Wednesday, January 18, 2012

4 months post debt update + i hate listening to people who have more money than me bitch about their financial problems

so i paid off my last credit card payment on september 15, 2011.  then on september 17, 2011, i fell and broke my leg and had to take a bunch of time off work and racked up some medical bills.  go me.

regardless, my financial situation is still better than it was during my credit card debt days.  one thing i realized that i truly learned to do was to live within my means, something i had maybe never known how to do prior to making a budget.  during the last year or so of paying off debt, i really didn't even have to consult my budget because i had just changed my lifestyle and purchasing habits so completely that i knew instinctively how to stay within it. now that i no longer have to pay off debt, i find that i have extra money at the end of each month, and i have also started saving a significant chunk of my monthly pay for retirement which is kind of mind boggling to even think about.

here is what i am doing with my money (all amounts are per month):

income:
  • $3001.36 net salary
  • $1500 LRAP (approx)
expenses (most of these are approximate):
  • $1500 student loans
  • $550 rent
  • $467 roth 401k
  • $320 medical/health/physical therapy/medication related expenses
  • $200 new laptop (i put it on a 0% credit card and will have it paid off before the interest kicks in which will be november)
  • $150 utilities
  • $100 vacation aka "so i don't kill myself because my life is so depressing" fund
  • $85 cell phone
  • $75 parking (i hate this expense because if it were not for my damn broken leg i would be walking to work)
  • $61 auto insurance
  • $55 cable
  • $30 hair
  • $22 renter's insurance
  • $900ish: groceries/eating out/entertainment/car issues/personal care items/clothing/shoes/gifts/savings/donations/random emergencies/whatever
i should probably be more exact with tracking this stuff just so i know but for some reason about 6 months ago, mint no longer works with my credit union and i am too lazy to sit and type everything into the spreadsheet anymore.

i would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone with large hospital or medical bills to 1) pay attention to what you are being charged and 2) negotiate with them on your bills.  i got an $800 bill from the city of cincinnati for my ambulance ride.  at the time of my accident, ambulance rides were covered 100% by my insurance provider.  yet they billed me anyway.  if i were not so poor, i would have probably just paid it and not even thought about it.  but it turned out they were billing me illegally, even though they had already been paid by my insurance.  pay attention to your bills and compare them to your insurance benefits!

then, when i got my bill from the hospital, i did not want to just pay it in a lump sum.  i tried to get them to lower it but they would not.  however, they agreed to put me on a $30 monthly payment plan with no interest.  i might have been able to get the bill down if i had really argued a lot, or waited until it went into collections, but honestly my deductible turned out to be so much lower than i thought it would be ($1000!!!) that it wasn't worth my time and energy at that point.

and finally i would like to conclude with a rant.  i am fucking sick of people complaining to me about their money problems.  and by "people" i mean "people who earn and/or own so much more than i do."  my W-2 says that i made $44,468.80 last year, which is about $2000 less than i was supposed to because of the time i missed work due to my broken leg.  after taxes i brought home $33,837.01 in 2011.  i do not own a house or any property.  i live with a roommate in a neighborhood that scares a lot of people (dumb people, but still).  my car is a 2003 hyundai accent that is scratched up and has transmission issues.  i walk to work (usually).

i have not been outside of the united states since august 2008, when i went to mexico on a free frequent flyer miles ticket and stayed in a hotel room paid for by my friend myra's job.  as for non-international vacations, the only trips i have been on in years have either been paid for by my job and/or with free or reduced cost flights and/or with friends who have generously contributed to my lodging or meal costs.  i recently went through pictures from my law school graduation (may 2006) and realized that i am still mostly wearing the same clothes i was wearing 6 years ago.  my hobbies are meditation (free), running (free other than races/clothes, and totally free when you have a broken leg), and cooking (occasionally expensive but usually cheap).

until i started saving this month, i did not have any money being saved for retirement, and my non-retirement savings in total is less than $3000.  i do not own a flat screen tv or a stereo system or a bike or a dslr camera or a vespa or a video game system or a musical instrument or a wine/beer/liquor collection or a bunch of expensive shoes/purses/jewelry/watches or any of the other fun, costly entertainment items that it seems that everyone else i know owns.  i make coffee at home.  i don't get my hair dyed or my nails done or my body massaged.  my outdated, discount priced "smart"phone only works about 60% of the time.  i've never eaten in a four star restaurant.

i am not saying any of this to get sympathy or congratulations or whatever.  i realize that i am doing a lot better in terms of my lifestyle and finances than a vast majority of people in the world.  i am just saying it to describe my situation and to say that i am goddamn sick of hearing people who have way more than i do bitch about how they do not have enough.  i was just talking to a friend (a single mother of two who makes only a little bit more than i do) about this and it is on my mind.

if you just came back from a fabulous vacation or you just bought an awesome new car or you just spent too much money at the mall but it's really not that bad because everything was on sale or you own a wonderful house in a great neighborhood that you just love but you can't believe the property taxes or you make more money than i do but of course it's really still not enough, please do not complain to me about your financial problems.  it just makes me hate you (although the degree of hate does depend on how annoying you are in other respects).  that is all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I JUST MADE MY LAST CREDIT CARD PAYMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HOLY FUCKING JESUS CHRIST I HAVE NO MORE CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!!!!!!!!!

i just got an email from my credit card... my statement is ready and i owe $718.90. i looked in my bank account and i had $2,823.46, plus i have $1,000 more in my emergency fund. i have no big purchases coming up and nothing pending to pay. i got a bunch of travel reimbursement from work recently and i cut back on a couple expenses. and i was like FUCK ME I THINK I CAN PAY THIS OFF RIGHT NOW. and then I DID!!!!!!!!!

so right now i have about $3000 cash and my only debt is my student loans, which are at about $117,341. i have to go celebrate. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 goals and progress to date

so i kind of got off track in terms of keeping track of my finances but now that my bank is on mint it is going to be much easier for me. the good news is that i am still more or less on track with my budget even though i didn't keep track of it for a number of months which i think is really exciting and means that i have actually truly changed my spending habits.

my current debt:
  • student loans: $133,409.61
  • credit cards: $4027.57
so here are my goals and resolutions for 2011, both financial and otherwise:
  • run at least one full marathon. i ran 2 half marathons last year and have started training for the flying pig here in cincinnati in may.
  • learn about at least one new band per month and go to at least one live show per month. i am a joke among my friends due to how little i know about music and i think it is time i started to fix this. plus this is a fun goal and i like those.
  • go to china in the fall (and maybe also korea and/or japan). i have $1000 saved right now and will need to save $122/month through october to make this happen. also a fun goal.
  • pay off all of my credit card debt by december 31, 2011. at a scheduled rate of payment of $355.00/month, this should be achievable!!! i am about to crap myself with excitement just thinking about this so i will move on.
  • continue to pay off my student loans with my loan repayment money (currently i am scheduled to get $29,850 this year). corollary goal: don't get fired (my job has been sending out lots of scary "please take the buyout" emails and i think layoffs are coming soon). subcorollary goal: if i do get fired, get another job in nonprofit/government so i can keep getting lrap and not get fucked in the ass by having to pay the loans off myself.
2010 was overall a really good year for me both financially and personally and i am really excited for 2011!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

your questions here

please leave your questions in the comments. thanks.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

do your taxes online for free

if you earned less than $58,000 in 2009, you are eligible to file both your state and federal taxes online for free with h&r block via the beehive. i have used the beehive for 3 years now and it is totally legit. this was originally a service only for former americorps members but now anyone can use it as long as you meet the income eligibility cutoff. make sure you click on the beehive link above to get to the right place so they don't try to charge you at the end.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

new year = time to refocus on my debt

blogging about debt got kind of boring for me (obviously). i can't promise that i'm going to be writing much on here now but since it is a new year, i have been taking some time over the past few weeks to refocus on my financial goals and to track my progress.

since i started this project one year ago, i have paid off a lot of debt:
  • student loans: $177,741 in december 2008 to $156,466 in december 2009 = $21,275 = 12% of my student loan debt paid off
  • credit cards: $15,737 in december 2008 to $11,670 in decemer 2009 = $4067 = 26% of my credit card debt paid off
  • auto loan: $1,167 in december 2008 to $0 in december 2009 = $1,167 = 100% of my auto loan paid off
overall, that means that i paid off $26,509 or 14% of my total debt in 2009. i am excited!

over the year i learned to live within my means (mostly). i no longer have to run home after every trip to the bar or to dinner to put my receipts into my budget immediately so that i know how much i have left to spend. i have learned what it feels like to not overspend and i continue to do that. i drink cheap beer (and actually i drink less overall which is good for my health too). i eat smaller meals and take advantage of specials. i sometimes choose eating out over grocery shopping, but i'm allowed to do that so i don't feel bad.

over the holidays i went clothes shopping for really the first time in the past year. i have picked up a few things here and there (a bathing suit when i was going to new orleans, new black shoes when i wore out my old ones, etc.) but had not done a full shopping trip. things were getting bleak and i was wearing sweaters with holes in them to work. i waited so long because i was scared that i would go into a store and overspend and freak out. but it turns out i was just fine. i was shopping after christmas so there were tons of sales.

i went in knowing what i needed to buy and did not buy anything that was too expensive (i really wanted some awesome, fit me perfectly $99 seven jeans from nordstrom rack but resisted) or that was not something i loved (i said no to some cute super cheap $12 sneakers because i wasn't crazy about the color) or that did not fit me exactly right (i walked away from an adorable, originally $200+ marked down to $40 ann taylor gray and white houndstooth jacket because it was a little too big). none of this would have happened before. i was very proud of myself and i did not feel sick afterwards which is a good sign.

my financial goals this year are to continue paying off my debt and to continue to refine my budget. i have learned that i have to be realistic about certain things... while i wish i lived in a world where i was only going to spend $50 per month on household items/toiletries/etc., or that i never had to pay for big car repairs, or that i never had to go to the doctor, but i do not live in that world and i need money allotted for those un-fun things.

i have also decided that i am going to set aside $100/month for a vacation. i have not had a real vacation since i went to mexico in august 2008 and while i was going to try to wait until the end of this whole credit card paying off ordeal to do it, i have realized it is going to take me longer than i expected and if i don't have any fun in there anywhere, i'm not going to make it. where will i go? i'm hoping for hawaii in december 2010 and china/japan in august 2011. plans are in the works and i just have to get my finances in order. i am still aiming to pay off $5000 of credit card debt this year so budgeting is key.

happy new year to any readers out there. how did 2009 go for you? and what are your financial goals this year?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

eating cheap

if you read my other blog, you know that i love food. cooking and eating out. ever since i started my budget in january, i have been learning new ways to eat out cheap (but still eat well). here are some tips i have learned. i hope they are helpful.

1. eat dinner at home before going out with friends and then just get an appetizer

if you are going somewhere to eat out that you don't really care that much about, just eat something at home and then get something small. then you can still have the social aspect of going out to eat but will not spend a ton of money on a meal you don't really care about. also, by getting something cheap you will not make people uncomfortable by just sitting there sipping water with lemon while they all feast on steaks or whatever. it's better to be eating something i think in order to fully participate in what is going on.

2. take advantage of weekly specials and happy hours

in the past few weeks i have had half off fish and chips at rookwood pub, a $2.95 burger and fries at mccormick and schmick's, half price sushi at dancing wasabi, $10 all you can eat pizza at pizza night at take the cake, $7 burger madness at arthur's, and a $35 three course restaurant week meal at nicola's. there are tons of other specials out there too, in fact here in cincinnati pretty much every restaurant except the really expensive places have some kind of weekly special. and the places that don't are almost guaranteed to at least participate in the occasional restaurant weeks that come around.

3. become a secret shopper

a friend of mine tipped me off on this when she took me out to a $250 meal at jeff ruby's waterfront... for free. what you do is sign up on the website, do a few reviews of crappy places (she had to do smoothie king a few times), and then you get the hookup to good places. i have not done this yet but i am planning to soon. seriously, this is an awesome way to get some seriously good meals for free. the only catch is that she says the reviews take a couple hours to write, but still, it's totally worth it if you are willing to take the time to do that.

4. order off of the extra value menu at fast food places

i don't eat fast food much but recently i took a trip to chicago on the megabus so we stopped at wendy's on the way there and mcdonald's on the way back. at wendy's i got some buffalo chicken tenders for $4.35. this seemed expensive to me since i didn't even get a drink or fries. at mcdonald's, i checked out the extra value menu. i got a chicken sandwich and a medium fries for $2.80. even if i had added a drink this would have been like $4. much cheaper than getting the combo thing which was like $6. it is possible that this chicken sandwich was smaller than the regular one but i don't think so... i think the only difference was that there was no tomato on it. and who wants one of those gross anemic fast food tomato slices anyway... so not worth $2.

5. drink water

do you know how much money i save simply because i do not drink soda? i mean i even drink beer and wine and coffee and all that, just not soda. any time i am eating lunch out i just get water. it is free and saves me probably $1.50 to $2 at every single meal. i have never been a soda drinker so this is not a sacrifice for me at all, but if you are and you can stop drinking it i promise you will notice a difference in your budget.