Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Long live the 2.9%

Very slow reimbursement from both my insurance company and my FSA (because that's dependent on the former) and I was panicky because I definitely don't have $3,800. Enter the 2.9% that US Bank is still offering. Whew. It's the same deal I got in August and didn't realise amid the credit crunch that it was still there. Saving my bacon. Yes there's the 3% fee, but that's better than the 14% I'd be paying in finance charges on AMEX so we're good.

Now back to paying down, but April is way lost. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Well April is a lost month

I've given it up for dead already. Between the dental work, and some good value shopping this weekend, it's a dead month. All necessities and setbacks are normal, but oy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

$3800+ at the dentist

While I hope to get a chunk of that reimbursed through my dental insurance and some of the rest of it covered via my FSA, that still hurts.

What I'm hoping for...
$1195 reimbursed from dental insurance
$1979.28 to drain my FSA (damn, should have contributed more.)

Leaves me to cover: $625.72

I hope, if it all works that well.
I'm so done with all major dental work this year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

1.34 %

Amazing how such a simple net worth increase can make me happy

0.86% increase in assets. -0.87% decrease in debt. Don't think I could have made a better balance. 

Could have been so much better had this not been such a bad spending month. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Groceries:Redux: Your Grocer

As I said in the last post, the cost of groceries is a challenge. There's the temptation/draw of bulk purchases but the question of whether it truly is cheaper and then the efforts required to get the purchases home. I was looking through the Valpak coupons that we get periodically in the mail and I came across one for Your Grocer.

I was intrigued by the option of a no-cost warehouse and the fact that they deliver. However when I looked at a smattering of prices, they don't appear competitive despite the "savings" they claim. Just shows you really need to know prices, I suppose. Sure, it's cheaper than buying a 20oz every morning at the convenient store, but it's not as well priced as the grocery store and it doesn't appear possible to use coupons. 

Suppose it's back to the drawing board.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

what gets me is the cost of groceries

or at least that's what's hitting me this week. I went into Key Foods, one of my local grocery stored and was very excited to see Nabisco 100 calorie packs on sale 2/$6 and I nearly bought them. I called mom from the store to see if she'd ever tried a certain one -- and she told me she'd just bought them at 2/$4! So I didn't buy them.

I'm a big coupon clipper -- and because enough people I know get the Sunday paper(s) and aren't coupon clippers - I don't have to buy them. I use them, but sometimes I think I'm blowing into a hurricane! It's like the breakfast bars I like -- usually $3.99 at Duane Reade but they're almost always 2.50 or less by Mom or at Wal-Mart so even when I have a $1 off, it's still not competitive. I need to get better about monthly or at least bi-monthly trips to Wal-Mart -- $$ goes further even when you factor in the $6RT bus fare to Secaucus. 

I also need to look more closely at Drugstore.com for things that may be cheaper on there -- even when I can't use coupons. I think, however, it's a lot like Amazon in that it encourages overspending so we'll see. 

I'm going to make progress -- but this month isn't it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quick Post: Cost of Living

Found this very interesting cost of living calculator via Get Rich Slowly's recent post about Osage County, Kansas - which interesting made me think of a play that someone just mentioned.

I know New York is expensive, I know Manhattan is the worst, but I never realised how negatively it compared with other metro areas until a friend in Los Angeles was talking about buying a home and I realised what was available there.

I'd have a hard time leaving, but sometimes it's amazing to realise how much we over pay to live here. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Student Loan Payoff

Specifically the savings and the new end date. I know the "real savings" is a crap shoot due to inflation but that's a sizable chunk of interest saved and a time cut off. It's not precise. My overpayment amount could change, but it's nice to know there's progress to be paid.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train!
as a follow up to this post, I've been digging into how I can make that look less miserable. I found Karl's Mortgage Calculator, which was recommended somewhere. I put in the numbers I've been using and got the following:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fiscal and Physical Diet Starting Now

Both going well-ish. Been bringing lunch more often than not, although having a tooth removed also helped with that. Spring weather helps with the physical diet as I walk more, but then spring brings a more active social calendar, which, of late, have been somewhat pricey days. Am sure that will balance out in the end. 

For now, all of my tax refund is in my savings account earning ~ 3% APY. Not perfect, but better than the market crap shoot while I decide what I want to do with it. 

Made an odd cc payment today that should take me below the next 1K milestone. While I know it's all processed automagically and no one notices/cares what the amounts are, I find myself wondering if they think there's anything odd about amounts paid month to month.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Feb 2009 Spending

A good and bad month... 

Fast food is high because it's how I filed most Hawaii meals when I got sandwich, etc. to go. Student loan is truly $500, just last payment didn't hit yet. Restaurants higher than the were shaping to be -- a night out Saturday. Need to learn to account for credit card payments that aren't double -- i.e. accounts I'm paying down. Not sure how to do that, but I'll figure it out.

February Net Worth

is posted here. Not great, but not as bad as it looks. The tax refund helps, but the pending reimbursement for my dental work means the dental work is showing on my credit card balance because the one check I've received has not posted and I'm expecting a mid-month direct deposit of the rest, which means the dental work will be paid off before the bill is due. But in the mean time, they show in my credit card balances. I suppose it will balance out because my dental work Wednesday will then be on the card until I get reimbursed. Insurance reasonably speedy so I can't complain, too much.

Now that my paycheck has been right I can see the difference in my FSA. Last year's election: 200, this year's, 3000. Total difference in 2x/month paycheck? $50 or $1200/year. I think that works out well in my favor. It also makes paying for the dental work far less painful. Further, the fact that I'll use the bulk of my FSA combined with my 2K dental insurance limit on dental work scares me. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A good coupon day...

$6.75 saved at Rite-Aid - $3 on mouthwash, $.75 on toilet paper and $3 rebate
Total Spent: $12.72

$6.58 saved at Duane Reade - $4.58 on shampoo (Pantene on sale 2/$7 and coupon or $1 off 2 expiring today), $2 on razors. Plus 25 bonus points in addition to the 15 earned on purchases.
Total Spent: 13.22

All stuff I needed and on sale/with coupons. Of course I'm headed out to dinner so today won't be a total win financially, but better than nothing :)

That said, hate Rite Aid's rebates. I don't like the store and the rebate is such that it can only be used in store rather than Walgreens where you have the choice of cash or store credit, which comes with 10% bonus. My local Rite Aid is skeevy, skimpy stock and generally out of the way, but I had to go there to use the $3 rebate.

Good month cash wise, more to come on that in the next post once some pending transactions clear. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Atypical way of beginning fiscal diet...

Leaving gym and stopped at Hallmark (half-price Valentine card) and when I went to pay (and debated putting $2.81 on credit for points or just paying cash) I realised I didn't have my wallet. After a momentary freak-out I realised it was probably in my coat from last night. I got home, and it was indeed, but now the "need" to stop at Subway is aside for the moment. We'll see how long it lasts.

Calories burned: 350 with 33 min on rower and 15 on Precor. 
$ spent: 0

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fiscal and FInancial Diet Starting Now

While I'm actually semi-OK with the state of the emergency fund, I want to get more aggressive with paying down debt. I'm not OK at all with the state of my waist and I'm vowing to do something about that. Starting now.

I won't post the amount of my waist goal, but I will do for the fiscal budget when I crunch some more numbers. I swear that's all I've been doing in the last month as I was calculating watching refunds owed by my FSA. Ick. I really want to boost the emergency fund. I'm not worried about my job per se, but with the state of the economy, I'd rather have a bigger emergency fund since my consumer debt is 2.9% and 3.9% for life. I'm making above-the-minimum there because I want to retire them, but I think I need to snowball if I want them gone. 

Taxes are done and with my refund I'm going to replenish a recent loss on my emergency fund stemming from emergency car repairs, put a little more in savings, and then put the rest in my Roth IRA. Yes, refunds are bad, I get that, but I really am bad about calculating withholding especially as it relates to student loan interest, etc.  That said, my refund isn't large enough to retire a significant enough portion of the above-mentioned consumer debt, and I don't want to pay it on student loans in the event that something happens and I need it. 

So stay tuned... Hopefully.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Death by interest

No doubt an awful title due to some people's financial situation causing them to think death is preferable but seeing how much of my payment goes right to interest hurts. I'd never be making any headway if I was only making the minimum, and I don't feel like I'm making much headway now!

The 11/20, 12/16 and 1/27 payments are all extra payments. I'm still trying to figure out whether immediately after or immediately before the full payment posts is the best timing of an extra payment to have it hit principal the most (I don't have the option to apply it right to principal).

Total due: $60,149.28 as a pay-off amount. It's better than the 60,351 that was my pay-off amount at the end of December, but still. And no, I don't think I'm actually going to pay it off, but I use that in tracking Net Worth. 

And yet I'm considering going back to school in 2010!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

83 cents!

Got a letter today from Direct Loans and I was surprised, wasn't expecting any notification re: my consolidated loan. It was notifying me of a change in my payment amount. Previous payment was $382.84 and now it's $382.01 Whee, 83 cents.

It's fairly irrelevant for me, I always pay at least $450 and try to pay closer to $500 but it's good to know what "catch-up" I have to make in order to make it add to that amount. I honestly wish they'd take the postage, printing and labor costs that it takes to send all these notifications and just subtract them from the cost of my loan. It's NUTS that they don't allow you to receive e-notifications if you're enrolled in automatic debit.

On another note, sold back some books at Strand today and made $35. W00t!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fiscal and Physical Diets

Well to be honest, neither is going that well.

Had to buy lunch and dinner both days and went to a store because of an evil coupon *cough*Borders*cough* to buy things I didn't need but really really wanted. Books will always be my downfall. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Emergency Fund

At the time of writing, my emergency fund (in a Citibank Ultimate Savings Account, so fully liquid and accessible) is just north of $7k at $7,013. That's approximately an $1K increase in six weeks. While I think that's a good amount, it's well less than the recommended, which is keeping me from using that to pay down debt. On many levels, it doesn't make sense to do so -- credit cards are 2.9% and 3.9% respectively for life. Student loan is higher but it doesn't make sense to pay that down more than the ~$100 over the set payment I'm making already I don't think. 

That said, I couldn't pay myself first out of the last paycheck (expected due to holiday spending) and I'm not sure what the 1/15 check will look like with the change in FSA contributions. We'll see. We'll see. 

December 2008 Net Worth

My figures are posted.

Not great, but about what I expected. Fiscal and physical diet have started and I'm trying my best to make a list of payoffs to make and prioritize. Tax refund will make a dent, but not sure yet a) the amount b) how I'll apply it.

Here's to 2009 more in the black!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dental Max

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I found some unspent dental monies and since I wasn't eligible for the rollover (have to have $799 or less in claims) I decided to spend it poste-haste. Or rather put in a claim since it had already been "spent" and paid on my AMEX in August. Very happy to log in and see that a check has been cut for $673, the remainder of my eligibility. 

Debating where to put that since the root canal itself is on a 2.9% for life, which I've been paying down. I guess per the snowball I should put it at the 3.9% one, but I don't religiously snowball, instead pay over the mininum on both. Thinking about being better at SNOWBALL for 2009, or better yet throwing this as an extra principle paydown on my student loan. Decisions, decisions...

Christmas on Credit...

Yes, I used credit cards to pay for Christmas gifts this season. However, as soon as a payment scheduled for 1/08 posts to my Amazon Visa, Christmas will be paid off!

I won't use cash -- I like the benefits of rewards and purchase protection, plus I don't like carrying  a lot of cash. But I also will not have paid a cent of interest on Christmas. On the plus side, I also pre-emptively paid for Feb's flight to Oahu out of my Cancun funds, which I used less than one third.

I think this is closing out 2008 on a good note. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back on track...

I think... Or at least back to actual time to read and post. I checked the balance of my dental claims and realized I had ~$600 unused that I can't roll over. Without any trouble, I was able to get the paperwork for an August root canal that I hadn't submitted because I was "saving" the insurance reimbursement for the planned crown. Since all will happen after January 1, this wasn't an issue. So this should be good. 

I have to turn in my FSA form tomorrow and I think I've decided the contribution amount. Or I thought I had until I started re-obsessing over it today. I have an idea that I should put in $3300 and somehow split the crown payments between the card connected with my FSA and my credit card. Therefore I can be reimbursed by insurance for some without fully burning through my FSA funds. I'm afraid to fund the FSA with the full estimated cost of three crowns in the event that it doesn't end up that hight -- but then on the other hand I know the odds of my escaping a year without some other dental treatment is slim to none.

Decisions, Decisions....

Friday, December 12, 2008

I yucking ate my yeef...

Which was essentially what I said a few years ago while undergoing root canal on a bottom molar. I have AWFUL teeth. Case in point, that root canal is currently being retreated along with one on an adjacent tooth. Not to be left out, the tooth on the other side also decided it needed a root canal. Needless to say I am far above the $800 max in claims to be eligible for the dental rollover. I thought I'd get one of the crowns started this year so had been saving the $850 I had left of the $2000 eligibility for that. That isn't going to happen so instead I'm getting statements of services rendered that I hadn't submitted to use up the difference.

This was also exacerbated last week when the crown on the second molar from the right on the bottom broke while eating... an M&M. Perhaps that was my diet's way of telling me I shouldn't eat that. I got an emergency appointment earlier this week and a dentist reattached it. It lasted all of two days when, I think, the clamp from the root canal the specialist was finishing, knocked the crown off. Oops. So another appointment Tuesday. Because this crown broke as well as the one on the adjacent tooth (which had already broken twice before), I now know I need to get three crowns. Enter my excitement at learning how I can use my FSA. I'm going to use it to pay for the dental work that's over and above plan limits. 

Yes, I have $2k available in 2009 however crowns are covered at 50% out of network. I know the 30% "discount" in-network (although I looked at prices and it's not 30% because the out of network dentist is cheaper) and that it would then be covered at 60%, but I'm not changing dentists for the three teeth they're already working on. Maybe after the fact but I'm not changing mid procedure.

You know, it's not NYC rent that's killing me so much as my teeth!

FSA Open Enrollment

Yeah I've been bad, both posting and spending. Or bad about not spending. 

Cancun was fabulous and I actually came in way under budget there, which was good. Yay. Christmas shopping is over budget and I'm not done. Since I have extra in the "Cancun fund", I may put that money towards it since it's not earmarked for anything else. I also payed an extra $110+ toward the principle for my student loan, woohoo. Baby steps.

We had a presentation this morning from our benefits reps and I found it to be worthwile. The main reason I haven't used up my FSA contributions is apparently that I didn't realise how it could be used i.e. co-pays and uncovered medical/dental expenses. So now that I know that, and I know what the dental bills I'm facing are (more on that in the next post), I think I've worked out how much I'm going to contribute. I found this calculator to be great for breakdown of what the tax savings, etc. will be.

Plus they announced today the grace period until March 2009 to use 2008 monies, which makes me happy. I was not looking forward to stock piling OTC meds to use up the monies.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Behaving on Amazon.com

One of Amazon's downsides is its "related items" function which encourages the shopper to spend more than s/he wanted to on stuff s/he didn't need. I'm proud to say I declined all the related items and checked out with only the thing I intended to buy. Said item was $10 cheaper than it had been on Amazon earlier this week and cheaper than at any reputable online dealer, including B&N with my member discount there.

Sweet small victories.

Remaining to purchase:
Brother's Girlfriend

Taken care of:
2 friends

Total: $90

I'm here....

Life's just seriously gotten in the way of late. On the plus side, it means I've been too busy to spend money. On the minus side, I can't remember the last time I made it to the grocery store and have been buying lunch and eating out way too often. Eek. I'd like to say December will be better. The trip is pre-paid and I have a special fund set aside (included in the Networth) for the expenses i.e. food, so there is going to be a dip, along with that which will come with Christmas spending, so we'll see. 

I admit, as bad as it is, I can't wait for my tax refund to clean up some. In the mean time, the above could have been worse. Far far worse. That said, making a $450 (includes extra to pay down principle) student loan payment hurt but it felt so good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Emergency Fund

Seems to be one of those topics frequently discussed. Through college, I was luckier than some. I had an emergency fund, even though I didn't know that's what it was called, because my parents helped me and I used my work earnings to pay for what I needed. The first time I ever saw a real dip was senior year because I'd worked primarily unpaid during the summer and then traveled to London over Christmas. Still, I managed to get it back up. 

My first year overseas (working) I got my emergency fund back up. I also had my first moment of having to call my parents to help because my credit card had expired and I didn't have money in my bank account to afford train fare home. When I made the call for a "payday loan", my mom asked if my card was maxed. I was horrified. I had an ~10K limit, I couldn't fathom being maxed out. Not having access to credit hurt because I've always used it as my back up without it hurting me.

A 2004-2005 trip that culminated in a six-month contract more or less wiped out my emergency fund. Turned out to be a good thing when completing my FAFSA for grad school. Through school I managed to get my emergenct fund back up to a decent amount in preparation for my move this summer. I was happy.

Today, I'm even happier. Post pay-day and paying rent, utilities, and accounting for some upcoming payments: credit cards and overpaying student loan I made a transfer to my Ultimate Savings account that put me above $6K. Woohoo. That's not the that's recommended but it's almost six months of rent which ensures I won't be homeless while job searching should it ever come to that. 

I'm watching the Suze Orman show and a caller has a $1,200 payment for her car. That's more than my rent.

FSA: Open Enrollment

This post over at fivecentnickel got me thinking...

This year I deliberately under-funded my FSA, or so I thought, because I was only eligible from June 1 and didn't want to leave money on the table. However it's November 15th and I've only used $70.45 and that's with recent over the counter cold-medicine purchases. I suspect I'll have to go on an OTC spree at the end of December to use this money up because even the two remianing co-pays on prescription aren't going to use it up.

That gives me no idea whatsoever on how to fund it for next year. I've found that I can't use it for dental treatment because there's never enough in the account to pay it via the Mastercard that's connected to the account and I'm uncomfortable with paying the pill and then hoping to submit it to the FSA when there is enough in the account.

I've spent $4,310 on dental care since June, and there was more earlier in the ear pre-Mint. There's also more to come via Crowns. $1120 of that was later re-imbursed via insurance but that's not a good measure as I hope not to need three root canals and two crowns next year either.

So In short, I have no idea what to do but I need to figure it out. Oy.

Christmas Shopping: The Start

I'm in awe of those who are done, I just started today and that was by accident. I'm going to follow my model of how I shopped last year as I kept it reasonable and was happy with the results. My guidelines:
  • Nothing wrong with window shopping. There are some things you don't know exist to look up on line and others that you need to see/touch/feel in order to get a good idea of before purchasing.
  • I jot notes while shopping so I remember the title of to look it up online to see if there is a better price to be found. I also use it to jot down where I found the item in the first place in case the local price was better.
  • My favorite price comparison tool: Google Shopping, which I just searched for a DVD I'd found in a local shop today. I knew the price in the store wasn't competitive, but I wasn't sure that Amazon's was the best either. Turns out it wasn't, by far.
  • Also need to keep in mind Rewards. I have an Amazon Visa that gets me 3 Amazon Rewards points per $1 spent at Amazon. I got the card for the original $30 cash back and I don't shop Amazon enough. In two+ years of having the card, I still haven't gotten enough points for the $25 Amazon gift certificate so this card doesn't really pay off for me. Related issues for me: my American Airlines Visa gives me miles and I find those more valuable, however that card's annual fee is soon to hit, so I won't renew it. I may begin to use the Amazon card more often if I don't replace the AA Visa with something else, however I don't see this card ever getting much use as compared with my primary card, the SPG Amex, which wins hands down.
  • Don't over spend. Yeah, this one is going to be the challenge because I haven't set a budget. That said, I don't have too many people I buy for. Mom, brohter, grandma, three friends and a couple miscellaneous i.e. work and an as-yet undetermined white elephant exchange.  We'll see.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frequent Flyer Redemption, Etc

Whee, yet another very nearly free magazine subscription. I was debating whether to ask "Santa" to renew my subscription to the Economist. It *is* pricy but I read it each week and it's so expensive on the newsstand that the subscription, even if I were paying for it, would pay off quickly. 

THen I get a letter from Delta. Apparently my miles were expiring. Now I know these are of mixed value but I look at it as follows:
  • it's magazines I already read
  • I didn't know I still had these miles since I don't fly Delta much and hadn't gotten a statement in eons. They expire in December and I was advised by Customer Service that whatever happens with the merger and our miles, it won't be resolved by then.
  • These weren't enough miles to do anything.
  • No cash cost whatsoever
So decision made, I went "shopping". Results of my purchases:
  • Renewed subscription to the economist, 51 issues
  • New subscription to Sports Illustrated rather than buying at the news stand or waiting for friends to finish. I let this subscription go ages ago and missed it. 56 issues
  • Money, which I'd passed over in favour of Kiplinger's. 12 issues
  • Forbes, which everyone in the office fights over when it comes in, 26 issues
I think that was "money" well spent, will keep me well read for a while. I'm waiting on PC World to expire before I swap it for Mac World.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Toilet paper and FSAs...

As soon as I paid full price because I needed it and none were on sale, Walgreens has Charmin 6 double rolls 2/$7. 

Murphy's Law...

Luckily, they were out of stock so I got a rain check. Will get to use it before 30 days are up because I only bought a 4-pack

Also on a non-coupon note, why are cold meds never on sale when you're sick?!?


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Coupon feast or famine

I just purged my coupon file for all those expired at the end of October. We also happen to need toilet paper. I have one coupon -- a ridiculous Cotonelle one that is really only useful if you're buying enough tp for a college dorm. I've been to: KMart, Walgreens, CVS and Duane Reade--no one has any name-brand toilet paper on sale and it's one thing I refuse to buy generic.

I hate paying full price! 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Citibank Ultimate Savings Account

Meant to mention this in the last post. I know the Ultimate Savings Account is old news, but I was behind in my reading and didn't know about it until I got the invite from Citibank last week. Most of my emergency fund is in my Citibank E-Savings account, which I opened in late 2005/early 2006 when the rate was about 5%. Of course it had fallen but I hadn't had the time or energy to bank shop and deal with moving it. I like the convenience of everything in one place. I kept the old money market account, linked to my checking, open with $1 in it per their policy.  Now the same thing is about to be with the e-savings. I moved the vast majority to the Ultimate Savings Account and in the four days before the month closed, I earned $3 in interest. I like free money.

I'm also doing my end of the year chasing. Time to close my Citi AA Visa as the annual fee is due and it's not worth $85 to me to keep it open. I don't use it enough. I have the Chase Amazon Visa to use as a backup for places that don't take Amazon... and it's free. 

A good month (+3,065)

Well I actually did my Networth IQ on time and I'm pretty pleased with the results: September vs. October. Better actually than I expected to come out. Was helped in part to the re-calculation of my consolidated student loan but I also put a good chunk in the credit cards, which made be happy, and was partially reimbursed for a dental claim. But still, it's progress.

Generally been a good shopping week. I went to KMart for toilet paper and came home with an alarm clock, but that's another story. Been a crazy work week, which is why I haven't been posting, but hey that keeps me from spending! :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


aka $30.20 in almost six years.
I just had a look at that in my student loan documentation. While I don't think it's that bad, I think there was another loan consolidated in with "B" to make the starting point for "C", it looks as if I really didn't make much progress in almost six years. I did defer student loan payments while in grad school (the above is my undergrad consolidation) and did not pay the interest accruing at the time (hindsight: I know) but I didn't realise the non-progress it would result in. Oy.

At least that one still lets me log in, my log-in for Citi student loans no longer works post consolidation. Weird.

25 Frugal Things?

I was reading this post at almost Frugal and it really made me think. I don't have 25 things because I know I have a long way to grow. Some comments on her less-obvious things:

  1. I pay cash for big purchases like my new laptop. At least I’m trying to.
Well sort of. Apart from my emergency fund, I'm saving for Cancun in a separate account. While I'm not sure I'll be able to access the account due to Visa Debit but I know that if I do charge them, I'll be able to pay it off as soon as I return.

  1. I use MyPoints.
I don't. I used to. I don't like the spam. I do use e-Rewards and have joined Focus Forward after doing one survey for them and being paid $75.

  1. I canceled my last outstanding membership… to the gym.
This I won't do, especially with it getting cold and darker earlier here. Exercise is my sanity and healthy. I don't think it's that dire of an expense. I also think it would cost me more to get out of it. I think I'd find other things to cut first if it came to that point.

  1. I network. Not only have I met a lot of great people, I have made invaluable contacts which gives me access to good deals and opportunities.
Absolutely, and you never realise when those contacts will come in handy.

My own things:

  1. The once-a-month/six weeks trip to Wal-Mart has cut way down on grocery trips, a big money sink. I stock up on perishables when needed to supplement what I have.
  2. I'm not a fashionista. I'll wear clothes until they no longer fit and/or are totally worn out. Even on graduation I didn't blow a lot on new clothes, I did spent some of my tax stimulus on some needed new items but really, I'm not as bad as a lot of people I know.
  3. Self-pampering is in check. I dye my own hair at home-pedicures are a summer-only occasional treat.
  4. I clip coupons and am aware of online specials, i.e. Metro North's Web Ticket for multi-ride trips.
  5. I participate in rewards programs that reward me for purchases I already make.
  6. I consolidate credit-card debt to the lowest possible APR to reduce interest paid on existing debt.
  7. I participate in BookMooch and BookCrossing and the spending on postage is far less than new books. The urge to buy them is mostly under control.
Where I know I need to improve:
  1. "Fastfood" non-food. I.e. the soda on the way into the office (I don't drink coffee). PepsiPoints has made me realise just how much I drink.
  2. Impulse shopping.
  3. Bring/cook my own meals more often.

Starbucks Gold

the e-mail announcement of this new program isn't going to do much to help me kick the Starbucks habit especially since it's just started to get cold enough to really crave their hot chocolate. That said, I'm pretty good, or I try. I refill my Starbucks card (registered so I can get rewards) when I have the extra funds and try not to buy when I don't have that.

That said, in a sign of the economic times, the Starbucks behind my office closed seemingly overnight. It was there on Friday, I think, or at least Thursday and gone yesterday. I have to walk "all the way" to 51st and Broadway now. I'm actually surprised that one didn't close. Their service is shocking. Both are next to theaters. I need to try some of the others, apparently 54th & BRoadway, 55th & 7th (though I don't like this one). 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Officially consolidated

Welcome, xxx. As of today, October 21, 2008, your application has booked. Your loans were paid on October 16, 2008. The Direct Loan Servicing Center will mail notification about your new loan repayment. Contact Direct Loan Servicing for more information about your application.

2 months and 11 days but it is done. I haven't yet received my coupon book, but I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Belated September Net Worth

Debts $ Diff% DiffHome Mortgage(s)$0$0-Other Mortgage(s)$0$0-Student Loans$61,171($829)-1.34 %Credit Card$16,928$4,02731.21 %Car Loans$0$0-Other$0$0-Total Debts$78,099$3,1984.27 % Net Worth
($63,817)($2,543)-4.15 %

Nothing there that really surprises me. I knew September was a bad month. I've actually put a good dent in that and am now on the pay-it-down stretch. The dental reimbursement helped and it's good to know I have ~$800 left to play with that will go toward reimbursement of the crown when that's done.

I'm glad to have a set starting point, I really am. Glad to have a final number for the student loans instead of guestimating and now I'm able to figure out what I have to pay there and how I can split the rest of my pay to pay down the two credit cards. $16,000 is a scary number there but not an unexpected one. Given that it wasn't much less than that before grad school and I did have to lean on the cards a bit, I'd have expected worse if you asked me this before I started school.

I don't show the assets side of this because it's not accurate. I don't have my 401k or Roth IRA in there. I need to sit and be better with Networth IQ on a monthly basis, not two weeks into the next month.

A good money day...

Money-wise, today was a good mail day...

For all the bad things you hear about rebates, whether they're legit, whether you'll get what's promised, I got my monthly Walgreen's rebate pretty quickly. Mom actually told me she got hers a few days ago and I was bummed and wondering where mine was. And it arrived today $16.50 on the Walgreen's gift card (including the bonus of $1.50 for having it on the gift card as opposed to cash). Still a good deal in that I regularly shop at Walgreen's.

and for a few more dollars, I was reimbursed for the recent root canal.  Better yet, it took only one phone call to my insurance and it was for exactly what I expected it to be - down to the penny. Sweet. Only question is whether I'm using it to pay off the bill on my credit card (now transferred to 2.9 for life), use it on the higher 4.9 for life as a part of my overall snowball or use it for the next two months student loan payments. I'm thinking the 4.9 since it fits with the overall strategy and lets me re-allocate tomorrow's paycheck to student loan and the payment due on the 2.9.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I finally got the summary sheet for my student loan consolidation today. I'd applied for consolidation on August 5th, and I'd really begin to wonder with the recent melt down whether or not Direct Loans would remain in the consolidation business when most of the big banks and even Sallie Mae have pulled out.

I'm glad to know that in the two months and five days since I applied, my summary wasn't far off from my estimation. I knew I was around 60K, so 61, 171.51 isn't far off. I know there are rules of thumb for the amount of student loan debt you acquire vs. starting salaries and while I don't remember what they are exactly, I'm comfortable with where I am now - noting this approximately 25% undergrad remains and 75% grad school. Given the annual cost of NYU, I'm happy with how I came out. I worked through both years of school and had ~10K in scholarships, all of which helped. 

I love the repayment options they give, hope the formatting remains here. I've left off interest rate since that remains the same for all: 6.5% as well as initial loan amount because that is also a constant. I'm not sure whether there are any on-time, auto-pay incentives available through Direct Loans. There is also the income contingent plan, which they did not detail for me since I didn't select it.

Plan # Payments Initial Payment Max Pay Interest Total
Standard 360 $386.64 $386.64 $78,019.39 $139,190.90
Graduated 360 $331.34 $579.96 $79,767.04 $140,938.55
Ext. Fixed 300 $413.03 $413.03 $62,736.99 $123,908.50
Ext. Grad 300 $331.34 $619.55 $64,805.85 $125,977.36

There's something a little cockeyed there since extended should be longer term, but it's not. That said, I can see the benefit in just an extra $26.39 per month in terms of interest paid in the long term. There's a new car in the difference there! While I'm lucky (?) enough to live in a market where $140K is going to buy me nothing,  I can see how people would see this as a mortgage.

There's no pre-pay penalty and my plan was always to pay more than the minimum and have the extra applied to principle. Now that my 2.9% is sorted, this is my highest interest. That said, I think I know how much I need to apply to loan/debt-repayment each month. I don't have a pay off date, but I like having a plan.

Off for the weekend -- not driving and spending gas and wear and tear... I'm taking Peter Pan to Boston and then the T/bus.