Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fighting the "Nothing to Eats"

Monday is payday and my budget is just about spent for the month. I have a few activities this weekend that I budgeted for, but other than that it's slim pickings for me. Last night the bf and I had this conversation:

Me: "what do you want for dinner?"
Him: "I don't know, what do you want?"
(repeat about five times, pausing about ten minutes in between each time.)
Me: "Okay, seriously, what are we doing for dinner? I have pulled chick'n from Trader Joe's and one pretzel roll. I'll let you have the roll and I'll just eat the chick'n. I also have some frozen edamame."
Him: "Won't you be hungry if that's all you eat? We just worked out. I have hot dogs at home."
Me: "Gross. I have frozen potato burgers too."
Him: "No, that's gross,"
Me: "Well I could scrounge up a dinner wtih stuff here, I just don't know if you'd want to eat that."
Him: "Let's go to German Night. I'll pay."

The thing is, when it's just me, I can totally improvise a dinner to avoid going to the store before payday. Tonight I am eating edamame and those potato burgers with no bread. And I'm totally fine with that. He can do the same thing at his house wtih hot dogs and fish stiks. And if we lived together we probably would have each just improvised our own dinners, but since we don't live together neither of us feels like we can serve the other one ridiculous crap for dinner.

My meals this weekend are...interesting. I have food, it's just not typical. This morning I toasted some stale bread and put jelly on it for breakfast. Snack was a grapefruit that someone at work brought in from their tree. It was just so-so. Lunch today is a frozen meal from the pre-weight watchers days. It's a lot of points, but I should be okay if I plan the rest of the day carefully. I'm also going to use up all my stuff in whatever combinations necessary. It's funny because my rent check never gets cashed until at least the tenth and I have $1,000 in my E-fund...but I'd rather eat odd combinations of food than go over budget or start this month's budget early. But it's trickier to play that game when BF is over and I can't imagine pulling it off with kids.

Is anyone else that stubborn with their budget? Or am I crazy?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unemployment Info?

Well it's that joyous time of year third annual pink slip notice! That's right, once again the budget is in the toilet and LAUSD is giving me a pink slip. Each of the previous two years have resulted in them rescinding it before June 30th, which means I've never actually been unemployed. I've got some tricks up my sleeve and am hoping I'll be safe once again, but since I need something to do with my nervous energy, I have decided to ask some questions about unemployment and try to make an emergency budget, should it come to that. The problem is I know almost nothing about how it works.

Any Californians out there want to give me insight on how unemployment works? Here are some of my questions... it based on how much you made?
...what is the maximum payout?
...if you get some work but not full-time do you still qualify?
...what's the cap? often do you get paid?

And any other insights would be appreciated. If I can find out enough info to actually create a budget I'll post it for you horror amusement.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

April's Budget

April means a few things that could be budget busters for me...
*Easter-I'm most likely having family over the day of, which I can work into my grocery budget and my cushion if need be. The other temptation is that BF's family celebrates on the Saturday before, which I am invited to. This will involve meeting a bunch more of his extended of course I want to buy a new dress.

*Wedding reception-A friend of BF's got married in Alaska and is having a reception the second weekend of April. Again, my temptation is to buy a new dress. Or even justify, "I'll buy one dress and wear it to both Easter and the reception."

*Boyfriend's birthday present-There's no getting around this one. His birthday is in May, but I want to get it figured out this month and then budget for whatever activity we're going to do on his actual bday. He went and bought himself a GPS watch, which is what I was planning on getting him. :/ I'm not sure what I'm getting him now, but he's a good gift-giver so I gotta step it up.

*Spring Break-I'm not going away, but having a whole week off usually makes for some more spending on going out to eat and other social activities. I talked to BF about doing something fun in LA one day that week, hopefully taking the Metro. I still want to try to keep it cheap though.

Here are my solutions:
-->No new clothes. I can't really afford it with the other expenses and I came up with a solution. First, a friend gave me an old dress of hers, and since I've been losing weight it should fit for the reception. This also gives me motivation to stick with my diet since it's a size smaller than I was wearing before. It will feel new since I've never worn it. Second, for the Easter outfit I have a skirt that has been a bit snug but should work for me in the next few weeks. It's floral and colorful and it's also on of BF's favorites. :)

-->Spring Break-I'm going to budget an extra $50 into my fun category and look for some fun, free things to do that week. I'd like to not budget extra, but I know myself...I'm going to spend something. I figure it's better to budget a smallish amount rather than not plan and then spend whatever I want.

-->Boyfriend's present-this one's still up in the air. I budgeted for it and I just have to figure out what to get him. 

I am still waiting for some back pay from work, which would allow me to make an extra car payment of around $400. If it doesn't come in AGAIN it's going to be rough to get an extra payment in on my car. Part of the crunch is definitely that my rent is higher now that I live alone...which I am thoroughly enjoying. But it does make it a little tighter budget-wise some months. Nothing I can't handle, but it does mean reminding myself that I can't get everything I want. (Duh.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Updated Sidebars and a Little Reflecting...

The car is below $2,700! I'm getting so close!

The student loan is updated, though my payments are so small it doesn't even move a percent each month. I am still deciding how to handle my student loan once my car is paid off.

I made another $12 selling books on Amazon...this one has slowed way down, but I'm still ahead of schedule to make $500 this year be selling items online.

I filled up my gas tank, spending $50. Yuck. But again, I'm still on track to stay in my budget for the year. I should be able to make it through this month on only two tanks of gas, which is not too shabby.

I'm sort of coasting in my finances right now...all extra is going to my car, I have my budget pretty solid, things are on track. Which is a good feeling, but also sort of feels like I should be challenging or pushing myself to do something different or interesting financially. That's the hazard of reading a lot of PF blogs I guess. I feel like I have to be struggling or doing something more all the time. That can be good, because it pushes me to do better, but I also think it's okay to relax and let things happen. We'll see if I come up with some sort of challenge or idea to spice things up...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

If I Had a Million Dollars...

I've seen this on various blogs lately and thought I'd join in. Here's what I'd do with a million dollars:

Pay off all debt: $15,000
Buy a house on the beach, in my current neighborhood: $450,000
Renovations and furnishings for said house: $100,000
Buy my mom a condo: $250,000 (we live in Southern California...this crap is expensive)
Give to a charity (this would take some serious research!): $100,000
Invest in retirement: $85,000

Yes, I'd want to go on a trip...but I figure with no debt and no rent I could save up for trips pretty quickly. And I know other bloggers included "pay taxes" on their list, but I am treating this as a fantasy and in my fantasy there are no taxes on my million dollars. Go with it.

I'm surprised how fast I came up with ways to spend that money...sigh. If only, if only.

What would you do with a million dollars?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teaching Personal Finance

I am the yearbook adviser at my school, which is a job and half. It's a lot of hard work...until Spring Break. At that point the book is done and we have about a month and half to kill before distribution. To be honest, I always have high hopes of doing a newsletter or something else, but I usually just have study hall and show movies.

This year though, I'd like to do a series of lessons on finances. I mentioned this idea to a few kids and they seemed really interested. This is something that kids just don't learn in school and I wish that I had. I teach middle school, so some of the application will be far in the future, but I'd still like to give it a go. My ideas include lessons on budgeting, credit cards, savings, how to balance a checkbook, playing "Spent" online, talking about going to college and financial aid.

I don't have a curriculum for this and I'm not really willing to buy one right now. It's going to have to come out of searching the internet and my own head. And hopefully yours. I'd love suggestions on topics to cover, lesson ideas, resources, ANYTHING would help me out. Once I have it planned, I'll report back on how it goes. I think it will be really interesting to teach, and of course I'll blog about it. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Get to Giving-March

I am now budgeting $100 per month for charitable giving. I am going to give in different ways each month and write about it in my "Get to Giving" posts, hoping it will inspire you to give back.

I've sort of talked about Pennies for Patients and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in another post, but that's where my March giving budget went, so here's a more detailed post.

Every year my middle school does a campaign called Pennies for Patients. Basically, each homeroom has a box where the kids donate money to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We have an assembly where they learn about blood cancers and we explain the campaign. Each kid gets a small box for collecting change at home, which they seem to like. We also make it a contest, where the winning homeroom gets a pizza party. This year, we had a dance and all the proceeds went to the campaign as well.

I don't work in a wealthy area. 76% of my students receive free or reduced-lunch. Many are in foster homes. There is some gang activity (though not a lot). 

My school raised $5,826.14!!! Yes, you read that correctly. I would say about a thousand of that was teachers and the rest was kids being generous. I had kids give $5, kids who emptied out their change compartments in their wallets, kids who brought in baggies of pennies that their parents let them take from the change stash at home. Kids gave up their daily Gatorade or vending machine snack to give a dollar. I love this campaign because it's my whole school teaming up to make a difference, and literally every little bit counts. Our school has about 1,100 kids and together we did something that I'm really proud of. 

So, if you're a teacher or work at a school in any capacity, I would recommend that you get involved in this incredible charity. It teaches kids about the value of helping others and I think it brings our school together in a pretty incredible way. So, as you may have guessed, my $100 for March went to Pennies for Patients. This one was easy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Update

Wow, I've been a bad blogger. Blame parent conferences, grading essays, and (let's be honest) laziness. Here's a quick update and then I'll schedule some legit posts this week. Promise!

*I've lost eight pounds in the two weeks that I've been on Weight Watchers! I really like the points system and I've been on it as far as sticking with it, so I'm going to vote that it was worth the money. I'd like to lose around twenty pounds total, but even fifteen would be great, so I'm well on my way.

*BF decided to make a budget for his paycheck that he just got on Friday! I didn't pester him or anything, he just told me he decided to do it. :) I asked how it went and he said, "It feels good to have a plan and to know where it's all going." YES! I know it's hardest to stick with it as first, so hopefully this lasts. I have no details about what his budget entails, but I'm glad he's giving it a go.

*I used my Get to Giving money for both March and April already. Posts coming about that, but I feel good about being able to help people while I pursue my goals.

*I'm still on my first tank of gas for the month (though I'll need to get some more this week). With gas prices over $4 in my area, I definitely need to keep it at two tanks per month to stay in my yearly gas budget. Sigh.

*Selling books on Amazon has slowed way down, which makes me want to go through my bookshelves and purge again.

*I am now what I describe as "veganish." I eat eggs and fish, but still no regular meat or dairy. I feel great and now I get to have sushi, so I'm a happy camper.

Friday, March 11, 2011

White & Black Bean Salad

I adapted this from a Weight Watchers Recipe. It's easy and delicious. And it is 3 points per one cup serving, for those who do Weight Watchers.

*1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
*1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
*1 cucumber, quartered and sliced
*2 large tomatoes
*2 stalks celery, diced
*1 red onion, diced
*Cilantro (add it to your heart's content. I like a lot and I didn't measure it)
*2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
*salt and pepper, to taste

The directions are to mix everything together. And then eat it. That's about it. Super easy and delicious!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Financial Convo Update

I mentioned in another post that BF and I were planning to talk about finances. We haven't talked too much about this before, so it was kind of a big deal. There's definitely still more to cover, and I won't share everything out of respect for his privacy, but it was interesting for sure.

We talked about our debts...nothing too scary or surprising here. He has some, and he's working on it. Not with gazelle-like intensity, but working on it all the same. 

He doesn't do an official budget. He says he knows about how much he spends and tries to be aware of it. I told him I used to do that, but I then when I started budgeting I realized how unaware I really was. He acknowledged that budgeting would be a good idea, but he just doesn't do it. Right now, it's not my business, so we left it at that.

We talked about setting a budget for how much we spend going out together. Right now we're not looking to reduce the amount, just keep track of it and try to split it equally. We're past the, "he should pay" point in our relationship, so this is a good thing. I'm going to track it for both of us this month and keep him posted on where we're at. I'm excited about this, since I feel like it's a baby step for us budgeting together.

I mentioned that in the future, I want to be "in charge" of the finances, but that no matter who is in charge, both people need to know what's going on and it needs to be discussed regularly. He agreed. I also mentioned that I'd like to do FPU together before we get married. I said that even if we don't agree with every detail, it's good for getting us to talk about all aspects of money. He seemed open to that as well.

All in all, it wasn't earth-shattering. But, I think it's good that we opened the door to this conversation and I'm sure it's one we'll revisit often. I have a few concerns, but nothing that I think is insurmountable. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm Sold on Fresh & Easy!

I know I'm late on this bandwagon, but I have to say I finally shopped at Fresh & Easy today and I am quite pleased with my purchases. I had a $5 off when you spend $20 coupon, so with that I was out the door for $16.12. Here's what I got:

*Baby carrots (16oz)
*Frozen mango
*Frozen berry blend
*1 can black beans
*2 cans white beans
*Pre-cut tomatoes
*Pre-cut red onion
*Bunch of celery
*1 lb of tangerines
*3 pears
*Fresh cilantro
*Salad mix
*3 bananas
*2 cucumbers

I have two more $5 off $20 to use in future weeks, and I'm sure I will. I joined Weight Watchers this week, and since fruits and veggies are zero points, I definitely wanted to stock up on those items. I made a great bean salad tonight with those ingredients, with plenty left over for lunch and to bring to book club tomorrow night. 

This is not a one-stop shop, but for produce it's great! They have some good deals on things like chips and meat too, but I'm trying not to eat those things. :) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Money-Talk in the Relationship

Tonight the BF called me on his lunch break and among other topics mentioned, "Maybe we should talk about the financials, so that we know what's going on with the other one when we're trying to plan things."


I think this was sparked by talks of going on some sort of Spring Break trip and me stating that while I could afford it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to afford it right now.

Honestly, it's something I've been wanting to talk about with him, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. Yes, all my personal information is on the internet, but I don't assume everyone else wants to talk about it. But, things are serious and we've used the M-word, so it's definitely something we should cover.

I'm super curious and excited to put this all out there. I probably won't share too much after we's not his blog and I'm not anonymous, so I don't want to overshare. But, I would love any input people have on how to go about this conversation...questions I might not think of or things to keep in mind. Really, I'd love advice on this one as it's pretty much uncharted territory for me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Update: The Positive and Negative Edition

+ I paid an extra $234.19 on my car on payday.
+ I at 91% of my car paid off! Only $2,700ish to go!
- My check seemed smaller than I expected, so I need to talk to my payroll person at work tomorrow to try to see what's going on. Hopefully it means more money mid-month and not that I did my math wrong.
+ I sold three more books on Amazon, so I'll have some extra funds to put toward my car tomorrow.
+ I hosted my first party at my new place, a happy hour for my teacher friends. It was great and made me want to keep entertaining.
+ My boyfriend did all the dishes afterward, so I didn't have to clean up after the party. Even better!
+ I found a breakfast place with a $3.99 special that comes with bottomless mimosas for an hour.
- I drank a little too much this weekend.
+ I made salads for my lunch ahead of time, so I will actually eat my salad stuff instead of watching it go bad because I'm too lazy to put it together in the mornings.
+ I finished my online class and now have all my classes done for a raise!
- It always takes a few months for that to actually happen.

And that, my friends, was my weekend. More pluses than minuses, so I'm pretty content.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

February Recap

February was a fabulous month for me financially. Here's why:

I got my yearbook stipend (approx $400).
I got my income tax returns (approx $2,600).
I got my old apartment deposit back ($572.50)
I sold a bunch of books on Amazon (approx $150)
I was under budget (approx $100).

Where did that all go? Well, I spent about $400 on my new apartment (dining set, curtains, frames, artwork, etc.). I replenished by emergency fund, which required $800, and did let myself go shopping, where I spent about $90. And it was a hair appointment month and a car insurance month. But I digress.

I paid a total of $1,825.89 extra on my car payment this month. Please read that again. But add !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to the end of it. Because I'm pretty excited about it.

And I get to pay even more tomorrow, because it's payday. Holla!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Increasing Contentment by Cleaning

This is in line with yesterday's post, and it may be something I've talked about before, but I've been thinking a lot lately about taking care of what you own not only to maintain it's value and save money, but to increase your satisfaction and contentment with what you have.

I spent a lot of time this weekend cleaning and getting things done in my apartment, since I'm having a get together here on Friday. I finished hanging up all my pictures (look for more apartment posts later this week), and did even more cleaning. After I vacuumed the living room, I used the brush attachment on my new vacuum to clean all my couch cushions. I hate to admit this, but I realized as I was doing it that I had never done it before.

I've had the couch for two and a half years.

That's embarrassing. But I realized that some of the undersides of my cushions were in sad shape. After I cleaned it, it looked great and I took a few more seconds to admire it when I walked by it throughout the week. I also got a chair from my friend Shelby and washed the cover, which made it look brighter. I got out the wipes to clean my laptop screen and keyboard. I cleaned my makeup brushes and organized my makeup case.

Another example? I love my boyfriend, but his car is a MESS. Mine's not perfect either, but I notice that I am much more satisfied driving in and riding in a clean car. (I am already coming up with my plan to borrow his car for something and clean it out for him. It's partly to be nice and partly because I'm selfish and would like to ride in a clean car.)

Since I got my boots repaired and shined, I've been enjoying wearing them and have gotten more compliments on them. I did pay for that, but in the future I could shine them myself.

I think taking the time to clean my apartment and take care of my stuff genuinely makes me happier. It's not having the stuff itself, but it's taking pride in what I do have that makes the difference.

I guess I could have made this a really short post and just typed, "Hey, you should clean more." But then it would be Twitter.

By the way...

my car loan is less than $4,000! :)