Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Big Mail Day

The other day when I got home from work I had two awesome pieces of mail. First, I opened a card from my grandma. It said, "Bon Voyage!" and included a fifty dollar bill. Awesome! I have the best grandma! Then, I opened an envelope from my insurance company, and it was a $50 check for having my annual woman appointment at the doctor. YES.

I put the fifty from my grandma into my travel fund and the fifty from my insurance company in my Emergency Fund. Half for fun (which is what she intended) and half for security. An excellent mail day, I'd say.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A New Kind of Vacation

In just a few days, I will be leaving for Europe with my friend Shelley. I'm SO excited! I love traveling, and haven't been to Europe in almost five years. I've got most of my ducks in a row and I think it will be a great trip.

The trip itself is not that different from other ones I've taken (though most of the other times I had a friend to stay with or did hostels...this time it's a B&B and a hotel). Shelley and I have lots we want to see, and I've read up on the countries we're visiting. But, this trip feels different than my other big vacations.

Why? I saved for it ahead of time.

I've taken some smaller vacations without going into debt, so it's not totally new. But in the past, my other international trips were funded with my credit card, I'm sorry to say. I paid for pieces in cash, but I've always come back to the US with a hefty credit card balance to deal with.

This time I set aside specific funds in an ING account. Saving for this trip didn't empty my savings or stop me from putting money into my Roth IRA. I still made extra payments on my student loan, and I even came out with extra money in my March budget to put into my E-fund before I leave.

So now, my trip can be 100% fun. No nagging feeling that I shouldn't be spending or worrying about what I'll face when I get back. My goal is to come home with money left in my travel fund (to put toward a smaller trip this summer), but if I spend all of my ING account, that's allowed. That's what it's there for.

Have did you pay for your last vacation?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Overpayment Options

Back in September, my principal told us that we had been overpaid for the time we came in and worked during the Summer. Since we are a brand new school, there were funds set aside for planning and prep last August. The new office clerk put it in at our higher rate, so my September paycheck was HUGE. I knew it was a good chunk of money I needed to pay back, and she told us that the district would be contacting us to get it sorted out. If someone owed me five hundred bucks, I'd be all over it! But LAUSD took their time, which is fine by me.

Fast forward six months later, and I just got the letter from the district to deal with the matter. (The same week I got my annual notice that I may be laid off. They must need my money for the postage on thousands of layoff notices.) I was overpaid $542.66. I have two options for repayment. One lump sum which I pay for via check, or they will take $200 each month, starting with my May paycheck, which means it will be taken care of by July.

The "I hate debt" part of me just wants to send them a check and be done with it. I have the money in my savings and I should be able to make up for it in the coming months. But, I can also see this as an interest-free loan, and let them take the money over the next three months. It will also hurt less to have a slightly smaller check each month than to see my balance in my savings drop suddenly. So, I'm going with option two. Since I got my National Boards raise and do tutoring, the amount won't be much different than what I was getting in December, which is more than enough to meet my basic goals.

A few years ago this would have been a worse situation. I would have blown the money and been hurting to miss the amount from my paychecks, since I was spending above my means. Just another reason I'm thankful I got my financial act together.

Have you ever been overpaid by your company? How did you handle it?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Update: I'm Alive Edition

As you may have noticed, I haven't blogged in a week and a half. I'm alive and well, just busy with work and BF, and feeling like I don't have as much to say about the financial side of life. Though as I read other blogs today, I thought of several things to post about...just gotta set aside the time to do it. And I do really like blogging, so I am going to try to do more writing on the weekends to keep this little blog alive.

Weekend Update-I went and saw Hunger Games last night, using an AMC gift card BF and I got for Valentine's Day from a friend. Of course the books are better, so much more depth and detail, but I enjoyed the movie. We went to the 11:15 show, and of course I was wound up when we got home at 2:30, so I didn't fall asleep until 3:30 or so. BF's dad took us out to brunch this morning, which was a lovely treat. We came home and watched a movie on the couch and now I'm in bed, blogging as the rain comes down outside. Not a bad Sunday.

Yesterday I did some pre-trip shopping (leaving for Europe in five days!). Things are coming together for the trip and I'm really excited! Just four more days of work to go! I can't wait!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Well, duh.

Yesterday I got my Real Simple magazine in the mail and was interested to see that the cover story was Save $5,000 This Year. I was excited to read the advice.

Except, I already do all of it.

In a way, this is great! It means I am already saving lots of money and being responsible. Unplug electronics when not in use? Don't leave things on the charger? Puh-lease, I haven't charged my cell at home in weeks (thanks car charger!) I haven't charged my laptop at home in two weeks.

Buy milk at the drugstore? Bf works at Walgreens, we get our eggs there too, with his discount! Lower my cable bill? Don't have it! Get rid of call waiting on your landline? I don't have one!

I think you get the idea. Don't get me wrong, I have areas I can work on. But, when it comes to little tips and tricks, I've got them pretty covered. Which is cool, but also sort of disappointing since I can't save more money by reading the article. Now it's just about being responsible and doing what I know I need to do.

Anyone have any really unusual tricks to save money? Anyone else in the same boat with these kinds of articles?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The last few weeks I have not been the most disciplined. I've over eaten, haven't exercised, and been too free with my spending...I drove through at McDonalds for coffee and ended up getting food too three times last week. Ugh.

So, this week shall be called A Return to Discipline.
Goal 1. Run intervals three times.
Goal 2. Have three no spend days.
Goal 3. No fast food or eating out alone.
Goal 4. Track spending each night, so I can really se what I'm spending.

I know that I can be a very disciplined person, I just need to get back on the wagon! I haven't gone wild, but I know I could be more aggressive in my savings goals and more disciplined about my health.

Do you ever find yourself lacking discipline? How do you get it back?

Resisting Temptation

Over Christmas I bought a new set of sheets from Marshall's, opting for a super cheap set. Turns out, they were not only inexpensive cheap, but also cheap cheap. Boo. I should know better, but I learned the hard way. Every night the bottom sheet came off and required wrangling back on. This morning BF finally said, "so are we getting new sheets or what?"

I thought about buying a new set from, figuring I could read reviews and make sure they were good. I started looking, and then decided I wanted a new duvet cover. The one we were using actually tore on one side, so it seemed like a good time to get new bedding. I overused the site for about an hour before I made myself get up and dig through the cupboard where I put a bunch of the stuff BF had before he moved in last year. I found a set of white sheets in good condition that I put on the bed. Then I got out my old Ikea duvet cover and put it on the bed, with it's matching shams.

And you know what? It looks really good. I opened the shades and cleaned off my nightstand, and I'm quite pleased with the effect. And since I almost spent fifty bucks on bedding, I decided to move that amount to my savings, a new idea I picked up from someone's blog, I can't recall whose.

So, three lessons here:
1. Sometimes cheating out doesn't save you money.
2. Making do with what you have can feel just as good as buying something new.
3. If you were willing to find a way to afford to buy something, you can also find a way to save that amount. So do it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hello, Lover.

Wanna see my new boots? I need it to cool down here so I can break them in before Europe. I wore them out Saturday night, and I want to get some leggings and a new dress or two to take with me as well. I really just want a reason to post this picture, so I'll stop writing now. Enjoy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Europe Fund Full!

I got paid on Friday and after doing my monthly student loan payment, Roth investment, E-fund and house fund savings, I moved $400 to my travel fund, and with that I am ready for my trip at the end of this month! I think I planned for plenty of spending, but I'd rather come home with some money in my savings than not have enough.

I'm happy I've been able to fund this account without derailing any of my other goals. And, since I've been tutoring after school once a week, I was also able to put a little extra into my savings as well as budget some shopping money. Which I used to get a pair of riding boots that I want to marry. And will wear to Europe.

This will be the first international trip I've paid for WITHOUT using a credit card. It's still a lot of spending to do, but knowing that I put money specifically aside for the trip makes me feel excited and comfortable with the cost.

T-minus twenty five days!!

I made the list!

Check out this list of the ultimate women money bloggers! Holla!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Electric's Down, Now for Gas & Water...

I posted about how I've been obsessively tracking my electricity use and got it down to a place that I'm pretty excited about ($16.31 last month). I'm still tracking it, and my goal is to consistently keep it under $20 (though that will get more difficult as we move into Summer).

My new plan is to get our gas/water/trash bill down as well. The BF pays this bill, but I'd still like to get it down. In part to use less resources (go green!) and in part because eventually his bill will be our bill, and his money will be our money. And because I want to see how low I can get it.

The trash is set, and is pretty high. So there's that. But, here are some of my plans to lower this bill:
1. Shorter showers (obviously). I think I could cut my showers by a minute or two each day could save up to 150 gallons per month.
2. Turn off the water while I wash my face instead of letting it run.
3. Use the restroom before leaving work each day. This might seem silly, but that's a gallon and a half each day.
4. Stop turning on heat in the morning when I get ready. We don't leave our heat on at night, but I do often turn it on as I get ready in the morning.
5. Don't let the dryer run its whole setting. Our dryer works pretty quickly, and if I wait until the buzzer, I waste energy. I'm going to work on using the dryer for less time.

These are five relatively simple measures, but I am looking forward to seeing how much I can lower our bill. Our bill this month was just over $50 (though I can't find the stub), so if I can get it into the forties, I'd consider it a success. Wish me luck!