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August 17th, 2021 at 09:34 pm
This has been a spendier month so far. $250 for car repairs, 6 month car insurance payment came out, and I have scheduled an eye appointment to get a new Rx so I can order more contacts. Also have a minor medical procedure coming up in late August that I am sure will involve some out of pocket cost, though not sure of the exact amount yet.
On the fun spending side I finally decided to get a bicycle, to see if I can run more local errands on it when I don’t have time to walk several miles round trip and for another exercise option this fall if delta keeps getting worse. I found a basic used bike in good condition for $100 online and spent another $30 for a helmet and bike lock. Pretty sure I haven’t been on a bicycle since I was 12, but it came right back! Was not expecting how much it uses the butt muscles though, so I will probably need to do more practice rides closer to home before I venture too far into town.
On the saving side, I have started investing in a few Vanguard ETFs in addition to my 401K deductions, using the budget category that was previously going toward student loans. (Also reallocated some of that budget item to donations). I decided to just start on my own, and I will probably get around to finding an advisor to help rebalance things down the road when the world isn't so weird. I am splitting things between the VTI (whole US stock market), a large-cap ETF fund, and this month I am also adding a Vanguard small-cap fund. Down the road I might try to find a dividend-focused fund as well, but these three seemed like a reasonable way to at least get started in the market. My 401K is managed separately and can't be transferred to Vanguard.
Those of you who do your own investing- what do you choose? How did you decide?
March 28th, 2021 at 06:40 pm
I’m not a big online shopper and with no in-person social events, most work meetings moved to zoom, and only my BF ever coming into my apartment, I have put off a lot of routine purchases. Since this is a personal finance site, I figured I’d post a few spending snapshots now that they world is slowing reopening with vaccination. These don’t include regular budget categories, just variable expenses. I’m not a spender by nature and have stopped budgeting discretionary categories strictly as my income has gone up. Occasional spot checks show it averages out to about what I would have budgeted. The time spent to track it closely honestly just hit diminishing returns, and I think that time would be better spent figuring out how to reduce recurring fixed expenses or invest better, etc.
March spending snapshot:
Grocery spending- 210.73 (does not include occasional takeout)
190.73 – grocery stores
20? - farmers market. Not sure exactly because they take cash
121.29 – Replacing a flat tire
38.99 – baby shower gift from friend’s online registry
55.80 – clothing category. $25 to have a winter coat I like repaired by a local clothing shop (torn in 2 places) and $30.80 for a work-appropriate spring/summer dress and a nice shirt I can wear with dress pants or a skirt.
I think I am going to try to buy most of my clothing second hand. It seems better for the environment to reuse things that have already been manufactured, and since I donate my unwanted/ill fitting clothing, it seems logical to support the same system by buying from those sources. Secondhand clothing in my area also supports local-owned shops and individuals making a couple extra bucks on ebay. I also like that there’s more variety available that way, especially during seasons where the fashion of the moment is unflattering or unappealing. It is a mental adjustment to pay secondhand store prices for used clothing rather than yardsale or Goodwill prices though, even though I know it’s still a huge savings compared to buying it new and the difference is necessary to support the overhead of the business.
November 3rd, 2020 at 12:51 am
Like most places in the US, my area is seeing the worst surge in Covid cases since this whole thing started. Although so far no new lockdowns have been announced, anyone with common sense will be planning to stay home for most of the winter except for work, essential shopping, and outdoor activities. We also get real winter weather/snow here during a regular year- all the more reason to be prepared to stay home.
I have been thinking about my pandemic-related spending lately. I would like to be intentional about investing in things that will improve my quality of life in the winter without overspending on unhelpful things. I am not much of a decorator/shopper to begin with, so some of these things have probably just been overdue since I moved in a couple years ago but now seem more urgent.
Spending so far:
After months on the laptop, finally dropped $170 on a real monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Already making a huge difference- I am much more productive and should have done this sooner!
Coffee table for the living room
USB webcam for zoom meetings
More stamps and cute greeting cards to send surprise mail to friends and family
Items I am planning/considering:
New lamps for my dark, cave-like living room
Additional pantry stocking up
Backup laptop charging cord
Will probably buy more kindle books over the winter as the library ebooks have had very long waits since this started
A pair of knee-high boots
More underarmor style leggings for under my clothes. Really want to keep spending time outdoors all winter to exercise and fight off the blahs
Need to inventory/try on winter clothes, donate those that don’t work and make a list for any missing items (may need some new jeans/socks/1-2 sweaters due to attrition)
Getting a cracked computer screen repaired
Cute teapot/tea set. This is totally frivolous but fun
Pedometer app to make sure I am getting enough activity in
Recommended items I love:
- Electric blanket! So cozy/luxurious feeling and really cuts heating bills!
Tea kettle – somehow much cozier than microwaving the water
What items have you bought to make the time at home more comfortable? Recommendations?
April 1st, 2020 at 09:15 pm
The state is under a stay-at-home order, so apart from going to work (considered an essential industry) and infrequently to the grocery store, I’m at home. Have worked a couple extra shifts and there will probably be more overtime as people get sick/quarantined and need to be replaced.
Financially, I don’t spend a lot on going out anyway, but of course that is down to zero. I have been avoiding the cafeteria at work as part of social distancing (that’s one way to cut out unnecessary coffee spending!) Also cancelled a trip to see friends and would have otherwise spent money on date activities, but being in a long-distance relationship means no travel = no dates.
Areas I’m spending more:
Groceries! Picking up extra things to leave on the porch for my parents when I do shop to minimize how often they have to go out. Also bought a few extra things that I usually wouldn’t due to shortages of my usual products or to avoid making a second trip to another store to get something more cheaply.
Gifts: Sent some gifts or gift cards (ordered online) to friends and relatives who are furloughed right now or on fixed incomes
Donations: Pretty worried about the food banks and animal shelters, both due to not having their regular fundraising activities and the increased demand they will probably see in this tough economic situation.
Working on using up things in the pantry, to minimize food waste AND shopping trips. Today I focused on a big bag of dal that’s been languishing in the cupboard for a couple years. Made something similar to this recipe, but added half a cup of rice as well: https://myheartbeets.com/instant-pot-green-moong-dal/ The bag is still about 1/3 full, but it’s a start! It wasn’t amazing, but it was certainly edible and filling! May freeze part of it for later.
Anyone up for a use-up-the-pantry challenge?
Student loan balance (3.21%):
Principle: $114, 229.67
Daily interest: $10.04
February 15th, 2020 at 08:27 pm
It’s about time to do review recurring monthly expenses. I try to do this at least once a year, to see if better deals are available and try to keep fixed monthly bills in check. Auto insurance is a great deal around here and should stay the same (I was mildly injured by another driver this year, which weirdly goes through your own auto insurance per our state laws, and Geico was very helpful. Great customer service. Can’t say the same for the medical billing people at the ortho clinic, but that’s another story). Renters insurance is bundled. Medical, dental, and vision insurance premiums are determined through work. I locked in a promotional $40/month rate for home internet for two years a few months ago. Disability insurance will go up a little because I’m adjusting my policy, but that’s worth it. Need to look into getting a better deal on my cellphone plan, but I’m nervous something will get messed up with my keeping my current number, which is essential. Honestly the headache of that has been putting me off. My regular monthly student loan payment went up by around $400/month when I refinanced, but when you factor in the lower interest rate and the fact the term switched from 10 to 5 years, this was a savings overall.
Other financial housekeeping goals for this year: Need to sit down and figure out/change how my 401K is allocated. They automatically put me in an age-based fund when I was hired, but the mix is probably too conservative (too many bonds) for me. I should also probably move some of my savings into the market to earn better interest, but I’m pretty conservative about having a liquid cash cushion for emergencies.
Recently sent some extra money that had gradually built up in other budget categories toward my student loan.
Consolidated student loans:
Daily interest cost: $10.65
February 25th, 2019 at 06:02 am
This has been a pretty spendy month so far, with variable spending at $778.25. This doesn’t include regular bills, charitable donations, extra debt repayment, or work-related expenses, some of which will eventually be reimbursed, but it does include discretionary budget categories like groceries.
Unusual extra spending: $75 for a nice used desk chair to replace an old one that broke. $30 for a filing cabinet for my home office area. $70 for a nice Valentine’s dinner and drinks, with tip. This is more than a typical date for us, but every once in a while it’s fun to dress up and splurge on trying something new. (We roughly take turns paying for things.) $65 for some new bras and a dress to replace worn-out items.
Grocery spending was around $200, which isn’t too bad, although it could probably be lower for one vegetarian who doesn’t buy imitation meat and cooks at home a lot. Buying coffee and cafeteria snacks remains an area for improvement, even though I do keep some snacks at my desk and avoid pricey Starbucks coffee. Even the cheap stuff adds up!
Other spending included things like gas, forever stamps, mailing packages with Valentine’s candy for friends, liquor for a social gathering, a copay for dental work, and Hulu and Washington Post online subscriptions (don’t count these in the regular bills category because they’re definitely discretionary entertainment expenses) .
August 5th, 2018 at 03:07 pm
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!
March 18th, 2018 at 10:49 pm
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.
January 21st, 2018 at 08:39 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).
January 3rd, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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.
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).
August 2nd, 2017 at 11:25 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
July 27th, 2017 at 11:20 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!