Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moving list

  1. Give 30 days notice.
  2. Find new apartment.
  3. Tell parents.
  4. Pack everything I own. (Tonight, tomorrow, Saturday)
  5. Do walkthrough of new apartment including photos and documenting problems. Take pictures. (Saturday)
  6. Clean for moving in. (Saturday)
  7. Move.
  8. Cancel utilities.
  9. Start utilities at new apartment.
  10. Change address with USPS and everywhere else.
  11. Book moving company Peanut will be handling this one, yay!We ended up doing it ourselves!
  12. Clean apartment for moving out, do walkthrough with landlord/super.
  13. Get security deposit back.
  14. Get rid of a bunch of stuff. (while unpacking)
  15. Unpack, enjoy living with Peanut.
  16. Bulk up my savings with returned security deposit and money transferred hither and yon.

May recap/June goals

May Recap/June Goals
May Goals
1. Give up soda entirely. Ha! Ha! Ha! Yeah, right.

2. Yoga, yoga, yoga. Ha! Ha! Ha! Again. I think I did ok for like the first week of the month and then fail.

3. Get rid of stuff. Done! We took an enormous load of stuff to Goodwill and I also sold the microwave cart that was awkwardly taking up most of my kitchen.

4. Develop a budget for my trip home and stay within it. Done. Although I don't think we set a budget so much as decided to try to keep it cheap, which we mostly succeeded in doing.

5. Start looking for apartments but don't get my heart set on anything yet. Nope. Everything we saw posted was for June 1, and we don't want to be paying double rent. We'll start looking next weekend.

June Goals
1. Stay sane. I will have a lot going on this month, and I'd like to stay calm as much as possible. This means cutting out anything extra or unnecessary.

2. Keep trying to quit drinking soda. Thanks to my fail from last month.

3. Aim for more yoga and/or physical activity in general. Same.

4. Work on getting my job to help me pay for a trip home. This isn't as nefarious as it sounds. They're setting up a satellite office two hours from my parents home, and I was invited to speak at my alma mater (where my parents now work) but didn't think I could swing paying for the flight and rental car with two weddings coming up. However, if I spend a day at the new office to train them, I can probably get them to pay for at least half the trip.

5. Move! Surprise! Peanut and I will both be moving by July 1 instead of just him moving into my apartment. There are several reasons for this, but we finally decided for sure last night. I will be giving my 30-day notice today and starting to panic shortly thereafter. We haven't even looked at apartments, and of course I haven't started packing at all. I hate moving and am completely anal about it, so be prepared for lists of moving stuff to start showing up shortly.

6. Get an iPhone. The new ones are supposed to come out pretty soon! And there are rumors that AT&T is lowering the cost of the data plans for the 3G and 4G models by including texting in the data plans instead of having it separate like they do now (the first generation plans do include texting, and it's a huge savings!).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Disjointed update

All righty then.

Peanut and I are back from our trip down south, which was for him to meet my family and friends-who-are-family for the first time (most of my family--he'd already met my sister). As was no surprise, he passed their inspections with flying colors and we had a great, if exhausting trip.

Aside from the plane tickets ($220 each) and the car rental ($102 and change), it was fairly cheap. We spent less than $40 on gas, went out to eat only a few times, and even got free tickets to the Renaissance Festival. I got to drive a lot, got some sun and hot weather, got to hold a three month old baby, went through a bunch of old junk at my mom's house, contradanced (!) and got to visit with my grandparents, mom and stepdad, best friends and their spouses/families, both of my stepbrothers and their friends who I grew up with and even my dad (a surprise; he lives almost as far away as I do but drove down to meet me). I also had some sweet tea.

The trip was really busy--I packed way too much into it. But it had been a year since I was there last and I really wanted to see everyone and show off Peanut. It made me a little homesick, since I didn't spend enough time in any one place to get enough of anyone, much less get bored or have nothing to do. I might go back in September to speak at my alma mater, but we'll see. I also realized I have at least one (maybe two) weddings to go to this year, and will go home for Christmas, so it might be a little more financially prudent to decline the speaking invitation.

One of the very best things about this trip was that it sort of restored my priorities--I checked my email only TWICE in five days. I didn't check any blog feeds or anything else at all. My life felt much less hurried and harried, even though we were legitimately busy in real life.

As such, I've started harshly cutting out the digital clutter. I've unsubscribed from a bunch of emails, blocked a bunch of people who post useless things on Facebook, and removed quite a few blogs from my RSS aggregator. I only want to focus on stuff I want to read. Personal finance blogs seem to fall into two camps: advice/instruction (which often reads as pretty dry) and really personal (regular people doing regular stuff, messing up and paying for it, saving little by little like I am). I really only like the latter right now. I don't have debt, already know how to live within my means, save for retirement, and don't need to hear more suggestions for how to do any of the above. And if I have questions, I know where in the blogosphere to go.

I translated this into real life, too--my dance instructor wanted me to work this weekend, but I will be attending Book Expo America for my job. Could I still fit a dance job in? Sure, technically I could--the convention center closes around 5 p.m., and a job wouldn't start until 9 or later. Do I want to schedule myself that much? Definitely not--plus I'd have to go to at least one rehearsal since I haven't been to class in so long, and I am still catching up from being gone. I declined the job but I will start going to classes again next week.

I'm actually sort of torn about dancing now. I haven't been to class or rehearsals in almost two months because of graduate school. I've...sort of really enjoyed this time off. I have more time with Peanut, I'm not lugging costumes and smelly dance clothes around, I'm not grabbing junk food on my way to rehearsal or jobs, I'm not spending money on NJ Transit, I'm not getting home at 3 in the morning covered in glitter and running eye makeup.

But I've also gained about 12 pounds (yeah, no kidding!). I feel stiff and restless. I haven't stuck to any kind of regular workout or yoga schedule despite having this extra time around the house. I'm hardly moving at all. I miss my dancer friends. I miss the rush of performing, and of course, getting paid for it. I'm worried that I've missed a lot of new choreography and will struggle to catch up, and that I've gotten rusty on the old choreographies. I just miss the dancing.

I can't wait until I'm done with graduate school so I don't have to make these tradeoffs!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Final job situation update

The wait is over--the job is too entry level, and the salary is ridiculously entry level--10% LESS than I'm making now. I asked the HR woman what happened, and we figured it out.

Senior person left. Their job was open. Friend mentions to the hiring manager that she knows someone who would be interested in THAT job.

Time goes by.

Mid-level person is promoted into senior position. Assistant person is promoted into mid-level position.

Time goes by.

Hiring manager gets around to filling the open spot still in his department, remembers that friend knows someone, and gives me a call. Describes job extremely vaguely. Asks me to send in resume and come in for interview.

I read online job description (just posted) and go WTF?

So. No longer insulted. No longer headhunted. Happy to put this all behind me. LMM over and out.

Updates

Thing the first: Why have my bookclubs started costing me money?! I used to be able to get all my books for free through Paperbackswap or the library, but the last several picks have not been available that way so I've had to pay for them. This is not in the budget!

Thing the second: I've not yet discussed salary with HR at the potential new company, but I left a message and hopefully they'll call me back today. My number is high--30% higher than what I'm making right now. It's not at all likely since the position is apparently even more entry level than I was led to believe by my friend and the hiring manager, but frankly, that's how much they would need to pay me for me to move right now. PLUS the tuition reimbursement.

I wasn't looking for a job--I have a job, and one that I like. I don't want the hassles of moving, starting a new job, and taking a summer intensive in the next month without some serious compensation. I don't want to be still learning a new job while I'm trying to write a thesis.

I don't want to waste anyone's time by interviewing for a job that's too far below me, but I feel weird about canceling it now. I'm sort of hoping that either my salary requirement will end the discussion, or they'll offer the job to someone else before my interview next week. Is this the wussy way out? I'm not sure, but it's possible.

I don't want to make my friend look bad by flaking (two people have done that to me, so I don't recommend or tell anyone about openings anymore) but she seriously underplayed my skills and experience. To the point that I'm almost a little insulted--I've been out of college for more than five years, working full time for almost as long, with four and a half years worth of experience directly related to that department. And she recommends me for a coordinator position?! One of my references pointed out that I shouldn't be looking for anything less than manager at this point, and I think she's right.

This is also a learning experience for me--don't trust what someone tells you is open somewhere in their company unless it's a job they deal with on a regular basis.

Thing the third: Peanut and I are taking off tomorrow to visit my family down south. I'm excited and will probably be pretty scarce around here and the blogosphere in general. Hope your weekend is as great as mine!

Thing the fourth: I decided to get the iPhone after all. I'm going to wait until the end of June in case they announce a new one at the Worldwide Developer's Conference. If they do, I'm not sure yet whether I'll go with the brand new shiny one or try to snag a 3G for cheap. We'll see. My Palm will go to my sister.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spoke to HR

and they want my salary requirements before I go in for the interview--ie, TODAY!

Quick, I need salary negotiation advice!

I've done some research but I'm still not entirely sure how entry-level this position is considered, which makes a difference. I have a number in mind which I absolutely will not go below, and a higher number that I'd be thrilled to get (and of course, an even higher number which I'd LOVE to get, but doesn't seem realistic). My middle number seems realistic for the position and my experience...I think. It's about 16% more than I'm making right now. How do I express this? As a range? Which number goes where?

I also will not move without guaranteed immediate tuition reimbursement of $10,000 over the next two years, or a guaranteed bonus that will net to that amount. Do I negotiate for that now?

Help, please!!

Credit card trouble ahead

In general, I am all for the new credit card reforms, which will limit excessive fees, eliminate double-cycle billing, remove fees for paying online or by phone, and other good-for-the-consumer objectives.

However, banks and lenders are now threatening to punish good cardholders (like me) if the reforms go through, by assigning annual fees, charging interest from the moment an item is purchased, and cancelling reward programs.

I pay my credit card in full every month (even in months when I have to put $2,000 in tuition money on it!). I have never paid interest. I've never paid a late fee. I've never gone over my credit limit. I use my card for a lot of purchases, enjoy the protection extended (like insurance on rental cars), and use my reward points for gift cards to restaurants. If they make good on their threats to make this business relationship less rewarding for ME, what will I do?

My first preference would be that they'd get rid of rewards but continue to allow interest-free purchases if paid off within the month and not have an annual fee. At least then I would still use my card.

If they start charging an annual fee, with or without rewards, I might keep my current card and continue to use it.

If they start charging immediate interest on all purchases with no annual fee, I will not use the card anymore, and simply keep it open to keep my credit history and use it as a super-emergency fund (on top of the one I already have). If they started charging immediate interest AND had an annual fee, I'd probably find a new card and cancel this one.

What will you do if the banks start punishing good customers?

Monday, May 18, 2009

I’m sort of being head-hunted!

A friend told me about an open job at her company, and said she was going to give my contact information to the hiring manager. I sort of told her ok, but I’m not really looking to move just now. I figured either I wouldn’t be qualified for the position or he wouldn’t ever call me.

Well, he called me. And I’m qualified, although possibly overqualified. The job sounds interesting—sort of similar to what I do now, sort of different, and with a smattering of the responsibilities I used to have (and have missed) from my first job. I have an interview next week, and I don’t know what to do.

I like my current job’s day to day responsibilities. I like the people I work with. I’m in school, with one year left to go. I promised myself at one point that I wouldn’t even look for anything new until I was done with school and had received all the tuition reimbursement I’ve been counting on. The layoffs have been stressful but at least here I have two and a half years’ experience with the company and I know that I’m valuable to them. I’m afraid that if I jumped ship and the new company had layoffs, I’d be first on the chopping block. I feel guilty leaving my boss and my colleagues at such a time of change. New company wants someone to start right away.

This is not about money. I’m not going to pit the potential job offer against my current company to try to get them to give me a raise. They’ve been laying off people right and left, there’s a hiring freeze, and we’re still hemorrhaging money each month. On the other hand, I could always use more money and this isn’t personal, it’s business, right?

I’m alternately talking myself out of the job and into the job, and they haven’t even offered it to me. I have a tendency to shy away from change and I’m very convincing when I do so. So I will lay it out here, readers. What’s your opinion?

Both companies are large, top publishing houses in New York City, with about the same amount of reputation cred.

Current job

  • Comfortable/content
  • Can afford my life on this salary
  • Enjoy most of my day to day work and colleagues (90%)
  • Feel needed and appreciated
  • Could be a bit more challenged (basically entry level position after 2 ½ years, although it’s been quite tailored to my skills)
  • Still a direct assistant to someone
  • Tuition reimbursement in progress (to the tune of $10,000 expected over the next year)
  • Close to school, with a boss who’s great about me leaving early for class
  • Not a whole lot of room for upward mobility—someone will have to leave for me to be promoted, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon
  • Would feel terribly guilty leaving right now what with all the changes. I’m sure I’d get over this, but I don’t want to discount it in the interim.
  • Stressful environment re: layoffs. I'm pretty sure I'm safe as long as my boss has a job, but not so confident that my entire department won't get shut down.

Possible job

  • A bit more interesting work, including some design work (actual marketing department)
  • Possible higher salary? No clue. Would not take for decrease in pay or even lateral move.
  • New, different, shiny.
  • Not a direct assistant, just general support staff (answering no one’s phones but my own)
  • Tuition reimbursement not guaranteed, though I’d negotiate for it
  • Farther from home and school by about 25 minutes
  • Possibly shorter hours, eaten up by longer commute
  • New kid on the block is usually the first to get cut in layoffs, right? No clue how this particular company seems to be doing in that regard.

The best reason I can come up with is new, different, shiny.But unless I hear that the position has been filled, I’m going to go to the interview. I’m also going to see if I can find out even a ballpark for the salary. What would you do, based on the list above?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Oy.

I keep getting notices to vote on my Vanguard proxy. I don't know what this is, and I don't think I'm going to do it. I'd LIKE to participate, in theory, but I'm swamped with real life right now to figure out what it means and how to do it. As an example:

Things to accomplish today:
Go to Costco.

Get rid of microwave stand thing.

Drop stuff off at Goodwill.

Call car rental place to find out how much insurance costs. Have a minor breakdown.

Call rental insurance company to see if they offer umbrella car insurance for people who don't own a car.

Call grandparents.

Call free magazines and cancel subscriptions (why did I think I would read Business Week just because it was free?!).

Cook, eat, and clean up after three meals.
Take a shower and put on clean clothes. Straighten apartment. Finish my book. Spend some quality time with Peanut. Quit freaking out.

Linkfest

Dumb Little Man talks about how to improve your business writing. I would add 4) learn and use your internal preferences. One company I worked for exclusively referred to the sales force as the Reps, another hated that and used Sales Force (always capped). Be sure to get this right!

I love the butler bag! I first heard about it a few years ago on the radio and I've wanted one ever since. I think I'd go with the Allure Hybrid in grey or the 2009 hybrid in red licorice. $200 seems like a LOT to spend on a bag, though. I know that's peanuts to people who buy namebrand bags, but I don't.

This "some veggies and bacon pasta bake" looks delicious! I got a recipe for twice baked potato casserole from Cooking During Stolen Moments which is to die for.

I really liked the things Holly realized when she started trying out old tricks. I've been reading some about mindfulness lately, and her experience is a great example of what happens when we stop doing things automatically and either take a break or examine our reasons for doing them.

Boo hoo! Escape Brooklyn has escaped, and is shutting down her blog! I really enjoyed her commentary about New York and wish her well. I hope she starts up a new blog!

Crunchy Chicken talks about preventing in-grown hairs by mixing up your own version of Tend Skin. I can't tell you how awesome this is--I love Tend Skin but it's ridiculously expensive so I'll be trying this soon.

All You Review

I got a free copy of All You magazine to review, um, like a month ago, and I haven't really had a chance to get around to it. All You is the magazine for Walmart, from what I can tell, available at Walmart locations or as a subscription.

I don't pay for magazine subscriptions but I rather enjoyed this review copy. It was FULL of coupons which I love. Some of the coupons are exclusive to Walmart, and some of them are manufacturer's coupons. The best ones were exclusive to Walmart (like free mascara!). There is no Walmart in New York City, and anytime rumors start up that one will be opening, people protest and picket and it doesn't happen. Luckily, I will be going down south to the Land of Walmart later this week, so I will be taking those coupons with me!

I'm not sure whether the volume of coupons is consistent in each issue--the issue I received was especially geared towards saving money. I would guess that coupons would be more prevalent than in many womens' magazines. One of the other things I liked about All You was that it wasn't trashy--I don't like Cosmo or Glamour's "16 Ways to Tell He's Cheating" and "4 Ways to Cheat Without Your Guy Knowing" type articles, so a magazine full of things about saving money was much appreciated.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

All righty!

I have officially paid off my summer semester in cash, in full, up front. With less than a week's warning. Yay me! I can't even imagine how stressful that would have been if I didn't have a) tuition reimbursement and b) an emergency fund.

I also got my grades back (A and A-) so I can file for my spring tuition reimbursement today. My GPA is 3.85 for grad school--not bad! I think I'm going to try to get As as a minimum for the rest of my courses to see how that bumps it up.

I went to see a press screening of Angels & Demons yesterday, and remembered something I think I forgot to write about before. I love going to the movies, and I love getting snacks at the movies, but it's so damn expensive. Peanut and I have been buying movie passes at Costco (2 for $14.99) instead of paying the regular price at the box office, which I think is $12.00 for an adult (!!!!!). I get to use my theater rewards card with the discounted tickets, too, so I still qualify for free stuff. But I recently discovered an option that's not on the menu at most theaters--the kidspack or child's combo. It comes with a small (16 oz) soda, a smaller-than-small popcorn, and a small candy, like skittles or something. And it's the PERFECT SIZE for me. I don't need a bucket of soda, or a bucket of popcorn, or those enormous boxes of candy that they sell. Everywhere I've found this deal so far it has been less than $6, which is a bargain when it comes to movie theater concessions. I've never been challenged or told I needed to have a kid with me to order it, although all the employees have to search on the computer to find the right button.

Give it a try! (I used to bring in my own food, but there's no convenient deli or bodega near my movie theater. Also, at press screenings, they search your bag. Also, you can't get movie theater popcorn anywhere else.)

Also, Angels & Demons was really good. I am not a fan of Dan Brown, and I didn't like the Da Vinci Code, but I was really, really impressed with A&D. It doesn't match the book perfectly, but it was entertaining and an edge-of-your-seat thriller the whole way through.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

success!

I FOUND MY THUMB DRIVE.

I have never been so happy in my life. I got it all updated and verified it against all my accounts today, and I'll be backing it up asap as well. Whew!

Of course, this would happen during a pretty busy transaction time, too--what with the giant school bill I have to pay this week. Annoyingly, my credit limit is only $2,500 so I can't actually put the whole charge on there--I paid $2,000 on Monday hoping it would post quickly enough that I could pay it off before Friday, but it doesn't look like that will happen, so the additional ~$800 will be coming directly out of my checking account. Boo--I'd wanted to get some crazy reward points. Although now that I think about it, I think my debit card has points as well, but they aren't as great.

Anyway, I'm transferring money all over the place and making crazy payments to my credit card to try to get everything cleared up before we go to visit my parents next week--we'll be renting a car and paying for gas and maybe other things that will require a credit card, so I want to have this all taken care of before then. Peanut has offered to help me out if I need it, which is wonderful. I don't think I'll have to take him up on it, but maybe we'll put all the gas on his card to let mine breathe for five minutes. :)

I got sucked into Apartment Therapy's Small Cool contest yesterday (which I'd been avoiding, because it makes me want to move AND spend money) and spent way too long looking at fabulous apartments. To give you an idea of my taste, these are a few of my favorites. Common themes: lots of books/innovative book storage, pops of bright colors, and tiny but very functional kitchens. It gives me some starting points to figure out what to do with my apartment or the apartment Peanut and I move into. I came up with a few ways to protect my feet from splinters (it's just mainly one area that causes them, but it's hard/weird to cover up) and a storage solution for the kitchen that won't cost any money and will allow me to keep one of my bookshelves.

Mostly what I took away by reading about the challenges the entrants faced was the fact that they had to make choices. They had to really edit down their stuff to what they love and have a hard rule that when something new comes in, something old goes out. I've been guilty of not handling this as well as I'd like, so I'm going to refocus and go through some stuff again this weekend. I've been weeding through my clothes on the basis of "do I wear this?" but I'm going to do it again asking "do I LOVE this?" Same with the many, many books I have (and I'm getting more all the time, since I'm slowly cleaning out my office in anticipation of getting laid off).

I started to do this at work as well--I cleaned out my desk this week, including a drawer that I'd apparently never, ever really looked into since I started working here two and a half years ago. Someone else's business cards! Forms that are completely outdated! What am I doing being surrounded by this stuff?!

So I threw it all away, or at least put things like extra pens and envelopes in the common storage area, rearranged the drawer to hold things so that it's easy to find anything and looks nice (or at least not like a junk drawer) and I've felt much more peaceful at work. My goal for the rest of the month is to spend 15 minutes at home and at work every day getting rid of or straightening things until I feel like I'm not surrounded by junk.

Well, I rambled on about that more than I intended. I do think it's related to finance--junk is weighing me down at work, distracting me from my job. It's taking up room in my apartment, taking up space which I'm paying for, going to waste or otherwise costing me money, taking room away from something I might love more. I'll donate a lot of things for a tax deduction and that's always nice. I'll probably talk a bit more about this as I keep doing it but I promise (I think) not to get all FlyLady on you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What to do in two years

I just found this post about things to do before you turn 30 over at 20SomethingFinance. It's given me some food for thought.

1. Start an IRA

I did this for the first time for 2008, but only managed to get $1,000 in it. I'd like to contribute again for 2009 but I doubt I can max it out.

2. Start an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund has been my #1 personal finance goal for the last 10 years. I now the recommended 3-6 months saved up (3 now, 6 when Peanut moves in and cuts my living expenses). I'm comfortable keeping it there for now.

3. Get your Employer’s 401K Match

I do contribute up to the match but no more than that. Ideally I want to get to the point of saving 15% for retirement PLUS an employer match but I'm not quite there yet.

4. Eliminate all Bad Debt

Never had any--when I graduate next year and have around $20,000 in student loans to pay off, I'll consolidate them and pay them down quickly. I don't intend to go into debt for anything other than a house.

5. Create a Monthly Budget Plan

I've been living off a budget as long as I've been working on an emergency fund, but over the last year I've started giving myself a little more slack. I set up savings categories (for travel, gifts, medical/dental expenses, insurance premiums and other irregular things) but I'm not being superstrict with what's left over. I used to be an envelope budgeter and get cash out at each pay period and use it for specific categories, and I don't do that anymore. If I need food, I buy food. If I need toiletries, I buy toiletries. If I want a magazine or a soda, I might buy it. I pay myself first and have frugal habits, so I don't feel a need to live with a bottom line in mind.

6. Set Some Serious Short and Long-Term Career Goals

This one could use some work. I will graduate with a master's degree before I'm 30, but I'm still in an entry-level position at my company with no immediate prospects for moving out or up. I promised myself I wouldn't really think about it until I was done with school, so I don't have the stress of writing a thesis and starting a new job at the same time. But I do need to figure out some goals and start networking with the idea of eventually doing something else with my life--three and a half years in this position will be plenty.

G.E. Miller's post reminded me that I need to be working on fleshing out some detailed goals instead of continuing to save without any real end point in mind. Do I want to save for a downpayment already? Do I want to save to put a dent in my student loans? Do I want to earn more so I can save more or spend more? Do I want to have an iPhone more than I want to achieve some other goal?

It's not enough to look at something and say well, yeah, I CAN afford it. I mean sure, I have money in the bank to go on a Caribbean cruise right now if I wanted to. But that doesn't display my goals or values--I DEFINITELY want to go on a cruise, but I want to save up for it, plan for it, wait for it, and then savor every last second of it. But am I saving for that right this instant? Nope. Why not? What else am I leaving out?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Updates

I did not find my thumbdrive where I thought it might be. There's one more place it's possible to be hiding in, but I won't be able to check that until tomorrow. I feel naked without it!

I called my school and found out what the deal was with the financial aid. Basically, you have to be taking six credits per semester to qualify, and I'm only taking three during the summer. There aren't any more classes offered towards my degree this summer, thankyouverymuch, but my complaint after that point wasn't so much that there's a federal requirement no one can waive but that I never got ANY communication regarding financial aid or even registration (I happened to log in out of curiosity to see when registration was open, to find out that it had been for some time. They never alerted anyone. GRRR). And then she told me to have my parents call in if I was upset about it. I'll have you know I remained perfectly civil as I informed her that she was speaking to (and dismissing the complaints of) the only person who was paying the bills and who had every intention of recommending (or not) the school to other people in the industry. Ahem.

So, the takeaway is that I'll have to pay $2,700 out of pocket by Friday, and I'll have to go through all of this again next year (my very last class is being offered only during the first semester of next summer). AND I will have to take two classes in the spring (in order to qualify for financial aid for that semester).

Luckily I have the money to pay for such an unexpected expense thanks to the tuition reimbursement I've already received. This development will lower my total loans by about $6,000, but will also lower the amount of cash on hand to make a huge dent in the loans after graduation. If I didn't have the money on hand, I'm not sure whether I would choose to take it out of my emergency fund (and replace it with the expected tuition reimbursement I'll get in a month or so) or skip the summer semester entirely and just take an extra class in the fall or spring.

I wonder if I would have gotten used to such nonsense if I'd had to deal with a financial aid office while in undergrad. Peanut and I were just talking last night about whether we'd put our kids through college, make them do it on their own or something in between. I vote for something in between--it was great that my parents gave me the gift of a college degree, but I didn't take it as seriously as I might have if I'd been paying for it, and I missed out on dealing with some bureaucratic bullshit that might have been useful for me to learn when I was younger.

*anyway*

In excellent news, however, I got the splinter out of my big toe. Someone wants a piece of furniture I've been trying to get rid of AND they're willing to pay for it. I somehow made an A- in one of my classes (despite making B+'s on the only two assignments I knew of) therefore keeping my standing as having an A- as my lowest grade in graduate school (I'm not sure what that makes my GPA exactly...maybe not 4.0 but pretty damn close).

And best of all, Peanut always lets me finish the chocolate milkshakes. I mean always--I can't remember a time he's made a shake and not made sure I get the last soupy bits (my favorite). That made up for everything bad that happened to me today, and also means that I am off to do dishes.

Random things

* I got a letter in the mail from my school on Saturday, notifying me that my payment for the summer semester (around $3,000) is due on Friday, May 15. Suspiciously, there is no financial aid pending, and a look around their (horribly designed) financial aid website shows none listed either. My paperwork from last year included a notice of distribution and had pending financial aid listed on the bill.

I'm going to give them a call, but it looks like I'll be paying this semester in cash up front. UGH! I have the money from last year's tuition reimbursement, and I guess it'll be $3,000 less in loans to pay back, but OUCH. That was unexpected.

* A friend of mine (who makes about 2 1/2 times what I do, for no visible reason) is thinking about buying a condo on the other side of the country, sight unseen. She's lived at home her entire life, minus an eight-month roommate experiment. I can't help but think this is a bad idea, but I also think that my perspective would be unwelcome, since it might seem like it's coming from jealousy. Is that possible? Yes, maybe. But I can be jealous and realistic at the same time, right?

* I have lost my thumb drive, which has my spending tracker spreadsheet on it. It might just be temporarily misplaced, but it's stressing me out anyway. I backed it up over the weekend, but I'd still have a few days' worth of stuff to update.

* I hit up a NY&Co sale over the weekend and scored three dresses and a top for about $70. Should've cost me more than $150. Yay for coupons, city cash and BOGO1/2 sales! On the other hand, I seem to have started shopping for clothes like I actually have a clothing budget, and that's not actually the case yet. It'll be paid for by mystery shopping money, but this is probably a habit I need to get out of. After next month's city cash sale, of course. :)

* I'm going to see Angels & Demons on Wednesday--yes, before it's out! Yay for friends in the press! I'm not a fan of the series, actually, but I like Tom Hanks and it's free. Free is well within my budget.

* Peanut and I are still talking about where to live. I keep settling on us staying in my tiny cheap apartment, and then something will happen--like we'll keep bumping into each other while trying to make a meal, or I'll get a terrible splinter in my big toe and not be able to get it out, and then I think, you know, an extra $100 a month doesn't seem like such a bad deal for a kitchen two people can fit in and floors that have been sealed at least once in the last 100 years.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Linkfest!

MoneyBeagle says before working towards your goals, know what they are. This is so true. I haven't defined my goals very well lately. I'm scattered all over the place--I want to earn more money, I want to pay off my student loans five minutes after I graduate, I want to be rich (how vague is that!), I want financial security (even more vague!), I want to never worry about money again (vague, vague, vaguer!). I'm working on developing some goals I can actually commit to.

Hmm. I'm also an underbuyer. I definitely say things like "I'll get this another time" or "Not buying this shows I'm not a consumerist sucker!" However, I seem to have gotten to a pretty good balance of not running out of things like toilet paper or hair products.

Hoo-whee! Seems like everyone's moving into studios with their boyfriends! I told Peanut that I love him but I don't think I could do that. He says we could. I don't want to try and find out. But it does make me feel a little dumb that we're not staying in my cheap-cheap-cheap apartment because I feel like it's not big enough (it's a true one bedroom, and we could probably get rid of some furniture (and *cough* books) and make it work. On the other hand, for just $100-200 more we could have SPACE! And maybe even an extra ROOM!

Well, more power to y'all who are doing it. I think I'll be pound-foolish in that case.

Ha ha--I never admitted that I did all the math wrong for our new budget, did I? Yeah. Well, I did. And I kept checking and checking and checking to see how that worked, but I was looking at my subtraction, not my addition. Somehow I gave us an extra $400 per month when adding our salaries together. Oops! We'll be taking another look at it at some point. We have the biggies worked out: rent, student loan payments, food. I'll have more room to have a small clothing budget and be able to contribute a bit more to retirement. Maybe I'll post it, maybe I won't.

Trent says you only need to earn $40,000 to be happy. I'm not really so far away from that, and I wonder if it applies in my own situation (living in the most expensive city in the country). I actually think my own number is a little higher than that, but not all that much. Perhaps that should be one of my goals as above--have a job within x years making x amount of money.

Update on my ethical dilemma: I exchanged the jeans, but not for the trouser jeans, which they no longer had in my size. Instead, I snagged a black pencil skirt (rowr) and a black ruffly v-neck top. I'm also now keeping a pair of black pants at work in case of future disasters.

Five tips to spend less at the grocery store over at Cheap Healthy Good. Great all around. I added getting a membership at a Costco or Sam's club if it will help you save money on certain things, like frozen chicken, granola bars, or whatever you go through like it's going out of style.

Mighty Bargain Hunter speaks out against the anti-credit-card feelings going around, and I think these are some great points. I also benefit from credit card rewards but don't pay any interest or any other fees, and I'm big on personal responsibility (understanding your rights AND responsibilities by reading contracts before you sign them, spending only what you can afford to pay back, paying back your debts in their entirety). I definitely support the part of the legislation that requires their practices to be disclosed in a way that any literate person can understand.

Mrs. Micah talks about how doing what you love won't make you rich. I'm not so sure I agree. Her case studies include jobs that are typically low-wage, as mine are. What about someone who WANTS to be a lawyer? Or a stock broker? Or some other high-earning profession? Believe it or not, jobs with high salaries ARE sometimes what someone loves to do. That they're paid well is just a bonus. On the other hand, if you happen to have a dream job with a lower income (like I do, in book publishing) that's fine. Just remember that riches aren't just dollars and cents. I'm making enough to support myself (which not everyone can claim--that makes me rich). I'm doing a job that I enjoy (not everyone can claim that either, regardless of what they're getting paid--that makes me rich). I'm doing a job that keeps me stocked in more free reading material than I can ever hope to keep up with--that makes me SUPER rich.

I've thought being a "transumer" is a good idea for a long time, but for certain things. It makes sense to me to share things that are rarely used, like lawn equipment or certain cooking gear. I prefer getting books from the library unless I want to read them over and over and over again (rare). When I owned a car I wouldn't have wanted to share it with anyone, though. Now that I'm not so closely tied to a vehicle, I wouldn't mind being a Zipcar member or something, but find it too expensive for what it is, and find that my need for a car is pretty rare anyway.

At WiseBread, I like this list of 24 tips from a couple married for 24 years, and how to recycle clothes, shoes, electronics and more.

I also pull my credit report every four months as well using annualcreditreport.com. The three reporting agencies aren't identical, but if I don't see anything that worries me, I just look at the one and let it lie. If I saw something I didn't recognize, I would pull all three (even if I had to pay for one or two) and figure out what was going on.

Happy Thursday, everyone. I still have a job so today is a good one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ughhhhhhhhhh

More layoffs today. We lost two key people from my department, two others, and rumors of more from other departments. My heart hasn't stopped pounding in hours. It seems like people are being picked off almost at random with no official announcement about anything. Just people crying in the hallways and offices suddenly empty.

I wish I felt safe at work. Or I wish I felt safe looking for other work.

I wish I believed myself when I tell myself that I will be fine no matter what happens, that I have savings and am not about to wind up homeless, that I will be able to find a new job when I'm eventually laid off too.

But I don't.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mini Linkfest

Living Almost Large asks are bulk stores frugal? I think it depends on how you use it. I share a Costco membership with Peanut and his roommate, and we go there all the time (Peanut lives only a block or so away). We get toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo/conditioner, movie tickets, soap (laundry, dish, and bar), ziplock bags, granola bars or bags of nuts (for snacks, since I'm always on the go). We've recently started getting pasta sauce, baby carrots, frozen chicken breasts (marinated or crispy), dental floss, and other food items. I'm leery of Costco--I want so much stuff when I'm there! I look through the coupons and think, Oh, I could totally use that airpopper/60 gallon jug of mayonnaise/17 pounds of frozen shrimp!

Luckily, we are able to rein ourselves in and really only buy what we need and use. Peanut renewed the membership in February, and within one month we'd saved more than the yearly fee just on chicken breasts and movie tickets alone. Also, I love buying toilet paper in bulk because that means you rarely have one of those "um...oh no!" moments.

So, my opinion: Yes, bulk stores CAN be frugal, but only if you have self-control and don't need to buy everything you see. If you can make a realistic list and stick to it, the membership fee is totally worth it.

I'm loving Stacking Pennies I Can Handle It post! I needed some of those reminders. I can handle it if I lose my job. I can handle it if I choose to leave my job before I planned. I can handle it if whatever happens!

Get Rich Slowly looks at The New Age of Thrift. I totally agree with JD on these thoughts: None of us wants to pay for the mistakes of others. When people make poor choices, they ought to face the consequences. Still, I’m happy to see so many people discovering frugality.

I don't like being lumped in with the blame of the current economy, caused both by general public greed and shady lending practices. I didn't spend above my means. I didn't buy more than I could afford. I didn't fall for deceptive offers. I've saved and couponed and budgeted. So DON'T BLAME ME, Redbook and any other media outlet saying "We're all to blame" for the current situation.

On the other hand, I'm glad that finally, I'm no longer getting weird looks when I say "It's not in the budget". I'm glad to see my friends waking up and trying to pay down their credit card debt. I'm glad to see people learning how to manage their money, and I hope these lessons stick around for a while.

MoneyNing talks about being satisfied and saving more money: Most frugalist I know asked themselves at some point whether he/she is missing out by not participating (insert your own activity here).

So true. A coworker of mine goes out for lunch every single day and spends $20-30 per meal. She's going out to eat with lots of people from my company and from others in our industry--she's networking and I'm a little jealous of that. I can't afford to spend $150 a week on lunches. And I don't feel like I can ask these people to lunch at the $7 salad place--but anyway, I can't afford even $35 a week on lunches, either. I bring my lunch to work almost every day--turkey and cheese sandwich (now on homemade bread!), apple, chips, and granola bar--easily a $2 meal.

I do feel like I'm missing out on connections with people in my company and industry by not eating lunch out every day. And the corporate culture doesn't support being a little alternative and eating lunch in while networking--remember, publishing execs basically introduced the concept of the "three martini lunch". But my priorities place living within my means higher than rising up the ranks by lunching. And I have faith in my ability to move up eventually--maybe not as quickly as my coworker, and maybe through different means. So I'll stay at my desk and rinse out my tupperware and focus on feeling satisfied with that.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I wonder how long this lasts?

I quit smoking about a year ago (mid-May 2008) and I STILL get wicked cravings for a cigarette when I'm stressed out. How long does that last? Forever?

I'm glad they basically doubled in price since last summer. Paying double digits for a pack makes it much more difficult for me to slip up, but I'm really surprised at how hard the cravings still are to fight.

Granted, they're not normally this bad and it's just the inordinate amount of stress I'm under, but still.

April analysis

Networth IQ updated (see sidebar). A $2,000 increase! All in retirement accounts. Finally!
Spending analysis

Misc income: $391.26 (mostly YouData and Pinecone payments, plus two refunds and a focus group payment)

Savings
$145 into savings earmarked for travel and gifts
Spending
Blow $300 (spa week services, a few books for book club)
Cell phone $81.10
Dance expense $0.00 (wow--I didn't go to any rehearsals or classes AT ALL this month!)
Entertainment $6.93 (drinks somewhere, I guess)
Food—dining out $158.30
Food—groceries $147.18 (we were cheap, cheap, cheap this month!)
Gifts $48.70 (Mother's Day, Easter, cupcakes for our anniversary)
Laundry $10.00
Medical/Dental $200
Mystery shop expenses $22.69
Rent $1,100
Therapy $60
Utilities $52.00
Personal items $50.36 (haircut, products)
Travel $438.38 (plane tickets to visit my family in a few weeks)
Total spending: $2,675.74
Once again, more went out than came in--but a lot of those big expenses (Spa Week, travel, etc) are paid for out of sinking funds, so I've not incurred any debt.
Overall, I'm really pleased with this month. We managed to lower our food spending by quite a bit (we're not entirely sure how we did that) and I was generally pretty cheap. It's helped, I guess, that there's been a LOT going on this month with work and school, but I'd rather spend a little more each month than live with the kind of stress I've been experiencing for the last few weeks (insomnia, bad dreams, lots of frustration with work).