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Saving up for a camera

May 24th, 2007 at 05:32 am

So everything's on track with me financially. I'm contributing 15% of my salary to my Roth IRA. I'm putting 10% of my salary in my 'maybe-someday-I'll-want-to-buy-a-house' fund, which I just moved over to Vanguard's Prime Money Market Fund. My emergency fund could be bigger, but since I can dip into the someday-house fund quickly and use that as a second emergency fund if I need, I'm not that worried about it at the moment.

Of course, I still want things.
And since getting out of school and getting a real job, I've never really saved *for* things. If I wanted something, I would buy it.

Now, I'm trying to save up for the thing I want- an entry-level DSLR camera (the Nikon D50). It's about $600 with the kit lens. Right now I'm able to save about $100 a month for it, I think.

It's tough not to just go out and buy it, when the money's right there in my account. But if I can even save up half by July, maybe I can ask for the other half for my birthday.

Finally finished funding my 2006 Roth IRA!

March 26th, 2007 at 07:52 pm

With barely a month to go, I just initiated the final transfer necessary to fully fund my 2006 Roth IRA. I didn't think it was going to happen, with all the job stuff going on, but fortunately I was able to make it. I'll even be able to start on my 2007 Roth in two more weeks (with my next paycheck!)

Yay! This is my first year fully funding a Roth. I started investing in October 2005, and that year I only put in slightly more than $1000.

If things go as planned, I'll easily be able to fund to $4000 my 2007 Roth- and hopefully with more than a one-month cushion!

But I don't wanna save today!

January 27th, 2007 at 05:09 am

Occasionally my inner child pops up and cries and screams and wants something. Something shiny and expensive. It's been happening for me since the beginning of this year, and even before. Two things I want- a digital SLR camera and a trip to Europe- that aren't cheap.

And here's the thing. I can mostly avoid the temptation of putting them on my plastic. But I can't avoid the feeling that if I just didn't save any money one month- just took one month out of a year off of savings- I could get the camera I want. Just two months off of savings and I could take myself to Europe.

None of my savings is on automatic. I have no 401(k) option at work, and for now I've disabled the auto-save to my IRA, since any contributions automatically made now would go for 2007, and I need them to go for 2006. I have to make that choice each pay period, to save money rather than buy the things I want.

The only thing that's really keeping me honest? The knowledge that the project I'm on at work is ending in February, and I may not have a job for a while after that. Oh, that and the fact that I need some dental work soon. Also not cheap.

I love optimistic retirement calculators

January 20th, 2007 at 05:18 am

This one: http://finance.yahoo.com/calculator/retirement/ret-02
says that I need to save between 3.4 and 7.1 percent of my gross salary to have a comfortable retirement, not counting social security or anything.

Not that I believe it, of course.

Right now I'm saving 15%, though I'm not quite sure what will happen when, sometime next year, that amount begins to exceed the amount I'm able to put into a Roth IRA. I would like to open a taxable mutual fund account in a tax-efficient index fund, but I worry that the small amount I'm able to invest in it every year would make it not worth the fees. After the Roth limit goes up to $5000, I would only be able to invest $1000/year outside of it, and not only does the fund I'm considering have a minimum of $3000, but it has low-balance fees up to $10,000. Only $10/year, but, you know, it adds up.

We'll see; it's not something I have to consider seriously at the moment.

And no, no 401(k) at work. If that becomes available within the next two or three years, that could change my plans too.

Playing catch-up

January 18th, 2007 at 07:46 pm

Tomorrow is payday, my first for 2007. I know I need to catch up on my Roth IRA contributions for 2006. I've only put in about half what I'm eligible to put in for 2006, leaving me with about $2000 to go before April 16 if I'm going to max it out.

If things go well, and I'm consistently employed through that time, I anticipate making it just out of contributions of 15% of my gross pay.

If I'm not (the more likely alternative), there are two ways it could go:

1) I become unemployed in the middle of February, start living off my emergency fund, stop contributing to my Roth IRA, get my tax refund check, continue living off emergency fund and tax refund check, become poorer and poorer till I find a new job/ get on a new project at the place I'm currently employed, fail to max out 2006 Roth IRA.

2) I become unemployed in the middle of February, stop contributing to retirement, but get re-employed before the middle of April. In this case (if I get put on a project that's going to last at least 6 months) I'll take what I need to max out my 2006 Roth IRA from my emergency fund. I can re-grow my emergency fund- and I'm not going to let it get below $1000- but I don't want to miss my chance to contribute the full amount for 2006, if I have any alternative.

Then it's on to thinking about 2007...

Testing this weekend to get on a new project at work. Hope that it goes well; I would rather stay employed than the alternative.

Feeling pretty good

December 11th, 2006 at 04:49 pm

Well, I'm wrapping up 2006 and feeling pretty good about this year. Though I was unemployed for most of it, I did manage to find a job in the end, and though I accumulated some credit card debt, it's amost paid off ($250 left; will be paid off by the end of this month). This Christmas I will be totally debt-free.

One of the accomplishments this year that I'm proudest of money-wise (besides the whole job thing) is that I finally put together an Investment Policy Statement. This is basically a statement of where I am as an investor and where I want to be. It contains a listing of my assets, my asset allocation, my investment strategy, etc, etc. I did that in the middle of November and I just looked it over for the first time again today... I feel for the first time like I have a road map to where I want to go. It's all laid out: how much in stock, how much in bonds, how much domestic and international stock, how I will choose which mutual funds to invest in, tax efficiency considerations, acceptable loss amounts.

My paycheck from Friday was the first check that got after finishing the statement, and right after getting it I was able to put a certain amount into my savings account and a certain amount into investments. It really lets you automate your savings and investing, and takes the worry out of it.

Oh, and all my holiday shopping's done, with the exception of 2 gifts I still have to buy, but I can do that this weekend.

Asparagus, mozzarella, and ham...

October 5th, 2006 at 05:40 am

What's the smell of asparagus, mozzarella, and ham, sitting out in an 80 degree room for 10 hours?

Not very pleasant, I can tell you that.

Such was my lunch yesterday, those items on a tortilla, along with an apple and some carrots. Which I got up early to make and pack, and which I left sitting in my room yesterday morning. Of course I didn't notice I'd forgotten it until it was lunchtime, and I was sitting in the park just opening my book. So of course I had to go buy lunch- 3rd time this week out of 3. Monday and Tuesday I didn't bring a lunch because I didn't have any food out of which to make a lunch (no, not even PB and J!). Tuesday I bought groceries, so I could bring my lunch Wednesday... sigh.

October's eating out budget is already not doing too well.

So I'm bringing lunch today.

If I remember it.

September Budget

September 2nd, 2006 at 06:07 am

Well, I finally have my September budget in order. Of course I know I should have done it before the first of the month, but I just got my first paycheck yesterday (YAY!!!) and didn't know how much my take-home pay would be till then. So after several drafts...

September Budget
Take-home pay: ~$2350 monthly

Rent: 640
Additional deposit: 55*
Grocery: 160
Toiletries/household: 40
Phone: 44
Electricity: 77
Transportation: 76
Internet: 11
Netflix: 6
Gym: 75
Clothing: 50
Laundry: 20
Dining out (entertainment): 50
Dining out (lunches/convenience):50
Entertainment: 50
Blow money: 50
IRA: 100
Emergency fund: 100
Giving: 100
Credit cards: 696**

Notes:
*: They raised my rent this month by $55 and to add insult to injury they want me to send another $55 this month so that my deposit is still equal to one month's rent.
**: The minimum payment is somewhat less than $100. I'm following a slightly modified Dave Ramsey plan (you'll notice the $100 to emergency fund and $100 to retirement don't really fit in his step 2) so that whatever was not accounted for in the budget is going straight to my credit card debt. And lest you chastise me terribly for luxuries like an expensive gym (gasp!), a cell phone (oh no!) cable internet, and a $160 grocery bill for one person- yes, I could cut more. I could obviously cut more and would if I were deeply in debt.

But at this stage- if I put close to $700 on my credit card every month, I'll be out of debt in 3-4 months. I don't have a car payment, I don't pay for gas, I don't have a mortgage or insurance or any of that stuff. My expenses are relatively low, and I don't really have a problem with some luxuries in my life when I'm saving nearly half of my net income.

Though I am going to be happy when I'm out of debt!

Edited to add: I can't believe I forgot a category for 'giving!'. Fixed now. Next month budgeting will be easier.

Good things

August 21st, 2006 at 06:11 pm

Thanks to good advice on this site, I moved some money around this weekend. Depleted a $600 taxable mutual fund account to put the money in my Roth IRA. I will not come near maxing it this year, and am glad I'm not going to pay taxes on this money for the next 40 years.

Also got to see my dad this weekend(yay!) and he gave me some money (also yay!).

I'm trying to decide what to do with it. It isn't a whole lot, but it's enough to make a pretty significant dent in my remaining credit card. Of course, I have, like, no money right now, because I just started a new job and won't get paid for a couple weeks. I'll probably use it just for expenses and stuff I need until I get paid, at which point I can put what remains on my credit card.

I want to save a little, too, for the Ren Faire coming up. I know it's an irresponsible expense given that I'm not out of debt. Still, I am going to go ($20 plus $30 either gas or bus fare) and I really, really want to buy something pretty.

We'll see. I don't even know what my take-home pay's going to be. Once I know that, it'll be easier to budget, and if I can make a couple spending cuts to buy myself something pretty at the Ren Faire, that's something I can do.

Back on savingsadvice, thanks to new job

August 19th, 2006 at 05:41 pm

I have been gone from savingadvice for awhile. I stopped visiting because I was unemployed, not eligible for unemployment, had no money to save, and began having a lot of anxiety problems surrounding my finances. I really couldn't even think about my finances- even open bills- because not having any money coming in just really, really stressed me out that badly. My credit rating has suffered a lot (probably about 100 points) and I have about $2500 in credit card debt that I need to pay off.

But the good news is (yes, there's good news in this whole mess) that I have an income again.

So I'm going to take the next 4 months (Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec) of guaranteed work (the job ends in January, at that point I might be placed elsewhere in the same company, I might not; depends on work availability and performance) to pay off my credit cards and start improving my credit rating. I know that with all the late payments I've had, my credit rating can only improve so much in 4 months, but I'll do what I can. I'm not planning on needing credit anytime in the next 2 or 3 years (at least) so if I pay on time from now on, my credit rating should be much beteter by the time I want to buy a house or something, which right now looks like it's going to be in the very far future, if at all.

Plan for future:
1. Pay off smaller card (DONE)
2. Start putting away $100/month to retirement and $100/month to emergency fund (DONE)
3. Send $600/month to larger credit card, get it paid off within 5 months
4. Increase Roth IRA contribution to $333/month (to max it out for the year)
5. Increase emergency fund contribution to $400/month

That's the plan for now. I should be here by January; if my job continues, I'll be set. If not... Well, at least at the end of this job I'll be eligible for unemployment, and have no debt, so that's not so bad.

Response to comment

November 2nd, 2005 at 04:37 pm

In response to SharylIMB's comment on my journal:

"So you opened your Roth IRA with Vanguard? What was the process like? I'm looking into cutting back my 403b contributions just a bit (I'm currently contributing 20% of my income) and opening a Roth IRA as well."

I can't completely speak for the ease of opening an account with Vanguard, since I actually had a UTMA (Universal Transfers to Minors Act) account there that my mom had set up for me years ago to pay for college. So, because that account had my name and social security number on it, I didn't have to open up a new account with Vanguard, I just had to start up a Roth. However, I can tell you that doing that was very easy. It took about 20-30 minutes... Easy as pie. I did the whole thing online, no need to mail anything in, no need to call them or anything. They deducted the $1000 I chose to put in from my checking account electronically, and 2 days later the funds were in there.

-------

Nothing really to report today. Worked a bit late at work. Only spent $1 today, for a snack. Oh yeah, I got paid. A couple days late, but I don't mind too much. Getting paid=awesome.

November Goals

November 1st, 2005 at 06:40 pm

Yeah, I didn't really watch my money too well in October. I didn't spend like crazy, but I know I spent more than I needed to.

Here's the goals for November:

1. Stay on budget!
2. $1000 into my emergency fund (either ING or Emigrant, I'll see what happens to rates after this latest hike. I've had problems with my Emigrant account-- I keep forgetting to call them during business hours.)
3. $100 into my Roth IRA! (I just now set it up to be done automatically- $100 every month until I set it to stop.

Well, I don't know what caused me to go ahead and open my IRA last Thursday, but boy, am I glad I did! Vanguard just raised the minimum investment on IRA accounts from $1000 (which I have, and have plenty left in my emergency fund) to $3000 (to keep my emergency fund where I want it, I would have had to wait till February!).

I don't think this is a smart move on Vanguard's part. There are too many other places you can invest that let you set up an automatic, every-month investment plan, without you needing a huge investment. I know it's in Vanguard's customers' interests, ultimately, for Vanguard to keep costs down, and I have heard that Vanguard loses money on accounts less than $7000... But $1000 accounts grow into $7000 accounts, and $70,000 accounts, and I have a feeling Vanguard's going to be losing a lot of those accounts.

Well, I did it- I started a Roth IRA.

October 29th, 2005 at 08:15 am

I don't know what it was; but on Thursday I decided to start an IRA. My job's never going to be totally stable; I'm never going to be at a point where I'm saying 'Yeah, I have a stable job and 6 months of expenses in the bank, now's a good time to start an IRA." I'm always going to be wondering if I'll be working next month. If I wait till I'm in a stable position, I'll be waiting forever. If I wait until I have 6 months of expenses saved up, I'll be waiting forever. I've got 3 months of expenses, plus whatever I save between now and the middle of January. (I started my Roth with the minimum- and I'm not going to add to it till I get to a more stable position. But having it started makes me feel pretty good.) That'll have to do. I think it'll make me more motivated- to know that I HAVE to have a job by April or my money's going to start running out. You can bet that by the middle of March, I'll have done everything in my power to get something. Even if it's temp work, even if it's food service- I'll have found something. I've already started working on my portfolio and my demo reel, and bought supplies so I can start making DVDs of my work. I've nearly finished designing my business cards; I'll send them out to be printed on Monday.

Thanks for the comments, guys- I'm in a bit of a weird situation because what I'm doing now is contract work. So it's not like if I found another job between now and January, I'd be able to give my 2 weeks notice and take it-- I HAVE to stay where I am and finish out the season. And most jobs in this field are so short-term (usually lasting between 3 weeks and 3 months) that if I found another job, I wouldn't be able to tell them "yeah, I can start in the middle of January". If someone's trying to fill a position, they're trying to fill it _yesterday_.

Well, we'll see if this turns out to be a good or bad thing. I may be posting here in March, whining, "Why did I start an IRA??? If I hadn't done that, I'd have money now!!"... Or, it might turn out the opposite way... and in 40 years I might be saying "good thing I started that IRA when I did!" I guess I'll just have to wait and see. But right now, it's making me feel more like a financially responsible adult, and that can only be a good thing.

Update, after a while

October 23rd, 2005 at 02:57 pm

I've been trying to restructure my goals a bit. My original plan was to get my emergency fund up to $5000 (3 months living expenses, more or less), then start putting $333 a month ($4000 over the course of a year) in a Roth IRA and the remaining $667 (b/c I've been able to save roughly $1000 a month) in my emergency fund until it is up to $10,000, or 6 months of living expenses.

What changes is that I've told my boss that I'm planning to leave my job at the end of the season (mid-January).

Suddenly, 3 months expenses doesn't seem like enough. Though I'm still pretty anxious to stash some money into an IRA... Especially now that prices are down a bit. But my current fears about the economy (I don't like the amount of personal debt in this country, and I'm not comfortable with the real estate market right now) are really making me wonder whether it's better to wait, until I both:

A) have found a new job
B) have a 6-month emergency fund.

If I meet those conditions, I think I'll feel better about the market, whether it goes down or up. I'll know that I have a job and savings and I can provide for myself. Still, $10,000 feels so far away...

I guess all I'm saying is I don't know. I still don't know what I'm doing. Hopefully I'll figure it out soon. I need to pick one plan or the other, and each has advantages and disadvantages. I'm just really scared about the future, I guess. Moving home is always an option, as is moving to Canada to find a job, though I don't want to leave my friends and my boyfriend.

I need to sit down with a calculator and project my expectations through January, and through the spring and the summer. Maybe that'll help me make a decision.

Surprise!

October 10th, 2005 at 06:19 pm

The good kind of surprise, not the bad kind, fortunately. Turns out my parents had a UGMA/UTMA (Universal Gifts to Minors, or somethig like that) savings account for me at Vanguard. They used most of it for college and college related expenses, but somehow, there is still some money left in there. About $600, in fact! It's a custodial account, but since I'm over 21, I can get the ownership transfered to my name. I still don't know if I can transfer it to an IRA, which would be awesome. I guess I should call Vanguard about it, but I'm hesitant to use my cell minutes to do it, and I don't have a landline. Plus I don't know if I can be the one to call them and request the change, or if my mom has to do it. This is great timing for me, because I'm about a month away from finishing my emergency fund, and about 1 1/2 to 2 months away from starting my own Roth IRA. It would be unbelievably great if there was already $600 in there to get things started! It's in the Vanguard Star fund, which is one of the ones I've been considering investing in. I would be really happy if in December, I didn't just have $1000 in there (which was my goal for the year) but $1600...

I'm still tracking my spending pretty well, though I haven't been posting in a while. I'm doing pretty well at keeping expenses down, despite a weekend of fun with my sister that could have cost a lot more than it did, and a broken cell phone, which I replaced for $40. There were nicer phones, but this one makes calls and receives calls, and that's really all I need, right?

The one October goal I've had that I've really not kept up with has been cooking 2 healthy meals from scratch every week. Tonight I had ramen and a granola bar. Ah, well, this is what you're supposed to eat when you're 23, right?

Bad couple of days

September 24th, 2005 at 01:02 pm

Lots of yelling at me at work, lots of overtime. And how do I respond? I spend money and eat things that are bad for me, which is pretty typical. I'm trying to change my ways of reacting to stress, but it's a slow process.

I started an account at Emigrant Direct, like I was planning. I've decided to keep what money I have in ING there for now; I can use it to pay my January estimated taxes, and that way I won't have to worry about transfering and transfering. So by February all my savings should be at Emigrant Direct.

I've been reading a lot about mutual funds online. I've decided to start a Roth IRA as soon as I get $5000 in my emergency fund (should be sometime this fall) and an extra $1000 to start the IRA with. I just can't decide which fund (and it'll only be one at first, since I'll be starting it with just $1000) to invest in. I'm thinking either Vanguard STAR (although it seems a little conservative for someone who's 23, and who has a solid emergency fund) the Vanguard 500 index (tracks S&P 500) or the Vanguard Winsor II, which I like a lot, but has a higher expense rate than the 500 index. Well, I have to decide eventually, but I'm going to try to stop worrying about it until I actually get the money together.

Spending!!

Wed Sept 21 1.25- soda
32.50-Video game- Katamari Damacy 2
Thur Sept 22 34.82- Groceries
4.00- lunch
1.75- ice coffee
Fri Sept 23- 1.50- ice coffee
1.75- soda
2.50- frozen yogurt

Is it wrong that I really want September to be over so that I can add up all my spending and add some numbers to my wallchart?

Brunch tomorrow with the boyfriend and his family at a restaurant. I don't know if I'm expected to pay, so I'll have to bring money just in case... Plus, I have to pay for a train ticket out to Long Island. I think I can get the citypass deal so it'll only cost me $6 to get there and back.

And I breathe a sigh of relief.

September 20th, 2005 at 04:18 pm

Just enough cleared from my paychecks to cover my self-employment tax checks. I didn't need the overdraft protection at all. Boy, was I worried. I've never been overdrawn in my life... Even with the overdraft protection, I didn't want to go there.

I don't have a lot in my checking, but I'll survive until the rest cashes. When that happens, I'll probably start up an account at Emigrant Direct and deposit the money there. When it was 3.3 vs 3.5 percent and I had $1000 in the bank, it didn't make sense for me to switch. Now that it's going to be 3500, at 3.3 vs. 4 percent... That's an extra $25 (approximately, if my math's not wrong) a year. And when it's up to 5000, it'll be about $35 a year. I can deal with that.

Had a great day at work today. Doing a lot of fun stuff... I'll be going on a photoshoot Thursday, to 2 places I've never been before. I love going on photoshoots! They are, I think, the funnest part of my job.

Spending, for today and yesterday...

11.84-- personal hygiene (realized I really don't replace my toothbrush nearly often enough)
32.51-- To replace roommate's coffee maker, which I broke
1.75-- ice coffee
21.01-- Groceries

slightly pricey weekend

September 19th, 2005 at 04:33 am

I had a pretty good weekend. Didn't do a lot, though I did work for my roommate for a couple of hours so I earned some money doing that.

Saturday was my boyfriend's cousin's birthday, and I went out with them to a restaurant called Zen Palate to eat. It was pretty good, although I was a little surprised by the prices. The website had the prices in the $8-$10 range. The meals there ranged from $13-$19, and once the bill was split, I owed $23. That's fine, it was fun and I got to spend some time with my boyfriend and his family.

Sunday I had a meeting with a friend of mine about a film he's doing. He wanted some input on the storyboards. I think I was able to give him some helpful advice. I'm going to give him a schedule I used- it's just an Excel spreadsheet, but it was really helpful when I was making my film.

Sat Sept 17 4.00- transportation- 2-trip metrocard
23.00- Dinner, Zen Palate
1.97- Ice coffee
Sun Sept 18 76.00- monthly metrocard
1.18- coke @ Wendy's
2.35- Dinner, hotdog place

Everything- even dining out! is still relatively under budget, with 11 days left to go in September.

Toothache

September 17th, 2005 at 07:17 am

My wisdom teeth keep trying to come in. Every time they try, it hurts like crazy for a day, and they manage to poke their way to the surface. Before long, though, they are covered up. One day I will get them removed! Not now, though. It only really bothers me for one day about twice a year. Right now, I don't have dental insurance, and I'm sure that even if I did it wouldn't be cheap. Plus, I've heard too many bad stories about New York dentists... I need to find someone who's had a _good_ experience with a dentist around here.

I finally got things straightened out financially with my boss. The amount I had left in my checking account was just under the amount that I paid in estimated taxes, so I'm really glad I have overdraft protection! Hopefully I won't have to use it- hopefully the first $100 from my checks will clear by Monday- but it's still nice to know it's there.

I'm going to dinner tonight at Zen Palette, a small vegetarian chain (about 3 locations, I think). I've heard many good things about them. The menu's online, and from what I've seen it doesn't look super-expensive. And it should be healthy! I've lost another 3 lbs since my doctors appointment, making for a total of 15 this year. My BMI is finally under 25! Yeah, it's like, 24.7... But still, under 25 is good. Slow and steady wins the race, eh?

Still thinking about switching banks. I don't have a lot of choice, because there's really only 2 near where I live, and only 1 (the one I'm with currently) also has a location near where I work. If I switch, it'll save me $4 a month, but I'd only be able to deposit my checks Saturday from 12-5. (I REALLY don't like depositing them at an ATM. I'm weird like that.) It's paying for convenience, but I'm still contemplating whether it's worth it. Too bad the bank I'd be considering switching to isn't offering any special sign-up-now deals. 2 of my roommates have accounts there; I'll check if they offer any kind of a referral bonus.

My paychecks should clear by Friday- then $1000 to my ING savings account and $1100 to my ING tax account!

Spending for Fri, Sept 16:

$9.58- CVS- Orajel (sp?) for toothache, plus cotton balls, which really didn't help as much as I thought they would.

Annoying... Plus, considering switching banks.

September 15th, 2005 at 04:37 pm

Today I was supposed to get paid. My boss never showed up with the checks. Man... That's really annoying. Especially since my checking account isn't really what it should be, between the last check I couldn't deposit because he wrote the date wrong and paying out $3000+ in estimated taxes yesterday.

Which brings me to my second topic- switching banks. I'm pretty happy with my current bank. They charge a little more than others, but IMHO, they make up for it in convenience. They have more ATMs than anyone else in the city, and as a result I never (well, maybe once a year) get charged ATM fees.

Their basic 'lifeline' checking (which I had all through college) costs $4 a month. It's free with direct deposit, but I can't get direct deposit at work. So for me it's $4.

I've been using, since I got a job, their extra checking. It's free if you keep a $1500 balance; Otherwise it's $10 a month.

I've never been charged for it, because I always kept $1500 in there. Now, for the first time, if my tax checks get cashed before I get a chance to deposit my paychecks, I'll be under $1500, and incur a $10 charge. I might call them and try to get them to waive it, since I have been a customer for 5 years...

But it makes me think that the $1500 I keep in there to not get charged could be earning interest somewhere else. It would be earning $49.50 a year at ING, where I also have an account. And there are banks in my area that don't charge a monthly fee even if you don't have direct deposit, they just aren't as convenient, and I'd probably incur more ATM charges.

Even keeping my account at my current bank and switching to the 'lifeline' checking would probably make sense for me, since I'd be earning $4.125 in interest at ING and be charged $4 for my checking. That's still a savings of $0.12 a month. Or, switch banks, and be saving $4.125 a month...

Definitely something to think about.

Spending for Thur, Sept 15:

$1.90- lunch

Paid my taxes!

September 14th, 2005 at 05:55 pm

Paid my estimated taxes today. Ouch! My checking account is taking a major hit. I have about $500 left, and I get paid tomorrow. I haven't yet spoke with my boss about the check he miswrote the date on- he hasn't been in- but he should be in tomorrow to write paychecks. Hopefully I will have 2 checks coming to me tomorrow, and my checking account won't be hurt too much. I went to the drugstore today to get contact lens solution, toothpaste, and cotton balls. I have $12 left in my personal hygiene budget and I don't think I have anything else that falls under that category to buy this month. That would be awesome...

Other budget items are not doing so well. I expect to go over on dining out (currently have about $50 left). I'm already over on household items and electricity.

I got my credit card bill yesterday. About $500. I pay off my balance every month, but since it's not due till the end of the month, I'm going to wait a few days till I can deposit my paychecks.
After I deposit my paychecks, I should be able to transfer $1000 to my ING account. Yay interest! That'll bring my emergency fund to just over $3000. At $5000, it will have 3 months of expenses (roughly); I want to get up to 6 months worth eventually, but it's at the $5000 point that I'm going to split my savings right in half. Put half every month in the emergency fund, and with the other half, start a ROTH IRA at Vanguard. I don't have any retirement savings right now; this would be my very first retirement fund.

But that's looking way ahead.

Looking at today:

Wed Sept 14 .75- snack
16.23- personal hygiene
2577.00-Estimated federal taxes
684.00-Estimated state taxes

Nothing much happening...

September 12th, 2005 at 07:08 pm

Not too much to report. Worked some for my roommate- not as much as I wanted to. Went grocery shopping, but should have made a list... I don't have a heck of a lot of stuff for meals on hand. I have stuff for:

Tuna sandwiches
PB+J sandwiches
Tuna macaroni salad
spaghetti with tomato sauce

...

Yeah. Next time I go grocery shopping, I definitely need to do more meal planning first. Got yogurt on sale, tuna on sale, grapes at a good price ($1.99/lb), turkey sausages- 2 packs (20 sausages) for $1.25 per package. That's $2.50 for 20, which seems pretty good.

Work is going to be so much better the next few months, as the boss I like is back! I anticipate some MAJOR conflicts of authority, though, between him and the top boss. I don't really know who I'm supposed to be reporting to, they both seem to think they're my immediate supervisor, and they sometimes give me contradictory instructions.

Spending Sunday and Monday

$11.92- household items (Already over my $10 household budget! Ah, well, it was my turn to buy t.p.)
$7.01- personal hygiene (well under budget so far)
$27.47- groceries (still well under budget for the month)
$1.25- coke at work
$0.05- gift to roommate (was rolling pennies and she had 45)

Yeah, I record every nickel. Doesn't mean I am stingy with it, just that I write it down.

Oh, and thanks to those who commented on my last journal entry, about "Money" magazine. I'll look into Kiplinger's-- the library is too inconvenient for me to read it there (plus, magazines are my annoying habit- it's hard for me not to buy 1 a month. I figure it might as well be a magazine I learn something from rather than one of those women's magazines.)

"Money" magazine- my thoughts

September 11th, 2005 at 09:51 am

Yesterday, I went to Barnes and Noble with 2 gift cards a friend of mine had given me for my birthday and Christmas last year. I bought a novel, "Grunts" by Mary Gentle. I just finished "Ash, A Secret History", which she also wrote, and I loved it to pieces. I haven't started "Grunts" yet.

The other thing I bought, because one of my September goals is to learn more about mutual funds (by January, if I still have a job, I'm going to start a Roth IRA... So by that time I want to know what I should be investing in.), was "Money" magazine. I thought this (September) issue particularly apropos for me, because it deals with being self-employed, which I, technically, am.

A lot of the articles were very informative, and I feel like I'm learning the difference between value and growth stocks, and what small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap mean. The list of top 50 mutual funds, in different categories, will, I think, help me a lot when I'm finally choosing which mutual fund to invest in.

The things I had a problem with were the "Spending" and "advice" articles. If I had to describe the philosophy of Money magazine towards debt, I would say it's something like "debt's OK". Me, (though I have a credit card I pay off every month), I'm more in the Dave Ramsey, debt's NOT OK camp. I mean, the advice they give to one family that was deeply in debt but just inherited $500,000 and a house with $700,000 equity: "The family has substantial debts, but the planners agree that's okay given the low rates on their mortgage (4.25%, interest only) and student loans (about 3%)."

OK, so they owe $1 million on their home (California) and $100,000 in student loans, and that's OK??? And instead of telling these people to pay off their $1,100,000 debt (or at least some of it!) the Money magazine financial planners are telling them to set up an emergency fund (OK, that I agree with), fully fund their retirements, and fully fund college accounts for their kids. Of course, their income is substantial, but if it were me, I would rather NOT be $1,000,000 in debt.

The second thing I had a problem with was their section on spending. Now, I know that most people reading Money have a net worth that's more than mine. I bet most of its readers have annual incomes greater than $40,000, too. But their section on spending... I like the concept- One purchase that will last a lifetime, or lots of economical things? But I guess it's just aimed at people with more money than me...

Their page on women's clothing, for example. It has a budget of $1000. That's way out of my price range, for one thing. My fall clothing budget's more like $200. So let's see what they reccommend...

The "spend smart on one essential" column has a beautiful "little black dress" for $1080. (OK, to start with, how is it OK to go $80 over budget?)

The "spend smart from head to toe" column has a black dress for $149. Pretty reasonable. Then it adds a coat ($70) jewelry ($21), a silk scarf ($320!), a Dooney & Bourke bag ($400 to RENT for 8 months) and $50 shoes.

That's actually pretty reasonable, without the scarf and the bag.

The "Home" section has a budget of about $2900 (no, not renovations, just making one room look nice) and the "Travel" section has a budget of $5000- which seems reasonable till you realize that doesn't include airfare. Their "Car" section has a budget of $30,000, with a choice between a new Lexus and a brand new Toyota Avalon.

If you have money, I don't begrudge people spending it. But these expenses are not realistic for me.

Should I subscribe? It's only $10 a year for first-time subscribers, and I do want to become more knowledgeable about investing. But maybe I should just buy a book... I kind of don't want a magazine telling me that it's OK to spend $1000 on clothes, or that it's OK to have debt as long as the interest rates are low.

So, those are my thoughts. I'll eventually decide whether or not to subscribe, but I'm still thinking about it.

Spending for Saturday, September 9:

$0.25- snack cake at the deli.

Unexpected expenses... Small, but annoying.

September 10th, 2005 at 05:23 am

Last month my roommates didn't send the rent check on time. This month we were charged $100 for it ($25 each). This month we're going to be sending it late too- my check's on the counter in the envelope. (It has to be there by the 10th, FYI). I don't know what everyone else's holdup is. If we get charged $100 this month, I'm not going to pay $25 for it. If they want to be late with their money, it's not my fault.

In addition to that, I broke (by accident, of course) my roommate's coffee maker, so that's going to be probably $25 to replace. I was supposed to yesterday, but the line at Starbucks (where she bought it) was so long, I put it off.

That, and I insist on paying half the time when my boyfriend and I go out... we've been going out 4 months and it's really past the point where I can just let him pay for stuff because I'm a girl. Since he got food poisoning last weekend and didn't want to tax his stomach, he picked the restaurant. It was more than I would have liked but I'll deal. Dinner out twice a month costs about the same- a little less- as lunch at work every day. If I brownbag every day, I don't do too badly on that budget item.

Thursday I didn't make a lunch because I was feeling sick in the morning, and couldn't look at food. Friday I made a lunch and forgot it on the kitchen table. I'm pretty awesome sometimes.

I need to update this stuff against my budget, and see if I'm within 1/3 of monthly expenses on dining out, groceries, snacks, etc. I'm at about 1/2 on cell phone minutes, so I'd better watch my talking. I'll switch to a $29.99 plan soon. It makes sense, if I typically spend about $43 on minutes.

Spending totals

Thur Sept 8 $5.83- lunch
$19.44- groceries
$21.68- cell phone minutes
Fri Sept 9 $1.50- ice coffee
$7.86- lunch
$49.10- dinner with boyfriend
$7.27- movie rental and candy

Following a budget

September 8th, 2005 at 04:47 am

My thoughts on today, my 8th day (in my life!) of following a budget...

Almost immediately after writing it down, I started panicking a little: But, there's stuff I want to buy that's not in the budget... I wanted to buy one of those fancy trashcans with the tight-shutting lids, but I only have 10 in household expenses... Well... I guess I just won't buy it.

Immediately, though I had 1000 earmarked for savings, I started feeling like I didn't have enough money.

That lasted a day or two, and then I loosened up. I'm still writing everything down, I'm still tracking my spending, but if something comes up that's not budgeted, I'm willing to take from another category to pay it.

That said, I've already decided on what I'm going to change for next month.

I'm going to take an hour or so to make a budget, and not slap one together in 10 minutes. I'm going to consider what I'm going to need to buy in the following month. I'm not just going to say, $180 for groceries- that should be fine. I'm going to take into account what I have in my freezer and my pantry, what I'm going to need, and then formulate a more educated guess. What household items will I need? What clothing?

The other thing I'm going to change for next month is that I'm going to add a category for 'blow' money. This way I think I'll be less tempted to take from one category to pay for another. Not a lot- maybe $40/month- but enough money that I can spend on unexpected expenses.

I have most of my money left in all my categories (well, obviously not rent, and some others that I pay once monthly) but overall, for a quarter of the way through the month, I've used less than a quarter of my budget for groceries, dining out, and entertainment.

Spending for Wed Sept 7-
1.25- coke from vending machine

Making da money

September 6th, 2005 at 05:56 pm

OK, not much. Worked for my roommate 1 hr over the weekend and 1 hr tonight. Still, a good money-making opportunity, since it (after tax, anyway) can go straight into savings. I'll probably do a little more work for her tonight, but my back's hurting right now, so I'm going to get off the computer. Work is hectic... I'm not looking forward to working extra tomorrow, Thursday, and probably some this weekend, especially since I don't get overtime pay. But stuff has to get done... The scheduling of this project frustrates me so much! I'm in charge of a group of 4 people. I try to motivate them, I try to make them work hard, and they always get stuff done by their deadlines. However, we frequently have HUGE lag times between when we finish one project and the time we can start the next. And since I have to do about a week of prep work before I can give my team their assignments... I usually end up having to do that week of prep work within 3 days, just so that I don't have to tell all my people... "uh... I don't know.... Just surf the internet for now...". These people are motivated! They want to work! And productivity really ends up being killed by the other people in the organization. We could increase productivity by probably 10-25% if the people on the back end (or is it the front end? I don't really know business terminology. The people who do the 'prerequisites') would get their stuff done sooner.

Spending!
Tue August 6

1.75- ice coffee

Not a great holiday weekend

September 5th, 2005 at 04:35 pm

I had such nice plans for this weekend! I did go out and do some clothes shopping. I only spent $125 out of my $200, and I got 5 long-sleeved shirts, 1 jean jacket, and some underwear. I'm sure many people here could have done better with $125, but hey, this is New York City. I could have spent that much on one shirt!

After that, I met up with my boyfriend. We were going to go to a party a friend of mine was throwing. We met up around 7:00, and the party was at 9:00. We ate dinner at an Indian place, bought some alcohol and ice for my friend, and then went to the party. The party was fun and I got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen all summer (most of the people there were still in college, so I usually don't see them during the summer). As the party went on, though, my boyfriend started feeling ill... We ended up leaving around midnight, took a cab home, and we both spent the night and next day in bed with food poisoning. Or, more accurately, we spent the night and next day running from the bed to the bathroom. It was... unpleasant, to say the least. Thankfully, it was fairly mild, as food poisoning incidences go. That was Saturday night, and by Monday, I'm functional. The last time I had food poisoning I was out of commission for most of a week! I'm keeping food down now, and I'm pretty happy about that.

Nothing else to report this weekend, except my spending. Yes, a lot on clothes, but it was all in the budget. The money I spent on alcohol, however, wasn't... I don't know how to classify it. I might take it out of the remaining money I had budgeted for clothing. I probably will, since I don't intend to go clothes shopping again this month.

Spending, Labor Day weekend

Sat Sept 3- $52.95- Clothes, Filene's Basement
$44.49- Clothes, Macy's
$25.80- Clothes, H&M
$5.30- Lunch out, Wendy's
$2.00- ice for party
$3.78- Personal hygiene
$34.66- Alkyhol for party
Sun Sept 4 $4.50- Gatorate, etc... (stuff to drink that would help post food-poisioning dehydration)
Mon Sept 5 $3.75- Lunch

Bah! to incompetence

September 3rd, 2005 at 06:02 am

So, usually I don't deposit my paychecks right away. That way, I can deposit 2 at once, and it lessens the amount of time I have to see these crazy high figures that aren't representative of what I *have* at all, because I don't get taxes taken out (this problem will be taken care of in the coming months with a "taxes" subaccount at ING, but for now, this has been my plan).

So yesterday I went to the bank with 2 paychecks to deposit.

On one of them, my boss hadn't written the year in at all. Thankfully, the cashier let me write it in.

On the other one, my boss had written the year as 2004. The cashier refused to cash it.

Of course, by that time (1:00 pm) my boss had left work. I'll talk to him about it on Tuesday, but this makes me really, really glad I don't live paycheck to paycheck.

Yesterday was a no-spend day (I conquered cravings for caffeine twice! ha!) but today's going to be expensive! First, clothes shopping- Hit up labor day sales, combined with no-tax weekend, and buy all the clothes I'll need for the next few months. I have a spending limit of $200. I have a plan- Filene's Basement/ TJ Maxx first (in the same building downtown), Burlington Coat Factory (close by, and sometimes has some nice stuff) then Macy's and H&M. H&M is probably my favorite store, but I'll save it to the end because their price point is slightly higher than some of the others... Even Macy's 5th floor (the 'casual', non-designer floor) beats H&M when Macy's has a good sale.

I want to get that all done by 1:00 or 2:00, because I have to meet my BF at some point. We're going to a party at a friend of mine's apartment tonight, and he's asked me to bring liquor, so that'll probably be another $10-$20, depending what I buy. The people who will be there are all in college, so they're not expecting anything high class, but I don't drink beer, and I'd rather bring something I'm willing to drink myself.

So... Expected spending for the day... Probably $240. But it's in the budget, so I'm trying not to let it hurt too bad. I still have clothes- that I need to wear to work sometimes- that I was wearing in middle school! That's not cool.

So very grateful

September 1st, 2005 at 03:37 pm

I am so grateful that I'm safe, that my family is safe, that I have a roof over my head, that I don't have to worry about what I'm going to eat tonight. That I don't have to worry about violence erupting around me. And that I don't even have to worry about gas prices. I feel so immensely grateful right now for everything that I have.

That said, back to your regular spending/saving/job/money journaling...

I think (yet another thing for which I'm grateful today) that I got a raise at work. My paycheck (which is biweekly) was $100 more than it should have been, so I guess that's a $50/week raise. (See, my boss doesn't let his employees know when they get raises. He just increases the amount they get paid. I got a promotion last month- by default since a coworker of mine quit- so I half-expected I'd get something) Much of that will go to taxes, but still, I'm not complaining. I'm going to start putting $1100 a month rather than $1000 into my tax fund, which should cover it (maybe I should make a subaccount for my taxes at ING? hmmm...) which leaves me $100 a month to go into savings. My lifestyle is not going up, that's for sure. I'm happy where I am- I need to remember that. I am happy with what I have and going out to eat more or buying fancier clothes isn't going to make me happier.

Here's my spending for the end of August and the beginning of September:

Tue Aug 30- $2.00- Snacks
$5.62- dinner (had to eat dinner out because I had an open house to go to after work)
Wed Aug 31 $5.00- Lunch
$100.00- Red Cross donation
Sept. 1 $2.75- lunch
$19.95- groceries

Groceries includes (slightly more expensive) Peanut Butter Company peanut butter. I'm going to be loving my PB and Js this week!

All my prayers go out to everyone who was hit by the hurricane... And everyone who's being hit currently by gas prices. It sucks, that's all there is to it.

September Budget

August 31st, 2005 at 04:20 am

Payday today, as well as time to see if this bu-jit thing people keep taking about works. I tracked my spending last month, and this is based on that.

Alright, here's my first try at a written budget: (just me, no kids, but an SO I pay for 1/2 the time when we go out)

September

Fed, State, local, and SE tax: $1000 (I get nothing taken out of my check, this is based on my estimated tax figures)
Rent $565
Electricity: $65
Cell phone: $44
Cable internet/Netflix: $21
Transportation: $ 80
Health care: $178
Groceries: $180
Eating out: $120
Snacks: $30
Pers. hygiene: $40
Entertainment: $50
Laudry: $10
Household: $10
Clothing: $200 (no-tax week this month; I'll buy all the clothes I need)

Total: $2598. (Without taxes: $1598). This will let me put $1000 in my savings account, assuming I get no extra work this month. So that's my goal: $1000 in savings! Yeah!

Suggestions on cutting down are welcome, although some expenses are fixed, and others, I can honestly say I don't really want to reduce. I have no debt, so I don't really have to save with 'gazelle intensity'... I just want enough in the bank that I can quit my job if it gets too bad.



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