December 2014 Net Worth Update

Well, this month started off with a bang and ended up with a schlumpf. Towards the beginning of the month, I paid off the last of my debt (although it took me until the middle of the month to be able to announce it.) Then I got hit with a huge bill for new glasses and contact lenses, and had to pull some money out of my emergency fund along with cash-flowing part of it. So the end net worth results for this month are not too impressive, although I got a last-minute boost via a $200 Christmas gift directed to my travel fund.

To the numbers: Continue reading “December 2014 Net Worth Update”

How I’m Paying For It: Eye Doctor Edition

Oh, my eyes.

In this case, I mean it literally: my eyes are the worst. I’m really, really, really nearsighted, which limits me to certain brands of contact lenses (most don’t go below a -10) and means that whenever I buy glasses, which luckily isn’t every year since my prescription’s been stable for a long time, I need to pay extra for extra-thin lenses.

This year, I do have eye insurance, luckily, but I also needed new glasses; my old ones broke a month or so ago and while I was hoping they could be fixed, the office said no dice. And I’ve had them for four or five years, so I sighed and said ok. But even with insurance, which knocked about 50% off the final bill, I ended up putting $673.20 on my credit card this morning, for the exam, contacts, frames, and lenses.

Now, it’s on the 0% card (the rate is good for another six months, I think) so I could pay it down slowly. But darn it, I just got out of debt. I don’t want to hit the new year with anything on the card. So, here’s how I’m going to do it:

$187.01: already saved in my “personal/health” category

$100: from December 2014 “slush” money

$150: from my “repairs/maintenance” fund (I’m repairing and maintaining my eyes, I guess)

$250: from the emergency fund (sigh, that’s what it’s there for)

$9.91: from January 2015 “slush” money (already in my bank account since I live on last month’s income)

This all sucks, and I hate draining my health and repairs sinking funds, not to mention the EF setback, but there are two pieces of good news: one, I know where the money is coming from and have it saved, even though I don’t like having to actually spend it, and two, since I hopefully will not need glasses again for several years, next year’s bill should be much more reasonable; the contact exam and lenses alone would have been $282.

2015 goals

Finally, the long-awaited [ed. note — sure, sure] 2015 goals post.

I’ll probably revisit these at some point — for one thing, my job situation might or might not change over the summer. I’m either going to be at the same job, with the same income, for another academic year, or be changing jobs with all the resulting unknowns from that. But for the purposes of this post I’m assuming that I’ll be at my current job through all of 2015.

I’m trying to keep these simple: instead of a dozen goals, I’m making only five, focused around my current priorities. Some of these are more under my control than others — for example, I can definitely contribute $1000 a month to retirement because I’m already doing it and it’s automatic! But the net worth goals are trickier, because they rely in part on things well outside of my control, like whether I have a medical emergency or what the markets decide to do. I’m also setting a pretty aggressive target for monthly cash savings; if I stick to this plan, I’ll be living on about $1150 a month, roughly 1/3 of my net income. I’m going to try this for a few months and see how it goes, but if I’m feeling deprived by the time I do my first-quarter review at the end of March I may have to re-evaluate. Continue reading “2015 goals”

OK, I’m Debt-Free. What’s Next?

This is also not my 2015 goals post, although my thinking here may end up informing some changes to that.

Technically, I’ve been “debt-free” since early December, when I put through a $287 payment to my credit card. But I still had almost $900 in business expenses waiting to be reimbursed. This is what my accounts looked like on December 14, with the business expenses plus what I’d spent on various (budgeted!) stuff in early December.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 10.06.54 AMUgly, right? $2000 less than my last published net worth update, between having paid rent, withrdrawn my grocery cash, other early-December expenses, and all those business things.

It got better the next day when my first December paycheck hit, followed by my reimbursement check, and I could pay the card down to zero at last. Woo! Meanwhile I was getting things transferred over here (one of the December expenses I had to pay off was the domain purchase) and processing my feelings.

To be completely honest, my very first impulse was…to buy something. 🙂 Not immediately, exactly, and not something totally crazy and frivolous. I’ve talked before about the really sad state of my wardrobe, but one thing I’ve never had, ever, is a pair of nice black leather tall boots with a heel high enough to be dressy but blocky enough to be “sensible” (and that I can walk long distances in and teach/lecture in.) My birthday is in late January, and I’ve been really scrimping lately; maybe I want/need a reward/present to myself. (Downside of being single: no husband to ask for boots for my birthday.) I’m still kicking the idea around, but I may go try on some pairs when I’m home for the holidays — I have three brands (Clarks, Born, and Frye) in mind as decent possibilities — and run the numbers.

This got me thinking about all the other things that are either worn out completely (sneakers with holes) or getting there (jeans I’ve worn countless times over two years, pilling sweaters and dresses, a coat that needs the lining replaced, and, most worryingly, my laptop, which at just over 2 years old is starting to show signs of the intense regimen I put it through — it’s often in use 10-12 hours a day, sigh. I’ll use it as long as I can, despite the obnoxious spinning beach balls it’s giving me way more often these days, but whenever it goes, it’ll cost around $1100 to replace, because I’m not switching away from Mac to PC for a variety of personal and professional reasons.) I’ve been putting everything off, but I’m going to need to do some spending this year, on my wardrobe and on travel; hopefully I can do all that and health/vehicle expenses without touching the EF, but my net worth might not grow as much as I’d initially thought it would.

Throughout the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking of 2015 as my “saving year,” and I certainly intend to make it that — $500 a month to the EF is a must, and I’m not stopping my $1000 retirement fund contributions either. But I’d been kind of thinking of my potential net worth growth as therefore being an average of $2000 a month, and I’m realizing that’s probably not realistic; if I actually spend from my travel fund, buy some clothes, and god forbid need that laptop sometime in 2015, I wouldn’t be able to net $2000/month without some serious luck and/or hustle in the freelance department.

So I’m thinking, now that I’m debt-free, that where I’m going next is: saving and spending. Gee, what a surprise 🙂

100% Completely Absolutely Positively No Doubt About It Debt-Free

Y’all, it’s kind of a big day.

First of all, if you’re reading this, you’ll have noticed that I did in fact move over to self-hosted wordpress, since Godaddy was having an awesome sale ($20 for domain and hosting for the first year.) I’m hoping that this will resolve the commenting situation — to everyone whose comments blogger has eaten: I’m sorry! — and maybe along the way I’ll creep a little more into the 21st century. You can also now find me on twitter, by the way. I’ll probably keep messing with the look of the site for a while (I’m not sure I’m happy with this theme, and I really want to figure out how to change the default bright-white background for posts; instructions welcome, since google didn’t help) but anyway, here we go. Special thanks to Alicia for the encouragement, technical support, and as long as we’re at it, general friendship over the last few months.

Second of all:

Please ignore the woeful state of my investment accounts (the ruble picked a bad week to fall off a cliff, from a net worth perspective) and concentrate on items #2 and #3. That would be my credit cards and my student loans…both showing $0.00 owed. YES. For the first time since I turned 18 and signed for my first undergraduate loan, I am completely clear and free. Adding up the student loans and the credit card, that’s a total of $23697 paid off, almost exactly 18 months to the day after I defended my dissertation.

Merry Christmas to me! Thank you to everyone who’s been on this journey with me.

Three Things I Did This Year That Changed My Life…and One Thing I Want to Do Next Year

This isn’t the same as my 2015 financial goals post, which is coming soon — I’ve been hammering those out and I think I’m close to being happy with them, so I’ll probably post them in the next couple of weeks.

But Michelle at the Shop My Closet Project had a great post talking about the three things she did that enabled her to “find Michelle again” in 2014. She wrote:

“I realized that I had lost myself in the crap that I was (and wasn’t) dealing with. It was hardly surprising that I wasn’t moving forward and was stuck. I am so glad that I recognized that I needed to clear the space in my life to focus on what was important to me.”

I’m not quite sure I’m there yet, but I feel like I might be on the way. Here are the three (non-financial) things I did myself in 2014 that might be helping me clear the path towards a future I want to live in: Continue reading “Three Things I Did This Year That Changed My Life…and One Thing I Want to Do Next Year”

OK, maybe I’m going to have to become the world’s least professional self-hosted blogger

After all that, I’m considering buying a domain and moving to self-hosted after all. Godaddy is having a sale (as near as I can tell, it’s $12 for domain+hosting+wordpress for a year), and I guess I could use some time over the holidays to figure out how to set it up and move everything.

The problem is, while I am perfectly happy with my boring (and free!) blogspot blog, I’ve heard from four or five people that they have problems commenting here, and if four or five people have bothered to write/tweet me (oh yeah, I finally got with the program and got a twitter handle) that means there are probably more that have just uttered an unkind word and given up when the ()^&%)*%^&%*&^)( website ate their comments. And I hate being an ungracious host 🙁 I’d like to increase the number of conversations I have, and I don’t like that technical difficulties are challenging that.

So, I don’t know, I’m going to sleep on it; the sale at Godaddy doesn’t end five minutes from now. But I feel like I need to figure out some solution that doesn’t result in it being really annoying (or even impossible) to comment here.

[Edited to add: it’s tomorrow morning, I slept on it, and I decided to do it. How bad could $20 for the first year (including the domain masking Alicia pointed out I’d need) really be? So I picked up www.thesingledollar.com. Next step, uh, figuring out the tech migration. That’ll probably take a while so I’ll keep posting here for the next week or two until I have time to sort it out.]

Grocery TRIUMPH

I was so nerdily pleased about this that I made my housemate listen to the whole thing, and now I’m gonna make you. I don’t think I can inflict it on anyone else because how excited I was about it makes me sound like a total loser.

It is very cloudy and overcast here for months on end in Low COL City, The Upper Midwest, and the librarians at my university told me a couple of weeks ago that everyone here just takes Vitamin D pills all winter. I have no idea whether this will really help or not, but I figured at least it wouldn’t be expensive and probably wouldn’t give me cancer, so I decided to buy some last Saturday at the grocery store.

The first aisle I checked didn’t have Vitamin D on its own, only combined with calcium. I threw it in my cart, but then in the next aisle I found the Vitamin D (on sale! 2 for the price of 1!) and put that in the cart, meaning to return the calcium combo….well, of course I got home and discovered that I’d never taken the calcium out of my cart, and it was $6.50!!!!

Fast forward to today’s weekly shopping trip. Not only did I remember to take the calcium and the receipt back so I could get a refund, but here was what I had on my list to purchase:

Milk
Sweet potatoes
Onion
Sour cream*

This added up to a grand total of…. $6.50 exactly. So basically, I am eating for free this week! And am a gigantic nerd, but who cares, I’m a gigantic nerd with $60 of this week’s grocery money left over in a month that I badly need available cash for holiday stuff.

[*I am not eating these four items only this week. I’m trying to use up everything perishable in the house and some of the freezer/pantry stuff too before I leave to see my folks, so I decided to throw a bunch of stuff I already had — lentils, sausage, tomato paste, carrots, celery, garlic — in a pot with the sweet potatoes and onion and some water and make soup. It’s not bad at all. That takes care of lunch for the week. I also have enough apples left over from last week’s purchase to have one for an afternoon snack every day. I’ll make a pot of oatmeal (already have everything I need for that) on Sunday night and that’s breakfast for the week. I’m going to Christmas parties at least two and possibly three nights this week, so there’s not much dinner to worry about, but I have some leftovers and I can always make some ramen or something in a real bind. The sour cream is to make rhubarb muffins to bring to a potluck on Thursday — I’ve had the rhubarb frozen since the late summer so it’s time to use it. I had all the other ingredients for those in the pantry or fridge. Et voila.]

[ETA: I wrote this post then went out to the farmer’s market and spent $2 on kale, $2 on a stocking present for my SIL, $4 on a present for my housemate, and $20 on my brother’s birthday present (another vintage book). So now I only have about $30 in my pocket, and I’m probably going to spend it all this week between the $10 admission show I’m going to tonight, postage, and buying daily coffee, but hey, at least I shouldn’t have to dip into slush and I can use that for the various expenses I’ll have on vacation. And I’ve now prepaid birthday presents for my mom (February) and brother (April); just need to think of something for my dad, in May, and then nothing to worry about until late fall 2015.]

A very PF-y Christmas :)

This year’s Christmas giving is being driven by my usual combination: I estimate (a) how broke I am, (b) how much energy I have to devote to shopping, and then go from there 🙂 Mostly I’m pretty broke (or, as in this year, just not feeling like I’ve built up enough of a cash cushion to justify spending $$) so in the past I’ve often made music mixes and sent cards, covering dozens of people for only a couple of hundred dollars while spending a little more on personalized gifts for my immediate family and sometimes a few friends.

This year I allotted $200 of my December spending money to gifts. But I also am using a little bit of my grocery/spending money cash. Since nobody in my family knows I have a blog, here’s the final list:

Mom and Dad: $100 gift certificate to a restaurant. They have a ton of stuff and are actively trying to cut down on the number of things in the house. Also, lots of relatives/friends always send nice chocolates at the holidays so they don’t need more, and Mom has enough tea and soap and whatnot to last forever. She’s hard to buy for. Anyway, I decided to get them an experience rather than a thing this year, and picked a place that sounds exciting and is near where they live.

Brother: A book about our favorite baseball team when we were kids that I bought used for him about six months ago when I saw it, so for these purposes, $0.

Sister-in-law: A 1901 map of Anglo-Saxon England that I found on Etsy. Two sellers turned out to have the exact same map (sliced out of an antique atlas); lucky for me, I noticed this in time and bought the one that was $12, not the one that was $20. With shipping, $16.90.

Goddaughter (age 4): ballet shoes, on sale. With shipping, $17.83.

Godson (age 1): vintage children’s book with illustrated “Twas the Night Before Christmas” — spent $5 of my grocery money this week at a farmer’s market stall that has used books. He’s too young for this still, but it’ll be a cute present that his parents will like and they can read it to him even if it’s over his head for the next few years 🙂

Stocking present, mom: local honey from the farmer’s market, spent $4 of my grocery money.

Stocking present, dad: pear butter from the farmer’s market, spent $3.50 of my grocery money.

Stocking present, brother: goofy crocheted Christmas ornament: spent $.50 of my grocery money.

Best friend: Donation to Providence House, where I lived as a volunteer for a while in New York and which houses women transitioning out of prison until they can get a stable job and save up for their own apartments: $50.00.

This actually leaves me with a surplus of $15 in my gift category, so I may buy some fancy chocolate after all to give to my SIL in her stocking and to my other best friend. Et voila, Christmas handled!

Still here

I don’t use a blog reader or anything, since I am obviously the world’s least professional blogger — I don’t even have my own domain! And I don’t post on a schedule, or do basically anything to monetize my blog, though it is my dream someone will use one of those capitalone360 affiliate links in the sidebar one day and I’ll make $40 off it. 🙂

But I’ve started to notice lately that people I have bookmarked have been absent for a while. Debt Debs, The Intentional Penny, The Barefoot Budgeter…all have been dark since late October with no explanation. Girl Meets Debt, who gave me what amounted to my big break (hee!) by posting a guest interview with me, disappeared about six months ago.

I hope some of the people I’m missing come back! It feels odd to click on their links in my bookmarks and have the last post come up from so long ago, and have no idea where people are and what they’re up to and whether or not they’re coming back.

And it’s equally weird to think how long I’ve been at this, when I didn’t want to pay for a domain back in March because I was afraid I’d get bored with it after a month. It’s still motivational, though, and enjoyable, so I keep it up. Maybe I’ll do it long enough to become the longest-tenured least professional PF blogger? Who’s been around the longest without moving to self-hosted wordpress? I bet I can outlast whoever it is! Now there’s a 2015 goal to get me started…. 🙂