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Archive for August, 2007

Where are you, little elves?

August 21st, 2007 at 08:56 am

Weekend Spending:

$38.62: Gas. OMG! UNDER $40 FOR A TANK!!!
$3.45: Coffee and "brunch" of 2 shortbread cookies.


I guess a downside of having this blog is that I check it compusively and somehow I feel like the magic numbers to me left should be moving faster...like little elves should come in and make deposits to my various accounts. But it's a monthly thing. A few more weeks and I'll feel like there's real progress.

My 401k has tanked about $2,000 (5.5%) in the last month. But I'm going to ride it out even though some conservative coworkers are repurposing a lot to "cash" for now. I'm young and I had my little brother look over my investment allocations (he's an investment analyst in Dubai) and he thinks they're all good choices. He gleaned more in the 30 minutes he spent in my account than I have bothered to learn in 5 years. I guess that's why he's getting paid.

Excited Over Groceries

August 17th, 2007 at 02:37 pm

Last night's Chevy's trip with my coworkers was a good release. We had 2 pitchers of margaritas: mango and raspberry - which were very good despite my fondness for top-shelf-on-the-rocks, and a huge plate of nachos. And it didn't cost me a thing because when we asked for the check, our server said our boss had paid for the whole thing on her way out (she left early). How sweet was that? Also...passive saving. Smile

Just checked the joint account and there's a nice surplus in it right now...that means grocery shopping! Can you believe that aside from the 2 cartons of ice cream last week, I have not gone grocery shopping since I started this blog? That's how much food I have "on reserve" in my house! And I haven't even tapped into the bags of frozen chicken, salmon filets and ground beef. But I do need some fresh stuff and will make a conscious effort to only buy what I NEED to make meals...no more wasteful impulses.

Though I must admit...I am addicted to those Hostess 100-Calorie Pack chocolate cupcakes. Yes, I know the 100-Calorie line of foods is priced double what the normal packaging costs and you should just buy the big boxes and control your portions, but even if I ate only 1 "regular" hostess cupcake...that's still more calories and fat than the 3 little ones that come in the 100-Cal packs.

That was, like, WAY too much insight into my obsessiveness, huh?

UGH. *Sigh*

August 16th, 2007 at 04:40 pm

Spending:

$40: Dinner.
$12: Dessert.


Last night, out to dinner with the girls, but we were celebrating a birthday and she wanted sushi. So that was pricey. We also all pitched in and paid for the b'day girl's dinner. So the $40 cash I pulled out a few hours earlier...GONE. Then we went to a dessert diner...where I just happened to be the one to order for the group...and instead of asking for money, I just put my card down. $10 (plus 20% tip) for 2 giant pieces of cake. I need to speak up more and really pay attention and ask for more contributions. I usually wave people away because I like to treat my friends. I need to stop that Frown

It's just disheartening. That $60 surprise check yesterday? That's pretty much the whole thing just blown. And instead of just slinking back into old habits, I'm trying to come here, confess my sins, get the dissapproving frowns from the super savers.

And today was just THE WORST at work. Hurdle after hurdle. Stubborn people hijacking my meetings to complain. Looming deadlines. New projects added to my already busy weeks. So yes, I am going to go out with my coworkers to Chevy's at 5PM and have a drink. I have $5 cash and if that will cover a beer, then that's all I get. We only do this once or twice a YEAR and today warrants it.

Wah, wah, wah. What a whiner!

Surveys and Money News

August 15th, 2007 at 11:13 am

Spending Yesterday: $6.20: Lunch.

I couldn't help that. I drove straight to work from my mom's house...2.5 hours away, and I wasn't about to bang around the kitchen at 4.30 AM trying to find something to take to work. Then figure out how to keep it fresh during the drive, so the "healthy choice" cafeteria meal (portion controlled spaghetti with garlic, zucchinni, fresh tomatoes, basil and red pepper flakes) did it for me.

Reading other people's blogs here makes me wonder how big these suvey sites are! I am the only person I know who does this...until you guys! I've been a member of them for 2-4 years (Pinecone, GTM, SurveySavvy, Lightspeed, OTX, Keynote, Buzzback, My2Cents, ePoll, and until recently, the Kraft food community)...I love collecting the Amazon giftcards from some, and Paypal payments from others. It's chump change, but hey, it counts.

In bad money news, got a letter from ATT yesterday saying that "one of my plans" is going to be more expensive soon. They don't tell me which one (cell? internet? landline?), or by how much. Just a vague, "hey, we want more of your money", and a catch of..."hm, maybe you should call us and see if we can bundle services for you". Makes me angry.

In good money news, I got a check from AAA as part of their profit sharing program (who knew)...$60. Wahoo! Shame I've cancelled my insurance through them and am moving to Liberty Mutual (combined auto and home savings of $200 a year). But I will still gladly deposit that check Smile Thanks, guys!

Ouch.

August 14th, 2007 at 11:12 am

Extended Weekend Spending:
$5.90: Random trinket for my nana.
$11.90: Bundt pan to make cake.
$88.79: Gift: 3 books and a magazine.
$5.13: 2 birthday cards.
$12.95: Lunch for my brother and I.
$163.74: Birthday gift for my sister (hopefully to be split with my brother).
$21.95: Random gift for my mom.
$6.44: $2.44 for a coffee and $4 cashback for the toll bridge this morning.
$1,305.85: Annual car insurance.
TOTAL: $1,622.65


Sigh.

And I still have to buy birthday gifts for my brother, youngest sister and mom!

BUT I will revel that none of that spending was for myself Smile Which is usually inevitable when gift shopping for others.

Spenditures.

August 10th, 2007 at 02:15 pm

Spending:

Yesterday:
$53.13: 2 month supply of prescription cat food and water filters.
$8.98: 2 cupcakes for a friend who's watching my kitty while I'm gone this weekend. And 2 containers of Dreyer's because they were on sale 2/$7 and I was out of ice cream.

Today:
$49.80: Tank of gas and car wash.
$3.56: Soup and salad from cafeteria. Frown I forgot to pack my lunch this morning in my rush to get out the door.


See? Almost a week of being good and it all hits at once. Of course I could have done without the ice cream, but I've been missing it. My beloved Dreyer's Frozen Yogurt (Caramel Praline Crunch flavor).

There's going to be more spending this weekend as first I have to stop by a kitchen store and buy nonstick bundt pans. I'm making the cakes for the family gathering...and the bundt pan at my mom's house always holds on to giant pieces of cake...destroying them (and yes, I've greased and floured...they just stick).

Then tomorrow I have to rush out and buy a b'day gift for my uncle. And this may be the last weekend I see my sisters before they go back to college (in London), so I have to cover both their b'day gifts ASAP, or succumb to the pain of overseas shipping.

And of course, the 400 mile round trip will require another tank of gas. *sigh*

They ARE Sneaks!!!

August 9th, 2007 at 01:55 pm

So, I got the results of my little experiment. Verdict? Charter One Loans are bastardly! Yes, I'm sure that's a real word. It is now.

I sent $100 to the home equity loan AFTER my normal payment, and they cheerfully applied the entire amount to interest only, even though I specified principal. I called and she's having the charge moved to principal but the only way to ensure that extra payments make it to my balance is to send them in with my regular monthly payment. So I can't send 2 a month without having to call and reiterate where the second one should go. This daily interest accrual stinks.

Not So Hungry Hippo!

August 8th, 2007 at 09:23 pm

Spending:
$16.18, dinner with the girls.
$250, plumber payment.


The dinner is almost a weekly thing, and I will NOT give it up! We have been friends for almost 10 years, and those of us who are within a 1 hour drive try to meet up for dinner 2 or 3 times a month. This was a spendy night...all I had was a dinner salad and water! Usually it can be under $10. No problemo.

Speaking of food, I am reallllly trying to clean out my pantry/fridge before I resort to purchasing more groceries. I might be able to pull it off for the rest of the week! What I need:

2 breakfasts: I have exactly 2 more yogurts left!
2 lunches to take to work: Out of my usual frozen meals, so I'm thinking tortillas, deli sliced chicken, some cheese, and a side of cottage cheese. That should do it.
Dinner tomorrow: Can of soup with added leftover kidney beans for protein.
Snacks: I have a few rice puddings and granola bars left.

See? I have plenty! Then I'm off to visit family Friday, and staying there through Monday night. So meals are out of my hands.

You know, now that I'm hyper-aware of saving, I really cannot believe how much I was nickel-and-diming myself. How many urges I've had to squash and try to break bad habits. Bored at work? Head to the outlets at lunch! Nothing fun to eat at home? Stop by the to-go sushi counter on the way home. Out of desserts? Ice cream from the gas station! No more!

Wealth Goes / = Weight Goes /

August 7th, 2007 at 12:39 pm

I noticed something possibly related to my newfound budget: I have lost weight in the last week. Yes, just one week, but I do weigh myself almost every day, and there was a significant (3lb) drop since last week. I'm almost completely positive it's because I'm making an effort to eat homemade meals instead of dining out with my coworkers. My usual $2, 300 calorie frozen meal vs. $7 at the cafeteria for a plate of pasta, some bread and a diet soda (or up to $15 if we go offsite).

Also, last night when I got home from work, I had the last beer. Once finished, I did have the urge to run to the store to grab more beer (to my alcoholic defense, it's a $7.99 LIMITED EDITION Sam Adam's Cream Stout that I just LOVE...but I'm not going to do some crazy stockpile because knowing me, I'll be sick of it in a few months) and maybe some $3.99 ice cream. BUT in the spirit of saving, I got a glass of water. That's $12 passive savings, and what would have been an extra 400 calories right there!

Drip, drip, drip.

August 7th, 2007 at 07:59 am

Good news: I got estimates on the yard work - $150 for stump removal and $250 for the city pipe leak. $100 under budget! Fantastic! Both should be done by the time I get home today. FINALLY!

Bad news: Got a letter from the water district yesterday: I'm finally going to get metered soon. Yes, I know I've been lucky...flat rate water every 2 months, especially with a pool, a new lawn, and a boy who takes 30 minute showers. The next bill or two will show what I should expect to pay based on my current usage. I know it's going to go up, especially when I finally get some new plants in and start the drip system. *sigh*

Should I Plant a Bunch of Money Trees?

August 6th, 2007 at 04:34 pm

So this week might end up being a bit pricey. I'm trying to finish off the front yard...a few months ago, flush with tax refund and yearly bonus money, I decided to finally gut and re-do the front yard - which was unsave-able. Pulled up all the plants, grass and sprinklers and started anew. Yes, a bit pricey but the lawn was pitted, thatched and covered in bermudagrass, the sprinklers leaked and sprayed the cars and the rosebushes were about 20 years old and beyond diseased.

Then I took a break for a while and now it's time to finish it off. I need a plumber to fix a city pipe leak and a stump grinder to get rid of the two "trees" (you know, the kind that no-one plants on purpose, and in 10 years you have a weird-ass tree), so I can put in a fence between my yard and the neighbor's.

Once that is done then I can finally have fun and start landcaping as right now it's just a beautiful green lawn surrounded by dirt. So I'm guessing that both the stump grinder and the plumber together will be about $500. Getting estimates in the next two days from licensed contractors I found on Craigslist. Wish me luck!

Passive Saving!

August 5th, 2007 at 11:00 am

Weekend spending: $40 in gas.

So, almost a no-spend weekend. I ended up driving my car (I actually insisted - I do need that XM entertainment while the boy dozes off during the 3 hour drive) so the first tank of gas was on me. And I might have to fill up again on the way home, but we'll split that tank, so I'll be debiting the joint checking account. I will not be counting that as income/expenses on this blog since we both put an identical, fixed amount that covers all house bills, and sometimes groceries. Also, we did end up going to the Aquarium, but my grandmother bought the $25 tickets as gifts! And I did tag along with my mom and sister while they shopped at a few high-end stores that I would normally walk out of with at least a shirt - but I abstained.

So I've been looking for new $ software. I currently use the full version of AceMoney, but after 2 years of no new features, it just isn't doing it for me anymore. I've been waiting to see what Mint.com has to offer, and exploring everything else in the meanwhile - until last night. My Bank of America credit card recently launched "My Portfolio", where I can link up all my other accounts (EVERYTHING, mortgage, loan, 401k, etc.), and see my total Net Worth - well, it doesn't take valuables and equity into account, so I'm big in the negative due to the mortgage balance. Anyway, I thought it was a 'neat trick' and moved on until I read more and started exploring the site. Wow. I can set a budget. OMG I can categorize my spending! Whoa! It's spitting out pretty graphs! This is POWERFUL! And I don't have to do any manual work at all. And to think I was about to give up and become a QuickenHead.

So I can say, with the free Aquarium tickets, and not spending when I could have, that this was a "passive saving" weekend. Not going to take credit for stuff I "could have" done, but cool all the same!

Experiment: Sneaky Bank?

August 4th, 2007 at 10:28 am

So, my home equity loan.

When I first started making extra payments a few months ago, the bills would show up for less than the monthly payment. Each month I owe them $405. I started paying $505, and the following month's bill said I owe them $305. I called them up and made sure that my extra $100 was being applied towards the principal. They said yes but since I was paying over...that I don't HAVE to pay in full the following month. What sneaks! I asked if they could break it down for me so I knew how much of my payment each month was going to interest vs. principal. They said no, because interest is added DAILY, and where my money goes depends on when I pay.

Um, WHAT??? That sucks.

So I started a spreadsheet, downloaded the history of the loan, and parsed it all out to determine how to beat their system. It's sneaky! Or I'm stupid and naive.

OK. So my bill is due on the 21st of each month. I get it in the mail 7-10 days before due date. Which is sneaky in itself, but I use my bank's bill pay. I'll suck it up. BUT...this is what I found:

Money Arrives on the 18th (3 days before due): $312 to Interest, $93 to principal!

Money Arrives on the 1st (20 days before due): $105 to Interest, $300 to principal!

So I already paid this month's (with the standard extra payment), but now I want to send a separate EXTRA $100. How much you wanna bet that they'll still pull their portion of the interest out before applying the rest to my balance? Even though I already paid this month's allotment.

SNEAKY!

Checking Testosterone Levels...

August 3rd, 2007 at 03:38 pm

I might be on my way to another zero $ day! That all depends on who gets to drive tonight - I might insist as the boy drove last weekend, and I have XM radio for entertainment. Heading down to the coast for the weekend, which usually costs over a tank of gas ($50). And I already know my sister bought us tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so I will have to repay her $25. Beyond that I don't think I'll be spending anything, eating at home or out to lunch with my mom.

So I'm getting the balls to bite the bullet and sell some of my company stock. I've been here over 5 years and thusly, have a lot in both vested options and Employee Purchase Plan (which I've dropped contributions down to 1% just to keep my hand in the plan, but the price just isn't worth it right now).

But what do I do? Say I sell enough to net $5,000 after taxes - do I dump it into 5.05% E*Trade savings? Do I open a Roth IRA? Do I pay down my 6.99% home equity loan? Or, in addition to my girl-balls, do I also grow some hair on my chest and start investing? Grrr.

Show Me Your Money Dance!

August 2nd, 2007 at 11:00 am

Spending Today:

$294.88: Last payment to boyfriend.

It started as a personal loan made 14 months ago - he paid for some household improvements when I didn't have the cash and I insist on keeping all spending to do with the house under my name as the house is mine. Then some things got tacked on...he paid for a vacation, I put the TV on my card, etc. So the back and forth has been tracked for over a year. To the tune of over $12,000 being exchanged between us. And today...OMG. It's done!

The biggest upside is that I was covering his portion of the home equity loan as part of my payback. We agreed to break it down so that he paid for half of the principal that was used towards renovating the pool and backyard, the rest of the loan was used towards my car, so I pay the majority. Now that frees up $90 per month starting in September.

Wait! Since I'm already used to paying for his share, I'm going to continue and snowball it into each month's payment. That just hit me! See? You guys are rubbing off on me already. Just 4 months ago I was making the standard $405 payment. Then I upped it to $505 in May. Next month it's going to be $605!

*runs off to calculator*

From 15 year term down to 8! Saving over $13,000 in interest!!!

*doing a little booty shake in my office chair*

Total stream of conciousness, there. Ahem.

The Facts.

August 1st, 2007 at 11:20 am

So I sat down last night and balanced my budget. That was a bit depressing.

+$3,400: Total Monthly Income.

-$1125: Split mortgage and bills.
-$405: Home equity loan.
-$100: Extra payment to Home equity loan.
-$350: Gas and car maintenance estimate (commuter).
-$150: Dining out.
-$100: Clothing allowance.
-$100: Emergency savings to ING account.
-$100: Personal care.
-$45: Pet.
-$33: Gym.


That leaves $892 each month. That's GREAT! That an extra payment to the home equity loan, PLUS upping my savings each month!!! Wait. Uh. I don't have $892 at the end of each month. Where is it?? Oh yes, I ignore my homemade lunch most of the time in favor of dining out with coworkers. That's right, I bought a pair of $200 shoes - to replace my staple black strappy heels. But two weeks later I found a pair super cute Coach peep-toe pumps at Nordstrom Rack that I just HAD to have as they're classic...$119 down from $300. That was like SAVING money! Right?

Goodness. I am NOT this retarded. Seriously. I have faithfully categorized and recorded every purchase I have made for the last 2 years. I know exactly how much I've spent on clothing. I know what my monthly average is for dining out. I am aware of my tendancy to not shop for 4 months straight, then impulse-buy a $300 coat. But I excuse myself constantly. "That was an anomaly!", "Oh, that month I travelled a lot", etc.

My situation...I'm 27, female. I own a house in Northern CA. My boyfriend lives with me (hence the split mortgage and house bills). Besides that, finances are completely separate.

I have a 401k through work - which is good...but I don't have anything to compare it to; what SHOULD I have in there? What's normal for someone who's been employed for 5-6 years? Also, my e*trade account - which I'm shamefully ignoring as the only stock I have is company stock and it's been faltering for the last 6 months. But where do I start?

So I'm here. Hoping that being accountable to a community of sorts will help me along. Give me that obsession! Because I don't have anyone in the real world other than myself. And apparently, I'm sucking at it.