This past week wasn’t super frugal due to some fun summer activities, but much appreciated to get away for a couple days! I think road trips are still one of the cheaper ways to vacation though.
Frugal things for the week:
- Saved almost $100 booking through AirBnB instead of using the regular rental website for the same exact place
- Used a travel mug and resisted stopping for snacks on the way there or back
- Used up some odds and ends for dinner after getting back, putting off a grocery store run for another day
- Got seven new books at a free book exchange
- Cancelled Amazon prime. I got this as a 30 day free trial initially, but now was being charged monthly and don’t use it much
Now that the weather has definitely settled into summer territory, I need to sort and box up my winter clothing and go through my box of shorts and T-shirts to figure out what will still work for this year and what needs to be replaced. My go-to black work flats finally fell apart (literally, pieces fell off), and I need a pair of summer-appropriate black heels, but I’m going to inventory and make a list to avoid duplicates. Yard sale season is starting around here.
Viewing the 'Saving Money' Category
This past week wasn’t super frugal due to some fun summer activities, but much appreciated to get away for a couple days! I think road trips are still one of the cheaper ways to vacation though.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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 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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
1484.02- old checking account
42.77- leftover utility budget
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."