Friday, April 30, 2010

The Cost of Being Active

My workout routine really ebbs and flows throughout the year. From September through April it's pretty iffy. I am working, doing yearbook and doing National Boards (for the past two years). I pretty much stop going to the gym. It's cold during the Winter, and I just get lazy. Living in Long Beach I do walk some places-but mostly to bars or places to eat, which doesn't really count as working out.

Then, at the end of April, my yearbook deadline is done. The school year is wrapping up, and the weather gets nice again. Suddenly, I am motivated to work out again. Last summer I tried out a bunch of acitivities that I hadn't done before-kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, biking, sping class, etc. And I worked out at the gym a ton during the summer, since I was not working at all. It was great. I was in the best shape of my life.

So, my goal for this summer is to try to be just as active and to try new ways to get fit. Yesterday I went to a rock climbing gym with some co-workers. It was SO fun, although I am incredibly sore today. I would love to go again and to try other activities I haven't tried before, to get me out of my comfort zone. I am also goig on a hike tomorrow morning, which I'm really excited about!

Where am I going with this? Well, it's April. I am ready to get back on the workout wagon. But, my personal finance goals are different this year, and I am trying to figure out how to mesh my two goals for the summer. Last year I had a gym membership, which I cancelled to save money. I think that was a good call, since I wasn't really using it in the "off season." But, now I would like to have it again. I could get a two-year membership at Costco for $300, which is really a great deal. If I wait until I am out of credit card debt, I wouldn't be able to do this until September, so I would ideally purchase this in June. I think I could justify this expense, but I also need to budget for things like kayak rentals, stand-up paddle board rental (I really want to do that again!), maybe the rock-climbing gym, etc. I know there are some free activities-riding my bike and hiking are both free-but I also want to take advantage of my time off and the nice weather to get active and have fun.

So, do I forgo the gym membership and devote that money toward other activities? Or do I do both, and just make my credit card payments a little smaller this summer?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

But then...

I was so excited to pay off my Capital One credit card (which I cut up at FPU last week) during the month of May.

But car registration came in the mail ($279)
And car insurance bill came in the mail (depends on the payment plan I use, but close to $200, minimum.)
Plus...I got a parking ticket last week (I love Long Beach, but jeez! Give it a rest! $46) might be a low credit car payment month. I can try to cut corners other places, but realistically, if I want to keep slowly building my savings (which at least until I get to $1,000 I do) I might have to make June the payoff month for that card.

Seriously, it took so little time to build the debt. Why does it take so long to pay it off?!!? Ugh!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Envelope System for April: Halfway Point Update

Well, I guess it's a little past the halfway point. Except that it has to last until May 5th, since that's when I get paid. D'oh! (Wait, is Homer Simpson writing this post? No. Stop it Jessica.)

Anyway, overall I like the envelope system. It makes me more aware of spending my money when I eat out. It makes me accountable to stick to a budget for this area, which is really easy for me to overspend on. I've also been keeping track of each time I use that money, so I know exactly where it went. I have come to enjoy keeping track of my budget this month. I have tracked my gas and grocery spending pretty meticulously, and it's nice knowing exactly how much money I have at my disposal.

That being said, I might bump the amount in my envelope up a little for next month. Like another $25 maybe?  I'm not sure yet, but out of the $200 I started with, I now have $75.40. And I'm spending $20 on a ticket to the Dodger game today (I didn't budget for this, so I figure it's part of having fun, which is really what this budget is). So, that means I have $55.40 to last me for two weeks. Which is doable. But, I also didn't do much this weekend, which isn't normal. Also, a couple nights out one of my friends bought my drinks for me, which was nice of him, but not something I expect or depend on.

I also decided that my recycling money (which is maybe $5 a month) can go in this category. Which is an extra coffee hangout with a friend. Or (let's be honest) an extra happy hour beer.

Free Music

Search & WinSo I once again had enough Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks to get free shipping, so I took advantage and ordered three CDs. Yeah! I never let myself buy CD's, but I'm really excited about getting one in the mail. I say one, because the other two are for my roommate's birthday, which is next month. I don't think she reads my blog (She hears enough of my thoughts and I don't think she needs another insight into my brain. Not in a mean way, but you know...). But, just in case she decides to check in, I won't list what CDs I got her. They're good ones though.

For myself? I got Lady Gaga's CD. I used to think I didn't like Lady Gaga, but then every time I heard a song of hers on the radio, I really enjoyed it. So then I was embarrassed that I liked Lady Gaga. Now? Eff, that, I LOVE her. I'm stoked to have her CD to listen to in my car at full volume. And to dance around my apartment to. Heck yes!

I end this post the way all people who are on Swagbucks would-with a shameless plug. If you're not doing Swagbucks, you should be. Totally legit, pretty simple. I've earned $45 in Amazon gift cards since November. If you're not a member, click on the link above to join. Seriously.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Half-Assed Pasta

I got this recipe from my friend Don, who names it as well, and it was SO good and pretty easy.

Pasta (I used linguine)
Jar of spaghetti sauce (I used an organic marinara)
1 Bell pepper (I used red)
1 Onion
Fresh basil
Olive oil (for pasta)
Ground hamburger

Sauce: Dice bell pepper and onion. Brown hamburger meat and drain liquid. Add bell pepper, onion, jar of sauce, basil, and garlic. Stir and simmer until bell peppers are cooked but have a little crunch to them. Cook pasta according to directions on package.

This was seriously delicious! It was filling, easy to make and pretty cheap. I was able to get most of the ingredients organic for not too much money, which is always nice.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Car Issues, Round Two

So, I don't even recall how much I paid for an extended warranty on my car, but it was well worth it.

When I got my car back I noticed that the gas gauge wasn't reading correctly. It would say that I had only 3/4 of a tank when it was all the way full. So, I went back to the dealership in Long Beach. They gave me a loaner and the guy said they would do it as a recheck and only charge me if it was an unrelated problem. He called back yesterday and said that it was a totally separate issue-different system in the car. I was suspicious, but he said that he checked anything that could have been related to the fix they did last week and that it was just a coincidence. (Frankly, I'm still a little skeptical about that, but I don't know what else I can do about it).

Luckily, my extended warranty covers this one too (I do pay a $50 deductible). The cost to replace this piece would have been $900! So, without a warranty, I would have spent $1600 in a two-week window. Also, I get a free loaner car while they do the repair (this time it's a Tacoma truck. Anyone moving this week?), which is saving me money as well.

All of these car repairs are making me realize that I need to add a line in my budget for car maintenance. I am going to need to get my filters cleaned and flush the fuel line this summer, plus who knows what else. And I got my registration bill this week...I am thinking of putting away another $100 per month toward car expenses. If it builds up, that will be good to have in case of a big repair. It means less savings in other areas, but I also think it makes sense.

Does anyone else put away money each month for this area? Or do you take it out of your emergency fund?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Final Car Update

I got to go pick up my car today. The final costs were $256.56. I paid $199 for my brakes and a $50 deductible on my extended warranty (for the computer system, which would have been over $700 including labor). They also filled my tires, gave me an oil change ($35 value), washed my car ($10 value), and gave me a rental car for two days for FREE. I asked if that was a normal Toyota thing, but I guess it's just that dealer. He also told me that if you bought the car there you get complimentary oil changes and car washes for  as long as you own the vehicle. Too bad I lived in Fullerton when I bought my car. 

Anyway, I am actually really happy with how this all turned out. I left a $300 cushion in my April budget that I planned to transfer into savings if I didn't spend, so I am actually okay in that regard. I'd definitely like to cut back in some other areas so I can at least save a little more this month (we voted on furlough days today...we'll see what happens).

Now I plan to watch some 30 Rock on Netflix and put a dent in my Hulu queue tonight. It's been a long week, and the thought of staying home and doing nothing sounds lovely (and cheap).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Car Update-Good News!

Well, it's a good thing I decided to go to the dealer-the problem is with the computer system that controls the dashboard lights. It's a $500 issue, but luckily it's covered under the warranty! I wasn't sure if it was still good, so I decided to check the dealer first. They are also replacing my breaks, which I'm paying $200 for. I know I could get this a little cheaper, but they threw in a free oil change and they gave me a loaner car for the two days my car is in the shop, so I think those perks even out the price difference.

The loaner is a minivan. I feel like I should go pick up some neighborhood kids and drive them to soccer practice.

While I was there, they told me some other things I need to start thinking about-changing air filters, flushing the fuel system-but they said those could wait. He also said since the leak in my tires is slow, I can keep an eye on them and hold off on that for a while. Essentially, I need to put aside some money for car maintenence in the coming months, but as for this week, I'm pretty happy with the results of taking my car in to the Toyota dealer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Negative Nancy

I'm going to whine in this post.

This morning on the way to work my car started acting weird. All the dash lights came on for a second (check engine, maintenence required, tire pressure, and a weird one that shows a car on a windy street). The accelerator didn't seem to want to work either. I pulled over, put the car in park, and all of them except maintenence required and tire pressure went off again. So, I took side streets to work to avoid getting on the freeway. My car behaved itself the rest of the way, but obviously I need to take it in.

This is where I am terrible about being frugal. My first thought is to just take it to the dealership, but I know that's not always the best deal. But I don't really know where to take it. I could ask around and try to figure it out, which I have a little. But ugh. I also know that this is going to bust my April budget. I have a little over $200 in my emergency fund, and I can try to adjust the rest of my budget (less spending on eating out and hopefully on groceries), but it's frustrating, especially since I am going to need to save around $700 to cover the five furlough days I am most likely taking next month.

Oh, and I need two new tires...they have a slow leak from an unfortunate parallel parking incident that I'd rather not go into.

Any advice?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I Accomplished Over Spring Break

*Thew a baby shower
*Watched Season 1 of United States of Tara
*Read my book club book in one sitting (not a fan)
*Got most of my rough drafts of National Boards stuff done
*Did seven, yes seven, loads of laundry
*Changed my sheets
*Hand-washed my delicates
*Cleaned the apartment (really, really well)
*Biked 11 miles
*Made progress on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
*Used my Victoria's Secret coupon for the month
*Took in my dry cleaning (I'll pick it up after payday)
*Went to church for Good Friday and Easter
*Made some new friends/acquaintances

Friday, April 2, 2010

Finally Giving in to the Envelope System

I decided to try the envelope system for my eating out and drinking out expenses. I have been reluctant to try it in the past-I don't trust myself not to spend the cash elsewhere-but I am committed to sticking to it for at least this month. So, today I went to the ATM (just found out the one at 7-11 doesn't charge fees) and withdrew $200 for the month. I know that's higher than some people spend, but many of my friends think that's a low number. I am curious to see where I land with it. I think knowing that's all I get will hold me accountable to spend less, but we'll see.

I also walked to have lunch with friends, walked to the ATM and am now about to walk to the post office. Since I am carpooling to church tonight (it's Good Friday) that means I get another No Drive Day. :) I am pondering some rules for myself to make more of those possible, so stay tuned for that in another post. I know, you're on the edge of your seats. Try to control the anticipation.