<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
You are viewing: Main Page
 

New Job, New Budget

August 5th, 2018 at 08:07 am

There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding my budget with my job ending, so I haven’t been posting much. I’ve just started a new job and should be able to start working on my financial goals again soon. Moving to a new state and renting a new apartment definitely requires cash up front, so I’m glad I had a large savings cushion for this kind of thing!

The new budget is starting to come together. My old rent had gone up to $1195, and the new place is $1225/month for two bedrooms instead of one. The one-bedroom apartments in the area I found that were nice without major problems were around the same price, and it would be nice to have a guest room for friends. My internet bill went from $75 (Comcast monopoly) to $40/month for Verizon, although I did have to buy a special router. Honestly, I would have paid slightly more just to dump Comcast- the way they treat customers in areas where they have a monopoly is infuriating. Waiting to see the actual cost of utilities at the end of this month, but I’m going to budget $150 to start.


It looks like my car insurance should drop substantially now that I have dedicated parking in the suburbs instead of street parking in a major city. It’s already pretty low compared to my friends – I was shocked by what some of them pay without a major accident on their record. Based on the initial online quote, I’m looking at saving $290/year.

My new job comes with a significant raise, but I won’t see the exact take-home number for a while because they pay once a month. It also comes with a retirement match of 5%, which I’ve never had before and definitely plan to take advantage of.

I have some unusual spending planned in the next few months- a few pieces of furniture for the new place and some wardrobe updates, since I need to dress very professionally at my new workplace. Otherwise I am looking to keep spending low and start working on my next student loan target: my only private loan. It had negligible interest for 5 years, but it went up to 6.4% recently, making it similar to the federal loans. It is also by far the most annoying to deal with, as you have to mail in payments by check and address updates, etc by mail. The starting balance is $26,589.54. The monthly payment plan is $222/month for 10 years, but I obviously don’t want to be paying for that long!

Still around, plans on hold

March 18th, 2018 at 03:49 pm

Still here!

I’m still here and reading the blogs, but took a break from posting for a while because my current job will be ending this summer and I’ve been job hunting. Until I have a new contract, I decided to slow down the extra payments to my student loans and to stockpile some extra cash on top of my current emergency fund instead.

There have been a few expenses related to this -got a new interview outfit and shoes, since I hadn’t bought a suit in years and they were looking a little dated. Looking professional and feeling confident was definitely a good investment though, and I did get it on sale! I’ve also paid $2230 in professional and licensing fees so far this year, which are not negotiable for my position and are required for any future jobs as well. A tax refund of $500 went toward these fees.

Retirement contribution, Survey Opportunity

January 21st, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Current IRA contributions are at 2,500. I decided to just put in the $150 in side income that’s pending, since they always pay eventually. I’ll pay my savings back when I get the check. $350 to go. Barring unforeseen expenses this month, should be doable! I tried to start doing my tax return this morning to get a sense of whether I’ll be getting a refund (my withholdings are usually appropriate, but the amount of interest I pay on student loans has produced a refund the last few years). My W2 hasn’t been issued online yet, so no success. Need to file taxes as soon as possible to submit my IBR renewal by early February.

Today should be a no-spend day, eating at home and working on a bunch of stuff with looming deadlines. Yesterday I spent about $38 on drinks/appetizer and a show with friends. I don’t feel too badly, since I’ve been too busy to socialize much earlier in the month and don’t want to be a hermit! Don’t anticipate going out in the coming week due to multiple project deadlines. Must be getting old, because I slept super hard after just one mixed drink.

Does anyone have any experience with Xfinity Insights surveys? Signed up after receiving an invitation email, but have only done the introductory survey so far. I do like the idea of taking some money back from Comcast, but not sure if they’ll send enough surveys for me to actually cash out a giftcard (requires a minimum of 50 points, not sure how many you get per survey).

Retirement Progress

January 14th, 2018 at 08:43 am

Contributed $200 leftover in other budget categories to the IRA, bringing 2017 contributions to $2140. I have a $150 check in hand to deposit and send in as well, so after that the I’ll need $710 to meet my goal of $3000 for the year. My employer still owes me an additional $150 for overtime, they’re just slow to pay since it comes from a separate cost center. Still need $560 after that. Would love to get this done this month so I can file my taxes at the end of January. That will make it easier to reapply for IBR in February. Really looking forward to knocking the retirement goal out so I can go back to chipping away at my student loans. As a side note, my IRA balance reached $1,000/year of age for the first time ever with how high the market has been lately. It will probably dip down again, but kind of a neat milestone.

Today should be a low spend day. Currently making food to bring with me to work this afternoon. I plan to stop on the way in and get a replacement travel mug (mine disappeared, probably because a lot of us had the same style which caused confusion). This should also help cut down on splurging for coffee on long days, or at least get me the refill rate.

Quick check-in, retirement progress

January 3rd, 2018 at 04:08 am

Yesterday was a no spend day. I was going to stop for some over the counter medication, but traffic and parking were terrible, so I came straight home after work and found a little bit left in my medicine cabinet! Brought food and coffee to work.

I also got a check for some previous overtime in December- $260 for retirement savings. Current total before this deposit is $1535, with a goal of $3000. The plan is to switch back to paying down debt after meeting this goal.

Just to put things in perspective, I also have $3195 of unavoidable education expenses coming up in 2018 (required for my career), which I’ve had to save up for.

Back to the usual routine

December 27th, 2017 at 03:06 pm

Merry belated Christmas! I've been away visiting relatives this season, but now it's back to work and back to more ordinary financial matters after an expensive time of year!

Although there were increased holiday expenses (gifts, uber to holiday parties that had alcohol, extra gas for travel, etc), there was also some financial good luck. In December I was able to pick up some overtime that should be about $150 after taxes and received a couple of gift cards. I also talked to a salesman with some questions about one of the bigger, more practical presents for a family member, and he gave me a $75 discount that I didn't even request!

I'm hoping to keep the rest of the month as frugal as possible by continuing the battle against high utility bills; using my efficient space heater, lots of blankets, and dressing in layers to minimize turning on the central heat. I'll also be weatherstripping this week.

Today I slept too late to make lunch, but managed to grab coffee from home on the way out the door and just spent $1.10 on a snack in the cafeteria to hold me over until I got home to cook dinner. I cooked from the freezer and pantry since I just got back into town and may try to put off grocery shopping for a few more days.

Random financial updates

December 3rd, 2017 at 06:20 am

This has been one of those personally crazy periods where I haven’t been as focused on finances, so today is a catch up day. Unfortunately my freezer and fridge died right after an Aldi’s run, so there was some loss and food waste. I was out of town when it happened, so there wasn’t much I could do by the time I got back and found everything spoiled. This also caused a little more eating from the cafeteria at work, since it isn’t fixed yet and I usually rely on freezer meals I make ahead for lunch.

On the positive side, I had my yearly eye exam recently. The exam and 1 year supply of lenses cost $380, but insurance picked up $240, so I only paid $140 out of pocket. I also qualified for free shipping for the 1-year supply (a $15 savings) and just submitted a $20 rebate request to Acuvue. Every little bit helps! This prescription is also good for 2 years, and she said my eyes were very healthy, so I may skip my exam next year if I’m not having any issues. Given how stable my prescription has been, yearly isn’t really necessary, and it’s $85 plus a $55 lens fitting fee. I won’t change providers though, since this place offers weekend and evening appointments.

Roth contributions are at $1150 for the year so far, but I’m behind on balancing my budget, so I expect to be able to beef that up significantly once I total up the extra funds left over in other budget categories the last couple months.

It’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. I’ve had a Discover card forever that I rarely use except when traveling, but I got a notice that they are offering 5% cashback for Amazon purchases all December, which is where I buy most Christmas gifts. Awesome! (I pay the bill in full each month).

Saving for retirement

November 4th, 2017 at 06:29 pm

Focused on beefing up my Roth IRA for this year as my next mini goal. My default contribution is $100/month, which doesn’t come close to the $5500 yearly contribution limit. I don’t have any retirement matching or benefits at work. While I would ideally love to get to at least $3000 for this year, this may be a stretch after sending any extra money to that student loan for so many months.

Recently got a check for $200 from a one-time side project, so I sent that in. I thought about holding off because the market is so high right now, but I’m not planning to touch my retirement for 30 years, so ultimately trying to “time” investments at this point probably doesn’t make sense. Also expecting about $160 or so after tax from some overtime earlier this month, but these payments can be slow, so I’ll wait until it shows up in my direct deposit before counting it.

It’s funny how much more emotionally satisfying it is for me to see debt drop than retirement contributions go up, but that’s why managing money requires discipline!

Library savings

October 28th, 2017 at 08:29 am

I'm lucky to live near the library, so I don't usually buy books for pleasure reading. Out of curiosity, I added up the amazon paperback price for the library books I've read this year- $233.50.

First loan paid in full

September 14th, 2017 at 08:09 pm

At the end of August I had just enough left over in the budget to pay the final $511 on my high interest loan, which is now paid in full. In total I paid about $15,000 for this loan including principle and interest.

This was a minor amount in the grand scheme of my student loans, but it feels good to kill my highest interest rate of 7.65%. At some point in the future I hope to refinance, but currently need to stay in IBR to have realistic payments for my salary.

My next mini goal is to boost my Roth IRA contributions for the year (currently have been budgeting $100/month for this while paying down that loan). I don't receive any type of employer retirement contribution, although they do offer to let you automatically divert an unmatched % of your salary to a high fee non-Vanguard 401K retirement vehicle. Thanks but no thanks!

Has anyone heard from Ima Saver?

First goal in sight

August 2nd, 2017 at 04:25 pm

The most recent payment to the high interest loan finally posted, bringing the balance to $972- finally under the thousand mark!

Just submitted a $455 payment:
$104 overage from July parking category
$24 overage from July phone category
$126 from raise #1 (2015) in July
$146 recent raise July (2017)
$55 August loan payment difference

Budget maintenance and some spending

July 27th, 2017 at 04:20 pm

Did some calling around and decreased my phone bill by about $8 by removing insurance I don’t need on my 5 year old phone (I buy these in cash when they need to be replaced since I found out the “free” phone on most plans is just billed to you in monthly installments). I also bought a router/modem for $100 that will remove a $10/month modem rental fee from Comcast- wish I’d done this years ago, it would already have been so cost effective!

Disputed a fraudulent $99 charge I noticed this week successfully- it pays to read your statements!

Today I got out of work early and actually paid $10 to get my eyebrows done (I usually do this myself, but when I neglect it for too long it is hard to shape them correctly, so it was worth it. Plus sometimes it’s nice to get a little self-confidence boost from looking your best). Picked up milk, yogurt, and noodles at the grocery store, where I resisted the spray-on olive oil because I know those cans are terrible for the environment. Luckily the dollar store next door had a spray bottle I’m going to try using instead, plus ear buds, two packs of pens, and a USB/phone charger cord (can’t beat this place for electronic accessories, and the quality is the same!).

On the earnings side, a raise became effective this July and will net about $148/month. Also completed a side job that should pay around $200 before tax- will have to wait to see the final amount when the check arrives, but it’s going to be thrown at debt.

The current high interest loan balance is $1156. I am sending in $130 left over from the June parking category and $55 from the July loan difference category, so it should go under the $1000 mark!

June deals

July 5th, 2017 at 04:46 pm

June is a great time to pick up used furniture during moveout if you live near a college or grad school- I got a few pieces I’ve been contemplating for a while this way, and kept the total under $50. I had actually already checked Ikea, but found a used version of higher quality that matches my existing furniture better for less than half the Ikea price!

Workwise and personally June was extremely busy, but the up side to that was I didn’t have time to spend much. Sent a $557 payment to the high interest loan. The total should be around $1200 after the payment clears.

In other good money news, a small raise should hit my paycheck in July and I’ll be able to update the budget. This should hopefully offset an insurance increase of $143/month. I also have a potential lead on a small side project, but won't be counting any chickens before they hatch.

Has anyone heard anything else about Ima Saver?

Overtime

May 18th, 2017 at 05:16 pm

Current balance on high interest loan: 2614
(Interest rate 7.65%-woof)

A lot of expenses hit recently, though nothing unplanned. Ordered more contacts ($120), yearly renter’s insurance renewal (about $150), 6 month car insurance bill, etc. These expenses come from designated budget categories.

A pending direct deposit showed up today for $411 for some recent overtime. As soon as this clears will send a loan payment for $491:

441 overtime
25 cell phone category difference (May)
55 IBR loan payment difference (May)


I signed up for more extra work later in the month- these opportunities don’t come up that often, so I try to jump on them!

Frugal goals for the next couple weeks: Cooking meals at home, AM coffee at home, bringing lunch to work, using my fan instead of turning on the AC.

Staying on task

April 22nd, 2017 at 08:50 am

Loan balance after the last payment hit: $3569

Today I caught up some later-billed budget categories from March and sent in another payment of
$533

160 from extra work hours
25 cell phone savings April
55 IBR savings April
68 parking category savings March
225 other misc categories/snowflakes March

Once the balance gets under $2000 I’ve been considering loaning myself the money from my EF to just pay it off and save on the interest difference. It makes senses mathematically and my savings are honestly probably higher than need be given my debt. On the other hand I’m usually a worst case scenario planner and messing with the EF category doesn’t strike me as a good habit to get into. Still thinking about it.


During school I took less than than the max amount of student loans every semester and worked part time jobs to help supplement living expenses. The financial aid office would send you a summary of the charges for a semester and how much you could get in loans, then you could go in and manually reduce the amount you were requesting before it was submitted. I don’t remember how much I adjusted it down back then, but I’m curious how much my balance would be today with interest if I’d taken the full amount possible.

Extra payment

April 20th, 2017 at 04:19 pm

Sent a $715 extra payment to the student loan yesterday- $400 from a tax refund, $25 difference from cell phone plan, $289 from prior raise category last month. (Every time I cut costs for a recurring bill or get a raise I leave the budgeted amounts the same on my spreadsheet, then send the difference to debt or savings.) Current balance is $4280 before this payment.

Tomorrow’s paycheck will include $160 from picking up extra time at work for the pay down along with an extra $80 savings from some other budget categories for April.

The weather is nice enough to avoid any heating/cooling utility costs and I’ve been using the drying rack for laundry. This weekend I need to replenish my stash of homemade frozen meals for work lunches, although I have some odds and ends to take tomorrow.

Better late than never!

April 8th, 2017 at 08:24 am

Still here and lurking around! Can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted!

Recent financial events- this month has already been pricey due to some necessary car repairs. Grateful that 1) they were able to fix everything and 2) had the money for this in a special account and wasn’t trying to scramble to come up with $840 out of one month’s budget. Still, it will be nice to start replenishing this fund!

Since last posting I slowed down loan repayment to divert money toward my Roth for 2016, so the balance is $4780 on my high-interest loan (7.6%). My new goal is to knock this out next! I have state and federal tax refunds coming and picked up some overtime this week, so should get a good jump on it in the next couple weeks.

Lately I've been reading this "Money Diary" feature: http://www.refinery29.com/money-diary

Women in different geographic locations making different salaries share every penny they spend during a typical 7 day period. Very interesting to see how different people prioritize their spending, and definitely makes me more aware of little purchases during my own day. It's also an interesting read because this is not a personal finance-oriented website, so the approaches can be very different than you'd see here.

Midmonth check-in, meal planning

July 26th, 2016 at 11:52 am

Just a quick mid-month update. My last paycheck contained $290 from overtime, which went to the Roth IRA. This brings total contributions for the year to 1320/5500.

Trying to minimize spending for the rest of the month to stay on-budget, but I did need to get some groceries today. I know I’ve said this before, but ethnic groceries are AMAZING for value in the city. I stock up there about twice a month. Today I spent $31 and got:
8 kiwis (on sale!)
1 large cabbage ( 4.7 lbs)
8 oz mushrooms
3 small tomatoes (89 cents/lb)
2 sleeves of garlic bulbs
1 lb fresh ginger
2 bunches fresh cilantro
4 16 oz bags of rice noodles
1 16 oz package of regular noodles
4 10-oz cans of vegetables
2 small cans of water chestnuts
1 dozen eggs
1 bottle seasoned salt

I looked for chickpea flour to experiment with socca, but didn’t see any. Plans include lots of stirfry with egg for protein, grilled cheese with tomato, egg fried rice with veggies, cabbage with noodles, pesto pasta, spicy lentils with garlic, potato, and green peas, and delicious kiwi for snacks. Will need to pick up more yogurt and a few other odds and ends.

I watched The Big Short on Netflix, which was pretty interesting. It's about a few investors on Wall Street who caught on early to all the mortgage fraud that led to the 2007-2008 housing collapse and bet against the big firms like Goldman and Lehman Brothers. Based on a true story. I had kind of forgotten how ridiculous lending used to be- no money down, bad credit? Mortgage approved! It just goes to show you that if you don't think you can afford something, don't let anybody talk you into going against that instinct.

June Summary, Retirement Catch-up

July 7th, 2016 at 10:41 am

Last month in addition to regular debt and retirement payments (scheduled retirement is at 100/month), $83 extra went to debt and $380 went to retirement. The Roth IRA only has $930 for 2016, with a goal of hitting the 5500 max. I’m switching the focus from debt repayment for a while to beef this up. I figure that it’s important to take advantage of the time value of money by investing now while it has 30 years to compound. The fund also pays dividends quarterly, so investing early on will result in higher payouts from that. I’m in a relatively low tax bracket, so the Roth IRA is a good deal long term. My student loans are on income based repayment, so paying down the smaller high interest one instead won’t result in any freed up cashflow to put toward retirement. My job doesn’t offer any retirement match, and the company-offered plans are significantly less attractive fee-wise than a Vanguard IRA. Was hoping for a little dip with the Brexit hoopla so I could buy shares at a discount this month, but no such luck.


A small raise at work should be reflected in my next paycheck- will adjust the budget when I see the exact numbers, but last year it worked out to about $135 extra take home pay per month. I’m planning to put it toward retirement/debt repayment goals. I also nabbed a little overtime, but it usually takes a while to pay out.


Have some upcoming expenses for car maintenance, but it should be covered by the balance in the “recurring/long term expenses” category. (Contribute $150/month and roll it over.) I did call around for several estimates. Since I’m trying to make my older used car last at least a couple more years, this is expected.

Slow but steady

June 6th, 2016 at 05:08 am

Continuing to monitor my budget for any unused dollars and apply them to my goals. The student loan is at $6579.56 with an $83 extra payment pending. Don't know why, but five-thousand-something sounds so much more manageable!

I just sent $100 to the Roth IRA for June- if the market doesn't go down before it posts, this should finally hit $20,000 in retirement savings.

Comcast just raised my monthly internet bill from $50 to $80/month without saying anything to me- I'm going to call when their customer service office opens at 8 this morning. They're advertising a deal for new customers to get 12 months at $39.99/mo, so this feels like a rip off.

Meal Planning

April 26th, 2016 at 04:52 pm

Doing some meal planning and freezer cooking tonight- I've been a little lax on bringing enough food to work, and haven't done a major grocery run in a month. Tonight I walked to the small local grocery store and spent $26 stocking up on noodles, rice, and vegetables (fresh and canned for quick meals). I picked up eggs yesterday. These are all kitchen staples for me. I buy broken rice- much less expensive, and it tastes the same.

From the current groceries I have/ can make:

1 serving yogurt (breakfast)
1 serving fish sticks
Popcorn, naan bread, ice cream for snacks
Cereal
4 frozen veggie burger patties
1 package frozen soup
1 frozen personal pizza
Fried rice with carrot, egg, and cilantro- multiple meals
Noodle/vegetable stirfry, can add eggs for protein- multiple meals
Cauliflower/potato Indian curry over rice- makes two meals
Microwave spicy noodle bowl to bring to work
Seasoned potato pancakes
Haluski (cabbage dish)
Mexican beans and rice

I have the window open and a load of laundry drying on the drying rack because the weather's nice. I'm having company this weekend, so I'll need to do some deep cleaning on Friday!

March Totals

April 3rd, 2016 at 10:37 am

March was a mixed month financially, with some unusual one-time expenses (replacing broken items, etc) and a healthy tax refund.


After totaling things up, I have about $150 from surplus March income and $500 in a tax refund to allocate to my goals. The tax refund will go toward the student loan and the $150 will go toward retirement contributions.

Slow and steady wins the race, I guess. Except for buying some birthday gifts, I'll be trying to keep spending down in April to hopefully break the $7000 mark on the loan next month.

Payment, taxes, rambling

March 11th, 2016 at 10:40 am

The student loan payment went through, bringing the new balance on the high interest loan to $7767.98. Looking back, when I started this blog in May the total was $13,671.78. I would have liked to see this closer to the $5000s, but the rational part of my brain knows that continuing Roth contributions instead of throwing every extra penny at debt repayment makes more sense in the long-term.

Filed federal and state taxes today. The amount of loan interest paid this year bumped up my refund, so hey, silver lining!

Other frugal things: Used a 10% off coupon code for the online tax prep website (which is only $13 to start with, including filing state and federal), drank free coffee this morning at work and ate breakfast and lunch at home (half-day). Yesterday I hit snooze too many times and didn't bring a lunch, but had a delicious spicy noodle bowl from the convenience store for $1.69 and tea from my teabag stash. The weather is beautiful today, so I have the windows open airing out the apartment and expect great improvement in the electricity bill! I'm also drying some laundry on the drying rack. Finally, I ordered a year's supply of contacts, which is more upfront but carries the lowest cost per lens. This was out-of-pocket because my vision plan only pays toward contacts OR glasses each year, and my current glasses need to be replaced. I tried to remember the last time and realized it was before freshman year of college! I almost never wear them, but feel like I should have an emergency pair that I'd feel safe driving with if necessary. Now that I have a current prescription, I'll need to shop around for the best deal on frames.

Checking in

March 8th, 2016 at 04:24 pm

Now that life has temporarily slowed down I've been catching up on some financial housekeeping. I recently found a little cache of savings from years ago, $74.28, and will apply it to debt. I received some long awaited reimbursement for travel expenses and have earmarked $500 of that for loan repayment also. Finally, I confirmed that the February student loan autopay was never taken out of my account because they put it into temporary forebearance while the IBR paperwork was processing. That's budgeted for, so will send that in as well (386). Altogether that's $960.28 for the high interest loan.

I managed not to spend any discretionary money today, though I did pay some planned bills. Over the weekend I spent some money on potluck dinner with friends I haven’t seen in a long time (worth it!). While I roadtripped home from that visit I stocked up on staple groceries and toiletries in the distant land of Reasonable Cost-of-Living, which should save money overall this month. I'll need to order more contact lenses, but that comes from a catch-all "recurring expenses" budget category.

Haven't done taxes yet- waiting for one last transaction to process so I'll have an accurate retirement contribution figure for the year (was told this should only take three business days). I don't expect a refund, but will hopefully not owe money.

Repayment plan confusion

February 20th, 2016 at 06:19 pm

After submitting my income-based-repayment renewal application a couple months ago I finally saw my new scheduled monthly payment on the website today...and it's about $60/month less than last year, even though my income went up by about $1000/year?

I'm not quite sure where this number is coming from- they calculated it from accurate recent paystubs I submitted, and I know I didn't pay down enough principle last year to account for the difference. That said, I always seem to talk to a new person each time, so it's possible that last year they calculated a higher amount than strictly necessary by the terms of the program and I just never contested it.

If this IS my new repayment amount I will benefit by taking the difference left in my current budget and applying it to extra principle payments on the higher interest loan in my account. I'm going to wait until the first autopay withdrawal goes through before counting my chickens though-they may adjust it before then. Meanwhile I sent an additional $160 to the high interest loan today that came from picking up extra hours last pay period. Every little bit helps.

On the spending side, I've been working 90-100 hour weeks lately due to a tough assignment at work, so coffee and snacks spending is up because there has been no time to grocery shop. (I only come home to sleep at this point). On the positive side though, entertainment spending is zero and hopefully the heating bill will be down, since I turn it off completely when I'm not there. Even when I'm feeling self-indulgent I tend to stick to the less expensive food and coffee options at work, and I've been using up some old leftover giftcards for the cafeteria. Ony about 2 more weeks left at this pace before I can downshift to a less hectic schedule, so will try to keep the damage to a minimum!

Costly creature comfort

February 2nd, 2016 at 04:28 pm

First update in a while, though I do keep up with how everybody else is doing!

On the debt front, I'm waiting for approval on my income-based-repayment renewal. Trying to be patient, but I'd like to get the new monthly payment numbers to update my budget. Today I sent $260 to the high interest loan- $160 from an overtime project at work and $100 from Christmas. (No matter how often I try to gently remind certain relatives I'm an employed adult and they don't need to give me anything, a couple of them always send me money at Christmas. I feel a little guilty about it, but anything other than accepting thankfully would cause offense.)

As far as cost-containment, been doing a fair but not outstanding job limiting coffee and food purchases at work. Taking advantage of free coffee and breakfast at recent morning meetings has really helped in this category : ) I always cook at home at dinner and on weekends unless it's a social occasion with friends.

Currently I'm working on controlling the electricity bill. I love my place, but the building is quite old (historic) and very drafty. A loft setup also creates a lot of unused space to heat. So far I've covered the windows with that plastic wrap to create a layer of air insulation and bought a small space heater. (Got the one recommended by a fireman acquaintance, and never leave it on unattended!). When I do turn on the heat, I keep the thermostat between 55-57 F, dress in layers, and use throw blankets for extra warmth. Even with these measures, winter has caused the utility bill to shoot up to $170 this month. My last apartment was very well insulated with new windows and wasn't on the corner of the building like this, so it retained heat from the building and I almost never had to supplement that, so this is a new issue. There's a local organization that provides emergency funds for utility payments to people with low income, and the recent blizzard motivated me to start donating there this winter.

Spendy October, misc frugality

November 9th, 2015 at 11:11 am

October was a whirlwind (and very spendy!) month! I just got around to totaling all the categories. After all the damage, I had $225 left over to throw at my goals, so $200 went to the student loan and $25 to the Roth. These totals don't include work expenses that I will be reimbursed for eventually- airline and hotel costs for a business trip. Unusual spending for Oct included finally biting the bullet and getting new work shoes (the old ones fell apart) for $53. I splurged a little because I spend a LOT of time on my feet, and have noticed a comfort difference. Also bought a bunch of extra food to make appetizers for a friend's party, gave a few birthday gifts, ate out much more than usual during my trip, and had to pay a parking ticket because I didn't notice my street parking sticker had expired a few days before - eighty dollars, ouch! The quarterly parking permit renewal itself is budgeted for.

It was a great month, but I also feel the urge to buckle down and refocus on my goals in November.

Frugal things recently:

- Have been planning to get some art for my walls since I moved in, but family gifted me a few pictures from the attic nobody was using anymore. They'll look great in the space, and I already have wall-hanging hooks.

- Have been bringing all my food and almost all of my caffeine to work lately instead of buying something there

- Been wanting to send a particular book to 2 friends and was planning to buy it on Amazon for them, but got two copies of it for free at a yard sale this weekend!

- have been leaving the heat off and using extra layers and blankets at home

- Snagged a few extra hours of work helping on a special project at work. Not sure how much I'll net after taxes, but probably around $100

Still here

October 16th, 2015 at 08:33 pm

I'm still lurking around, trying to be frugal and sending little extra payments to the student loans and Roth IRA when there is a surplus in a budget category. So far I've contributed about $1000 to retirement and paid about $4500 extra on the highest interest loan this year. Currently floating a lot of money from the checking account buffer for some work expenses and a big joint wedding gift that a few of us went in on for a close friend. I know this will be reimbursed in the future (very reliable friends, and have done this for work before), but it sure makes my current balance lower than usual!

One area with potential for a lot of improvement is buying food and coffee at work, or on the way to work. I don't go "out" to eat at lunch often, but if I don’t plan and cook ahead I’ll pick up a frozen burrito or a microwave noodle bowl for lunch on the way in, which adds up to a lot of little purchases. Today I managed to eat breakfast at home, brought teabags to make tea at work for free, got a free sandwich at a catered lunch meeting, and resisted buying coffee there. For dinner I rescued the last 1/3 of a wilting green cabbage and some leftover noodles to make haluski.

I also picked up a small one-time side job with the potential to earn maybe $100 or so. Little extra boosts to the budget help me feel like I'm getting somewhere!

Extra boost

September 13th, 2015 at 10:24 pm

My paycheck on Friday included the money for some extra hours I picked up last month- $190 after tax. Right now the student loan stands at $9,546.50 before that payment. Should be able to get under $9,000 by the end of October!

Spendy August, Meal planning

September 1st, 2015 at 07:22 pm

The budget totals for August are in and they're ugly. I blew way past my $350/month general spending cap at $588.83. This wiped out the "cushion" category and cut into the parking category as well. Unusual expenses this month included

About $45 in medical costs (visit and prescription copays, dressing supplies)

A friend came from out of state and stayed with me for a few days. I treated her to a couple meals out because she had to buy a train ticket down, which has worked pretty well for us in sharing the cost of visiting. Also got some snacky groceries to keep around the apartment while she was here that I don't usually buy. It's rare that we have any matching days off to visit, so this was totally worth it.

Another close friend got married in August, so that meant traveling out of state, extra gas costs, etc. I wore a dress I already had, so no extra spending there. Again, totally worth it.

Some long stressful days at work that ended with me buying dinner there after only bringing a lunch. This is an area for improvement.

I worked a few hours on a side job this month, but since payments are very slow from these projects, I just count them as snowflakes when they actually show up in my bank account.

Won't post the whole boring spreadsheet, but I have $140.88 to send to debt repayment after balancing the budget, in addition to the $50.50 already sent in from the utility and internet category earlier this month.

It's time to get back on track for September. Today I need to clean out my kitchen/fridge and make a menu plan to limit waste and eat from the pantry. Otherwise it was a low key day off- chores, lots of paperwork for my job (can do online), studying, writing a letter, taking a walk with a friend and catching up.

Meal options from a preliminary look at the pantry:
Halushki (a cabbage and noodle dish, delicious. I make it without onions from personal preference) Have a large head of cabbage that will make several meals
Stirfry with noodles
Vegetable fried rice (have some seasoning mix packets to use up)
Cereal with milk
Potato-lentil Indian curry
Grilled cheese
Frozen bean burritos
Samosas (use crescent roll dough and fill it with a mixture of spicy garlic mashed potato, peas, garlic, ginger, and Indian spices)

I also moved an extra $100 from the emergency fund to my Roth when I saw how low the market had dipped- love when the stock market goes on sale! As I've mentioned before, my EF is actually higher than it rationally should be, so it's a good thing when I bring myself to put some of that cash to work on investing or debt : )


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>