Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Spending

Misc Income: $472.70
Refunds for the spa mystery shop.

General savings $495 (electrolysis, the future fund, the sunny beach vacation fund, etc)
Cell phone $77.70
Clothes $106.09
Entertainment $18.26
Food—dining out $119.99
Food—groceries $166.70
Gifts $19.99
Household $13.20
Laundry $6.00
Mystery shop expenses $54.90 (clothing shops--clearly, it's hard for me to quit this thing cold trkey)
Personal $25.91 (toothpaste, feminine needs)
Rent $687.50
Therapy $30
Utilities $29.77

Total spending: $1,265.01

New debt acquired: $3,750 My loan disbursement for my next-to-last semester of grad school.

Networth IQ updated as well (see sidebar). Another nice month, considering the loan disbursement--my retirement funds went up by another $1,200! Peanut and I also managed to do pretty well with our general spending and spent more on groceries than eating out, which is a positive adjustment.

The keeping of multiple spreadsheets is still making my head spin and I feel like things are falling through the cracks in terms of my reporting them here. But all the accounts are always balanced, so that's great.

And as I'm doing this, Peanut is setting up his first Roth IRA. I'm so proud!

September Recap/October Goals

September Goals

1. Build a new budget. Not done. The way my start date was negotiated, I won't see the full results of the raise until October.  


2. Use stuff up! Going well! I even got Peanut in on the game when I found stuff for him to continue using up. Next on my list is to get off all the mailing lists and stop requesting any sample that's free just because it's free!


3. Wrap up therapy. Done! I feel GREAT. Capable of handling anything, confident in myself and with a new respect for what therapy is able to do for someone.  


4. Explore and automate Roth IRA savings. Didn't look into this at all, since I realized my raise wouldn't be coming through.  


5. Check my 401(k) and Roth allocations and make any necessary adjustments. Nope. HR keeps insisting that they've corrected my address in all systems, but it still shows up wrong everywhere, so I can't make these changes. I sent a strongly worded email yesterday and will escalate if it's not fixed by the next pay period.


October Goals

1. Set aside some financial research time. I want to look into converting my traditional IRA into a Roth (current value is about $4,000, so I figure after the taxes it'll be maybe half of my 2009 contributions). I want to automate ongoing Roth contributions and rebalance my 401(k) contributions to get it out of company stock. I also need to fill out the Suze Orman Will & Trust kit, and finish filling out The Big Book of Everything. This will take at most a few hours on a weekend, I think, I just need to sit down and do it.


2. Build a new budget. I should be able to get that done this month.


3. Start looking for holiday travel deals. Not sure yet what my plans are exactly but I'll get a better deal if I start looking now.


4. Keep being super-productive at work, but cut back my hours. I've been staying late for a few weeks now and even came in on the weekend--transferring out of my old job, training my replacement, moving offices and figuring out what I'm doing at my new job take a lot of time! I am making a lot of headway but I want to remember that I have a life too and get out of the office at a reasonable time every day.


5. Set and stay within budget for the wedding weekend. My college boyfriend's sister is getting married in a few weeks, and I'm going. I've rented a car and bought a wedding gift. I already own several appropriate dresses (yay casual weddings!). I still need to book my hotel room, get a gift for the bachelorette party, find out the cost of dinner at the bachelorette party, and set a budget for miscellaneous spending while I'm there. And then, you know, stick to it.


6. Make some budget Halloween costumes! Peanut and I are dressing as the man in black and Princess Buttercup from the Princess Bride, and I need to get on making the costumes!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Suze Orman and Wills

In the most recent O! Magazine, there was an article by Suze Orman about nine small steps you should take with your money. Pay particular attention to number 8--this week, you can get Suze Orman's Will and Trust kit completely free, using the code in the article.
I just did this and will be updating my will this week. Even if you don't have minors to think of, you should too! The tales my sister is telling me of her Decedents, Estates and Trusts class (also known as Stiffs & Gifts) are enough to make me want to make sure the state gets as little as possible out of my (admittedly small) estate.

Monday, September 28, 2009

LinkFest Roundup

Some of these are old!
How to make great packed lunches for work at Dumb Little Man. I love taking lunch to work. It's expensive to eat out every day where I work (think $7 salads as the cheapest option). Peanut and I try to plan our lunches for the week on Sunday. We buy stuff at Costco (turkey, cheese, carrots, granola bars, string cheese, trail mix) and get the rest at the grocery store. Sometimes we plan to take leftovers every day. Really though, I almost can't get sick of a turkey and swiss sandwich with a pickle, salt and vinegar chips, baby carrots and a pear.
Optimize what Gmail has to offer, also at Dumb Little Man. I make extensive use of filters and labels in Gmail, but I haven't done many of the other things suggested here. I plan to do the multiple inbox thing in the near future. Do you do anything cool with Gmail?
Practical uses for a digital camera. These are GREAT. Some of them I've done (taking photos and videos when looking at apartments) and some of them I hadn't even thought of (take photos of your luggage while traveling so you can help prove it's yours). Somewhere else I heard a suggestion of using your cameraphone to take a photo of the ID number when you get in a cab, in case you leave something behind. I rarely carry a digital camera with me but I'll be on the lookout for ideas like this from now on.
How to make a Roth IRA conversion. I've been thinking for a while about whether this would be worth it for me. I need to crunch some numbers, but I think it would, plus it would cut the number of accounts I have which would make things easier on me. When I have a spare minute to think about this some more, I'll let you know.
An exercise for the person who loves to do too much. This two part series was really interesting and gave me a lot of food for thought. For example, some of the people I would be are:
1. a professional dancer (full time, performing, teaching, etc)
2. a stay at home mom
3. an arts and culture afficionado, going to museums and performances every night of the week. Maybe a reviewer.
4. a bookseller, with my own funky shop.
5. a perpetual student
I seem to have a pretty good balance right now of when or whether I can be any of these people, since what I want most right now is what I have--but it's great food for thought for if that's not your situation.

This Week's To Do List

-Monday dance class
-Thursday Burn the Floor!
-Friday book club
-Saturday dentist

-Library (return and pick up books)
-Bachelorette gift from Ricky's

At home
-Finish Rapture
-Begin reading A Fortunate Age (book club selection)
-Begin reading The Island at the Center of the World (borrowed from a friend)
-Look at sewing machine and see what needs to be done to get it working
-Yoga/pilates every day except Monday
-Pay rent
-Find a new doctor and discuss prescription change

-Homework (reading and some online work)

-Get office arranged and figure out what I'm doing
-Bring in tape measure and magic sponge

Ta Dah!

Checking in on last week's to do list:

-Monday: school
-Weekend: dinner/coffee with friend from out of town

-Library (return and pick up books)
-Bed, Bath & Beyond (wedding gift)
-Discount makeup store (need more concealer)
I ended up buying concealer from the drug store at full price. Saving $3 wasn't worth 45 minutes of my time.

At home
-Begin reading Gone with the Wind (book club selection)
-Begin reading A Fortunate Age (book club selection)
-Begin reading Rapture (book club selection)
-Begin reading The Island at the Center of the World (borrowed from a friend)
-Look at sewing machine and see what needs to be done to get it working
-Organize book shelves (maybe...)
-Yoga/pilates every day Not quite, but mostly good.

-Homework (reading and some online work)
-Check on registration date for Spring 2010 classes and graduation status

-Weekend: Go in to unpack and set up new office
-Clear off pile of work stuff off dining table (recycle, bring back to work, read)
-Wrap things up at the last week of the job I've loved for almost three years. Very bittersweet.

Peanut and I picked up a bookshelf and an iron for dirt cheap from a neighbor who was cleaning out his apartment after subletters had lived there for years. We organized all of our books and they look great. I feel much more at home now.

I also cleaned out my closet and took a bag of stuff to Goodwill. AND I went to the office on the weekend and cleaned out my new office, my old office, and the office of the person who had this job before I did. Note to self and everyone else--don't keep personal stuff at work. It's not safe (unless you can lock your office, and even then, SOMEONE ELSE has a key), you might forget stuff when you leave, and it's a giant pain to put onto someone else. I took home with me any scrap of paper that I would not be comfortable with someone else handling. I suggest you do likewise.

In addition, I've been decluttering bookmarks and will be posting a lengthy LinkFest sometime soon, which goes back embarassingly far. Also, to come--this week's to do list.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Combined update/linkfest

I've been staying late at work every night this week--whoa. Changing jobs is hard! I promised Peanut this isn't a permanent change but might last a few weeks--he's been so wonderful having dinner on the table when I get home, and he's made some really delicious stuff!

Tonight when I got home, my Burn the Floor tickets were waiting for me. Whoo hoo! And again I say, WHOO HOOO!

I recently discovered Daily Lit, which is too bad. They send you books a chapter a day via RSS or email! I'm sorry for ruining your productivity but I think that's so awesome.

Two posts that I'm bookmarking and reading very closely: Great Ways to Improve Your Physical Workspace and Three Great and Cheap Office Upgrades. I never really did anything with the office I lived in for the last three years--no art or anything. I didn't change things that I never really liked. I just sort of moved in and kept things the way they were, and I don't want to do that this time.

Not only that, but my new office is substantially smaller than my old office (like, one-third the size) but it has a window and a door so I'm not complaining. So I really want to maximize the space and make it my own.

How to minimize eclutter--lots of good points in there.

Speaking of clutter, yesterday I was putting away laundry and complaining that I need more hangers, and Peanut responded "Or less clothes!" Touché. So I'm going to try to do a closet purge this weekend. I've been slowly but steadily upgrading my wardrobe in a pretty serious way the last year so there's probably a lot of stuff I can get rid of.

And now it's off to do dishes and a bit of yoga before bed.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Philadelphia Library System will stay open after all.

To Do!

Inspired by QuarterLifeFinances' to do list, here's mine!


-Monday: school

-Weekend: dinner/coffee with friend from out of town


-Library (return and pick up books)

-Bed, Bath & Beyond (wedding gift)

-Discount makeup store (need more concealer)

At home

-Begin reading Gone with the Wind (book club selection)

-Begin reading A Fortunate Age (book club selection)

-Begin reading Rapture (book club selection)

-Begin reading The Island at the Center of the World (borrowed from a friend)

-Look at sewing machine and see what needs to be done to get it working


-Organize book shelves (maybe...)

-Yoga/pilates every day


-Homework (reading and some online work)

-Check on registration date for Spring 2010 classes and graduation status


-Weekend: Go in to unpack and set up new office

-Clear off pile of work stuff off dining table (recycle, bring back to work, read)

-Wrap things up at the last week of the job I've loved for almost three years. Very bittersweet.

Saturday, September 19, 2009



This is the sound I was making earlier this morning when I found out that I won FB's Burn the Floor ticket giveaway. I have so been wanting to see this, one of my best friends is a professional ballroom dancer and one of his dance partners is on Dance Your Ass Off, and he introduced me to some of the dancers from Dancing With the Stars and in general I love dancing of all types and I so wanted to see Burn the Floor but it just wasn't in the budget for a while.

But I won the giveaway, so I'll be going. And I'm beyond excited.

And it pretty much made up for the fact that our internet broke this morning, and our water shut off right as I was getting in the shower (which introduced a hilarious moment when Peanut reset our router and the toilet flushed on its own). I no longer care that I'm stinky because WHOO HOOOOO BROADWAY HERE I COME!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I got a full refund from the fancy health club, including the erroneous charge. My monthly credit card bill dropped from nearly $1,000 to a much more manageable and expected $300. And no finance charges.
I really thought I was going to have to start fighting people on this, so that's a relief.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am LMM's blog

Tyler Durden's Guide to Personal Finance.  I love it! Fight Club just went on my Watch Soon movie list, and I'm going to track down the book as well. I do not like violent movies at all, but Fight Club is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

mini linkfest

First of all WHOO HOOOOOOO! The New York Public Library extended hours at some of their locations until ELEVEN AT NIGHT! This is absolutely awesome. Previously, the most convenient branch to me was open until 9 p.m. one night a week and the rest of the week closed before I got off work. This is great!
See the list here.
Sadly, this comes at the same time as news that the Philadelphia Library System will be closing ALL of their branches due to a state budget deadlock. I hope they are able to avoid it!
Via Consumerist, Visual Economics details five ways to protect your personal identifying information. Also on Consumerist, seven free sites to track your personal information online. One that they leave out is Google--you should Google your name and common usernames once a month or so to see what's out there. You might be surprised!
Sort of related to that, I found out last weekend that I am likely related to a girl who has my exact name and who pops up first in many Google searches. I figured we were probably distantly related, but I mentioned it to my grandfather and he asked where she lived, and then said, "Oh, yeah! Our people come from there!" So we're probably not all that distantly related; we might be as close as third cousins. I am planning to email her and be like, Oh, hey, we've got the same name, and my grandpa has relatives in your town--any chance you're so-and-so's granddaughter?
It'd be weird but kind of cool for me to get a similar email.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I'm back from another whirlwind trip to visit family. Next time, I'm taking a full week; it does me no good to try to squeeze everything into a few days and come home exhausted.
I spoke to undergraduate students from my department in college, and even ended up teaching two classes! That was a lot of fun, and I think in a few years, when I have a little more experience under my belt, I will probably teach as an adjunct from the school where I'm getting my graduate degree. I really like public speaking, and I have to admit I enjoyed being something of a celebrity for a few days. I'm in it day after day so it can be easy to forget that I'm living in New York City, and my job is really very cool and something that a lot of people probably romanticize quite a bit. It was nice to be reminded not to take it for granted.
I came home to a wedding invitation for a friend, which I'm very excited about. I've been looking forward to her wedding since she got engaged last year. She's the younger sister of an ex-boyfriend, but she and I have stayed good friends. It might be a bit weird if my ex and his girlfriend are there, but not if I can help it. I'll have to rent a car and stay overnight (hopefully only one night) for the wedding, as well as buying a gift. I looked into taking a train, but there aren't any that go near where she lives. It'll be faster and cheaper if I just rent a car for two days and do the driving myself.
I'm catching up at work--my last two weeks at this job have officially started. Eek!
Side note: I just saw this article about a woman who's making a public decision to walk away from her debt after Bank of America refused to lower her interest rate below 30%. I'm typically a really big proponent of dealing with the repercussions of your actions and taking responsibility for what you owe, but her situation is very interesting and I sort of applaud her taking a stand against a giant corporation that refuses to deal with people on an individual basis. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Mystery shopping company has checked themselves. My shop will be accepted, all charges reversed and/or covered, fee paid. Way to go out with a bang, huh?
I've been closing accounts at other shopping companies as I get emails from them. I'm waiting on outstanding payments from two or three still, but I'm already seeing the benefit of not doing it anymore!
I was able to focus and get some serious work done today, which is great. I'll be able to leave tomorrow without stressing.
Now I'm headed home to Peanut, who may or may not be making me dinner as I speak. Best boyfriend/roommate ever!


I'm having such a scattered morning.
First, my ex emailed me over the weekend--yeah, the one who harrassed and stalked me for a year after breaking up with me, until I had to have my legal eagle father send a cease-and-desist order. I hadn't heard from the ex since February, but he just got in touch with me again and I'm furious and trying not to freak out. What is so hard to understand about LEAVE ME ALONE, I NEVER WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN? I don't even know what it is he wants, because I can't and won't give him anything. He's got a girlfriend, what does he want with me?!?!
The whole situation gives me a sick, scared feeling in the pit of my stomach that is hard to describe. My ex hasn't been violent or threatening, just persistent. He just won't go away, no matter how many times I told him to, no matter how many times I got his mom to tell him to, no matter how many legal letters he's sent. I haven't responded to anything personally in a year, and he still isn't giving up. That in itself is really scary. Then there are all the stories and anecdotes about restraining orders setting people like him off, and, well, I just don't want to die young and violently by his hand. Which seems extreme, but seriously. Someone who ends a relationship, then continues to bother the person they dumped for nearly two years isn't stable, so who's to say what he's capable of?
And yes, I've investigated getting a restraining order and the police basically laughed in my face. It's possible I could get one going a different route, but we'd probably sue him for civil damages before doing that. That's what my dad recommends for his clients who aren't being threatened, so it's what he recommends for me.
Second, I discovered that the fancy gym I was mystery shopping double-charged me, so I emailed the mystery shopping company to find out if I should dispute that charge with the gym or if they'd handle it when they reversed the correct charges for my finishing the shop. And I got a notice that I'm supposed to wait for 35 days from the date I joined before I cancel my membership. Except....NOWHERE in any of my paperwork does it say that. The scheduler emailed me a form that looks very similar to what I can access, and has the 35 day clause, but it's not in anything that *I* could access and wasn't in anything that she originally emailed me.
Now, this is about $400 that we're talking about here, plus a $110 shop fee, so I will be DAMNED if I'm held to something I had no knowledge of and no way of knowing. The scheduler has become hard to get in touch with all morning after she sent the form that does include the clause, and I'm dreading having to fight with her and her supervisor to get what I'm owed.
And last, stuff at work is exploding and I'm leaving tomorrow to give a speech, which I haven't written, and I'm overwhelmed and keep dwelling on my ex and the mystery shop instead of getting anything done. I need to shut off my brain--none of these things need truly immediate attention, but I just can't get them out of my head!

Monday, September 7, 2009


Things I want to buy:

Heavier hand weights (5 pounds, probably)
Great quality black knee high boots. Something that will support my arches, handle rain and snow and look nice.
Art or stuff for our apartment walls. They look so bare!
A new bed frame with a headboard
A handheld vacuum cleaner
A food processor

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I have a summer cold. It hit me last night out of nowhere. One minute I'm watching America's Got Talent, and the next I'm sniffling and crawling into bed early. And today I woke up with the full range of congestion, coughing, aching, sore throat and quite possibly a low fever.
I'm trying to drown it with water, Airborne and EmergenC. I just hope it's not swine flu!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


MentalFloss talks about 10 secret meal items at fast food places.
I can vouch for Chipotle (I order single tacos all the time; three is way too many for me!), Starbucks and Taco Bell. When I worked at Taco Bell we would constantly make up new items or discountinued items--the ingredients in every option are basically the same, so nothing ever really goes away. (For an explanation of how that works, this Onion article is ridiculously true).
The McDonalds Neopolitan milkshake is something I've never heard of (and I worked there twice!) but I am desperate to try it. OMG YUM.

August Spending

Misc Income: $2,739.92
Assorted survey nonsense, tuition reimbursement, flex spending reimbursement and returned security deposit.
Tuition Reimbursement $1,359 (this goes into the student loan repayment fund)
Returned security deposit  $1,102.75 (also went into the student loan repayment fund)
General savings $495 (this includes electrolysis, the future fund, the sunny beach vacation fund, etc)

Blow $8 (Starbucks)
Cell phone $93.57
Clothes $99.66
Dance Expenses $337.49 (paying off the last of the costume [instead of working it off] and re-upping my monthly studio card)
Dance Payment $165 (went towards the costume)
Entertainment $80.33 (movies, drinks, books—way over budget!)
Food—dining out $242.81
Food—groceries $166.70
Gifts $6
Household $10.50
Internet $16.98
Laundry $13.00
Mystery shop expenses $291.45 (most of which is the gym membership, which will be refunded)
Personal $61.47 (prescription refill, mousse)
Rent $687.50
Stupid tax $79.70 (a long-standing imbalance in my checking account that I finally got around to reconciling. I still have no idea what happened, but my records were that much higher than the actual balance, and had been for about three months. I poured over statements and couldn't find anything.)
Therapy $30
Utilities  $40.80

Total spending: $2430.96 –or really, 2351.26 when you take out the 79.70 that I just lost track of several months ago. This was an expensive month!

Networth IQ updated as well (see sidebar). A nice bump this month, thanks to the tuition reimbursement and returned security deposit. Also, my retirement funds went up by another $1,000--I'll take it! My goal was to have $30,000 in retirement by the time I hit 30, and if things keep going the way they are now, I'll make that even withOUT maxing out a Roth each year!

August Recap/September Goals

August Goals
1. Get my security deposit back. Done! I sent a polite but firm letter a month after my move-out date, and got the check with a handwritten apology a few days later. I knew my old landlord wasn't a bad guy.

2. Bring down the food budget. Yeah....not so much. Jointly, Peanut and I did pretty well, but I went out to eat a LOT this month, and that wasn't cheap.

3. Do yoga or pilates six days a week. I was pretty close. It's gotten to be enough of a habit that I feel like something is missing if I don't do it. Which is awesome. I've had really noticeable results, too, in terms of how I look and feel. My back doesn't bother me anymore—I used to always feel tight and sore from sitting at a computer all day, but no longer. I feel more flexible. I look a little more toned, although I haven't actually lost any weight at all.

4. Book a rental car for my planned trip. I've been working on this but none of my own prices have been accepted! I was hoping it would cost me $15 or so, but at this point I'm up to $20, which is half price—and it's still not being accepted. At what point will it not make sense to do this? That's a really hard question—my relationship with my mom is much better when there's not even an illusion that I'm dependant on her for anything, so it's something I really need to do to make a trip there go well.

5. Have another "use stuff up" time. I...haven't really been working on this at all. In fact, last night I looked at my samples box and thought, "Wow, I should do a 'use stuff up' mission!". So, um, I'll keep working on that.


September Goals

1. Build a new budget. By the end of the month, I'll have an idea of how much my $10,000 raise will translate to in real, after-tax dollars, so I'll need to build a new budget to accommodate it.


2. Use stuff up! Continued.


3. Wrap up therapy. As of last week, I have begun the "termination" process, though we didn't set an end date (I want to see how this trip next week will go). But I think by the end of the month, I'll be done.


4. Explore and automate Roth IRA savings. I don't want to deal with changing my direct deposit through my company (it was a NIGHTMARE to do so last time, and I just learned yesterday that they managed to get my address wrong three different ways when we moved, so I haven't been getting a lot of important mail).  I want to do this directly through either Vangaurd or Chase, but I need to look into it some more.


5. Check my 401(k) and Roth allocations and make any necessary adjustments. The 401(k) needs to be re-allocated—22% of it is in company stock! But I can't make any changes until they have a legitimate address on file for me (see above) so I'll just keep an eye on it and make changes when I can.