Net Worth Update: April 2015

networthupdateBuckling Down

Y’all, I am so happy with this month’s report, I can’t even. After my awful financial March, I really wanted to make back some of the lost ground this month, as well as pay off the credit card. As you know, Bob, there are two ways to increase net worth: spend less and earn more. (Yes, I am a font of PF wisdom.) My side hustling had dropped to almost nothing recently, but I set a goal of paying off the $250 I still had on my CC using solely side income, and took a few steps to increase it: I kept the usertesting window open more (and made $177)), I applied my cash-back points to my credit card ($35.84), and I spent a bit of extra time at Swagbucks (and made $50). I also put the word out that I was looking for babysitting, though nothing’s actually come through on that yet. All of that plus $20 in interest added up to $282 of side income — $30 more than my goal.

Then I got around to looking at the “spending less” side of the equation. A third of the way through the month, on April 10, I was up to $846 in expenditures (rent, cash draw, credit card expenses — see below). I started to wonder if I could make it through the following 20 days on (1) the cash I’d already withdrawn for the month and (2) $150 in other expenditures, leaving me at under $1000 for total April expenses. Did I make it?

To the numbers!

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Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 15: Clear Perishables Before Travel (plus awesome brownies)

zero food waste challenge 2015I’m traveling for work again next week — leaving on Sunday evening and returning the following Sunday — so meeting my no-food-waste goal involves clearing out all the perishables in the house before then. Even though I have been trying to buy exactly what I need, I usually do have some carryover from week to week; for example, when I went shopping on Saturday I already had an onion, some apples, a lemon, yogurt, eggs, and cheddar cheese that fit the “perishables” description.

I’m not too worried about the yogurt, which lasts forever (in fact, I bought more so I can have one in the fridge at work) or the eggs, ditto (I go through phases with eggs and in an off phase, it can take me over a month to finish a dozen; I’ve never had a problem). The onion I probably ought to use soon, but I think it will be ok for a while, or else I’ll give it to my neighbor before I leave if it looks like it might be going off. However, I definitely wanted to use the apples, lemon, and cheese this week, and also not buy anything else super perishable that I wouldn’t be able to use. What I wanted to avoid was getting to Saturday and having, say, half a bundle of parsley 🙂

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Being Thrifty and Eating Right in New York Was Really, Really Hard

So I’ve lost a little weight recently — not a ton, maybe five pounds — and I was thinking today about why that never happened in New York, when I was younger and also probably getting more exercise (just from walking around more.) Also, as you may have noticed, I’m a lot better at sticking to a budget and saving money now than I used to be 🙂 And I think the two things are actually interconnected, not just in the way that financial and weight metaphors often work together, but because the pattern of living in New York is practically designed to disrupt weight control and money control.

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Friday Ruminating

My traffic map for this week!

My traffic map for this week!

It’s officially fun to be featured on Rockstar Finance — thanks, J. Money! I counted 42 countries among my visitors on Tuesday, which is about 38 more than I usually get, and it was really cool to think about people in Malta and Qatar and Japan clicking through to my post. I felt very warm and fuzzy about the global community. Then on Wednesday, my traffic was still going crazy; I got over 1000 unique visitors for the first time, and the total number of countries on the week rose to 57 (hello Nigeria, Argentina, Thailand, etc). It turned out that the post had been picked up by Lifehacker, so that was another huge source, plus Bridget very kindly linked to me from within a post she’d already been writing on the same topic. My traffic looks really funny now — huge peaks Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a big drop on Thursday, although still more visitors than I typically get. I enjoyed my 15 minutes, for sure 😉 And all kidding aside, I was glad the post struck a chord. I was also glad that this seems to be an area where leftists and “rightists” (thanks, Hannah <g>) can agree — we need to think carefully about what the narratives we rely on are really saying. Math is math, but the stories we use to frame the math are important too.

To get a little mushy: I like the idea that even behind the least personal PF post — the “three tips for saving on groceries” kind of thing — there’s someone’s story. Somebody sat down and clipped coupons and daydreamed about buying a house; someone learned from their grandmother about buying dried beans to save money; and so on. The math is the math, and there’s something universal about it, but each of us has to do that math for ourselves in our specific circumstances. It’s never the same math twice, because we really are all irreducibly unique. If the person from Malta or the person from Argentina happens to be reading this…hello! I’m glad you’re getting a glimpse of my story. I hope sometime I get a glimpse of yours.

Zero Food Waste 2015 Week 14: Don’t Buy In Bulk, Buy Bulk (plus weeknight soba noodles for one)

zero food waste challenge 2015Wow. It feels pretty awesome to be nearly a third of the way through the year — I’m beginning to feel like my new habits are fully settling in. The thing that’s helping the most is really that I know myself pretty well by now; after over a decade of adulting, I have a decent sense of what will and won’t work for me. But one thing I’ve been doing this year is genuinely new, and not something I would ever have said I’d like as much as it’s turning out that I do.

Anne at Money Propeller linked me to this WSJ article on food waste: according to the EPA, Americans threw out 36 million tons of food in 2012, up to $1000 per year per person. The people they interviewed for the article (which is sort of an ad for high end refrigerators that claim they can keep food fresh longer) are interesting, because they testify to the fact that we like imagining we’ll use all that beautiful produce, so we buy it…and don’t use it.

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Why the Parable of the Savers Drives Me Nuts (Or, Late Bloomers and Humanities Majors Are Not Doomed)

NotDoomedI’ve written time and time again in the last year about how much I’ve learned from the PF blogosphere: budgeting, investing basics, debt payoff strategies, frugal tips, and more. But there’s one post in particular that makes me groan every time I see a variation on it. It’s the “parable of the savers,” and you’ve seen it at least a hundred times if you’ve been reading around PF blogs for long. You know the one: John invests $5 a year starting at age 5, and stops at age 20. When he’s 65, this total $75 investment has grown to $3,000,000 through the magic of compound interest. Jane, meanwhile, lives it up, buys expensive cars and too many pairs of shoes, and doesn’t put anything away until she’s 45. She’s making a good salary by then, so she socks away $5000 a year, but she still only ends up with $150,000, and has to live in a van down by the river and eat cat food in her old age. Continue reading “Why the Parable of the Savers Drives Me Nuts (Or, Late Bloomers and Humanities Majors Are Not Doomed)”

How much “blow money” do you budget, and why?

As I try to make up for March’s unexpected expenditures, I’ve been pretty cheap this month. I’ve been trying to mostly stick to my $300 cash draw — I even went to Chicago for the weekend and funded it entirely out of my monthly cash. So far, if I don’t go crazy and break out the credit card over the next two weeks but just use the remaining $100 in cash that I have, I’m on track to spend less than $1000 this month! (Right now, with all the bills paid and a full tank of gas, I’m at $952 for April. And yes, that includes rent.)

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Zero Food Waste Week 13: Meal Plan Like a Champion, Part 1: Pantry (plus refried bean and kale quesadillas)

zero food waste challenge 2015Good morning, food non-wasters! Last week, The Finance Phoenix wanted to know what exactly I was making with all those groceries, and I thought I’d make this week’s tip about meal planning. This has really been how I’ve been making the no-food-waste thing work: being super strict about the planning, although also being flexible enough to throw things in the freezer if the week changes unexpectedly and there just isn’t time.

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Long-range financial goal setting

I did a thought exercise the other day: where do I want to be in terms of finances and possessions in ten years? In thirty years, when I’m 66? I have some possible retirement housing options in mind, but I also want to think about how to get to a point where I have $40,000 in yearly income (in today’s dollars). That plus Social Security should give me a very comfortable life; right now I’m only spending about $17000 a year on life stuff! Add to that $10000 a year for travel and general fun, and I’ll be all set. 🙂 (The rest is for taxes and medical care, of course, and also because I assume I will not end up paying the equivalent of $400 a month for housing forever.) Continue reading “Long-range financial goal setting”

How I’ve Been Earning (a pretty small but non-zero amount of) Extra Cash Online

Last summer, I spent a lot of time trying to find decent-paying ways to increase my side income. Babysitting is an evergreen for me, but I was interested in finding ways to branch out: ways that didn’t require basically setting up an entirely new business (I had some thoughts about freelance writing and editing, but in practice I have not wanted to dedicate the time and energy needed to get that off the ground.) After my minor financial disaster in March, I’m newly revved up on making a little extra cash; even a hundred dollars a month goes pretty far, you know? Continue reading “How I’ve Been Earning (a pretty small but non-zero amount of) Extra Cash Online”