Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Down the Savings Path I Go!

I have updated my savings sidebars! Slowly but surely they increase... :)

I have also increased my emergency fund goal from $3,000 to $5,000. If/when an emergency occurs, $5K would keep me going for 4 months. That comes out to around $1,250/month which would cover all the basic necessities: rent, utilities, food and gas. (Plus a few non-necessities such as toiletries/household items.)

Currently, I have 2.5 months saved up! Hopefully I can reach the $5K mark by early 2009 (January/February) and hopefully by the end of 2009 I can get to $10,000.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And so it goes....

The market tumbled heavily today. The largest single-day point drop ever, 777.68 points down.

The bail-out plan is a catch-22: If it doesn't happen, the economy will plummet even more. It will be ever harder, perhaps nigh on impossible, for people to get loans - student/auto/business. If it does happen, we are basically giving in to the greed of Wall Street and banks, telling them "it's okay that you messed up, we'll just bail you out." It's taking away the idea of a free market, which should be able to correct itself.

So, here we go... it's not over yet.

September Month-End / October Goals

How did I do in September?

1. Stay within September budget, not including remaining security deposit. Pass!
2. Save $400 towards E-fund/Roth IRA fund/other sub-accounts. Pass! (And then some - with my extra $200.)
3. Work out 2x per week. Pass! (This is the first month where I can say I actually did this successfully!)
4. Learn to cook one new meal. Pass! (I made an Asian-style burrito/wrap that I'll post about later.)
5. Join a local alumni chapter and/or a charitable organization. Fail. (I will be going to an alumni breakfast event this coming Saturday, though! I might wait a while before actually joining something and incurring the costs for it...)
6. Finish reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Pass! (I finished it and will also finish an interesting anthology called "Wall Street Noir" that I found on accident at the library. Next is "Saving Fish from Drowning" by Amy Tan.)

Now, onto October...
1. Settle into my budget (each paycheck now has 6% taken out after-tax for my Roth 401(k) contribution, starting October 3rd!)
2. Work out 2x per week.
3. Learn to cook one new meal (I like this goal a lot!)
4. Sell old TV on CraigsList
5. Start to purchase Christmas gifts (I currently have $75 in my Gift Fund)

Here we are, in the last quarter of 2008!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I enjoy reading reviews on Yelp and trying to find new places to go, whether it is for restaurants or specialty stores or what have you.

I did a search for "oil change" in my zip code since I like to keep my car running well. I found a place that has 6 reviews (all 5 stars!), a family-owned small auto repair shop. I just called to make an appointment and see their pricing - an oil change for my Honda Civic is $12.99! Plus tax, that should come to an even $14. I almost can't believe how good of a deal this is. I had budgeted $35 since I usually take my car to Jiffy Lube... this will be a great find if all goes well on Saturday! :)

**Update: I just got back from getting my oil changed. The family-run shop ended up not working out, unfortunately. I arrived and there was zero parking, I got in line and stood there for 15 minutes without being acknowledged - so I walked out and went to the Jiffy Lube next door. I was served right away and it took less than 15 minutes. Still, instead of only costing $14... I paid $38.54. I wasn't harassed about changing my air filter and the employees were very nice. I feel better about my car now and am happy with the fast service. Even if the price is horrific.

Another Survey!

I just redeemed my first $10 check from Your2Cents! I have enjoyed doing surveys through them as well as MySurvey. I have given up on the other survey sites I was a member of because I was not getting requests very often and they did not seem as legitimate. I wish I could become a member of Pinecone Research, though!

When my $10 check arrives, it will go into my Travel fund. :)

An EXTRA $200? Oops!

Hmm. I just noticed that, somehow, an extra $200 was transferred into my ING savings account from my checking account. Not really sure how this happened - I must have accidentally transferred funds in addition to my usual bi-weekly recurring transfer. I'm still confused even though I tried to figure it out.

Oh well! I will leave it - I can deal with it in my budget at the moment.

I did go back and delete all my automatic transfers to/from both accounts and set them up again. I double-checked and now everything looks like it should be back to normal! No more "accidental" transfers. Ha.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So, what did I do today? I splurged. Right after work, I went to Nordstrom and bought myself a pair of new jeans. Did I need them? Not really. Did I want them? Of course!! Now I have 4 great pairs of jeans and 1 lack-luster one. (Quality is much better than quantity when it comes to jeans for myself.)

Hooray for the occasional splurge that puts a smile on my face!! :)

And since I'm being honest: $107.75 was the total cost. (Yes, I have a small affinity for designer jeans. What pricey items do you have an affinity towards?)

Wall Street + the Economy

In lieu of what is still transpiring on Wall Street, I thought this article rang true concerning any/all investors.

Even so, like Stacking Pennies, I am nervous - what will the outcome be? What will it do to the economy in the short-, medium- and long-term?

All the questions and more will be answered soon enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Weekend into a New Season.

Happy Fall! Even though where I live in Southern California, it certainly does not feel like the seasons have officially changed yet - it's still in the 70's every day! :) Here is my weekend spending breakdown:

Wal-Mart, $40.71 (Over half of this was for 12 CFL lightbulbs - our apartment easily has over 20+ lights and my roommates tend to leave lights on fairly often. Also some toiletries.)
Lunch on Saturday, $4.50
Groceries, $52.37 (This will last me the rest of September and probably a bit into October - I am still under my $150 monthly grocery budget!)
Gas, $40.29

Total: $137.87

Overall, a low-key weekend. I did a lot of cooking, watched a few movies, did some reading and a LOT of cleaning! Everything that I spent this weekend was budgeted for, and it looks like I will be coming under budget again this month.

I am looking forward to October since it is a 3-paycheck month, I have a mini weekend trip planned AND it will officially be my first NORMAL month in terms of budgeting - no security deposit to pay and my Roth 401(k) contribution will be taken out as well!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Furry Friends

My Mom called me in tears today. Our 12-year-old dog had an ear infection last week and is now deaf. He usually barks at everything - from the doorbell ringing to any of us saying certain names that he knows to the garage opening. Now, he does not react to ANY of it. He isn't barking anymore, either. He tries, obviously can't hear himself and then stops. It's really upsetting, especially as my family lives in a different state and I won't get to see my dog until Christmas. My poor puppy.

Of course, this is also understandable. He is 12. It's just very sad to have him go through this. I know he won't be the same barking, lively dog that he's always been when I see him at Christmas. It makes me so upset to think that in the course of 3 days, he went completely deaf. :(

My parents never got pet insurance, and my Mom told me that if I ever get a dog that it IS worth it, especially when they get older and have so many issues. Pet insurance is definitely something I would look into if/when I get a pet - though more than anything I would want to be able to stay at home with the dog and be there for it!

Survey Check

Hooray! I received my $15 survey check and $50 gift card this week. My $15 survey check is going towards my Travel Fund. I have spent $6.44 of my $50 gift card to World Market - most of it will go towards kitchen/cooking items!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Long-Term for a Reason

The markets are down by incredible amounts. Banks are failing. Large corporations are failing. Unemployment is extremely high.

Yes, the economy is in a downturn and has been for about the last year--this is a recession.

The company I work has a vision, and that vision is long term. Which is exactly what people need to be thinking about in tumultuous times like these - yet most do not, which causes panic.

In discussion with one of the partners in the firm today, we came to the conclusion that the majority of this market crash stems from one word: greed. Wall Street just became too greedy. It started with the credit crunch (mortgage lenders giving loans to anyway, including those who simply could not afford it and thus causing the defaults) and then escalated to the banks and corporations which invested in those asset-backed securities in order to turn a profit.

It is not very comfortable to be starting my career and post-college life in such strange times. But then I keep telling myself, that's exactly what this is. A strange time. The markets cannot keep going up forever, at some point they must decline - otherwise, inflation would be unbelievable. Just as the markets have done in years past, they will adjust. It might take a few months or a few years, but it will stabilize again.

Similar market tumbles have occurred before (1973, 1987, 2000, 2008) and they will continue to occur. It cannot be avoided. Who knows what will cause the next crash or when it will be - but all I know is that I am in this for the long term.

Just keep looking at the horizon!

An Increase...

...in my line of credit! I now have $750 available to my name.

Two weeks ago I called my credit card company to see about increasing my credit line. An automated message told me that it could not be increased at this time and that a live customer rep would relay the exact same message. This past weekend, I received a letter from the company stating that the reason my credit line could not be increased was due to the fact that my account is too new. (It was opened mid-June.)

When I did a routine checking of my accounts tonight, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my line of credit had increased from $500 to $750! I realize that this is not a lot in the world of credit, but to me it is. I feel like I am also taking steps in the right direction by paying off my card every month - which I am sure is what helped me get the $250 increase with my mere 3 months of credit history.

I still wish I had a rewards credit card. However, that will come in time - a goal for 2009, perhaps! Small steps in the world of personal finance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A(nother!) Non-Frugal Weekend

I certainly helped the economy this past weekend. This weekend completely trumps last weekend. Here's my spending breakdown:

Brunch - $10
Groceries - $26.71
Party Supplies - $56.85 (This was my 1/3 of all our combined expenses for a fantastic themed party that my roommates & I threw - I enjoy having the occasional party instead of going out to bars every weekend.)
New TV (!) - $525.19

I am sure everyone who reads this blog is thinking "WHAT?!" but...I love TV. I watch too many shows to list (Prison Break, 24, Lost, Heroes, CSI, Bones, etc etc) and my 4-year-old 13" VHS Toshiba was not cutting it anymore. Having 2 male roommates means there is almost always sports on TV and I am not a sports fan. I am extremely happy to have a larger, nicer TV in my room where I can retreat to and watch the Travel Channel, HGTV, Bravo and Food Network. I am very happy, as the new TV is also aesthetically pleasing - I have a bit of a interior design spark from my mother. :)

(Don't worry, I paid cash and it was purchased with some leftover money from my college years - I did not use my savings. This was also a purchase that I did some research on and consulted friends about who know a lot of the topic.)

What would life be like without those big purchases that put a smile on your face? Have you made any similar purchases that make you happy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Starting My Nest Egg

As of today, I am eligible to take part in my company's Profit Sharing and 401(k) plans. At 22, I was certainly the youngest person the the small new-hire retirement meeting this afternoon, however I am very excited to start (slowly) contributing to my future! In the personal finance world, it is never too early to start young.

Profit Sharing Plan: 15% of gross income automatically invested per year

401(k): Traditional/Roth options, maximum company match of 3% if you invest 6%, all company-managed funds with average annual returns from 10-15% (though we all know that past performance is not indicative of future results) and no fees/expenses

Starting with my first paycheck in October, I will be contributing 6% of my income to the Roth 401(k) in order to receive the full match. I look forward to investing at a very low-point in the markets when everything is very cheap/"at the bottom", and seeing where it takes me over the next 1, 3, 5, 10 years. My portfolio will begin in 100% equities, though I have not yet figured out my allocation of that between the fund options.

I am young, healthy, debt-free and saving for retirement!

*Note that both plans have vesting periods of 6 years, however I hope/plan to stay with this company until at least then.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Pricey Weekend!

Why is it that the weekends always go by so fast and the weeks much slower - at least most of the time?? I had a very fun weekend with friends and a lot of "me" time on Saturday. This has by FAR been my most expensive weekend since I started working full-time in June, but too be honest I don't think it was that much. (I can justify it by saying that I have had many inexpensive weekends, though!)

Dinner/drinks at amazing local pizza joint (inc a drink for a friend/old roommate) on Friday, $20
Haircut + tip, $60
Car wash, $7.95
Pedicure + tip, $26
Lunch at Nordstrom Cafe on Saturday, $7
Eyebrow waxing + tip, $18.22 (I used the remainder on a gift card, otherwise this would have been $35*.)
Dinner/drinks at a local bar on Saturday, $18
Groceries, $23.42

Total: $180.59

*Yes, it's a lot for an eyebrow waxing. However, I am very picky about how my eyebrows are done and I only trust the women at a particular place. The woman who did my brows this time spent 20 minutes on them, which is almost unheard of and she was extremely thorough. For my petite brows, it is completely worth it. This is one of my splurges! :)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

August Month-End (Part II)

I finally went through and reconciled my budget from August, and I was able to add $350 to my E-fund! Of it, $300 came from budgeted leftovers and I threw in an additional $50 just because. (Thanks to the cushion I keep in my checking account.)

As you will notice, I have increased my E-fund savings goal from $2,500 to an even $3,000. From my calculations, I believe the least I could live on per month would be $1,250... which would pay for the basic necessities of food/rent/utilities/gas. If I can meet this $3k goal by the end of the year, I would have just under 2.5 months of expenses saved up! It's certainly not a lot, but it's something and it is certainly a good start. :)

I still can't believe it's September! It is very strange to not be in college and going to class... though it's also nice to be earning money and starting my career. Where has 2008 gone?!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

On Libraries

On my half-day last Friday, I decided to go to the library down the road from the apartment. I applied for a library card and wandered through all the books and came out with 2 DVDs and 2 books. (Their DVD collection is quite expansive, as is the TV show selection.)

It was all free! I had not been to a library in a while and was pleasantly surprised to find this one very modern and up-to-date, even with its rather small selection of books. (It's a small local branch.) Also, I've already put a few books on hold and all my notifications for upcoming due dates are e-mailed to me! It is fantastic to live so close to such an amazing resource. I know the library will become one of my favorite places as I start to increase my reading habits again. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September Goals

This is another weird month in terms of spending for me. I owe the rest of the security deposit plus my roommates and I are planning a party, so we'll see how that works out at the end of the month! I am also doing some personal things such as getting a haircut ($50+tip), pedicure ($23+tip) and eyebrow waxing ($30+tip). However, all of these costs have been budgeted for in prior months and gone unused, so now I can't wait!

Side-tracked. Onto my goals for September:

1. Stay within September budget, not including remaining security deposit.
2. Save $400 towards E-fund/Roth IRA fund/other sub-accounts.
3. Work out 2x per week.
4. Learn to cook one new meal.
5. Join a local alumni chapter and/or a charitable organization
6. Finish reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Can you believe it's already September??

Labor Day Spending... or not?

This is what happens when my parents (or, in this case, just my Mom) come to visit me. They pay for everything. This weekend, my Mom wouldn't let me use my money - but I did drive her everywhere!

In terms of shopping, we bought a lot of stuff for the apartment. A bazillion cleaning supplies, 2 lamps, some pictures and a side table from Ikea and Target. For my room, we bought a shoe rack, an alarm clock and... a bed! I am really excited - it arrives tomorrow, along with our new (working!) dishwasher. Finally. I also purchased new makeup from Nordstrom - using my giftcards, the total came to $62.35 and I still have $14.92 left! All in all, a great weekend. Even if I didn't buy any clothes or shoes.

I love my parents. "We just hope you do this for your children one day. You want to give them everything and pay for everything because they are your life!" :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

August Month-End (Part I)

Let's see how I did with my goals for the month of August:

1. Keep moving expenses under $100. Goal met! On the day of the move itself, I spent $63.25 and since then I paid my share of the start-up costs for cable/internet which came to $30.10 for a total of $93.35.
2. Stay within August budget, not including moving expenses. Goal met! This will be discussed in an upcoming post.
3. Work out 3x per week. 1/2 success. I worked out 4x last week and 3x the week before using my own DVDs. If I don't do this the second I come home, it won't get done... like today.
4. Save $400 towards E-fund/Roth IRA fund/other sub-accounts. Goal met! This will be discussed in an upcoming post.
5. Spend more time with friends. Goal met! I spent many nights with my roommates and some of our mutual friends, I had a friend who works nearby over for drinks one night and I went out to dinner with another friend. I would like to do better, though!

Now it's time to reconcile my budget from August and think about September! How did you fair with your August goals?

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