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Random financial updates

December 3rd, 2017 at 02:20 pm

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).

Library savings

October 28th, 2017 at 03:29 pm

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.

June deals

July 5th, 2017 at 11:46 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 19th, 2017 at 12:16 am

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.

Midmonth check-in, meal planning

July 26th, 2016 at 06:52 pm

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.

Slow but steady

June 6th, 2016 at 12:08 pm

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.

Payment, taxes, rambling

March 11th, 2016 at 06:40 pm

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.

Costly creature comfort

February 3rd, 2016 at 12:28 am

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 07:11 pm

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

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.