@Pim Robert@facebook Agreed. If you are at all handy with a sewing machine, or if you want to become handy, thrifting is a great way to get better at making alterations, which is an invaluable skill to have. I've gotten so that I can sometimes even skip trying certain things on, because I like the fabric and the general cut, the brand is a quality one, and I'm certain I can tweak to fit (this mostly just works with skirts and dresses). A few weeks ago I took a pair of wide-leg full-length chinos I never wear and turned them into skinny-leg capri-length pants that are great for summer. There is little that's more satisfying than repurposing something you don't wear anymore or a thrifted item that you love but doesn't fit quite right.
Not to be pedantic (okay, it's a bit pedantic), but if you lived next to El Azteca, you did not live in Virginia-Highland.
I don't know about paying off the loan now--grad school means you can defer the loan without accruing interest (right? I assume a Stafford Loan will defer interest as well as payment), and inflation means that $4000 will be worth less in 5-6 years than it would now. I don't see why you wouldn't take the interest-free time to let your debt become less significant, even if just by a small percentage. ETA: if deferring the loan doesn't also defer interest, ignore the above.
@Genghis Khat Seconding this. It seems like what Logan is confronting bit by bit is the fact that changing her spending habits isn't a matter of tweaks--it's going to require some substantial lifestyle changes. And, not to sound like an evangelist or anything (okay, I'm totally evangelizing), learning to plan, shop, and cook for yourself in a methodical way is one of the best ways to get a budget under control. That requires taking time on the weekends to shop and cook for the week, as well as the self-control to say, "Can't go out for dinner with y'all--I've got food at home." Both tough to do when you're not used to it, but really rewarding in the long run. There are a lot of tricks to making it work: prepping snacks that are easy to grab on the way out the door, freezing meals for when you're exhausted and lazy, keeping a well-stocked pantry. Because even if you're buying just a few $2 or $3 snacks a day, that's always going to add up. There's just no math or budgeting plan that can change that.
The primary characteristic of alcohol that seems to be neglected here is that it tastes good. Sure, I like the fact that drinking makes me less socially anxious, and I could probably (and frequently try to) cut back on how much I drink when I'm out at the bar with friends, but when I'm sitting at home watching TV, club soda is not a substitute for beer. Beer tastes good, and what I drink changes with the seasons, and it's a pleasure I enjoy. A fairly cheap pleasure, compared to many things. If the sole reason you drink is to lubricate social situations, sure, go ahead and cut back, but if you actually like the stuff, cutting it out of your life entirely seems akin to deciding that, despite your love of good food, you'll eat nothing but lentils from now on because they're cheaper. Some things aren't worth the savings.
I've had three Apple laptops, all with AppleCare. I got an iMac this January and probably won't buy AppleCare when the warranty runs out. Laptops get all kinds of wear and tear, most of which is covered under AppleCare (though liquid spills are pretty much never covered under any warranty--you're always going to have to pay for that). Especially if you're getting a laptop w/a traditional hard drive, rather than an SSD, there's so much potential for hard drive problems, and that peace of mind is often worth it. My desktop doesn't get banged about, so I'm not going to worry as much about AppleCare for it. Sometimes the folks at Apple will fix things for free even if it's not under warranty--I had to have the hard drive replaced on my first iBook and I went to pick it up and pay for it and the invoice said no charge. I asked the dude if the store if he was sure, and then hightailed it out of there before someone changed their mind. That was back in 2003 or so, but I think you can still get lucky with out-of-warranty repairs.
@madrassoup Since we're indulging cranky complaints about registries, can I add my disappointment about the "you should never go off the registry" advice? Registries were intended to be a convenience to help guests, not a contract they had to abide by. Don't know the bride and groom that well? A second cousin twice removed who isn't sure what kids these days like? Not sure what they do and don't have? Don't worry! The registry can help you figure out what to give them. But. Let's say you know the bride and groom pretty well. And maybe you don't like shelling out money for boring stuff like towels and silverware. Maybe you want to get them something more personalized, something you've put some thought into, because you like giving gifts that indicate you've thought about the recipient and what he/she/they likes. That's kind and thoughtful, and should be encouraged. A wedding is not a quid pro quo undertaking. You don't feed me buffet food and cake in exchange for a kitchen gadget. You invite me because you care about me, and I come because I care about you, and maybe I care about you enough that I want to get you something other than the three dozen things you've pre-selected. And I hope you love it, but if you don't, that's okay, too. We can't always love everything we're given. But the act of selecting something with you in mind is meaningful and should be appreciated. tl;dr: down with the tyranny of gift registries. Some of us like to buy personalized gifts. Or even make our friends quilts when we're reasonably sure their tastes and ours match up. And that's not an unspeakable crime against the inviolate wedding registry.
I have two credit cards: one I share with my partner and pay out of our joint checking account, and one is for my own expenses, paid out of my checking account. Both get paid in full every month (and I manage those payments, along with the rest of our finances--my (male) partner is much less knowledgeable about the details of our financial life--so take that, NYT trend piece). The act of scheduling that payment each month is a fairly useful reminder of how much we've spent. And there's a certain sense of paying for everything twice, because at the time I buy something, I'm very much aware that anything I put on the credit card is something I'll have to pay for, but then I have to actually pay for it all over at the end of the month. So I think that if you approach a credit card with the understanding (or, in my case, compulsion bordering on pathology) that you absolutely must pay the entire bill every month or some unspecified terrible thing will happen (like I said, it borders on pathology), it's a lot harder to get sucked into seeing a line of credit as free money. The upside of all that is that both our joint card and my own card have very good cash rewards program (because pathology about paying things off=good credit score). That means our joint card handed us back $300 last year, and mine gives me a couple hundred bucks a year. We're not big spenders in general, otherwise the rewards would be even higher. As far as I'm concerned, dealing with the hassle of having a credit card is easily worth 500 bucks a year.