Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Budget 9/30 - 10/13

Figuring out this budget was harder than usual as the Extra Paycheck meant I have already paid all of the bills that come at the end of the month and I'll get paid again before the litany of bills that are due on/around the 15th are due. But I guess that's a good problem to have.

I decided to pay my two smaller student loans again even though they're not due for several weeks. That way I have two less bills to pay with the next paycheck. I am also shopping for a present for my little sister's 17th birthday. I like buying her gifts because she's such a great kid.

So here's where money will be going for the next two weeks when I swear I really will pay the old ticket (fourth times a charm?).

Starting Balance = 1246

Ticket - 135
Credit Card - 100
Groceries - 75
Perkins Loan - 93
Law School Loan - 54
Gift - 75
Wedding - 500
Misc. - 214

Some of the money out of miscellaneous I may use to mail out the Save the Dates for our wedding.

Hey, speaking of weddings, Stacking Pennies and I are both thinking about wearing blue shoes under our dress. (Granted I haven't even looked at dresses yet but that's a whole other story.) What do you think?

Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup

Howdy Debt Cowboys! It's time for my monthly student loan debt roundup! Nearly $700 worth of debt was cleared in September of 2009 from my rather large and scary student loan debt. The total is not as much as it was in August, which is odd since I paid the same amount on all of the loans that I usually pay....AND Aunt Sallie Mae told me signing up for automatic bill pay would mean I paid more of the principal.

Anyone have an expensive Math degree and think they can solve the riddle? Compare this post to last months and tell my why the Stafford loan principal didn't go down as much. August may have been a weird fluke I guess since July's total show the Stafford loans going down the same amount and I hadn't started automatic bill pay before that.

So that's where I stand right now, just chugging away with my expensive brain.

Where it Went 9/16 - 9/29

I won the office football pool! I know most of my readers frown on gambling and I generally don't like it myself but office pools are kind of fun and I love having a reason to read up on football. And since I correctly guessed all thirteen games this week (and the score of the Monday night game!!!) I was declared the winner! Sure it's only $16 but it will pretty much subsidize my weekly $2 buy-ins for the rest of the season. And maybe, just maybe, I will win the grand prize too. Anyone got any picks for Week 4?

Anyway, back to budgeting. I once again managed to not send in my friggen late ticket money. I don't know why. I have just been pretty bad keeping myself accountable lately. I took my fiance out on a date and that came to about $70. I spent $40 on an Avon order I placed with a co-worker. It all adds up I guess. (All of this spending is labeled under miscellaneous in the budget breakdown.)

Luckily today is payday and I get a fresh start. I will have a little more money to throw into Wedding Savings as well as the ticket due to the Extra Paycheck Month. So here's where my money went for the past budgeting period:

Sallie Mae - 406/406
Perkins loan - 93/93
School loan - 54/54
Sprint - 73/73
Old ticket - 135/0
Laptop - 75/75
Groceries - 75/70
Wedding - 200/200
Misc. - 135/240

So stay tuned because I have my Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup coming up, my new budget, and a friend's financial dilemma to ponder.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Fitness Splurge: Balance Ball Chair

As I posted last, I've been on a mission to shed some pounds for the wedding and just be in better shape over all. It's a new mission but I've already seen some progress and I feel great. (Okay the whole drinking 8 glasses of water a day thing isn't awesome, but I digress.)

And like all new endeavors this one has presented me with temptation to spend money. Sure you don't need to spend any money to lose weight. I could run up and down the street with two cans of Campbell's Soup in my hands if I wanted to, but I find that signing up for gym classes keeps me motivated. Also Spark People is awesome, check it out if you need some motivation and advice for free!

But I ended up treating myself to a bit of a splurge that I already think was worth the investment. For $78 (plus free shipping!) I got a Balance Ball Chair for my desk at work. I saw this on a website months ago and was intrigued. You know those inflatable exercise balls that are all the rage? Well imagine sitting on one all day. I just started using it today and I love it! I may have started a trend at my office. Sure you feel a little silly sitting on a bouncy ball (in a frame) but it forces you to sit up straight, strengthening your back and core muscles. Note: there is more impressive terminology elsewhere on the web, I'm a fitness newb. Anyone else out there try this chair?

So yes, it does seem like a gimmicky thing to spend money on but I can do exercises at my desk when I'm not working and hopefully it will also help with my posture.

Has anyone else noticed how the more activities you do, the more stuff you want? Next up will be new workout clothes when I lose a few more pounds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wedding/Life/Fitness Update

First of all, where did everyone go?

I logged into my Google Analytics today for the first time in a long time and saw much to my dismay that I have experienced a 99% page view decrease in the past month. Seriously I hope something is just wonky with my code but if you are still reading please let me know!!!!

Anyway, maybe it's my fault. I haven't had too many interesting blog posts in a while. Life has been pretty busy and my finances are (thankfully) pretty static. No overdrafts, no fear of losing my job, no crazy collection agencies coming after me. Yay! I still would like to be making more progress but am glad to marvel at the baby steps along the way.

Of course the wedding planning has taken a lot of my focus and that is intrinsically linked to my finances. We are on track to make payments of about $2000 split between December and January. I don't know the exact amount. I should check. See, I need my readers to keep me accountable!!!

The other area of my life that I am concentrating on right now is my physical fitness. Right now it's not so good. I've put on weight over the past year or so and it's really depressing me. But...I am turning a bad situation into a good one. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted and not work out and still be in good shape. That fantasy world is no longer with me but losing it has meant I have gained an understanding of what my body needs and DOES NOT need.

So I joined a gym class, signed up for Spark People (a great site!), and have been working overtime in the gym. I'm counting my calories and drinking 8 glasses of water a day. After all, do I want to spend $4000 on wedding pictures I never want to look at? Heck no!

Sorry I've been a bad blogger but if you're still with me stay tuned because I have lots to say about wedding planning and working out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Budget 9/16 - 9/29

So I have already announced I plan to save $800 from this paycheck for the wedding. Can it be done? Actually, I don't know what I was smoking when I posted that. With the $406 payment due to Aunt Sallie Mae tomorrow, I only have $840 left from this paycheck. But I plan to save as much as possible. Here is my (very late I'm sorry) budget for the next two weeks:

Starting Balance = $1246

Sallie Mae - 406
Perkins loan - 93
School loan - 54
Sprint - 73
Old ticket - 135
Laptop - 75
Groceries - 75
Wedding - 200
Misc. - 135

I guess every little bit counts but this isn't the first time I've overestimated the impact of the Extra Paycheck. I have to stop doing that. Yes there's more money coming in this month but really if you're just shifting payments around it doesn't make much of a difference. Oh well.

Anyway there should be a few miscellaneous expenses in the next couple of weeks that I can post about. I also want to share some wedding plans/ideas soon.

Where it Went 9/02 - 9/15

I'm gonna pay my traffic ticket, I swear. I just keep forgetting to do it and spending the money elsewhere. One of these days I'll get to drive my shiny new car.

My budget estimate of two weeks ago was off due to the fact that I forgot it was Extra Paycheck Time. Then I had to get new contact lenses. I also spent more than I planned at the music festival. Oh well, I didn't end up doing too badly and luckily the extra paycheck is giving me a bit of a fresh start.

So here's how I did on my budget compared to my plan:

Sallie Mae - 407/0 (it's not due yet!)
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Nice Collection Agency - 125/125
Driving Ticket - 135/0 :-(
Office Picnic - 34/34
Groceries - 75/70
Festival - 100/200
Misc. - 111/100
Contact Lenses and glasses - 0/226

I ended up with about $75 left over which I am saving for Christmas spending. Stay tuned for my new budget. I seem to be crazy busy today!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finally Got New Contact Lenses

Yesterday morning I wake up to discover my very last pair of contact lenses had dried up. As I had previously written, my fiance and I had been sharing lenses for a while and even though my crappy vision plan said I was eligible for a new benefit as of January this year, I put off the visit for as long as possible. The reason: all the hidden out of pocket expenses they hit you with.

Luckily the extra paycheck has afforded me some extra cash and I was able to walk out the door with a year's supply of contact lenses, new glasses, and a bonus pair of sunglasses! The total: $225.

I expected to pay $200 so it was just a little higher than I predicted (feared). If I had been able to find glasses that were entirely covered by my plan benefit of $120 I would have been closer to the total. Alas they don't sell many glasses that don't look really really stupid for less than $120. Even though I got the more expensive frames I didn't opt for the extra anti-glare coating that would have cost $45 more. Out of pocket cost = $35.

The contact lenses were the biggest cost. I debated only getting a six month supply but the discount for buying a whole year's worth lured me in. Also one less thing to worry about paying for six months from now. My plan pays $120 after a $40 copay, so really $80, which would have only gotten me 1.5 boxes per eye (and they don't sell half boxes). So I paid more to save more. Out of pocket cost = $180.

The eye exam was free. They tried to convince me to get some high tech x-ray picture of my eye taken for $30 but the model picture alone was enough to scare me away from doing that. Out of pocket cost = $0.

The sunglasses were a cool bonus as I was in need of a good pair. They're non-prescription and the tech convinced me to get them since my insurance would cover it. I only had to pay the taxes on them. Out of pocket cost = $3.

Paying for stuff like contact lenses sucks but ,today I am seeing very clearly out of my fresh new lenses so in the end it was worth it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Extra Paycheck Time Already!

Woohoo!!! Right after writing up my budget yesterday I looked at a calendar and realized there were 5 Wednesdays in September this year and thus I had arrived magically in a 3 paycheck month without even realizing it. Previous 3 paycheck months I had waited anxiously for, so it is, I think, a positive sign that this one snuck up on me. I've extolled on the virtues of the Extra Paycheck before (and have heard the response of how it's not really extra money but we won't go there right now).

In April I started my new job and used the extra paycheck to update my wardrobe, bolster my savings and go to DisneyWorld. Six months before that, I used a extra paycheck to attend a destination wedding.

This time a lot of the money will be saved up for our wedding, which is a good thing because the money just doesn't want to save itself.

I am also going to save some money for Christmas! Christmas is coming whether I like it or not. I've blogged about how I really should set aside a little each month for Christmas. I even made this one of my 2009 Resolutions. So I am transferring $200 to my Other Checking Account where it will be hang out until I start looking for gifts. I think my fiance and I will buy gifts for most of our families together this year but I can't very well make him buy his own gift. He, on the other hand, has been saving for Christmas all year (atta boy!).

So here's my Extra Paycheck Plan:

9/02 paycheck

$100 - credit card (I keep putting a little on this card and paying it off)
$200 - Christmas savings

9/16 paycheck

$800 - wedding

9/30 paycheck

$800 - wedding

So that's my current plan. We have a couple of installments to pay to our wedding vendors in the months of December and January so I am glad the three paycheck month came now so I can plan ahead.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Missing my Engagement Ring

Hey check out my new engagement ring. It cost me $9 at the mall. I guess I didn't really need it but I had talked about getting a fake engagement ring for when we travel abroad so now I have one to act as a place holder for while my ring is in the repair shop. Yup my real engagement ring is in the shop.

It started out a uneventful day at the mall where my fiance and I had planned to use free movie tickets to see a show. On the way there I figured we should take a gander at the wedding rings at one of the jewelery shops. The saleslady was nice and let us try on a bunch of rings even though we told her we were just browsing. She complimented my ring and offered to clean it for me for free. Then she put it under the microscope and realized the stone (i.e. the heirloom diamond) was loose. My fiance could see it shifting around as she poked it without even looking under the microscope.

So we are having the setting fixed, tightened, whatever they do in such a circumstance. We couldn't go back to where he bought the ring (out of state) so we let the chain store at the mall send it away for us. I almost had a panic attack when I saw my ring go into a little paper envelope. I guess I never knew how much I loved the ring until it wasn't on my finger anymore.

The good news (and I'm sure I'll appreciate this when the ring has been safely returned to me) is that the repair is only going to cost $25 and then it comes with a lifetime warranty (meaning they will fix the setting for me indefinitely).

In the meantime the search remains for the ring wedding ring to go with my engagement ring. We will probably return to the store when he bought it because I can't seem to find anything that matches my ring quite right. I have been looking at the chain jewelry stores online mostly (though we are going to pick it out in person). Our budget for my ring is about $800. This ring at Kay's looks almost exactly like what I want, except it must look really different in person because I've never seen something like that for $500 on any of browsing sessions.

But back to the engagement ring (which should be here in a little over a week now), the woman at the jewelry store suggested I have the ring taken in every six months to have it cleaned and the setting checked. Is this something I should have known about? Do you take your ring into the store and if so, how often?

Budget 9/02 - 9/15

A lot less wiggle room for me to get in trouble with in this budget. I am going to send a money order to the city court and get the process of renewing my license rolling. And I need to pay $34 ($17 each) for my fiance and I to attend my office picnic. Seems like a waste to me to pay $17 to eat corn on the cob and chat awkwardly with people who don't work in my division (or worse, the ones that do!) but I don't want to seem like I'm not a team person AND if you attend you get the day off. And I'm taking the fiance since he's dragged me to enough of his work functions.

So here's my budget for the next two weeks. We're going to a festival over Labor Day weekend so I've made sure to include sufficient walking around/buying a churro money:

Starting Balance = $1246

Sallie Mae - 407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Driving Ticket - 135
Office Picnic - 34
Groceries - 75
Festival - 100
Misc. - 111

Bye bye money. I'm looking forward to the festival. I didn't spend so much at the last one we attended but then again we were in a camper as opposed to a tent so we had more supplies with us. I'll try not to spend too much but I'd rather be pessimistic this time instead of underestimating my spending again. Anything I manage not to spend I can throw towards the wedding savings.

Where it Went 8/19 - 9/01

So tallying up this past budgeting period was a a little intimidating, but the news wasn't so bad. I did spend a lot of cash on dining out, wine and clothes. I was still able to meet my Wedding Savings goal (yay) but didn't end up getting the new contact lenses I need, the haircare I sort of need, or the driver's license I probably need. But spending money on food and wine is easy. Actually making an appointment and rearranging your day in order to spend money is less so. I must strive to do better.

But today is payday, a glorious day that I swear never to take for granted, that allows me a time once every two weeks to reexamine my goals (and my bills). So here's why my money went over the last two weeks compared to the budget I set:

Capital One - 100/100
Perkins loan - 93/93
School loan - 54/54
Sprint - 73/73
License renewal - 50/0
Wedding - 400/457
Laptop - 100/100
Contacts - 120/0
Beauty - 80/20
Groceries - 75/0
Misc. - 100/320
Clothes - 0/120

Since I didn't go food shopping before my fiance left town I ate out quite a bit (yummy Indian food). I also went out to the bar a few times with friends after work (I was lonely). And we went to a concert and I paid for the food and drinks. So...yeah, I spent more than I planned but less than I could have if I decided to be really bad. I am sad the summer is ending but at least it means less incentive to run around in the warm weather on a spending spree.

I tried to renew my license and found out I owe a fine. I haven't paid it yet.

I saved $400 for the wedding and spent $57 on Save the Dates to mail to our family and friends so they know in advance to book their travel accomodations for our summer 2010 wedding.

Stay tuned for my new budget.