Monday, September 29, 2008

David Sedaris and the Kindness of Strangers

This weekend Boyfriend and I were standing outside his place when all of a sudden a car across the street broke down in the middle of the road. We had both been drinking a bit and were on foot so we watched expectantly hoping that another motorist would stop and assist the vehicle. After a few minutes it was clear that the situation was dangerous - car in the middle of an intersection - and no one had yet stopped to help. We ran over.

The woman had a car full of what it looked to be her extended family. It was an older car and was not turning over. From my limited knowledge of cars - stemming from several years of owning the World's Oldest Car - and Boyfriend's assessment we both came to the same conclusion; she was out of gas. We whispered this to each other because the woman swore up and down that she had just put gas it in and that she gasses up frequently since the meter was broken. She later clarified to say that she had put $20 of gas in yesterday. When she told us where she was driving home to, however, the mental arithemetic started going off in my head to confirm that in fact, the car had no gas.

Boyfriend and I pushed her car out of the intersection - family still inside - and pondered what to do next. Neither of us could drive to the gas station of course and the woman didn't seem to be pulling out her AAA card. Luckily another car finally stops and upon assessing the situation immediately goes to buy a gas tank and a gallon of gas. The woman didn't seem to have any money to repay this kindness and, given the situation, it was never even discussed. Sure enough a few minutes later the woman and her family were on their way.

I guess it is an unremarkable story of charity - one that happens every day to many stranded motorists. I am glad we stopped to help the woman, however, since a) it's the right thing to do; and b) the world decided to repay me in the form of a FREE DAVID SEDARIS TICKET.

Now I know, there is a big difference between needing gas to get home and wanting a ticket to see your favorite humorist. But what it boils down to is - when you help out another person, it makes that person happy and also it makes you feel pretty damn good about yourself. So do it!

Here's what happened:

1. My email to David Sedaris and his agent requesting a press ticket has not been answered.

2. I attempted to post a message to Freecycle but was told this violated the Terms of Service. Apparently extra tickets are not contributing to the landfill problem. Sigh.

3. I posted an ad on Craig's list stating that I really wanted to go but had no money. Wouldn't you know it I got a message from a woman who wanted to go but had no ride and no one to accompany her to the show. Boyfriend and I picked her up and off we went!

The show was great. So hilarious to hear him read in front of a crowd of people so the laughs seem that much bigger. I was pleasantly suprised to hear him read new material that has yet to be published. Afterwards he signed my book and I got to talk to him, albeit briefly. It was a pretty awesome night.

As for the woman with the free ticket. I bought her a glass of wine at the show ($4) lest she think I was a total cheapskate and she was grateful. It felt a little bit like a first date ("So where are you from?" etc.) but all in all I had an excellent time. It shows if you want something badly enough you'll find a way to get it. Sometimes for free!

Friday, September 26, 2008

David Sedaris Watch and Friday Humor

So no word from David Sedaris or his agent yet. Sad. Perhaps I should have contacted them with a little more time remaining before the show. I still believe in the power of bartering, however, as a way of getting things you want without cash. I will be looking for a few more ways to do this in the future.

But, alas, all is not yet lost. I have also posted an ad on craig's list stating my desire for one free ticket to any ticketholder whose plans may have changed. It's wortha shot! I hesitate to put my desire out to my local freecycle because I always find it strange when people ask for non-neccessities on freecycle (like today when someone requested a "newer laptop") and also don't want to give out the impression I am looking for a date (yikes!).

A couple of months ago my girlfriends and I were about to buy tickets to a comedy show when a man unexpectedly gave us his extras in front of the box office. It turns out his company had bought too many. We were excited and proceeded to spend the $20 we saved on 4 cups of $5 beers. The comedy was bad and I fell asleep (okay passed out). Perhaps I can try standing outside the theatre again though it would be a little strange by myself. I believe my concert-going friends call his phenomenon being "miracled."

And in case you are curious what's so damn funny about David Sedaris that I want to see him in public read from his work that I could easily read myself, check out these (free!) clips from NPR.

And for you people too lazy/concerned for your job to stream media, here's a quote:

After a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art.
Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.

:-) It's not for everyone, I admit, but he cracks me up. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meredith and George Pay Student Loans!!

Cable and Internet are finally operational again in the condo!!!! Boyfriend and I were getting pretty tired of watching old movies. He stayed up all night hooking up his sound system on his new tv and is very excited in a total boy sort of way. Meanwhile, I am excited because Grey's Anatomy's season premiere is on tonight!!!!

But lest we go all crazy pondering whether Izzie is going to hook up with Alex and if Meredith and Derek are really really together for good - not to mention what kind of creepy crazy surgeries are going to be performed - let's take a step back and remember that second year medical residents - as most of the main characters were when we left them (except for George who has to repeat his first year) - earn an average of $46,000 a year. and carry loans up to $200,000 for their education.

They have an Aunt named Sallie Mae as well. (All except for Izzie who posed in lingerie ads to pay her tuition. Well I guess that's one way to do it.)

AND they work up to 100 hours a week, sometimes 36 hours straight, despite new policies designed to limit hours. Yikes!!!

A friend's brother tried a different route and let the Army pay for med school. Now he's going to Iraq. But I guess they don't make a sexy t.v. show about that.

But enough gloom and doom, what do you think of Dr. Han? Love her or hate her? Will she ever be nice to Christina? I get to find out tonight!!

An Open Letter to David Sedaris

First, an explanation. David Sedaris is coming to town. I. Love. Him. In case you live under a rock and have never heard of David Sedaris, here's an explanation from The New York Times that explains it best:

Mr. Sedaris, the author of books like "Barrel Fever," "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,"... is the closest thing the literary world has these days to a rock star. His books — which often dwell on themes of childhood alienation tied to his being gay among straights, and to being the new face among the established after family moves — have sold around 2.5 million copies, according to his publisher, Little, Brown.

His work has been optioned by Hollywood, and he is among a tiny group of writers considered entertaining enough to appear regularly on "The Late Show With David Letterman." And while most authors live in fear that no one will show up at their readings, Mr. Sedaris, 47, regularly charges money and sells out the sorts of theaters that symphonies play in. On his last tour, in 2002, he filled Carnegie Hall, and at colleges he is a draw on par with the director Michael Moore.

David Sedaris is my hero. Growing up a confused Catholic in the suburbs with a crazy family? Check. Going to Speech Therapy? Check. Struggling with being broke? Double check! Writing about it for the world to read? Hello?!

It just so happens that my literary hero (at least in the comedy genre) is coming to town! I won't disclose which town to keep away the Internet stalkers but according to his publicist he is coming to a whole lot of towns in the near future, maybe yours too! Tickets cost $37. Cry. I have, drumroll.....

One dollar. And two cents. Don't cry for me readers though, because my bills are paid, I have cash on hand and food in the fridge. What I don't have are tickets to see David Sedaris.

But I have a plan! I will write to David Sedaris and ask for tickets in exchange for publicity on my blog! According to the New York Times, he makes $25,000 an appearance - and that was back in 2004. Surely he can spare a ticket or two, right? And besides, my blog reaches 100 readers a day! If only one person were to buy one of his books - such as the latest When you are Engulfed in Flames - $17.15 on Amazon and eligible for Free Shipping- after reading about it here he could recoup the lost ticket expenses.

I got this idea this weekend when a liquor company representative gave me a free hat at a street fair. To me it was a free hat! To them it was free advertising all day at a crowded event by a cute girl! Even when I don't have money, I realize, I am WORTH money. It's still commerce, right? So here's my letter, being sent to David Sedaris via his publicist Steven Barclay:

Dear Mr. Sedaris,

I am a personal finance blogger writing about my life and money over at Sallie's Niece. I am interested in covering your event in My City for my blog and was wondering if you would be willing to exchange tickets to the show for a review on my blog? I am a big fan of yours and would otherwise be attending the show but don't have the money right now. Please let me know if this is possible and check out my blog if you have a chance!


Sallie's Niece

I'm crossing my fingers that it works because I could really use a laugh right about now. And just in case you are curious why I only have $1 right now, that's what you get when your friends come to town and make you go out to fancy dinners three nights in a row. And you buy a plane ticket. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Moonlighters Tackle Their Law School Debt

From the National Law Journal:

By day, Dan Griffin conducts preliminary hearings, interviews police officers and prepares drug cases as a prosecutor for the Cook County State Attorney's Office in Chicago.At 6:30 p.m., he sheds his suit and tie, dons jeans and a hard hat and heads to his night job, doing construction for Great Lakes Heating and Plumbing, where he toils until about 1:30 a.m.

On weekends, you'll find Griffin bartending and refereeing children's basketball games.Griffin's schedule may be grueling, but the 27-year-old says it's necessary to pay off his $70,000 law school loan, save up for a house and simply make ends meet as the cost of living skyrockets. He is desperately hoping a law school student loan forgiveness bill he's been hearing about for years takes effect some time soon so he can quit one of his part-time jobs — and maybe have a social life.

"I never thought I'd be working this hard as a lawyer," said Griffin. "I love my job, but the guys I work with on construction, who are union, make more than I do as a lawyer. It's pretty ridiculous."

Griffin is part of a growing group of prosecutors and assistant public defenders who are moonlighting to make ends meet.Government lawyers have traditionally turned to teaching at their law school, tutoring or even doing a few wills or real estate closings on the side to supplement their income. That is, the ones who don't flee after a few years for lucrative private practices.

The article goes on to explain the condition I know too well: outrageous student loan debt and (relatively) low wages. Luckily I don't have it quite as bad as the folks profiled - living in Chicago on incomes of $35k - but I don't have it much better either. The proposed solution - student loan forgiveness - doesn't apply to my current position - believe me I looked into it - but I think it's a great idea. We need qualified people to serve as public defenders and public interest attorneys and if we can't pay people enough to stay in those positions then society is pretty much screwed.

I tend to take a more optimistic tone about the situation though - my glass is almost always half full people - and think of the emotional and intellectual fulfillment that my education gave me. Sure I could be working as a cashier with no debt but that's not the life I chose and I have few regrets.

Interestingly, the idea of moonlighting was also mentioned in CNN today, with a twist. This article talks about employees who work second jobs during the work hours of their primary job, daylighting they call it. I think as long as your employer is okay with it, why not? I let my work know when I was performing the real estate closing and they were cool with it. They've even paid for me to go to professional advancement courses. In reality I think they don't expect me to stay here for too long and are just glad for my underpaid talent. Sigh. If only my dream job would come a-knocking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tales From the Condo Improvement Front

Boyfriend and I had finally gotten the condo into livable, walking around without tripping over stuff condition when he decided the time to buy the hardwood flooring was NOW. Well this can't be blamed entirely on him. Our friends at Home Depot told us it would take 2 weeks for the floor to come in from special order. But when we showed up, alas, they had the wood in stock. Note that the picture on the Home Depot web site does not do it justice - at $3.89 per square foot, it is THE MOST EXPENSIVE wood in the store but it's pretty God damn beautiful and we are only covering a small room with it (less than 200 square feet).

Lest we get too settled, Crackhead Contractor is working on both the floor AND the tile backsplash at the same time. Furniture is everywhere. Dust is everywhere. Our cat has developed a nervous eating disorder (read: she won't STOP EATING).

It's looking pretty good so far as you can see. Hopefully by the time I arrive tonight at least one of these projects will be complete.

And meanwhile, my Very Expensive Storage Facility down the street, money is just being thrown down the drain. Nah. I can't think of it that way, right? It's like an elegant pied-à-terre I can visit once a month when I need to be alone. That's much better.

In reality though, I feel awful not being able to contribute to the Condo Improvement Projects, since we pretty much consider the place "ours" already. Just he's the one footing the bill. It sucks.

Boyfriend's Work Bonus also secured for our enjoyment a new 42' LCD TV from Best Buy, just in time for football season. Sweet! See what I mean though? What do I contribute to our lifestyle except for 1/3 of the grocery budget? I feel slightly like Kato Kaelin. Sigh.

At least I cooked dinner last night but my modern feminism prevents me from seeing that as a proper contribution. I can't lose focus on my goals, right? I just don't want to be a mooch either.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Planning to Live in Sin

Every month I write a check out to my Very Expensive Storage Facility, aka my apartment. It's something I try to tell myself to see the "big picture" that despite the fact that I spend the majority of my nights (shocking) at Boyfriend's place, that maintaining my own apartment is neccessary. But it's hard to see the big picture sometimes when it costs you $725 a month. Plus utilities.

When Boyfriend was living in his old apartment moving in with him wasn't something I planned on. The place was way too small and on a sketchy block. We briefly considered renting an apartment together - an idea that lived until I mentioned it to my parents and they had minor heart attacks about the situation. But a few months have gone by, my parents have gotten to know Boyfriend a little better, and goddamnit I'm 28 years old....

I know that moving in with someone can be stressful. But if that's my goal I need to plan for it, right? Besides "officially" sharing his space it will save us both a couple hundred dollars a month. After talking about it with him we agreed to the following terms (compared to my current numbers):

Rent - 725/400
Storage - 0/50
TV + Internet - 0/0

I still may decide to pick up half of the cable and Internet but he said not to worry about it. I will rent a storage facility in order to store my bed, desk and a couple other things I won't want to part with (in case - gasp - it doesn't work out).

This plan sounds great, right? Why don't I just sign on the dotted line and get moving? Well, here are the problems:

1. I am locked into a one year lease ending on August 1, 2009.
2. I don't know what my parents will say.
3. I need an Emergency Fund.
4. I need a Scumbag Landlord Fund.
5. I need to pay off my old utilities.

So, alas, the move is not happening any time soon. I want to save up at least enough money to put down a deposit on a new place and first month's rent in case (gasp) the move/relationship does not work out. Based on my current savings of $0, I am about $1500 away from achieving this goal. Ironically, if I didn't have to pay rent every month, saving $1500 would be a snap. Isn't irony a bitch?

Paying off the old utilities is taking an excrutiatingly long time. But there's no interest on the Payment Agreement so it hasn't been my first priority. I hope to have it paid off by Christmas.

I also want to save some money in case my landlord tries to take me to Small Claims Court. He has apparently taken most of his former tenants to Small Claims Court over one matter or another. Yay my first trial! The amount I will aim for is $725 - a month's rent.

Plus an Emergency Fund of $1500. Can it be done?

I hope so. My deadline for the Living in Sin plan is circa June 1, 2009. I will be 29.5 years old and my parents can kiss my butt at that point.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spend Money AND Pay Your Student Loans with UPromise Loan Link

Unless you live in a bubble you've probably heard of UPromise - the funky program that lets parents earn money towards their child's education by shopping. I don't think my parents ever joined it because I went to college like a decade ago (damn I'm getting old) and it may not have been around back then. To be honest, I thought it was a conspiracy created by the grocery stores so that people will buy name brand cereal.

But when I was digging through my email looking for my password to I found this letter from Aunt Sallie (she writes me ALL the time). Here's what she had to say:

Dear Niece:

As a college graduate with a Sallie Mae® loan, you may want to know about an easy way to help pay down your eligible* student loans. It's called Upromise Loan LinkSM.

And it's a free service from Sallie Mae.

With Upromise®, you can earn money for college when you shop, go out to eat, travel, fill your gas tank, and more. In fact, there are thousands of restaurants, hotels, services, and online stores that will contribute to your Upromise account.

Then, using Upromise Loan Link, link your Upromise account to your Sallie Mae loan account to help pay down your eligible Sallie Mae-serviced student loans. Join Upromise now.

Look at an example of what your spending could get you**

Upromise members know that if they're going to spend money, they may be able to receive something back.... namely, money that pays for college.

Look at it this way: Based on $19,000 in Stafford loans, if you earn $50/year and apply it to your Sallie Mae loan account, you would reduce your loan balance by $1,006; earn $100/year, and reduce the same loan balance by $1,976; earn $176/year, reduce the loan balance by $3,377.***

Enroll in Upromise today. Then use Upromise Loan Link to help pay down your eligible Sallie Mae-serviced student loans†. Join now.

Aunt Sallie
(By the way payment is due soon so start donating plasma)

Anyway, so when I got this email I thought " Aunt Sallie, I don't have any money to sign up for netflix or send people flowers, go away." But luckily I never deleted it and when the time came for me to do some spending, I was reminded of the opportunity.

And, okay, it still might be a conspiracy to buy name-brand cereal, but I just earned $5 towards my student loans by buying my plane ticket to the out of town wedding!

$5 down, $130,000 to go!!!

(Note that this was not a sponsored post but if the good folks at UPromise Loan Link want to send some money my way, I would not complain).

By the way, my plane ticket cost $505 so I now have $15 left over from the amount budgeted.

Oh No, a Bank Robbery!!

Remember those chicks who robbed the bank and were caught laughing about it on camera? I feel like applauding them right now. Well, not really. But my bank has robbed me of $80. It's going to give it back, but still, it's annoying. Here's what happened:

Yesterday was Payday! I announced my plans to buy a plane ticket to an out of town wedding for the cost of approximately $520. Since my primary bank account has decided to deny me debit card functionality for six months, whenever I order something online, I have to do a bank transfer. Not a regular bank transfer, mind you, but a physical taking money out of one bank and handing it to the other kind of transfer. It's much much faster that way.

Have you ever noticed that when the bank wants its money, it can get it whenever it wants, but when you want YOUR OWN money from the bank, there are delays?

The original plan was to go on my lunch break to the branch of my primary bank and take out $580 in cash and then walk in to the branch of my secondary bank. Alas, you can't take that much money out of an ATM and standing on lines at two banks was not my idea of a fun lunch hour. Also, I just really didn't feel comfortable walking around with all that money in my pocketbook. The way I walk to my secondary bank takes me through a parking garage and it would be the perfect place to mug someone in my opinion. I've never been mugged but I also don't often carry around $580 in cash.

So alas I just went to the second bank armed with a check made out to CASH.

Today I go to book my plane ticket using my debit card and find to my amazement that I don't have enough money in my account. What? How can this be so?

Despite my deposit of $580, the bank has decided to only credit my account $499 worth. According to the woman on the phone the rest should be available tomorrow. I had half a mind to walk to the bank again today and just deposit the $12 or so I need to buy the plane ticket, but I was too busy all day.
Also maybe the universe is telling me to wait until tomorrow to buy the plane ticket. Maybe it will be cheaper (cross fingers). Stupid bank robbers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Budget 09/17 - 09/30

Despite the soaring cost of fuel, the economic crisis all over the nation, my Emergency Fund standing at $0 and my pension in the toilet, I have to fly to a friend's wedding. Hey, people get married all the time. It just so happens that this one is gonna cost me lots of dough. I've known about it for months and have luckily been planning my Extra Paycheck Debt Payoff Plan around being able to afford the air fare.

So, here's my Budget for the next two weeks:

Starting Balance = 1137
Aunt Sallie Mae - 406
Sprint - 48 (thank God it's so much lower now)
Capital One - 20
Air Fare - 520
Groceries - 40
Entertainment, Misc. - 100

NB: 3% of my salary is going to my now-threatened pension; 7% goes to my 457 retirement plan.

Hello paycheck. Bye bye paycheck. My paycheck is leaving on a jet plane. And I know it won't be back again for two more weeks. That $520 I quoted is based on the projections if I were to buy the ticket right now. I plan on buying it tomorrow so here's hoping the price goes down a little. And I know I said I would be putting $50 in my Emergency Fund this pay period but I don't think I can swing it. Out of Town Friend is here until Friday and wants to eat at a fancy restaurant tonight. We drank all the beer I had bought yesterday so now I need to get more. More friends are coming to stay this weekend. I love my friends but this is an expensive week because of them. Sigh.

Where it Went 9/03 - 9/16

I made it to Payday! It was very tight but luckily the past two weeks have pretty much been devoted to moving Boyfriend into his condo so that hasn't been too expensive. I did temporarily move my $50 out of the Emergency Fund into my Checking Account because I didn't know when my $70 hobby check would clear (today it finally did). But I didn't end up spending the Emergency Fund because I had an unexpected windfall of $60 in blog income (yay!). But since it went to my other bank account I have to do some shuffling around. I will put the money back in the Emergency Fund today I promise!

So here's where my hard-earned Benjamins have gone the past two weeks compared to the Budget I laid out for them:

Rent - 725/725
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Nice Collection Agency - 125/0 (hasn't gone through yet but don't worry the money is there)
Association Fees - 70/70
ATM fees from last month - 8/10 (damnit!)
Food and Misc. - 84/150

The $150 was a lot more than I planned I admit but Boyfriend and I haven't done any grocery shopping in weeks so I had a lot of lunches out. Will get to the store today! Also Out of Town Friend is in town and I bought some beer for us. She brought me three bottles of wine so I made out in this transaction, right? We painted the town red last night to the tune of about $28.

As for the job interview I mentioned, it went really really well. But it has now been 13 days and I've heard nothing. And I sent the requisite thank you notes.

In other job search-related news, I got a recruiting email from Miami for a very interesting position. Alas, I am in love with Boyfriend. And I don't have any money to move with (they do not pay relocation expenses). And I have a good life here. And, well, I'm just not the Miami type.

A girl can dream though, right?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Home Depot - You Can Do It, We Can Help You Spend Money

The condo Boyfriend bought was "move-in ready" but with an unexpected bonus (man am I in the wrong industry or what?) he decided it was time to stimulate the economy - namely Home Depot - with some remodeling projects.

First up was the kitchen backsplash - or the complete lack thereof. I have been looking at a lot of real estate ads now and have been suprised that so many homeowners have neglected to install a backsplash behind their kitchen sink. What are they thinking? The kitchen in Boyfriend's condo was recently remodeled to include all new appliances and granite countertops, but yet has no backsplash. I think it makes it look a little unfinished.

We weren't going to attempt to do this work ourselves but we were lucky enough to find the labor of Boyfriend's former Crackhead neighbor (former neighbor, current Crackhead) who has extensive tile experience. Just an aside here, if you plan on hiring a Crackhead to save money, be prepared to renegotiate based on his whims or really long explanations of his outstanding debts, pregnant wife, etc. Also be prepared to provide transportation and McDonald's cuisine at all times.

Granted I don't have ALL the numbers in front of me since it's Boyfriend's money but I did have a vested interest in this project since there is a fairly good prospect (wink wink) I will come to own half of this kitchen one day. And also I was dragged along to Home Depot seven times this weekend. Yes, that's right. I, Sallie's Niece, visited a total of 5 different Home Depots in a 72 hour period. Several of the trips were because we thought of different tools, accessories, etc. that we needed. But four of the trips were in pursuit of our preferred tile.

Yes, this elusive tile only cost $1.49 at Home Depot. Not bad. But when you realize you need 100 of them when the twenty you bought are already on the wall? Well that's a Design Disaster.

The City Home Depot only had two more tiles. Yup just two. We still needed a lot more and were told the Uptown Home Depot had more. No luck, they had zero. Were told to go to Suburban Home Depot. What a store! Man those rich suburbannites have all the fun. But not many more tiles unfortunately. The very impolite man in the tile section told us where we could probably find the remaining tiles for our project - in farm country. Yes a Middle of Nowhere Home Depot about 40 miles away of a scenic drive past cows and nothingness was the key to our salvation. We were able to find all the tiles in the world there! And we did admire the plethora of rideable lawn mowers. Alas, condo residents have no lawns, sorry Boyfriend!

So between Friday night and Saturday I had been to four Home Depots. For my service, I was treated to one fancy dinner Friday night and one take out order of Boston Market which Boyfriend and I promptly spilled all over our new rug (the table is still covered in boxes so we ate on the floor - oops). Sunday we had to go out to town to attend a work function and luckily passed a Rural Home Depot to add to our collection (and we needed some wood). Five Home Depots were visited. Lots of time and money was spent but the backsplash looks pretty awesome.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wow - Sprint Actually Helped Me Save Money!

A little while ago, I optimized my cell phone plan with Sprint. All this time I knew I was probably paying too much for my cell phone plan but I was reluctant to make a change thinking there would be some sort of consequence - I've been screwed by cell phone companies before and so have other members of my family. So I was pretty relieved (and pleasantly suprised) to see that choosing the plan that Sprint selected for me - based on it's analysis of my cell and text usage actually ended up saving me over $30 this month!

It also, unfortunately, let me see just how much money I've paid for my old plan this past year. See this:

Note that I don't know why it says "Check Over the Phone" because I pay it online with my bank account but you get the idea. The amount paid over the past thirteen months seems to have no rhyme or reason because I was pretty prone to paying whatever I felt like for my cell service back in my Money Moron days. Several times I had to pay the full amount due so that my service wouldn't be shut off. Sometimes I just paid whatever I had. But, averaged over the past thirteen months, I paid about $103 a month for cell service! What? How can that be so? I'm thinking the numbers are a bit skewed since many times I would not get the amount owed back down to zero each month. But either way, I was paying at least $70 a month for service. I know I paid $82 last month and the amount owed was back down to zero.

So guess how much my bill is for the first month under the new plan? $48.92!!

Yup, I saved AT LEAST $20 and probably more like $30 a month by switching my plan.

Which is pretty awesome since I was wondering how I was going to be able to afford joining my favorite hobby again with monthly dues of $35. Problem solved. Thank you Sprint!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Can't Wait Til October!

I just realized that I never posted any September Goals. Oops. Well, there is a reason for that: I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I can put my Extra Paycheck Debt Payoff Plan into Effect!

What is the Extra Paycheck Debt Payoff Plan, you ask? Well, the first question is, what is the extra paycheck?

Like most people, I get paid every other week. This works out as two paychecks per month. Multiply that by 12 and you can expect to get 24 paychecks a year. The first paycheck of the month generally goes to Student Loans, the collection agency I am paying off an old Credit Card, and my utilities. The second paycheck goes to rent, my credit card and my cell phone. There are some exceptions (like my Sister's wedding) that throw the system off course, but mostly that's the way the cookie crumbles.

But, wait a minute? There are 52 weeks in the year, you say? So, shouldn't I be getting 26 paychecks, not 24?

The answer is yes, you do. Twice a year a glorious occasion happens called The Extra Paycheck. It should be celebrated. There should be an Extra Paycheck store where you can buy greeting cards saying "Have fun with some extra cash, With Love, Your Job!"

The last time I received an Extra Paycheck was in April. This was also the month I received my $600 President Bush Money and yet, because I used to be a complete Money Moron, I had NOTHING to show for it. In fact, I think I bounced my rent for the month of May. That month and the financial damage that was incurred was really my Come to Jesus Moment.

But what a difference six months can make. The month of October is a three paycheck month for me! And starting next week, I am devising a plan to use the "extra" money to pay off some annoying debt as well as attend an out-of-town wedding. Here is a rough sketch of the plan:

Paycheck #1 - 9/17
500 - airfare (est.)
50 - Savings (projected balance = $100)

Paycheck #2 - 10/1
200 - Boyfriend Debt ($145 remaining)
50 - Savings (projected balance = $150)

Paycheck #3 - 10/15 (The Extra Paycheck)
445 - Credit Card Debt (projected balance = $0)
45 - Boyfriend Debt ($100 remaining)
50 - Savings (projected balance = $200)

Paycheck #4 - 10/29
100 - Boyfriend Debt ($0 remaining)

Yes, that's right, I plan to celebrate Halloween with zero credit card debt, a fully paid trip to a Destination Wedding, and a happy Boyfriend. Here's hoping I can pull it off!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still Unpacking

Unfortunately the Unpacking Fairies have yet to arrive at Boyfriend's new condo. He has been away all week and I originally planned on miraculously unpacking all his stuff for him by the time he comes home tomorrow night. Instead I mostly hung out at my apartment with the cat (who is still adjusting to being in a new environment - little does she know she will be moving again soon).

I did do some unpacking, however, and it has made me think about how much friggen junk people can accumulate over the years. Boyfriend, for example, has more pairs of socks than there are days in the year. He gets mad at me for borrowing them but honestly he seems to have enough to keep an entire soccer team going for months. He also has yet to part with many of the treasured "heirlooms" of his youth - a gigantic amplifier and bass guitar being the glaring example. He swears he will sell the amp and learn to play the bass, but we barely have time to play Guitar Hero lately so that remains to be seen.

He also has a comic book collection he SWEARS is worth "big money" but right now it's just taking up valuable floor space. I have been tripping over it as I try to find boxes of actual important items in the condo (like where the heck is the remote control?).

If and when I move in with him I can safely say all I will be bringing are my clothes, my musical instrument and my DVD collection. I don't really own much else of value. Everything in my apartment has at one point belonged to a friend, a family member, or a random stranger who donated it to me by way of placing it at the curb. Except for my books but most of the expensive textbooks I've already sold or given away. My mattress is my most expensive thing I ever purchased and I will miss it when I move but it's served its purpose quite nicely for the past five years.

I, for one, am looking forward to a simple move - but not yet. But when I move in, I am gonna make a few girly changes. By the way, that's an actual pic of the pile of boxes in the condo - taken with my camera phone so it's not the best quality. What do you think of the paint color? It's nice, right?

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Still Love You J.K. Rowling, But You're Really Greedy

This just in: Super rich author J.K. Rowling, creator of my much-loved Harry Potter, has just gotten richer! Even as I am typing this post, her wealth will grow. When you are so filthy rich, your money grows while you while you do absolutely nothing. She's so rich that she probably makes $100 in the time if takes to type this sentence. Or more, I don't know - math isn't my strong suit. But it's probably a lot more than you and I can ever dream about.

And thanks to a law suit she just won, she has won another $6,750 in damages against a guy who was trying to sell his encyclopedia of Harry Potter-related words and concepts.
Ok, so I'm a lawyer and I realize that the law is totally on Rowling's side. These are words and concepts she created and therefore owns. But still, come on....I have been following the Harry Potter Lexicon for YEARS. It used to be a feature on my favorite Harry Potter fan site: And that web site makes bank BTW. I read that the owner paid his way through college just by hosting it. So some people are allowed to make money off Harry Potter and some aren't? It's not fair if you ask me.

And while we're on the topic of bashing J.K. Rowling, she's gotten a little crazy since Deathly Hallows was published (spoiler alert) - announcing that Dumbledore was gay and all. I mean, I don't care either way if he is (he's not real), but it's not something that occured in the books so why must she continue to craft fan's opinions of the characters when the series was over (and also that particular character was dead)?

It's just greedy. Like other great works of fiction - fans get to be really involved with the characters. I once spent several months at a temp job devouring Harry Potter fan fiction on the Internet. There were really great novel-length stuff stories out there - many of which predicted what would occur in the next book. But J.K.'s army shut down those sites too! Not the only fan fiction you will find out there is the kind that could have been written by 12 year olds.

So anyway, I love Harry Potter, respect Rowling for giving him to me, but wish she and her money would just leave the fans alone.

Moving Stinks!

Where have I been? Yikes. My life has been disrupted and I will (sigh) be without home Internet access for a while. But don't worry New York State taxpayers, I will still take some time to update my blog at work.

This weekend Boyfriend moved into his new condo!!! Well his stuff did. Most of it. It was exhausting. We've been painting the new place and packing up the old place for the past two weeks. It's been confusing for me the past ten months going back and forth between Boyfriend's apartment and mine, I gotta admit, but with three different places - with three different sets of keys - it has been crazy! Where did I put my toothbrush? But luckily I think we have seen the last of Boyfriend's old apartment! Goodbye crackhead neighbors, one of whom we hired to clean the place, haha. Forty dollars buys a LOT of crack.

So how much does it cost to move? Other than the emotional toll of course and the wear and tear on my legs, back and arms? I'm not 100% on the numbers (it's Boyfriend's money after all) but here goes:

U-Haul Truck 17 feet - $50 including all the rip off fees (they say $19.99 but it's a lie)
Two Moving Men - $75 an hour each times four hours = $300 (BTW we only hired them for two hours and it just took MUCH longer than we anticipated)
Tip For Moving Men - $60 (they were pretty suprised we tipped them, do they not get tips? My Dad tips everyone so I assumed this was a tip business, correct?)
Crackhead Neighbor - $60 - $40 to clean the old place and $20 to help load the truck. Actually Boyfriend gave him more but that's for some tile work he claims he is going to do for us. He helped out a lot so even if it doesn't pan out, it's not that much of a loss.

Total = $470 + boxes, packing tape, etc. = $500

And yes, this was not a frugal move. There are plenty of ways to save money by doing it yourself but Boyfriend resolved never ever to move without movers long before I met him and I gotta say, I agree. Even with the movers, Boyfriend worked like a slave all day in the rain. I actually had the luxurious job of guarding the truck. Sure my back didn't break but I was standing outside in the rain for six hours.

The new place is awesome though! It's still full of boxes and furniture is all misplaced but by next weekend it should be liveable. AND the best part is that it's only 91 steps (I counted) for my apartment - where we've been staying since the condo is a big giant mess.

Boyfriend had to go out of town this morning but I hope to get some more unpacking done while he's away and will post pictures as soon as I can find my camera!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Budget 09/03 - 09/17

One of my favorite old (early 90's) movies is Reality Bites. I can really identify to the portrayal of trying to survive in your 20's and not losing your ideals at the same time. In one scene, Winona Ryder, unemployed and broke, resorts to using an emergency gas card given to her by her father to stock up on snacks at the gas station. Ha! If only I had one of those for the next two weeks.

Alas, here is where my money will be going. Because I didn't pay the rent like I was supposed to with the last paycheck's funds, this Budget is extremely tight. I also have decided to pay some outstanding association fees so that I can get back involved with my favorite hobby.

Starting Balance = $1272

Rent - 725
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Association Fees - 70
ATM fees from last month - 8
Food and Misc. - 84

(Also note that 3% of my salary is going to my pension and 7% is going to my 403(b))

I have the job interview tommorow as well so at least $2 of the miscellaneous money is going towards bus fares. Wish me luck!

August Goals Redux

I nearly forgot it was the begining of a new month and thus time to reexamine last month's goals!

August was a pretty significant month. My Sister got married. My Boyfriend bought a condo. I survived three days and nights at a music festival. I finally started my Emergency Fund. I'm looking forward to a quieter, less expensive September.

My goals were not too ambitious in August but I still managed to fail one of them. Crappy. Here are the results:

1. Establish Emergency Fund. - Success! I opened up a Savings Account at the same bank as my Checking Account and deposited $50.

2. Avoid Evil Overdraft Monster. - Success!

3. Only use in-network ATMs. - Fail. When I was home for my Sister's Wedding I had lots of unexpected expenses and no local branch of my bank to visit. The same thing happened at the music festival. All told, I went to a total of 4 out-of-network ATMS.

fail owned pwned pictures

4. Buy Sister's Wedding Gift. - Success! And what a gift it was.

I also managed to pay my Mom debt of $100 which I wasn't expecting to do in August so that was productive. I am upset that all the expenses of the wedding means I couldn't pay my rent on time in September (it was one day late) but it happened and I'm paying it today and moving forward from my mistake.

Where it Went 08/20 - 09/02

Well this was definitely the worst budgeting period I've had since I've started the blog. I am actually SO glad summer is officially over so I can stop spending so much money! Between the wedding and the music festival, I pretty much blew the budget (and the amended Budget) out the window. My rent is going to post today (payday) so the next two weeks will be difficult. But luckily my payment to Aunt Sallie Mae is not due until the 17th (next payday) so I can hold off on paying that one until then.

But, without further ado, here's where my money went over the last two weeks, compared the Budget I made for myself, and the Amended Budget I made after the wedding:

Budgeted/Amended Budget/Actual
Rent - 725/0/0
Sprint - 83/83/83
Capital One - 20/20/20
Beauty - 60/230/230
Travel - 40/40/40
Wedding Weekend Money - 50/230/230
Repaid Mom Debt - 0/100/100
Old Roommate Wedding Shower Gift - 50/103/87
Utilities - 0/102/102
Savings Account - 0/50/50
Groceries - 0/0/25
Music Festival - 60/100/200

I ended the pay period with about $100 to be applied to my rent and everything else that's due in the next two weeks.

I'm feeling a little under the weather today but stay tuned for more entries about the music festival - as well as my plan for the next pay period!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend in Review - Part 1: The Numbers

I'm back!! After an exciting three days and nights camping at a music festival over the weekend, I am so happy to be back in civilization! A great time was had to be sure, even though I 1) overspent and 2) nearly developed dysentary.

I have a lot to say about the financial implications of the weekend and lots of helpful tips to future festival-goers out there, so I've decided to divide my report into multiple posts. Also, since I've been away from the working world for an extended period of time, I am simply too busy to report on it all now.

First, the numbers. I had planned on spending $100 AT the festival. Unfortunately I managed to spend nearly $70 before we even got there. This included the $30 I mentioned in the last post, plus money for beer, soda and snacks ($20), new sunglasses ($10), breakfast on the road ($5) plus a soda and candy for the car ($5). The remaining $30 was quickly absorbed within the first day and a half of the festival, mostly on beer ($4.50 a pop!).

I told myself I would take out an additional $100 to last for the entire weekend. This challenged I luckily passed! I am going to write more about how not spending money is almost a fool's errand at these types of events, but in the meantime, that's how much was spent - mostly on food, beer, and a t-shirt. It was a lot more than I expected, but I didn't really anticipate the fact that all of our food/beer consumption would be done at the concert itself and not the campgrounds where we had additional (free) food available.

Boyfriend was in his glory this weekend and he shelled out a heck of a lot more money than me, so I'm happy that we got to have this fun time together, even if it was so costly. Now we're back to the reality of working, painting, and moving (his stuff) that we luckily were able to leave behind for the long weekend.

Stay tuned for posts about how drugs are cheaper than food and how hippies have become quite commercialized since the days of Woodstock!