Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trying to Bike More

Today I met up with some co-workers at our usual happy hour spot for vacation-Taco Surf in Sunset Beach. We go there for the $1 tacos, $2 beers, and $3 margaritas...and because their happy hour starts at 2:00, one of the earliest around.

I decided to bike there for two reasons. One, I haven't had a no drive day in quite a while, and I wanted to get in another one for the month of March. Two, I also want to get back into the habit of exercising and being fit. Over the summer I did really well with that, but I definitely fell off the wagon this school year.

Which meant that the ride was rough. It's around 11 miles round trip, which isn't terrible, but I forgot about all the hills and the fact that I am out of shape. Whew, I am beat!

On the positive side, I got to use the bike lane on 2nd Street, which is one of the things I love about living here. Even though there are only two lanes on 2nd Street and no room for a bike path, the city made the right lane a bike priority lane. Meaning the drivers can suck it, I get to use the lane (see picture-though the cones are gone and cars share the lane now). I like this because it makes biking a priority and encourages people to be fit, go green, and save gas money.

So, even though I was sweaty when I got there and tired, and a creepy guy pulled up next to me and said, "I like that" and then ran his tongue across his lip suggestively (seriously?!?!) I'm still glad I did it.

Free Stuff in March!

Dude, I cleaned up on the free stuff this month! Also, the overall theme of this month was being a woman....

First, I got 34 tampons and 18 pads for free...here's the breakdown:
1. 6 Playtex products (requested samples online)
2. 8 Tampax products (these were in all of the women at work's mailboxes. I think they were leftover give-aways from Health class. It was funny though, to walk down the hall with a box of tampons.)
3. I also got a coupon for a free box of tampax pearl tampons (20 count) and always infinity pads (18 count). I used them at Target and only paid the 78 cents of tax.

Other girly freebies...
4. Two pairs of underwear from Victoria's Secret (If they don't want me to use two of the coupons in one month, they should not send me two coupons.)
5. 2 Free Too-Faced mascara samples from Sephora inside JC Penney (they were out of another sample I went in for, so they gave me a mascara.)
6. Bare Minerals powder sample from Sephora inside JC Penney
7. Allure Magazine-my friend Rene had a free subscription coupon and gifted it to me. No strings attached for a year!
8. Clinique Gift with Purchase-technically this wasn't totally free since I had to buy makeup to get it. But I stock up on my foundation, mascara, and eyebrow pencil during gift, all items I would buy anyway. I got two gifts, one of which I sold on Ebay. I detailed the gift in another post if you're interested in the details.
9. Aveda Caribbean Breeze lotion (travel sized bottle)

General Freebies...
10. Crest White Strips sample
11. Olay Body Wash Sample (travel sized bottle)
12. Full-sized 7th Generation Dishwashing Liquid (join Recycle Bank and got free points for joining, which I used to get a coupon for the detergent. I paid twenty-six cents of tax for it.)
13. Sample of Tide with Febreeze
14. South Beach Diet breakfast bar
15. $5 gift card to Subway (for filling out a survey on T-Mobile's new My Perks program)
16. Kashi Breakfast Bar

Sunday, March 28, 2010

She Works Hard for the Money...

I think this may be my most successful month of doing coverage yet. Coverage is when a teacher is out at a meeting or only out for one or two periods and other teachers sub the class during their conference periods. Some people hate it, but I don't mind it too much and I definitely don't mind getting my hourly rate for subbing. Obviously there isn't coverage available everyday, but at a school with 80 teachers, I do get asked fairly often. Since I have told the office I want to cover as often as possible, I'm high on their list of people to call.

This month I covered six days during my conference period and did Saturday School, which is another four hours. I also went to an after school meeting that I got another hour of pay for. If you're keeping track, that's eleven hours. Honestly, there have been some days that I did not feel like giving up my conference period to sub. That means more time spent after school on copies, lesson planning, grading, etc. But, I am thinking that after taxes that should be over $350 extra on my April paycheck. Which means that I should be able to pay off my Capital One card by the end of May.Yessssssss!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Selling Stuff

This month when I did my budget I didn't account for some expenses, such as my car insurance (duh) and applying for a new credential and renewing my current teaching credential. I leave myself a cushion, so I was able to cover most of it, but knowing I could come up a little short (meaning I would have to use my credit card) motivated me to list a few more items on Amazon and Ebay, which also helps me with my goal of living simply (less crap in my house). So far I've sold two of my Clinique Gifts with Purchase (my friend hooked me up with an extra one, so I still got to keep one) and a book that I had bought for my classroom and never really used.

Today, I was logging in to my Paypal account to request the funds into my checking account and I apparently have two paypal accounts, because I logged into the wrong one and it had $8.50 in it. I have no idea when that's from or where the $8.50 came from. It was too old of a transaction to see the details, but it was definitely nice to stumble across some extra money. I had it transferred into my savings (since you can't have more than one paypal account linked to the same bank account), which is actually kind of nice. Obviously $8.50 isn't a miraculous amount to save, but it does seem smart to link my Paypal to my savings so that extra money I earn goes straight there.

Anyway, after shipping charges I earned an extra $31.64 this month by selling my stuff (and finding Paypal money). I still have one more listing on Ebay that hasn't sold, so we'll see if it sells. My goal for the year was to earn an extra $100 selling items online. So far I've earned a total of $95.33, so I expect to easily surpass that goal.

Do you sell items on online? What do you do with that extra income?

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Clinique Bonus Time!

I love Clinique Bonus. It happens every March/April and every October. Spend $21.50 and you get a free gift. I bought mascara (desperately needed a new brown one), an eyebrow pencil, and my face powder (Clinique's bare minerals). This was enough to get two gifts (my friend works there, so she let me get two. If not, go twice). I am going to sell one of them on Ebay, but here's what you get (description from the website):

All Gifts Include Even Better Moisturizer Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer, Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, and High Lengths Mascara (I haven't bought black mascara in years, since I always get it in the bonus.)

Pick your palette of eye and lip shades that best enhances your skin's undertone: warm for skins with a golden cast, cool for skins with a pink cast. (I chose cool, and I really like the eyeshadow. The lipstick is a little bright, but it's a fun color.)

You also get two makeup bags, which are great for travel or for using as a gift bag instead of buying a regular gift bag that the person will just throw away. I also use bonus stuff that I can't use myself as stocking stuffers or put them in the makeup bags with a gift card for a birthday/Mother's Day type of gift.

Yes, this is a spend money to get something idea...but if you're going to buy the makeup anyway, it's worth stocking up now so you can get the other items.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Impact Man

I just watched the documentary No Impact Man. Basically, a guy decides to see how little of an environmental impact he can make on the environment for one year and drags his family along for the ride. It's intense, but also really interesting. It definitely challenged me to ride my bike when I need things in the neighborhood. Also, the personal finance part of my brain was thinking about how much money they saved-no gas, no train fare, no meat, no restaurants, and for six months no electricity. They never touched on that, but it definitely crossed my mind. I think the common thread is living simply. Living Simply means less stuff and less waste. Which means saving money and helping the environment. 

I also realized that I am drawn to books and blogs and projects where people decide to do something drastic for a year in order to study the effects. I liked The Year of Yes (she said yes to every guy who approached or asked her out), The Know-It-All (AJ Jacobs reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica), The Year of Living Biblically (AJ Jacobs again, tries to follow the Bible to the letter for a year). And No Impact Man was pretty great too. I am doing that in a small way with my no clothes shopping for a year. This movie got me thinking of what other "projects" I can take on in the years to come. No answers yet, but definitely an interesting idea.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Capital One Interest Rate

Well, since my blog is one of the major forces in holding me accountable, I actually did call Capital One this morning to ask about getting my interest rate lowered. I had an interest rate of 19.8% (UGH!). After talking to the guy and having him praise me for having the account since 2002 and making my payments on time and blah blah blah he offered me a lower rate for six months. That's the good news.

The bad news: my rate is still 17.9%.

Seriously? I have good credit, I always pay my bill on time...and that's it? I mean, I'm glad they lowered it a little, but that still seems pretty ridiculous to me. Luckily this is the credit card I am the closest to paying off and I think I can have it done by May (hopefully!) so it's not the end of the world. But I am annoyed that after being their customer for eight years and having an excellent record with them they were only able to knock off 1.9%.

Is that normal? Is it a sign of the times that I can't get a lower rate?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It'll be just like The Breakfast Club!

This Saturday I am subbing Saturday School for the first time at my school. Yes, I've worked here for five years and have not once agreed to teach on Saturday. My rationale is that while the money is good, I would be a mean person if I came to my work six days a week. BUT, since I am committed to getting out of debt and because I know the money is good, I put myself on the list to sub and I am going to teach 8th grade English this weekend.

This is good for two reasons: first, I will make about $150 after taxes, for four hours of work. I certainly can't complain about that. Also, since I will most likely have to move up to 7th or 8th grade next year, it will be good to see how I do with the 8th graders who are in intervention.

But no one's getting up. If I get up, he'll get up, we'll all be up...it'll be anarchy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yet Another Progress Bar...

I added a progress bar for my Emergency Fund with an initial goal of $1,000. Can you tell I am doing Financial Peace University? :) Eventually I am going to aim for $10,000, but that will definitely wait until I am at least free of my car and credit card debts. I am only putting $100 per month into my savings, so this one will grow slowly, which is not going with Dave Ramsey's advice. He says to save $1,000 right away, but I just can't bring myself to do that when I know I am paying interest rates on those credit cards.

Which reminds me: I need to call Capital One this week and see if they will lower my interest rate. As one of my friends reminded me, you never know until you ask. I am thinking of telling them I am going to do a balance transfer if they can't work something out for me. Hopefully I will have good news to report by Friday!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Temptations Resisted on a Saturday

Temptation: Go to coffee shop around the corner and get a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee.
Solution: Use last English muffin, last piece of cheese and an egg to make my own. Make a cup of tea with honey, which is better for my sore throat anyway. This one wasn't hard, I'm just lazy.

Temptation: Spend money by renting a movie, since I am home sick all weekend.
Solution: Watch Hulu queue, read Real Simple and my book.

Temptation: Want to go buy lavender nail polish, which Real Simple says is in for Spring.
Solution: Go through my colors and paint my nails pink instead.

Temptation: Really want to go clothes shopping after I played with Old Navy's turn yourself into a mannequin game. (See picture.) (I was bored and home sick, okay?)
Solution: Do a load of laundry, which reminds me that I have a lot of clothing and gives me more options when I look in my closet (granted, this one was WAY less fun than shopping, but it worked).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nothing like...

...going to work when I am sick because I have too much to do to not be there. I got my kids started on a project, finished ordering supplies for our department, filled out field trip paperwork, called about our school poetry book, did yearbook stuff, and then came home to a reduction-in-force notice.

Which you may know as a pink slip.

The good news is that getting that secondary credential will save me. The bad news is that I will probably have to change grade levels next year (boo!) and that until I file a hearing and get all the paperwork done I will be in limbo.

I know I'm lucky that I have the secondary credential, but the pink slip just feels like a slap in the face. I am in the fifth year of teaching, I am the English department chair, the yearbook adviser, and I teach honors. But apparently, I am expendable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Frugal Afternoon

Today I went down to the district office in downtown LA and took care of two pieces of business. I applied for my secondary credential in English and I turned in my transcripts to the salary allocation department. As a teacher, my raises are based on my years of service and continuing education credits. I turned in enough units today to get a raise! YES!

The lady told me it will either start on my April or May paycheck. I am expecting around $100 extra each month, after taxes. The other good news is that whenever it kicks in I will be retro paid from February, which is when I finished the last class I needed. I feel good because I know I can use this amount to pay down my debt faster.

After that, I headed to the mall to not spend money. That's right, I made a trip to the mall solely to use four coupons for free items. I'll detail it in my free stuff in March post at the end of the month, but it did sort of provide a shopping fix without requiring spending.

Then I renewed my library book to avoid a fine and so that I can finish Persuasion by Jane Austen by Thursday night for book club....which is what I need to go and do now.

Reality has set in

I started doing Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey's class, through my church. It's been okay so far...nothing revolutionary, but some good ideas and discussion with other people. There are a few other single people, and one of my friends who is a teacher, so it's nice to talk with her. Also, I think down the line I will get a lot out of it, since he'll cover investing and retirement, which I know nothing about. Last week was about money and relationships. I told my friend Ana that we should have ditched the class and gone out to try to meet guys. But I digress.

One of the assignments was to do a "quickie" budget, listing your monthly expenses. In one column you had to list how much was left to payoff any debts. I listed my student loans, my car, and of course the dreaded credit card debt. Adding up that column was super depressing. I never think of my student loans as "real" debt. But they are.

Granted, I don't regret taking out loans. I wouldn't have been able to go to college otherwise, and though I went to a private school that costed more, I had a great experience and met many of my best friends there. So I don't feel about it the way I feel about my credit card debt, which consists mostly of Starbucks and Marshall's.

BUT, the reality is that until those are paid off, I will have debt hanging over me. Dragging me down. I was imagining how nice it would be to get to do what I want with that extra money. Save it. Put something in a retirement account. Actually go shopping again at some point.

So, obviously credit card debt takes top priority. Then a $1,000 emergency fund to start. Then paying off the car aggressively. Then the student loans. Then three-to-six months expenses in my savings. Then a house down payment.

I think I should change the name of my blog to "Debt Free by 30." Or "Oh My Word, I Have More Debt Than I Thought."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leftover ingredients are the mother of invention

The thing about posting about a meal that I improvised out of random ingredients is that it's only helpful if you randomly have all the same leftover ingredients that I do. But pretend that you do and you can make mushroom tacos! A restaurant near my house has these as a vegetarian option and they are great. Here's my version, invented today...

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
sliced bella mushrooms (leftover from the ones I put in my chicken salad)
the last dregs of some Trader Joe's salsa
2 flour tortillas
A small handful of cheese
sour cream

Saute chopped, onion, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil for a good while, until onion is transparent and mushrooms are cooked but still have a little bite left to them. Heat tortillas on stove and put mushroom mixture in tortillas with cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Enjoy!

Seriously, they were good. And it was nice to use up ingredients and still eat something appetizing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sometimes it's good to spend money...

Earlier this school year, one of my fellow teachers lost her battle with breast cancer. Ms. Magsombol worked with middle school students both here in Carson and in the Philippines. In her memory, my school is participating in the Revlon Run/Walk on Saturday, May 8th. Our team is made up of teachers, members of Ms. Magsombol's family, students, and parents. I am excited to see my school community really come together to fight against women's cancers.
I am participating not only as a woman who cares about breast cancer, but as someone who lost a friend to breast cancer, and as a role-model to my students. I want them to see that it's important to do something about the causes that are important to you. I want them to participate in a race not only to promote their physical fitness, but to support the health of others and to learn to be people who are compassionate with their time and money.

I know this blog is about saving money, but I believe one of the (many) reasons to save money is so that you can do something worthwhile with it. So, if you would like to donate, here is my fundrasing link: https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/MyWebPage.cfm?pID=538358 

Or, if you live in the LA area join me! You can register at www.revlonrunwalk.com/la

Things I got for free in February....

1. Sample of hand sanitizer
2. Movie rental (every 17th movie (or some ridiculous number) is free. I used it to rent The Hurt Locker)
3. Big Love Season 3 (I got this from Amazon using Swagbucks. YES!)
4. Four feminine products from Kotex
5. A Gillette Fustion razor...seems pretty nice too!
6. Free deli sandwich with purchase of a large soda at Jack in the Box