Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Goals Redux

It's already the end of July and time to revisit the Goals I set out for myself in the begining of the month. It's not too pretty, I admit. Here's all the gory details:

1. Actively seek professional development and additional income.

Success! No additional income yet but definite progress made towards securing secondary employment.

2. Pay back Boyfriend and Friend C.

Failure. Paid back Boyfriend the $300 I thought I owed him. Due to an error the amount was actually $390. Then I used his portion of a work reimbursement check to pay my phone bill. Then I borrowed another $120 in order to pay Evil Collection Agency. I did not pay back Friend C as she lives in a different city and in all likelihood has forgotten the $60 (even though I haven't).

3. Avoid Evil Overdraft Monster

Failure. Sigh. This was really a stupid mistake on my part. I was able to get the bank to refund half the overdraft fee ($19) but it still bugs me that I overdrafted in the first place. Need to keep focusing on that goal.

4. Only use in-network ATMS

Failure. Ok, I have to plan better for this but it only happened two times and I'm sure there was a really good excuse at the time. I like using cash and I never like to have too much on me but since I don't drive it's a pain in the butt to always make sure I'm close to one of my bank's ATMs - though they are ubiquitous.

5. Purchase Sister's Wedding Gift

Failure. Well it was always going to be difficult to do this in July but the unexpected difficulty of settling my defaulted student loan made it impossible. Running out of time to get a gift.

All in all, I think I made some good progress in July, just not as much as I would have liked. I just made two dumb mistakes - forgetting about my Sprint bill and accidentally overdrafting my account - that will require better planning if I want to avoid them in the future.

Like the famous quote I should put up on my wall:

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Tomorrow I will announce my August goals, which will be a little less ambitious now that I have to carry over some of my failures from July.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quitting Smoking - Day 4 - How I'm Doing

Here I am on Quit Day #4 and I have not even had a puff of a cigarette so the quitting is going quite well. Or is it?

It's a fascinating process my mind and body has been going through and it's making me realize just how addicted I was to smoking in the first place.

My boss has been tremendously supportive - telling me I could come by his office and chat if I needed to take a break (after I accidentally revealed that the day seemed a lot longer without breaks). He even apologized for interrupting me as I frantically chewed on a gross piece of nicotine gum today. (I don't know why they call it gum as it tastes like dried vomit and there's nothing remotely chewy about it. I can only stand to have a piece in my mouth for about twenty seconds).

Boyfriend as well as my friends and family have been supportive as well. Mostly I've been holing up by myself this week as withdrawal has affected both my attention span and my irritability. It has also made for pretty much 3 back-to-back No Spend Days - except for one soda and one bus ride - this week.

Since some readers seemed curious about the method I have chosen to quit (cold turkey with occasional nicotine gum), I have decided to share a little more about my progress.

Today was a lot better in terms of focusing on work and not getting distracted. Still eating too much though have forced myself to drink water at work instead of soda. Perhaps my bringing a family sized snack variety pack to the office in order to save money has been counter-productive as it has given me carte blanch to eat multiple bags of Cheetos in one day.

I noticed my lungs feeling clearer today. Saw a girl smoking today and felt only a little jealous. Told myself that I have quit already and just wanted a cigarette "for old time's sake" only three times today but managed to talk myself out of it.

Not having any cigarettes on me has really clinched the success of this quitting process - money is tight right now so the thought of shelling out 7 bucks for something so bad for me just seems dumb. That being said, I can still taste them on my tongue and my mouth has yet to accept the fact that they're not coming back. I wish the feeling would go away so I would stop eating! According to this web site, my ability to taste and smell should already be improved by now. Does anyone know when the cotton mouth goes away?

I do think I will be successful in this endeavor because I'm a pretty optimistic person and also because I've changed A LOT of negative behavior in the past couple of months so why not this too?

I'm not gonna lie though, I want a cigarette right now and denying myself one, though all for the greater good, is probably the hardest thing I've had to do outside the bar exam.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trying to Quit Smoking - Day 3

For all the obvious reasons, I need to quit smoking. Health problems, social stigma, clothes smelling, etc. But, for me, I have always told myself I would quit smoking before I got married. Or before I turned 30. I don't know, it varied. Now it looks like one of those two things may happen in the next two years!!!

Haha, I'm not getting married, just older.

But Boyfriend and I have talked about children - kind of in the "one day" frame of mind that every couple in love must do I imagine and it has been kind of a kick in the pants to quit smoking within a few years of deciding to start a family.

So, here I am, starting. I haven't had a cigarette since Saturday around 11 p.m.

Sunday was pretty easy. I slept late and when I woke up and saw that my last pack was empty, decided that now was a good a time as ever to quit. Stayed busy with Boyfriend all day and hardly had any cravings - Boyfriend was very encouraging. The worst part was after a nice big meal Sunday night I REALLY wanted to smoke but I didn't have any and was already proud of my progress.

Monday was hard. I had really vivid dreams and was very high strung at work. I also got bored REALLY easily as there was nothing to break up the day for me. Smoking was always the way I rewarded myself after accomplishing a project and without it, the day seemed really long. Physical cravings were bad on Monday and I snacked A LOT.

Today, Tuesday, has been the worst so far. Physical cravings aren't as bad but mental cravings are undeniable. I am in mourning for cigarettes if you can believe that. I've played a reel in my head of all the wonderful times I've had smoking and started picturing myself ostracized from friends that smoked, etc. I see myself sitting on a park bench somewhere looking out of place without a cigarette. I noticed people hundreds of yards away smoking today and envied them. I am so unbelievably anxious and bored without smoking but nothing can hold my attention for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Money is a big factor in why I am quitting smoking. Not just the $6.90 a pack of smokes costs in New York these days but the fact that I usually pay for them with cash and therefore have an extra three bucks just sitting in my pocket that easily gets spent as well. In my earlier days I've been known to spend money I did not have just for a pack of cigarettes. That is all, hopefully, going to change.

I just need to get through another couple of days before I can officially announce that I have quit. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Settled, Now I'm Screwed

Well big news in my finances today. Remember that private student loan that I, um, defaulted on? And the Evil Collection Agency it was assigned to? It's okay if you don't but believe me, it's been keeping me up at night. I've read a lot about debt collection procedures and this Collection Agency in particular over the last couple of months. I've considered going to a Consumer Credit Counseling agency. I've struggled with how I was going to deal with this debt because the company was simply not going to put me on a payment plan.

What I discovered was that they would mostly likely relent over time and suggest a payment plan. And the details I found about payment plans offer to debtors in similar circumstances were the same as what I worked out with Nice Collection Agency, a one time downpayment of 10% of the outstanding balance, plus monthly payments.

That's all well and fine when it worked out with Nice Collection Agency, to whom I owed a measly $3000, but this debt is far larger - $28,050!!! How was I going to come up with $2,800?

I resolved I would get past some current obstacles and then worry about saving up for the day the offer came and perhaps visit a Consumer Credit Counseling agency. But, alas, today Evil Collection Agency called me and offered a payment plan with NO DOWN PAYMENT.

The payment plan they offered was $260 a month - the best they could do because they can't extend payments for more than 9 years. No interest - just the full amount I owe payable in a little less than 9 years.

This is why I am very happy about this arrangement:

  • Stops the phone calls, the letters, the general fear that I would be sued, thrown into Debtor's Prison, have my wages garnished, tax refunds seized, etc.
  • Finally owning up to what has been by far my biggest financial mistake to date.
  • Paying the actual amount I owe instead of having it affect me down the line with attorney's fees, late charges, so on and so forth.
  • Payment in nine years with no interest is actually a MUCH better deal than the original term of the loan - 25 years at high interest rate (not that I suggest defaulting to anyone!).
  • No judgement on my credit report (though the CA will most likely be there unfortunately).

Here's why I'm not so happy about the agreement:

  • Holy crap, I don't actually have $260 and the check NEEDED to post this month or they would "take further action." From what I've been reading about debt collection, this is most likely a crock of s**t but it was enough for me to agree. Need to devote the next seven days to finding an extra $180 laying around - more on this later.
  • Holy crap, I'm going to be paying almost $800 a month of debt - a full third of my salary!

I'm trying to focus on the positives - the private loans will both be gone in less than 9 years. I wanted the education and I'm glad I got it, but damn....that's all I have to say about that right now.

My advice to students pursuing higher education - don't take out private loans!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Budget 07/23 - 08/06

So here it is, the new Budget. It's not very exciting since rent is due. What's changed is now my rent is higher and my income is lower (thanks to my contribution to the Deferred Compensation plan). Also $19 was stolen from me by my bank but I'm too angry to post about that now.

Starting Balance = 1117

Rent - 725 (rent went up by $35)
Capital One - 50
Bridesmaid Dress Accessories - 60 (that I don't need but my sister = Bridezilla!)
Gym - 46 (last payment since I cancelled membership)

Left over for me - 236

I want to buy Sister's Wedding Present at this time but not sure I can swing it yet as it costs about $150. With the wedding 29 days away the registry is running dangerously low so my options are limited at this point.

And since I keep saying I will start allocating my spending or at least guessing at it, here it goes:

- 56 (cigarettes)
- 40 (lunch supplies)
- 60 (weekend money)
- 5 (mailing stuff)

Not sure about the rest. I do have a $45 doctor's bill I have to pay as well. Sigh.

Where it Went 07/09 - 07/22

I learned a lot in the last Budget period - about actually having cash in the bank and the temptations it brings. I didn't mess up so much but I definitely spent more than I'm used to, owing to the fact that I am no longer battling the Payday Loan companies. I repaid Boyfriend and then found out that I didn't repay him enough and also used reimbursement money I owed him to instead pay my cell phone bill. All in all, not the best two weeks, but some progress was made.

So, without further complaints, here's how I spent compared to the Budget I laid out for myself:

Sallie - 406/406.96
Job Expense - 65/60 (got the amount wrong, will be reimbursed eventually)
Transfer to Other Checking Account - 200/200
Lab fees from my physical - 12/11.73
Nice Collection Agency - 125/125.81
Boyfriend Debt Payoff - 300/300
Me Money - 119/188.75

Not Budgeted But Paid

Sprint - 164.90 (read about that here)
Necklace - 20 (sold by my coworker, it's really cute but I definitely didn't need it)
Groceries - 33.38

So it appears like I grossly overspent but getting my reimbursement check of $247 helped. I also stopped letting Boyfriend pay for everything and picked up my share of groceries, $20 in laundry costs, worms on our camping trip, a six pack of beer and dinner out with a friend (all included under "Me Money.")

And due to poor planning, work being busy and persistant rain, I didn't make it home for lunch 3 times and spent a total of $18 on lunch out (not so bad but avoidable if I had planned in advance). I also bought a total of 3 sodas from the vending machine I've worked so hard to avoid recently (all also included under "Me Money.")

What I've learned is whatever money is in the bank I will spend. So my solution: hide it! Or budget for everything. I don't know. I'm still working on it but the budget for the next pay period is a lot leaner. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I've been trying to pay off all the "short term debts" I accumulated in order for me to really start saving an Emergency Fund and attacking other debts.

Unfortunately, everywhere I turn there comes a new short term debt. It's very frustrating and despite my efforts to live on a budget (which are going very well I think) I keep on having to budget in unanticipated costs. It's like every two weeks there's a new emergency.

So, I've updated my sidebar to include the following:

Boyfriend Debt - thought this was paid off but it turns out the $300 I owed him was actually $390 due to a misunderstanding - he had deposited the smaller of two checks I gave him when he originally gave me money for my rent. That adds $90 to the total. Plus the $165 I was supposed to pay him back for the expense I was reimbursed for that he put on his credit card. I used it to pay my Sprint bill instead. While I can't exactly say paying Sprint was unanticipated, I just thought they would wait until tomorrow and they might have but in the end, since Boyfriend already paid his credit card bill - and because I'm currently giving him free legal work - I went ahead and sent Sprint two months of payment at once. This brings the grand total I owe Boyfriend to $255.

Mom Debt - a whole new category. Despite pledging to give me money for Sister's Bachellorette Trip, she instead gave me her debit card. I returned it to her and gave her a full accounting of what was paid and offered to pay some of it back. An offer which she declined. Well, in the light of day, I suppose she has changed her mind and has asked for $100 to be refunded. This is fair, I admit, but rather annoying. I feel like dealing with my parents and money is like having two hands that don't talk to the other. In all likelihood I will send my Mom this money the same day my Dad calls and ask me if I need money (which he has not done since I last posted BTW). It bothers me that they are not on the same page but I don't need their money anymore so I will send it to her as soon as I can.

And even worse is I've already done my budget for the next pay period - starting tomorrow- and I can't afford to pay even one red cent to either of these debts. I try really hard not to get discouraged but so it goes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Optimizing my Sprint Bill

I knew when I made out my last Budget that my Sprint bill would be due soon, as it had been just under a month since I paid them last. But there just wasn't much room in the Budget and I admit, not paying my Sprint bill on time has been a problem for me before. So I just figured they could wait around for their payment since they tell me right there on their web site that my "credit limit" is $250 so it should technically take over 3 months of non-payment before I should hit that mark.

But, just for those people who are toying with the idea of falling behind on your Sprint payments, here are some cute things that Sprint has come up with to "remind" you your payment is due:

  1. Sends you a text message saying "Payment Reminder."
  2. Sends you an email with an Invoice attached to it
  3. Starts blocking your ability to receive and/or send text messages
  4. Turns off your voicemail - you can call it and check your messages but people who call you won't receive your voicemail.
  5. Blocks to your ability to make outgoing calls.
  6. And finally, blocks all activity from your phone.
As someone who has been through all 6 stages of Sprint service removal, I've come to know these signs well. Luckily I have not had the most severe measures taken against me in a while (ever since I stopped paying for my Older Sister's Cell Phone and that's a story for another day!) but I had made it to Stage 2 last week.

And how much did I owe Sprint? $164.90, yikes! And, coincedentally, 10 cents less than what I also owed Boyfriend for agreeing to put part of my Work Trip expenses on his credit card. That figure includes two months of service so luckily I don't have to pay it again for a while.

But paying about $80 a month for cell service is still too much and it got me thinking about how much service do I actually need. Luckily, Sprint has this new feature called the Plan Optimizer right on their site where it analyzes your usage and tells you which alternate plans may save you money. I had to laugh when I read that because a full SIX YEARS ago I had to perform a similar task for a boss of mine which took me literally hours of pouring through phone records and number-crunching.

So, here are the results:

My original plan is only $50 but with all the add-ons I end up paying $72. I won't compromise on Insurance as someone who had broken or lost her phone and been faced with the devastating reality of paying $250 for the ugliest phone in the store.

But I am paying $5 a month in order for my night minutes to start at 7 p.m. instead of 9. Annoying.

I am also paying $5 a month for Picture Mail. Even Sprint thinks this is a bad idea and told me so right on the Plan Optimizer. I have maybe mailed three pictures since signing up for this feature several months ago.

I also am paying $5 a month for 300 text messages. This, unfortunately, will have to remain as my friends are all too fond of this method of communication. See for yourself:

Of my 700 Anytime Minutes, I have only used 143 this month. Therefore, it looks like the Talk 450 plan which would reduce my 700 minutes to 450 would save me money as long as this amount is normal which I am pretty certain it is. This would save me $10 a month.

Talk 450 also has Unlimited Night and Weekend Minutes starting at 7. This would save me $5 a month.

I have used 171 text messages this month. I can keep my 300 text messages a month with talk 450 and keep paying the $5 a month. This will save me nothing.

I can abandon my Picture Mail capabilities as it appears I have not used it this month anyway. This will save me $5 a month.

Roaming is included under the Talk 450 plan as well since according to the Optimizer I spend $2.30 a month roaming. That seems high but the usage chart indicates that I definitely roamed for at least one minute this month.

So the net savings would be about $23 a month. I think I'm going to do it.

The good thing about the Plan Optimizer is that by changing your contract this way, Sprint recognizes your old contract and you don't need to renew it for another two years. Which is cool because I like getting my free phone every two years.
Hopefully I can start seeing a savings with this new plan and also remember to pay my bill on time!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Camping = Cheap Fun (We Hope)

© Somos Images/Corbis

I'm going camping!!! Boyfriend and I are taking off in a matter of minutes to meet up with two of my best friends at a campsite halfway between our city and theirs. I'm very excited for this trip - seeing my friends without having to travel that far and spend a lot of money. AND I am only using 2 of my accrued 40.75 vacation hours.

So far we have everything we need already or have borrowed it. We made a list of all the things we need to buy for the weekend and split it down the middle:

  • Burgers and buns (we will buy)

  • Beer and ice (both will buy)

  • Snacks (both will buy, I require S'Mores)

  • Big cooler (sad as it is, apartment dwellers don't have coolers and we weren't able to borrow one big enough so friends will buy this)

  • Charcoal grill (Boyfriend has camp grill but apparently it won't suffice - I defer to the boys when it comes to grilling, but we think we can get a cheap one)

  • Campsite already paid ($13 each night = $26 divided by four = a great deal!!)

I'm a little nervous as it is over 90 degrees out and there may be thunder and lightning tomorrow but hopefully it won't spoil our fun. Also Boyfriend and I are camping people but our City Slicker friends - not so much.

No cable television or Internet for two days doesn't sound too bad. In fact, it sounds like my Apartment! The campsite people warned us there are no showers, but hey, there's a lake!

Beer will probably be the most expensive thing we do all weekend. The lake is stocked with trout so we may even get a free meal for our time. The thing I love most about summer is being able to do fun stuff outside with friends and I'm looking forward to a great weekend!

Boyfriend Found My Blog!!!

Okay, well Boyfriend has officially visited the blog. It's not like it was a secret. I even emailed him the URL a while back and he claimed he didn't get it and then we kind of had an unspoken agreement that he was too busy to read it, etc. and besides, he thought he knew everything. So I kept blogging.

But then on Wednesday, this conversation happened:

me: but guess who's blog was featured on msn today?
Boyfriend: who's blog?
me: mine!!!
Boyfriend: no shit
me: yeah i mean not the tv show but a blog they run i got a lot of new readers because of it
Boyfriend: cool nice job!
me: thanks! :) i didn't even know until someone emailed me directly
Boyfriend: where's the article?
me: umm well you may not want to read it as it doesn't exactly depict me in the best of lights
Boyfriend: uhoh
me: unless you want to
i don't know, it's honest, it's just like a summary of my blog thus far
Boyfriend: it's up to you
me: how bout you read it in a few months when i make even more progress? but just know that yours truly was in the news!
Boyfriend: k
me: <3>
Boyfriend:pretty cool
me: yeah i thought so

I was still pretty happy about being featured on MSN's Smart Spending blog and the nice comments I have received as a result (even the not-so-nice ones gave me a sort of push to keep going).

So despite pledging that he would not go look for the blog, curiosity got the better of Boyfriend and he revealed to me that he found it. And he loves it! He read every post and thinks I should definitely keep at it. :-)

I told him I wouldn't censor anything just because he may or may not be reading (see for example, the next post where I reveal that I spent Boyfriend's portion of my reimursement check on my Sprint bill). But I'm happy to have one more reader. Welcome!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hello New Readers!

Hello, I want to welcome all new readers who may have found my page after I was profiled on MSN's Smart Spending blog (gasp!). I am very flattered to have been mentioned on this blog and hope the new readers can see past the (quite shocking I admit) amount of debt I have accrued and see some positive things about my approach to money, especially in the past couple of months since I have started blogging about my finances. But first a little about me and money:

  • I don't have a car and thus no car payments or insurance. I am lucky enough to walk to work.
  • I HAVE taken money from my parents, most recently on my Sister's bachelorette trip, but other than that it has been several months since I have received anything. Trust me when I say that this money does not come Guilt-Free.
  • I do smoke and I know it's expensive and bad for me. I am trying to quit.
  • I do have a plan for the future and have been blogging about it. As the blog notes, I'm a "work in progress" but as soon as I clear the rest of my short term debt (see sidebar) I am going to unveil my Master Budget that will include the creation of an Emergency Fund and spending limits for each category of spending.

Anyway, I appreciate you stopping by and feel free to ask me any questions you like!

Free Entertainment Is The Best Kind

So I'm pleased to report that Boyfriend is totally on board with being frugal and budgeting. I'm rather envious in fact because he has already set up a Travel Fund and an Electronics Fund in addition to his Downpayment Fund and Emergency Fund (more on that later - exciting news!).

It's nice to be able to talk about money together and our goals. One of the first things we decided together was to stop buying magazines. We love them. Actually he gets a lot for free by using his frequent flier points so he's lucky. I, on the other hand, used to be guilty of spending way too much money on books and magazines. The books I cut out years ago because I went back to school and had no time to read books for pleasure and no money to afford them and also because I lived within walking distance of an excellent city library.

The magazines, well, those have been a weakness for me. I'll be in the supermarket checkout aisle and they'll just call to me. Even though I can read most of that information online, something about those glossy pages, well you know how it is. I was inspired by Saving 4 Later who has pledged to go an entire YEAR without buying books or magazines (she's almost there!).

So, alas, I haven't bought a magazine in a while. That doesn't mean I don't still crave glossy pages however. But as luck would have it, a Freecycle message went out last week for 45 issues of Real Simple! This women had been saving them for years. I rarely get that one so I can safely say I hadn't read any of the articles but I already love it. Now I can give myself a free magazine any time the mood strikes me. [Note to others: Join a Freecyle group in your area, it's great!].

Also last night Boyfriend and I had a choice of two FREE nighttime activities: outdoor musical or outdoor concert? We chose the concert since it was a one-time thing and pledged to see the musical another night. A fun, free time was had (except for the $5 lemonade we shared - ouch!).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Was Reimbursed - Just in Time!!!

So approximately 30 days after my work trip I have received my reimbursement check!

It's $247 and while I could think of six million other ways in which I could allocate this money, unfortunately it's not really up to me as I allowed Boyfriend to put $165 towards the trip on his credit card. But the remaining $82 will definitely come in handy as I'm already thisclose to blowing my Budget and still have six more days until Payday.

Where has the money been going? Well, the thing about Budgeting is I have been realizing just how cheap I've been for the past couple of months and now that I am finally not as broke I've been trying to pay for things that I'm not used to paying for. Like beer. And my own groceries. I haven't gone crazy and done anything like when I bought $100 in used furniture but I did buy a $20 necklace from a co-worker who was selling them from a Avon-like service (it's really cute I swear and I NEVER buy jewelery).

As soon as my rent increase goes through and my Deferred Compensation deductions start coming out I am going to start a Master Budget where I plan for everything, not just my bills, so I can finally master my money.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Was Picked For a Carnival!

The latest Carnival of Personal Finance is now live at The Budgeting Babe and I am pleased to announce that my post on spending $900 on Gyros was selected! Check it out and find some other posts that may interest you.

I am glad I started submitting my posts to carnivals - it kind of ties into one of my latest goals of professional development. I have been thinking more and more about ways I could be published and how it could really help me career-wise. See, I love to write. I write all the time for work and have to reguarly produce publishable quality work. So I've started researching for a paper I want to write that is good enough to be published in a journal. You don't get any money of course, but it could definitely help me in networking and general resume-building.

But in the meantime, lots of regular work to do so I hope I can get it done sometime this summer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Important Financial News in the Mail Today

Went home for lunch and got a whole bunch of financial news. I guess it may be the end of the fiscal year for retirement funds, so here's what I found out:

Over 0.85 years of service credit in my Pension Plan, I have accumulated $1, 051.92! Pretty awesome considering I don't even realize I am contributing. But just like David Bach says, making savings automatic is the best way to do it. It's one of the few perks of my job. I also found out some more details of my pension which corrects anything I may have said in my last post about it:
  • After five years, I am considered VESTED in the pension and am eligible for a monthly benefit depending on my years of service.
  • After ten years, they stop deducting the three percent out of my paycheck. I am also eligible to apply for a non-job related disability benefit at this time as well as an out-of-service death benefit. I am no longer able to receive a refund of my contributions at this time.
  • After twenty years, my annual benefit will "increase significantly." Wonder what that means?
  • With 30 years of service credit, reductions of early retirement between ages 55 and 62 will be eliminated. Good thing because after 30 years I will only be 57. Sweet.
  • Once I retire I am eligible for annual cost of living adjustments to my monthly benefit which will begin no earlier than five years after retirement.

So anyway, that's all pretty exciting. It's hard to look thirty years into the future but I have good reason to believe I will at least get to ten years of state service. At least someone is doing the saving for me in the meantime.

AND I also got a statement from my Roth IRA. I have $11. Hehe. Contributing to that is not a priority right now since I realized I should be contributing to my Deferred Compensation Plan instead.

I added this info as well as the reduction of Boyfriend debt to my Networth IQ. It's good to see that thing go up, if ever slightly. Note that I'm not updating the Student Loan amounts there for now. It's rather time-intensive and annoying to figure out how much of my payments go towards principal and how much towards interest. For now, I am paying them all I can.

Paid Back My Boyfriend - Finally!

Boyfriend arrived home from traveling last night - he travels A LOT - and had a pleasant treat awaiting him in the form of $300!

This debt has been bothering me for months. What happened was I needed money to pay my rent. It was sometime March, way back in the middle of my financial crisis - before I started blogging of course. I was toying with the option of just floating the check (something I had grown all too fond of) and Boyfriend told me he would just write the check from his bank account and I would pay him the full amount in a couple of days.

I did write him two checks. One for $390 which he proceeded to cash the next day. The other one I told him to hold off for about a week. Then a week became a month and so it goes.

But, alas, I finally looked into the future and decided I would be Back in Black on July 9th. So finally I wrote him a new check and our debt is officially settled.

I am so grateful that he has been patient with me during all this time. I really really hate borrowing money and have resolved to never do it again. From a romantic standpoint, I realize it makes me less attractive as a potential partner if I am so lousy at handling money. I resolve to get better so I can keep this wonderful person in my life. (By the way, I think he was very impressed when he met me out last night where I was having dinner with a friend and I whipped out my own pocketbook to pay for my share!)

So things are still a little tight until the next payday (nothing I'm not use to already!) but then I can finally accumulate my Emergency Fund.

One more Friend Debt to handle in the amount of $60 but I hope that this will be tackled ASAP as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Spent $900 on Gyros?!!

You always know it's officially summer when the food carts start rolling up to the office. Where I work, in a downtown consisting mostly of office and government buildings, every day at lunchtime feels like a county fair. Not so much the fun and games, but the FOOD. Food food everywhere, anything you want from pizza to chinese.

When I first started working here, I discovered the Gyro Truck. Isn't America great? I can step outside of my office at any time I want and get a wonderful Greek delicacy? Out of a truck! Sometimes I'd eat at the Fancy Salad Truck. But mostly it was Gyros.

Two whole summers went by and I frequented the Gyro Truck just about four times a week. And no, sadly I didn't brown bag it on the fifth day. I probably went to the Pizza Truck.

And how much do these wonderful meals cost?

$6 plus one bottle of Snapple = $7.50

At five days a week for three months each year, I am just now realizing that I spent $900, a whole Emergency Fund's worth of George Washington's on very thinly cut lamb rolled in pita bread with some tomatoes and onions!

God, I do love gyros though.

But how many have I had since I finally decided to live within my means?

Zero. Zip. Zilch. No gyros for me. I walk four blocks home, play with my cat and have a sandwich or some leftovers.

What I've learned from walking past all those happy lunchtime workers is that lunch trucks will always be there but my dollars won't, so in the meantime it's better to save!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Budget 07/09 - 07/22

I feel like I've been waiting for this day for so long, the first paycheck not devoted towards Payday loans where I could finally tell my money where to go. And maybe even have some left over so I don't feel broke all the time. But, alas, maybe next time, as I still have the matter of paying back Boyfriend to attend to. So here's my budget:

Starting Balance = 1226

Good old Aunt Sallie - 406
Job Expense - 65 (included in last budget but still has not cleared, sigh)
Transfer to Other Checking Account - 200
Lab fees from my physical - 12
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Boyfriend Debt Payoff - 300

Left over for ME = 118. Actually it's a little more, let me explain.

So a while back I explained how my Dad will occasionally deposit money into another bank account that I have. It's nice definitely, but it made me not exactly mindful of what was going on in that account. Lo and behold, the balance has plumetted to NEGATIVE $119!!! Yup, I was smacked with the Evil Overdraft Monster. I've known about this for the past couple of days and was struggling to find a way to prevent it from happening but there was no money falling out of the sky so alas, I'm dealing with it now. But I have made sure it won't happen again - I QUIT THE GYM. It was a little depressing to go into the gym and fill out the paperwork but when you don't have money in your account, the $46 a month gym membership costs you.....$78!! I do like the gym and when I'm in the swing of things I go to an abs class a few times a week on my lunch break. But seeing that negative balance and knowing that this is not the first time this has happened prompted me to action.

So, anyway, pardon my long explanation, but I will have an additional $80 in that account that I can spend if need be. It does look like I'm going to have to hold off on buying my Sister's wedding gift until the next pay period. Sigh.

I am very excited to report that tomororw when he gets home from traveling, Boyfriend will be $300 richer (and I'll be $300 poorer)!! I'm happy that I'm finally able to pay off this debt to him. He has been really understanding about it this whole time but still I felt like a loser. I can't wait to update my sidebar!!

Where it Went 06/25-07/08

I finished out this two week cycle with $6 in the bank, yay! I avoided the Evil Overdraft Monster but it was close. Actually, a check I wrote for a business expense has not yet been processed so I was a little worried but thankfully I came out okay.

So, here's how I did compared to the Budget I made for myself:

Rent - 690/690
Professional Fee - 65/0 (hasn't cleared yet)
Payday Loan - 195/195 (finally beat them, read about it here)
Hair Cut if I have time - 30/0 (no time for hair but needs to be done soon!)
Sister's Bachelorette Trip - 240/243.50 (Yay!)

Not Budgeted For But Paid:

92 - Cash Withdrawals
33 - random crap I bought for the Bachelorette Trip in Addition to all the other stuff I listed!

A little upset that I bought so much crap BUT luckily I returned a couple of things we didn't use after the fact and made $19 in returns. And we did have a blast.

But I gotta say to all those budget conscious bachelorettes out there, don't spend too much money! Just get these rings at Walmart for $5, they turned out to be the highlight of the weekend!

One thing I've learned from blogging and budgeting thus far is I gotta start budgeting for my spending more, not just my bill paying. I'm not spending a lot. Heck, I only spent $92 in 14 days for a grand total of $6.50 a day. I probably would have spent less if I could only quit smoking! But for the past week I have been petrified of the work expense hitting my bank account and not spending any money at all. It's going to help now that the Payday loans are gone, but I want to actually have some spending cash on me and not worry so much. I will post my new budget ASAP and try to take these things into consideration.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm an Automatic Millionaire!!

No, I didn't win the lottery. I just read a book. For free at the library. It's David Bach's The Automatic Millionaire. I've read a couple of reviews of this book at other PF blogs and it basically sounded to me like it said what all other books on personal finance said:

1. Save early, save often
2. Stop spending money on unneccesary things
3. Live below your means
4. Invest

So I didn't think I needed to read another book. But I am really glad I picked it up. Here's why:

I reguarly counsel my friends to start saving for retirement. "Max out your 401(k). Start a Roth IRA" and on and on. I'm like the broken record of retirement savings. I've even had "the talk" with my parents about their future. But I haven't been practicing what I preach! And why, ok, there are two reasons:

1. I have a pension (yes a real live pension!).
2. I thought I couldn't afford to save more.

One of the great things about my job is that I am paying into my future without even meaning to. Three percent of my income is gone, POOF, before I even knew it was there. After 5 years I will be vested in this system and they will stop taking out the three percent. After thirty years of employment I will retire with 60% of my final average salary. After twenty it's 40%. Will I stay at this job forever? Not bloody likely but I'm planning on staying in the "system" of government employment for the foreseeable future.

So, what do I get for 38 years of state service? A whole friggen lot actually:

"Your projected annual Single Life Allowance will be 72.0% of your final average salary (FAS). Using an FAS of $240,498, your annual service Single Life Allowance would be $173,158."

Now, that's just a projection, but knowing that made me content and not too focused on saving anything else.

But reading The Automatic Millionaire made me realize I should save as much as I can for the future. Who knows if I'll stay with the State? Who knows if their projected Final Average Salary is correct? How much will $173,158 actually count for in 38 years?

Very similar to a 401(k) New York State offers a Deferred Compensation program for state employees where you can contribute a portion of your salary pre-tax. There are posters everywhere. There are sign up festivals with free giveaways. I have never signed up. Until now!!!!

Just like David Bach said, I decided to pay myself first and called my benefits office. As soon as I mail the paperwork I will be contributing 7% of my income to my retirement!!! In addition to the 3% already taken out for my pension, I am saving a grand total of 10%!!!

Here's what this money will look like when I retire assuming I continue to contribute 7%:

And that's assuming I never get a salary increase, which I know I will. Almost a million dollars!

AND the impact on my paycheck is only $88!! No longer can I say "I can't afford to save" or "I can't wait until I have some money to save!" I finally started saving by making it automatic.

I really want to implement other ideas from the book as well. I dont' agree with EVERYTHING he has to say (like you don't need a budget, ha! has he met me?!) but all in all, I'd say it's a great read.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July Goals

It's July already, wow. The first eight days of this month are going to be pretty bleak as I pretty much blew through the rest of my paycheck this past weekend at Sister's Bachelorette Trip but it wasn't as much as I feared, owing to the fact that my parents helped out a lot and I tried to limit how much I drank (a good thing) when out at expensive bars. And I gotta say, the trip was worth it, we all had so much fun and I got a chance to bond with my Sister.

But, I do have a couple of items I purchased for the trip that were not used that I can return. This is a pain without a car and owing to the fact that I have plans tonight but I'm gonna see if I can do it ASAP so I will have money for the upcoming weekend. I also spent $65 on a work expense last week that I plan to seek reimbursement for.

On July 9th, however, I will be starting to focus in earnest on my July Goals. Here they are:

1. Actively seek professional development and additional income. I made a lot of progress with this last month, especially on the work trip and I want to devote more time/energy/some money to it as a way of enriching myself and my income.

2. Pay back Boyfriend and Friend C. Havings debts to friends is like an albatross around my neck and I'm looking forward to the day I can update that sidebar.

3. Avoid Evil Overdraft Monster. This will be an ongoing Goal. I want to keep a minimum account balance of $200 by the end of the month. Sort of like an Emergency Fund, but for me, more like an "I have overdraft fees" fund.

4. Only use in-network ATMS. To answer the question of "why am I using ATMs" in the first place: my primary bank account does not allow me to have a debit card. I have an old fashioned ATM card. I started out with a debit card but after being perennially overdrafted, my bank cut off my debt privileges for six months. I think the six month period may be ending soon, but in the meantime, I use cash. I like cash better anyhow. There are ATMS convenient to work and home, just sometimes I am lazy or unprepared and I want this to end.

5. Purchase Sister's Wedding Gift. Or at least one of them. The wedding is in August and if I wait too long all the good items on the registry will be taken.

So these are my goals. There are a lot of them. In reality, I am so excited after meeting my June Goals that I have started looking forward to August, September, etc. But those are the ones I am focused on this month.