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Archive for September, 2005

Bad couple of days

September 24th, 2005 at 08:02 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 11:18 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 11:33 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 02:17 pm

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 11:37 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 15th, 2005 at 12:55 am

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 13th, 2005 at 02:08 am

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 04:51 pm

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 12:23 pm

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 11:47 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 7th, 2005 at 12:56 am

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 11:35 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 01:02 pm

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 10:37 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.