Weekend update

Things are liable to stay light around here for a week or two — moving and traveling. But I’ve stopped long enough to look at “the week that was.”

According to mint.com, over the last week I spent:

$103 on utilities (cell phone, electric)

$66 on food (restaurants, groceries)

$60 in medical (woo! This is because my insurance is paying for most of therapy, after all — I was super worried it would be out of pocket, but instead it’s just a co-pay)

$44 on moving supplies (tape, packing paper)

$17 on gas

For a total of $290. This is good — I need some cheap weeks after all the expensive ones recently (and the expensive ones that are coming up as I go on my big west coast swing.)

I also did something exciting: I bought the first $250 of my side-hustling-Roth shares. On top of that, I’m only $20 away from being able to buy the second $250 worth! And I only started on April 22. Most of this has been from usertesting.com — some from amazon and ebay.

Moving — frugally

Things have been quiet on the internet the last few days; it’s grading season, and also, as an itinerant academic, I’m packing to move, for the umpteenth time since I graduated from college.

I actually really don’t want to count the number up. It has to average out to close to once a year. And it’s been a lot of years.

At this point I have it down to a science; I started doing some light packing a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t get really serious until a couple of days ago, and I should be mostly done packing tomorrow, although I’ll also do a little bit at the absolute last minute — clothes, sheets, tools, cleaning supplies. Also on the list for tomorrow: run by Goodwill to drop off a couple of boxes, and pick up my dry cleaning so it doesn’t get left behind!

I suppose the most important part of moving frugally is choosing your moving company (whether that’s your buddies and a Uhaul, or whether it’s professionals.) But I don’t have a lot of great advice on that. Instead, what I’m interested in right now is the “hidden costs.”

The upside of moving a lot is that I have not accumulated Stuff. I’m not really a Stuff person anyway — I’d probably weed every year or two no matter what, as part of spring cleaning. The thought of living with boxes of unused Stuff in the hallways or even the basement/attic really freaks me out.

But the downside to my aggressive weeding is that it can really burn me on the other end of a move. For example, last year I had a storage unit for about nine months while I was living in various spare rooms (long story.) When I moved out of my previous apartment, I sold or gave away a lot of furniture I didn’t think I was going to want: kitchen table and chairs, armchair, futon, twin bed. That made it easy to store everything else, sure. But when I got here, I ended up spending a month (and probably $1000) replacing things. If I’d just stored all of that furniture, it wouldn’t have been exactly what I wanted, but it would have been there (and free!). Oh well. So, this time, I’m taking everything, even though it’s going to be another storage unit situation since I’ll be living with a friend for at least the first six months. I need the storage unit anyway; might as well pack it full.

The other thing that always has bitten me on moves in the past is food. I tend to keep a pretty full pantry; dry goods, beans, different kinds of vinegars and oils, spices, nuts in the freezer, pickles and capers and mustards in the fridge. Then there’s cleaning supplies — I’ve tossed them rather than taking them with me more often than not, because they’re heavy and awkward and I don’t want them spilling in the truck. And I always seem to end up, after any given move, spending a few hundred dollars to replace things.

This time, I vowed it would be different, and a couple of things are making that possible. First of all, I had to go to New City for a conference two weeks ago. So I packed the car with all this food that I would have worried would spoil or spill if it went with the other stuff and took nine days on the road. Flour, sugar, vinegars and oils, spices, beans, etc etc etc. I even took the refridgerated stuff, although I didn’t think the frozen stuff would make it through a full day’s driving, so alas, I did end up throwing out two packs of cranberries, a bunch of frozen lemon juice, and — tragedy — some homemade chicken stock that I never got around to using. Seriously, I bet being aggressive about saving rather than tossing partly-used food items is going to end up saving me hundreds of dollars when I finally get to New City again in mid-June. I’m sure I’ll make a stock-up trip to the grocery store anyway, but I’m going to compare my credit card bills from last year to my credit card bill from this year to find out how dramatic the difference is.

Second, I have a car. It’s not as big as I wish it was. But even though I also have to put a lot of office boxes into it, it should still be able to hold a few leftover food items and the cleaning supplies, along with a few fragile/precious things I don’t want the movers touching. This is the first time I’ve ever moved with a car and it’s lowering my stress levels, definitely.

Weekend Update

I’ve entered the part of the month where I have no money in the checking account because it’s all been routed away. It’s psychologically unsettling to have my balance this low even though I know I’m not in danger of an overdraft. (Also, I’m waiting on a reimbursement check and that will sure help ease the ol’ troubled mind if it shows up on Monday or Tuesday, as I expect it to do.)

Side hustle news: sold a pair of hiking boots on ebay for $20 net; didn’t sell any of my more expensive clothing/shoe items though (they’re relisted.) Did more usertesting.com quick hits.

Saving money and budgeting news: I won a free copy of some fun budgeting software, You Need a Budget! I’m happy to own it; it’s a big step up over the excel spreadsheets I’d been playing around with. If anyone’s interested, you can get $6 off by following my referral link.

And I joined the Modest Money list of top finance blogs. I’m pretty far down the list <g>

ModestMoney.com Top Finance Blogs
I’m really glad I guest-posted last week; it feels much less lonely over here with a few commenters 🙂 It’s good to feel like I have some accountability.

And with that, to the weekly numbers (at least via mint.com; I’m not in a position yet to implement to the penny cash tracking, which I’m going to start once my move is finished.)

Spending, April 27-May 3:

Rent/internet: $765

Car related stuff: $286 — gas and tolls from the conference I was at, pretty much. Also my car insurance payment.

Utilities: $20

“Other”: $168. Combo of groceries, moving supplies, what-not-all.

Total: $1260. Not that bad — counting the rent it’s not a big place….

Oof. I couldn’t sleep much last night, stress about work stuff, and now I literally can’t keep my eyes open. This isn’t the world’s most interesting post but I’m too tired to be clever!

On a more cheerful note

My side hustling plan is off to a decent start! So far I have:

(1) made $355.79 from a combination of selling things on amazon and ebay, watching usertesting.com like a hawk, and skimming a little more than $100 off last month’s paycheck. I did that last accidentally, by the way, through double-transferring money from my checking account to the new savings account I set up to fund Roth shares. I am not a financial master of the universe. But having made the transfer I decided to let it stand, rather than pulling it back and using it for cash spending, so even though it is technically from my paycheck, I’m calling it a side hustle I pulled on myself.

(2) Talked to a friend of mine about booking me for a paid lecture in the fall (I am not sure how much this will be, maybe no more than a couple hundred dollars, but every little bit counts.)

(3) Mentioned to a few friends, in a casual and low-key way thus far, that I am looking for writing, editing, and, what the hell, pet- and baby-sitting work. By the way! Anyone reading this: I am looking for writing and editing work! Feel free to get in touch 🙂

(4) Signed up for a new checking/savings account that theoretically will give me $20 a month — apparently in perpetuity — for using direct deposit and billpay. By the end of this year, if this works, that would be $140. Again, repeat after me: every little bit counts.

I am not getting too excited yet, because I still have, uh, $5144.21 to go on my “fund the Roth using extra income” plan, and obviously I’m going to have to acquire more lucrative part-time work than I’ve done so far. But setting the goal and already making some progress feels good; I’m going to buy in $250 increments so I can do the first lot as soon as the money’s available in my savings account.

settling in for the long haul

As I look forward to the end of my student loan debt, I’m kind of relieved, but also kind of intimidated. I think that years ago when I imagined being out of school, with the loan paid off, and employed, I was also imagining feeling less broke — like I could travel without guilt, for example.

Well, nope.

The thing is, I MUST get serious about remedying years worth of not saving. I’ve committed, beginning in July, to sending 25% of my pre-tax income to a 401(k) and any and all “extra” income to a Roth IRA. This is a rate far above what most people recommend, but what else can I do? I’m not getting any younger, and that’s not even going to get close to maxing out for the year, anyway.

On top of that, I need to put something aside every month in a housing fund (maybe a down payment, maybe just a future security deposit); in a car-replacement fund because I’ll likely need a car within the next 5 years, given the age of mine, and I’d want a decent down payment at least; in a medical-emergencies fund. I need some new clothing pretty soon and I’d like to have the money for that put away rather than have to have everything on the credit cards.

The reason why I’m sounding glum rather than excited about this is that I just decided I can’t go to a friend’s wedding this summer. It’s on the opposite coast, and a round trip flight is over $500, plus lodging and assorted other (transportation from the airport, probably some meals out, etc.) And the friend isn’t a close one; a college friend I always liked and would love to see get married, but I just think I can’t justify the cost of it.

It’s bumming me out though because I wasn’t thinking I’d be more income-restricted as an employed person than as a grad student. When you want/need to route basically all your income to savings, though…. I think there’s just not going to be much extra for a while. Maybe a long while. And it’s kind of a downer.

End of April Update

The end of April, the end of the semester, the time for single people to pack up and head on the road to see their friends who can’t travel because they all have toddlers 🙂 Aside from a massive student loan payment, my biggest expenses this month were all travel-related: lots of gas from driving around to see friends and family and to a conference, and booking plane tickets for a trip to California I’m making next month. This month doesn’t look so awesome from a net worth perspective because of how much is currently sitting on the credit cards (plane tickets, moving expenses) but I’m majorly excited anyway because of one big goal met:

That right there is student loan #1, showing a balance of $0 yesterday! The gory details of its history:

I started making payments on it two months before it came out of its grace period. In total, I ended up paying only $161.88 in interest on a $10,197 loan! That’s even better than I thought I’d done when I ballparked it yesterday for Girl Meets Debt.

To be continued with student loan #2, currently sitting at -$5086.47….

So, April spending:

Student loan #1: $2418.48
Student loan #2: $88.34

Car expenses (gas, oil change, tolls): $482.35: OUCH. Wow. So, uh, I traveled a lot this month. All by car. It added up. Eesh. Luckily about 1/4 of that is reimbursable and I’ve already submitted the receipts and everything.

Rent and utilities: $1061 — this includes buying a new smartphone to replace my four-year-old flip phone and get on a much cheaper plan (if it works) by joining Republic Wireless — we’ll see how this goes; there’s a 30-day-back guarantee so I might end up returning the phone.

Travel and entertainment: $392. Not bad for a round trip to Los Angeles, another RT from LA to San Francisco, and a concert ticket. It all has to go on the 0%, cash-back credit card and be paid out of later paychecks because of the debt payment…but I just wasn’t willing to not make this trip.

Food: Well mint.com says $171. Hah! If only! Since I’m not yet tracking every penny (I am going to start in on that once I’ve moved, started my new job, and have paid off the student loans) I have no idea how much went out in cash that isn’t covered by that figure. I’m guessing that the real food costs for the month were easily $400 and that’s what I’m going to count here.

Misc: mint.com says $146. This includes a tax bill, the pharmacy, and some money withdrawn for cash spending. Seems about right.

Totals:

Money applied to debt: $2506.82
Money spent on everything else: $2481.35

Grand total: $4988.17

And…yeah, that’s more than came in this month, which explains the state of the credit cards, currently sitting at -$1794. (Some of that is reimbursable and — I’m reminding myself — all of it is at 0%, so <i>focus on the student loans</i> remains my plan.) A budgeting revolution is definitely on the horizon.

<b>Debt total: -$6834, a change of +$870 from last month

Net worth total: -$3343, a change of +$1177 from last month</b>

This being honest with yourself financially thing is exhausting! So much math!

The Stupidity Tax

I forget where I got this term from, but it is meaningful in my life. It’s the phrase I use when I wind up paying a fee I shouldn’t have, or paying more for something than I should have because I didn’t do enough research.

In this case it’s (ANOTHER) $20 parking ticket. I just had one last week! They’re both from forgetting to check the street cleaning signs to see where I could/couldn’t park. I did this twice when I first moved here, and then vowed “never again” — and kept that vow until last week when I didn’t check, and today when I didn’t check. I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind, but I’m just so mad at myself for being so flaky. This is $40 I definitely could have spent in better ways.

Including the $20 bill I dropped somewhere on the ground at the farmer’s market earlier this year, I think this brings the stupidity tax total for the year to $60 (two parking tickets, one lost $20). I suppose in the grand scheme of things it could be worse, but…still.

The worst is that I know they do not need to “street clean” this often and it’s not even clear they *do* street cleaning. I think it’s mostly a convenient way to raise a lot of revenue that the city then doesn’t have to get from other sources who would be even less happy about it (businesses, income taxes.) This way the burden falls most heavily not on the richest, but on the dumbest.

Including yours truly, I guess. Sigh.

Weekly update: false uglification

The numbers look sooooo bad right now on mint, but they will improve a lot by early next week (probably Monday.)

Spending, April 20-26:

Travel: $31.50 for a ticket to be used during my CA trip; $138 for plane tickets

Food: $75 — again a bit of a guess, since there was some cash for coffee etc here and there. Didn’t have to buy groceries this week so this was all meals out, drinks at a conference. They do add up, huh.

Phone: $178.62. This is literally for the phone, plus a month of the plan.

Car insurance: $53.50

Gas: $118.12 (reimbursable) (Most of this is for a conference I’m attending, a 10-hour drive away from home; this is a TON of gas, way more than I usually get in month.)

Stupidity tax: $20 (parking ticket)

Student loan payment: $2418.88 (KILLING IT, this student loan is no more — soon to be followed by its brother. Or, well, within the next few months anyway.)

Weekly total (without the student loan payment: $614.74, of which $116 is reimbursible, making the real total $498. This still seems like a lot — except for the week I pay rent, I feel like my weekly expenses should rarely be more than a couple hundred bucks — but maybe not. Maybe there’s always something; food is a constant, but something else, a utility bill, something I need to buy, is always coming up.

Payday at last

Of course it’s all going right back out the door 🙂

But the first thing I did this morning when I woke up was head over to student loan lender #1 and click on “Pay off loan.” I’ll give numbers in the weekly and monthly update, but this is just a short little note of cheering!

Also: I looked at the old repayment schedule. If I’d taken ten years to pay it off, I would’ve paid about $4000 in interest over the life of the loan. Instead, by paying it off almost a year to the day after graduation, I’ve paid around $300. (Have to add up the exact amounts; again, will do that later.)

So striking.

Single and sighing

This article is geared towards Canadians, but I still found it interesting: “Going It Alone: Retirement for Singles” (2011).

There were a few things in it that made me think about my own situation:

(1) It confirms my sense that there are tradeoffs involved. I pay higher tax rates and have higher housing costs than if I were splitting a 1-bedroom apartment. On the other hand, I’m not paying for children, and I bet that will easily save me the $250,000 the article mentions over the course of a lifetime. I could see how it could be more — you need a bigger housing situation, medical care, school stuff, clothes, food, and then eventually college plus, if they’re anything like I am myself, they then need financial help while they figure out what they’re doing in their adult lives!

(2) It reminded me that nothing is certain. The sisters they interviewed had both been married; then one was divorced and one was widowed and they were right back where they started! Even if I were married, the odds would have to be at least 50-50 that the other person would die before me.

(3) Yeah, I have to seriously get going on this savings thing. I feel (and am) so far behind.