Monday, November 30, 2009

Bought my Wedding Dress!

After countless hours searching online, five trips to various bridal salons, two minor meltdowns, and dozens of dresses tried on, I have found THE DRESS.

A lot of brides start thinking about their wedding dress as soon as they get engaged (or even before!) but I was not one of them. This process was long, hard and frustrating. In the end I think I found a beautiful dress I am excited to wear on one of the happiest days of my life to come.

Note: it is not the dress I have included in this post as I don't even have a picture of it yet and I wouldn't want my fiance to see it even if I did. But trust me, it's gorgeous!

So how much did it cost? Under (amended) budget!

When I first was detailing our wedding budget I optimistically (and unrealisticly) estimated I would only need to spend about $500 on my dress (haha, falls down laughing on the floor). Sample sales, David's Bridal's $99 dress sales, used dresses, etc. were on my mind. However, as I learned, finding a dress in my size that wasn't poorly made or wouldn't require costly alterations was going to cost quite a bit more. Therefore, my fiance and I decided to up the budget to $1600.

The base price of my dress is $1100, plus planned alterations of $150 and taxes of $104, the total comes out to be $1354. This does not include other alterations, which have been capped at $300. Hopefully my alterations will not cost the full $300 but even if they did I would end up only slightly over budget. It does make me a little dizzy thinking I have to work a full two weeks just to pay for a dress that I will wear for one day, especially since my second choice dress only cost $550, but I decided it was worth it to have the dress that I loved.
I paid $600 down as a deposit so the store can order the dress, which I will have in (crosses fingers) four months. I can't wait to wear it!

Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup

I can't believe November is already over and soon 2009 will also be ending. It's been a long, crazy, but wonderful year. (More on that later of course.)

Right now I bring you my monthly student loan debt roundup.

On my way home from visiting family over Thanksgiving, I passed by many cars jammed with college students (and their stuff) heading back to campus and thought to myself "enjoy it now!" when contemplating the fact that I am still paying for the education I recieved as a freshman. And with only a few more weeks until my 30th birthday, my goal of paying off freshman year before I turn 30 is about $5,000 off (or about 3 years away at the current rate of payment).

But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I remain thankful for my education, as well as my family, my fiance, our home, my career, and of course my furry friend.

Here are the numbers:

Private Undergrad Loan I must have messed up the totals last month when I reported them late so it shows no change.

And even though I managed to accidentally pay too much to Law School Loan, it and my Perkins loan do not reflect the amount of interest that has accrued this month as the website wasn't finished computing their totals. Hopefully that's an accident that can happen again as it will help me knock out my highest interest robbed-on-the-side-of-the-road loan at 8% so graciously given to me by my law school.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Budget 11/25 - 12/08

Three more paychecks until the holiday that shall not be named. I'm not so worried though. No one in our families expects us to give expensive gifts this year as we are saving for the wedding. smart fiance has amassed himself a Christmas fund by saving a little every month all year long like I told myself I would do almost a year ago.

The next money failure I'm about to report is actually a happy accident.

Since I paid off my laptop I decided I wanted to start snowballing the $43 payments I was making towards my highest interest student loan. So today I logged into my account to do just that, except when I computed the total I confused the amount I usually pay ($54; the minimum is $40) with the amount I usually pay to my Perkins loan ($93), since they are serviced by the same lender. As I result, I ended up sending $136 to the loan ($93 + $43). Yes I didn't do it deliberately but I'm still glad I did. This is also my smallest loan (~$1400) and I really hope I can knock it all out soon.

So here's my budget for the next two weeks, in which we actually purchase and use groceries, and I just may buy a present or two.

Starting Balance = $1280
Credit Card - 200
Wedding Savings - 500*
Groceries - 75
Christmas - 150
Law School Loan - 136
Perkins Loan - 93
Misc. - 126

*I already made this transfer so I will not fall short of my wedding savings goal once again!

They Increased My Credit Limit!!!

As I've mentioned before, I have been charging small amounts on my credit card and paying the balance in full each month in an effort to try and get the card company to raise my limit, thus improving my credit score. It's been a little over six months since I finally paid off the whole balance for the first time, a balance that I at one point had let climb up to $650 including late charges and fees on a card with a $500 credit limit. This was during my ostrich phase before I started the blog.

I log in to make my monthly payment today and voila, I see that I now have a credit limit of $5,500!!!
I have mixed feelings about this new development. I am very excited that in all this time of thinking about my money and trying to make up for past mistakes while being treated like a deadbeat by my own bank, debt collectors, student loan servicers, etc. that someone on the outside, i.e. "the man" has taken notice and had a little faith in me.

On the other hand...I know this wasn't an altruistic move on the part of the credit card company. They assume that since I have been charging a few things and then paying for them that given more credit I will charge more things. And frankly, I'm a little nervous about that too. Sure, I have been an authorized user on my fiance's Emergency Credit Card for months now with a similar balance and never ran amok, but it feels a little different when it's just "my card," you know? I am being completely honest here so take it easy on me.

Anyway, I am excited about this news and dedicated to not let it tempt me to spend. Wish me luck!

Where it Went 11/11 - 11/24

Sorry for the lack of posts. I was dealing with an unexpected health problem that is now (mostly) resolved. And then work/life got in the way a bit. But of course, payday always reminds me to be accountable to myself, my readers and my budget.

It was a spendy two weeks in addition to the $50 in health care costs I incurred (2 $20 co-pays, $8 in prescriptions, and $3 on the bus to the doctor, and yes I realize that totals $51 but I like round numbers). Mailed out our Save the Dates for the wedding. Went out to the movies with friends once and the bar three times.

Another budget buster was our inability to grocery shop which means I purchased about 9 lunches in ten work days and more than a few slices of pizza. Bad S.N., very bad. After the holiday we will remedy that problem.

So here's where my money has gone over the past two weeks compared to the budget I set:

Wedding Savings - 220/40
Wedding Spending - 0/30
Sallie Mae - 407/407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Nice Collection Agency - 125/125
Sprint - 74/74
Groceries - 75/0
Healthcare - 0/50
Beauty - 0/20
Misc. - 119/180

I still haven't done any Christmas shopping, haven't found my wedding dress and need to be saving more for the wedding. To tell you the truth, I am pretty overwhelmed right now and I hope it gets better soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Budget 11/11 - 11/24

Time for a new budget! Need to catch up on my wedding savings a bit as December and January means we need to deplete most of the money we've saved so far paying installments to the photographer and band.

I've said it before and I'll say it again (at least for the next 8 months) but I can't wait until (saving for) the wedding is over! Soon enough I guess.

Without, further ado, here is my budget for the next two weeks. You'll notice it includes absolutely no Christmas shopping. I'm sort of in denial. :-0

Starting Balance = $1280

Wedding Savings - 220
Sallie Mae - 407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Sprint - 74
Groceries - 75
Misc. - 119

And that's how the cookie crumbles.

I should note that I thought my payments to "Nice Collection Agency" were almost done by now but a recent statement from them indicated otherwise. I need to figure out what the balance is so I can nip that payment in the bud and free up another $125 a month towards other goals.

Where it Went 10/28 - 11/10

I had the day off work today (thank you Veterans!) so I'm posting my budget a bit late. But alas, here it is, time to face up with all the $$$ I spent in Sin City.

So here's how I did with my budget the past two weeks compared to my projections:


Credit Card - 100/100
Groceries - 75/0
Dentist - 25/25
Perkins Loan - 93/93
Law School Loan - 54/54
Laptop - 43/43
Vegas - 200/460
Wedding - 500/380
Misc. - 165/160

So yeah, Vegas was expensive. Where were all the cheap buffets and free entertainment I've heard about? Who knows. I had a good time, but my fiance was so busy with work that it was a lot of wandering around by myself. After a while I just felt guilty about spending money so I hung around the (very cool) hotel. I'm glad we got our flights and room for free because everything else in Vegas was pretty expensive.

And for the record I only bet about $10 on the slot machines as I don't care for gambling.

The good news is about $150 of the money I spent in Vegas was on clothes and a cute new clutch so at least that money wasn't simply wasted.

No more vacations for a while....well, for a short while at least. I love to travel but next time I will wait for a trip where my fiance doesn't have to work.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup!

I planned to publish my monthly student loan debt roundup on Halloween, complete with a scary pumpkin and something about how "spooky" it all was. Alas Halloween brought wedding dress shopping, partying and packing for our flight to Vegas and it never got done.

So here it is 8 days late, but the totals are from today, meaning miraculously more debt looks like it's been "paid off" since the lenders have yet to compute this month's interest. Frankly the math of it confuses me every month but as long as the totals continue to go done a bit each month I am satisfied (for now).

One of my 2009 goals was to eliminate the smallest loan, which is also the one with the highest interest, but even though I increased the payment I haven't been able to meet this goal and save for the wedding. I think I am going to start sending my recent raise towards this loan from now on. Stay tuned for next month's update which hopefully will be on time!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thirteen Years in the Workforce?

I got my Social Security annual statement and it's the first year that I've been pretty excited about the results. It's funny looking back at my teenage earnings, summer and after school jobs, when compared to my three years of post-law school salaries.

What is not included in this statement are all the "under the table" jobs I've had over the course of my life, mostly babysitting jobs, and (I think) my work study as both an undergrad and law student. My first job was when I was 12 years old. I pushed a boy in a baby carriage for one hour a day over the summer, while his mother, a friend of my mother's, took a tennis class. That boy is now in college. Yikes I'm getting old!

I also got a sizable grant from my law school to do work for the school, which doesn't seem to be included in this statement either. Most of this grant went towards my tuition but the remainder I used to pay living expenses.

Anyway, here it is, a snapshot of 13 years of what the Social Security Administration considers my lifetime income:

1995: $942
1996: $904
1997: $1,974
1998: $3,250
1999: $3,350
2000: $6,210
2001: $7,112
2002: $0
2003: $13,707
2004: $0
2005: $5,000
2006: $8,084
2007: $38,680
2008: $42,634

Wow, finally my earnings don't seem so pathetic. I look forward to the day when my latest earnings seem as meager to me as my earlier earnings do now.

And, just for historical purposes, the statement includes my "estimated benefits" if I were to continue working until my full retirement age of 67 with my current earnings, I would earn a monthly benefit of $1,568 a month. If I continue working to age 70, my benefits would increase to $1,944 a month, whereas retiring at 62 I would only earn $1,102 a month.

I have been working long enough to be eligible for disability benefits of $976 a month.

The SSA also threw in a nifty little insert for young workers to learn about saving. That was nice of them, if not a little intimidating. If you're a young worker in the U.S. I bet you'll see yours soon, if not you can read it here.