Thursday, June 30, 2011


Sometimes, I have a hankering to buy something new. My budget has a little more freedom for those things than it did a year ago, but I still like to get that "rush" while staying in budget. Here are two freebies to get your fix for something new:

$2 Amazon MP3 Credit: I used this to get two songs (Rolling in the Deep by Adele and Good Life by One Republic). My total came to $1.98 for two songs, so it was totally free and I got something new on my iPod shuffle. :) The link is from The Freebie Blogger, where I found this deal, it has directions and the link to Amazon on it.

Free Moisturizer from Sephora. This is a coupon for a free sample of Bare Minerals Moisturizer. It's only good at a Sephora inside JC Penney, so search for one near you to use this coupon. It's a little thing, but it satisfies my urge to go to the mall and get something new. Samples are also great for travel!

I know it's not as good as a shopping spree, but it's nice to have a little something new when you're on a hardcore budget. Or even if you're not...who doesn't like free things!?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"This might be the best dinner you've ever made for me."

So, I wasn't going to blog this recipe, but then while BF was eating it he looked up and said the line above. So I figured it deserved a post. It's super easy too, which is always a plus.

Jessica's Taco Salad Recipe

Ground turkey, taco seasoning, romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes (I used both red and yellow), 1/2 onion, chopped, shredded cheese, frozen corn, chipotle-ranch dressing (I got a great one from Fresh & Easy), cilantro, tortilla chips, and salsa.
*Take corn out of freezer and put into large mixing bowl so it can thaw. Brown ground turkey, using taco seasoning according to directions. Drain, add to corn, and put in fridge to cool.
*Chop the onion, lettuce, and cilantro. Grate the cheese.
*Once the meat is cool, combine lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and cilantro to the mix. Then, to make individual servings, crush chips into bottom of bowl. Add salad and dressing on top, topping each serving with a spoonful of salsa.

That's it! It was pretty cheap to get all the ingredients, and BF just added, "Write 'restaurant quality' on your blog!" Alas, no pictures since I didn't plan on blogging it. The dressing's got a kick, so it's a little spicy, which is great for us. We each had two servings. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thanks for the Necessities

On the last day of school my partner teacher and I usually exchange cards and some sort of small gift. This year was no exception, and she was nice enough to get me a $25 gift card to Target. I love gift cards to Target because you can get ANYTHING.

Being that it's the end of a spendy kind of month, I chose to get necessities instead of fun stuff. I picked up 12 rolls of toilet paper, toilet bowl cleaner, moisturizer, cotton pads for taking off my eye makeup, a bag for washing bras in the washing machine, and a bottle of Sobe water as a "treat" after the gym.  I spent $24.21, and got the change back.

I know that probably wasn't what she had in mind when she got me the gift card, but honestly I think I was more satisfied in getting things I needed than I would be in buying a new shirt or DVD. Which is definitely a shift in thinking from the old me. And, that's what makes it a gift. I spend it on what makes me happy. And what made me happy today was keeping my budget in line for the month of June. :)

Would you care if someone used a gift card to buy necessities or gifts for someone else? (I've been known to do that too.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Turning Down Extra Money

The other day I was offered a chance to earn an extra $500 per month for next school year. I'm leaing towards turning it down.

I was offered an auxiliary class, meaning I would only get my conference period half the time, and the other half I would teach a class during what would normally be my conference. The days I don't have a conference I would earn my hourly rate for the 90 minutes of teaching I'd do. Because the school is a block schedule, that means I'd have a 90 minute conference period two days a week and a 45 minute conference every other week. I did the math, and accounting for taxes I think I'd make approximately $500 more per month (on months without long breaks, like Christmas, etc.).

While the money is good, I think I'm going to pass. In part because I will be doing yearbook at the high school level for the first time (which is a lot of work), and because while the money would be great, I don't think it's worth the insanity of not having a conference period every day. 

I think this is marking a transition in my PF journey. If I still had my credit cards or my car to pay off, I would have taken it for sure. But, now that I don't have either of those hanging over me, I don't feel like I have to do this. I could, and it's still on the table...they don't need an answer until the end of next month, but I don't have to do it anymore. I have the freedom to say "no thanks." Which is a pretty amazing feeling, no matter what decision I make.

Would you take the extra class? Have you reached a point where paying off debt has given you more freedom?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Free Prescription Glasses!

If you go to Facebook and like Coastal Contacts you can get a code for a free pair of prescription glasses! I just picked mine out and got this funky fresh pair. :) 

You have to know your prescription and you have to pay shipping and handling charges (mine came out to $12). But, that's less than I spend when I go to Lens Crafters each year, so I went for it. Plus, it's nice to have a backup pair of glasses. 

Why are you still reading? Go to Facebook and make this happen!

Extra Work=Extra Pay

As a teacher I do a lot of work that I don't get paid for. It's the nature of the job, and it doesn't (usually) bother me. BUT, when we have an opportunity to get paid extra to do extra work, I am all over it.

In August the new school I am working at is offering ten planning/professional development days (six hours each) at a rate of $25/hour. I will be on vacation for four of them, but I am planning on going to the other six. YES! There are also three required days that are not in our contract which we will be paid our hourly rate for. The "hourly" rate is our daily salary divided by six hours, so it's a pretty good amount.

I am accounting for taxes taking a chunk and planning conervatively I should still have an extra $1,000 on my September check (if not a bit more). I think I will budget around $250 to get new clothes, since I hardly ever do that anymore. I also like to do some back to school shopping each year and get some new work clothes. The other $750 I think I will split between my E-fund and my student loan.

Yes, I am planning for money that I will not get until September. For work I won't do until August. But I just found out about the optional days this morning, and I'm excited about them. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

INTERESTing (it's a pun. I'm a dork.)

This morning I went to ING Direct's website to check out how their savings accounts work. I have always heard that they have higher interest rates than other banks, so I was a little surprised to see that their savings account interest rate is only one percent. That's it?!?!

My credit union has two types of savings accounts. The regular one only has an interest rate of 0.1%, so I realize that ING direct can offer me ten times that. BUT. My other option is the Educator Summer Saver Account. This account has more restrictions, but the perk is that it has an interest rate of 3.92%.

Here's how the summer saver works:
*Deposits are only allowed via direct deposit
*You can take money out six times per month
*Every August all the money in the account dumps into your checking account (it's designed for teachers who don't get paid during the summer.)

Up until now I've used this account as my emergency fund, depositing $100 per month into it. When it dumps in August I moved it to my regular savings account.

Finding out these interest rates sort of helps me decide how I want to handle the extra money I'll have at my disposal starting in August. I had originally planned to open a few ING accounts for different categories. But, it doesn't make sense not to take advantage of the Summer Saver interest rate.

SO, here's my new plan: Starting in September I am going to have all of my paycheck deposited into the Summer Saver. I'll create my monthly budget and transfer that into my checking right when I get paid. That way, whatever is not budgeted will be saved. I am going to open an ING savings to use as my E-fund and so that when the money dumps out of the Summer Saver in August I can get a little better interest rate on it.

If I need to use the saved money for travel or a computer, or a wedding, I can get to it. I don't think the six times a month restriction will be a problem. But, I am not going to make separate savings accounts for right now. I'm just going to go big on my savings, and maybe make a large goal to have saved up by the end of the school year so that I am motivated to keep that money in savings.

Do you ever dictate your plans by interest rates? Anywhere else I can get better interest rates that you know of? Anyone have an ING code that gives you money if I open an account?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Budget is Blown...

I was going to start this post talking about how expensive June is, but then I decided to keep it real and just say that I've been spending a lot of money because I feel like it.

I bought plane tickets for Chicago in August and Alaska in July: $700
I got my hair cut and colored: $105
I took four kids out to dinner who won an essay contest in my class: $55
I got my TA a graduation gift, which he totally deserves because he's a great TA: $20
I went to the Victoria's Secret Semi-Annual Sale. Got some necessities and some not so necessities: $125
BF really wants to go to the beer dinner at our favorite brewery. He might be paying for it, or we might split it, I'm not sure. But that will be $50 each.

Things have gotten a little crazy.

Now, some of this really was budgeted for. My hair appointment, for example. And I had about $425 left over after my budgeted items, which was to be used for plane tickets. But jeez-louise, I've spent a lot of money this month.

And to be completely honest, I can feel the old me in there whispering, "Just go crazy. You already overspent. Go buy that new pair of shoes you've been wanting. Go to Victoria's Secret again and buy some more stuff on sale. See what they have a Nordstrom Rack."

Shut up little voice. Shut up.

I'm going to do what I need to do. I'm not going to buy any more stuff, and I may take back one of the $30 items to VS. (Or I may not. I haven't decided yet.) I'm going to pull around $275 from my savings to cover the purchases and then replace the amount when I get paid in July. But, it's interesting how it still feels really appealing to just blow the budget and buy whatever I want. I thought I was sort of past that now, and apparently I'm not.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

Okay, dear readers, it is time for you to vote. Not for a political office, nor for something really important like a reality TV dancing competition. No, for what I shall do with my extra funds when my car is paid off (saving $500/month) and BF moves in (saving $450/month).

Starting in August I will have approximately $950 more dollars per month at my disposal. Which will be AMAZING. I am giving myself permission to use the money in August for my Chicago trip as well as some back to school shopping, since I rarely go big on the shopping. But in September I want to have a plan for that money so it doesn't slip through my fingers.

Below are three ideas I have for how to handle the money. Please vote on your favorite and tell me why. Then, I'll add them all up and probably do whatever I want anyway. But if you make an excellent point I might listen. And credit your brilliance for changing my life. Okay, onto the plans!

Plan A
*Save $500 per month in savings, not earmarked for anything specific. Just save for whatever future events/expenses may come.
*Put an extra $450 toward my student loan, which is my last remaining debt. It does have incredibly low interest though.

Plan B
*$100/month in car fund (for repairs and eventually a new car)
*$100/month in a travel fund (I like to go places)
*$100/month in computer fund (for whenever my laptop of five years crashes or to eventually buy a desktop with BF)
*$400/month toward wedding fund (I'm not engaged but it's being talked about). This could also become house down payment fund, depending on what the future holds.
*$250/month toward student loans

Plan C
*$950/month toward student loans. This would have them paid off in a year, though if I use tax returns for the debt I could definitely have it done in a 10 months, most likely less than that!

I am leaning toward plan B, because it makes progress on several goals that I have for myself. Also, any unbudgeted funds (which have been my car snowflakes) could go toward student loans, so even though I'd only be adding $200 more dollars per month officially, it could definitely be more than that.

The appeal of Plan C is being able to say I'm 100% debt free by September of 2012 (at the latest). Though, BF has student loans and a car payment, and if wedding bells are in the future, I'll just take on his debt at that point. And if wedding bells do occur, I'd have to sidetrack that plan to pay for said nuptials.

Cast your ballots now! Standard text messaging rates apply. You may only vote once a day. Watch for dangling chads. Don't swim half an hour after eating.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Should I Diversify?

This school year I finally started a 403(b). During my sixth year of teaching. I know, I know. I put $220 per month in there, soon to go up to approximately $400 per month.

Also, since I am a teacher I will get a pension when I retire. So, there's that.

My question: should I open another type of retirement account? Like a Roth IRA or something? Or, should I stick with my pension and 403(b) and use my funds elsewhere?

Would it make sense to keep increasing the amount in my 403(b), or should I start a new kind of account to diversify?

I'd love input on this issue. I'd also like to save for a house (hence the name of the blog), but not at the expense of my retirement. I think a pension and a 403(b) are sufficient, but I also have very little idea of how much I need to save for retirement. Like, no idea, really. Help a blogger out.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Green Triangle

This morning I got up, grabbed my bike, and headed over to the library to pick up my Alaska book. Then, I biked to Fresh & Easy where I used my $10 off $50 coupon, spending $44 for a LOT of groceries. As in, it was a little tricky biking them home. I think I was imagining my basket as much bigger than it really is. But I did it!

I love when things work out to form the Green Triangle. Good for the environment-I didn't use my car, or buy a book so I saved a tree. Good for my health-I got some exercise. Good for my wallet-I didn't spend money on gas, or the book, and saved on groceries.

Have you experienced the Green Triangle recently?

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Week...

...I switched my disability insurance to a different company, which will save me $45 per month starting in July.

...I emailed my financial dude in charge of my 403(b) to tell him that I wanted to put $150 more per month into my account starting in August. That will be my first month of my seventh year(!) of teaching, so my annual raise shows up then. I want it put straight into my 403(b) before I even see it on a paycheck! I put $220 per month in the account right now, so this is a good sized increase for me.

...I accepted a job working at a brand new high school in my area. Same district, but brand new school! I'm excited about the opportunity, though it's bittersweet to leave the school I've been teaching at for six years.

...I got my first migraine headache. It was horrible.

...I made my millionth breakdown of what to do with my extra money each month after my car is paid off and BF moves in. Still not sure what I want to do. Shall I post my options now or wait 'til the car is officially paid off?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living Social: A Pyramid Scheme I Can Get Behind...

Today's living social deal was two Fandango movie tickets for $9, which is an AMAZING deal. BF and I each bought one last time this deal came up, and it was fun to go to the movies for so cheap! In fact, we haven't been to the movies since.

I bought one off of a link on Facebook. Then I posted it to my Facebook, since if you can get three people to buy it from your link, it's FREE for you. SCORE. Two friends bought it and then BF used my link. :) He just posted it to his account, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that three of his friends will buy it. If so, we'll get to go to the movies twice for FREE.

Normally schemes like this sort of annoy me, but I'm just excited that this is working out! I would have bought it anyway, since $9 is a great deal for two movie tickets, but this makes it even better. I'm honestly more interested in Living Social now that I realize how it works.

Do you do Living Social? Any great deals you've gotten for free?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Planning for my Trips

Being the organized, Type A, planner type, I've already started planning for my two trips this summer. I requested a travel book about Alaska and another about Chicago from the library. I'm going to read through them, make lists of what I most want to do and see, and either photocopy pertinent pages or if the books are amazing, buy them on Amazon.

I've also started thinking about packing. Not what I'll bring (even I'm not that crazy), but the luggage itself. For Chicago BF and I have to pay $25 per bag each way. Which is so ridonculous I have to use a made up word to describe how ridiculous it is. We talked about bringing one carryon and checking one bag together. We also talked about just using carry-ons, which I want to try to do. It's annoying to not be able to bring all the toiletries I want, but it's even more annoying to spend $50 on checked bag fees. I'd like to do the same for my trip to Alaska with my sister.

The problem? I don't actually own carry-on luggage. Possible solution? Swagbucks!

I can get a $40 gift cards to Amazon for 3,600 Swagbucks. I want to get this luggage, which has the traditional carry-on and a small overnight bag that matches. I saw the same luggage on Overstock, but the gift cards on Swagbucks are more expensive, so I looked at Amazon and saw the exact same luggage. Score!

This does end my Swagbucks hoarding for now, since I'll actually use some of them, but I think it's a good decision. As of today I have 8,440 Swagbucks, so I'll still have plenty if I want to pick up other necessities or save for a big goal again. And it will be great to get something I need for free!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is that a kickstand or are you just happy to see me?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my bike was stolen out of my back yard. Boooo.

That's the annoying part of living in a semi-urban area. I'm sure there are some of you who live in rural places where you don't lock your doors and leave your car keys on the seat with the windows down or something, but alas I do not. The great thing about living in Long Beach is that it is very bike friendly. There are bike paths all over the place, the beach path, and traffic lanes that are painted green to show you have to share the road with cyclists. Honestly, it's difficult to NOT have a bike here. Parking is a pain, so there are times where I don't want to drive to the library or the grocery store to pick up one thing and lose my spot.

So, I need a bike. As did the person who stole mine, apparently.

Luckily, my mom told me she had an extra bike in the garage that I could have. It's a beach cruiser (yes!) with no gears (boo) that my dad picked up for $8 at a yard sale several years ago. I picked it up yesterday and brought it home. I knew it needed new grips and that something was rubbing the wheel when I rode it, so I did some yelping and found a bike place.

I rode my bike to Bikestation, where they do repairs and where you can also park your bike for free all day. It's close to the metro station, so it's a great resource. The guy sold me new grips, installed them, lubed my chain (I almost giggled when he told me he was going to do that. I should've asked him to buy me dinner first) and put on a new kickstand from his salvage pile for me. I thought the kickstand was rubbing on the tire, plus it didn't really work to hold up the bike.

He charged me $19, which wasn't too bad. I got about a block away and braked, and suddenly the bike went all wonky on me. I actually have no idea what happened. Something broke on the back tire. This is where my blog would be much more interesting if I knew anything about bikes or mechanics. But I can tell you that some metal thing broke and it seemed loose. So, I walked it back in and he fixed it with another salvaged part for free!

It rides much better now and I'm relieved to have a new bike for less than $20. Thanks Mom and Bikestation!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vacations in the Works!

Well, I decided to listen to everyone's advice and buy plane tickets. In fact, I listened so well, I decided to book two trips this month. :)

I talked to my sister and I am going to buy my ticket for Alaska as soon as she finds out information on when she can get time off and details about traveling to Seward together. She can get discounts on tours and hotels, so we're working on that. I hope to buy my plane ticket in the next few days!

I also bought tickets for BF and I to go to Chicago in August! I'm so excited to travel to a new city! We got round trip tickets for $235 each, which isn't too bad in my opinion. I'll also get to cross two states off of my list. (I want to visit all 50 in my lifetime.)

I'll let you all be excited for my trips before I tell you the part where you are going to shame me.

Okay, so it makes sense to buy tickets now, though I don't actually have all the money to do so right away. So, I'm dipping into my Emergency Fund until July 5th when I will be able to replenish it and pay off my car.

I know plane tickets are not an emergency. But....I'm doing it anyway. I'm trying to take out as little as possible, so I'll post an update to my savings when I get the second ticket. I figure it's better than using my credit card, which is how I used to pay for all my trips.

So, anyone have any advice on what to see and do in Chicago and/or Alaska??

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Okay bloggy friends, I have a dilemma. It's a good dilemma though. :)

Today I got paid for the month of June. So, I moved the extra $57.22 leftover from my May budget to my car loan. Then, I made my regular payment for June. That leaves me with a balance of $585.82 on my car. Which is AWESOME. I also have an extra $387.32 on my June check that is not being used in another budget category. So, if I apply all that and really push it, I could conceivably get my car paid off this month.


I am planning to go visit my sister in Alaska at the end of July. I need to buy a plane ticket for that trip. I can use the extra money from my budget (plus a little of my cushion money) to buy my plane ticket now. I will still look for any extra money in my budget areas to apply to my car payment, but it will not get paid off until next month. If I wait, my regular payment plus about $50 will do it in July, which will be no problem.

Honestly, I think it makes more sense to buy my plane ticket now to make sure I get a deal (and hopefully a direct flight) and know the dates. But, the goal-oriented part of me wants to meet my original goal of paying my car off a year early, in June. Not eleven months early, in July.

What would you do?