On Let’s Throw Some Money at Our Problems: July 2014 Check-in

Oh man, this is the first check-in since like October when I can say that all balances on my credit cards are actually charges from this month! I'm like almost caught up! (I haven't actually paid any interest because of a promotional offer on my Citi card, so mathematically it doesn't matter, but psychologically it totally does. Citi card (0% apr until February 2015): 6/30 balance: $1,454.82 7/30 balance: $358.62 (in keeping with my goal of being under $1000 by this check-in. Overshot, even! Next month: pay it off.) Other cards: 6/30 balance: $250ish. 7/30 balance: $0 once I get credited for my zappos return! Car loan (some awesome low apr): 6/30 balance: $13,474.26 7/30 balance: $12,802.22 because I already made my August payment (I’ve paid down $9,189.32 plus interest since June 2012, and am on track to pay it off October 2017, a little earlier than the December 2017 date originally planned. However, once I hit my savings and credit card goals, this is next.) Savings account: Had some bona fide emergencies in July, so my emergency fund served its purpose and I'm back to filling it up to its resting place of $10k. 6/30 balance: $10,000.31 7/30 balance: $8,449.75 and adding $517 per pay period (every two weeks)

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm 1

On How the Other Half Lives

Yeahhhhh... there's a Jen with my same last name who often has people accidentally send email to jenn.lastname@gmail, which is my email address, not hers. For a few years I just unsubscribed and deleted. After I got an email a couple weeks ago confirming a landscaping appointment at her home address, I realized I knew her address, what was likely her full name, the age & name of her kid, and what kind of car she drove, and started to feel hella creepy, so I did the... probably even more creepy thing of tracking her down and getting her real email address (jen.lastname, of course, not jenn.lastname) and emailing her to let her know I'd been getting these and that I would want to know, were I in her place, that my personal info was being sent out. (She was happy to know it and not at all weird about it.) Mostly what I found weird about that was that she said, "man, I always emphasize that it's Jen with ONE n and nobody gets it right!" Maybe it's a regional thing but I feel like everyone always assumes it's one n wherever I go. (I am very particular about my second N. I can hear it if you pronounce my name with one n.) I hope Michael gets his car info!

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm 0

On America Runs on Dunkin' (In Secret Pools)

Oh weird! I... honestly didn't realize there were people who would pay to NOT go to the public pool (other than as part of a gym membership, which to me seems different as it comes as a package with many other benefits). I grew up in a pretty fancy suburb - in what's currently one of the five richest counties in the US, according to my hasty Google search - and everyone basically went to either the public pool or the pool at the community-owned gym. All the relatively wealthy people I know in my southern college town now also use the public pool or the one at the university (though I guess a few do have a pool at home, but not many). I'm not sure if it's a matter of local norms or the times or what, though.

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 10:43 am 0

On Taking a Year Off to Do What You Love, A Year Later

@j a y I can't speak for the specifics of Ester's situation, but since her husband works full-time & I assume they're legally married/filing jointly, this percentage is likely based on their joint tax bracket (that is, as a family they probably made an amount that puts them near this tax bracket), and also NY state has relatively high self-employment taxes which may or may not apply in this instance. Which is to say - it's plausible given these circumstances & geography.

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 8:06 am 0

On Taking a Year Off to Do What You Love, A Year Later

Yikes, and good luck! I'm pretty well-convinced I won't be quitting my job to do what I love anytime in the next 25 years, based on this summary, but I am glad it has been workable for you up to this point and you made more than the $0 you set out to make. I wish you and your husband the best as you both try to make it work sustainably. (If you haven't said before and are willing to share, what will your husband be loving to do?)

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 4:53 pm 1

On The Billfold ABCs: A is for AMORTIZE

Ah, good call. I frequently wish Mint, which I use for budgeting, had an easy-to-use amortization tool. Like: yes, I just wrote a $600 check for my CSA, but it provides 6 months of veggies. Let me click "amortize this [monthly] over [6 months]" and have it automatically show up as $100 of my grocery budget for each of the next 6 months without my having to do the math and split it manually. I'd like to do the same with my property taxes, which I pay annually, and my every-6-months auto insurance premium. Heck, if it were easy to use I might amortize the cost of my annual parking permit over 12 months, or the amount I add to my campus declining balance card weekly over the 6 weeks it is likely to cover, to more accurately show when I'm actually spending that money (even though it all comes out of my checking account at the beginning of that time). My understanding is that amortization can mean either ACTUALLY paying over an extended time or just doing the accounting to make the costs associated with that period match up with the appropriate period, regardless of when the money was actually paid (and that I'm doing the latter with my manual splits on Mint). It's a useful concept, especially when you can otherwise lose sight of very real recurring costs because they're invisible to you after you've paid them.

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 10:51 am 1

On Monday Check-in

@LookUponMyWorks Ugh, I disabled the unusual spending alerts. I already check Mint regularly so I would notice if there were something unauthorized happening on any of my accounts. No need to have it helpfully tell me that I just bought airline tickets or had a big medical bill, thanks. I'm aware.

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 9:45 am 0

On Monday Check-in

I estimated a very large sum ($600) but actually spent very, very little. It turned out the family didn't really want us to just go pick stuff up for the memorial service - instead they preferred that we just accompany them to various stores where they insisted on paying, and we ran some errands that didn't involve spending money. And then they fed us all weekend. So: I spent $1 at the airport parking lot one of the times I went there, $14 for two different caffeine runs for me and the dude, and managed to sneak in $15 towards a low-key Friday night dinner, but only because my brother-in-law went to pick it up (he refused the extra $20 I tried to slip in there). So, my total was $30. It was a surprisingly good, though very tiring, weekend. My husband's grandmother's memorial service was short and beautiful, and the overall weekend tone was one of enjoying having the family together. I'm very glad we were able to quickly cancel our plans to head up to my family reunion to be here for this - it was important, it was lovely, and it was actually fun at points. Plus, I think we were able to make it a bit less stressful than it otherwise would have been for my mother-in-law.

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 9:21 am 2

On The Year I Saved $10,000

@nnlsbin Yeah, I wrote out the long story of how I got to consistent $10k+/year savings but honestly, the answer is always going to be "earn enough money so that you don't miss $10k/year (or don't miss it enough to ruin your life, anyway)." I wish there were a more heartening answer, but if you're not earning enough to cover all your needed expenses plus $10k, nothing will get you there.

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 10:05 am 0

On The Year I Saved $10,000

I'm saving a bit over $10k/year now (our household income, which is just my earnings since my partner is in school full-time and not working, is $62k). All told, I just did the math and my direct deposit is set up to deposit $13,808/year into my savings account, vs. $31,200 into my checking account, which I guess means my total take-home pay after insurance, taxes, retirement plan, and health savings account is almost exactly $45,000 and over a third of it goes into savings. I realized a couple of years ago that I pretty much automatically adjust my lifestyle to live paycheck to paycheck based on what's in my checking account (not spending down to $0 in the checking account every pay period, but consistently down to where I feel OK about the padding, which for me right now is $800-1000). I can largely ignore my savings account, though, unless there's some kind of crisis or it's time to pay my property taxes, which shouldn't sneak up on me but always does anyway. But the bottom line is, when there's less money in my checking account after everything that's earmarked for bills, I spend less, without having to think too hard about it. Luckily for me and my money habits, I work a job with consistent paychecks and direct deposit that allows me to set up automatic deposits to different accounts. I started out wanting to save 10% of my take-home pay when I was earning a bit less a couple years ago, and I was annoyed there was no way to set the two separate deposits based on percentages rather than absolute numbers... though later this would turn out to be good for me. I was taking home about $1400 per pay period then, so I set it to deposit first $140 in my savings account and the balance, usually $1260, to my checking. Then I hit my first three-paycheck month. On those months, not only do I get three paychecks, but the third one is bigger than usual - there are nearly $200 in deductions that only need to come out twice a month, so I get most of that extra pay back. So that month, I got an extra $140 in my savings account but an extra $1460 in my checking account, which... disappeared pretty fast, honestly. I decided it might be better to set up a budget, pad it nicely, and make the first deposit be "half of what I need for the month" and have the balance go to savings, instead of starting with the savings deposit at a fixed amount and putting the balance in checking. This is where I'm glad I didn't have the option of picking a 90/10 percentage, because making this switch did actually boost my savings over time. I set it to deposit the first $1200 of each paycheck to my checking account and then put the balance into my savings account. So in a regular pay period, $200 went into savings, and in a 3-paycheck month, that third paycheck would deposit $400 to my savings account instead of $200 since all the extra went to the savings account. Then, the best thing happened: I got hired for a newly-created position in my department, which came with a $8,000/year raise, soon followed by an across-the-board 3% cost of living adjustment that brought me to a total of almost $10k/year more than I had been making at the beginning of the year. I was concerned about lifestyle creep, but my system made it easy to avoid. Now, I still got $1200 per paycheck into my checking account, but $471 per pay period went to my savings account, accelerating my savings rate. This also happened just before my partner quit his job to go back to school full time (making an emergency fund doubly necessary) and I swapped around my tax withholding to adjust to the new situation. The extra money I saved by upping my tax allowances is in my savings account, which means that if I turn out to be wrong about that and owe money at tax time, no harm done. I hope we can continue doing this and even add to it after my dude has a job. Not to be all David Bach about it, but making it automatic was the only way it was going to work for me personally (plus the all-important factor of having more money than we needed to live on, of course!). My dude has another 18 months or so in school full time, but also, he's always been great about saving anyway. Honestly, him quitting his job was one of the best things to ever happen to me financially because it made me seriously buckle down and think about how I was going to make sure we could provide for ourselves. I've always been pretty financially self-sufficient as an adult (thanks to a big head start in both habits and some concrete financial advantages due to my family - thanks, family!), but thinking about someone else depending on me to keep the lights on made me think about the way I spent money differently and helped me re-prioritize... I've never been great at saving or developing other habits just for myself, though of course that's the best way to do it. I should note that this is and has always been totally separate from my husband's finances. He's had $10-20k saved since well before I met him and is now paying for school out of that, and I'm just paying "living expenses" (he's a cheap dependent, doesn't spend much - him not contributing financially to our expenses costs less than $1,000 a month in "my" budget).

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 9:56 am 2