Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Budget 4/29-5/13

Gearing up for the 100th episode of Lost! Very excited even though I have to watch it without my fiance and fellow Lost junkie who is traveling this week for work.

Don't have much going on with my budget since I paid most of my bills in the last pay period. Still have to pay rent (ugh) since my landlord has not yet found someone to take over my lease. Cannot wait until I'm officially out of my apartment.

Wedding stuff needs to get paid for soon but I'm more of a financial intermediary right now since my parents are kindly paying for the reception. More on that later, we're very excited to be making some plans!

So here's where my money is going for the next two weeks:

Starting Balance = $1133*

Rent - 725
Perkins Loan - 93
School Loan - 54
Groceries - 100
Dry cleaning - 60
Misc. - 101

*My paycheck is $180 less than what it will be when I am done with "lag pay" at my new job. :-(

Where it Went 4/15 - 4/28

Readers, I suck at saving. :-(

I try and try to put aside just a bit of my paycheck each month but it never works out. I know that having it done automatically from the payroll at work would help but I still want to build up a reserve fund that's connected to my checking account so I never have to battle the Evil Overdraft Monster again.

I blame the nice weather and my need for new clothes for work but I spent more money than I planned during the past two weeks. I also treated my fiance to a nice dinner out. One of these days I'll be out of my apartment lease and will be able to save more but now it's just discouraging.

So, without further whining, here's where my money went the last two weeks compared to the budget I planned:

Aunt Sallie Mae - 420/420
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Nice Collection Agency - 125/125
Perkins Loan - 93/93
School Loan - 54/54
Sprint - 48/64
Capital One - 125/125
Utilities - 74/74
Clothes - 100/75
Emergency Fund - 100/0
Misc. - 163/260

Way too many bills to pay with one paycheck so I'm going to pay the other two smaller students loans again today to split that up for the future. At a reader's suggestion, I did figure out that the interest does accrue daily so the day you pay the amount due is the reason for the last discrepancy.

Much more to report concerning the wedding and other plans but that's all I can do for now!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'm Floursing at my New Job (and so is my plant)!

Three weeks have gone by at my new job and I'm really loving it! For the first time in a while I have been excited to go into work! And yes, sure, there are times when it can be tedious and all the stereotypes about office life are there - especially since I'm now sitting in a cubicle instead of my own office (sigh). But I really think that this position is a place where I can bloom. And much to my parents' delight, I now have an official legal position as opposed to my less traditional title in the last office. "A lawyer at last!" they proclaim - just in time for them to publish my Engagement Announcement in the paper. Coincidence?

Shtinkycat recently wrote about her late blooming flower and what it means for the market (a great entry!) so I'm going to borrow this concept to explain my career progress as demonstrated through my little office plant.

I got this little guy a few years ago when I first started my last job. It was a gift from my ex-boyfriend and it's actually sprouts from a larger plant. It sat in my office window for a long time and although the leaves turned red a bit, it never really grew. Still I brought it along to my new job because I liked it and there was no way I was leaving it at home to my destroyed by my cat.

Wouldn't you know that a mere week in the office and the plant has sprouted up so much! Like me, it is very content with the new light and finally has somewhere it can grow!

Does anyone know what kind of plant this is by the way? I am so dense when it comes to these things.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Aunt Sallie, you Hussy!

As promised, a little rant against my dear Aunt Sallie Mae. I don't hate her like some crybabies out there, I really don't. Her loans and loans from similar lenders enabled me to get a great education, which led to a fulfilling career, yadda yadda yadda. But sometimes she just gets on my nerves.

So I owe her a lot of money. I don't really pay attention to how much because I figure it's not at SO bad of an interest rate (4.85%) and the monthly payments aren't SO bad ($406.96).

But yesterday when I went to make my payment I noticed something I had never seen before. My monthly accrued interest was $415 - $9 more than my monthly payment. What the heck! I think the last time I looked at that box it said something to the effect of $353, so at least I was making a small dent in the principal. But to be accruing more than I'm paying? That's just nonsense.

In January I posted that my total outstanding debt to Aunt Sallie was $76,243.81. Guess what my total is today (yesterday's payment has not yet posted)?


Yes about $120 more than it was 4 months ago, despite my timely payments. Stupid hussy apparently accrues interest daily. Who does that?

Here's what she has to say:

3) Why is a different amount applied to principal/interest every month?

Your education loan is a simple interest loan. Interest accrues daily on the unpaid principal balance. The number of days between payments determines the amount applied to interest from each payment. The formula for calculating simple interest is as follows:

Principal balance x Interest rate x Number of days between payments / 365.25

So I'm gonna have to play around with the interest calculator and maybe up my payment amount because there's just no way I'm gonna accrue more student loan debt. I don't want to be a freshman forever.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Budget 4/15-4/28

I logged into my bank account this morning and almost had a friggen heart attack. My balance was $30. WTF? Where is my paycheck? After a frantic call to my fiance and a rush to check the mailbox at my apartment I sludged into work, still feeling sick, and now frantic about how I was going to be able to pay my bills.

A call to my former employer's personnel office delivered the news: the last paycheck would not be direct deposited but instead mailed home. They told me it was mailed on Monday so I could expect it today and tommorow - ludicrous considering I live three friggen blocks from the office. Had they told me in advance I could have picked it up in person. I made plans to run home at lunch and check the mail (well not run since I have a terrible cold) and hopefully get the check into my bank account before my $385 worth of automatic withdrawals hit my account.

Ten minutes later, however, a messenger delivered my paycheck to my new office. Problem solved. I ran down to the bank and in it went. It even was $400 more than my old paychecks since I received my lag payments back. is it that I don't even have a measly $400 saved in my Emergency Fund yet? I am a miserable failure. Must work harder as today could have been disastrous and expensive.

Anyway, a LOT of bills were paid today. Here's where my money will be going in the next two weeks.

Starting Balance = $1562

Aunt Sallie Mae - 420* - more on that hussy later
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Perkins Loan - 93
School Loan - 54
Sprint - 48 (est.)
Capital One - 125
Utilities - 74
Clothes - 100
Emergency Fund - 100
Misc. - 163

Because of the oddity of the bigger paycheck and the three paycheck month I paid a couple of things out of the traditional order (i.e. the Perkins loan, School loan and utilities). This development should give me a little more cash during the next pay cycle.

I paid off the rest of the credit card balance for the clothes I bought for my new job.

It's nice to see my utility bill payment go down dramatically since it's not cold anymore and I finished paying off the overdue amount. I will be talking to my landlord this week about finally ditching my apartment so I can really focus on building my savings - for life and for the wedding.

Where it Went 4/01-4/14

I'm feeling really sick. Took yesterday off and today I'm just slugging through. I had a bit of a crisis earlier this morning which I'll explain the next post but the moral of the story is I really need to focus on my emergency fund...stat.

Anyway, here's where my money went compared to the budget I set two weeks ago. Cash withdrawal was a little high - got roses for my mom for Easter, etc. I didn't buy quite so much new clothing as I planned (though I still need to do more shopping) but I ended up paying more for groceries since I didn't want my fiance to pay way more than me. That being said, we got a lot of food - which is good since he's out of town this week and I don't have a car to get to the supermarket.


Rent - 725/725
Credit Card - 275/150
Clothes - 100/75
Groceries - 50/100
Misc. - 125/200

I still have some cash on hand . Didn't end up paying my whole credit card balance as I didn't want to be stuck with no cash just in case but I'll knock it out today.

Happy Tax Day! Stay tuned for my upcoming budget and details of my very scaring morning!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Call Me Justice Niece

A while ago I signed up to be a court-appointed attorney, trustee or guardian. I figured it would be a good learning experience and would also help bring in a little money on the side. I had almost forgot about the application - friends of mine told me it operates very much on a crony system where I live and not to expect anything for a long time.

I learned yesterday that I have been appointed as a referee in a mortgage foreclosure case. Admittedly I know very little about what a referee is but I think it's similar to an arbitrator. I guess the mortgage crisis has one positive side - an excess need for attorneys.

I'm very excited to learn more about this process. Obviously I won't be able to post anything about the case but I will tell you how much it pays as soon as I know. I think I am supposed to keep track of the hours I spend on the matter and will be reimbursed at a rate of my choosing...maybe $100 an hour, sweet! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Not Getting Married for Health Insurance

Today's New York Daily News had an interesting article about a reporter and his wife who canceled their original wedding and opted for a no frills wedding in Central Park. It's kind of a cute story and as someone who is planning a wedding herself I was interested to see one bride's journey to what is arguably one of the most important days of her life. Yet, as a woman who almost recently lost her job myself, I was more than a little put off by the author's decision to marry for, in her words, health care coverage.

On Monday night, our save-the-date notes finally arrived, ready to be proofed.

On Tuesday morning, when I went into work, I became one of the 294,000 New Yorkers who will lose their jobs before this recession is done.

In my case, due to budget cutbacks, the next day would be my last on the job. I had five days of health care left. After that, I would be responsible for paying my own COBRA (temporary coverage), a punishing $500 a month.

I called to tell Adam the news. "Do you want me to cancel the dog walker?" he asked. I burst into tears.

That night, we sat down to discuss our delicate new economic balance.
"Well," I ventured, "we could get married."

I suppose I should be more sympathetic. Losing your job sucks. Having to pay COBRA would also suck. Luckily if I had been laid off I was going to be covered under the State's health plan at only $48 a month for one year so I wasn't going to be subject to the same fate. Yet, of course when it seemed all was hopeless I thought "heck, why don't we just do this at City Hall?" That way we'd save a ton on forgoing the typical wedding and I wouldn't have any out of pocket health care expenses. Heck, even if we got married tomorrow and my fiance went on my health care coverage, his small employer would cut him a $4000 check for going off their plan.

But it just seems like this chick just wanted an easy out. She frets about canceling her dog-walker? She also mentions an impromptu honeymoon trip to Vancouver. Not once does she mention having a pre-existing condition and yes I realize health insurance is not something even the healthy should do without, but for $500 a month I would have just but the bullet for five months until her pre-planned September wedding.

Also nothing in the article talks about her realizing that spending a lot of money on a wedding wasn't something she and her husband placed a lot of value on given their current cirumstances. Tell me if you read it differently but to me it sounds like "I needed health insurance so we got married," Not very romantic.

If there's anything to learn from this experience it's this: don't plan a wedding until you have emergency savings to fall back on in case of, well, an emergency. I'll be trying my best to do just that in the coming months.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hypothetical Hyatt Honeymoon

We haven't made any wedding plans yet...still waiting on getting rid of my apartment and my parents signing off on the date...but that doesn't mean I can't start fantasizing about a kick-ass honeymoon. Thanks to my fiance's business travel, we should be able to get one free airplane ticket to just about anywhere in the world, and have at least six nights accommodations in the Hyatt hotel of our choice. But where to go?!

The wedding will most likely be in July of 2010 but we may or may not take our honeymoon at that time depending on his work schedule and our budget. Since we're getting married in a bit of a resort town anyway, we may opt for a brief mini-moon after the wedding and have the full blown honeymoon several months later. Also, the weather in New York is already nice in July so there's less reason to skedaddle across the world.

We're pretty much ruled out the Caribbean since we can get cheap flights there most of the time and we've been to several islands already (separately and together). I would love to go to Southeast Asia (Thailand especially) or to stay anywhere that has those over the water huts. I also have always wanted to see Eastern Europe even though it's not as relaxing and romantic as some envision honeymoons should be. Unfortunately Hyatt has not caught onto the wonders of Eastern Europe quite yet so Berlin is the closest we can get.

So, I'm just starting to make a list now of places we can afford to stay at/travel to and it is exceedingly long. Figured I would take a poll of my readers for some more input. They all sound pretty amazing but any advice would be welcome.

Option 1 is Hawaii. Part of me wants to think outside the box and reject the nation's most popular honeymoon spot (especially since my older sister just had her honeymoon there) but then again Hawaii looks amazing AND I'd be supporting America's economy with my travel dollars. We could stay in Maui, Kauai, or Honolulu.

Option 2 is Greece. I want to go to Greece! ::stomps foot like an angry bride-to-be:: My fiance says it's too dangerous. Sigh. Maybe for our fifth anniversary but I'll be monitoring the travel web sites for some proof that Greece is a safe place to travel. We can stay in a fabulous hotel and casino in Thessalonoki. I know very little about Greece except for every time I see a commercial or a picture pertaining to traveling to Greece I am intrigued. Thoughts?

Option 3 is Bali. Who doesn't want to go to Bali? It looks like the most amazing place ever. I'm a little worried about being on such a long flight but I think it could be a trip of a lifetime. We can maybe stay a few nights in the super expensive Grand Hyatt and a couple at the also expensive Hyatt Regency.

Ok so I haven't even touched on Thailand yet and I've written too much to digest for one day. But here's the poll, if given the choices of a honeymoon in Hawaii, Greece or Bali, what would you choose and why?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Budget 4/01 - 4/14

Very grateful for the three paycheck month in order to finance my wardrobe upgrades for my new job and some other goals. I'm still sort of working on this budget (and having some blog problems) but here it is:

Starting Balance = 1,253

Rent - 725
Credit Card - 275
Clothes - 100
Groceries - 50
Misc. - 125

I still have to pay for most of the clothes I bought last week and unfortunately need to buy some more but luckily the extra paycheck has given me some leeway.

I will have lots of news to report about the new job but little time to do it so here's the rough outline of a budget in the meantime.

Where it Went 3/18 - 3/31

Lots of stuff happening at once. My laptop is temporarily out of commission and I can't blog at my new job...but I'm making time to update my budget on my fiance's computer for now.

New job is going well so far. Not much to report yet. Here's where my money has gone as opposted to the budget I set out two weeks ago:

Emergency Fund - 200/50
Disney Trip/Emergency Fund - 200/0
Credit Card - 133/133
Utilities - 205/205
School Loan - 54/54
Perkins Loan - 93/93
Sprint - 64/64
Festival ticket fund - 50/20
Groceries - 50/50
Misc. - 100/172
Clothes - 0/335

So some big changes here. We put off the Disney trip since I can't very well take a vacation one week into starting a new job. I was in dire need of new work clothes. My parents told me they were going to give me some cash to support this endeavor but that didn't pan out. Unfortunately since the ATM at the mall didn't allow me to take out more than $100 and I ran out cash I ended up putting some of it on my credit card for the meanwhile. That balance will be paid off during the next pay period though.

I have a lot of choices to make in the coming months with the salary increase and the prospect of paying wedding vendor deposits but my apartment has still not rented so that puts a kink into the plans a bit.

Stay tuned for my upcoming budget.