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End of 2014 Financial Updates

December 28th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Again, long time no post. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m terrible at keeping up with posting blogs regularly! But here I am again, with a few things to note, both for myself and you guys Smile I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and/or holiday season!

First of all, general budget things: I’ve gotten really lazy about keeping track of things, and when I’m stressed I overspend, but I still have managed to keep things even. If I spend far too much in dining out, I tend to spend way under my limit in groceries. When I end up buying more clothes than intended, I seem to instinctively cut back on other extras—drinks, movies—that require money. Still, it shows that I still have room for improvement, both in creating realistic budgets and in fine-tuning my attitudes toward money.

Apartment: We now have a 5th roommate. It’s not something I’m totally thrilled about and it caused a lot of conflict because he’s a roommate’s fiancée, she didn’t really clear it with us, and we let him stay three weeks for free before they announced he wanted to stay full time—and they were confused when I said he needed to pay rent. We came to an agreement: he will pay us other three roommates (outside of his fiancée) $50 a month, which brings my rent down to $710 a month. I know I’ll have to hound him for it and I personally think he should pay more, but I decided the stress wasn’t worth it (I do love my roommates after all and have no issues with him, just how they dealt with that). And he’s doing a fair split of internet and utilities, and I’m going to work him into the chores/household supplies rotation. There’s some other stuff going on there as well—like a roommate leaving for six weeks so she won’t be paying internet or utilities then—but it’s all things I can deal with. This has certainly been a learning curve!

School Job: Next semester I’m working 10 hours a week, and my pay was raised to $10/hour, so that should be at about $200 every paycheck (and that’s not including the extra shifts and full days I’m required to work). They wanted me to do 15 hours a week but I couldn’t swing it with my four classes, thesis, and the club I run.

Home Job: I got a random bonus during October—$230.88! The company got a new investor and they gave a bonus based on usefulness and years worked. I’m not super useful, but I’ve been there four years. This went straight into savings Smile My pay was raised here as well. I was previously at $8.50/hour (ew) and was preparing to argue for $9 when my state’s min. wage goes up on Jan. 1st. But I just checked my last pay stub and I’ve already been put at $9.50 (woohoo!).

Roth: Saving for my Roth IRA took a slight backseat when school started. I was unable to put as much into it each month as planned, so I was stuck at about $500. But all of my Christmas money ($300) went into it, so hopefully I can open a Vanguard account in January or February.

I think that’s it for general updates. All good things—now it’s just down to me ironing out how to save money in other areas.

Roth IRA Decision

August 4th, 2014 at 09:17 pm

A few days ago my mother sent me an article from the New York Times (I believe) about how you should open a Roth IRA as young and as soon as possible. Since then she's been really pushing me to do research on it and strongly consider opening one. I have, but the whole world of investing money and retirement accounts truly baffles me.

I'm 21 and have only ever had part-time and summer jobs. I currently have only a few expenses, although once I graduate college this year I'll have about $20,000 in student loan debt. I have no credit card debt and plan on keeping it that way. My savings account is low, mostly because I'm still recovering from my study abroad trip, but nearly all of it will go towards utilities and groceries and school expenses this coming year--my parents are awesome and will pay my rent and public transport pass. I don't have an emergency fund, but I am lucky enough to have a family that will help me out in case of a true emergency.

I already know I won't be able to max out my contributions, so my goal would be at least $1000 for this year. From the research I've done, Sharebuilder allows you to open with any amount but tends to have more fees, while Vanguard has a $1000 minimum but is better on the fees front.

I would love some input on this, since I know many of you have Roths. Is it worth it for me to open one at all? Would the no-minimum Sharebuilder be a good starting point until I get the hang of this stuff, or should I save up the rest of this year to open the Vanguard? Anything I'm totally neglecting to consider?

Successes & Not Such Successes

July 28th, 2014 at 08:28 pm

While I have been keeping up with my budget, these past two months I've consistently gone over in a few categories, especially dining and clothing. But in other areas I've done extremely well, and I can afford to be spending money, so I'm trying not to worry about it too much. This month I've already spent a little over $100 in clothes; however I'm planning on returning some shorts and several items were needed (yoga shirt, yoga pants, hat). And I love dresses haha.

Because of my camp job I get a free Y membership, so I've been going to as many yoga classes as I can fit in (sadly, I can really only go on weekends). Besides that I've done a lot of hiking and have been going to free events around my town.

I have a passive goal to spend as little as possible on furniture for my apartment next year. I've acquired lots of living room furniture from my aunt and family friends; I'm collecting Target and BB&B coupons because I may want an ottoman, storage containers, drawer system, and rug. I'm planning on a new mattress pillow top being my most expensive purchase. I finally finished making my futon bedframe, so it now has two sections that are 12 1/2 inches high and 25 inches wide (for storage). Dad had all the hardware, tools, and stain and he paid $3 per 2x4 (we used 4 pieces) but he didn't let me pay him back. And I cleaned off a plastic drawer set that my father found in the trash.

I've acquired a lot of Amazon gift cards from Bing and Swagbucks and I'm planning on using that to buy my hair products; I also have had a few $25 PayPals. Finally, I tried out my first credit-card-for-a-reward play, with good results. REI was offering a $100 gift card if members opened a Visa with them. Since I had been considering buying a membership anyway ($20 for life), I figured this was the time to do it.

After one purchase on the card, I received my gift card. Then they put out a promotion for a $20 gift card when you spend $100+. Just today I went in to buy the North Face Recon backpack, which will work for both school and hiking. I had been planning on buying this backpack anyway, and at $99 it was the perfect price, but better with a $100 gift card! I added a face sunscreen stick to bump me over the $100 mark (also something I had needed to buy). After applying the gift card I paid $13.63 (with my REI credit card) and received the $20 gift card. Nearly like a $7 profit! The only catch is you have to use the gift card between certain dates, but if I can't think of something I need I will buy my father his Christmas gift.

Not too shabby. Now the trick is to refrain from buying new clothes and going out to eat so much--it's hard when I have so many staff dinners and invites from friends, combined with no self control when it comes to yummy food!

May Budget & Anticipated Earnings

May 8th, 2014 at 08:18 pm

Sooo I finally did my May budget today! I also like to have an anticipated earnings spread so I can see if I'm making money or breaking even, so to speak. This is probably more detail than anyone needs to know, but posting it online makes me feel like you guys are keeping me accountable xD

Paying my loan interest is last on my list of priorities--sadly, it's not going anywhere. $750 of the debt is my portion of our last month's rent, which was effectively the deposit on our department. My dad paid for it because I'm currently lacking a checkbook, so once mine comes in I'm taking the $750 from where it's been sitting in my savings account. It does mean only about $390 of my budget is out-of-pocket this month.

The transport category is blech and I am the least happy about it. I calculated it based on how many times I have to go in and out of the city for my internship and on-campus job (18 times overall). Each time I go in or out, the easiest, fastest way is to take the train ($6) and then the subway ($2). That's $16 roundtrip. Ick, ick, ick. I've been exploring other options--there is a bus & subway combo for $2.50, but it more than doubles the commute time, which means I would have to leave at about 6:30 am. We shall see >.<

I'm expecting around $521 this month in earnings between my various pay days, ideally selling items as I declutter, gifts, and PayPal money from Swagbucks. I'm working two (very) part-time jobs in May, a tour guide at school and a retail job. As unpleasant as it is, I'm going to try and pick up as many hours as possible...I grabbed an extra hour today at my tour guide job and I'm going into the store an hour early tomorrow.

I love doing my budget...until I go and look at the numbers. Does anyone else have that issue?

New Apartment Stuff & Organization

May 3rd, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Today was a good day--spent time with family and friends, it was Free Comic Book Day, and my cat is sleeping on my feet right now. I've had the last few days off, after coming home from school Thursday night. Tomorrow I need to organize my life before it gets crazy again on Monday. (I'm working two jobs in May--the part-time retail I've had since high school and the tour guide position I got this year--before camp starts in mid-June.)

Organization. It's one of those things I aspire to but often fail at...this blog is case in point. I'm great at organizing books, filling out my agenda, and getting my work done on time. Everything else I fail at, even though clutter stresses me out. I get very attached to things and it often feels bad to let material things go...it's something I'm working on. But besides actually doing a budget for the rest of May and mapping out the next few weeks and writing some late birthday thank yous, I want to tackle at least one shelf or drawer tomorrow!

One of the things I've been a little obsessed with lately is the apartment for next year. I'm sad to be done with dorms but excited to be moving on. It's also been a bit stressful, both while we were searching (with four girls, there were a lot of differing criteria) and now that we've signed (I won't go into them, because I'm hoping those issues can be worked out soon). My room, which we drew straws for, is the second smallest at 11x9, with a small closet...it's still bigger than my room at home and I'm kind of excited for the organization challenge!

Currently, my rent is $750 a month (that may be changing a little given one of the issues we're having...we'll see.) I'm responsible for my food, transportation, school expenses, and any entertainment or other personal expenses. My parents said they would pay up to $1000 a month for rent and utilities, but I'm hoping to cover utilities if I can, and if I have any surplus money I hope to pay for a month or two. (I paid $750 for last month's rent already...we lucked out and didn't have a security deposit or other fees.)

I'm a little torn between splurging on nice, uniform furniture items that I can use in a future apartment, or mixing and matching what I can find and dealing with the fact that it might not look so nice. Currently, I'm leaning toward the latter.

One of the most expensive things was promising to be the bed. I didn't want to take my mattress from home because I do plan on coming back a few times a month (my laundry is more expensive than on-campus and I often miss my cat) as well as a few weeks at Christmas so I can work. My parents have an old-ish full-size futon that is in the den, and they said I could have it if it was comfortable enough. Last night I put it to the test. With my twin-size egg crate and mattress topper it's actually not too bad, and my twin xl comforter surprisingly fits perfectly. My parents said I can borrow two or three of their queen-size sheet sets.

I was a little apprehensive and I'm going to give it a few more nights, but I think this will work! Dad said he'd help me design and make a bed frame that can fit storage underneath, and I figure if I end up feeling uncomfortable I can buy a new mattress pad (I found one with good reviews on Overstock for about $60) or get a camping pad or something. And my cat seems to like it...he's been sleeping on it all day!

Does anyone have advice for college apartment living? Sleeping on a futon? Clever storage ideas? I'd love to hear them!

Spending...& First Paycheck!

January 31st, 2014 at 08:15 pm

Today I got my first paycheck! I've been technically hired as a tour guide at my school for a little while now, but we only had training and first shifts last week. So I got $36.94 for 5 hours. Most weeks, I only work 4 hours, so I'll be getting paychecks for 8 hours every two weeks. I would add in more shifts, but I'm not certified yet and I don't really have the time anyway, with my 15-hour-a-week internship, clubs, and four classes >.< But some money is better than none!

I did pretty well on spending:
$4.00 (pizza split with roommates)
$6.00 (giant load of laundry)
$29.99 (new boots-my old ones are disintegrating)

All my other spending has been "subsidized" by pre-earned or gifted gift cards:
$15.01 (DevaGel from Amazon)
$17.73 (Capezio ballet slippers from Amazon)
$15.00 (ticket to Regency dance via Visa gift card)
$4.01 (Starbucks)
$3.37 (Starbucks)

I might be spending a little money tomorrow, as I need new socks and some other necessities. No new snowflakes, but I should have enough Swagbucks for another $35 paypal soon, and my Qmee for the month should come through soon as well.

Start-of-Semester Spending, Snowflakes, & Snow Snow

January 21st, 2014 at 08:32 pm

I haven't had much excessive or unplanned purchases, but I've still spent more than I'd like to as of late:

$65.00 (haircut)
$115.00 (eye exam and 1 box of contacts)
+$75.00 (mom paid me back for eye exam)
$11.04 (CVS for snacks and dorm stuff)
$3.95 (dinner at Five Guys)
$120.86 (textbooks - and I didn't even buy all of them!)
$6.00 (train ride home for weekend)

I also spent $4.00 on public transport rides, but that was already on my card. Sadly, I now am at $0.00.

For my first snowflake, I got $4.47 cash back from my credit card. Normally I'd match that by adding the same amount to my "extra money" bucket, but since I'm so tight for money at this time I'm holding off. I can see it as covering that Five Guys dinner though Smile

My 5 $5 Amazon cards from Swagbucks credited, so I'm maxed out on those for the month. My $10 Target gift card from my first ever MyPoints cash out finally came as well! My dad also randomly gave me $5 even though I told him not to. I'm hoping for some sponsored blog posts, some more rolled coins, and more Swagbucks rewards before the month is out, but we'll see.

My new January snowflake totals: $52.74 cash, $35 in Amazon, $20 in visa giftcard, $10 Target.

As for the real snow...it's snowing! Quite a lot, actually. Now back to homework, because I can't bet on classes being cancelled tomorrow.

Montreal Spending

January 10th, 2014 at 09:16 pm

Won't go into insane detail about my Montreal trip, either in spending or experiences, because I have a travel blog for that! I had a lot of fun, but still have a list of things I need to do and see in Montreal alone...I can never be done with any one city! I started the trip with a total budget of $300 USD and $8.85 in Canadian money found at home.

Pre-trip expenses:
$96.57 for 3 nights in hostel (breakfast included)
$4 groceries (we made a few meals at the hostel and had late snacks or desert while out)
$16 each for gas
$10.11 snacks and toiletries

$125 USD exchanged at money changers

Credit card (BoA Travel Rewards; no fees):
$3.75 maple butter
$5.18 metro day pass
$17.61 biodome adule (I stupidly forgot my student ID)

Total USD spent: $278.22

We did manage to do some free organized things: a hike up Mount Royal, an awesome fireworks display, exploring. And we didn't end up going ice skating so I saved money there, and we didn't really go out Saturday for which my wallet was thankful. We were also expecting to pay a lot for parking, but we lucked out and had free parking ALL weekend!

Yay for relatively cheap weekend getaways!

More Snowflakes in January

January 10th, 2014 at 09:02 pm

I'm quite pleased with how things are going so far! As of today:

$5 Amazon (swagbucks)
$5 Amazon (swagbucks)
$25 PayPal (swagbucks)
$20 Visa prepaid (early birthday gift)
$5 (because I cancelled Graze quite unexpectedly)

Decided to count the $5 from Graze because I was planning on spending it this month.

This means the total for January thus far is $43.27 in cash, $10 in Amazon, and $20 in visa giftcard.

Cashed in my Bing for 500 Swagbucks and redeemed for another Amazon, so now I have three "verified" $5 Amazon cards.

Credit card bill closes tomorrow, so should be getting my cash back soon as well as some points (I need a minimum of 2500 to get travel credits) although I will be putting my eye appointment and haircut on it.

Tons and tons to do before I move back into school Monday!

New Year's Eve & First-of-the-Year Snowflakes

January 1st, 2014 at 08:48 am

Spent New Year's Eve going into the city with some friends. Spent $6 taking the train in, $4 on the subway (already on my card and spotted a friend a $2 ride, which she paid back me in cash), $20 on a ticket to an improv show, and $1.65 on a muffin (I was STARVING by the time we were waiting for the train home). I also got a $4.01 drink at Starbucks, but that was already on my card. All public transport was free after 8 pm, so we went crazy using the subway and train to visit ice sculptures, outdoor concerts, and the fireworks. Got home quite late, around 1:30, but awesome night Big Grin

I'm going to track my monthly and yearly snowflakes this year. Since I put the money from my various little "money makers" in my accounts at the end of each month, I'm starting 2014 with a decent-sized snowflake!

$8.00 rolled coins (still processing, so I'm counting it for January)
$0.77 savings account interest
$1.83 Qmee for December
$2.67 Amazon Mturk for December

All except $0.75 of the interest is going in my Extra Money bucket in my savings account Smile That one is really adding up quickly, and I'm going to use it to fund some of my hobbies...namely going to historical dances and ren faires.

I've also found exactly $8.85 in Canadian money in my house (actually, dad found most of that).

Working on more (six hour) shift tomorrow, then Montreal starting the 3rd...lots to do to get ready before then!

Early Birthday Gifts + Montreal Planning

December 29th, 2013 at 02:37 pm

Had a decently productive day, both in terms of things to-do and money.

Ordered a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks this morning, and am already back up to 128 swagbucks (and that's just with searching, encrave, SBTV mobile, daily tasks, and one code). I've only just realized how easy it is to rack up the swagbucks, especially when I can leave things running while I do chores/eat breakfast/read/work out. Dad also gave me his change because he only uses quarters...2 nickels, 1 dime, and 11 pennies, which will be added to my "coins to roll" bucket. And Mom paid me the $5 she owes me.

Dad and I went to REI to pick out hiking boots. I knew I was getting them for my birthday, but my birthday isn't until February and I didn't realize I would be GETTING them today. But my parents decided to give them to me now so I can wear them in Montreal Big Grin While we were there, I realized I need a hat (I have hats, but none are warm enough for Montreal in winter). I found an adorable faux-fur and "plumberry" plaid one with earflaps...for $34.50. I decided to just deal with the high price tag because it was the warmest "fashionable" hat there AND it's really cute. But when I went to go buy it--it rang up for $23.93 Smile

Now having dinner with the family and then off to a friend's for the evening!

Weekly Spending Week Ending 12/28

December 27th, 2013 at 01:09 pm

I've made quite a few purchases in the past few days, which I hate doing. At least most were necessary.

Sunday: Spent $13.57 at my work on Christmas gifts.

Monday: Stopped by CVS to get a gift card for my brother, and got two bags of candy on a deal and a 75% off lip gloss for my roommate...spent $20.84 with $15 of that being a giftcard! Spent $11.99 at my work on Christmas gifts. Had a 40% coupon off of a scarf, which was great Smile

Tuesday: Christmas Eve... Got taken out to lunch by grandparents. Paid mom $20 of what I owe her.

Wednesday: Christmas... my $5 charge on Graze went through (I really should cancel, but it's so cheap and so delicious!). Also made a purchase from Joann's for carbon paper, a tracing wheel, and pattern weights...should be getting 3% back from Ebates and 10% back from a Bank Americard deal.

Thursday: Bought a Christmas candle 50% off for next year because we're almost out of all of ours--still cost me $5.84. Bought fleece-lined leggings at work and got them for $10.39 with my discount--will be perfect for when I go to Montreal next month! Paid $17.59 in my loan interest today as well.

Friday: Went to the bank and deposited $478. The $8 is from rolled coins and will go into my Extra Money fund and the rest into my Apartment savings. My $50 went to mom because she spotted me for some Christmas shopping and I still owe her. But after we went to CVS we combined purchases so I could use the $4 off of $20 as well as my $2 ECB, and now she owes me $5. Spent $14.15 including her purchase, with Tide (for school), granola bars, a power bar, and nuts (for Montreal) for me. Also used my $0.15 on my Walgreens giftcard (which I got for a blog sponsorship) although I still spent $4.62 on bobby pins (which will be used for a belated Xmas gift I'm making tonight). We stopped by Starbucks, although the $4.01 I spent was already on the card (have $19.33 still on it). Mom got a free drink because they didn't have the size she wanted, and they gave me a size up by accident...so I guess we got great deals there Smile

Saturday: No spend day! Spent the day budgeting/packing/prepping for Canada, dealing with a scheduling issue at work, and then getting called into work for a four hour shift. Which is nice, actually, because I had to get a four hour shift covered on the 4th (since I'll be in Canada!).

I've been trying to prep for Montreal, and part of that is spending cash where possible, so I can use my credit card if there is any sort of emergency. It also includes not using any more of my phone's data plan!

Ordered a $25 paypal credit from Swagbucks on Friday, but knowing Swagbucks it won't come for several weeks. Bing is adding up quickly between the 15 points on my computer and 10 points on my mobile. Also completed a $0.50 survey on SurveySavvy (I hate doing surveys haha) so I should have $2 soon. And did some Amazon MTurk. Not a bad week since I'm usually super lazy about this sort of thing Smile

Besides Montreal, have some intense bills coming up in the next few weeks: a haircut and eye appointment on the same day. I need contacts as well >.<

And important question: should I cancel Graze?

Christmas Spoils!

December 26th, 2013 at 08:39 am

I won't be telling you EVERYTHING I got. Some of it is irrelevant, just really nice gifts. But a decent amount is useful, or is actually money.

I got a drying rack. My roommate already has one, so it's going to the "apartment pile" in the attic, with the four wooden chairs (found in trash), silverware (grandparents' old set), iron and ironing board (from Christmas last year), and odds and ends.

Also got a travel mug (yay! I've been needing one of those); Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop (vital for my classes and if I want to freelance, but super expensive, so thank you mom and dad); tissues, toothpaste, chapstick, throat lozenges; new gloves; some of my rather expensive DevaCurl products. A super nice gift from my aunt was a pair of Facet sunglasses from Smith...so beautiful, and originally $119 but she gets 50% off Smith Big Grin (I must get some of my money-obsession from her!)

As for actual money, I received a $50 from one set of grandparents, my annual check for $250 from my other grandparents, and $10 from my aunt. All $310 will be added to my apartment fund. Once I get paid for the study I did (should be around $230) that will be added to the same bucked in my Capital One 360; expecting the check this week or next. Since I'm adding all this money in and my checking count is getting a little thin, I'm deleting my automatic monthly deposit of $50 to the apartment fund. Hopefully I can add it back in again soon!

Paid off my interest on my unsubsidized loans this morning. So that's $17.59 gone from the checking account but it drops my debt down slightly, to $13255.18.

The other day I cashed in my MyPoints--first time doing so--for a $10 Target card. I'm thinking I'll buy myself new boots once it arrives. (I'm also almost at enough for a $25 PayPal credit from Swagbucks, woohooo!) I'm also getting some surprise cash back on my Bank of America credit card (should be around $8-9, if all goes well), which is nice. Have some dollars that will be going into my Extra Money bucket at the end of the month as well Smile

That's it for now, I think!

Day After Christmas...and First Post!

December 26th, 2013 at 08:15 am

I don't need a new blog. I really don't. I have a fairly successful lifestyle blog and a travel blog I am way behind on updating. But I've been following various blogs as well as the forums on SavingAdvice.com for a few months now. I need a place to keep myself accountable. I tried to do a budget and weekly spending on my lifestyle blog, but it was too much detail for that crowd. They want tips, not the data behind it.

So here I am. I'll start this blog by outlining my money situation:

I have a checking account, a savings account with Capital One 360, and three credit cards (but I only use the Bank of America Travel Rewards now).

I have a part-time job at home, and will be getting one when I go back to school (just need to be trained and start working).

I do lots of little money things: MyPoints, Swagbucks, Bing Rewards, Amazon Mechanical Turk, QMee, Ebates, and a few more. I participated in a study for money and will consider doing it again. I try to sell old things. I pick up any dime, nickel, or penny I find.

I do have debt. I am twenty years old, and I have $13,272.77 in student loans. I will definitely have more by the time I graduate in three semesters. I know it could be a lot worse, but I hate it.

I have quite a few expensive hobbies and interests: travel, historical costumes, photography, sewing, books, movies. It's a problem. I have a tendency to make a lot of money and then spend it all on a huge trip or purchase...not that I regret any of them, but it does deplete my savings.

That is me, specifically my money, in a nut shell. Smile