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;>)