Monday, September 28, 2009

Joining the Million Dollar Club!

Million Dollar Club

J. Money at BudgetsAreSexy has the coolest club around...and I'm joining!

In order for me to become a millionaire, I pleadge to do the following:
1. Continue to contribute 12% to my 401K - $4186 per year
2. Contribute $100 per month to my Roth IRA - $1200
3. Sell stuff on eBay and Amazon (this is my side business) - $1200
4. Live Frugally (even after I am an attorney) - $2400 (put at least $200 a month in savings)

I will be a millionaire in....way too long!!

However…I will also amass a substantial debt continuing over the next three years with law school…$90,000 (approximation) which will result in a substantial increase in earning power (provided I pass the Bar). Everything is just so up in the air, but I know I will reach One Million Dollars…one day

Just because its a long road to wealth doesn't mean I'm not going to travel it....Im on my way!

Dog Training Update: Evaluation Day

I was a little taken aback when I pulled up to dog training evaluation and realized that the trainer was working out of his house. I was even more worried when I realized that training would be conducted in the front yard, after all…first impression are everything (or so I'm told). My mother came with me, since my dogs stay at her place at least two days I week, I wanted to make sure she was on board with training too.

After talking to us for about 30 minutes I began to get a little more comfortable with the dog trainer (here on out I will refer to as DT). I found it a little unprofessional that he chose to smoke a cigarette and take a personal call during this first ‘session’ as I will call it, and I could tell my mom was not pleased. Still, I gave him a fair shot to win me over, everyone has faults.

He evaluated each dog one by one by first taking notes and a brief history of each dog, then working one on one with each dog to assess them. First DT explained what he was going to do and why…he was going to stress my dogs out (yes, sad by necessary) to find how they react at their breaking point, then approach them immediately in a friendly way to see how quickly they trust and recoil. My mom and I were allowed to observe the entire exercise, out of sight from my dogs of course. I was surprised at the results, but and after his explanation it made perfect sense. Penny would be harder to train (and most beagles are) and would need more confidence building, whereas Nickel came out the easier of the two to train. Penny actually took longer to approach DT after being stressed, and was uneasy about it, whereas Nickel was quick to recoil and didn’t really ‘take it personally’ as I put it.

Funny, I thought it would be the other way around….

Even though I wasn’t that impressed with the professionalism of DT, I think this is the best option for what I am looking to accomplish. Most importantly, I need to work on my leadership which was apparent after DT taking my dogs for ten minutes. He was a little rougher than I would like, but my dogs are my kids, so of course I would feel that way. Oh, and I was impressed at the control he had over both of my dogs after such a short time.

Ha....I related this story to a friend of mine, and he summed it up all in one sentence: "So you ended up getting the Crocodile Dundee of dog trainers." Brilliant.

Total Cost: $87 (for both dogs)

Was it worth it? – It was a little expensive for an evaluation. No other trainer requested an evaluation, so I don’t know the average cost for this.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How should I attack my student loans?

Okay, I have been racking my brain about how to attack a student loan problem. Maybe someone out there has some advice.

I am currently starting my second year of a four year law school program. I go to school full time and work full time. I took out two loans to fund my first year. Here is a break down of the loans:

#1 - $8,500 at 0% interest and deferred payments (Subsidized)
#2 - $12,000 at 6.8% interest (accruing at time of issuance) and
deferred payments (Unsubsidized)

When I initial took out these loans I was under the impression that all of the interest was deferred, not just the interest on the subsidized loan. As a matter of fact, I remember distinctly asking about the interest deferment, but apparently the person I spoke withdidn’t understand the question, and now I am stuck with a LOT of interest accruing over the next three years. Additionally, I took out the same two loans for this year’s tuition and expenses.

Should I just hang onto these loans until after graduation and refinance it at a lower rate.

Should (or can I) refinance it now and start making payments?

Should I start applying payments to it? Should I just hold onto my savings, make payments on the interest accrued, and refinance at the end of school?

Financial Snapshot: NetworthIQ

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Experiment with An Expensive Dog Trainer

After taking Penny through the beginners training (twice) at Petsmart, I have decided to go a different, more expensive route for continued training. Nickel has some dog aggression issues and it is too much of a liability for me to take him into group training (this is something I decided for the safety of my dogs as well as other dogs). While it is considerably more expensive, I will be able to receive one-on-one training that will teach me how to handle and train my dogs.

I have chosen to go with a local and expensive company for training. It is a local company that provides group, one-on-one and boarded training options. I chose an 8 week training course which will work on some issues as well as basic obedience. I have been told that they are not about teaching "tricks" (sit, stay, lay down) as much as they are about teaching behaviour...more of a Cesar Milan style is what I picked up on.

We start on Saturday, and I will attempt to post regularly about the progress of my dogs, and ultimately if it was a fiscally responsible thing to do. There were cheaper options, but I think a more intensive method of training is required.

Both dogs will be in the same training at the same time. (One of the benefits of this over other methods) This will allow me to teach both of them correctly and not have them in different parts of training at different times, which would ultimately confuse me.

My Dogs:

Penny is a three year old beagle mix. I rescued her from a no-kill shelter in February 2009. She has gone through Petsmart’s beginner training twice, and is becoming a very good girl, but she seems to only want to listen when food is involved. The only background information I have is that she was found in someone’s backyard with her litter of puppies. By the time I found her all of her puppies had been adopted.

Nickel is a one year old cattle dog mix. I think he is Queensland Heeler and Border Collie, with some other breed mixed in since he is smaller than average. I rescued him from the County Shelter in May 2009, and he has no training that I know of. He was found as a stray. He walks well on a leash (until he sees another dog) which leads me to believe he belonged to someone before me.

I am hoping that this training will accomplish a few goals, mostly basic obedience and help with the following problems:

Penny's Issues:

Food Aggression - I have seen her run across the room growling to block to bowl from Nickel. This is obviously a big one for her.

Walking on a Leash - Even after the PetsMart training she still pulls on the leash. If she sees another dog, she tries everything to get to it. Not aggressive, just eager to make new friends, but there is no telling if the other dog is aggressive or friendly.

Nickel's Issues:

Dog on Dog Aggression - He lunges and tries to attack other dogs. He seems fine with Penny and my parents’ dogs, even my cat, but as soon as he sees another dog while on a walk, he growls, snaps, barks and pulls. Add Penny into the mix and I have two dogs pulling and barking at the same time, and Nickel will start nipping at Penny. Not Fun!

Nipping/Jumping - Nickel thinks everything is a game. He will jump all over you when you greet him, and when you scold him or push him off, he thinks its a game and comes back for more. He also likes to nip at hands, and lick hands or feet incessantly. He has no manners and thinks climbing on you is perfectly normal.

So....wish me luck, and I will try to post some of the more interesting points of training, while trying not to give away any 'secrets'. This will hopefully turn into a series on the pros and cons of more expensive and intensive dog training, as well as progress reports and thoughts on the training itself.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Online Tactics to Save you More Money (and Maybe Make some Extra Cash)

Ways to Scrounge Up Some Extra Moolah!


Cashbaq is a rebate program. Simply check this site before you make a purchase online to see if Cashbaq offers a rebate. If it does, click through the link on Cashbaq and make your purchase as normal. Easy Money!

Get $15 cashback for new registrations to NetFlix
10% cashback at 1-800-Pet-Meds
6% cashback at FTD
10% cashback at Fossil
$9 cashback for Rhapsody
4% cashback (my fav!)


Get paid to complete surveys and sign up for newsletters. I am not as familiar with this one but everything I have heard about them is positive. The best part about their search option is the ability to search for only free surveys and newsletters. You can also earn rebates by shopping at stores on thier list.

Make a purchase at PhotoStamps = $8 back
Sign up for the free trial of = $9
Sign up for the free trial of = $5
Get paid for completing Reseach Surveys (up to 2 a day)
Get approved for a Discover Gas Card = $40
Click through and complete forms for $.50 to $2.25 each


This is very similar to Cashbaq. If you sign up using the link above (or here) you can get $5 just for signing up! Before making an online purchase, just check the site to see if you can score some cash back!

8-14% cashback at
5-10% cashback at
3-5% cashback at
3-6& cashback at
7-12% cashback
3-5% cashback Macy'


(Formerly I always check this site before I shop eBay. There is almost always some cash back. (Search fop "ebay buy it now" or "ebay buy it now xbox") Look for the cash back icon and click the link that is next to it. Just like Cashbaq or Ebates, complete your order and your rebate will be paid out to your PayPal account (around 60 days later).

4% cashback at
10% cashback at Sephora (plus free shipping)
2-5% cashback at
6-10% cashback at HPDirect
3-6% cashback at


The easiest of all is Swagbucks! Simply use this search engine (powered by Google!) to do your Internet searches and you get points....awesome right!? Redeem your points through their store for free money! Click the link above (or here) to sign up!

40 Swagbucks = $25 e-giftcard to
45 Swagbucks = $5 e-giftcard to
70 Swagbucks = $5 e-giftcard to PayPal
125 Swagbucks = $10 e-giftcard to Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lazy Man gets sued by MonaVie

I have to say that Lazy Man did a spectacular job with the case briefs in his latest post on the ongoing battle between the personal finance blogger and MLM scheme MonaVie!

Check our the ongoing saga here, here and here.

There is a LOT of information here, and a TON of comments...

Happy Reading!

(p.s. If I get sued for this I expect help from my fellow law school students)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Net Worth - August 2009

Assets$ Diff% Diff
Other Real Estate$0--
Personal Property$0--
Total Assets$159,990--

Debts$ Diff% Diff
Home Mortgage(s)$134,004--
Other Mortgage(s)$0--
Student Loans$21,258--
Credit Card$0--
Car Loans$0--
Total Debts$155,262--
Net Worth$4,728--

Check me out at NetWorthIQ!

Okay, So its not the most accurate portrait of my current financial position....but it will do. It doesn't take into account the current student loan I am pulling on for this I'm probably in the negative and I just don't know it.

For my home value, I use the amount I purchased my home for back in December.

Big expenses from last month....I had concrete laid around my cost me $2400, but well worth the peace of mind knowing my dogs can no longer escape by digging under the fence. Also, there have been some miscellaneous costs form erecting the retaining wall in the back yard. Hopefully I will be able to post before and after pics for ya!

Saving Money on Pet Expenses

I have two dogs and one cat, and as I am sure many of you pet lovers know, pets are expensive. They cost money to adopt, feed, shelter, groom and train. So I thought it only proper to have a post dedicated to the furry creaturces that steal our hearts.

Vet Bills and Mediations
Ask for Discounts
Some Vet offices are really cool (mine is) and offer discounts, especially if you have more than one pet. Some offices have payment plans as well, but I haven't asked if mine has one, since I have an ING Direct Sub-Account for my pets bills. Still, it never hurts to ask!

Buy Vaccines Directly
Rather than pay the vet office visit fee and the vaccination cost, order the vaccines online or from a catalog and do it yourself. Administering subcutaneous vaccines is not a difficult task and can be done very easily and quickly once you get the hang of it. My top picks for online or catalog ordering:
Drs. Foster & Smith

Visit a Low Cost Clinic
Petsmart and Petco offer low cost clinics in my area for basic vaccinations. Some of the non-profit shelters also do the same. These are often cheaper than the do-it-yourself method.

Buy meds online and use coupons
I buy flea and tick medications online. I have found several different ways to save money doing this, but the best savings is found when you combine a few different methods.
Often, I find my dogs K9 Advantix on eBay. I know many people will not buy from eBay, but I have never had a problem with any products I buy from power sellers with good feedback. Before logging on the eBay, I visit and find out if there is a cashback on eBay purchases. (search for 'ebay buy it now'). Then enter the eBay site by clicking on the cashback symbol. Your savings should appear on all of the pages next to a cashback icon. Also, visit or to see if eBay or PayPal has any cashback rebates availble. Even if it is 1% it can add up. Lastly, pay through PayPal with a credit card that offers cash back rewards for additional savings. On my last purchased I saved a combined 11% and received one years worth of Advantix for a slightly over $100. (Retail Price: $170 at 1-800-PETMEDS)

See if the vet will price match
I was lucky enough to have a vet that price matches for medications I get often, such as the heartworm medication given monthly. Every time I have to buy more, I search online for the cheapest deal I can find, print out the information, and my vet will give the heartworm medication to me for that price. No shipping, no waiting and no faxing in prescriptions.

Hair Cuts
Some pets don’t need a whole lot of grooming, and those owners are lucky! If you have a pet that needs to be groomed, why don’t you try to do it yourself next time. You can buy a Grooming Kit from Amazon for a very good price. I found my clippers for a few dollars at a garage sale. I have a cattledog mix who is very hairy, so I decided to try it out on him. The finished product probably wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but it kept him cool in the summer and didn’t cost me much. And, no matter how big the mistake, the fur will grow always does. Try the Oster Pet Grooming Kit from Amazon. I use an Oster clipper myself, and they work great.

Nail Clipping
For nail clipping, use the same principle. You can get a nail grinder from Amazon for a good price (I use the PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer). One trip to get my dogs nails cut costs me $10+ (and I have two dogs). So for the price I pay to get both of their nails done once, I can buy the tools to do it myself.

Boarding can be very expensive, but it can also be a necessity for those who travel without their pets. To cut costs on this, try out a pet sitter instead. I usually ask my friends first and see if they would like to stay at my house and take care of my pets while I am gone. Its more of a house sitting arrangement, but friends usually only want food in the fridge and cold beer. If you don't have a friend who will do it, you can try Craigslist for advertisement on pet-sitters, or try a quick Google Search to see if there is a company the offers pet-sitters in your neighborhood.

Dog Walkers
Enlist a Friend
Exercise is a necessity for all dogs (along with discipline and boundaries, but I wont go all Dog Whisperer on you just yet). I don't have the time to walk my dogs without doing so at 11:00 at night, and I just don't feel comfortable with that in my neighborhood, so I enlisted the help of a friend. I pay him to walk my dogs twice a week. If I didn't have this option available to me, I would have gone for the Craigslist advertisements for dog walkers.

But lets say I could do the best alternative here, to walk my dog myself. I gain exercise, my dog gains situation. But lets up the ante here, why not take on a client. For every other dog you walk you could actually make some money, and you are already walking your dog anyway. Just make sure you can handle walking multiple dogs! You could advertise on telephone poles on your normal route if you want to stay within your neighborhood. Average dog walking rates are $10 an hour per dog!

Dog Toys
Both of my dogs are chewers. They prefer the TV remote and the Couch, but I’ve been trying to get them to stick to their toys. I buy my dog toys from the clearance section at either Dog.Com or Jeffers. Both are great sites that offer excellent toys at a bargain. Couple that with free shipping in some cases (check, a coupon code (try RetailMeNot), and/or a rebate (Try Cashbaq or Ebates) and you have a pretty sweet deal on a whole mess of toys.

The most inexpensive method, of course, is the homemade method. I ran across a site called Homemade Dog Toys a while back but I haven't tried any of them myself, thought I plan to. Wanna go really cheap? Go to a thrift store or garage sale and get a pair of jeans, any size will do. Cut off the legs and tie a few knots in each leg and presto...two instant toys.

Dog Training
There are a few options here, depending on the level of training your dog is currently at, and any behavioral problems you might be experiencing.

You could find a coupon for training. Petsmart had coupons a while back for $20 of their $109 training. (I used this and am currently at week 4 of 8)

Private Instruction

You could go with a private instructor, which can be very expensive ($800+), but if there are some behavioral problems then it can be well worth every penny. They usually offer lifetime support as well, so if you ever have an issue you can call them up and have someone come out to help. Some private instructors are not as expensive, and charge per session. This may be a better way to go, since you control how much you spend and it isnt a large amount all at once. Still, I am most likely going to put my 2nd dog in private instruction instead of group instruction at Petsmart, simply becuase he has some barking and biting issues that need one-on-one help.

The most inexpensive method is the do it yourself method. Try a book from Cesar Milan (
Cesar's Way). Or try a DVD on dog training (Cesar Milan Dog Training DVD). The best person to train your dog is you; After all, you are the one who will be pack leader. (Okay, its kinda obvious I am a Cesar Milan fan, but there are many, many other books and DVDs out there!)

Related Posts:
1) Money under 30 writes about the True Cost of of Pet Ownership
2) Xin Lu at WiseBread wrote a great article about Things You Must Consider Before You Get a Pet
3) J.D. at Get Rich Slowly questions if Pets are Worth the Money (we all know they are!)

What do you do to save money on your pet costs? Do you find some, more expensive methods of pet care, are worth the cost?

Scoring the Ultimate Deal at Walgreens...or CVS...or Rite Aid... or, you get the idea

My take on the world of coupon "flipping"....

A while back, I was an avid Walgreens shopper...but not just any shopper. You see, I was a deal-seeking-mega-coupon-using-register-rewards-flipping savings whore. I was the person you hated to be behind in line. I would argue with the sales clerk (only if I knew I was right). I would call the corporate office if I was denied a valid deal (I received apologies from store managers). It was a real rush to walk out of the store with BAGS of stuff for a few dollars. Then I would keep what I wanted, and re-sell the rest at my next garage sale. Total money maker. That's what I thought at least.

Then I realized the problem with my evil genius plan. I was racing around town, between work and school and an hour long commute home, to buy crap that I would make a few dollars on. The time and energy I was consuming, not to mention money, was far more than I would make in the long run. I was getting home at midnight on a work night because I need to stop at the three 24-hour Walgreens on my way home, just to see if they had the correct items in stock to score the awesome deal I had read about online. Then there was the coupon printing, the forum searching, the Sunday paper coupon clipping, buying coupons online....all so I could spend my valuable free time running from store to store (literally running a few times).

I am not criticizing or judging those who do this. If you can handle it, then rock on! But most of the people I read about doing this are stay-at-home moms and college students. They probably have time to surf the web for the latest deal, print the coupons right away and make a quick dash to the store. I, on the other hand, couldn't keep up.

All and all....bravo to those who can handle it!

But for me, I would much rather spend my time outside of stores. Coupons are great, even better on the stuff you actually would buy, but using coupons to score $1 back (only redeemable in the store, of course) on a bottle of vitamins I neither need nor want....Now, I rarely use coupons. I'm a little burnt out on them actually. I don't normally have the time to find them or clip them out of the Sunday inserts. They are a great money saving tool, but Ive only really been buying staples in an attempt to utilize everything in my pantry before I go "real" shopping again. Once I get back in the habit of grocery shopping I plan on using a list, and coupons if its not too much of a hastle, I mean its really free money after all.

For those who have read to this point and are confused, here are some excellent blogs on learning the ropes of flipping coupons:

Money Saving Mom's: Walgreens 101

I Heart Wags: Wags for Newbies (Also check out and

Hip2Save always has the latest deals posted for all of the stores, not just Walgreens, but also Wal-Mart and Target.

How do you use your coupons, or do you even bother?What is your take on the whole super-savvy-coupon-shopping trend?

Increasing my Net Worth by Going Cash Only

I'm getting fat while loosing lbs of moolah!

No wonder I'm gaining weight...I'm spending a small fortune on food! Well, in my defense there are three days a week I am away from home for 15 hours, making dinner especially hard to anticipate. Yes, I know I could take something with me and nuke it before class, but come on now let me have some joy in life! This is why I actually have a budget for coffee. I don't really eat dinner when I have class, I find it makes me sleepy right in the middle of the lecture.

Instead I stop by Starbucks. There... I said it... the "latte factor". Honestly, I think I spend less by going to Starbucks three times a week (four if you count Saturdays) than I did eating dinner on school nights. That.... and I need caffeine.... its a necessity. (ask any other law student and they will concur). I bleed java.

So its time to cut back and stay on budget and maybe even loose a few pounds while I'm at it. And, in order to do this efficiently I think I will attempt a new only for food. This is very scary for me because I never carry cash. I am more afraid I might be tempted to throw down my card, or even that I might do so out of habit. My plan will have to wait until next month, when the my evil genius plan kicks into action. Okay, so its not an evil genius plan, its not even my plan really...check out all of these other posts on it:

Need a good reason to go cash only? Try 6! Check out this wisebread post on reasons why cash only ROCKS!

Ramit at IWillTeachYouToBeRich is one of my PF heroes. He challenged his readers to save $1000 in a 30 day challenge. Tip #23 of the challenge - go cash only for 30 days!

A guest post by Danny Kofke at GetRichSlowly explains why cash is king!

Trent at the Simple Dollar shows that once we recongnize we have a spending problem, and I think I do when it comes to food, using a cash only system keeps you honest about your spending.

So, I am starting tomorrow, payday Friday. I am going to start with $380 for the month, or $190 for two weeks....that's $80 a week for those who need it broken down barney-style. This is for all food..... for lunch, going out for dinner, groceries and coffee. This seems a really high, and I am hoping the sight of so much money in my grips will make me re-think spending it....or give me an anxiety attack...seriously =\

Would you ever consider going cash only?

About Me

Why do I feel like Im writing a personals ad?

I am a 28 year old chick residing somewhere near Sacramento, California. I am brand-spanking-new to blogging. I have a full time gig that pays the bills, and I also go to graduate school in the evenings. My schedule is always busy, but not so busy that I can’t share my trials and tribulations with cyberspace. I have become addicted to finances after discovering the multitude of personal finance blogs out there. After filing bankruptcy four years ago I stayed away from credit cards and loans, but didn’t realize there was a whole other world of IRAs and High-Yield Savings Accounts. I think I jumped in too quickly back in October 2008, and I burnt out in June 2009. Now I’m ready to start all over again and hopefully this will make it a little more interesting.

I am in no way an expert in any subject I talk about. I have no background in finance. I attempt to be frugal, but it often backfires. I like to read and subscribe to many blogs and news feeds on personal finance, cooking, extreme frugality and dogs (I’m a huge dog lover, my dogs are my kids).

I am hoping the blog will:

Give me accountability – I can’t exactly lie. Well I could but how depressing would that be.

Make me rich – ok not really. But in a roundabout way it will, because my accountability will help me gain wealth which will make me rich in my own right.

I have attempted to start a blog in the past and failed miserably. I tried to do too much at once and adhere to posting daily. That was obviously an unreal expectation, and since I have no background in writing either, it was really difficult. So now, I’m posting when I feel like it, more likely about three times a week. I will try to keep my posts on topic, but I will throw in a random dog post (well that’s just me!).

My first task is to figure out my net worth…..