Update to American Express Post

A while ago, I posted a letter about our issues with American Express and United Airlines. You can read it here. Here is our update…

We were kindly contacted by some folks at Amex who put some of their best people on this situation. The agent who helped us was very kind and worked very hard for us. But it boils down to this, airlines are notoriously difficult and not interested in being the best at customer service. They were unable to do anything for us but did compensate us for being good customers. Continue Reading…

Why American Express Lost Our Business (and United too)

This blog was never a place to just air grievances. And I promise that is not what we have become. As I slip into my new groove, this blog and Kosher, She Eats will get back on track. However, I have found that this is the best way to broadcast a large amount of information. So … here is the letter my husband sent to American Express and why AmEx lost our business. Names and amounts have been redacted to protect all involved.

To Whom It May Concern:
Continue Reading…

Update on the No Pants Dance

I was over at my favorite financial advice website, LearnVest, reading an article about this woman’s quest for a perfect credit score and I realized… I just stopped my No Pants Dance updates when I got engaged. I mean, to be honest, I was a little bit distracted by my handsome fiancé and our wedding and then our honeymoon and now our adorable puppy BUT that is no excuse.

Let’s start with a recap. I decided to do the No Pants Dance in May of last year. Read about that here. Then I recapped June, my first full month of No Pants Dancing here. In the middle of month two, July, I wrote this. Then in August, month three, I wrote about our food growing expeditions and teaching my nephew to save and invest.

Then I disappeared. Life got busy, the Jewish holidays came, and then… my Sweet Boyfriend proposed. :) My whole life changed, in the best possible way. All this to say… I got busy. So here is your update on the No Pants Dance.

Refresher, the goals were:

  • I will be out of credit card debt in 9 months
  • I will have a significant amount in my retirement account by then
  • Once I am out of CC debt, I will put that money towards my car, student loans, and savings
  • I will put at least 30% of my income towards bills, loans, or savings every month

In the one year since I began this financial journey I have:

  • Gotten myself out of credit card debt (with the help of my husband)
  • Put the full amount my employer was matching towards my 401k last year (and so far this year) and transferred old 401ks that were sitting around and doing nothing into an IRA I can manage. I also put the full amount I could away in my new IRA.
  • Taken the money saved from the credit card debt and put it towards our wedding. We paid for a significant amount of our wedding and that wiped out all the extra we were saving from not having to make those payments and more. However, we are putting more towards the car than the minimum payment required.

Since we now have two incomes, we are using my husband’s for wedding bills and paying down debt and mine for monthly expenses. Again, with our wedding, everything is tight this year. So you could say we are still on a No Pants Dance. Since returning from our honeymoon, we are on a strict budget. No extraneous clothing expenses… no fancy dinners out… that was what the honeymoon was for! The goal is to pay off my car and his small amount of student loans PLUS most of my student loans that are borrowed at 6.5% in the next year. We will then put the rest to savings and tackling the rest of the debt (which at that point isn’t much).

Our new, fresh goals:

  • Pay off car and 6.5% loans in 2014
  • Pay off all debt by 2015
  • Buy a house with at least 20% down in 2016
  • Continue to max out IRA contributions every year
  • Live a happy and debt free life
Haykin Family Photo 2013

Haykin Family Photo 2013

So there you go. My life has radically changed in the last 12 months. Where I used to feel overwhelmed by debt and finances, I am energized and excited about tackling this challenge. I am excited to help my husband build his business as a financial advisor and build our home together with our puppy and in the future, our children. And you know I will continue to coupon and check in with my No Pants Dance!

P.S. anyone have any freelance needs? I am taking work to help pay down the debt! Contact me at taliashewrote @ gmail dot com :)

Purex Earth Day Contest!

Folks! Get in on this Purex contest for a chance to win!

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The Go Purex Gro Green Instagram Contests ends Tuesday, April 30th, so don’t delay!
Instructions:

1. Follow Purex on Instagram, @Purex

2. Instagram a photo of your favorite eco-friendly practice or activity

3. Be sure to use the hashtag #GoPurexGoGreen in the photo caption and share the photo on Facebook & Twitter

4. Ask your friends to “like” your photo on Instagram to increase your chances of winning.
Prizes:

The 5 participants that receive the most “likes” on Instagram will get their very own mini greenhouse (ARV $50), along with a free bottle of Purex Natural Elements detergent (ARV $6). This contest ends April 30th, so there’s no time to waste! Get started now and you just might find that with Purex, it pays to be green.

The Wedding Challenge

Engagement pic It is the most amazing time of your life. It really is. You are planning the day when you marry your soul mate, your Beshert.

When you get engaged, it’s all so exciting and happy… then you start planning. I have been told, by recently married friends, that the bickering and fights that happen during this time are the worst… oh boy!

I am fortunate that my dear fiance isn’t picky and has only reserved veto power in this process but it doesn’t mean that we haven’t had our challenges. From the band or DJ conversation to which photographer to the hours spent looking at wedding rings for both of us, everything takes time and thought. However, the hardest part of wedding planning (at least so far)… and frankly some of the hardest conversations and decisions I have ever had to make have centered around our guest list.

How do you encapsulate two peoples’ lives into a guest list? Not only this but we have both led rich and full lives. When my parents got married, you invited the entire extended family and some friends. But that just doesn’t fly here. Our families do not live within blocks of each other. I have people in my family tree that I haven’t seen or spoken to since my Bat Mitzvah. How can I not invite my best friends from college but invite these people? Dan and I each made our lists. His with the heavy input from his parents (they had a cheat sheet, his sister got married a couple of years ago) and mine was mainly done by me. I took some input from my parents, adding in some of their 1st cousins and representatives from each branch or sibling (oy! Our family tree can be so complicated!) but it was important to me that my dear and closest friends from different stages of my life be included. There were negotiations… “You can add them, but you have to take someone else off” and debates, “Are we inviting kids? Can we afford that? Family kids only?” And I know we have insulted and upset people with some of the decisions we made. But I have to say this…

No decision was without debate and long thought. No decision was made ignorant of the repercussions to us… the couple getting married. And frankly it sucks to be the bride and be worried about hurting people’s feelings… not like it’s MY wedding or anything.

In the end, we did the best we could. We don’t have an endless budget, we don’t have a million dollars to feed every person we ever met or were friendly with and their spouse and kids. We had to make decisions.

And we hope that people don’t take it as a personal affront. I don’t know any couple that could invite every person they wanted to, to their wedding. We still like and enjoy the company of the people we didn’t invite. But I cannot think of any harder thing than paring down a wedding guest list.

Anyone have any good stories? Horror stories about this?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur… The Important Stuff…

Ok. It’s awful. I have been on my No Pants Dance for… how long? I can’t remember! Four months? Am I delirious from no shopping? Oh dear.

Here’s the worst part…

Rosh Hashanah in next week. I know! Terrible!

What do you mean you don’t understand?! Alright, I’ll explain it.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the Jewish New Years. The name literally mean head (rosh) of the year (hashanah). This is when we change the year (from 5772-5773). It is a happy, celebratory time but also reflective of the year past. We reflect and apologize for our mistakes then go into Yom Kippur and come out in Sukkot with freshly laundered souls. Very spiritual and cool… what the heck does this have to do with my No Pants Dance?

I NEED A NEW OUTFIT FOR ROSH HASHANAH SERVICES!!! Everyone knows if you buy a new outfit for something, it’s Rosh Hashanah!

I know, I’m crazy but seriously, I have had my eye on this dress at Shabby Apple for AGES and I really want it. For those of you who know me you know that I have a very specific style. I can only call it vintage/retro. Basically, I like to look like I live in the 1950′s. There have been two online stores that have fed this addiction – Stop Staring and Shabby Apple. Stop Staring is great for a few pieces but I have just FALLEN IN LOVE with Shabby Apple. I don’t think I have seen one dress I wouldn’t wear from them!

So I have a present for you, my readers… and possibly one for myself. Shabby Apple has given me a great discount code. Take 10% off your order (anything on their site) with this exclusive discount code – favorite10. But here is how it benefits me… if you use the link on the right, you know… right over there  —————————————>
I get a little something to buy myself a dress… and this blog could even win me one! So click on Shabby Apple, cruise around, find yourself a ‘pretty lil thing’ for the holidays and get a discount! It’s a win win.

Wanna see some of my favorites? OK! Here’s what’s on my shopping list:

OMG I WANT THEM ALL!

And stay tuned. I have some No Pants Dance updates and holiday words for you, my dear friends!

Shana Tova!

No Pants Dance – Month Three… already?

Talia in Tomato Heaven

Just me in tomato heaven

WOW! This challenge is flying by! And it has become such a part of my life, my spending habits have changed so much already, I am announcing here and now that I am extending it for another three months. That would be a total of six months! My challenge will end at the end of November now. I know… be proud. :)

July was pretty easy. Again, I purchased one or two small things, with coupons to satisfy that craving. I really believe if you cut yourself off too cold turkey when it comes to shopping, you are going to suffer. For many women, shopping is a way to perk up their wardrobe AND their emotions. So if you stop spending anything on yourself… you will probably explode after a few weeks or months.

Anyway, my biggest annoyance/purchase this month was a plane ticket and rental car. I have a 50th anniversary weekend at my childhood camp in Georgia and I thought… maybe if I keep putting it off I will have the money… yeah, not so much. So that happened… But I did the math for all of my finances and “found” $2000! Aka, I thought I was $2000 MORE in debt that I am! That’s awesome. I am still putting more than a third of my income to debt repayment (credit cards, student loans, car payments) but sometimes it feels like I’m not getting anywhere. I wish I could just save more on my housing expense (aka rent) as that is my other big expense per month. Otherwise, I’m not spending much.

This month will be hard too as I have to renew my tags and pay six months of car insurance… less than awesome. But I feel good that I am thinking regularly about finance and Sweet Boyfriend and I are making future plans.

Meanwhile, we have been growing a lot of our food… I mean, except for protein, fruit, and booze… we have grown everything else we have eaten for at least the past month. Almost 100 pounds of produce from our three gardens. That is a definite money saver. Next year, we plan to grow a lot more and since a lot of the equipment investment happened this year, we will be saving even more! Speaking of which, we made the most AMAZING pickles the other day! Check out my recipe here: Half-Sour Pickles.

On another saving note, it was my nephew’s 15th birthday and this year, Sweet Boyfriend and I are investing money for him. I will be the ‘money manager’ and custodian for this account and we will be investing it. He gave us about half of the cash he received on his birthday (pretty good for a teenager) and SB and I will essentially be matching that. I’m hoping he continues to invest and I will be putting money into the account for him for holidays and birthdays. I hope to teach my nephew and my future children how NOT to go into debt!

Wish me luck!

Goals:

  • I will be out of credit card debt in 9 months
  • I will have a significant amount in my retirement account by then
  • Once I am out of CC debt, I will put that money towards my car, student loans, and savings
  • I will put at least 30% of my income towards bills, loans, or savings every month

No Pants Dance – Month Two… How am I coping?

Well, we are nine days into our second month… I’ve been doing okay but I did make two purchases this month. I know… bad news bears but in all honestly, they weren’t that bad AND I am thinking of extending the dance a few more months…

How did I fall off the wagon? Well, first off, I use a certain store’s credit card that sends me back rebates. I had a rather large chunk of rebate waiting for me and I didn’t want it to expire… PLUS I saw a super cute pair of shorts that would be great for work this summer. With the rebate bucks, I ended up only having to pay shipping! Not to bad, just $7 for a brand new pair of shorts that will liven up my wardrobe. The second purchase was less money saving and more necessity… I love a certain type of tanktop/undershirt. It is NOT expensive and from a … shall we say … ‘teen’ retailer? So they aren’t a billion dollars to begin with. Well, Sweet Boyfriend and I started to notice that the white ones I wear ALL THE TIME were getting thin, with holes in them, stretching out, etc. I was going to make due but he encouraged me to look into replacing them. Well I went online and saw that they were on sale for $5 a piece. Plus I found an online coupon for $5 off if you spend $30. Well, with $30 of shirts in my cart, I used the coupon and essentially got one of those for free! Now I can dump the old ones and not worry about the holes!

One thing that I am really learning through this process is to be much more mindful of how I spend money and what I spend it on. When Sweet Boyfriend and I talk about the future, I realize that I would much rather put my money towards that (and have it gain interest in the meantime) than a new outfit that may not be my favorite.

So let me reiterate my goals for you (and for myself):

  • I will be out of credit card debt in 9 months
  • I will have a significant amount in my retirement account by then
  • Once I am out of CC debt, I will put that money towards my car, student loans, and savings
  • I will put at least 30% of my income towards bills, loans, or savings every month

It isn’t easy but I’m doing it!

No Pants Dance Update – Month One

Okay, I know. I totally suck. I haven’t updated you except for the fast, tiny update at the start of the month. I am SO sorry! June was been quite a whirlwind month and I don’t think I even had three seconds to do anything! (Including, by the way, shopping!)

Part of this craziness was induced by a short notice 10 day trip to Israel. Yes. It was incredible but I was also concerned about breaking my no pants skirt dance. For those of you just joining us, after reading a very inspiring article in May, I decided to put my choices spending (optional stuff, clothing, etc) on hold for three months and see how I do. You can read about that here – No Pants Dance.

I promised to blog about it and I horribly failed to do that this first month. But fortunately, that is about the biggest failure from the first month (and I blame it on insane traveling schedules and falling head over heels in love with my sweet boyfriend). My boyfriend and I were playing travel tag. I went on a trip then he went on a trip (we didn’t see each other for two weeks solid!) then we were home together for a week and I left for a 10 day trip to Israel. So we were spending every second we had staring into each others eyes and telling each other how awesome and cute we are. It was a lot of work!  :)

When I came home, I had about a week to get myself together again and then it was his birthday and my sorority’s international convention held right here in Denver… a convention that I had been on the committee for and been planning for TWO YEARS! Okay, so seriously, this is my first week back into any sort of normal groove.

But let’s look at how I did on the No Pants Skirt Dance in June:

I spent VERY wisely when I was abroad. I did not go insane and buy the entire state of Israel. I limited myself to one treat (a dress from the shuk) and then got sweet boyfriend a kippah (skullcap), some tea that he enjoys, a cute magnet for our refrigerator collection, and a bunch of spices to play with when we cook. I didn’t eat out much but I did get a couple of the fabulous ice cafes that are pretty unique to Israel (it’s like a frappachino… with real coffee… you can’t get coffee with ice cubes in it in Israel… well you can but it takes some explaining).

I had already purchased Sweet Boyfriend’s birthday presents prior to the beginning of the No Pants Skirts Dance. That was very good. I did have to get a bit of packaging for them but it wasn’t too bad.

There were some expenses involved in the traveling and the convention that I had not anticipated. It amounted to a couple hundred bucks… that disappointed me but at least I had it because I wasn’t spending that money on other non-essentials.

The best part of June was when I came home and Sweet Boyfriend decided that he was going to take the challenge too. Since this is for OUR future, he said, we should do this together. So he is on a No Pants Dance too. He decided he liked polo shirts for the summer but only had two. He had a credit from purchases on ebay plus we are selling some older shirts and thus, getting more useful items while not spending any money! Brilliant!

Oh… one other thing did happen in the middle of this crazy month… I found out that my identity was stolen. Yes. Some jerk decided not live his own life on his own merits and hard work and would rather live on mine. Fortunately, I caught it pretty early. They used one of my existing credit cards and opened another… and tried but failed to open yet another. I went through a fairly intensive process of filing police reports, filing reports with the FTC, sending in fraud alerts, etc. And that was an additional unexpected expense… purchasing protection and monitoring for my credit and identity.

Sweet Boyfriend has been incredibly encouraging and helpful in this whole situation. He is a financial wiz so he is able to give me a realistic view of the future of our finances and frankly… if I keep working hard, it looks pretty good!

$$ update:

I am currently putting a third of my income towards paying down my debt. At this rate, I will be clear of all debt, except my car payment and my student loan payments, within 8-9 months. If I can hold out, the No Pants Skirt Dance may last that long. This is all still while contributing to my 401k and putting away savings.

Once those debts are paid off, I will be putting that 33(ish) percent of my income towards the car and savings. I am hoping to build a strong financial base for myself and my future family. I know what it feels like to just scrape by and it is not a good feeling. I don’t want my kids to have to deal with that.

For once in my life, I am actually jazzed about finances. It does help to have a smarty pants Sweet Boyfriend around…