we sat in the President's club section with padded seats, which was really nice. No hard plastic seats for us!  The President's club has it's own fully stocked bar and food area, but you still have to pay for the items.  I was going to get a margarita, but it was $11!  No thanks!  The seats were in the middle of the stadium and you could see the field perfectly.

I invited my friend Angie and her family to come with me.  She had said that none of her kids have ever gone to a soccer game and that her daughter had always wanted to plays soccer.  Perfect!  The game started at 8 pm and I met them at the stadium around 7:15.


Honestly, the stadium was pretty much empty!  It was worse than an Astros game!  The boys were soooo hoping that one of the girls would take off their shirts when they scored a goal.  LOL.  Apparently they had researched it beforehand and were looking forward to it (it didn't happen).  Oh, teenage boys!

During half time, we got up and walked around the stadium.  Most of the food areas were closed, but it seemed like they had at least one open on each side.  We looked around the gift shop a bit and even waited by the tunnel to see the players come out after halftime.  We saw Hope Solo!  She didn't acknowledge any fans though, even the ones who told her Happy Birthday. I guess she was focused on the game (she did sign lots of stuff after the game for fans though).
The game ended in a Houston defeat, dashing (see what I did there?) our hopes for the night.  After the game, the kids got autographs from several players and even got their picture taken with one of them.


It was fun catching up with my friend!  I'm gad she was able to come and I could see her.  I decided that soccer wasn't really my thing, but it is always fun to attend games.  I need to get a team shirt for the next time I go!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Collecting change

When I worked for a rental car company (insert the name here if you know where I worked) and was in the rental department (sales), we would have to clean the cars on occasion if the car prep wasn't there or was busy.  People were always leaving money in the cup holders or sometimes under the seats if they dropped some change.  We would have know way of telling who dropped what and most people wouldn't want to come back to the branch for a few cents.  Usually it was a bunch of pennies, but sometimes it was closer to $.50.

Over the course of 1 summer, I collected about $75 worth of change!!!  Yep, I rolled it up myself and counted it.  At that time those money machines took about 5% of your change with a fee, and I didn't want to pay it, so I got free rolls from the bank.  Now, those machines at Wal-Mart or wherever give you an option of paying that 5% or rolling your $$ into a gift card with no fee (the store that got the gift card to pays the fee).

Anyway, the point of my story was to say that change adds up.  Quicker than you realize too!  I took some time over the weekend to collect all of my change from my car, my purse, old purses, old wallets, and random drawers throughout my house and put it in a big plastic container that is not see through (so I won't be tempted). I didn't count it because I would be more tempted to spend it!  I will tell you that it is a lot of money in there (probably over $20 in change, plus some 1's) though.

My plan is to keep collecting random change when I get it back from a purchase or even when I find it on the ground going about my daily business.  I want it to be my unofficial savings account that when it gets full (it is a BIG container) I can spend it on whatever I want. Maybe a vacation?  Maybe a new thing-a-ma-bob? 

Have you heard about this guy who had over 13 million pennies?  According to that article, in America, there is over $10.5 BILLION in change just sitting around in homes.  WOW!

To start your own vacation/fun money fund, here are some resources!! BUT, be sure to bring some hand sanitizer and a ziplock for all of your change you find on the ground. 


Start today by going through your house and cars and see how much change you can find.  If you walk anywhere, look on the ground (be careful where you are going) and see if you can find some spare change!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Eggplant Lasagna Recipe

As I have mentioned a numerous amount of times, I can't cook very well.  I try and try, but my recipes don't seem to work out.  I think at least part of the problem is that I usually don't follow the recipe 100%, in terms of the ingredient list that is.  Sometimes, I don't like that ingredient, other times I just don't have it at the house.  I have seen lots of people do just fine with switching ingredients, but for me, it doesn't work! Hmmm.

Well, anyway...this one worked!  I had some lasagna noodles that I needed to use up (I'm trying to use up as much as possible in my pantry and freezer before buying more) and an eggplant as well.  I looked for recipes that used both, but couldn't really find one (This is where my bad cooking critical thinking comes in).  I just sort of made my own recipe, but it turned out wonderfully!!!!

It is hard cooking for just one person, but this recipe freezes easily.  I froze three servings for future lunches/dinners and ate the rest this past week.  Yummy!

Eggplant Lasagna with Goat Cheese
6-9 servings (depending on how big you cut the pieces)

Ingredients:
1 package Lasagna noodles (I used the no boil kind)
1/2 eggplant
1/2 poblano pepper
1/2 tube of goat cheese
2 mozzarella cheese sticks (the snack kind)
Jar of spaghetti sauce


Directions:
1.Heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut eggplant into thin slices
3. Layer lasagna noodles on bottom
4. Layer eggplant slices on top of noodles
5. Cut poblano pepper into small pieces, sprinkle on top of eggplant (seeds are optional-gives more of a kick)
6. Layer goat cheese throughout
7. Add 1/2 spaghetti sauce jar
8. Cut 1 mozzarella stick in small pieces, sprinkle throughout
9. Repeat steps 2-8 until you are at the top of the serving dish (my dish only let me do two layers)


Cost:
1 package Lasagna noodles ($1?? I've had this for awhile now, so I don't 100% remember)
1/2 eggplant ($1)
1/2 poblano pepper ($.50)
1/2 tube of goat cheese  ($2)
2 mozzarella cheese sticks (the snack kind) ($.50)
Jar of spaghetti sauce ($2)

6 servings cost: $1.16 each
9 servings cost: $.77 each

layers without the sauce (the goat cheese and mozzarella will melt)


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homemade Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte

I don't think it is a secret that I love Starbucks.  Usually, I get a "grade iced cinnamon dolce non fat latte."  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  But then I decided to calculate the cost of my 'occasional' drink that was really 1-2 times a week, at $4.50 each. Over the course of a year, that is $234 for once a week or $468 for twice a week.  Sometimes I even went more than twice a week and/or I got breakfast too!  That is just wasteful!

In an effort to save money, I decided to make my own at home.  There are some upfront costs to buy a coffee machine, the coffee, and the syrup, but in the long run it is worth it.


The Coffee
I buy the bags of Starbucks brand espresso (ground) from the grocery store for $7.99 each and add it to an air tight container.  I don't have am latte everyday (they are a calorie bomb, honestly) so it lasts me awhile.

The Machine
About a year ago, I bought a Mr. Coffee espresso maker at Wal-Mart for $40 (I think it was closer to $30 when I bought it, but whatever).  It makes small batches of coffee, enough for one cup to add to your container and go!  I am not a fan of hot drinks (I occasionally drink hot chocolate), but this machine makes the coffee hot and also steams the milk for you.  Perhaps you can make it in a regular coffee pot or a Keurig using expresso coffee.  Use what you have, don't go out spending $$ when you are trying to save it.

The Cinnamon Dolce Syrup
You can buy the syrup at a local Starbucks store.  Yep, for $12.95 (in my area that is) you can buy a HUGE bottle (don't forget to ask for the pump) and add the flavor to your own coffee.  I use four pumps for a grande size drink.  OR if you are into the whole cooking thing, here is a link to make your own syrup!

The Cup
You can always buy a cup on Amazon to put it in, but most people (I would think) have some insulated, reusable cups at home.  (If not, hang around a trade show or convention, they are always giving them away).  The cool thing about the Starbucks brand cups are, they have these nifty lines that tell you what measurements to pour your ingredients at.  See the picture below?  The lines tell you where to add the ingredients, so you won't have to measure them out!


The Recipe
I found this recipe online at Starbucks Food Service.  I don't use whipped cream on mine though.