Thursday, February 28, 2008

Salary Negotiations: More Money For Me and Savings For My Employer

We renew our contracts in May. It may be a little early for me to be thinking about salary negotiations right now but I had an idea recently that's got me all excited.

I have mentioned before that I love my job. I also happen to love the people I work with and for. I believe strongly in this organization and I want them to succeed. I know a little about their financial situation and am well aware that they can barely afford the salaries they pay us. On the other hand, I am also at the point in the mental game of money that I am no longer willing to settle for a pittance for my efforts.

What I want is a win-win situation. I don't want to overburden the budget of this organization, and I want satisfactory compensation.

I have a pretty good personal budget that is easy for me to follow. After I pay off my debts this year I am going to have a lot more money on my hands each month that I can save. I was trying to figure out a way to put that money into a retirement account for some tax benefits and I thought of my 403b. (A 403b is similar to a 401k but is for certain non-profit organizations. Any funds deposited are tax deferred, i.e. I won't have to pay taxes on the deposits or the gains until I begin to withdraw at retirement).

Unfortunately I am already making the maximum employee elective contribution of $15,500 so I can't put any more money in. However, my employer is allowed to add money into the 403b beyond my contribution max. Currently my employer does not offer a company match to our 403b accounts.

If I can negotiate a lower salary amount but request a company match, I can keep my overall compensation exactly the same but still come out ahead because I won't be paying a chunk of that money in taxes.

Here's the part that really sweetens the deal though- this package can save my employer money as well. They will not have to pay FICA taxes on the amount they contribute to my 403b.

I can go one of two ways with this- I can help my employer out by keeping my total package the same but benefiting from the tax savings, or I can ask for a higher total package that keeps my employer's outlay the same but gives me even more benefits. Either way, I come out ahead without adding any extra burden on my employer.

I will have to check with our 403b administrator to see if coming up with this individualized package for me is going to have any negative ramifications on the whole system. But apart from that, I love this idea!

Can you spot any possible pitfalls or glitches in my reasoning? I would love to hear your thoughts... please comment!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Carnivals and Choices

I've had a slow month of posting and I did not submit any articles to carnivals this week. However, I have been reading through the fabulous posts at Carnival of Money Stories at Collecting My Cash and the Festival of Frugality at No Credit Needed. I think Carnivals are a great way to find new blogs and new perspectives.

I was struck by a number of articles that reminded me of the power of choice. The value I put on choice and individual empowerment and responsibility runs through most of my posts (if it doesn't then I need to become a better writer because I'm certainly thinking about choice whenever I'm writing about money)

Cash Money Life describes an instance where he had to make the choice between what is is right and what is easy.

Small Cents tells us about a friend who is having trouble making the choice to get out of her financial mess in The Grass is Browner on the Other Side of The Fence.

The Wastrel Show has a detailed article about how she and her family set priorities and now live debt free.

Smart Easy Money argues that you don't have to judge someone for the choices they make. Those choices may not work for you but they may be perfectly appropriate for them. Read her thoughts on why she doesn't think living a frugal life means being anti-luxury in Consumerism vs Frugality.

And finally, Quest for Four Pillars gives us an example of how luxurious our lives can actually feel if we choose to take on a different perspective in Living the Good Life as a Custodian.

There are many many worthy articles at these carnivals so be sure to check them out!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Got You Into Credit Card Debt?

From what I can gather, credit card users fall into two main categories:
  • Those who use credit cards as a tool: they pay off balances every month and collect rewards, or use low APR offers to make money, and they like the organizing features of credit cards that can simplify finances.
  • Those who use credit cards as a crutch: they carry a balance and pay interest because, for one reason or another, they were unable to have access to personal cash when they needed/wanted it.
What are the folks in this second category putting on their credit cards? I am really curious. Sometimes I am just appalled at the number of people who are deep in credit card debt and I just can't understand how they could let it get to that point. I am tempted to assume that they spend on "frivolous" things. Am I right? Am I wrong?

The absolute foundation of personal finance is to spend less than you earn. If you spend more than you earn, then you're in debt. If you spend as much as you earn, then you're fine until something unpredictable happens, and then you're in debt. If you spend less than you earn, you will probably be ok unless you get hit by a serious emergency.

So, what's behind these huge credit card balances? Here's what I've been able to figure out:

I can understand the following expenses, although I do think almost all of them can be prevented.
  • Healthcare costs: If a big chunk of your credit card debt is on hospital bills etc., then you were either going without insurance or were under-insured. My cousin recently had a crisis situation with her toddler needing neurosurgery after a fall while they were in the middle of a move, two weeks before their new plan kicked in. Yikes! They set up a payment plan with the hospital and the miscellaneous health care professionals. No credit card needed.
  • Living expenses when you've lost your job: This is why an emergency fund is so important. If my emergency fund was still small and I lost my job, I would be out there picking up hours even at minimum wage to make ends meet while I hunted for a better job.
  • An unexpected home or auto repair: Yep, two words: "emergency fund"

Now, I don't understand why one would carry a balance for the following:
  • Wants: electronics, gifts, books, dining out, travel
  • Standard living expenses: groceries, utilities, phone, car insurance, clothing
Both these categories, wants and standard living expenses, should be paid for by your income. These are things that can be planned for. If you want them and there isn't enough money coming in, earn more money. If you're putting these items on your credit card and paying interest, then there is a fundamental flaw in your understanding of income. Credit cards are not income.

So I want to know, when the media talks about the huge credit card debt statistics, what category are they referring to? The people who are using credit cards as a tool? Those who are using it as a crutch to get through tough emergency situations? Or those who simply don't know how to manage their money enough to not spend more than they earn?

Any ideas?

(In case you were wondering, my credit card debt is all at 0% and will be paid off before I have to pay interest. I used it for doing some home improvements when I purchased my house. I have always had the money to pay it all off if I chose to do so.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why My House Is An Asset

Ever since Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki came out, there has been some confusion about the definition of asset and liability. Flexo explains this succinctly on this comment at Lazy Man and Money
An asset is something you (can) own. A liability is something you (can) owe. Kiyosaki wants to make up his own definitions, but a “Kiyosaki asset” is simply a cash-flow-generating asset and a “Kiyosaki liability” is an expense-generating asset. It’s one thing to say that expense-generating assets should be *treated like* liabilities, i.e. eliminated wherever possible, but it’s another thing to say they *are* liabilities.
I admit, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and it changed my whole perspective on how to approach money. I love the idea of money working for me rather me working for money. How revolutionary!

In Kiyosaki's opinion, your residence is a liability because it generates expenses. There's the mortgage you have to pay every month, there are home repairs, maintenance, and property taxes. That's quite an outlay. Depending on the market you are in, your home may be appreciating in value but that equity is not liquid. You cannot access it unless you sell the house or take out a loan or line of credit.

Even if you don't go by Kiyosaki's definition and refuse to call your house a liability, it's still a pretty clunky, cumbersome asset. Is it worth all the work?

I bought a house two years ago with the sole purpose of decorating. I had been renting for my entire adult life and I was tired of white walls and boring kitchens. I wanted to get creative. Oh yes, my home buying decision was no walk down investment lane. But, being the frugal person I am, I did my research and got a great deal on my property and on my renovations.

As a renter I paid about $550 a month for a 500 sq foot apartment. I had to step out into the elements to do laundry. I had to climb up and down stairs to get to the parking lot.

Now I pay about $850 a month for a 1200 sq foot house with a yard and a private driveway. I have all the creative freedom I want. My laundry is on the second floor right next to my bedroom (!!!!!!) and my house is beautiful.

Over half of the $850 is tax deductible because it covers interest and property taxes which saves me about $100/month. That leaves me with an average monthly cost of $750.

I live in a part of the the country that totally escaped the housing bubble. In my neck of the woods property appreciation just about keeps up with inflation. A home is not a nifty retirement savings vehicle here.

So What Makes My House An Asset?
According to the standard definition of asset, my house is one simply because I own it (not fully yet because I have a mortgage, but I do have some equity in it). But my house is also an asset by Kiyosaki's definition because I found some roommates. I got roommates who cover the remaining $750 worth of payments. There are still some housing expenses that I have to pay but I am still way ahead of where I was when I was a renter.

I call my house an asset because it generates some income for me that has improved my bottom line. I like those kinds of assets. Money working for me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why Do People Hate the Word 'Budget'?

I've been trying to figure this out. The word "budget" seems to be one of those heavy words, full of negative connotations for many many people. Why is that? It's just a word. It doesn't have any more power than you give it.

What's So Bad About a Budget?
Where does this strong reaction to the word budget come from? Is it because of early life experiences and imprinting from parents who were stressed out about money? Does it make you think of disappointment, deprivation, and squashed dreams? Does it make you think you are poor? Does it make you afraid of money?

Why I Love Budgets
I love having a budget. It's my map, my plan, my path to my dreams. It reminds me that I want something bigger than the little impulses that pop up during the day. It puts me in control of my destiny. My budget removes the fear that I do not have enough. With my budget I can see clearly that I do have enough to pay my bills and buy the things I need. If it looks like I don't have enough in one category then I can move numbers around until it works. And in the extreme cases where there really isn't enough money coming in... then my budget points it out and I can start taking steps to increase my income. That makes me feel powerful, not poor.

Focus on the Positive
I think people often use their distaste for the word budget as an excuse to avoid dealing with the reality of their situation. So if the word is turning you off, change your attitude towards it. Figure out what unpleasant images and feelings it brings up for you and compare them to what the word actually means. My description of why I love my budget is the polar opposite of why I think people hate budgets. The same word brings up exactly the opposite feelings for me.

A quick-fix short term solution is to give it another name that doesn't bring up the same feelings of dread. But don't be fooled, you will eventually have to look those scary feelings in the eye and tell 'em to scram. There, add that to the list of courageous things one has to do on the path to financial freedom.

Whether you call it budget, spending plan, cash flow plan, goal, or even Frank, ultimately we're talking about being aware of the money that flows through our hands and consciously directing that flow. We're talking about living on purpose.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Of Courage and Carnivals

Once again, I am awed by the number of bloggers out there who share such fantastic information and insights with the rest of us on our personal finance journey. I've been perusing three carnivals this week and thought I would pick out a few articles that highlight something I've been thinking a lot about lately: courage.

It takes courage to make changes in your life.
It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone.
It takes courage to look at yourself and admit you've been making mistakes.
It takes courage to keep pushing through even when things are really hard.

Congratulations to all of you who are working courageously towards your goals.

Where I Need Courage

The gaping courage-hole in my life is my resistance to stepping out of my comfort zone. For some reason I have decided that most DIY projects are too much for me. If I could just muster up the courage to learn a few skills and not be so afraid, I could definitely save a few hundred more dollars every year.

At the Carnival of Money Stories, Getting Out Of Debt writes about a simple car repair that I don't yet have the courage to handle. I've Paid For This Twice Already talks about a simple dryer vent repair that I would have spent way too much money on.

At the Festival of Frugality, A Dollar a Day asks what unnecessary expense is worth it to you? I have a few that I could give up if I had the courage to deal with the inconvenience of creating and adjusting to a new routine.

Big Courage
There are some things that require tremendous courage. It is when we tap into this "big courage" that we begin to find out what we're really made of. These posts from the Carnival of Personal Finance might give you some food for thought .

My Two Dollars reminds us that we are not our "stuff". How many of us base our identities on our possessions because we're too afraid to look ourselves squarely in the mirror?

A Dollar a Day is reflecting on some emotional issues surrounding money. As women, many of us have been raised to reject our power and it is going to take a lot of courage to reclaim it.

I've only pulled out a few articles here but I highly recommend that you check out the rest of the great entries at the following sites:

Carnival of Money Stories at College of Cash
Festival of Frugality at Mighty Bargain Hunter
Carnival of Personal Finance at The Financial Blogger

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Am I Going to do About a Roth IRA?

One of my goals for the year is to fully fund a Roth IRA. I have never had a Roth so I need to do a little research to figure out the why what where when and how of it.

Why a Roth?
If you've been reading for a while, you know that I liquidated some old stocks just before the market tanked with the intention of paying off some debts and funding a Roth. But why a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA? I first heard about the Roth on the radio back in 1998 when I was working in the back room at Borders. I was obviously making very little money at the time and had nothing left over to consider retirement planning, but even then I recognized that this was a good deal.

What's so great about a Roth? You pay taxes on that money now, put it into your account, then all the growth on it is tax free. And as a bonus, you can take the money that you already paid taxes on out of your account at any time (after 5 years) without any penalties. (Read about some restrictions here).

This can be huge. If you have a long time before retirement, then your growth potential is fairly high. This means that under a traditional IRA you would have amassed a substantial chunk of money that you will eventually be paying taxes on. With a Roth, you've paid the taxes on the smaller amount, and hopefully at a time when your tax bracket is lower (I for one am hoping to increase my income and consequently my tax bracket as time goes on. This may not be the case for those of you who are already making a lot of money). That's the simplified explanation that makes sense to me. If you want to get into more detail and compare the pre-tax value of this money, play around with this calculator at moneychimp. Also read Roth Accounts Are Bigger at Fairmark.

What Should I Invest In?
Ah, the million dollar question. There are as many choices as there are grains of sand in all the beaches of... well, not exactly but you get the picture. The key here is to figure out what my parameters are.
  • I don't have the time or interest to heavily research stocks and individual investments.
  • I want to keep my finances simple.
  • I want a decent rate of return that will beat inflation.
  • I want risk to be accounted for as I get closer to retirement.
There are two categories of investments that fit these parameters. Index funds and Target date funds.

Index Funds are mutual funds that invest in companies listed on any of the major market indexes such as the S&P 500. The advantage of this type of fund is that your returns will essentially match the market without you having to do any work. The disadvantage is that you might miss out on the high gains that could be possible from a more actively managed portfolio and that the market could be falling in the years you want to withdraw money. But then again, they say you can't time the market right? Index funds are easy and typically have very low fees associated with them. However, I am anxiously awaiting a post by Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme about why one should not invest in an index fund.

Target date funds are a new breed that have become popular in the last few years. Once you select your target retirement date, the fund automatically adjusts its allocation of stocks, bonds, and cash as the years pass. In the early years the fund will be more heavily invested in stocks for aggressive growth, and will shift towards safer bonds and cash as you get closer to and into retirement. The main advantage of a target fund over an index fund is the fact that your portfolio is safer when you are close to retirement. You won't be as affected by a sudden market drop like we saw last month if your holdings are mostly bonds and cash. Read why target funds may not be for everyone at Kiplingers and their more recent article advocating target funds.

At this stage I am leaning towards a target date fund for my Roth rather than an index fund.

Where should I Invest?
I'm not going to work too hard on this one either. I want
  • low fees
  • an easy online interface
  • a solid reputation
Vanguard fits that bill for me. I used to have an index fund with them and I am familiar with their website and their service.

When and How Will I Invest?
This sounds like a simple enough question. The answer however may not be quite so simple. I have two options:
  • Invest in a lump sum. This is not possible for everyone, but I do have the money sitting in my ING account and I can invest the maximum within a week or so. That will get it out of the way and I won't have to think about it for the rest of year. I won't be tempted to spend it on other things that may seem more important in the moment such as traveling abroad this summer.
  • Invest a certain amount each month. If I have the money, why wouldn't I invest in a lump sum? That's the other million dollar question. I wouldn't have considered this as a real option if the market hadn't suddenly decided to wobble in January. With all this talk of a possible recession and an uncertain market, it is likely that stock prices could continue to fall over the next few months. I could take advantage of a strategy called dollar cost averaging. If stocks prices do continue to fall, then this would be a good way to get in on the sale prices. Of course, I can't predict exactly what the market is going to do, but with the way things stand, this might be the year when dollar cost averaging comes out ahead.
What's going to work for me? I think I will probably go with the psychologically simpler method and just do a lump sum investment.

Here's what I have decided: I will put a $5,000 lump sum into the Vanguard® Target Retirement 2035 Fund.

Okay wait! Being able to summarize all that thought and research into one sentence just seems wrong!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carnivals Abound

I've had a very busy week of not posting. I am a little taken aback at how quickly this week has flown by. I need to make some sort of commitment to myself about posting more frequently. More on that later!

In the meantime, if you're looking for useful personal financial stuff to read, head on over to some of the carnivals published today:

Lazy Man and Money has put together the Festival of Frugality #112. There are links to a great set of articles about frugal tips, romance, grocery spending, travel, money management, health, and entertainment.

Mrs. Micah is hosting this week's Carnival of Money Stories. This carnival is a good resource for learning about people's personal experiences on their journey to controlling their financial lives.

I also discovered The Random Yak. They hosted the Showcase Carnival (of new blogs) yesterday. There are numerous posts worth reading, and some new blogs I am tempted to bookmark! I enjoyed this personal story by Tiffany about taking responsibility for missed opportunities.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

January 2008 Blog Statistics

Being new to the blogging world, I am very intrigued by the history of other blogs I visit. I usually dig into the archives and read their first few posts. I also hunt down any posts about how their blog has grown.

I have no idea where my little blog is headed. I began it on January 4th because I was feeling inspired by my financial goals for the year and thought it would be nice to write them down. I had never been a regular reader of a blog before. I had heard of blogs and read a few posts here and there but really didn't know much about the world of blogging. And what a world it is! I have learned SO much in the past month and continue to be amazed by the quality and quantity of blogs out there.

In case my blog continues to grow, and I continue to feel like writing, I think it will be nice to have a record of where it has come from. And if not, it might still be of interest to the curious readers like me out there!

So here is the first in a series (hopefully) of posts about my blog statistics.

January 2008 Blog Statistics

Age of the blog: 28 days
Number of posts: 19

The data below is from January 7th- January 31st unless otherwise noted:

Number of visitors: 954 (thank you ALL for visiting!)
Pageviews: 1741
Average pages/visit: 1.82
Bounce rate: 68.45% (yikes!)
New visitors: 72.85% (nice, over 25% of visitors came back!)
Subscribers (that I know how to track): 14

Most visited page (other than home): 324 page views How Would I Live on a Minimum Wage Income

Highest single-day traffic: 111 visits on January 23rd mostly to What Can I Buy on a $200 per Month Grocery Budget?

Top Traffic Sources (thank you!!)
Frugal for Life
Moneycentral on MSN
Early Retirement Extreme

Organic search: 35 (I'm surprised I showed up at all!)

Blog expenses: $0
Blog income: $0.33 (yes, that's 33 cents) from Inbox Dollars referrals. This was a nice surprise because I didn't come into this with any thought of making money... but now, who knows? Every penny counts, right?

  • Got mentioned on Moneycentral! (Thanks to Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme for bringing it to my attention)
  • Almost got a thousand visits this month... maybe if I'd had a full 31 days I may have hit that milestone.
I have never considered myself a writer- quite the opposite in fact. I am very surprised that I have any visitors at all. I like these statistics! Hopefully these numbers will keep me motivated about posting.

Many thanks to all of my readers!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Top 10 Things I Do To Save Money

I just read a post at Family CEO listing 25 things they do to save money. Apparently Frugal for Life has been gathering similar lists from people so I thought I might try it out.

I'm only going to list things that I have consciously added to my repertoire and not behaviors I "was raised with". Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with 25! So here are 10 things I do to save money- or more specifically, to cut costs.

1. Reduce
. Just use less of everything- particularly household supplies like detergents and toiletries.

2. Reuse
-my stuff. Lose the habit of using disposables. Real towels instead of paper towels, china plates instead of paper plates, reusable containers instead of plastic baggies. This also includes ceasing to think of clothes as disposable.. they do not need to be washed every time you wear them unless they are soiled.

3. Reuse -other people's stuff.
  • 3a. Buy books used online. But only after having read them already (borrowed or speed-read at the bookstore) and deciding that they will be referred to often in my personal library. (I do frequent the bookstore to look at new books. Because I read so many books there I do make a point of buying some at full price from them occasionally. I do not have any ethical issues with this though I am sure some people may.)
  • 3b. Find a good used clothing store and shop there. There's a Goodwill store in Arlington, VA that I always stop at when I am down in that part of the country a few times a year. This city has plenty of well-off people who donate quality clothes they have never worn. I can go on a crazy shopping spree for $20.
  • 3c. Check out craigslist or for used furniture etc.
4. Use a price book when grocery shopping.

5. Keep my hair long so I don't have to cut it so often. If I was particularly fashion conscious I might consider learning how to cut my own hair but I don't see that happening any time soon. The long hair idea may not work for most men out there but it's easy to cut your own hair with electric clippers if you keep it short.

6. Find a place to live that is within reasonable commuting distance to work. I live less than 5 miles from work.

7. Live with a roommate and cut down on housing costs. (This depends on being able to find a suitable roommate though)

8. Plan meals and eliminate wasting food because of spoilage.

9. Decide what I am looking for and research numerous options before making a purchase. Step 1: Figure out my real motivation for wanting the item Step 2: Figure out what aspects are not negotiable Step 3: Shop around and see what's available that will meet my needs/desires. I am often surprised at what I have found.

10. I don't watch cable!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What My January Spending Taught Me

It's one thing to have a spending plan and quite another to stick to it. Ok this concept is not news to me, but I was reminded of it once again during January. If I just look at the numbers, I did quite well with my budget. I stayed within $20-$30 of all my major spending categories, spent less than I earned, and saved everything I intended to. The problem is that I can't just look at the numbers.

The information hidden behind the numbers is what is going to have a big impact on me and the world in the long run. And it's not pretty.

A Closer Look at My Gas Spending
I wrote a whole post on how I intended to maximize my gas mileage. I came in just $2 over budget, which I think is great considering I still have enough gas left in the car to go another week or so. But I didn't do the things I planned. If I had followed my own advice, I would have gotten better results. Why does that matter? After all, I stuck to my budget didn't I?

It matters because in this day and age, I have to be careful with my fuel consumption not only to prepare myself for rising prices, but because even the smallest steps will impact the environment. I forgot about that. A gas budget is going to be moot if we have no environment to live in.

A Closer Look at My Grocery Spending
This one is shameful even though my numbers here are pretty phenomenal. $135 at grocery stores including food, tp, toothpaste and hair color, $65 in eating out, and I even got a haircut and gave the lady a 35% tip. Plus I have plenty of food left over for a few more weeks. This looks good on paper!

The problem is I forgot to put my health into the equation. I have written about the importance of maintaining your health into old age and even wrote up a skeleton menu of healthful foods and how they would fit into my budget. But I didn't do all that stuff! In fact, this has been one of the most preservative-laden months I have had in a long time. Canned soups, frozen dinners, too much ice cream, and even drive-thrus at unmentionables. Yikes!

Why did this happen? I know a few things about myself that I failed to make accommodations for.
  • Over the past year or so I have developed a low tolerance for hunger. If I am hungry I will eat right away. All proactive thoughts about health and nutrition lose their power. In order to accommodate this, I should keep healthful foods on hand at all times. I didn't do that.
  • I do not like to cook. If I am tired after a long day the last thing I want to do is put together a meal. I avoid it like the plague. I need to give myself more time to prepare meals and also have meals all set to go for those late evenings. Again, I know this but I failed to do it.
  • I can't say no to sugar. If I put that first bite in my mouth, I'm not stopping until that food item is completely gone. I can't bring home more than a single serving of dessert. I haven't found my off switch yet. Guess how much ice-cream I ate in three days because I purchased a half gallon of it. Yeah, too much. Some people don't know how to use credit wisely, I don't know how to use sugar wisely. It's best if I maintain strict control of my access to it.

So What Did My January Spending Teach (or remind) Me?

It reminded me that I must keep all of my priorities in balance. If I am so busy focusing on one thing that other priorities suffer, then I need to make some adjustments. Sometimes the adjustments are simply a matter of being more aware and renewing my commitment. I can do that. But if I want to really make a difference, then I have to look closely at why things are falling behind and come up with some strategies to prevent that.

My gas spending I think simply needs a renewed commitment. The grocery spending however is going to require the additional strategies outlined above.

Here's hoping for a budget-wise, healthy, and environmentally friendlier February!

Friday, February 1, 2008

January 2008 Budget Update

It's already February! Time flies when you're having fun.

Here's how I did with my budget this month:

Earned Income after taxes and withholdings
Job 1: $1530
Job 2: $512
Total income: $2042

Housing/utilities/internet: $365
Transportation: $82.68 for gas (still have half a tank left, can go for another week)
Groceries and Supplies: $221.63 (have enough food left for another two weeks)
  • Grocery stores: $134.84
  • Restaurants: $62.53
  • Haircut: $19.95
  • Post Office: $4.31
Transfer to "Save to Spend" account: $100 (also took money out from this account to pay for car insurance premium)
Student loans: $87
Other debt: $725 ( 0% to my sister)
Gym: $45

Repay myself for car purchase: $400

Total expenses: $2026.31

Good News
  • The tenants at my rental property just paid their rent.. on time.. and they haven't been calling with complaints and problems! I was a little concerned that they'd be high-maintenance but I was wrong! I love being wrong about stuff like this.
  • My 403b withholdings are all set up and I've already contributed $1290 this month. This should continue for the rest of the year.
  • I liquidated some old investments before the markets fell. I have already used $5000 to pay off some of my credit cards. I am holding the other $5000 until I open a Roth, which should be next month.
  • My remaining debt breaks down as follows:
    • Sister 0%: $8525
    • WaMu 0%: $1250
    • Advanta 0%: $2063
    • Student loans: $835
  • February is a short month. I have enough food to last me a couple more weeks and enough gas to last another week. I have a week off which I may be spending with my family (even more free food!). I expect my living expenses to be fairly low next month which should allow me to save up for my summer trip or eat out a few more times :)