1. I bought a new iPod. The one I had finally died and I can't get through the day without my tunes, man. I also got wicked earphones to go with it. Aaaaand spent a grip on music on iTunes. Yeah...
2. Sadly, the AMEX gift card I wanted to use towards the iPod purchase didn't have as much on it as I expected. It's a $200 card that only had $150. Why? When I bought Quicken online, I tried to use my gift card, but they gave me an error saying I had to use another card, so I used my Visa. Turns out they charged both my AMEX and Visa cards. I sent a note to customer service and they said they didn't do it, to which I had to call them and come THISCLOSE to acting a fool. They said they had to call some other dept., that was not answering the phone because it was Christmas Eve and to call back on Wednesday. So yeah, Quicken owes me $50.99 dammit!
3. Speaking of Quicken, I've been using it and getting the hang of it a little more. I admit that I don't know all the information it wants (like intense tax info, etc.) but I can live without that. I like that I've got all my accounts linked in and updated and that I can categorize purchases, etc. and get reports to see where my money is going. I have my investment info in there also, however the amounts shown in Quicken differ from what my company's 401k site says. I believe it's because I haven't loaded everything into Quicken, I just don't know what it's missing. Whateves. Close enough. I didn't buy it to monitor investments anyway.
4. I spent some money at the grocery store to make some snacks and tasties to bring to work. What can I say, I was slapped upside the head with the holiday spirit.
1. My bosses at work gave me a $200 AMEX gift card! Another gave me a $50 gift card to Macy's!
2. I tried to use the AMEX gc to buy Quicken Deluxe online, however since it couldn't verify my billing address with the gc, it wouldn't go through. I ended up putting it on my credit card. No worries, I have the funds to cover the purchase comfortably. I was going to get Quicken Premier but decided I didn't want the added investment features.
3. However I did manage to save $12 by using a promo code from Retailmenot.com.
4. So now I have Quicken Deluxe and it's not as intuitive as I had hoped. There is still a lot of information I have to enter. I'm hoping once it's all in there, it will be a valuable tool. I want it to pull my info from ING Direct, however it only asks for the user ID and password. Well ING uses about a bajillion passwords, which one am I supposed to use? Meh, I'll sort it out later.
5. Other things I might spend my gc's on: Earphones? A ridiculous amount of make up? One of these? I dunno yet. I don't want to waste my gc's, however I feel compelled to buy something for myself that I normally wouldn't due to budget constraints.
6. While I was making a list of things I want, I also jotted notes about my financial goals for 2008. Once I have those finalized they'll be posted here.
Eeep! It's getting late and I need to go to bed! More later!
1. I live in a high-cost-of-living city. Anything that I would be able to afford would be in a far-flung suburb.
2. If I had to move to far-flung suburb, that would mean I would have to buy a car.
3. If I can't afford to put furniture in the house, I damn well can't afford to add a car note, insurance, and all the other nonsense.
4. Saving and buying a home would have meant putting off saving for my retirement.
5. It would also have meant a downgrade in lifestyle.
6. I'm happy where I am right now.
Probably simplistic thinking. But sometimes the right answer comes very easily. And for me, it came down to "I can't afford it."
So now I have to get on with the business of planning my 2008 budget, which is a little challenging to do since I need to account for taxes. I do know the following:
- Health care (medical plus HSA contribution) will cost me $808 (pre-tax) in 2008. That's up from $600 for 2007.
- I will continue to contribute 20% of my gross annual income to my 401k. In 2008 that will be $10,000 (dang...), compared to $9,000 in 2007.
- My monthly train pass is likely to go up by 10% in 2008 to $1,087.08, compared to $988.20 for 2007.
- I will begin funding my Roth IRA again in full after taking a, oh geez, a 6 or 7 year break? I will max out that contribution to the tune of $5,000 after taxes in 2008.
- After getting my three-month emergency fund completed, I plan to fund my health care fund at $1,500. This covers the deductible, hospital admission copay, and a couple hundred bucks extra for whatever. We're talking health care here, I'm sure that extra cash will find a way to be spent.
- Going back to the emergency fund. Three months is the bare minimum, I'd like to get it up to six months, so that means an additional $3,600.
- I need a new computer. Bad. I'm willing to keep this one until Spring 2009. By then I'd like to have at least $7,000 for a new machine. Pricey, yes, but I need a high-performance machine and those cost a pretty penny.
But for now, I'm breathing easier now that I know I'll be making better money next year and be able to fun my most important financial goals.
My Unemployment Fund has increased by 19% to put me at 63% of my goal. The bar on the right has been updated to reflect this.
My net worth has taken a slide by $1,116 from October, mainly due to stock market declines and $38 on one of my credit cards.
The market is the market. Nothing to report there. I'm more focused on my savings and credit cards. With all the talk of a maybe-it-is/maybe-it-isn't recession, and everything costing a lot more there are three things I want to focus on:
1. Pay that $38 and continue to keep my credit cards clear.
2. Continue saving for my Unemployment Fund. I'm almost there!
3. Plan my budget more carefully for 2008 so that I will use my credit cards less often and have more cash to toss into my short-term savings.
And in other news...
I find out what my pay increase will be next week Tuesday. I'll keep you all posted on what happens there.
I'll admit to you all that it depresses me. I work very hard, get great reviews, and they still won't pay me what I'm worth. I can't continue to work there knowing they don't value me, however the thought of having to look for another job, interview, etc. frightens me. I'm afraid I won't find anything better than what I have now. I'm afraid that I'm not good enough to find something better. I know I have to try, because my anger at not getting the money I deserve is greater than my fears. But still, I'm afraid of breaking out of my comfort zone to end up in a crappier situation.
Backing up: When I found out I was being underpaid, the first thing I did was update my resume, contact a recruiter, and spoke to a couple people in and outside of the firm who have wisdom I respect. They gave me some things to think about and encouraged me to talk with my managers. At this point, now that I know my employer still wants to underpay me, I'm going to reach out to that recruiter again and let them know I'm seriously looking. I'll also look for other opportunities within the firm, talk to some contacts I know in the firm and network, and of course just look at job boards, etc. The plan is to leave when I find a better opportunity. Naturally, that means I will have to take that search seriously.
Even if I got that significant increase and maxed both options, I'd still struggle to meet my after-tax saving goals. So chances are even if I that big increase, I would only max my Roth and use the extra after-tax money to save for other goals while funding my 401k at 15% to 20% of my pre-tax income, which I think is pretty good in and of itself.
I should mention that I absolutely SUCK at math. So this is something of an ordeal. I'm sure better minds would have whipped this out in 30 minutes. I'm still staring at my spreadsheet about two seconds away for telling it to go to hell. I'm sure I goofed up somewhere but the take-away is that I have a much clearer understanding of how much tax is taken out of my check and for what. Now to just find out what my possible scenarios are for maxing out my retirement contributions. But that's another fiddy-'leven hours worth of work and I'm tired. I'll probably have it ready by tomorrow.
2. Had dinner with the girls tonight. I normally don't go out so I can save money, but tonight I decided to wing it and I'm glad I did. I had a great time and only spent $40. That included dinner, drinks, tax, tip, and transportation. Sweet!
3. I'm trying not to look at my 401k performance. I know it's ugly. I'm going to refrain from looking until the end of the month to do my net worth post. In the meantime, I'll hope all the asshats on wall st. will settle down and just accept what their greedy behinds got into (I know, I know, some home owners are at fault also. Their asshats too in my book. I've got plenty of grievances to air on this topic.)
4. At the end of the day, I'm thankful for where I am and what I have.
5. Kanye West's mother, Dr. Donda West, passed away. This has been all over the news lately. What I find interesting is that in some news outlets, she is just referred to as Donda West leaving out that the woman has a Ph. D. I find it curious that major news outlets would leave this detail out. Then again, maybe I shouldn't. This has nothing to do with finance directly...nonetheless a random thought.
Y'all know, I contribute 20% of my pre-tax dollars, but on my $45k salary, that's $9,000. That's a stretch for me, so nevermind about that $15,500 max, but you know what? I don't think it's necessary. Dedicating almost 35% of my pre-tax income to my 401k would mean some very lean living for me.
Speaking of lean living, I found out transportation costs for my train route to work every morning are going up 10% next year. So that on top of the increase in health care I'm going for next year (which is a whopping 45% because I pay about $8 a month now for 80/20 coverage, I'm going for 90/10 coverage next year because there's a chance I'll have surgery next year) doesn't make it bloody likely I'll max out my 401k contribution. And while it's not necessary, the thought certainly is intriguing.
At this point I need to start planning my goals and budget for 2008. It's little tricky because I haven't had my pay review at work yet. It still couldn't hurt to come up with a guideline in the meantime.
In my opinion, having two people home for the full six week period makes for better bonding with the baby, as well as better support for both parents. I think it's rather antiquated for a women to have leave then have to get another family member (usually her mother) to help out what the father has to go back to work, often because the income is needed. Provide parental, rather than just maternal, leave and I believe it would be a tremendous benefit.
Ok. Going to bed now.
- I took $249 from my unemployment fund and paid my credit card.
- Payday is Friday. Along with my usual savings for the unemployment fund, I will add $249 to it to make up for the credit card payment.
- I didn't go to the grocery store today for more chicken breasts. I already have four packages in the freezer. If I commit to using a price book, I'll be able to catch the next sale.
- I will finish the food I have at home before I go grocery shopping again. Chances are that will be in about three to four weeks. That will give me time to come up with menus and a shopping list to make sure I maximize my shopping dollar.
I need to activate my ING debit card andstart using that instead of my credit card.
I think the steps above will help keep me focused and my spending under control.
You know, sometimes I wonder about becoming wealthy. In a capitalist system, for the ultra wealthy to stay that way, they need a lot of poor minions. That's just the way the system is set up. Bottom line: some people can not, will not, win. It's a reality I don't like thinking about, because it makes me ask myself what my role is in all of it.
And in other news...
I'm thinking of decreasing my 401k contribution from 20% to 15% next year. I resume contributing the maximum to my Roth IRA in 2008 along with building up the health care and down payment funds. I could use the extra cash for these saving goals. We'll see. The more I think about it, the more I believe I need to rework my budget and clearly define my short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Sometimes I don't want to do that because sometimes it seems impossible. But if I at least acknowledge and put them on paper, I can see what's really possible. I might be surprised.
Aaaaand let this be my post for today!
1. Most of my monthly bills vary month to month; and
2. I like handling my money/bills.
I love paying my bills when they are due. I enjoy looking logging into my bank account on pay day to pay my bills. Taking care of my bills "manually" helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of my financial life. Every pay period I check my accounts, look at my spreadsheet, move money around, do a quick assessment to decide if the current system is fine or needs adjustment. I don't need to put distance between me and my money.
That's a signal right there to me that I need to curb my spending. So I will do that and not put anything else on that card. I'll pay it off with the next pay check.
- They charged me a $25 fee for my mileage debit card. I've had this card for about two years and don't recall getting charged last year. Must have been waived. Anyway, that put me $6 in the red.
- Of course, I will be hit with an NSF fee. It hasn't hit the account yet, but I will have to call back tomorrow to see if they will waive it.
I closed out my savings account with them and moved the money to the checking. The savings was right at $300, anything lower than that gets slapped with a $4 monthly fee. Screw that, I'd rather close it. I was only keeping it open for sentimental reasons, and because I was feeling timid about having everything at ING. Pfft. Oh well. The plan now is as follows:
- Call my bank tomorrow to get the NSF waived.
- If they waive the fee, great. I will leave about $30 in the account and move everything else to ING as planned. I will also move forward with cancelling the mileage program on my debit card to avoid paying that fee next year (twenneh fi dayum dollaz!).
- If they do not waive the fee, I will tell them to close my checking account and I will be moving my Roth IRA to another institution. I've already got the bill pay with Electric Orange set up with all my payees, and I've been looking at moving my Roth to Vanguard anyway.
I acknowledge that it's my fault for not paying attention to this debit card fee. I still think it's a LOT of money to pay for the privilege of earning 1 mile for every $2 spent. It's handy, but whatever. I can live without it. I will say that customer service was very nice. I also love that there is an ATM and bank branch EVERYWHERE. However I don't like getting nickeled and dimed. I need my money more than they do. :)
1. My employer is rolling out a new way for people not currently enrolled in a 401k to do so easily. It enrolls them in a portfolio that automatically chooses a mix of investments depending on the enrollees age and projected retirement. Sounds good eh? Of course, there is a cost for this service as the portfolio is managed by a professional. That cost being somewhere around $64 a year on top of whatever fees from the funds. I don't know if that's good or bad. However if all we have are about 10 or 11 funds to choose from, and if all one has to do is go to one of the many risk calculators to figure out what the allocations should be, I'm thinking I don't need to pay someone for that. I'll just make my own adjustments, thank you very much.
2. I decided to go with 90% coinsurance for my health care. It's a lot more money, however $300 extra is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
3. My performance/pay review is coming up in December and I'm nervous. I always am. I'm hoping for a decent raise, especially with the increase cost in health care. We'll just have to wait and see.
4. I'm eager to start mapping out a savings plan for 2008, however it's difficult to do if I don't know how much money I will be working with. I do know that my top goals are my Roth IRA and Health Care Fund. I don't include my 401k in this because to me it's a given. A straight 20% cut of my pre-tax dollars automatically invested. I would like to add saving for a down payment (5-yr. goal), a vacation (1, possibly 2 yr. goal), and a super, bad-ass gaming computer (1 to 1.5 yr. goal). A lot of very high-ticket items. Hence why I'm curious about my pay review. I'm also considering a part-time gig. Maybe something during the holidays at UPS?
5. I was chatting with my Mom recently, and while we were talking she was opening her mail. "Oh. Looks like my credit score is 830." She's taking out a HELOC to help pay for some property taxes coming up and they did a credit check. She was perfectly fine with that score until I said, "Wow! Almost a perfect 850!" Now she's sulking that she doesn't have 850. My mom, the overachiever. :::eye roll:::
6. I've been less-than-frugal lately with buying lunches at work, etc. I have GOT to get that under control Part of the problem is that I haven't gone grocery shopping. Because I hate grocery shopping. But I hate wasting money even more, so I guess I'll get my wide ass up and go grocery shopping. :::double-hard eye roll:::
- "A survey by Charles Schwab Corp...and Ariel Mutual Funds concludes that four in 10 African Americans with household incomes of $50,000 or more have no money in stocks, compared to just one quarter of whites."
- "Ariel's survey also found blacks who enrolled in retirement plans save a median $173 a month while whites save $252."
- "A separate survey of retirees found whites are nearly twice as likely to have $100,000 or more saved than blacks, even when education, peak income level and other factors are held constant."
- "Ethnic and racial groups approach saving and investing differently, said Hewitt's Tapia, who was raised in Peru. For instance, "long-term," suggests a shorter time horizon to immigrant Latinos accustomed to political instability and high inflation that made long-term planning seemingly impossible, he said."
- "There are also lessons in the demographics of the black community, said Ariel's Hobson. A larger percentage of African Americans raise children in single-parent households, care for aging parents and have non-immediate family members in their homes, she said...'That old saying, it takes a village, that's very, very clear in the black community,' she said."
- "Historical factors may also play a role in blacks' preference of real estate over stocks. Racial discrimination by mortgage lenders may have heightened blacks' interest in owning a home, she said."
Goal reached! I anticipate using this money for minor emergencies, like vet care, repairs, etc.
With the EF out of the way I can get started on my UF. I anticipate having this completed by the end of the year.
Health care deductible fund
Good news here. It's not nearly as high as I thought (thought it was going to be around $3,000). If I go with the 90% coinsurance, the deductible is $1,000. 80% coinsurance has a $1,500 deductible. I decided to make the $1,500 my goal regardless of what I choose.
Health care price tags
We just found out how much our health care choices will cost us in 2008. Overall, not bad. It's a bit painful if you want to increase your coverage to have higher coinsurance and a lower deductible. That's what I'm looking at. The difference between 80% coinsurance and 90% coinsurance would be an additional $300. There's a chance I might need surgery next year. Is it worth $300 on the chance that I might have surgery? That's what I have to decide.
I've set up "sub"-saving accounts for each of my monthly expenses that will be funded by their alloted amounts. When a bill is due, I will transfer money from the appropriate account to pay it. If I need cash, there are a few ATMs very close to my home and office. So that's cool.
I'm going to keep my brick-and-mortar bank because I've had it for SO long. Plus they have ATMs all over the place, so it could be handy. With my next paycheck, I will have $30 direct deposited to my brick-and-mortar, the rest to my ING checking. I'll try this out for a while and see how it feels. If all goes well, I see myself closing my checking and saving accounts the brick-and-mortar.
And in other news...
I think we find out at work what our 2008 health care price tags are going to be tomorrow. I'm hoping this is the case. I'm anxious to see how much we'll really be paying. I'll also admit that I'm fairly concerned that the cost increase will be high enough that it will impact my savings. I'm also concerned about what my raise will be this year. I got a HUGE one last year that I worked pretty hard for. This year? I did well, but not stellar. As long as it's not 2%, I'll be ok.
Employee contributions, on average, will go up $156 per employee to $2,040, an 8 percent increase. Employees are expected to get less than 4 percent in pay raises on average in 2008, Towers Perrin said.
"Increasing employee contributions, deductibles, co-pays and premiums are causing many workers to opt out of their employers' health plans," said David Guilmette, a Towers Perrin consultant.
The experts are also predicting that employees will be shelling out 10% more for out-of-pocket health care expenses to the tune of $3,597 in 2008. What the article doesn't say is if this is for a single employee, employee with spouse, or employee with family coverage. Guess I wasn't too far off in wanting to have my health care fund to be $3,000. Basically, this is going to suck. Like, a LOT. Especially for low-wage earners and retirees.
I'm bringing all of this up because it's annual enrollment season at my employer. That glorious time when we realize how much more the middle class is going to take it up the ass for another year. My employer sent out a firm-wide communication about the upcoming changes to our annual enrollment. First, they wanted to remind us that the cost of health care is rising (you don't say!). Then they mentioned that on average, the cost for medical (not including vision and dental) will increase about 6% for most employees of the firm. It won't be until later this month when we learn what the real numbers are. I'm very interested to see what the price tags are because there's a pretty good chance I'll be having surgery next year, so I wanted to elect more coverage. I'm curious to know how much that higher coverage is going to cost me. I'll keep you posted.
But wait, there's more!
There are a bunch of other health care changes they are making, but they are also changing up the 401k. Below are the changes that caught my attention.
- They are adding "target retirement portfolios "to help diversify your investments and meet your goals for a target retirement date without having to select your own mix of funds." That sounds interesting.
- For those who haven't started a 401k yet, they added a feature that will make it very quick and easy for people to sign up, and will automatically default to one of the target retirement portfolios depending on the age of the employee. Of course, this can all be changed later.
Seems to me that they are trying to get people to start saving for retirement, which makes me wonder how many people at my company have a 401k account. Not enough, apparently, so hopefully this will get more people to start saving.
So there it is folks. To those of you lucky enough to get health care offered through your employer, pay attention to the communications about your health care benefits over the next month or two.
Fast forward to my latest statement. I look at the interest and it says 10.74% I'm guessing this is because of the Fed's rate cut. Ain't that something?
This does highlight the fact that I have not budgeted for vacations, even though travel is important to me. I am just now realizing that in this way, my budget does not reflect my values. For now, I'm ok with that. I'd rather actively save for charity, which is far more important to me right now.
[Segue way] One of the things that I fantasize about is marrying a man that believes in philanthropy and wants to build a charitable giving trust together. Then one day I thought, "Why do I have to be married for that? Why can't I do that now?" There are a lot of things I would like to do and experience, and I don't want to put my life on hold until I get married, lose weight, have "enough" money, etc. I want to live fully starting yesterday. :)[/Segue way]
So that's why travel can wait. I've never saved up money to give away, and I want to do that now. Oh, that and I need to save up my emergency and unemployment funds, but that doesn't sound nearly as impressive. :)
With my 401k, how do I find out how much the fees are for the different funds I'm invested in? Is that information in the prospectus of each fund? Meg makes a point about finding out these costs, but I'm not sure where to look. Plus I think I need to reallocate some of my money so my 401k is more diversified. Help please?
Another thing: My employer doesn't offer a lot of choices. Ten to be exact. Is this typical or do other employers offer more or less?
- S&P 500 Index Fund
- Euro Pacific Fund
- Brandywine Fund
- CRM Small Cap Fund
- XYZ Company Friess SM Cap Growth Fund
- Emerging Markets Fund
- Stable Value Fund
- XYZ Company Dodge & Cox Fund
- XYZ Company Harbor Cap Fund
- LSV Value Equity Fund
In spite of depleting my savings for the vacay, I'm still worth something. :) Thankfully, the stocks rebounded so I made an addition $2,000 over last month. Guess I can retire at 70.25 instead of 70.50. Woot!
The cost of oatmeal at Corner Bakery has gone up
From $2.97 including tax to $3.09. It's not a huge increase, however for the sake of principal, I don't believe I should have to pay more than three bucks for oatmeal, brown sugar, and a sweet crisp. Oh yeah, no sweet crisp anymore! They give you some tiny piece of knarly ass. Whatever man, I'll just have to be more diligent of bringing my own oatmeal to work in the mornings. It's a pain in the ass to make, but I LOVE steel-cut oatmeal. I just need to find a way to make a huge batch of it without scorching the bottom of my pot.
I currently have an OSA with ING, however it's nearly cleaned out since I took my vacation. I've got a few options:
1. Stick with ING
Bottom line, while their rates are lower than other online accounts (currently 4.30%), they spank brink-and-mortar banks (my b-n-m bank offers something like 0.39%). I'm very happy with their user-friendly interface and customer service. Having my smaller and larger savings in one place would be easier to manage.
2. Have OSAs with ING and another bank
Keep ING for the ability to make "subaccounts" for my smaller savings goals and link it to an ING Electric Orange Checking account to pay bills, etc. The benefit of this is that the Electric Orange account also earns interest. 3.50% would be better than the ZEE-RO I earn with my current bank.
- I would open an OSA with another bank for my larger goals (unemployment, emergency, health care, housing). Since these funds would have higher dollar amounts, I'd like for them to earn as much money as possible. Putting them with an OSA other than ING would allow me to do this. So far the High Yield Money Market product from Capital One looks the most promising. They currently offer: 5.00% annual interest
- No minimum balance
- No fees (Well, almost. Wire transfers are $20.)
- ATM card (From their web site: "ATM withdrawals are limited to $500 per day, with no monthly limit on how many times you use the card. Capital One does not charge a fee for ATM usage, but the ATM owner may.")
- Six transfers per calendar month, three of which can be by check
I'm leaning towards option 2, but we'll see.
I project that by the end of 2007 I will have enough cash for a three-month unemployment fund and $1,000 for the emergency fund. After that I will focus on coming up with the health care deductible (I projected high at $3,000 however I won't know the real number until open enrollment in December 2007) and Roth IRA contribution. I am debating on whether any extra should go to expand the unemployment fund to six months, or start saving for a house. Perhaps both? We'll see.
And about that vacation...
- I spent FAR less on strippers than budgeted. Amazing how far one lap dance can take you. ;)
- Far and away, the biggest cost was lodging, but I'm ok with that. Unlike Meg, I believe my money is well spent on the best lodging I can afford. I do go out to see the sights and such, but I spend a lot of time in the room just relaxing. I'm just like that. Sometimes I have to cocoon. :) And since I do spend a good amount of time in the room, I want it to be comfortable and I want all the services/amenities that go with it. Again, this is just something particular for me, so I made sure to budget accordingly.
- After lodging came food. Again, a cost I gladly pay because I love good food! Good food doesn't always mean high prices, so sometimes I paid next to nothing for excellent food, sometimes I pay through the teeth for garbage.
- I tipped the housekeeper $5 per day and boy did it pay off. I couldn't keep up with the amount of bottle water, shower gels, and chocolates she left me. Everything would be organized for me, she even hung all the clothes I'd tossed on the floor. By no means was that an expectation, however I was really impressed and appreciative.
- Once I get my statement, it will be interesting to see how much I actually spent and where it actually went. Right now I'm still recovering, from the travel and the shock of finding out ING lowered their interest rates! Ugh, something else to deal with, but later. Right now, I need to drag my butt to the nearest Chipotle. What? I hadn't had it for two weeks, I deserve it! Kinda... : /
- Oh. Another thing for me to be freaked out about: Making sure the funds I picked for my Roth and 401k aren't costing me a fortune. I feel so clueless about this stuff. Part of me wants to walk away from it because it's daunting. I don't really know where to start. However the need to make sure I make the most money possible with what I've got is more important, so I need to figure out how to figure it out. :)
I went through my closet and picked out some things that I know fit me well, however the rest of the stuff...well...not so much. I have a lot of t-shirts and old sweaters that don't fit me very well. I don't need to be a fashionista, but I don't want to be frumpy...like I am at home. Besides, I'm going to meeting some new people and I want to make a good first impression. I think I would do well by purchasing the following:
1. Fitted corduroy blazer in black.
2. Those cute little athletic shoes that look like gym shoes, but they aren't. Also in black.
3. A pair of well-fitting khaki's.
I think those three items with a couple pairs of jeans and dress slacks should go well with the tops I have in my closet. We'll see. I went into one store a couple times this week and tried on the same jacket (the corduroy one). It fits really well, but I always put it back thinking I don't need to spend the money. I'm going to go through my closet again to pair up outfits with what I have that I look good in, is comfortable, and versatile. If I still feel I need to buy anything, I'll consider getting any of the items above.
After doing all the usual researching on finding the best possible lodging for my tastes/budget and air fare, I set up my "Travel Cost Estimator." The idea was to anticipate as many occasions where I'd spend money as possible. There are three columns, one listing the possible expenditures and two other outlining two possible scenarios. Some of my estimations may seem high so I'll explain below. Overall though, I'd rather overestimate than under.
Knowing me, the second column is more realistic, so I saved money accordingly.
The food allocations might seem a bit high, however I'm a bit of a foodie. While I don't anticipate spending that much for a meal, I don't want to worry about missing out one something unique and delicious if it might be a bit pricey. Plus that amount includes tax and tip. A steak dinner for one person that includes a couple glasses of wine, dessert, tax, and tip easily exceeds $75 at the better steakhouses in my city, so I think $75 should work. Naturally there will be times when I spend a bit less or more. So it goes.
I also decided to save a few bucks by taking a cab instead of a hired sedan to the airport. While the sedan is lush and relaxing, a cab is just fine. Although I might hire a car for getting back home, because standing at a taxi stand at a busy airport when all you want to do is get home is the pits. So that might change.
:::sigh::: Strippers aren't cheap, y'all. But to be fair, I'm figuring adult beverages into that figure even though technically it should be in my meals category. I guess I'm thinking of this as an event. So moving right along...
Be honest people, how many of you tip the housekeeper when you stay at a hotel?
Because you never know. I kid! I just threw that in there because it amuses me. :)
So there you have it. I can't predict everything I will want or need, however I can anticipate as possible and prepare.
Amongst other things, inequality has a very real impact on the financial well-being of women and people of color in this country. I'm so, so sorry that some people don't want to be called out and reminded that their privilege comes at a very real cost to the rest of us.
"...you gotta explain your budget to me. The one you have listed on the side bar. $30 for brow wax? Chile, ummmm your brows grow that fast and that much?"Yes and yes. In my heyday I was getting my eyebrows waxed every two weeks. The $30 is $25 for the actual service then a $5 tip. It's at a high-end spa, hence the higher cost. Believe me when I tell you that I've shopped around and tried to find someone less pricey. I decided that it's more important to spend a little more money for very high-quality skill then to save a few bucks and not be satisfied with the results.
"$168 for hair? Ok....even getting a relaxer every month would amount to this much. Then again I go to a college student to do my hair so I don't know what the salons charge now-a-days."Now this is a little tricky. I get my hair done at a salon every eight weeks, so every other month. The cost is $168 which covers:
- Base color: $60
- Highlights: $50
- Trim: $25
- Brow color: $5
- Tip: $28
Now, last month the specialty hair care store was having a sale so I bought enough product to last me for about four months. I wasn't expecting the sale, but I decided to take advantage. I'm still going to save that extra $84. At the end of the year either it will stay in my "hair fund" or I might find a need for it elsewhere. This budget is fairly new so I'll keep you posted on how it actually works.
I called my credit card company today to let them know I would be traveling. Since I was there on the phone with them, I asked if there were any promotions going on, if I could get my interest rate lowered, etc. After three or four transfers :::dramatic eyeroll::: I spoke to someone who not only lowered my interest rate from 15.24% to 11.24%, but she gave me 1,000 flier miles to boot! Since I don't carry a balance on my credit card anymore, the lowered interest isn't that much of a concern to me. However it's nice to have just in case there's an emergency. Paying 11.24% is better than 15.24%, so any break I can get works. What I'm really excited by are the 1,000 flier miles! That was so random, and since I love to travel (hence why I have a card that earns miles for me) this was a treat.
So the lesson here is that it never hurts to ask.
- An emergency fund.
- A health care fund.
- An unemployment fund.
- My Roth IRA.
- Maxing out my 401k.
Being newly in the black, for me, feels quite precarious. I feel like at any moment I can slip back into debt and out of control. This upcoming vacation has me feeling that way. Nevermind that I have almost $4,000 in cash sitting in the bank to use for this vacation. Something most people don't do when it comes to planning for a trip, so I'm better off. No. I still feel like I haven't saved enough. That I'm going to overspend and somehow screw up my progress. However I know this is just an emotional response. I'm smart enough and prepared enough to make sure I don't get into debt over this vacation.
Wow, go off on tangents much Velvet? Anyway, when I get back, my most important goal is saving $3,000 by the end of the year. What it will be earmarked for, I have no idea. Chances are it will be my tree-month emergency fund. Then I'll get to the business of saving for my other goals. I think the thing I feel insecure about is if I'm doing the right thing. If I'm going down the right path for me. Honestly, I don't know. But I don't see the harm in saving as much money as I can while I figure it out.
It's just, I have self-doubt and I'm paranoid. However I do, at some point, have to learn about stocks and investing. I know very little right now, and to be honest, I find it a bit intimidating and boring. However I know that it's important for my long-term picture, so I will at least learn the basics so I can manage my money, or at least know what someone is talking about if I hire someone to help me with that.
- Vacation fund: $3,500
- Budgeted funds for monthly expenses: $888
- In my checking account: $190
As for my retirement funds, as a whole, a $200 dip is pretty much nothing. It's only been a month, it can get a lot worse, better, or no change at all. It doesn't really matter because I'm in this game for another 30 years. The flux over a month is a drop in the bucket. Besides, at these lower prices my money will be able to buy more stocks. So it's all good. :)
I checked my FICO scores for the very first time yesterday. They are listed below.
Shocked. Dumbfounded. Delightful surprise. That's how I would describe my reaction to the scores. I had no idea my scores were that high. This from someone who years ago had over $20K in student loans and just recently had almost $13K in credit card debt. I'm very happy with this! I guess being diligent about paying my bills on time paid off. :)
Other than that, two issues that I'll have to sort out:
- There was an address on two reports that I never lived at, that I requested a couple years ago to be removed. It was there from a credit fraud attempt. How hard can it be for them to take this off? :::eyeroll:::
- On one of my reports, one of my student loans is listed as "unrated or bankruptcy." What the...? But with the other two reports it's fine. :::double eyeroll:::
Long story short, I had collectors calling the house, I ignored bills because I didn't want to deal with the problem I was having. Eventually my mother sat me down. She noticed that all these people were calling the house, and I was getting a bunch of bills. I told her my situation and it was she who got me on track, not by paying any of my bills, but by first, facing up to my obligations, and second, showing me step-by-step how to prioritize my bills to pay them off. After about two years, I paid off all my credit cards AND my student loans. After that I was able to build up an emergency fund that kept me afloat for nine months when I got laid off suddenly.
Since then I fell back into debt with my credit card, but with the lessons she taught me, I knew exactly what to do to get myself right out. For that reason, my mom is my finance savior. :)
I called CO's customer service and got verification of the following:
1. CO does not charge a fee for foreign purchases;
2. CO does not pass along the 1% fee that Visa charges for foreign purchases; and
3. CO has a $0 fraud liability provision for unauthorized use if the card is lost or stolen.
But what about debit cards and ATMs?
Depending on what bank you are with, the foreign transaction fee can be the same amount as it would be for your credit card, so no savings there. I checked with my bank and the fee they charge for just withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM is 3%. Sorry, that's a lot of scratch. I'm looking into a couple options that could save me some money.
- Ask my bank to waive the fee. What? You don't know if you don't ask.
- Open an online savings/payment account with HSBC.
- Will I incur a currency conversion fee?
- Will this trigger some kind of "homeland security" nonsense?
- While there is a zero liability protection if the debit card gets lost or stolen, the money will be reimbursed to me after forms and whatnot are filled out. But that's after I get back. I'd still be out of money while I'm there.
I will be going overseas soon and my Visa wants to charge me 3% for international purchases whether made in US or foreign currency. Paying 3% for every purchase is just too high in my opinion. An alternative could be that I use my debit card. However I don't want to keep all the money I've saved in a checking account. What if my debit card is lost or stolen? Then that all that money would just be gone. Same goes for withdrawing cash from local ATMs. The money would still have to be available in the checking account. So while having some cash available is a good idea and what I intend to do, I believe having a credit card to pay for things would be a safer bet.
So how will I avoid that 3% international transaction fee? By using my newly acquired Capital One credit card. It's like this: Visa charges 1% for international transactions, then the issuing back tacks on another 1 or 2%. With Capital One, not only to they not charge an additional 1 or 2%, they do not pass along Visa's 1%. So I'll be paying zero extra for using that card. I applied online and was approved instantly for more than what I would use while overseas. I get the card an other info in a couple weeks. I may call sooner to find out my billing cycle dates, give them the dates of my upcoming trip, and make sure they don't charge a fee for inactivity. I only plan to use this card for my vacation. I'll pay it off when I get back then put it away somewhere. Of course, I'll monitor the card monthly to make sure there is no unauthorized activity going on.
Hopefully everything will go smoothly with little to no drama. I'll keep you posted!
- I've added a line item for charity. I want to make a significant contribution to an organization I believe does good work. Instead of thinking about donating, I'm budgeting for it. A couple hundred bucks a year to charity probably seems cheap to some, but I'm not living by other people's goals and budgets, just mine. And this suits me just fine.
- The amount budgeted for hair seems like a lot, however this amount includes salon visits, tip, and maintenance products and shipping. Yes, I'm a siddity broad that orders her hair care products online, what of it? This is my HAIR people!
- My cell phone bill is usually between $65 and $75 per month. However there have been times when I've sent too many txt msgs., or called a friend overseas, etc. Also I will be out of the country soon, so the padding will come in handy for roaming charges, international fees, etc.
While I would have like to have saved $5,000 for this trip, I don't believe that's realistic. I'll be closer to $4,100 (Actual savings would be $4,600 however $500 has been taken out for air fare). Although I believe by the time the 3% foreign purchase fee hits for ALL my transactions made on my credit card, it might be closer to $4,800. Heck, maybe even $5,000.
I'm emotional because there are things that I want to do before this trip that I can't because I need the money for the trip. It's not like those things are necessities. I just want to give myself some spa/dinner love for my birthday. That's important to me. I turn 35 this year and I think I deserve it. It would kill me to not acknowledge my own milestone birthday the way I want to because I'm busy acknowledging someone else's. Now don't get me wrong. It's not that persons fault. They didn't ask me to take a side trip, stay as long as I am, or be in the hotels I will be in. I own all the decisions...and possible consequences...that I'm making. I guess I'm upset with myself that I don't have enough money to do EVERYTHING I want. Actually, it's not that I don't have the money, per se, as it's a cash flow issue. My bday is two weeks before the vacation/birthday celebration.
You know what? I'm going to think about this some more. There's no reason why I can't bring in the 3-5 on my own terms, rejoice and celebrate the 3-0 of my good friend, AND not get myself financial trouble over. The good news in all of this is:
1. By the time I leave, I will have $4,100 saved.
2. By the time I leave, the billing cycle from my credit card will be JUST beginning. I will be back home after two weeks. I am hoping all the foreign transactions will hit my card at the most a week before the cycle ends. By then I can have a better handle of foreign purchase fees, etc. Also, I will have another pay check to help buffer.
3. I'm going to try and save whatever extra I can and look to see if I can work any overtime until then to get some extra money.
I think this could work. I just have to be thoughtful, planful, realistic, and ignore the voice in my head telling me that I might screw myself. To hell with that, Velvet's getting her damn pedicure and steak dinner for her birthday.
Whew! Thanks for walking through that with me. :)
So yeah, about that budget
I came up with a rough idea of my financial goals. From there, I came up with a better budget that I believe will give me the security and cash to accomplish my goals. And really kids, isn't that the ultimate bottom line of why we make money n' junk? Ummhmm. I still have some kinks to iron out. Once I get that done, I'll share with you all what I believe would be a workable plan.
Chipotle is trying to kill me
A friend introduced me to Chipotle I've been addicted ever since. Those burrito bowls with chips? NO. JOKE. It's so delicious. But my money is not liking this adobo-and-lime flavored crack, so I'm going to have to ease back on this.
I was walking to work yesterday when I saw a guy get of a car. He was walking towards a building, then turned around and yelled to the driver not to be late getting home. "I gotta do my thang, ya know! After work I gotta hit the payday loan then I'll pick you up. DON'T BE LATE!" As soon as I heard payday loan I thought, "Damn. You stupid." Then I wondered how often he's relied on these payday loans and gave myself and imaginary smack for making a judgement about him. It could be that a situation forced him to use a payday loan. Maybe it was a one-time thing. I have no idea, after all, because it was some random dude on the street. However we all know that for a good number of people, it gets very easy for them to get caught up in the payday loan cycle. Hopefully, that's not the case here, and more importantly, I hope I never get into a situation where I find myself using it. So I guess I better lay off those Chipotle visits. And I will. Right after I go there for lunch today.
- If I've got a budget and I still find I don't have enough money for things, I need to figure out what I'm spending money on and figure out of those are necessary.
- If they are, I need to readjust some other items on that list, if not completely eliminate them.
- Figure out the best way to divvy these expenses and bills between paychecks.
I've also been entertaining the idea of opening an Electric Orange checking account to use for my expenses (brow wax, groceries, etc., not my monthly bills). I already have an ING savings account ($1,300 per month). I figure open a new ING savings account that I will direct all my monthly expenses to, then open an Electric Orange checking account to link to it that I would pay for all those items from. Good idea? Bad idea? I'll have to figure that out. But the more pressing issue is working on my budget.
I have a feeling it might change several times along the way.