Monday, May 24, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This is fascinating and enlightening...and makes me want to buy less stuff. Which is frugal, good for the earth, and makes my life more simple. Watch it.

Why Seek Financial Peace?

I recently finished Dave Ramsey's class, Financial Peace University at my church. I have mixed feelings about Mr. Ramsey, but the last one was really good, and I did learn some things from the whole series. The final class focused on living like no one else (getting out of debt, investing 15% of your income into retirement accounts, paying off your home early) so that later you can give like no one else.

This made me think about why I want to be out of debt. Besides the obvious of having more freedom with my money and being able to have security, it encouraged me to think bigger. If I have all my debts paid off, including (eventually) a house, what would I be able to do? Of course I'd like to travel and have fun, but in the long run, what do I want to do that matters?

I want to adopt and take in foster kids someday. This is a high priority in my life, and one that costs money. When I think of my future family, I know I want it to involve kids that need a home.

I want to give generously to charities. I have a few charities that I support here and there, but I'd like to be able to donate larger amounts to make a difference in charities doing great things both here and internationally. I could also see myself helping to run a non-profit someday, if I am able to stop working someday.

I want to be able to take care of family and friends. I want to be able to help my mom out if need be. To help my family and friends with their needs, and to be able to make a difference in their lives.

That's what this is all about. On days when I really want to go clothes shopping, or think it's not that big of a deal to be in debt, I want to think of what debt can keep me from in the future. I need to remember what I can do if I am financially responsible. At the end of my life, I can be proud of those accomplishments-much more so than I would be of a pair of shoes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mid-month Budget Check-In

I am really trying to stick to my budget this month-it's been in the adjusting phase for the past few months, since I've been trying to figure out how much I need to spend. Before this, I just sort of spent blindly, crossing my fingers that I'd have enough. That seems crazy now! I am certainly not perfect about my budget, but to not even plan it out...that stresses me out just thinking about it.

This month I made both my eating/drinking out budget and my grocery budget a little smaller, based on last month's totals. The eating out is going really well. I still have $93.55 left in cash, and I have a cheap weekend coming up (free work dinner and drinks, roommate's birthday, which I budgeted separately, and then the LOST finale on Sunday.) This is the area that's usually the most difficult, but I feel really good about where I'm at with this one!

On the flip side, I don't know if I can stay under budget for my groceries this month. Part of it is that I have been forgoing eating out, so I spend more. Also, I am really tired of my go-to cheap bulk recipes. They're good, but I've just eaten them a little too often. So, I bought groceries that I can't stretch as far. Also, I needed TP, shampoo, and toothpaste this month, all of which came out of my grocery budget, and none of which are expenses every month. As of now I have $46.32 left for groceries this month (until June 4th, my next payday). I think it's doable if I do some very strategic planning and have discipline.

What parts of your budget are the most difficult for you to stick to?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Updated Status Bars

I actually did some adjusting to my status bars (tracking my goals on right side of page). I originally put my student loan and car totals from the day I made the status bar. But in actuality, I have paid off much more of those debts than I was giving myself credit for. And in the marathon of debt repayment, I wanted credit for it! So, both of those totals now reflect the original totals, meaning my progress is much higher. It's much nicer to see that I've paid off 62% of my car loan and 38% of my student loans than it was to see 14% and 1.5%. :) Make me feel like I accomplished something today.

I also have started planning for getting my car paid off after the credit cards. My goal is by the end of 2011 (if not sooner!). I am hating my consumer debt more and more...and I am getting closer everyday. Today, because I am making myself dinner before I go to watch the playoff game (or, more accurately, socialize at a bar while the game is on) instead of eating at the pub. Yes, I will still buy a beer, but I am saving at least ten bucks today. Every good choice is one step closer to my goals. This has dissolved into me doing affirmations. I am going to stop now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Accidental Savings

In a previous post I mentioned that not all of my extra hours made it onto my paycheck for this month. Thankfully, I got the paystub saying that an extra $152 was deposited into my account this morning. I went online to check it out and saw that only $52 had been desposited in my checking account. I was confused until I remembered that my direct deposit is set up so that $100 from each of my paychecks is deposited into my savings account. Sure enough, I am $100 closer to Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund. (I am taking the slow route with that to more aggressively pay off my debt.)

Looking at my budget, I may need to pull some of that $100 out at the end of the month, but for now I am going to let it sit in there. The interest rate is higher, and I really should have more in my emergency fund, so if I can keep it in there, all the better. We shall see...

Keep it Simple

In my quest to become more frugal and to save money, I am coming around to the idea of living simply as well. To me, living simply means not keeping a lot of items that I don't need in my house. I not only buy less, but I can hopefully eliminate clutter and junk from my house.

In that vein, I am going to share three of my ideas for reducing clutter in the hopes that you, dear blog readers, can share your own brilliant ideas for keeping it simple and clean.

1. Pick-up 25 things every night before bed.
I think I got this one from Real Simple, but every night before I go to sleep I pick up and put away/throw away 25 things. I've been doing this for a few weeks (and okay, I've missed a night or two), and I really like it. On a lazy night, my shoes and socks count as four items, but even then it makes me pick up my stuff out of the living room, throw away mail, and put clothes away in my closet. On a good night, I sometimes do more than 25, but no matter what I wake up to a house that's a little cleaner.

2. Clean out your car at the gas station
Everytime I get gas, without exception, I go through my car and throw away any trash that's in there. I know some people are better than me and bring in their trash and throw it away everyday. But, if you're like me sometimes it stacks up. And since there is a trash can right next to the gas pump, and I'm just standing there waiting, it's the perfect time to clean out my car. When my car is clean, it improves my quality of life. Seriously. This has also made it less embarrassing when someone wants to ride in my car. I am not apologizing as I chuck things into the back seat so they have someplace to sit.

3. Minimize
This one is a work in progess for me. Do I really need three body washes in my shower? Nope. Two different types of shaving cream? Nope. About seven different perfume bottles? Six bottles of lotion? Two kinds of eye cream? I don't know how I accumulate all this stuff, but I am trying to focus on using up the stuff I have and then keeping only what I need on hand. Which means one body wash, shaving cream, and eye cream. I have decided to narrow down the perfume to Clinique's Happy, Philosophy's Amazing Grace, and Juicy Coutoure's perfume (for going out). The rest I am going to use up or just get rid of. The lotion? I wear perfume, so I really just need one unscented bottle in my room. That's it. Yes, I will keep replacements of body wash and shaving cream in my cupboard, but no more than one at a time and not all in the shower. I am thinking of it as having signature scents/products, but really I am just looking forward to having less bottles around my house and in my shower.

So those are my three ideas. Now, tell me yours! How do you live simply and keep clutter out of your life?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nobody Walks in LA

If you are an astute reader, you may have noticed that I am behind on my goal to have 100 No Drive Days this year. I started strong but a couple of issues got in the way. First, one of my carpool buddies had a baby. Jeez, how inconsiderate of her. Just kidding. My other carpool buddy broke his hand and has had many doctor's appointments. He's also buying a house, so he's had some days where he can't carpool because he has meetings with his realtor right after school.

Anyway, Monday was my first No Drive Day in almost a month. :/ Not great. I need to try to rack up more of these. However, looking at the rest of my week, I don't think I will get one in agan until the last week of the month (it's my turn to drive for the carpool next week, and both weekends have activities I have to drive to).

I am still determined to reach my goal. I need to see who I can carpool to work with for summer school, or else it will be really difficult to reach 100 days. I could take the bus at some point, but I don't know how cost effective that would really be. Mostly because I have no idea how much the bus costs. Perhaps I should research that...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I got the power

Or, more accurately, I don't.

I came home from watching LOST at my friend Juliet's house on Tuesday night only to discover that my power cord for my laptop broke. As in, the cord and wires were frayed and one piece was connected to the computer and one piece was on the floor. What the...? I think it was just wear and tear (my laptop is almost four years old), but boo. And weird.

So, I did some research. If I got a new one at the Apple store, it would cost me $79. No thanks. I looked up the product on Ebay and found it for $22.45 including shipping. Much better. The seller had a very high feedback rating, so it looks like it's all above board. I'm sure it's an imitation part, but as long as it works, that's fine by me! I love that I saved $50 by doing just a little bit of research. :)

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Spring/Summer are my favorite clothing seasons.

I love wearing dresses (your whole outfit is chosen with just one decision! And so feminine!). Skirts and cotton tees or tanks. Shorts and capris. Bathing suits and coverups. Flip-flops.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's also the hardest time not to buy new clothes. I was in Old Navy with a friend, helping her pick out work clothes (which I LOVE and she HATES). I have not been that tempted to buy clothes in a long time. I wanted to buy sun dresses. And new lacy tanks to wear under cardigan sweaters. And short-sleeved cardigan sweaters. And a new pair of black sandals (I'll be lucky if mine make it through the summer).

But I didn't. Because as much as I want new clothes (and I really, really do), I want to be out of credit card debt more. And even that shift is an accomplishment.

I can't wait for September, when I will be debt-free (God-willing). That will be one year without clothes shopping. I'm already starting a mental list of items I want to buy. (There will be a budget for clothes. Still determining how that will work.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thanks, Old Me!

Can I just say that the Netflix for Wii has completely revolutionized my life? And made my foolish purchase of a Wii in 2009 seem not so ridiculous?

When my tax returns came back last year, I decided to buy a Wii. Like most of my purchases at that time, it was an impulse buy. I justified it by using my tax return and saying that I would work out on it using Wii Fit. And friends could use it when they came over.

Fast-forward one year. After the brief honeymoon stage, I used my Wii MAYBE once a month. If that. Whenever I looked at it I thought of how much credit card debt I was in and it just annoyed me that I wasted money on it.


Netflix came out with their Wii software about two weeks after I finally signed up for it (excellent timing). In case you are unfamiliar, you can hook your Wii up to the internet and then watch any of the movies on the instant list on your TV.

I have watched old seasons of 30 Rock, The Office, and The Riches. I have watched a bunch of documentaries. Julie & Julia. Philadelphia. It's been lovely. And has made me sure that I do not need cable (not that it was really an option right now anyway) and has made my $10/month on Netflix totally worth it. I haven't rented any movies from the video store in the last two months either, so I think I've come out ahead money-wise.

So now, I am glad I bought the Wii. It's one of the purchases from my non-frugal days that I am very pleased with. Along with my ipod Shuffle and my black Limited dress that I wear at least twice a month. I am usually cursing the me who made qeustionable financial choices that I am paying for now, but there are moments when I reap the benefits from that era.

What are some purchases that you don't regret? (even better if you saved for them first, unlike me. :P)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mail In Rebates & Sulfate-free Shampoo

My students are quietly working on state testing right now...which is pretty miserable for them, but I have to say, I don't mind having two hours to get stuff done in the morning. Lovely.

This weekend was full of unexpected expenses-mostly small, but those always add up. But, I also got some free items that I needed this weekend, so it wasn't all bad. First, I was able to use my coupons for free feminine products at Target, once again paying only the tax. (I'm not sure how these keep ending up in my mailbox at school, but I'm not complaining!) Second, I needed new shampoo.

**Side note: am I the only one who ALWAYS runs out of shampoo way faster than conditioner? I wish they made bottles in the ratio that I actually use them-bigger shampoo, smaller conditioner. But I digress.**

I am a stickler about using sulfate-free shampoo, and I have been using Enjoy for the last four years or so. But, now that sulfate-free has become marketable, there are some less expensive versions on the market I've been wanting to try, specifically Organix. I saw Organix shampoo in a couple of different scents (I went with cucumber yogurt) at Rite Aid this weekend. AND, it had a rebate offer for up to $6.99 back (so again, after all is said and done I am just paying the tax for my shampoo).

Granted, I won't get the check for $6.99 for about ten weeks. But I filled it out this morning, stuck a stamp on it, and put it in the mail. I know companies do the rebate thing because many people won't bother to send it in. But I always do, and since I put the cost into my May budget, it will be extra money in a few months. :) How about you? Do you do rebates or put them off and then forget about them?

I will write a review of Organix shampoo after I've used it for about a month. I liked it this morning, but I am going to withold judgement until I can see how it affects my hair. If it works, it would be great, because it's WAY cheaper than Enjoy. Anyone else use a good, inexpensive sulfate-free shampoo?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Furlough Day Blues

This week I got my first paycheck that had furlough days on it. They took two days of pay out of our May paycheck, and they will be taking one day out of June and two days out of July.

Two days doesn't sound like that much, does it? But when I saw my check, I realized how much two days really is. Blerg.

I had tried to counteract that money by doing three hours of class coverage, attending a paid training, doing a five hour Parent Summit on a Saturday, and going to a paid learning teams meeting. Unfortunately, one day of coverage and the meeting were too close to the end of the month, so those will be on my June check. The training and the Parent Summit hours somehow didn't make it onto my check (I followed up and they should be deposited around the 15th). On the plus side, my raise finally went through and I got about $200 of retroactive pay (thank goodness. If not for that I would really be hurting!)

All in all, my check was short around $250. Which, during a month that I have my car insurance due, it's Mother's Day, my roommate's birthday, and a parking ticket to pay...was rough.

As of now, I only put $100 toward my credit card this month. I budgeted everything out, and any unspent money at the end of the month will go toward my Capital One card. Also, if the money comes through next week for those extra hours, I'll be able to add another $100 or so.

The thing that kills me is that my Capital One credit card is SO close to being paid off. The balance is just under $400. I SO want to get one of the cards paid off. I think it will feel great and will motivate me to keep on going. I am really working on scooping up any extra opportunities this month. So far I have attended my regular learning teams meeting and covered one class. I also have another learning teams meeting scheduled on the 19th, so that's three hours guaranteed. I am hoping for at least five hours on this check, but we shall see. I am just crossing my fingers that I can pay it off next month, but even that is up in the air.

Anyway, that's where this all stands. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go withdraw my cash for the envelope system.