August 2007 net worth

According to my little NetworthIQ tracker, my worth approximately 2.42% more this month than last. Before y'all start asking me for money, know that by this time next month that gain will be gone. Let me explain:

  • Vacation fund: $3,500
  • Budgeted funds for monthly expenses: $888
  • In my checking account: $190
So yeah, this time next month my savings account will be looking very lean. However from then until the end of the year, I anticipate saving another $3,000 which will be the bulk of my three-month unemployment fund.

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. :)

Hate on me haters!

As everyone in the personal finance circles knows, you have to review your credit report often. I try to look at mine twice a year. Yesterday I got reports from all three agencies and my FICO scores for each of them from (The cost is $47.85, however if you happen to do a Google search you just might find promotional codes that can net you something like 20% off).

I checked my FICO scores for the very first time yesterday. They are listed below.

Equifax: 787
Experian: 797
TransUnion: 805

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:::
Still, with these issues I'm glad that my FICO scores are fairly strong.

My finance savior

When I was young, I really had no concept of money, debt, credit, etc. I didn't grow up rich, by any stretch of the imagination. We were very much a working class family. However I never wanted for anything. My parents, especially my mother, made sure I had everything I needed. When I went to college, she paid my credit card and phone bills. I had a combination of grants and loans to pay for tuition, but a side hustle of typing papers for cash. When I graduated, I was a little slow to find a full-time job, but very quick to spend money. I had a store credit card and a Discover card. Oh, and back then was the pioneer days of the Internet. AOL was king and charging $4.95 per hour for access, and that was on top of the phone bill for the dedicated phone line you would need to get on the Internet. And yes. I was one of the fools that was on there all day, every day. Next thing I knew my Discover card was over the limit. No problem, I just got another card and got online with that. Until that one was over the limit. By this time I found a full-time job so I figured I had money coming in, I could handle it. However around that very same time, my student loans needed to be paid pack.

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. :)

Personal finance and international travel: Capital One and ATM fees

Sure, I probably should have done this research before I got the card, but...:::blank stare:::...

Capital One
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.
So if I use this credit card for most purchases, I should be able to use it free and clear as if I here home in the States. Cool beans! The only thing I would look out for is if the merchant offered DCC, which stands for Dynamic Currency Conversion. It's basically a fee the foreign merchant charges because, well, it can. If my understanding is correct, they have to ask you if you want to do it, basically convert the sale from local currency to the U.S. dollar. 99.9% of the time the buyer is getting screwed, so if it's offered to me, I will always decline.

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.
HSBC has ATM machines all over the world, including a few there are close to where I'll be staying. My thinking is that I'll open the the savings/payment account and put $2,000 there to take out whenever I need it. That way I will not incur an out-of-network ATM fee. I still have a few concerns:
  • 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've never used HSBC before, however I know many frequent international travelers use them because they have a network of branches/ATM's all over the world. I would like to know if anyone has used them before for traveling and if they had any issues accessing their money. I want to save cash as much as the next guy, but I don't want to go through a great big hassle to do it. It might be worth it to just use my home bank and keep my ATM use to a minimum remembering that I'll only really need cash for cabs, small meals, and strippers. Unless strippers take plastic now. Which would be pretty cool.

Applying for a credit card to save money

Seems like an oxymoron, emphasis on the moron, but hear me out!

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!

Is this real?!

Updated Budget

After spending ALL DAY doing everything I possibly could to avoid updating my budget, I've finally finished it. A few notes:
  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
So I think this budget should work. I'll try it for the remainder of the year and see how it goes.

I'm feeling a little emotional

I have a vacation/birthday celebration for a friend that is coming up that is going to cost me a lot more money than I had originally anticipated. A friend was supposed to come with me however she got a fantastic promotion, so now she can't. I could have made the trip shorter, however I decided to leave things the way they are because I really wanted to experience as much as possible while I'm there. I will only regret it later if I don't do what I have planned. I think I can save a few bucks here and there, like taking a taxi to the airport instead of hiring a sedan (Don't you look at me that way! It's my vacation dammit!). I was able to downsize my hotel in one destination to a single from a double, and my air fare was about $50 less than I had anticipated. I budgeted fairly high for food so I figure once I'm there, I can find ways to save on food. So some savings there.

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. :)


I've been fairly neglectful of my little blog here. Not a good way to start things off, I know. But rather than complain about what I could have or should have done, I'll just pick up from where I left off and move forward. Pretty much my philosophy with everything in life. :)

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.

Bad idea
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.

About that monthly budget

I just realized something. I'm very good at saving money. I'm horrible at budgeting money. When I started my financial journey, one of the major questions I had was "Where in the deep fried hell is all my money going?" Nearly $13K paid off in credit card debt paid off, and almost $5K saved for a vacation later, and I still can't answer that question. I can pay my bills monthly, however when it comes to the extras, I can't figure out where it comes from, where it goes, etc. That makes no sense. My budget to the right makes some sense, if I followed it more closely. I think I've got a few things to sort out here:

  • 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.

Greetings and Salutations!

Not long ago, I was in almost $13,000 of credit card debit. However I cleared all that up and am newly in the black. If feels good, if tentitive at times. This blog will document my journey to becoming truly financially stable, and defining what that actually means.

I have a feeling it might change several times along the way.