Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long Term Care Planning, Already?

This week, I attended two of three classes provided by a financial planner who specializes in retirement and estate planning. I've learned A LOT!!! And "A LOT" doesn't do justice to the wealth of information I've gained. In this post, I'll share a few of my favorite bits of information from the long term care insurance presentation:
  • Long term care (LTC) insurance is purchased to cover expenses related to care in home, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes.
  • The majority of long term care is paid for from Medicaid,  followed by out of pocket expenses from the customer and/or their family.
  • Medicare and Medigap (health care for people age 65+ (and younger, in some cases, ex. disabled persons)) does NOT cover long-term care expenses.
  • Medicaid (health insurance for the impoverished) does cover LTC expenses. For a single person (1-person household) aged 65+ years (someone who is considered to be "aged"), to be eligible in my state of residence, you cannot have assets valued at more than $2,500 and a monthly income no greater than $350.
  • Policies can be purchased based on the amount of money a person's care would be on a daily basis and for how many years such care would. Additional features -such as inflation protection, age and health at time of purchase, individual and shared plans, restoration of benefits- impact the cost of a policy.
  • The Federal government will enact the CLASS Act (beginning late 2012 or early 2013) to help Americans prepare for the expense of long term care. Here's a summary of the the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act from AARP.
  • Some states have "partnership programs" that incentivize the purchase of long term care policies.
I'm so fired up about this topic! I'm interested in learning more about this product so I can discuss it with my parents as they prepare for full retirement.

Have you heard about long-term care insurance? 
Have you talked about it with your parents/loved ones?
Do you know someone who has purchased a LTC policy? 
What was the experience like?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Sandy X
Hey there! Remember me? Sandy X?

I know, I know.... I haven't been around since August 19th (almost exactly a month ago). So what have I been up to? Weekend trips out of town, a major project at work, and developing my skills and approach to making more money. Sounds exciting, right? This blog hasn't been the only thing I've neglected in the past few weeks. I haven't been exercising regularly, I've slacked on my "daily" readings (local news and my favorite blogs), and staying in touch with family and friends. Fortunately for me, my failure to maintain these routines have not been life threatening. Additionally, I have a chance to "pick the ball back up" and keep moving forward. So, I' back....again =)

Friday, August 19, 2011

About that "New Toy"....

On July 26th, I shared how excited I was to be the proud new owner of a Keurig coffee maker. My reasoning behind the purchase was largely because I was spending quite a bit of my food budget at Panera Bread on coffee and bagels.

Well whaddya know. Just two days ago, my colleague bought a Keurig coffee maker!!!

I'm seriously reflecting on my $120+ investment. I've thought about selling it on CraigsList or Ebay....that way I won't have to keep up with the occasional $13 purchase of fancy K-cups and I can freeload off of use the ones at work.

What do you think? Should I sell my new toy and indulge in the one at work? 
Or Should I keep it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Stole Your Stuff

If you've ever paid attention to the time of day that I publish my blog posts, you'll notice that it's usually during regular business hours (i.e. when I should be focusing on the work for which I receive compensation).

Well, today is a special exception....because my work laptop was stolen.....once again.....while people were in the office (thank goodness no one was hurt!).

The last time this happened was about 10 months ago (on October 28, 2010, to be exact). Nevertheless, when I get into a better frame of mind and can focus, I'll be sure to share my most recent financial experiences.

I apologize for shortchanging you today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Post Full of Pictures: Ups and Downs

A quick update before I get started...
In the August net worth update, I wasn't sure if I had had a recent contribution. I didn't. As promised, I double checked, and my most recent contributions were on 08/05 and 07/20. I wrote the August update on 08/02 and the July net worth update was posted on 07/20 ;)

Now on to today's post...(in pictures screenshots)

The past few days have looked like this....

Am I stressed? Nope. Why? Mostly because I don't intend to access the money in my investment accounts for another handful of decades. Additionally, in that time, I plan to allocate my assets (and diversify within asset classes) to reduce my exposure to equities (I'm thinking pet rocks might be a good bet in my older age, but that business sounds vaguely familiar...). It also doesn't hurt that my investments (outside of my 403b) outperformed the S&P 500 and DJIA =)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August Net Worth Update

My assets decreased by $579.62 and my liabilities decreased by $587.71. This is the first time since reporting my net worth updates that my assets decreased! Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+33.06) I'm rather sad about the pathetic performance of this account. I haven't double checked, but considering that my last net worth update was so late, I think this simply reflects an increase in my investments. Otherwise, this number includes my matched contribution(s) and simply shows how the market took it's toll on my investments....and that $33.06 is all I have to show for it. I'll get around to checking on the details and will update you.

Emergency Savings: (-394.74) In the last net worth update, I mentioned that I'd take $400 out to cover my car registration expenses. Well. This is the effect of it: $57.14 in my "emergency savings" account. I'm not losing any sleep over it. In the event I have a major unexpected expense, I'll put it on my credit card and will pay the balance with "car payment" money. Sounds familiar, hunh?

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (-98.75 and -169.19) I really don't want to talk about this. But, a part of investing means that your equities are at risk of losing its value. That totally happened here.

Savings Account: (+50) I transferred $50 to this account in preparation for a trip to New England. Only a day or two later, plans for such a trip were scrapped (at least for this year). I think I'll re-transfer the money and use it to cover my massive credit card debt. A bit on that later...

Car Loan: (0) Despite having money transferred to my credit union account, I have not gotten around to transferring the funds to my car loan account. I'll receive a direct deposit this week, and thought that I would wait until new car payment funds cleared so I could make a larger payment. I know, it doesn't make much of a difference and I should probably stop being lazy.

Credit Card: (-6.00) Since receiving my new rewards credit card, I've been treating my old one like a bald-headed-stepchild (or however the saying goes). The $6 balance on the card is a recurring service I pay for. Since it's related to work, I should probably get around to submitting a reimbursement for it. I know, laziness is rearing its ugly head again...

Rewards Credit Card (-703.49) So far I've racked up 11,674 points (put another way, I can redeem it for travel worth $116.74). I've also racked up a bunch of debt. In fact, my balance is $1,115.65 (as of 08/04). Airfare, gasoline, food, car parts, and other stuff. I need to reconfigure my expense tracker to better capture how much I'm spending in these various categories. Currently, they're all filed under my "CC Rewards" column.

Student Loan: (+121.73) As I indicated in my last update, my student loan payment decreased (I still don't know why). Anywho, I am $121.73 closer to a zero balance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spending Fast

No, I'm not spending money quickly; instead, I am not spending money. Like one of these fasts. It wasn't until today that I had a sort of epiphany. (Warning: it's not as major as it seems.) I haven't spent money for the past two days [GASP!]. Three days ago, I paid my phone bill and applied a few bucks towards my credit card balance (that hardly counts as "spending" as it's more of an obligation, rather than something that's discretionary. "Spending" sounds much more fun to me and, although it's the same thing, I set aside "bill paying" in my head. But I digress...)

My mini-revelation surprised me in two ways. First, I realized - aside from looking at my expense tracker- that I spend quite a bit of money on food. I still long for Panera (it hasn't been a week yet and I'm already dreaming about the next time I'll treat myself to their goodies), I haven't eaten any cheesy goodness from a fast food restaurant (ex. Subway's meatball sub, an organic cheeseburger from Elevation Burger), and no random snacks from my local CVS (I've been thinking a lot about sour gummy worms). I tried the meal planning thing; actually, it wasn't much of a plan. I made a crock-pot meal on Saturday and have been eating it for lunch and dinner all week long. I'm so sick of chicken stew! Chicken stew and rice. Chicken stew on a flour tortilla. Chicken stew and toast. Plain ol' chicken stew. I finished what was left of it tonight for dinner. Luckily, I changed things up a bit with a bowl of imitation Fruit Loops and pizza (that was on sale this past weekend) for dinner last night and lunch today.

My second surprise was that I didn't feel bad for not spending money. There was a bit of awkwardness because I haven't been too many places outside of home and work. As weird as it may seem, spending money has almost become an automatic thing (yikes!). I've always been aware of my spending (as evidenced by my near obsession with expense tracking), but I haven't been so conscious about my non-spending. We'll see if it matters.

Update: I tried bottled water for my coffee and it tasted better! Then again, it was a different type of coffee (Caribou's K-cup vs. the Gloria's Hazelnut that I tried at first). Frankly, the brand of hazelnut is unimpressive (which sucks, because it's my favorite flavor of coffee!). Nevertheless, I will continue to experiment in order to find the perfect cup o' joe. And if things don't work out, I'll sell my new toy for half of what I paid for it on Craigslist and head straight to Panera. Okay, okay, I'm joking....but only a little ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My New Toy

In my last post, I talked about using meal planning as a way to adhere to my food budget of $50 per week. I did okay on a trip to the grocery store (I spent $50.60, but $10 of it was for non-grocery items<<paper towel and toilet paper). However, I did not purchase breakfast items. I knew that breakfast is was best at Panera Bread. But when I did the math (at least $3.02/day for at least twenty days each month), I knew that I might be better off (at least a little bit), by putting $60.40/month elsewhere (savings account maybe?). 

So what did I do? I bought one of these...

The machine, additional pods of hazelnut coffee and skim milk set me back $120.22. The cost per cup (excluding the depreciation of the machine) is $0.67 compared to the $1.75 I pay paid at my lovely bakery chain restaurant.

I tried it last night with tea (nothing special there), and this morning with coffee (it doesn't taste like Panera :/). I even made a second cup because I thought the first was a mistake.

The next time I use this machine, I'll use purified water (as recommended). I'll let you know how it turns out.

By the way, why did I purchase an "expensive" single brewer coffee maker? I've had coffee from Keurig (machine and pods) before and it's always delicious. Like, addictive delicious. I figured, why not have the same deliciousness in my home?

I'll do my best to make breakfast at home as pleasurable as breakfast on the go (I'll miss you cinnamon swirl and raisin bagel!). I should remind myself that there was life before carrying out breakfast every morning. But the smell of freshly brewed coffee for a few months has easily overshadowed such memories. At any rate, I'll do my best to "get back to the basics."

P.S. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic. You would be too, if your coffee wasn't on point!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Meal Planning My Ticket?

I've been ashamed of my food spending for the past few months. I budget $50/week for food and have easily blown through more than a quarter of that budget with my work day breakfast purchases, alone.

Shout out to Panera Bread. I love your hazelnut coffee (w/skim milk) and cinnamon swirl and raisin bagels, toasted with no cream cheese or butter.

Any who, I've laid out my spending through the end of the year using my new budget template, noting that I'll be using my new rewards credit card (and maintaining the tradition of paying the balance in full), and trying to plan for upcoming expenses, such as a weekend trip to the Big Apple.

In an effort to restore my ability to "respect the budget", I know I have to do a better job of sticking to my $50/week food budget. And I'm wondering if meal planning is the way to go. Frankly, I have not been a model for eating meals that are nourishing or financially responsible. I won't go into any great detail about the $20+ I spent for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory a week or two ago...or about the beer and banana chips I ate for "dinner" last night, but I know I have to spend a reasonable amount (i.e. not $20+/meal) and it should be good for me (ex. add veggies, protein, and maybe better carbs to my beer).

This is where meal planning comes in. I've heard about it here and there, I know that it involves me making a list of stuff I want to eat for the next week, and making sure that my grocery list allows for some flexibility around core items, but frankly, I've never done it. The closest I've come to meal planning is whipping out a grocery store circular and buying only what's on sale. I wouldn't say that peanut butter, cantaloupe and pork chops constitutes a meal, but at least I spent less on such purchases =)

Have you successfully used meal planning to manage your finances and to ensure you eat balanced meals? What has worked best for you? I appreciate your insight!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Too Much Time...

At the beginning of July, I shared a new budget template that I plan to begin using in August. Since then, I've adopted a template from my boyfriend that allows me to view my expenses on an annual basis (with a month to month snapshot).

I've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to reconcile my monthly expense tracker tabs with this new "annual budget" tab. At times, I tell myself that I will only use the annual tab for the upcoming months. Then, I find myself toiling away at the workbook to get the numbers just right. I've spent at least 5 hours in the evening and at work trying to achieve an accurate reflection of my budget for the past six months.

Just a few notes: January, March, April, May, and June are all works in progress; those months with orange backgrounds are really screwed up (at least there's hope for getting May straight by moving around a few things); the plus signs (+) indicate that the information associated with that column/row is correct (as such, you'll see that my REAL problem is figuring out how to track my credit card expenses).

What do you think? 
Should I keep going until I get the past months right or move on?

Surprise! You Have a New Student Loan Payment Amount!

By no means is my new student loan payment epic. In fact, it's only $0.95 less than what I've been paying. Hardly enough to pay for a cup of coffee. At any rate, I was a little surprised to find a message in my Direct Loan Servicing inbox notifying me that starting July 28th, my electronic debit will be $228.26. 

Frankly, I wasn't expecting my student loan payment amount to change until I actively switched to the regular payment schedule. I've written before that switching to the regular payment schedule would boost my monthly payments to $265. I don't know what it would be if I switched today (and since is acting super-duper slow today, I won't bother finding out in time to publish this post!).

UPDATE: If I switch to the regular payment schedule beginning August 28, 2011, my monthly amount will be $368.74.

Nevertheless, I'm sure the retirement of my car loan will usher in yet another change for my monthly student loan payments, as I hope to extend my accelerated debt elimination plan to the federal government once my disposable income increases =)

By the way, there was no specific explanation as to why my payment amount changed. However, the website offered that the change might have occurred because of loans being added to my account and some other unlikely actions that I can't remember :)

July 2011 Net Worth Update

I apologize for keeping you waiting for so long (I've officially missed 4 on time posts). Here's where I left off....

My assets increased by $960.35 and my liabilities decreased by $1132.14. Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+739.34) This includes three bi-weekly contributions of $205 (total of $615). The rest reflects the growth of the underlying investments (two mutual funds). 

Emergency Savings: (+15.26) $15 of this amount reflects my deposits of $5 into the account every two weeks. I've earned $0.26 in interest on the balance. This amount will soon dwindle to $51.88 as I've set up a transfer of $400 to cover my new credit card balance.

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (+$56.37 and +$158.92) Nothing new here: recurring deposits of $25 into the regular brokerage account every two weeks and no deposits into the Roth. You won't notice it, but I deposited $75 into my regular brokerage account since the June 1st update; however, the growth noted here is $56.37. Even though the balance for the regular brokerage account is higher than last month, I actually have an unrealized loss.

Savings Account: (-$9.54) This account is still suffering from motion sickness. Despite my deposits via "Keep the Change" and monthly deposits of $25 ($50 deposited since my last net worth update), the change in the balance is lower than it was in June. It doesn't help that I recently transferred $100 to cover part of my credit card balance. 

Car Loan: (+1027.53) I can hardly believe I put over one thousand bucks towards this account since my last update. Nevertheless, I am officially under a $5k balance! The end of this loan is fast approaching! Maybe then I can make up with my dwindling savings accounts balances :)

Credit Card: (+$397.27) I paid off my balance and have since had a number of transactions. However, the balance for this account is $0, thanks to the $280.41 payment I made. Going forward, this account will only have a recurring expense of $6 every week for a virtual assistant I pay. Most of my expenses will now go to my shiny new rewards card...
*NEW*Rewards Credit Card (-368.98) ...And it really is shiny. Like "bling-bling-gold" shiny. Anywho, I've been swiping away with my new friend: I reserved a hotel room for a family gathering later this month, purchased airfare to Florida for September (I jumped on a fare sale, a round-trip ticket for $95.40 ain't too shabby), and food. Going forward, I plan to use this account for all food, gasoline (and other vehicle maintenance) and miscellaneous expenses; furthermore, I will pay the balance in full every billing cycle (over at least two payments per cycle to keep the balance low).

Student Loan: (+$76.33) Every month, $229.21 diligently goes towards my student loan. I'm looking forward to increasing this amount, soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Updated Budget Template

This week was all about budget templates! (Sounds kind of corny, but whatever). My boyfriend and I discussed our respective expense trackers and a friend of mine asked about the budget template I use. My convo and special request got me to thinking about how I could improve my budget template. Here's the new and improved template with notes on how to use it:

Here are a few tips I shared with my friend:
  • The first tab (annual budget) offers a monthly and annual snapshot of your expenses. If you get paid every two weeks and have two "extra" paychecks per year, you can update the formulas accordingly.
  • I prefer to track my expenses based on when I receive my paycheck (every two weeks). You can track based on what's easiest for you (by week, every two weeks, or monthly).
  • The orange categories capture transactions from my checking account, since this is where the bulk of my expenses come from. The green category captures credit card spending. It's a bit subtle, but you'll notice that this tracker assumes that you pay your credit card balance in full (credit card transactions are combined with checking account transactions; both are deducted from your total income).
  • If you use your credit card to make the majority of your transactions (and to earn points, rewards, miles, etc.), you can categorize your credit card spending and change the "credit card transactions" column to "checking account transactions".
  • If it's more helpful, you can move the credit card transactions column next to the "cash transactions" column and exclude it from your "total income - total expenses" category. Doing so will make it easier to reconcile your bank statements with your expense tracker (this is the way I use my tracker). See the third tab for an example of this.
  • The blue/green column (cash) captures transactions you make using cash. In the [orange] ATM/Cash Back column, you're tracking money that has been withdrawn from your checking account. In the separate blue/green column, you're tracking the use of the aforementioned funds after they've been withdrawn.
  • You insert your income (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) in the formula for total income minus total expenses. If you have any funds that carried over from the previous pay period, you can add it to this formula (second tab) or as a line item (third tab).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quick Update

Howdy! Just a quick update today (I've been crazy busy/disorganized/distracted).
  • I finally got that crack fixed in my windshield. Except, it didn't go down as planned. A couple of days ago, I noticed a new, longer, unrelated crack that REALLY needed fixing. A repair wasn't an option, so I had the windshield replaced. When I made the appointment, I passed along my insurance information to file a claim, but when I got to the place, the insurance company had not contacted the repair shop. Since I'm travelling this weekend and felt super uncomfortable with the damage, I spent $265.63. That's about twice as much as I originally planned for. At least it's all safe and nice-looking =)
  • I've spent about 85% of my food budget already and I have another week to go before I get paid again. I've also managed to go over my gas budget. Thank goodness for savings. I guess I better think long and hard about my recently acquired eating out habits (Goodbye Panera?)
  • Speaking of Panera Bread, they're running a survey through June. For every entry (i.e. completed survey), a person gets a chance to win $2,000 cash. I've been completing surveys religiously. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • I might be in the market for a new oil change shop. I went yesterday and I "didn't pay at the register". The guy "fit me in" and shared that I could tip the car fixer-upper dude. I was only half way paying attention when this went down because I was working on a presentation for work and watching the clock for an important phone call. Nevertheless, when I went to pay (walking towards the counter as I have in the past), the staff person on duty said that they'd taken care of me and that I should have a nice day.  Talk about weird!!! Hook ups are nice and whatnot, but I don't know buddy "like that"; frankly, I'd feel more comfortable paying as agreed and being confident that my car was serviced correctly (there's no way to guarantee that one way or another, but at least I'd get peace of mind). Anywho, I'm thinking I might need to find another shop or learn how to change my own oil!
That's all for now. 
But before I go, would you take a "hook up" as I've described up here?
Also, enjoy your Fourth of July weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making it Easy

Not too long ago, I let on to a bit of worry I had about abandoning the "Keep the Change" program for points on a new rewards card. It wasn't until this morning that the light bulb went off...I can continue to save the same amount, just in a different way. 

Bank of America knew what the heck they were doing. They were smart enough to hire some psychologists, maybe behavioral economists, to construct this savings plan. When a few cents here and there are added to our ordinary purchases, it's easy. On the other hand, setting aside a "big chunk of money", even automatically, is a little more difficult.

What I've learned is that I can set aside more than $25 a month to the Bank of America savings account. If I take a close look at my savings from the "Keep the Change" program alone, I know that I can comfortably increase my savings by $23.09 (this is an average of my KTC savings between April 1st and today). 

Doing this, I don't have to worry about my savings decreasing, and I can focus on accumulating rewards with my new credit card making purchases that, ordinarily, would otherwise be made with my debit card. So, what's next? When I get my new card (I can't believe I'm excited about this....I really need to "get a life" LOL!), I will change my automatic savings from $25 to $50. Since I won't be making many purchases with my debit card, I can rest easy knowing that I will continue saving as much money as I have these past few months.
Mini-crisis averted!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Got A Rewards Card!

I finally got around to getting a rewards card. Yesterday, on a whim, I called my credit card company and told them I'd like to upgrade my card to a rewards card. I had a sense that the time was right, because they recently upped my credit limit. I'm also pretty sure it had something to do with my paying my balance in full every month for the past six months (and keeping the balance relatively low, prior to that).

Nevertheless, I made the call, was advised that an "upgrade" would not suffice and that I'd have to open a new account, so I did. I answered questions about my income, bank account balances, and rent payments. All in all, it took about 12 minutes.

In the coming weeks, I should receive a shiny new credit card with a $15,000 limit. I don't care what the APR is because, like I've done for the past several months, I'll be paying the balance in full. Additionally, there is no annual fee. I will earn 1.25 miles for every dollar spent, miles do not expire and there's no limit on the miles I can earn. Additionally, I can redeem my miles for airfare, hotel, and more (I'm most interested in airfare purchases). If I spend $1400 a month on my new card, I can rack up 1,750 points a month (21,000 a year). I'm already thinking about what expenses to charge (phone bill, groceries, gas, miscellaneous expenses). Sadly, this will impact my "Keep the Change" savings; however, I'm hopeful that the purchases I'll be able to make with my miles will offset the change. I'll keep you posted!

Do you have a rewards card? 
What's your favorite feature of the card?
What do you use your points/miles for?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Spending

Tis' the season for barbeques, festivals, fun in the sun and friends! Undoubtedly, all of these things mean mo' money, mo' money, mo' money....that you'll be spending "mo' money" of course =)

As I have done in the past, I've failed to plan for my upcoming summer expenses. Namely, expenses for and round-trip travel for two family reunions. Both will take place states away and fortunately, my sister and I will drive. It's fortunate that we're driving because 1) it's much cheaper than flying and 2) since two of us are driving, the travel expense will be split in half.

At any rate, I'll be looking at a couple hundred dollars of "unusual" expenses. I better start figuring out how to make the most of what I'm working with. So far, all I've come up with is to be diligent about preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner at home (something I should have been doing over the last 8 weeks, instead of being Carefree Carrie!).

What summer-specific expenses do you have this year? If you have a regular income (and regular expenses to go along with them), how are you preparing for your seasonal transactions? Did you save for these upcoming expenses?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trouble Staying Focused

I'm still sick and continue to struggle with my spelling, as I shared earlier this week. Nevertheless, I will do my best to think through my drug/sick-induced brain to share with you what has been going on.

My spending for the last two months has been kind of "free spirited". I've purchased breakfast nearly every day (Monday through Friday), eaten out almost as much for lunch, and had more take out for dinner than usual. Additionally, I've spent quite a bit of time entertaining friends from out of town or going out of town to be entertained by friends (yeah, yeah, I know, gasoline is extra stupid expensive). These things don't pay for themselves and unfortunately, many of these expenses were not part of my regular budget. So what did I do? I used money I set aside for my super duper car payments. Or, I used my credit card....and then used money from my super duper car payment to pay off the credit card balance.

I'm all for the "life is short, so you gotta have fun." Yet, sometimes, I find myself struggling to balance it all. Surely, additional income would help me "have it all", so to speak. What's most important, however, is that I develop a firmer sense of discipline to remain on track with my goals, while having a little bit of fun, as well :)

My boyfriend has a similar goal of paying off a debt sooner than later. He has diligently set aside $2,000 a month to get rid of a second mortgage on his first property. He has faced similar temptations of spending money in other places (heck, I'm likely the source for half of such temptations); in spite of them, he's on track to get rid of his loan by the end of August (congrats in advance, babe ;>).

Me? I'm repeating the same old sorry song about pushing back "the date". I haven't thought at length about what it means to pay off this debt ASAP. "I know" that it will mean I can save a super amount every month (for my $10K goal). "I know" that it will mean that I can have a chunk of disposable income to do whatever I want with (shopping and weekend trips to California have been among my latest obsessions). However, I'm not connecting what "I know" with what I should be doing. Side note: I love to see how behavioral economics shows itself in my life :).

Nevertheless, I will continue reminding myself of why I set out on this particular journey and continue to work towards my spite of many "distractions."

What do you do when you lose focus? What helps you get back on track?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Out Sick

In the midst of my Nyquil, orange juice, grapefruit juice (I ran out of orange juice), hot tea, and naps, I genuinely thought that I'd get around to writing today. No such luck. My brain has been foggy since Sunday afternoon, and if it weren't for spell check, this post would have eleven trillion misspellings (I know, that's impossible, but bear with me and the drama). 

A quick summary of my spending over the past week or so: I bought a new phone (and got a plan upgrade...i.e. more money each month); I'm expecting a few reimbursements (they're all going to my credit card balance); and my car note balance is finally under $5,000 (that's all I have to say about that).

I hope to have something a little more intriguing by Thursday. By then, I should be well enough to focus on what's going on and to give you a relevant update.

Until next time....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello From Out of Town

My apologies for not posting yesterday. I've been so wrapped up in work. I've been out of town since Monday night for a conference. I'll work on a post for tomorrow (Thursday, June 9th). In the mean time, here are a couple of things that I learned about, like and want to share.
  • Putnam Investments makes an "impulse savings" app for its customers, Business Wire 
  • Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged A look at how, historically, state and local tax policies have affected poor people, University of California Press
Take care!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


What a pretty vague title for today's post, hunh? It doesn't have anything to do with an APR or an APY. It has everything to do with how much my salary will increase.

Yesterday, I had a performance evaluation, and at the end of it I was informed of my raise. Hooray for more money! I doubt that it would have been an appropriate question to ask, but I'm wondering when it will kick in (likely at the beginning of our fiscal year, i.e. July 1st).

I haven't thought about what exactly I plan to do with the raise (about $80 extra per check, gross, not net pay) but I'm pretty sure that it will go towards a debt repayment and/or savings. After all, I'm okay with my current budget for regular expenses.

UPDATE: I paid the majority of my credit card balance with "car payment" money, instead of savings (like I suggested yesterday). All that remains is a measly $8.35; Capital One won't allow you to pay more than your balance + 10% of the balance. I could have waited until all of my transactions cleared so that the full balance would be reflected, but I've been having an A.D.D. day today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 2011 Net Worth Update and Other Stuff

I guess I'll do the "other" stuff first, since I didn't post yesterday.

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend. I sure did! Two of my girlfriends came in from out of town. We attended a jazz festival (got caught in a torrential rain shower), a wine festival, a museum, and we talked and talked and talked, and ate and ate and ate. With the exception of my one friends being sick, it was an absolutely marvelous occasion (sadly, my other girlfriend became ill, too). Oh, I guess I kind of skipped over the fact that all of our eating put a dent in my budget. Fortunately, keeping track of my expenses allowed me to slow down....bear with me, I'm a work in progress!

Since that's out of the way and it's a new month, why not go ahead with my net worth update? I thought it would be pointless to wait until Thursday :) I'll warn you, the recap of May isn't looking too sexy....

My assets increased by $229.59 and my liabilities decreased by $214. Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+138.76) When I checked this morning, the last reported contribution (of $205) was May 11th. I've since received a paycheck (and contributed to this account). At any rate, the difference between the recorded contribution from today and my last update reflects that my investments (two mutual funds) have decreased in value. Good thing these things (i.e. monthly fluctuations) don't stress me out (hooray for the long-term)

Emergency Savings: (+5.36) On a whim, I set up $5 deposits into this account (for every two weeks). I know it's not much, then again, it's not much (yeah, re-read that). I figured that I spend $5 a week on useless junk, so why not do something a little more positive with "junk" money. The $0.36 is interest earned on the account. Also, I split the account into "emergency fund" and "around the world". So far, all of the funds are in the "emergency fund" part, as I have yet to achieve my $10,000 goal.

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (+$88.72 and +$3.72) Nothing new here: recurring deposits of $25 into the regular brokerage account every two weeks and no deposits into the Roth. Additional differences are because of increases in the value of my investments.

Savings Account: (-$6.97) This account should be motion sick with all of the ups and downs (okay, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic). At any rate, I deposited $18.03 by "keeping the change", maintained my monthly $25 deposit, but (and here's the kicker), transferred $50 to cover my butt because I overspent this weekend. Yikes! Good thing I have this sucker as a cushion (albeit, a small one). 

Car Loan: (+511.10) Slowly, but surely, this loan is going away. I'm looking forward to knocking it under $5K this month :) I may get around to it today, but I have $959.76 in my Del-One deposit account to be applied to the loan balance. We'll see...

Credit Card: (-$397.27) A large portion of this expense is $250 for an LLC tax. I meant to pay it using money from a tax refund (or maybe it was the "extra check" in April), but clearly, I didn't get around to that. A few of the other expenses include $50+ for a domain and web hosting service (to be reimbursed), parking (I don't trust my debit card to those machines) and food. Sadly, I did not plan well enough and I recently realized that my track record of paying my balance in full is at risk. I'm anticipating another reimbursement (work-related) and will probably cover the difference with savings.

Student Loan: (+$100.17) Every month, $229.21 diligently goes towards my student loan. I'm looking forward to increasing this amount, soon! In fact, one of my goals is to pay off my student loan long before its ten year term!

That's all folks!
(at least for today;>)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Case of Emergency...

I had the weirdest dream the other day. I found myself in a makeshift shelter (a community center or school gym). There were at least 60 beds crammed together with people of all ages on their cots. As the dream transitioned, I found myself working as a part of the staff/volunteer group/whatever responsible for coordinating people: directing them to beds, leading group discussions, and shuttling them in from wherever they came from. I don't know where this dream came from, but I don't doubt that it has something to do with the hundreds of families who have been displaced by floods and tornadoes in the South and the Midwest.

In one part of the dream, I distinctly remember a guy, propped up on his elbow, talking about how he came to the shelter. He said that he could afford a room at the Marriott but for so long. He was facing the possibility of running out money and had to find an alternative for his family.

What did I take from this dream? I started to think about my own prepardness in case of emergency, rather, my lack of such prepardness. After a quick Google search, I found, a campaign by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that calls on us to "Prepare. Plan. [and] Stay Informed".

Growing up in South Florida, I've had my experiences with hurricanes and their aftermath. I have memories of boiling water, eating packaged and canned food, and going to the mall and grocery stores (because they had generators and/or restored power before us...we went for the air conditioning). As an adult, however, I have to think about what I would do in case of an emergency. Where would I go? How would I get there (my nearest relatives are four hours [driving] away)? How much money would I need?

This last question really has me scratching my head because I know that I'd have to have such funds available in cash. When the power is out, that ATM machine is not of much help, neither is a check scanner.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to be prepared for -God forbid- an emergency, by combing over the checklists at and taking said recommendations seriously.

Are you prepared for an emergency?
How much cash would you stash in case of one?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Response to J. Money's 5 Favorite Things

J. Money of "Budgets Are Sexy" posted a fun "5 for Friday" on May 13th. I'm a little late, but what the heck, here goes:

1) What’s your favorite credit card? My Capital One. They recently raised my limit (hooray for my credit score). However, I'm still in the market for a rewards card.

2) What’s your favorite financial book? I Will Teach You to be Rich, by Ramit Sethi, because he "keeps it real" and it's targeted to my age group. I'm so annoyed that many personal finance books are directed to middle age folks<<<same reason why I had to cancel my subscription to Money magazine (good thing my sister subscribes to it...she's older anyways :>). I also like Suze Orman's The Road to Wealth because it covers so many topics!

3) What’s your all-time favorite financial company? ING Direct and their new acquisition, Sharebuilder (which I used before the A&M). They make saving and investing, respectively, easy to do. And their websites aren't fussy :)

4) What’s your favorite financial tool? (could be software, investment vehicles, or anything you consider a “tool” really) Google Docs (specifically, the spreadsheets). I use it to track my expenses every day, keep a bird's eye view of my savings and investment account balances, and to track my debt elimination progress. What's best is, even when I'm out of town (and I have internet access) I can keep these things updated.

5) And lastly, what’s your favorite coin? ;) Quarters. I park in a city that only accepts quarters in meters.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No More Posts About My Car Note Until...

I won't write any more posts about my car note until the balance is zero. I got so frustrated the other day when I spent and additional $335.06 on GG. The same old story: I go in for an oil change (with my coupon, of course) and come out with a list of things to fix. "Fortunately", I spent $100 less than what was estimated.

Nevertheless, my many car repairs, and other unplanned expenses, have postponed my payoff date. When I started writing about this issue, I anticipated a payoff date of May 2012, then February 2011, then April 2011, then October 2011, then July 2011, then August 2011. Currently, it's September 28, 2011. We'll see about that. I failed to plan for this car note elimination thing to be a moving target. In the meantime, I will avoid obsessing over the matter. You won't read another post about this darn note until it's paid for!

What a Pleasant Surprise...

I checked my Capital One account this morning to see if my most recent purchase (yet another car repair) was posted. What I saw was that my available credit was different. Way different. Like, $5000 more different. Yup. The folks at Capital One took it upon themselves to increase my credit limit to $7,000 (if only my savings balance could change just as magically....). 

For a nanosecond, I was delighted that my [leveraged] purchasing power increased. What I'm most happy about is that this increased credit limit is helpful for my credit score. I've already decided to spend no more than $2,000/month on the credit card (heck, I've been doing that since I've had the card); so even though I have a higher limit, $2K is stuck in my head. Also, I'm committed to paying off my credit card balance each billing cycle. You already know that- looking at my budget- it is not within my means to charge up to $7K a month (billing cycle), and maintain my commitment. At best, with all of my savings and bills that don't accept credit cards (ex. car insurance, student loan, car note), I could charge just under $1400 (for food, gas, cell phone bill, etc.) and pay it off .

All things being equal, we know that folks who carry a balance under 30% of their available limits fare better than those who carry a balance of 50% or more of their limits (check out the last paragraph of this article). Even if I reverted to my balance carrying ways, this new credit limit increase helps position me in the former group (do the math, $2,000 of $7,000 is just over 28.5%)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I'm getting an oil change right now....
Just got a repair order for a new air filter, fuel induction system service, power steering system fluid and a new tire (darn nail!).
The damage?

You know how this ends.....

Friday, May 6, 2011

Savings vs. Debt....

I've read many articles and posts from my favorite PF bloggers that explore the pros and cons of focusing one's discretionary income on savings versus debt elimination (if you don't believe me, look here). 

Recently, I shared that I went "a little" overboard on my credit card spending in preparation for a trip. I used my "car payment" money to pay the credit card bill, and now I'm looking at postponing my payoff date to September. Unless.....

I use $348.67 from my ING savings account for the car payment this month. This would leave less than $100 in the savings account. I've reasoned that in the event of an emergency, I can use my credit card and pay the balance (in full) with car payment money (like I've done before). Of course, an unexpected expense of such sort would mean that I'd have to postpone my payoff date, anyway. On the other hand, if I don't have any unexpected expenses between now and August, then I'll be done with the note and can stash away hundreds of dollars a month.

What would you do? Nearly deplete your savings to pay of the car note a month earlier or stick to the current circumstances and finish the note in September?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Wonderful Vacation!

Somebody (i.e. me) didn't post for three days. If the picture to the left doesn't make it clear, then hopefully, these words do....I was gearing up for, and later enjoying, a vacation!!!

My dear friend married his college sweetheart on Thursday, April 28th and many guests enjoyed a cruise afterward. The days prior to his wedding were fraught with shopping (What to wear to the wedding!? What to wear on the cruise and for the excursions!?), planning (They want me to pay WHAT for an excursion!? Let me deal directly with the vendor!), and packing (What can I pack in my carry-on (clothes, shoes, toiletries)... What do I have to purchase once I get to Florida (liquor, large sunscreen, liquor)...)

The wedding was beautiful and the ensuing cruise was a blast! I got to spend time with friends, a little more time with my boyfriend, toured Ernest Hemingway's Key West home, parasailed, ate, snorkeled, danced, laughed, ate some more, played cards, snapped a ton of pictures, learned a "fancy" way to play Black Jack, ate again, and napped. My boyfriend ran into an old friend (and his girlfriend) and we shared a few experiences (we're looking forward to hanging out with them).

I hadn't cruised in several years and was anxious to find ways to spend less money where possible. This is how I did it:
  • I read the FAQs like my life depended on it an learned that each person could bring 750mL of wine for embarkation day. Considering that cocktails on board started at $7 (plus 15% tip),  I made sure to take advantage of this opportunity: 1 bottle of pinot grigio and 1 bottle of Arbor Mist (my boyfriend likes fruity drinks) cost less than ten bucks at CVS.
  • Long before the cruise set sail, my boyfriend and I explored the shore excursions we wanted to participate in. We settled on the Ernest Hemingway museum and parasailing in Key West and snorkeling in Cozumel. Had we booked through the cruise, the per person cost would have been $40, $90, and $60, respectively. I decided those amounts were too high and shopped around. I made online reservations for the Key West activities with local vendors ($11/pp for Hemingway's house and $35/pp + tax for parasailing). Once we arrived to Cozumel, we asked three vendors about their prices and settled on one for $45/pp (in hindsight, we probably could have negotiated with them). Nevertheless, instead of paying $380 (for the both of us), we paid $187.24....for the same exact thing!!!
  • I printed coupons. In asking about places to go for our trip, Pancho's Backyard came up. We went to the website and printed out coupons for free lime margaritas. They were DELICIOUS!!!
  • We booked early. As soon as my friend set the date, I booked the cruise (March 2010). Since then, I'd been setting aside $100 each month to pay for the cruise (which was paid for by October 2010) and spending money. A few months, I spent the "cruise spending money" on other (i.e. more immediate) fun things, but at the end of it, I still had $400 left.
  • It wasn't a "way to spend less" but a financially savvy decision nonetheless...My boyfriend has a rewards credit card that earns points for every dollar spent. We each received a card that granted us entry into our stateroom and allowed us to make purchases on board (a few rum punches and mojitos, room service, coffee, and daily gratuities, for instance). Both of our cards were assigned to his card. So the $202 we collectively spent will translate into points that he can use at a later time.
Despite spending a ginormous amount of money on clothes ($700+), the amount of money we spent during the actual vacation was very reasonable. We had an amazing experience and are looking forward to our next trip! Perhaps next time, I can wear what I bought this time around and really keep the numbers in check!

May Net Worth Update

My assets increased by $785.98 and my liabilities decreased by $236.22. Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+515.92) In the past few months that I've been doing these net worth updates, I've completely overlooked the contributions of my employer's match. I've noted the increase in my bi-weekly contributions to $125 (thanks payroll tax holiday), but I have not mentioned the $80 extra my job kicks in. Mistakenly, I've attributed the increase in this account to my contributions and market activity only. My bad! In fact, every two weeks, $205 is transferred to this account. Anything above and beyond that amount is due to the performance of the account's investments (between April and May, my investments grew by $105.92).

Emergency Savings: (+1.10) No deposits into this account. Just interest earned.

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (+64.04 and +174.45) Recurring deposits of $25 into the regular brokerage account every two weeks and not much going on (save for changes in value of investments) in the Roth. The Roth is kicking a$$!

Savings Account: (+30.47) This increase is a dramatic difference from previous months! And it's all because I'm "keeping the change" ;)

Car Loan: (0) I have yet to make my car payment this month. No worries about any late fees, every time I pay my car note, my credit union advances the payment date because the amount I pay is so high. Nevertheless, the amount that I pay  towards it this month will definitely be more than the required (i.e. minimum) payment, but less than what I initially planned for....all because I went a little crazy (see "credit card" below).

Credit Card: (-837.02) Why, oh, why is my credit card payment so high? I went shopping. And it felt good; largely because it gave me a glimpse of what life will be like once I've eliminated my car payment. I spent as much as a I did because: 1) I was going on vacation (I wanted to have fun and look good doing it) and 2) I knew I'd have the money (i.e. "car payment money") to pay the bill in full and stick to my "no finance charge" goal.

Student Loan: (+45.43) Previously, I've posted the "principal balance" from the "detailed disbursement information" on my account (in which case, the above amount should be $30,096.16, which would make the monthly change for this account +$99.60). However, I decided that the payoff amount (the amount I'd have to pay today to completely eliminate my student loan) would be a more helpful number to track. This being the case, the difference between my balance last month and this month is less than it had been in previous months. I will continue to post the "payoff" amounts in my updates. In the rare event that I play the lottery and the even rarer event that I win, this is the first number that I'd want to be crystal clear on!

Until next time!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Update: Keeping the Change, Credit Card Spending, and Car Stuff

I'll keep it short today. Here are a few updates:

Keep the Change
At the beginning of the month, I enrolled in BofA's "Keep the Change" program. To date, I've "kept" $17.98 in change. For the first three months of the program, the bank will match my savings, penny-for-penny. This (i.e. the match) sure beats the heck out of their sorry interest rate.

Credit Card
Four billing cycles for 2011 have passed and I am still not paying interest on my credit card. Woohoo for "free credit". However, I should keep a closer eye on what balance I carry at any time. You've probably heard that if you carry a balance that you should keep it under 30% of what's available to you (if you haven't heard this, you just can thank me later ;>....and if you don't believe me, look what Kiplinger's said here). Although I do not carry over a balance (from billing cycle to billing cycle), I am also unaware of when my credit card company reports such information to the credit reporting bureaus. As such, I prefer to stay on the side of caution.

Car Stuff
My balance is just over $5,000 and if I stay on track (and not go crazy shopping for two upcoming weddings and go bezerks with graduation gifts) then I'll pay the note off by the end of August. What's more 'exciting' is that I haven't been made aware of any repairs needed for my car. We know how repairs derail the car note elimination plan.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Would Anything Change?

While searching for insights into small groups working on financial goals, I came across a website called The article that popped up is titled "Social Wealth: Can Facebook Friends Affect Your Wallet?"

In short, the article discussed influence, social contagion, and a few tips on how to maintain one's financial sanity in the midst of a social snowstorm. A specific tip on how to maintain one's wealth habits is to "Share your savings goals with a select group of friends using a tool like" I started to think, what if people shared a few other things on more public forums (ex. Facebook, Twitter), say for example, your current credit card balance (and limit), balance in checking account, balance in savings account (compared to one's goal for that account), or the last time you made a contribution (and amount) into a retirement account.

I recognize that money is still on the list of "taboo" topics, yet I wonder what would happen if people openly shared a few indicators of their financial health (and, most importantly, their goals). Would anything change? Would people start paying off their credit card balances in full? Would people start saving on a more regular basis? Would they increase the amount they save?

Although I have no data to support it, I suspect that a "I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours" display of financial health might encourage us to change for the better. At worst, people would be so annoyed/ashamed and "unfriend"/unsubscribe/etc.

What are your thoughts? 
Would you change your financial behaviors if your friends shared theirs? 
Do you think your friends would change their financial behaviors if you shares your own?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Want Some PiggyMojo!!!

If I was paid to promote PiggyMojo, I'd be a ga-gillionaire. Unfortunately, I am not. I'm a fan, nonetheless.

PiggyMojo makes the concept of spending less money equal saving money. In, Dumb Marketers or Dumber Consumers? I explain how spending less money is not the same as saving money UNLESS you actively set aside the difference 'saved' (i.e. not spent). Well, thanks to a bunch of really smart people and technology, spending less literally translates into saving money.

See how it works...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tax Realities....Better Than I Thought

Several weeks ago, I lamented that my goal of paying off my car by the end of this month had been dashed. Why? Because I anticipated a $2500 tax return (federal and state) which would have have been applied to my loan balance....and then I started using TurboTax and I soon discovered that my refund, if any, would be no where near that. So I updated my debt repayment plan to reflect NO tax refund. After having a CPA friend help me sort through taxes for two states (and one municipality) I've learned that I do get a refund (federal and state; I actually owe in one state). Now I am wondering how I should spend my refund. I've already purchased $100 worth of savings bonds using IRS Form 8888, so I have roughly $1100 left to play with. If I apply all of it to the car loan, I can finish the note approximately 1 month early. I could also contribute the amount to my Roth IRA for the 2010, for which I have $3,670.89 remaining. I could spend a portion of it for two weddings (within the month). I could put it in my emergency savings account towards my $10K goal. Or, I could equally divide it among the abovementioned expenses/savings. Decisions, decisions, decisions.....

What would you do if you expected something, then didn't expect anything, yet received something? Would you stick to your original idea when you were expecting something or change course?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Net Worth Update

My net worth this month increased by $1,024.70. Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+682.51) Every two weeks, $125 goes to this account. The bulk of this month's increase (sans the $250 contribution) is based on the performance of my investments.

Emergency Savings: (+0.75)  No deposits (yet). This is interest earned.

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (+146.36 and -272.36, respectively) $50 to brokerage account....$96.36 increase in value in the investments in the same account. $272.36 decline in value in investments in Roth account<<<sad face.

Savings Account: (-50.00) Originally, I had a balance of $25, then I had an automatic deposit of $25, and then I transferred $50 to spend. Now I have a penny in this account. Recently, I enrolled in "Keep the Change" - a program that rounds up the amount of my transactions in my checking account and deposits the difference into my savings account- so we'll see how this affects my savings account balance.

Car Loan: (+574.18) Steady paying more than the $269.11 requested of me. I can't wait for this sucker to be gone!

Credit Card: (-1514.22) From March 1st to April 1st, I've paid $1514.22 to my credit card. A large part of this is because of a $1,010.31 car repair. The other expenses are work-related (which will be reimbursed), a bit of airfare and some other things I can't quite remember (I know, I've gotta do better!)

Student Loan: (+111.64)  With each payment, a few more dollars go towards the principal. I can't wait to get rid of this sucker, too!

Until next time!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Loose Change to Keeping the Change...

Today I enrolled on BofA's "Keep the Change" program. I've connected my checking account to my savings account, so now, when I make a purchase, Bank of America will round up my transactions to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference (between the higher number and the actual transaction amount) into my savings account.

This service is remarkably appropriate for someone like me, who, rarely carries cash.I wonder why I hadn't taken advantage of it sooner! On the rare to occasional events when I carry cash, I dump all of my change into my piggy bank at the end of the day .

With this service, I have the cashless customer's equivalent of "dumping my change" with every transaction I make. I'm also a bit excited at the prospect of having the amount deposited into my savings account matched by BofA fo three months; afterward, they match 5% of the change that has been "kept" (who knew they could do something right? LOL!) Hello, free money!

Are you enrolled in "Keep the Change" (or an equivalent, such as "Ways to Save"?) How much money have you accumulated through these programs?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Loose Change

The past 30 days have been kind of crazy. Compared to previous months of spending, I can say that my most recent spending has been out-of-control. Most of my purchases have been for food, namely eating out. Yesterday, I was faced with the temptation of getting yet another coffee from DD (Dunkin' Dounuts). For a split second, I reflected on my spending for the month and decided I would feel better if the money didn't come out of my bank account or wasn't charged to my credit card. What option did I have remaining? Short of asking someone else to pay for my indulgence, I went to my piggy bank. I cracked that sucker in half (I didn't break it, it splits down the middle to open and close) and selected 8 quarters. 

I found myself grabbing for my Visa a few times (out of habit I guess) and it was kind of weird handing the cashier the coins. Nevertheless, I experienced a sense of accomplishment knowing that that I wouldn't have to look for this expense when reconciling my expense tracker and bank and credit card statements. It was like free money!

Although my piggy bank is small, I'm happy to have it. In the few instances when I do use cash, I find myself depositing my change at the end of the day (too many coins weigh down my wrislet and I don't care for having to sort through the extra stuff). I don't have any plans for my piggy bank, such as savings or going out to a movie. Maybe I should. Perhaps only then I would become a little more intentional about using my piggy bank.
What do you do with your loose change? 
Do you have a particular purpose for it? 
How do you store it?*
*My mother has ziploc bags of coins around the house. It's kind of crazy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Do Your Expenses Say about Your Health?

If you believe that a snapshot of your spending is a good indicator of your health, then I would be among the 2/3rds of Americans who are overweight or obese. Since March 18th, I've spent more than $100 on food. Approximately 70% of it has been on eating out...which wouldn't be so bad if it was healthy. Instead, I've been stuffing my face with french fries, sausage biscuit sandwiches, donuts, and 290+ calorie macadamia coconut mocha drinks. In other words, McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, and Caribou coffee (and a French bakery,  [cheese] steak shop, Panera Bread, and Subway). 

Frankly, my spending is more reflective of a recent bout of laziness than my general health status. I haven't been waking up early enough to eat breakfast at home (which doesn't make since, really, once you consider the time it takes to wait in line for someone to take my money and give me something fried and super salty). Moreover, I haven't made any time to pack lunch: mornings are out (see abovementioned excuse) and since I've been getting home considerably late, recently, I focus more on showering and sleeping once I get in the door (no packing lunch here). I know if I keep up with this habit of eating out excessively (without making adjustments to other areas of my spending plan) that I'm setting myself up for financial failure.....and high blood pressure and jiggly body parts. Instead, I'll commit to doing better the next time around =)

Fortunately, I'm a healthy weight for my height and my BMI is less than 20 =) Hooray for exercise!

What would your most recent expenses (let's say, the past two weeks) 
tell us about YOUR health?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Image from
Recently, I shared that I am reading Nudge, a book about behavioral economics. It's far from the typical personal finance material that I am used to consuming, yet it is very relevant to how people make decisions (including financial ones).

Today, I'd like to know what personal finance, or PF-related books, you are reading or have read. Please share what your "takeaway" is....I might have to hit up the library later ;)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Don't Gamble, But I Understand...

Presently, I'm reading Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstien's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. It addresses behavioral economics: how humans behave "irrationally" and what tools/techniques could be used to help us make better decisions, despite the temptations (or laziness) that lead us to be "irrational." You should read the book, because there's much more to it than I let on.

At any rate, Thaler and Sunstein discuss how one such technique that can help us perform in our best interest is betting (it really has more to do with us being loss averse, I think). They give an example of two friends who committed to losing thirty pounds over the course of nine months. If either of them failed, they'd have to pay the other $10,000. They lost the weight and extended the commitment to keep the weight off with a subsequent bet.

I began to wonder, what type of bet could I make with a friend to stay on track with my financial goals? Commit to paying off my credit card balance? Commit to only charging up to 30% of my available credit limit? Saving a certain amount of money? Making sure I periodically reviewed the performance of my investments and make changes, accordingly? Commit to earning more income through a business?

I haven't decided yet what would be appropriate for me, although the fitness goal is a compelling one.

What would YOU bet on to ensure that you would stick to your goals? 
(It can be related to finances or not.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thank Goodness I'm Out of School!

If, like school, my attendance was recorded on this blog, I'd probably be failing. I haven't posted in two weeks! Which is especially terrible since I post twice a week. Nevertheless, I will share what I have been up to.....spending money recklessly and not so recklessly.

The reckless part comes into play because my financial decisions over the past two weeks have effectively set my car payoff date back by a month. A large part of this is because I spent $1,010.31 (I negotiated this down from the original quote) to get my tie-rod and rear struts replaced (this is the "not so reckless" part of my spending). The rest of my car payment money (and then some) was spent on spa services ($188), dinner ($55), hair supplies ($20 and change), airfare, eating out (including Dunkin Donuts), and a new pair of sneakers ($44), among other things. 

Why the splurge? Why the major deviation from "the plan"? Frankly, there's no excuse, yet, I found myself justifying expenses because it was my birthday. Yup. I turned 27 years old last week. And unlike previous birthday celebrations, I did not plan for this one. No trip out of town. No dinner with my beau. Nothing. It was quite depressing. I guess that saying about money not being able to buy you happiness is true....I sure made an attempt at it (enter sad face).
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Now it's time to refocus and get back on track. No more emotional spending, no more failing to plan and trying to make up for it at the last minute.

Have you ever made emotional purchases? Splurged in an effort to "fill a hole?" What was the consequence?