Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bitches Get Stuff Done!

I was reminded of this Tina Fey quote by my sister last weekend, when I had to get a little bitchy to get stuff done. If you want to see the original context (and you do), check out this video (the part I'm referring to starts at about 1:20). (Also, Hillary 2016!)

First, I had to go to CVS to return a recalled prescription. (Yes, the one in the news). (No, I'm not.) I called to see if they'd have the replacement, and the woman on the phone basically said that mine wasn't recalled. Ummm, yeah it was. I got the letter, checked the lot numbers. It was. She said most people got those letters two weeks ago. Well, I got mine three days ago, and that doesn't make me feel better. She said to just come in and the pharmacist could, "check to see if it was recalled." When I got there I showed the pharmacist my pill packs (one of which I had already taken...yikes) and she casually said that I was right and that they could have the medication the next day. I pushed back, telling her I was unsatisfied with their service and how I was treated on the phone. I also said that I wanted to medication that day, since I'd already taken a months worth of recalled medication. She got on the phone and found a local pharmacy where I could pick it up that night.

Bitches get stuff done.

Then I had to do a return at Victoria's Secret for an online order I received as a gift, and to make a long story short, after one very helpful phone rep explained how I could return the gift and order the new item in store, the women at the counter said I couldn't. I pushed back, saying I was told I could. After a few tries, I specifically asked if there was a form I could use (since I didn't have the packing was a gift). And suddenly, after I pushed back, they "remembered" that they had the form.

Bitches get stuff done.

I didn't yell at anyone, or use harsh language, or throw a fit. But I didn't back down either. I pushed back and asked for what I want. I let them know when I was unhappy, and though I couldn't see my facial expression, I probably made it clear how I felt by the look on my face. When I got good service at the second CVS and on the phone at Victoria's Secret, I thanked people sincerely and told them I appreciated their help. I was quite nice, in fact. But I think sometimes as women we're a little too worried about being nice. I'm sure those women I didn't back down from don't think I'm nice. But I made them do their jobs. I demanded good service. And if they don't think I'm nice...I don't really care.

Oh, and my students would know the capital of Vermont too. I'm no nun, but I get stuff done!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Be Shy

Around holidays or birthdays, most of us will get asked this question: "What do you want?"

For some reason, the polite answer is, "You don't have to get me anything." or "I don't know, I don't need anything."

Now, there are genuinely some people who I really feel shouldn't get me anything. So, I have said that. But there are others who I KNOW are going to get me something: my mom, grandma, etc. I would include BF, but we have a policy of not asking what the other wants and just surprising each other. I do hint though. :) And give positive reinforcement for the gifts I really like.

But for those of us who are striving to pay off debt or build a savings, this is an opportunity to allow someone to help you in your goals. So when one of the people who is definitely going to get me something asks, I try to come up with something that I need or have been wanting to buy anyway. For example, around Christmas my mom asked me and I told her that I wanted new wine glasses, since I had managed to break most of mine. This gave her something to get, and I am pleased to have new wine glasses (in fact, I am using one right now to drink a bottle of wine that BF's dad got for me for Christmas). My grandma mostly does gift cards, so I made sure to tell her that I really liked my gift card to Marshalls that I got last year (and used the one she got this year to get new knives and sheets...both things we really needed). A friend asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I mentioned that I missed getting the magazine Real Simple, and she got me a subscription.

Of course any gift I receive is great...and I've gotten some great things that I didn't ask for. Obviously I'm not advocating running around and announcing demands when they're unsolicited. But, if someone asks what you'd like, TELL THEM. It makes everyone happier, and it can definitely help you reach your financial goals faster.

Do you tell people what you want as gifts, or do you prefer the surprise?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feeling Gassy?

The other day I heard a report on NPR that said that in more expensive states (like California) gas prices could get to $5 per gallon this year.

I said, out loud, alone, in my car: "WHAT?!?!"

Are you freaking kidding me? I immediately texted a co-worker to see if she wanted to try to start carpooling a few days a week again. I also decided to do some research on how to get better gas mileage. I knew a lot of these, but it was good to remind myself of these simple tips:

1. Get rid of extra weight: no, I don't mean go on a diet (though it couldn't hurt). Carrying around 100 pounds of extra junk in your car (which could add up fast) can reduce your MPG by 2%. So, today I cleaned out my car. I don't think I had 100 pounds in there, but it's a good reminder to keep it cleaned out.

2. No aggressive driving: Avoiding speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking can improve MPG by up to 33%! I wouldn't say I'm incredibly aggressive on the road, but I'm going to try to remember to RELAX behind the wheel.

3. Obey the speed limit. Sigh. This is a weakness. The article I read said that for every 5mph you go above 60 is like paying $0.28 more per gallon. Yikes! I confess that I am a speeder, but I'm going to remind myself of this and try to save some moolah.

4. DON'T IDLE: This means that I need to plug in my cell phone before I start the car. I need to put on my seatbelt before I start the car. I read that idling can use up a half gallon of gas per hour, so it's important not to sit and idle. This seems like something I can work on right away.

5. Leave earlier for work: by cutting down commute time, you can definitely improve your MPG. For me, that means not hitting snooze so many freaking times, and getting out the door a little earlier.

How do you save on gas?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thanks, Insurance!

I hadn't gone to get my eyes checked for over a year, so yesterday I headed over to Lens Crafters and got my eye exam. My goal was to get any services that were covered by my insurance, but not to pay for any extras. I got out the door for $15, so I'm pretty happy.

I got my regular exam and discovered that my left eye is 20/20. My right eye...not so much. But, my prescription hasn't changed in the past year and half, so I'm fine with the free glasses I got from Coastal Contacts about six months ago. Since I am due for new frames (up to $100 is free), they suggested I get a pair of prescription sunglasses.

I found a pair of Ralph Lauren glasses that I liked and got them done. The tinting cost $15 (includes UV protection). I like the pair I ended up with...though when I tried them on for BF he said (in a perfectly conversational tone), "those look like older lady glasses." Thanks honey. :/

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Giving for Free

Andrea posted a link to this post about donating without spending money. I've posted about this topic before, but since the post inspired me, I want to give credit where credit is due.

Yesterday, I went and donated blood at the Red Cross. It's free, it only took me about half an hour (make an appointment), and it can save up to three lives. I am type O Negative, so they are always on me to give (universal donor). Afterward, I got free snacks, and I also got a coupon for a free appetizer at Mimi's Cafe.

I used to be super terrified of needles. It got a little better as I got older, and while I still don't want to watch the needle go in my arm, I am able to give blood without getting panicky. I also make myself do it because I believe in it. It can't be made any other way, and it's free to give.

So, if you are able, I challenge you to give blood this week. The need is constant, and how often can you say you saved someone's life? If you give blood, you can say it every 56 days. If you do give, please comment and let me know! I'll give you a shout-out in a future post!

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Never Thought I'd Say This...

But I love SoCal Edison. That's my electric company. A while back, I posted that I started using their budget assistant to track my electricity usage. You set a goal for the month and they send you a weekly email saying how you're doing and what your projected bill is, based on your usage so far. You can also log in at any time and see where your at, how much electricity was used each day at different times. It's great, for a nerd like me.

I tracked it this month and made a few changes to keep my electric bill down. I primarily charged my phone in my car, and also started charging my computer at work and letting it run on battery power at night. I was also aware of turning off the lights and using natural light whenever possible. I set a goal for $20 for the month.

Piece of good news number one: I came in under budget at $16.31! That's my cheapest electric bill ever, I'm happy to say. Whoo-hoo!

Good news item number two: I got a coupon in the mail saying that if I sign up for the Budget Assistant, I can get a free $10 gift card. I tried it, and even though I'm already signed up, it looks like it worked, and I'll get a gift card sometime in April. You could choose from Amazon, Fandango, or Mastercard gift cards. I went with Mastercard, since that gives me the option to use it almost anywhere. Score!

So, even though I never thought I'd be singing the praises of my electric company...tonight I am. That puts me under my utility budget by $12...which will go straight into my Europe fund at the end of the month!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Am I the Only One?

Am I the only one who likes Valentine's Day?

First, I am just a holiday person. I like decorations and cards and all sorts of seasonal stuff. As a teacher, even when I'm single I was able to have fun with the holiday in my classroom.

And I was single on Valentine's Day for a LOT of years. In fact, this is only the second year EVER that I've had a boyfriend. And that, of course, makes it even more fun. I like picking out a card for him, wrapping presents in heart patterned tissue paper. And of course, I like getting a card from him, and this year the box of chocolates (heart shaped, even) he left for me this morning. He closes tonight, so we're not doing anything, but we're exchanging gifts and he's making dinner on Thursday.

We were talking about Valentine's Day and he was going on a little rant about how it's silly to buy gifts six weeks after Christmas, and he shows me he loves me all the time, and blah blah blah. I reminded him that in my 29 years, this is only my SECOND Valentine's Day. I'm not ready to be over it. I told him that in the years to come, I'll probably be cool with just a card, but for now, I still want to enjoy having a real Valentine's Day.

So I'm not going to be cool and cynical and say how Valentine's Day is lame. I'm going to say that it's sweet and fun. And having a boyfriend helps that, but I also sent cards to my mom, sister, and grandma. And really, I hope I'm never cynical about it. I like holidays and chances to focus on showing love to people. And eating candy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

This is Financial Peace

The other day I was working on financial planning and such, making sure I'm on track for my 2012 goals. (I am, by the way). I decided to plan a budget for if I have to go on unemployment this Summer. I sincerely hope I don't, but my goal is to keep calm and carry on when I get my inevitable pink slip next month, and having a plan for unemployment seemed like a good place to start.

I did it a few times, because I thought it couldn't be right. But it was.

I could live on unemployment with an average of $200 left over per month. Seriously.

I budgeted for fun money each month. Not as much as I spend now, but enough to still enjoy life. I'd still be able to get my hair did every other month. I could pay for car insurance, and all my other bills. I would stop my aggressive loan payoff and just pay the minimum. I wouldn't be contributing to retirement. But I could do it.

I figured that I'd put $100 into savings and $100 into my Roth if I get laid off this summer. The fact that I could live on unemployment and still be saving and investing for retirement is pretty amazing.

And the ONLY reason I have this peace is because I got intense and paid off my credit cards and car loan. Two years ago I would have been in a panic. A full blown freak out. In fact, I was, when I got my pink slip. A year ago, I would have had to get way more strict in my lifestyle and still would have barely made it. But now, because my only remaining debt is student loans, I could live on under two grand per month.

I don't want to get laid off. In fact, it will piss me off. And I'll probably have a breakdown of some sort. But, I am WAY less panicked and scared now that I know I could live on unemployment just fine. And that, my friends, is part of what Dave Ramsey means when he talks about Financial Peace.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What's Happening...

So, this is happening tonight, as we speak. And it shall be delicious.

So is this, for my friend's birthday present.

So is this, for a pick me up gift for a friend who's having a rough time at work.

This is happening tomorrow at work, for BF's Valentine present.

So, I better get on it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


My federal tax return came in today. Holla! I was able to pay $2,000 on my student loan, bringing my balance down to around $6,000. Yesssss. Once my loan cancellation comes through ($3,000) sometime this Spring I will really be in the home stretch of being debt free. It's such an exciting feeling!

So, my tax returns came and went. $2,000 to my student loan, about $300 in my travel fund, allocated for Europe. I was able to come up with another $120 from my regular budget to go my trip fund. I'm on track for how much I want to save for that. My automatic transfers to my savings/house fund went out, as well as my automatic Roth deduction.

Things seem to be going smoothly on the savings/moving money around boat. Now if I can just find a phone that doesn't make me get a data plan for under $60, I'd be golden.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Excited and Relieved

Last week was a big one in our household...the BF paid off his credit card debt!

He really gazelled it in January, paying $1800 off in one month to get it all done before any more interest accrued. He used his tax returns, the $200 he made from selling his old bed, and his regular $400 per month payment.

I'm so excited for him to get a taste of the feeling of debt freedom. He still has student loans and a car payment, but this is a big step for him. He told me that if he weren't with me, he probably wouldn't have worked so hard to pay it off. Awww. I love it.

And I'm relieved to see him changing the way he deals with finances. He's being much more strategic now, and making better choices in general. He's talking about using the money he makes selling his couch and what he would have spent on CC debt to replace his laptop this month, looking into a cheaper option than a Mac (which is heartbreaking, but probably wise). His is on it's last legs, but I'm proud that he held out and didn't just add it to the CC, which I think he would have done in the past.

Seeing this growth in finances really makes me feel confident about growing our life together. We had a marriage talk and it looks like we won't get engaged this year, which is what it is. But, I also feel good about both of us working on finances this year in order to be in an even better place when we do take that step.

Have people in your life gotten more responsible because of your influence?

Monday, February 6, 2012


Way back around the time I started this blog (so, about two years ago), I joined Inbox Dollars, as a way to make some extra money. You can do surveys and other offers on there, and you get paid two cents for each paid email you read. The emails come in waves, but I usually get two or three per day.

I've done very few surveys, on any site. I rarely qualify, and it doesn't seem worth the time it takes. But reading the emails is just clicking on "confirm paid email" and then ex-ing out of the email. Simple.

Inbox Dollars requires you earn $30 before they will pay you out. And finally, after over two years, I made it! The check would actually be for $27 and change since there is a check processing fee. It wouldn't be mailed until April if I requested it right now.

So, now I'm torn. It will take FOREVER to earn another $30 and I almost want to quit the site after I cash out. Meanwhile, I'm earning six cents or so per day that I keep reading the emails. So, do I cash out and call it quits? Cash out and keep doing the emails? Or let it ride and keep earning more money before I cash out?

I don't NEED the money for anything specific now. I could use it boost my E-fund a little. It won't come until after Europe, otherwise I'd put it there. My student loan payoff is on track, and I can't really pay it off any earlier, since I'm waiting for the state to forgive part of it. I really don't know what to do, so for now I'm doing option three, keeping it in there and still reading emails.

Anyone else done Inbox Dollars? Even if you haven't what's your vote?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Week of Discipline

I've been hemming and hawing with a few ideas that would improve my life, but that require discipline. So, I've decided to take the plunge this week and commit to doing a few of the items for a solid week. If I realize that it's working, I'll definitely continue, but I'm making myself DO IT for a week. What are the activities? Read on...

1. Wake up thirty minutes earlier in order to go running in the morning. I want to do this so that I make sure I fit in a workout, even on days where I'm exhausted or busy after work. I also have a TERRIBLE habit of hitting snooze for up to an hour in the morning, so it kills two birds with one stone. My goal is to do this Mon-Thurs (taking Friday off for a little bit of sleeping in). I'm going to lay out my running clothes each night and just do it. This goal is inspired by Katie!

2. Calorie count, sticking to a 1500 calorie diet this week. I've played with various calorie calculators to see what I can eat and still lose weight, and 1500 was about the middle. I'll try this and see if I can lose weight with this amount. I spent some money to do this, buying pre-made Trader Joe's salads to have for lunch at work. I also bought some Luna bars and 100 calorie packs. I figure in order to get started I'll go with this stuff, and once I have established the discipline, I will find ways to calorie count on the cheap. I'm actually hungry now, but waiting until Super Bowl time, since I know I'll use up the rest of my daily calories on those snacks. (Yes, I've calculated what I'm exactly allowed to have already).

3. No FB or blogs at work. I don't do this often (I really don't have time), but I'm super busy at work and using my conference period and after school time wisely will relieve some of that stress. Also, after school I will shut my door and work not wander the halls talking to everyone I can find. There's a teacher happy hour on Friday, and I see people at lunch. I don't need to stay at work an extra hour just to socialize and vent.

That's it. But, I think if I can do all three of these things, I will have a very satisfying, productive week. I need to remind myself that if I can be disciplined with my money after having bad habits for years, I can do the same things with food and exercise.

Do you have any goals this week?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Changing my Savings Goals

In January I set the goal of having a six month emergency fund set up, as well as $5,000 saved toward a house down payment fund. I've been making progress on these goals, as well as investing some of my savings. 

However, I got to thinking about how much I need in my emergency fund. I just chose a six month emergency fund because it's on the high end of what's recommended. And I'm a high achiever. But, it makes more sense to consider what my E-fund would be used for:

*Possible layoff: I'd get unemployment, which would pretty much cover my bare bones expenses. I'd only dip into savings for things like car registration/repairs or other emergencies.
*Illness/Disability: I have sick time for smaller things, as well as a $200 cushion in my budget each month. For something bigger, I pay for disability insurance.
*Car issues: Can't see this being more than my three month fund could cover.
*Moving: Could probably absorb this into my regular budget and just need the deposit covered until I get my deposit back from this place.

So, all this points to a three month emergency fund being enough for me right now.

I know there could be a shit storm where all of these things would happen at once. But that's pretty unlikely. And if it did go down that way, I could raid my house fund to cover it. So, I've decided to switch up my goals. I've decided that I want to have three months worth of expenses in my E-fund by the end of the year, and $10,000 invested in savings for a house down payment fund.

This goal makes me feel that owning a home is actually in reach in the next few years, and it still makes me feel secure because I'll have a sizable savings in case something big comes up. My investment money is liquid, so I could pull it without penalty, but it's nice to have my down payment fund earning higher interest and in a less reachable place.

So, one month in and I've totally changed my goals. Anyone else change your mind yet?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Starting to Track my Net Worth

I know several other PF bloggers who track their net worth each month. Many even have cool graphs to go with it. In the past, I never did it. In the beginning I chose not to because I figured it would be horribly depressing. Later, because I had most of my assets in my credit union it seemed pointless as well. I could take on look and see almost everything-except my 403(b).

Now, I've decided to invest more of my money. I am keeping a savings in CA Municipal Bonds. I am contributing the maximum to my Roth IRA, and I am also contributing to my 403(b). Then there's my ING account for travel, and my regular savings and checking with my credit union.

That's a lot of accounts to look at.

I don't want to obsessively check my investments...I think it will stress me out to see them going up and down a lot. But, I want to be aware of how much money I have in my various accounts, so I'm making the goal of checking all my investments at least once a month and doing a Net Worth update to see where I'm at.

My dilemma is whether or not to share my Net Worth. Since I'm not anonymous, is this a bad idea? I was thinking even if I don't share the amount I can just share the percentage increase/decrease from month to month? Also, if anyone has a net worth tracker to recommend, I'd love to see it!