Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This, That, and the Other

I got a letter in the mail today confirming that this loan was cancelled. It's a relief to have it gone, though since I knew it was being cancelled it wasn't really on my debt radar. More like a to do list item checked off, though I saved a total of over $2,000 by working at my school and getting the forms in over the last five years.

I listed seven books on Amazon on Sunday...three of them have already sold. :)

I talked with someone about retirement plans today, since I want to have something else in place other than my pension. I'm looking at an insurance type plan rather than a IRA or 403b. Anyone have any insight on that? It's not my strong suit.

Work is exhausting. I'm ready for payday so I can go to the grocery store and have an eating out budget, since I spent mine for the month. No danger in using the credit card or anything, just ready for a fresh month. We'll see if my direct deposit goes in on Friday or on Monday...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Funny...

...that even though I've bought exactly one book this year and I've gone through my bookshelves at least five or six times to weed out the things I'm willing to get rid of, I still managed to find twenty books to part with today.


I checked to see if they were worth selling, and listed seven or eight. The rest go in the goodwill bag. The same thing happens in my closet...I put another shirt in the bag yesterday. Granted, I tried it on and realized it's not flattering, so that helped me part with it. But I also threw in about five more items when I went through the closet this morning. I'm not brining in items to replace the old stuff, I'm just more willing to part with things every time I go through them.

I've come up with two explanations-one, I am slowly embracing the minimalist lifestyle, so it's easier to get rid of things as time passes. I used to love seeing my two full bookshelves in my bedroom (both are taller than me), but today I thought, "I wonder if I could get down to just one bookshelf in my room." This is a total change in how I used to feel about my books. The second reason is more simple. Everytime I go through my stuff there are items I pause and think about getting rid of, but then think, "No, maybe I'll read/wear that again. I'll wait." Then the next time around I see the item hasn't been used and I'm more willing to part with it.

Either way, it's nice to clean out my shelves and closet. I still have plenty of clothes and books (and I probably always will), but the less is more philosophy is making my room less cluttered, and for that I am thankful.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Frugal Date Idea-The Drive In

I have discovered my new favorite date-last night the bf and I went to the drive in! I did some research, and while they are few and far between, I found one only about twenty minutes from his house, in Montclair.

We took my car (more comfortable in the compact my car is cleaner than his), brought our own snacks (spent $9 and came home with extra candy and kettle corn), and spent $8 each to see two movies. We opted for The Town and Going the Distance. We had a great time! The sound from my car stereo was fine and it was fun to have a movie night in the car. Plus, I got to see two movies I would have otherwise waited and just Netflixed later. Honestly, it surprises me that there aren't more drive ins...I would totally go if they had one in Long Beach!

Anyway, our date was only $25 total for the two of us, and I'm sure we could have gone cheaper on the snacks if I had planned ahead and little better and made popcorn at home. We would have spent that on the tickets for just one regular priced movie. I highly recommend it for a fun and relatively frugal date!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...

...I should start thinking about Christmas.

I know there are those who budget all year long for Christmas, squirreling away money each month for all their gifts. Luckily, my family keeps it pretty reasonable around Christmas, so I don't really have to do that. I think spent less than $300 on gifts last year, and I'd like to do even better this year.

So far, I have $10 in Amazon gift cards ready to go. I anticipate having at least $25 so I can get an order with free shipping by Christmas. (Thanks Swagbucks!) I also saved my rebate from my cell phone ($60) to use for Christmas. It's on a Visa gift card, so I'll be able to use it almost anywhere. I keep it at home so I'm not tempted to use it when I'm out and about. I also have some reward points from another site where I have almost enough to get a free Snapfish calendar, which some lucky recipient will enjoy. I budgeted $100 in October to go toward Christmas, and am hoping to do the same in November and then be done.

Ideally I'd like to spend even less than the $200 out of my regular budget, but we'll see how creative I can get. Most of my friends have switched to stocking stuffers or small items, which is still fun, but budget friendly. My roommate and I exchange ornaments for our tree each year as our gifts to one another. Also, my family agreed on a single gift for each of us (there are five of us locally) with a $25 limit last year, plus we drew names for stockings, which I spent another $25 on. This year it looks like I will have the boy to shop for, which is a new one...we haven't talked spending limits yet, though we should.

Is your Christmas budget done? Have you started shopping yet?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is Netflix Worth It?


I have had Netflix for the last six months, and decided to do a little cost comparison to see how much I've saved by joining. Normally, I would have bought two different TV seasons on DVD in the last six months. But, I resisted and just enjoyed them with my one at a time rental. I also calculated that I would have rented one movie per month from my local video store (which is probably low, but I wanted to be fair). In total I would have spent approximately $80.98. My Netflix subscription has cost me a grand total of $59.22. I haven't rented any other movies in that time, so I've saved $21.76.

That doesn't seem like a ton, but I've also managed to watch tons of things that I've been meaning to get to for years. Freaks and Geeks, which is crazy expensive to buy. I discovered my love of The West Wing. I also rented United States of Tara, as well as several movies and documentaries. And don't get me started on streaming through my Wii. Luckily, because I am the only one who makes my queue, the one disc at a time has been great for me, keeping it very cheap.

So, even though the actual financial savings look like they'll only be about $50 per year, I find the service totally worth it. I'm not sure why I resisted it for so long, actually.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekly Money Check-up

Here's My Pretty Pennies weekly money check up questions, answered by me. Enjoy!
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on dinner and drinks for the boy and I on Saturday. He usually pays, but I told him I would get this one. Plus he brought me flowers that night. Totally worth it.
2. Today I feel satisfied towards money. I feel like my ducks are in a row and I'm in good shape on my car payment plan.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was baked a new cookie recipe, which I did pick up a few ingredients for. But I spent about $10 and then shared them with many people, so it was worth it.
4. I will consider this week a success if I make it through Back to School Night in one piece.
5. One of my most memorable birthdays was my 18th. My roommate and high school best friend put pictures of me in the dorm hallway and filled my room with balloons while I was gone the night before. So fun!

Another Item on the 'to buy list' checked off!

Today I went to lunch with my grandma. She not only paid for my soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden, but as a surprise took me shopping and said I could pick out one thing at Burlington Coat Factory. Which is a misnomer, because they are more like Ross where they have all sorts of stuff. Anyway, I found a Guess purse which was originally $115 marked down to $42.99. I felt like that might have been too expensive, but I held onto it while I looked around. My grandma saw it and asked if that's what I wanted. I said maybe and she asked, "Do you like it?" I said yes, and she said, "Then get it."

So I did. I needed a new black purse since mine was frayed and pretty worn out. I love the new one because it's the perfect size-big enough to lug around my stuff without feeling like luggage. :) The old one is the the goodwill bag and the new one is full of my stuff and ready to hit the streets tomorrow! Thanks Grandma!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I am once again thankful for health insurance

This is sort of gross. I'll try not to go into too much detail here. Somehow, I developed a cyst on my shoulder, which got infected. Which I had to go to urgent care to get lanced. It hurt.

I called my regular doctor, but they couldn't fit me in after work, so the suggested I go to urgent care, which is actually much closer to my house than my doctor's office is. I waited about an hour on Thursday before the doctor came in and took care of the situation. Again, I'll spare you the details other than to hurt. He also gave me ten days worth of antibiotics and told me I would have to come back the next day and get it checked and repacked.

The next day the doctor said it looked fine, repacked it, and told me I would have to come in at least every other day this week to have it repacked. But, he wrote that up as a nurse's visit, which not only cuts down my waiting time, but also waves my $10 copay.

All said, I spent $20 to deal with this, which includes my antibiotics. It hasn't been fun, but I am so thankful that I have health insurance and that this isn't an emergency fund situation, like it would be if I was without. So if you need me, I'll be at urgent care this week. Every other day. Annoyed at having to be there, but thankful that it's not costing me a bundle.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easy Money

Do you have those tasks that are not actually difficult, but for some reason you have the hardest time getting around to? For me making doctors appointments, hanging up my laundry, and taking out the trash all go on this list.

Here's another item in that category-because I work in a low-income school, I am entitled to loan repayment by the government both through the APLE program in California (which makes the process a big pain) and the federal government. The federal program is for a small loan I took when I was student teaching of about $2500. That amount isn't even reflected in my sidebars, because I sort of forget about it. Anyway, I thought the program was only for the first four years, so when I got a letter saying my outstanding loan balance was just over $500, I planned to just pay it off in August and be done with it. But, along with the letter, they sent me the form for loan cancellation. I called them, and the very helpful woman told me that I was eligible for one more year, and that once I mailed in the completed form, they would cancel the remaining balance on that loan.

AWESOME. Right? Super easy. Fill out a form, have one of my administrators at work sign it, mail it in, and presto! Loan gone, $500 saved!

I finally did the form on Tuesday.

I am looking at the form, still not in an envelope, addressed, or stamped as I type this. I'm mailing it today though. I promise.

I had the blank form printed out for about two weeks. Finally at work the other day I thought, "Jess, if someone were to say to you, 'hey I'll give you $500 for about fifteen minutes of effort' you would do it right? Then DO IT."

So I finally did. Do you have things like this? That feel way more difficult than they actually are?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Free isn't always enough

So a few weeks ago the boy persuaded me to go and play disc golf with him.

If that's not love, I don't know what is.

It was really hot. I have TERRIBLE aim. The park was full of weird guys. Trying to learn new things brings out the worst in me.

He said he was still glad I came and tried. He also said, "But it's free, so I thought you'd like it."

Free isn't always enough, buddy. Nice try though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Been a Frugal Day

I made a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, filled my Nalgene bottle with tap water (it's clean. get over yourself.), and packed string cheese and crackers for a snack, as well as the last of the Greek orzo salad I made on Sunday for lunch.

My carpool buddy picked me up for work (it's her week, I'm on next week).

After work, I started my Couch to 5k training, the schedule for which is free online. I ran outside, since the gym membership is long gone. In order to avoid driving to the store, I made sure I ended up near Ralph's, where I bought an avocado. Then I walked home. I timed my intervals using a digital watch that my roommate lent to me. I mentioned that I was going to try to find a cheap one, and she lent me one she isn't using.

I came home and made salad, also preparing a salad for tomorrow's lunch.

Now, I am settled in and about to watch Date Night, which I got from Netflix, though it is one I was tempted to see in the theater.

What's funny is that all of these things felt normal and routine...I didn't really think about how many little ways I was saving money until tonight, when I looked back on the day.

Another CSN Stores giveaway!

You can enter for a chance to win a $55 gift certificate at CSN Stores, over at Saving Cents in the City. I don't know how they ended up hooking up with every PF blogger in the world, but they are legit...I know because I won Me in Millions giveaway!  Good luck, friends!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Summer Salad Recipe

You know how when you're on Facebook you sometimes find yourself clicking through a friends pictures, and then you click, click, click until you are looking at the pictures of someone you don't even know? The Personal Finance Blogging world is like that too. I have no idea how I ended up on this blog, but I'm glad I did because I saw a recipe for a delicious variation on the Caprese salad that I had to try today! Partly because I'm a sucker for anything with avocado in it. :) I love how colorful it is, and it is also delicious!

Red cabbage
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Monday, September 13, 2010

The downside to getting more No Drive Days... that the on-again boy left a card on my car for my first day of school. Which was a long day. But I didn't drive, my carpool buddy did, so I didn't get the card. And then he finally asked me about it tonight on the phone, sounding a little wounded that I hadn't acknowledged it.

But, I went and got it, and it made me feel good after my long day, so all's well that ends well. And I'm carpooling all this week, so I'm hoping for at least three of the days to be No Drive at all. Huzzah!

Less Junk

I was reading a new favorite blog, My Year Without Spending, and came across a post where she talked about eliminating junk mail as a way to go green and have less waste come into her home. I decided to follow are the two things I did, including their links so you can do them too:

1. I took my name off the list for credit card and insurance offers. I am committed to no new credit cards, and if I wanted to change insurance companies, I'd do the research myself, not respond to something I got in the mail. I'm excited to stop getting these offers!
2. I went to catalog choice and opted out of seven catalogs that I know I get. You have to search for the catalogs individually, so I will have to keep going to this site as I receive more in the mail. I am glad to do this, since I never look through catalogs anyway.

We'll see how much of a difference these steps make, but I am excited to be on the right track as far as reducing the amount of junk mail I receive!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekly Money Checkup

My Pretty Pennies is yet another fabulous PF blog that I read and I've decided to start participating in her Weekly Money Checkup! There are five questions each week...without further ado...

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my cell phone bill. It hasn't been a very spendy week. :)
2. Today I feel content towards money. I've met some goals this month and things are definitely under control.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was talk to my friend Shelley on the phone for three hours last night. I miss her!
4. I will consider this week a success if I get all my copies made for the first two weeks of school. And figure out the yearbook theme with the kiddos. Yes, it's the first week of school.
5. My first job was working at a flower shop that also sold shaved ice (like sno cones but better). It's an odd combination.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I would have to change the name of the blog...

Lately I've been talking to some very financially savvy friends and reading a bit about why it's advantageous to rent rather than own your home. Here's an insightful and funny post about the issue that I stumbled across. I haven't completely changed my mind, but it has given me some things to think about. And made me think "crap, what else could I call my blog??" if I change my mind.

Any other committed renters out there want to chime in? Or any owners want to remind me of the benefits of ownership?

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Thinking About It...

So, I am thinking about doing The Compact as my 2011 project. Essentially, members of The Compact don't buy anything new (minus food, toiletries, underwear, gas...that's probably about it.) I've been reading The Non-Consumer Advocate for months now, and she does The Compact. I've also read a few other articles and blogs about the idea....and I'm toying with it. You are allowed to buy things on Craigslist, thrift stores, get things off of freecycle, yard sales, etc.

I'm drawn to it not only for financial reasons (I would definitely save money), but also for the appeal of living more simply, being less focused on consumerism, and lessening my impact on the environment. I also like the idea of really committing to a project that will be a challenge for me.

I'm hesitant because...well I like stuff. I enjoy getting something new. I also worry about gifts...though I have been thinking of ways to make that work.

Any Compacters out there want to chime in? Anyone want to join me on the challenge? I know we've got some months to go, but this is such a big goal that I am going to need to mentally prepare for it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I've Given Up...

...on recycling for cash. Here's why:

1. The roommate stopped drinking and I stopped buying alcohol. I don't buy water bottles anymore. So basically it takes FOREVER to accumulate enough to make it worth taking to the recycling center.

2. When I get a few bags worth, I take them in. Which gets me all of about $4 or so. I would let them stack up, but we don't have a garage or anything, so they either ride in the back of my car or the pile gets crazy in my already small kitchen, annoying the heck out of my roommate.

3. I want to be a more responsible global citizen. So my trash can that once only held those recyclables good for money can now hold anything we can put into the recycling bins outside. So we're actually reducing our trash and increasing our recycling.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cost of Living Calculator

My sister posted this link on Facebook. You can use it to compare cost of living in various cities, broken down by housing, food, etc. I don't have a real need for this, since I'm not moving anytime soon, but it was sort of fun to play with. And it could be very useful is budgeting and planning if you are planning a move.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I love a bargain

This post could totally be filed under TMI, but then, sharing all about your finances on the internet could definitely be in that category as well, so tough.

Here's why I love Victoria's Secret: I got two coupons in the mail this month from them, both for a free pair of underwear (no purchase necessary) and for $10 off a bra. So I picked out two bras and two pairs of underwear. I went up to the counter and told her I had two coupons...could I use them both? Yes, she just rang up two separate transactions for me. I saved $20 and got $16 worth of free underwear. And seven pieces of pink tissue paper, which I use for gift wrap. (Yes, I counted. But seriously, they have kept me stocked on tissue paper this year.)

And I will also tell you that the new Incredible bra is just that. SO comfortable. You should get one. Unless you're a man. Then stay out of Victoria's Secret, because it's weird when I make eye contact with strange men while holding my underwear in there. I'm just sayin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh how I love paying off debt!

Today's payday, which means the rest of my summer school money just came in. I used all my extra money toward my car payment. The plan is to make my regular payment plus $150 every month. I also need to come up with $2500 in extra payments between now and June to be able to meet my goal of paying off my car one year early. I made my extra $150 today plus $1,500 extra! My regular payment doesn't go through until the 15th, so I will update my progress bars again once that goes through. But today I dived into four digit debt on my car, skipping straight into the $8,000 range. YES! I'm so excited!

It's funny, normally I would look forward to spending the extra money, or would have at least taken a little out do buy myself something, but honestly I think it was more satisfying to make that big of a principle payment on my car. And now that it's over and I saw my check, teaching Summer School was totally worth it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review: Not Buying It

I checked out Not Buying It from the library last week, eager to read a book about someone who gives up shopping for non-necessities for a year. The book is by Judith Levine, and I will say that I admire her commitment to the project. She gives up Q-tips, new socks, and eating out. She only really breaks once, except for while traveling for a family obligation. She muses on consumerism and brings up some interesting points about the Voluntary Simplicity movement.

But, I found myself wanting to like this book more than I did. I wanted it to be better. I think part of the problem for me is that I don't relate to Ms. Levine. She's an east-coast woman in her 50's who never really shopped a whole lot to begin with. I felt like I would have enjoyed the book more if she had been a bigger shopper to begin with and then gave it up.

Also, she talks a lot about her political views. She's very anti-Bush and talks a lot about the election of 2004, because that's the year the book chronicles. I am no fan of Bush and am pretty liberal, but I felt like it was out of place. The book is about not buying things, not about how much you hate George Bush. I had read reviews along these lines, but thought it wouldn't bother me. But it did. Write a separate book about that if you want to, but let's focus on one thing at a time here, okay?

As someone who gave up clothes shopping for a year, I did relate to her thoughts on the lasting effects of the project. She says she "thinks thrice" before plunking down the debit card or handing over the cash for something. I totally agree. This is the first month I was able to go clothes shopping, and I certainly did. I got many items that I love, and I had a blast shopping. BUT, I only bought things I really like and spent $233, more than I plan to spend in other months. And while it is appealing to buy new clothes, I am also more hesitant to buy. I know I can go without it, I know I have a lot of clothes already, and I know the effects of not sticking to a budget. So, like Ms. Levine, I am thankful for my time spent Not Buying It. I'm not as thankful for the time I spent reading her book though.