Being kept down by the MAN

You know, we're all out here busting our humps trying to save and make a buck, then I get the news that some of the OSA's (Online Savings Accounts) have lowered their interest rates. ING moved quick but didn't decrease as much as HSBC, which went down from 5.05% to 4.5%. Dayum!

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 already have a credit card with them that could be linked to the account if needed. The only downside is that their transfers take longer than ING. My experience has been about 2 days with ING. Capital One is talking about 3 to 5. Boo.

I'm leaning towards option 2, but we'll see.

Well. That was fun.

Getting away for a while is always nice, but I'm ready to get back into my routine and start working on some new goals. Saving for my vacation was a huge goal, so now that that has gone, it's time to focus on my unemployment, health care deductible, emergency, and Roth IRA funds.

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 should know better

I should be stronger than this. I should be able to resist the urge to go shopping before my vacation. Aside from true essentials (refill prescription, toiletries I don't have at home already, etc.) why do I feel the need to get new clothes? I feel compelled to look like a cosmopolitan fashionista on holiday who can barely (like, not at all) speak the local language why>?

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 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.

How do you financially plan for your vacations?

I was over at Give Me Back My Five Bucks reading about her vacay breakdown. It got me thinking about how I planned for my upcoming trip.

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.

When misogyny and finances collide

Which is pretty much every day. Evidence of that is shown clearly in the comments section of Ramit's post about his recent survey. Much of the discussion centers around the discrepancy of responses between men and women on the subject of equal pay for equal work. 81% of female responders believe women are paid less than men for the same job, while a mind-boggling 52% of men feel the same way. The comments quickly fill with the usual patriarchal nonsense about women choosing lower-paying jobs, not working as much, etc. while completely ignoring the existence of sexism in the workplace. Even when there are recent studies that show that right out of college, with the same qualifications going after the same jobs, women are paid less than men. Gender inequality is well-documented in the science and technology industries where women are clearly equally educated and experienced as their male counterparts but being overlooked simply based on gender. Period. But I'm sure these same people that don't believe there is inequality in pay probably don't believe that racism isn't a big issue in this country and don't understand what the big deal is in Jena, LA.

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.

$168 a month for hair?

Dimples needs answers:

" 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
So you're thinking, "Alright, so if this is every other month, then you should be saving $84 per month." And you would be correct, however the other $84 factors in the cost of specialty hair care products and shipping costs (roughly $60), and any incidentals like accessories, or maybe I might want to try a new style at the salon. That little surplus will come in handy.

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.

One phone call = 4% drop in interest rate and 1,000 flier miles

Color me delighted.

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.

So I'm in the black. Now what?

I feel like I'm in a financial netherworld. I no longer have to claw my way out of debt, but I'm pretty clueless on what I want my long-term goals to be. After this vacation, I want to do, or continue, the following:

Start funding:
  • 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.