Dating: Who Pays?

A few years back, I had just graduated from college and was a full-time intern (aka slave) with a decent amount of savings (savings=for grad school one day) and a boyfriend who had started his six-figure attorney job the same year (note: he graduated from law school with no student loans thanks to his mom and dad and some savings). At that point, we were together for over a year. I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets flying around the country to see him, as we had met in one city, then spent a good chunk of our relationship long distance.

Given, I’m not the type of girl who expects men to pay for her, one of the reasons our relationship ended was that I could not stand his stinginess. I know I wasn’t broke, but it would have been nice for him to offer to pay for a movie ticket every once in a while. I felt like I was holding him back from the life he could have, since it wouldn’t kill his piggy bank to go wine tasting once a month, or enjoy a decadent meal every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding pricier options, but at the time, well, every cent counted. Really.

Now I’m in the reverse situation. It’s kind of funny, actually. I’m dating a guy who is unemployed. He does have a savings (from my understanding of it, he has just about the amount I have in savings) and he lives at home (so no rent, whereas I pay $1050 a month in rent.) Supposedly his parents are footing the bill for grad school if he decides to go. (My parents are not, as far as I know, though my dad has mentioned that in 3 years when he can access his 401k, there will be some money available to help out if I can wait that long.)

(Anyway… the details are rather unimportant as a generic entry about who pays for things in a relationship, but as this is my personal finance blog, I’m writing details. Hope y’all don’t mind.)

So guy #2 loves to pay for me 75 percent of the time. We go out to dinner and he often offers. He let’s me pay occasionally. I don’t push him enough because in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, if he pays, that’s another $15 I can pocket for grad school… or a new shirt. It feels rather icky to be the stingy person in the relationship. Sometimes I feel like I should pay more frequently since I’m working and he’s not. Then again, it’s his personal choice to be unemployed (he has a degree from a top school, I doubt he’d have much trouble getting a job) and if he wants to pay for me than who am I to object? Plus he’s got his parent’s money for grad school and if I actually ever figure out what I want to do with my life for the long-term, I’ll need to foot most of my bill for all graduate school fees.

Obviously I’m not talking about the first couple of dates here. That’s the subject for a whole other entry because at that point there’s somewhat of a societal expectation for the man to offer, even if the woman ultimately is sane enough to grab the check and split the bill fairly. But for people in LTR’s, money is a whole other issue.

Sometimes, I admit, I dream of dating someone (*cough*gold digger*cough*) who takes me out to nice places and… takes me shopping. It’s ridiculous, as I’m NOT a gold digger. Really. I wouldn’t date someone just because they were rich. It’s just a nice thought, since life out here in Silicon Valley is so damn pricey and everyone else around here seems to be loaded.

To tell you the truth, I’d rather be the one making the big bucks. I doubt that will ever happen as a journalist, even though I’ve managed to do quite well for myself in the generally poor-paying profession. But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I’d ever be looking at a six-figure salary. It might be possible if some day I make a name for myself and start my own website, but I’m not going to start dreaming about that now. Reality is I’m making an OK salary, but I’m living in one of the richest counties in the country…

[[The median income for a household in the county was $70,819, and the median income for a family was $80,737. Males had a median income of $51,342 versus $40,383 for females.]]

Ok, so in a few week’s I’ll be making more than the median income for females. That still means nothing (considering that my life involves interacting with venture capitalists and other well-to-do types)… and while I know money does not equal happiness, there’s always the underlying fear of taking out loans for grad school and having to deal with debt (the “good kind”) and then never being able to afford a house or any other form of stability in my life.

It’s all kind of hypocritical of me, since I’m terrible at saving, and I always end up spending too much each month. Why does it matter if I spend too much on a shirt versus a nice date with my boyfriend? It’s probably better to spend that $70 on a date.

Personal Finance Online: Geezeo versus Wesabe

I was Googling “personal finance widgets” when I found myself stumbling on two personal finance network startups. I found Geezeo first, and then through minimal research found out about its competitor Wesabe. The process to sign up for Geezeo was much easier, so for the time being I plan on using that site to explore the world of online personal finance social networking.

While I haven’t had a chance to surf around the site yet, thus far I easily imported my checking and credit card account information to my main page. I’m a little nervous about throwing my banking passwords at any web startup, as I’m sure while 99 percent of them have the best intentions, any little error in security could equate to a depletion of my bank accounts. And that would be so not cool.

In any case, I’m really tired of dealing with Bank of America’s “My Portfolio” tools — which have so many bugs they’re actually discontinuing the feature. Now that I’m attempting to move some funds over to a Roth IRA and Vanguard Index Fund again (the first attempt fell through, I guess I didn’t enter my checking account in correctly) it would be nice to track everything in one spot.

My biggest qualm with Geezeo at the moment is that they don’t support brokerage accounts yet… so for now, I can’t actually access my Vanguard or CD accounts. They’re obviously working to enable this feature soon, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and be patient. At some point my patience will run thing and I’ll check out Wesabe.

On another note, what’s up with the names of these sites? Maybe they have some deeper meaning, but I’m confused. “Geezeo,” what’s that about? It makes me think of some old geezer. If anything, I do get a general idea of being a poor old geezer, and wanting to save for retirement. Meanwhile “Wesabe,” which likely means something in another language, just brings to mind the hot green sauce that comes alongside Sushi. And what does that have to do with personal finance? Is it because Sushi is so gosh darn expensive? 🙂

The Cost of Being Female

In 2005, 20-something females in the U.S. made $25k on average, where men in the same age group made $29k (according to an Analysis of Integrated Public MicroData Census Samples.)

Before getting off into my own analysis on the high costs of being female, I wanted to point out this rally interesting post by Andrew Beveridge over at GothamGazette.com… “No Quick Riches for New York’s Twentysomethings”

One interesting factoid from the article’s accompanying charts is that 35.6 percent of female’s surveyed about their pay in 2005 had a college degree, whereas only 22.7 percent of men completed any form of higher education. Yet men still make more money. Except in New York, where it looks like females are actually making more than men. I’m raising my glass to the gals in New York who obviously are asking for what they want and getting it. For the rest of us ladies, we still have some catching up to do.

Therefore, I find it kind of ironic that the costs of being a woman are (almost) inherently so much more expensive than being a man… or are they?

Women spend money on…

Makeup, Tampons/Pads, Fashionable Clothing, Shoes, Birth Control Pills, Shavers (which need to be replaced more often because shaving legs kills blades fast), Waxing, Hair (cut, dye, highlight), Nails (manicure, pedicure), and the list goes on and on and on…

I’m sure some men (i’m talking straight men here) would say either they end up spending just as much money taking women out to dinner (if they are the type that pays for their date) or maybe they’re even full-blown metrosexuals who splurge on $200 jeans and a $150 shirt, along with a masculine eyebrow grooming session. But broken down to the bare minimum requirements of being female versus male in a normal position at a typical job with a regular life, the cost of being female has got to be more than the cost of being male.

My boyfriend wears the same exact outfit everyday. He wears a button-down black shirt with black pants. Given, this is not typical male behavior, but it isn’t really that odd for a guy to chose to avoid fashion and instead buy $20 pairs of black pants and somewhat cheap black shirts, and there’s a few year’s worth of clothing.

Could a woman really get away with wearing the same exact outfit every day? I imagine others would find her more weird than they would the guy. Meanwhile, women also are expected to spend some money on makeup. Not all women HAVE to spend money on makeup, but when you go on a job interview, a woman looks more professional with some foundation, blush and lip gloss, eyeliner and mascara. Total cost? Anywhere from $30 to $200+, depending on brand selection.

What do men spend money on? If they’re not into fashion, they can get away with spending on maybe four nice suits that will last them for years. Ties are pricey, I guess, but how many ties does the typical guy own? My ex-boyfriend, who is a lawyer making a six-figure salary, spends barely nothing on clothes. He buys a sweater or new shirt here and there, but otherwise his wardrobe has pretty much remained constant. But men aren’t expected to have good fashion sense. They’re also not told by the media day in and day out that they’re ugly and need to spend gadzillions of dollars to be presentable.

I’m interested in hearing your feedback on this topic. Do women really spend a lot more than men on a yearly basis, or am I imagining things?

shop-a-holic / a rant re: dry cleaning.

I’m totally blowing my first month’s salary (for my new job that i haven’t even started yet) by taking a few (supposedly harmless) trips to my local mall.

Remember how I bought a pair of $156 jeans the other day (i’m still madly in love with them, though terrified of washing the pair. i think it’s ridiculous to dry clean jeans, but i also don’t want to destroy a pair of $156 pants in the washer/dryer) — anyway, yesterday I bought another pair. And this one needs a good hemming in order not to cover an extra 5 inches of imaginary calf.

[[[addition… i found the same part of jeans sold on Revolve Clothing for $231, so I feel rather good about buying the same pair for $153 on sale.]]]

Nordstrom is dangerous for me. Given, I’ve learned to control myself when it comes to buying clothes that I know I’ll only wear once. Still, my basket full of dry cleaning is awaiting my dragging it to the cleaners and spending $150 or so to get it all cleaned. I hate wearing clothes more than once in between washes, but I’m learning to get over that as well… especially my dry cleaned items. Dry cleaning is so damn expensive. Why must all of the nice clothes be dry clean only? I hate that.

At least men’s dry cleaning is fairly cheap. I love the places that advertise $1.00 per shirt, then I bring in my shirt and they say – ‘oh, that’s the men’s price. your shirt costs $3.50’ or whatever the marked up price is. In one of my sociology classes in college we watched a investigative piece about women getting overcharged for things, and in one part of it a guy brought a woman’s shirt to a dry cleaner and he was charged the lower fee, then a woman brought in the same shirt and she was charged more. WTF?

Anyway, I really have no right to complain about that when I just spent $153 on another pair of jeans. And I really shouldn’t have. Well, they just looked so great with that $66 shirt that actually made me look attractive.

Now, those $153 were actually on sale. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I was browsing the Saavy department of Nordstrom (where I have constant clothiorgasms, similar to the ones i have in the “Impulse” section at Macy’s)… the goal of the trip was to find a pair of True Religion jeans to try on (someone mentioned the brand on this blog so I figured I’d check them out and see if they happened to fit better than Joe’s brand). Well, I found one pair of True Religion jeans but they were this fugly dark wash that wasn’t my style. Then I found myself browsing the other jeans and noticed one brand way in the back of the too-cool-for-school section of the store. I’m not sure how denim designers think they can get away with charging $230 for a pair of jeans, but for this one brand that price tag seemed standard.

I wasn’t going to bother trying on that brand (I was afraid I’d fall madly in love with them and splurge $230 for the pair) but then I was browsing the sale rack (sale in the expensive department just seems like the wrong word to use) and found a pair in my size by the same brand… on “sale” for $153.

That brand, William Rast, is apparently Justin Timberlake’s denim line. Justin Timberlake has a denim line? See how much I know about fashion. Anyway, I tried on the jeans and lo-and-behold they fit quite nicely. But I think it was the way they looked with the purple shirt I tried on that sold me on the pair. After all, my goal was to buy one more pair of jeans… light wash… to balance out my wardrobe. These jeans were NOT light wash. They’re almost the same tone as my Joe’s pair, except the hue leans slightly towards a grey-blue, whereas my Joe’s jeans are true blue. So when paired with a color, they are less distracting and I feel like they match better.

I still feel silly about wearing jeans by Justin Timberlake. I tend to avoid all of the rock star designers… J Lo, P Diddy, etc. They can mark up their prices to ridiculous amounts for no reason other than their celebrity.

Still, the jeans fit, and as far as I know I’ll be able to wear jeans most everyday to my new job. If that’s true, it makes sense to own a few pairs of quality jeans. Right?

Ok. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really bad with money. I was such a spoiled little kid. Of course, I never bought $200 jeans when I was younger. But it was common to spend upwards of $1500 a season buying new clothes. I’d buy A LOT of clothes for that price (whereas now I could see spending that much and getting maybe three outfits). If I found one shirt I liked, my mom would basically force me to buy it in every color they sold it in, even if I hated all the other colors. I was always aware of things being pricey, and would rather spend $30 on a shirt (and buy 10 shirts) than buy one $130 top.

Bad spending habits are hard to break. I’ve told my boyfriend that as soon as I start my new job, I’m going to make and stick to a strict budget. I think it will be fun to start saving and splitting that savings up so I can put, say, $50 a month into a shopping fund and then when a new season rolls around, I can limit my spending to the money I saved for shopping. If I don’t want any new clothes that season, I can keep saving. It’d be fun to go shopping with $1000 to spend once a year. And then I wouldn’t feel guilty for buying a $66 shirt that I’m madly in love with.

I just need to keep myself away from the mall. I went there yesterday to go shopping with my boyfriend. I was supposed to be looking for shirts for him. But then I ran into Nordstrom just to check out those True Religion jeans and, well, the rest of the story is history.

I’ll try those jeans on again tonight and see if I really like them, then i’ll take them to get hemmed at some point. It’s about time I visit the dry cleaners anyway.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?

Luxury Denim: $200 for a pair of jeans?

Back in the day, I remember oogling brand-name jeans in the Juniors department at various department stores and getting sick to my stomach looking at the price tags. But back then, the most expensive pair of jeans I saw was $100, maybe $110 for a really pricey brand. Most of the jeans were more like $50-$70, and there was always a pair I could find that fit decently for the $40-$50 range.

Yesterday, I spent $158 on a pair of jeans. Plus tax. I can’t believe I did that. But it was my reward for getting myself a new job where I’ll be making $15k more a year. The new job also lets me wear jeans to work more than one day a week, so I figured it was worth the investment. Sure, I could buy three or four pairs for that price, but why buy three or four that aren’t perfect when I could buy one I love?

I’m trying to get out of the mentality that my mom taught me: more is better. That’s not true most of the time. I’m a shoppaholic, sure, but I own so many items of clothing that I bought on sale that I wore once and never had the occasion or desire to wear again. Jeans, at least, will get a lot of wear.

I remember hearing from Suzie Orman (or maybe I read it in one of her books at Borders) that in order to determine the price of an item, you should device it by the number of times you wear it. So a $15 shirt worn once is actually a lot more expensive than a $150 pair of jeans worn 200 times. I like that concept, as it makes me feel pretty good about spending so much on one pair of Jeans. What doesn’t make me good is finding the same pair (fitwise/style anyway) on sale on Bluefly.com for $60 less (wrong size anyway).

So I went to Macy’s determined to find a pair of $150-$200 jeans that fit like a glove and required no further alteration. That’s more difficult than it sounds since my legs are too short purportionately for the size of my waist.

I tried on 8 pairs of Jeans, ranging in price from $78 to $186. I wanted to see if I could tell the difference between the quality, or if the price difference had to do more with the little logo that would rest near my ass and less to do with fit.

The three main pricey designer jean brands seem to be Citizen’s of Humanity, Seven for All Mankind, and Joe’s. I soon found out that Citizen’s and Seven Jeans are meant for model figures. I was tempted to buy a pair of Citizen jeans that sort of kind of fit, but for $186 I didn’t want jeans that fit like someone else’s glove.

Then, I found them. A pair of $156 Joe’s Jeans, size 31 petite, dark wash. The perfect pair of jeans. Almost. They fit like my glove. Even better, the details were classy, not trashy (i’m not spending $150+ on a pair of ripped jeans, thankyouverymuch.) Ever since finding out I have a nice behind (it seems to be one of my better assets, according to others) I’m very picky about how jeans make my ass look. And the pocket detailing has a lot to do with whether they’re flattering or falling flat. This pair had the best pocket’s I’ve ever seen. A braided weave of denim that would, indeed, gracefully cling to my bootie. This was the pair of jeans I had been dreaming of when fighting with pants to make it over my wide womanly hips, only to find out the waist itself was way to big (can you say ‘hello underwear’?)

I bought them. I also ended up buying a $90 DKNY dress/shirt that I probably didn’t need. But it was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist. I might return it. That’s one of those items I’ll wear once, maybe, and never wear again. Just because while I love fashion and patterns and color, lately I’ve found I always fall back on solids and, well, basic black. I’m so boring. When I grew up I was all about fancy patterns and bright colors. I’m no longer craving that kind of attention or desire to make a fashion statement. Besides, five out of seven days of the week I work, and while I don’t need to be extremely conservative at work, in order to be taken seriously I can’t wear paisely.

So here I am, wearing my over-priced designer jeans, enjoying the fit, the details, the feel of heavy, high-quality denim clinging to my hips and knees.

And now, of course, I want to buy another pair. Light wash.

Building Up a Freelance Career

There are tons of opportunities to make a few bucks here and there when it comes to writing. This blog, despite all of those AdSense ads, is not one of them. I seem to be making about three cents a week with AdSense, and that’s on a good week.

However, with all of the magazines in the world, online and in print, there’s plenty of room to pitch stories and freelance for some extra cash each month. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of working as a freelancer, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable moving to a full-time freelance career. First of all, every month would bring in a different amount of money. Health insurance would be all up to me to figure out. I might ultimately make more money, but the uncertainty freaks me out too much to take that leap.

In the meantime, I’ve been lucky enough to be doing some minimal freelance writing work for my uncle, who runs his own online marketing company. He develops e-newsletters for a company that are sent out each month. Included in those newsletters are summaries of related news articles. Guess who writes those summaries? I make $50 per month doing that, but that $50 covers one voice lesson. It actually used to be $100 a month but one of the companies he developed the newsletter for decided they were done with their monthly marketing e-mail. The extra $100 a month was really nice. It seemed to provide the extra cushion I need between overspending and just having enough money to break even each month. The job is nice because writing up the blurbs comes naturally to me and I feel like I’m actually helping my uncle out while also making his life a little easier.

I’ve done occasional freelance work for newspapers, but it’s a ton of work for $50. My cell phone bill for making all the calls ends up costing more than what I make. So I’ve put a stop to newspaper freelancing for now.

Lately I’ve realized that the real money to be made in freelancing is writing for PR and marketing. I don’t think I’d want a full-time PR or marketing career, but I do enjoy spending my free time writing marketing copy. It’s nice to spend my days reporting and writing hard news, and then getting a bit fluffy come evening. Of course, I have to be very careful not to run into any conflict-of-interest issues, which is always a very real concern for me as a journalist. I’d only write marketing copy for a company outside of the sectors my magazine covers.

On top of writing, I’m also trying to build up my freelance web design work. It’s amazing how much money one can make designing a simple site for a person or a business. My uncle hooked me up with my first gigs, where he pitched me as a cheap alternative to other web designers. I guess most web designers charge about $1500-$2000 for a simple site. I’ve charged about $600-$700 per site. I feel really weird charging people that much money, even though I realize my prices are more than competitive. I’ve also worked for small companies or people who have a large chunk of disposible income, so my uncle tells me not to feel guilty about setting my prices in that range. He said he’d charge $2500 or more to do the exact same thing.

Knowing that, sometimes I wonder if I should really focus on gaining skills in web design. After all, it would be neat to either work full-time as a web designer or, ideally, to supplement my income as a reporter by designing about two sites per month. The extra $1200 per month, or even $600 per month, would really help balance out my budget.

As far as career goes, I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing in a month. My company, as I’ve noted previously, looks as if it’s about to go down the tubes. But I’m not too concerned. Some exciting opportunities have popped up. It’s kind of nice how things seem to always work out. A networking contact of the past has contacted me about an opening at her company. It’s not everyday someone contacts me about a job opening.

I definitely have tons more to say about job searching as both an entry-level candidate and now as a candidate with rather specialized experience. But that’ll be another entry.

Do any of you freelance full-time or for supplemental income outside of your job? Any advice for a gal who’s interested in building out her freelance work?

Why Living Alone is Worth Half My Paycheck: Part Two

Over lunch today, I plan to drive to my apartment complex’s office and fill out a form to renew my lease for another year. I’m hesitant to do this, as I know I could be saving upwards of $300 a month if I were to live in a smaller “cozy” studio or perhaps even $500 a month if I could put up with a roommate situation. I might put off signing the lease until tomorrow, but tomorrow is the day my lease officially expires – and, as far as I know, I have until June 8 to agree to sign a new lease under the new terms.

Those terms include a rent-raise of $145 per month. My rent, for my studio, was $905 per month, utilities included (sans cable TV, internet and phone.) Now the price is being bumped up to $1050.

Realistically, I could find another studio for $850 somewhere else on the Peninsula, saving me $200 per month, or $2400 per year. But avoiding having to deal with moving again seems to be worth at least $2400. Besides, I’m still hopeful that at some point in the next year I’ll either get a raise or find a job that pays a little bit more. Most likely it will be the later, since I’m pretty sure my company is going to go under sometime fairly soon.

My rent costs have varied drastically ever since moving into an apartment in college. In Chicago, I shared a 2 bedroom with two other people. I opted for the large, door less living room and used a curtain for privacy. At the time, my parents were paying my rent (thanks mom and dad) but because I was so stingy I’d rather spend less on rent than have a place of my own and spend more. When I moved out to Burlingame, CA, I didn’t have a job – so I knew I needed to find an extremely cheap place. I ended up moving into one small room in a 4br apartment (in a nice location) for $480 a month. It was a pretty good deal, considering rents in the area. But my roommates and I didn’t get along. I was (and am) messy and they were party animals. It was a six month lease under someone else’s name. She also paid for all the utilities and charged the boarders rent. What missed me off most was the month she decided not to pay for the wireless internet (although it was supposedly included in my rent and I needed it for my freelance work and my internship). After the six months, I moved out. I was supposed to move in with one of the girls I had been living with and her friend. We found a 3br in Belmont, CA, that I think was going to be about $500 each per month. We paid our deposit of $500 each. Then, a week later, they all backed out on me. I lost $500. I was not a happy camper. At that point I figured it was worth my sanity to move into a pricey studio.

I’m not sure it’s worth it to pay $1050 a month for a studio when after taxes I take in about $2100 a month. It is, however, worth it to live alone.

I like being around people. Sometimes. But when I come home I just want to kick off my shoes, rip off my clothes, and be naked for the rest of the evening. Seriously. I need that kind of freedom. While I make my own amount of noise (the most noise I make is when I’m singing), I can’t stand other people making noise. And while I’m a bit of a slob, I cannot put up with other people’s mess. I like having ownership of my space. It’s not just about being able to go into a tiny room, close a door and shut myself off from the world. Maybe it would be better if I had a room with my own bathroom. But I like the idea of a studio. I’m even more comfortable in a studio compared to a 1br. My studio is very spacious.

What I like about my apartment:

– the high ceilings and openness
– my neighborhood, even though I don’t take advantage of it.
– Location – I’m really smack dab in the middle of anywhere I’d want to be by about a 40 minutes drive either way. I’m a six minute drive from work.
– a nice pool in my apartment complex… that I used maybe twice last year. I’m
– the utilities are included, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting to pay my monthly bills
– the dressing room hallway/closet. Lets me keep my mess contained if visitors come over.
– The size – there’s room in my place for a futon and a full size bed.
– Privacy. No one knows my name. I come home, I disappear into my apartment. I like being anonymous sometimes. I mean, I’d like to get to know my neighbors, but I also like it that no one there knows who I am
– Onsite maintenance workers that are fairly responsive. No annoying landlord to deal with.
– Carport parking (no worries about finding a spot in the middle of the night)
– Decent street parking availability for guests
– Light-hued carpeting and off-white walls make apartment look even more spacious

What I don’t like about my apartment

– The cost
– That it’s a studio, so if I have a friend stay over there is absolutely no privacy
– It’s not rent controlled. I worry how much the rent will go up next year.
– The building is old. Weird things happen. The paint on my wall seems to have melted off in stripes due to the suns rays coming in through the blinds
– Most of the people who live in the complex are older families. It would be kind of nice to know a few people my age in the gigantic complex, in case I were to have an emergency.
– I’m not close to any “downtown” area. I’m a few blocks from a large shopping mall, but that’s really dangerous when it comes to my spending habits, so I avoid going there as much as possible.
– there’s no outdoor trails to rollerblade on locally, I’d have to drive to a trail to rollerblade, and I’m too lazy to do it.

But, I’ve come to conclusion that I have to live alone. At least until I’m living with someone I’m dating or married to. I think I could deal with that. I might even like it. But I just hate living with strangers. Or even friends. Well, mostly I hate living with strangers. I’ve had the worst experiences in roommate situations. And many of them were my fault. I just can’t deal with sharing my space. Sometimes the awkward situations were not my fault. In college, the second year I lived in my 3br apartment a crazy girl moved in. She was extremely overweight and had a lot of mental issues. I could put up with her, but her boyfriend just drove me crazy. He has some sort of social disorder, which is fine and all, but I felt threatened by him on occasion. Once I was watching TV in the common area and this girl got a phone call so he walked over and turned off the TV without asking me, even though it was obvious I was watching it. So I said “excuse me, I was watching that” and he says (in a very creepy, evil way) “fuck you.” I was so pissed off I walked up to him and said “excuse me, you do not talk to me that way. Do you live here?” I was very proud of myself for my defense, but ultimately the whole occurrence sent me into depression for a few weeks.

It’s just I have such anxiety when it comes to dealing with other people. I honestly feel like there has been this huge weight lifted off my chest ever since moving into my own place and getting my car for transportation freedom. All of that costs a fortune, but I think it’s worth my sanity.

Besides, I save money on not needing therapy.

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RENT $ HISTORY

$450 (utilities not included): Chicago (Lincoln Park) “living room” in 2br apartment.
$800 (all utilities included): Washington, D.C. (SW) room sublet in a house.
$? (internship paid for housing): Berkeley, CA (room in 3br apartment)
$480 (all utilities included): Burlingame, CA (room in 4br apartment)
$905 (most utilities included): San Mateo, CA (studio)
$1050 (most utilities included): San Mateo, CA (same studio after rent increase)

Why Living Alone is Worth 50 Percent of My Paycheck: Part One

According to the recommended budget split, I hear you’re supposed to spend 20 to 30 percent of your income on housing. After my rent increase next month, I’ll have hit 50 percent. As I’ve pointed out before, my rent is now $1050 a month for a studio apartment. Before you gasp in horror, take note that the hefty fee also includes PG&E, water, and garbage, and access to a swimming pool.

Still, living in The Bay Area is painfully expensive. Out of curiosity, I went on Craigslist to see what $1050 would get me in various locations of the country…


SAN FRANCISCO

$1025 Quiet Studio with Beautiful Floors and Remodeled Bathroom (downtown / civic / van ness)
This gorgeous apartment has hardwood floors throughout, fresh paint, a lovely remodeled bathroom, and a walk-in closet. Located at the back of the building, this apartment is perfect for someone who enjoys peace and quiet.

$1050 Bright, Spacious Studio *Completely Remodeled* OPEN HOUSE. (downtown / civic / van ness)
High ceilings and large windows make this a bright, beautiful, spacious studio. Completely remodeled with fresh paint throughout and has refinished hardwood floors. There is a walk-in closet, too. A separate large eat-in kitchen has plenty of room for a table. The building is centrally located, with great public transportation options, just a block from the Van Ness corridor. There is an elevator and a large laundry room in the basement with coin operated washers/dryers. Sorry, we do not allow pets. There is a resident manager on site and the building is professionally managed. The required deposit is $1150.00

NEW YORK

$1050 HUGE 2 ROOM STUDIO BY A/D EXPRESS BIG KIT-FRENCH DOORS + PARK VIEWS!! (Harlem / Morningside)

RENOVATED PRE-WAR 2 ROOM STUDIO – BIGGER THAN MANY HARLEM 1 BEDS
GLASS FRENCH DOORS! EAT-IN-KITCHEN!
THIS GREAT APARTMENT IS A FEW SHORT BLOCKS TO THE EXPRESS SUBWAY A/C/D AND CONVENIENT TO ALL
THIS APARTMENT FEATURES –
GLEAMING OAK HARDWOOD FLOORS
CERAMIC TILED EAT IN KITCHEN – BIG ENOUGH FOR A TABLE AND CHAIRS OR OFFICE SET UP
MODERN RENOVATED WINDOWED EAT-IN-KITCHEN WITH COUNTERSPACE!!!
A HUGE DOUBLE CLOSET AND STORAGE ABOVE
A WINDOWED BATHROOM WITH A ENAMELED PORCELIAN TUB
AND LIGHT!! IT’S SUNNY AND BRIGHT WITH PARK VIEWS!!

CHICAGO

$1000 / 1br – Gr8 Price & Location?Rehabbed?FREE Heat, Gas, Water?No Dep Super location! Super price with lots of savings with free heat, gas & water!!! Plus everything has been rehabbed.. Check out the stats: • It’s a new rehab. • It’s a great price!! Heat, water AND gas is included in rent, and there is NO security deposit!! • It’s a bright unit located in a courtyard building w/ fruits trees!! • It’s in a great location… Lakeview… walking distance to Wrigleyville, Lake front, gyms, restaurants and Lake!!! • VERY EZ access to CTA (bus and el)!! • It’s a REHABBED 1 bedroom about 500-600 sq ft. That means everything has been recently rehabbed!! New kitchen, new appliances including dishwasher, new hardwood floors throughout, new electric service, new dry-wall, new bathroom, new vanity. • Also, there is laundry & bike storage in building. • Cats and small dogs (30 lbs or less) allowed • Cable and internet ready. • 24/7 maintenance.

$1045 / 1br – GET A JUMP START……………for August. Make sure you have a look at our building as part of your search. You will find a gorgeous vintage high rise across the street from the park, several blocks to the lake & Zoo, by boutiques, restaurants, bus stops, grocery. 24 Hour doorman, hardwood floors, fitness room, laundry facility, heat included, no security deposit. Call 773.477.7000 for an appointment. 401 W. Fullerton.

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What can you get for $1000-$1050 a month’s rent in your neck of the woods? I’m planning on following up with a post tomorrow to explain why I spend 50 percent of my rent on living alone, and why I’m damned happy I do it.

Money and Etiquette: Why are the important things in life never taught in school?

The waitress handed the bill to a guy sitting at the table of 10 family members. The group included a few small children and a majority of adults with disposable incomes, plus a girl hoping to keep some of her savings account for graduate school a few years down the line. In this situation, it looks as though this girl (that would be me) is expected to pay. There’s nothing offensive about being expected to pay for one’s own share of the meal.

It is never that simple. The biggest problem last night, it seemed, was my lack of access to cash. My debit card had been turned off for suspected fraudulent activity (there wasn’t any, It was re-activated this morning after a lengthy Q&A session with BoA) so that’s why I had no access to cash. I had a credit card and figured if they didn’t offer to cover my portion of the bill, I’d just pay my way with plastic. No big deal, right? I ordered a $16 plate of fish & chips… which was one of the least expensive full dishes on the menu. I didn’t go with the salmon or fancier fish dishes since, despite that they were a healthier and more desirable choice, I wasn’t going to splurge on a 20-some-odd dollar meal that may or may not get picked up by family. Either way, it paid to be frugal.

So when the bill made it to the table, it looked like I was, in fact, going to pay for my share of the meal. The question, then, was the sum of my share. In my mind, I had purchased a $16 meal and ordered water for a grand total of $20, tip included. As I suggested my $20 fee, a variety of suggestions regarding my proper payment hit the table. “What about the appetizers,” asked a relative. Right. The appetizers. The three of them that I didn’t order, but ate when offered. I wouldn’t have chosen to order them on my own, but since they were there (and quite tasty looking) I enjoyed my fair share. Fine. I’ll chip in for the appetizers I wouldn’t have ordered, but that I ate. My $16 meal is now costing me $25.

Suddenly another relative suggests we just split the bill evenly. I cringe. Luckily, others realize this isn’t fair and continue to split the bill according to purchase. It doesn’t always work out that way. But I’ll get to that later.

Ultimately, my offer to pay with a credit card offended my family member to the point where she said, in an upset voice, forget it – and hastily paid for my portion of the bill. Unfortunately a few minutes later I had to ask her to borrow $5 for bridge tolls since I was out of cash and realized the bridge didn’t accept charge either.

I don’t want to seem like this stingy, ungrateful bitch to my local relatives, but it seems like I manage to always leave a bad impression on them every time I visit. I’m contemplating writing a check out for $30 and sending it their way, but here’s an untold piece of the story – the woman of the family (who ultimately paid the bill) didn’t want to pay for my portion, whereas the husband, who ran off to entertain his children at the time of payment, made some comment under his breath that made me think he’d gladly cover my portion. No one else heard that, it seems. I don’t know if it would be even further rude to just send a check in the mail to cover my costs.

I did suggest that I owe both of them dinner – which may or may not happen. Because then we’ll all be having dinner and get to the bill and what-do-ya-know, they’re going to want to get the bill and will refuse to let me pay it.

It seems etiquette is rarely about follow-through, but instead just about an offer.

However, what happens when you are at social lunch or dinner and someone boldly suggests the bill be split (of course, it’s usually the guy who ordered two top-shelf margaritas who thinks this is such a brilliant idea). Do you speak up for yourself or do you sit back and watch your affordable meal turn into an extravagant expense?

If this occurs with friends, it’s usually easy to say something. But what about co-workers? This happened once early on in my time at my current company and I was flabbergasted by the entire situation. I mean, how stingy can one be around people whom she sees as important networking contacts down the line? As far as my company goes, it seems that all of this has balanced itself out over time. Colleagues who have gotten new jobs with great promotions have covered entire bills, and in the long run I’m likely out of the red when it comes to overspending on my meals in aggregate costs. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s important to fit into company culture and go out with co-workers to social lunches, happy hours, etc, but it can be costly. How much is networking worth?

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