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Archive for June, 2015

June Budget Summary

June 30th, 2015 at 08:20 pm

June budget totals:

Budgeted- actual = difference
Income: 2874
Rent: 1175-1175 = 0
Parking: 150-20= 130
Utilities: 100-57.23= 42.77
Car insurance: 64- 54= 10
Phone: 112.88- 113.17= -0.29 (last month at this rate)
Recurring expenses: 150-164= -14
Retirement: 100- 100= 0
Student loan: 386-386= 0
Internet: 80-27.38= 52.17
Food and misc: 350-351.18 = -1.18
Cushion: 206- (total negative overages from above 15.47) = 190.53

The utility and internet surpluses were already applied to my student loan as they became available. I made $15 selling some old chairs on craigslist this month. Additional leftover funds are 130 (parking) + 10 (car insurance) + 190.53 (cushion) + 15 (craigslist) = 345.53 for the high interest loan.


Gas spending has been through the roof this month because I've been driving to a different site for work that's an hour away, compared to my usual 5-10 minute commute, so I've had to fill the tank up WAY more frequently. Of that $351.18 personal spending category, $115.51 was for gas! It makes me grateful to live close to work and drive a small compact car. A lot of my coworkers commute from a similar distance every day in a giant SUV, not as a temporary thing. Can't imagine how expensive that is, not to mention adding two hours onto your workday and the hassle of parking a giant tank in the tiny parking garage spaces.

Routine spending, budget refinement

June 17th, 2015 at 06:36 pm

Frugal efforts this week: Had a great time visiting some friends (only costs were gas and home-cooked food I brought) and enjoyed an awesome company-sponsored barbeque over the weekend. Also got coffee and caught up with another friend I haven't seen in a while ($3). Otherwise I tackled some cleaning and organizing projects at home (cost: $6 for file folders).

During a recent grocery run I stocked up on supplies to make a bunch of freezer meals to take to work for lunches. Planning to make vegetarian bean burritos with cilantro, vegetable stir fry with rice noodles and egg whites. vegetable fried rice, and spicy fish stew (the base is a mix, and I add in additional spices, vegetables, and the frozen fish). Each one makes 2-3 large portions. Snacks will be carrot sticks and apple/pear slices with peanut butter. There was a great sale on mushrooms, so I'll also be trying out a chickpea/mushroom burger with Indian spices. I got ground coffee (store brand) and flavored creamer to make at home and have been attempting to curb my coffee buying habit a little. So far, so good, and even cutting down by half would be a good start.

On the utility front, vindication! Got the itemized bill from last month instead of just amount due email- apparently $20 of the $58 last month was a one-time application fee. The electric company ingeniously provides a comparison of your average usage compared to your neighbors (100 similar occupied units in your immediate area) and your "most efficient" 20% of neighbors. Of course it is making me nuts that the "efficient" 20% are beating me, even though I am well below the average user : ) So far I've resisted turning on the AC even though it's been 88 degrees INSIDE my apartment for the last five days. If it hits 90 degrees I'm turning the AC on at night and setting it to 85- I try to be environmentally friendly, but there is a reason this technology exists! I have been making heavy use of the ceiling fan, especially at night, so usage will be up a little anyway. Have been using the drying rack instead of the dryer lately, and I really like it so far.

Car-related spending already totally wiped out the "recurring expenses" category for this month. First I had to renew the registration ($135- ouch!) and it was also due for an oil change- $29. The mechanic told me that the front tires are worn and should be replaced before next winter, and the rear brakes will need to be fixed around that time too. Something something breakpads? He explained the actual process, but I don't remember the details. He said it is all safe to drive with for now and recommended holding out until they have their big annual sale in October. He quoted around $125-150 for each new tire and didn't tell me what it would be with the October sale except to say I could get a better deal. Of course I'll shop around for the tires, but since $150/month for this kind of thing was a total guess anyway, I may need to bump it up. Maybe $175/month? More? These are expected occasional expenses, not emergencies, so I want to budget enough money to cover this stuff.

Cutting expenses, redirecting those dollars

June 11th, 2015 at 01:05 am

With a little bit of internet research, I was able to call my cell phone carrier and get them to drop my bill from $113 to $65/month plus tax. $40+/month savings for 20 minutes of my time. May end up dropping to an even lower plan when I have more time to do research, but it's a good start. After that, I googled advertised Comcast internet rates and called to ask why I was being charged so much more. They reduced my monthly bill from $80 to $50 and also credited back a $10 charge for a "home installation kit" I never received when I moved- I just used the old stuff from my last apartment and it worked fine. As part of moving I had to "pay ahead" several weeks, so the balance total for this month's billing cycle is $27.38. The new rate will show up next month.

June internet: 80 budgeted- 27.38 actual = 52.62 extra for student loans. Woo!

I'll leave the budgeted amounts for these services the same and just send the difference to debt repayment.

Otherwise the transfer from my old checking account and the leftover utility bill money for the month both hit the student loan account, plus the usual autopay:

Payments:
1484.02- old checking account
42.77- leftover utility budget
17.14- autopay
Interest: 16.17
Principal: 1527.76
Current principal balance: 10,563.31

After much internal debate, I did go ahead and transfer 100.00 to my Roth IRA for the month. This is a new line item in the budget. As much as I enjoy the immediate gratification of paying off debt, it will take years to pay off everything, and it doesn't make sense to miss out on after-tax retirement contributions at this age. (If you didn't read my earlier posts, that $10,500 account is just the tip of the student loan iceberg. Professional school ain't cheap.)

Currently on a decluttering kick - nothing like moving to make you look around and think, "Why do I have all this stuff?" Read an article a while ago about a popular organizer from Japan who tells people to look at every item in their home and ask, "Does this bring me joy?" If not, get rid of it. That seemed like good advice. I'm also selling some furniture I don't need anymore online. Nothing expensive, but I'll throw that at the loan if I find a buyer.

Other frugal minutia: Started using a drying rack for my laundry when possible, especially for towels. Really liking it so far. Found the birthday gift for a family member on Amazon, so I was able to use a gift card balance to cover it instead of cash. I would have gotten them the same thing either way, but this was a nice cashflow bonus. Just when my current work shoes became so worn they started rubbing my heels raw and had to be thrown out, I found an old pair in the back of the closet that have a few more months of use left in them. The theme for the last couple of weeks has been, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

Cutting Expenses

June 5th, 2015 at 01:41 am

Looking at my budget makes it pretty clear that high fixed expenses are limiting my debt payoff, so I've been looking at ways to cut some of those bills. I get paid every two weeks, and ideally I'd like to pay all fixed bills except the student loan from one paycheck.

Housing
The biggest expense by far is rent, due to living in a costly urban area. I recently moved, reducing my monthly rent from $1450 (slated to go up to $1500/month if I signed a new lease!) to $1175. Still a lot ,but better. Without adding a long commute and living far from work and friends (or living in an excessively murdery neighborhood), it would be hard to get this significantly lower. As a bonus, I'm also much happier here!

Utilities
Since my electricity billing cycle falls early in the month, I count this at the time it's due every budget period. The total for this month: $57.23. This is way over previous utility bills at my old apartment, but I'm pretty sure I know why. One reason is that the new place is a much older, draftier building, while my last apartment had fewer windows and was mostly on the interior of a big complex, insulating it from temperature fluctuations. More importantly, it was in the high 80s on several days, and I turned the AC on twice when I had company visiting. Not a regular indulgence, but don't want guests sweating. Will work on ways to get this back down to my goal of under $40 next month.

Still, $100 budgeted- 57.23 actual = 42.77 extra for GP loan

Water is billed quarterly, so won't have those numbers for a while. Should see less variability there though, since my use hasn't changed since moving. Will either cashflow this as general spending or take it from the recurring expenses category.


Car Insurance
When I notified the insurance company of my move, the premium dropped $80 every 6 months, for a $13. 33 monthly savings.


Phone

You're next, phone bill! Currently paying AT&T the princely sum of $113.17/month for my smartphone plan. (Apparently this somehow crept up about a dollar since I made my budget, which is making my numbers look a little fuzzy.) My last contract should be ending now, so it's time to shop around. Don't need much data since I can connect to the wifi at home and there's guest wifi in most areas at work. Believe it or not, I actually don't have many "extra" features for that price- just unlimited texting, which I use all the time, and a middle of the road data plan.


Internet
Freakin' Comcast monopoly. Have tried. Will focus on other bills, maybe harass Comcast customer service again later. Mostly annoying because my introductory rate was half as much, and they obviously weren't losing money on that.

Parking

Long story, working on it. Leaving the budgeted amount as-is for now until this gets nailed down


To summarize, definitely some work to be done on the budget

New balance, finding money

June 3rd, 2015 at 08:19 pm

My last loan payment took the full three business days to process, but did show up today:

Payment: 505.00
Interest: 13.19
Principal: 491.81
New balance: 12,091.07

At the current interest rate of 7.65%, I'll save 37.83 per year in interest on the amount of principal paid off so far.

While thinking of ways to speed up the repayment process (I'm not eligible to do more extra shifts for cash for a couple of months), I remembered an old, neglected bank account with some money in it from college. When I went away to school they didn't have any branches of my bank in the area, so I opened an account with a local bank for day to day spending and depositing paychecks from my part time job. When I moved again for grad school I went back to using my original bank and left the college account alone as an emergency backup fund. (For a person with an insane amount of debt, I'm actually something of a money hoarder- have always felt better knowing there were funds to tap in an unexpected emergency. This is unfortunately totally irrational, and I obviously should have forked over that money for grad school tuition and borrowed less.) I set up online access to the old college account today and will transfer $1484.02 to the GP loan.

I've been enjoying reading the updates from everyone doing Mrs. Frugalista's Pantry challenge- seeing what other people are cooking motivates me to change dinners up a little here!

In other minor money happenings, coffee at work is definitely one of my most consistent spending areas. I can bring coffee from home in the morning, but during long days I generally get coffee at least once to stay alert and ward off crankiness in the evening. Trying to cut down on this, but sometimes you just need to wake up to concentrate on what you are doing. Since my last travel mug broke, I bought a new one yesterday for $3.99. Not only is this better for the environment, but you get a discount if you use your own mug: $1.29 for a refill vs $1.99 for a regular coffee. Out of curiosity, I'm going to track those savings for a while to see if it adds up to anything significant (or at least how long it takes to pay for the mug!)


So far I've gotten refills yesterday and today, so $1.40 in coffee savings.