Tuesday, September 28, 2010

By the way

I am now Mrs. Peanut.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Wealth Watchers Winner!

We have a winner!

Cate, that's you! Check your email. ;)

Thanks to the other commenters for commenting as well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wealth Watchers Giveaway!

I was browsing through my to-read bookshelf the other day (yes, I have a to-read bookshelf, and not a to-read pile...is that bad or what?) and uncovered this little gem.

Wealth Watchers is the story of a woman who was a successful lawyer and generally financially savvy and organized person until a bizarre brain injury caused her to start making really bad financial choices (like buying every pair of sunglasses when she couldn't decide which one she liked best, or depositing one of those checks from the credit card companies for $20,000 with no memory of doing so). In order to get her finances back on track, she had to come up with a system that was simple, consistent, and most importantly, that worked. It eventually worked so well that she started a business modeled on Weight Watchers to help others.

What was her system? Tracking expenses, of course -- the single most valuable thing you can do in your financial life, in my opinion. In Wealth Watchers, she details her story and teaches readers her method, which is based on understanding how much disposable income you have every day, and making sure you spend less than that.

For a personal finance beginner, this book is accessible and friendly, not intimidating. The second half of the book is worksheets and a journal, to help you get started right away. One thing that she stresses is the importance of weighing each purchase. "Wealth Watchers isn't about never going out for lunch or always going out to lunch. It's an attempt to spend money with awareness," she says on page 106. She breaks down the importance of this awareness by adding up how much the "little" habits cost--$7-$10 a day for lunch is $2,000 per year!

Yet she's quick to point out that it's important to balance quality of life and savings in your financial life. Her family had a ritual of stopping by Dunkin Donuts on Wednesday mornings to break up the monotony of the week. Their weekly habit cost about $8, or $288 during the course of the school year. A family vote resulted in the habit being kept -- that $288 was worth it to them as a family. I think that's an important part of any personal finance strategy.

Now that I've read and enjoyed Wealth Watchers, I'd like to pass it on. My expense tracking system has grown more sophisticated than what the author recommends, and it works for me but it would be intimidating for a beginner to work with. This book is excellent for anyone who's just starting out, so I'd like to solicit entries for this giveaway by asking the question:

If you don't track your spending, what's the biggest factor that's gotten in your way? 

Leave a comment with your answer, and a winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, September 21. You can read more about Wealth Watchers here. (Disclosure: I've not been paid for this post and have no relationship with the author. I just got the book, read it, and want to pass it along.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy blog birthday to me!

Today, my little blog is three years old. See my first post here: I never finish what I start. Ha, except for blogs that is!

It is true, though, that I still have a hard time using up all those lotions and soaps that people always seem to give the fairer sex for catch-all gifts. And I do love me some free stuff.

At any rate, as you can see, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are at T-minus two weeks until the wedding, so things have been a little crazy around here, but I hope you are all having a LOVELY day on this, Little Miss Moneybags's third birthday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Only a year late

Best Buy will start carrying the Kindle, the Sony eReader, and the Nook side by side in stores. Finally! Who wants to buy an electronic gadget online that they've never touched? (Well, millions of people apparently, yes, but not me.)
If you remember, I bought a Sony eReader Touch last December for work, and I LOVE it. But I wonder if I'd have purchased the same one had I been able to play with all three major brands on the same shopping trip? My only experience with Amazon's device was a Kindle DX, the huge one, and I didn't bother to make a special trip to B&N to see the Nook (if I remember right, they might not even have been in stores for testing at that time, but maybe they were).
Anyway, cool! Do you have an ereader? Will finally being able to play with the different kinds in person make a difference in whether you get one?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stuff People Like

OKCupid did a comparison of their members' profiles to come up with cultural demarcation points across race and gender. It's ripe for abuse, but I think they did an excellent job with it.

See the full thing here.

I particularly find it interesting the things people say to describe themselves and how common certain things are among people to self-identify with a certain race. Overall, I actually found the results heartening -- partly because there are a lot of books (great books!) listed as things that inspire people.

Check it out and tell me what you think!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Linkfest! A short one

Merchants can now stipulate $10 minimum purchases for credit card use. Amex, Visa and Mastercard announced this first, and Discover has now jumped on board.

Applying the theories of Getting Things Done to your finances. I find that tracking spending constantly is such a help! Out of my head means it stays accounted for.

How to find yoga classes on a budget.

This weekend only: free access to ancestry.com!

We are now about three weeks out from the wedding and things are chugging right along. I am so looking forward to being done with it -- I won't know what to do with all my free time!

Non-Owner's Car Insurance

In advance of our upcoming wedding trip, I purchased non-owner's car insurance for us. We'll be renting a car for a week, and the cost of purchasing from the car rental agency is $223 for the week (that's the insurance ALONE). My credit card does provide minimal damage insurance, but that leaves us effectively with NO liability insurance, which is the most expensive possibility in case of an accident (the car rental place provides state minimum by law, but it's ridiculously low and would not actually protect us).

I'm just too nervous to spend a stressful week driving a rental car in a place I'm not familiar with to go that route. Some friends of ours have non-owners car insurance that they bought for a nation-wide roadtrip, so I decided to look into it.

For $196.70, Peanut and I are covered up to a million dollars in liability (plus collision, personal property, etc) for six months -- compare that to the $223 from the car rental place for one week! It's still kind of a sucky purchase to have to make, but it's cheaper than getting sued for rear-ending someone. After we're done with this rental, I'll see if we can defer coverage until we need it again, or cancel and get it pro-rated back to us. If not, well, it's peace of mind.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August Recap/September Goals

August Goals
1. Put together a trip to the Renaissance Faire. This did not happen -- I bowed out a few weeks ago, pleading insanity for trying to organize this. We went to a Renn Faire in Peanut's home state, and that was awesome. The New York one can wait another year (or someone else can plan).
2. Research private student loan consolidation. I looked into this again, and it just doesn't seem to make a good difference for me. We'll pay my loans off within the year anyway, so I'm just going to forget about consolidation.

3. Take it down a notch. I did pretty well on this. It helped that we went on vacation and I truly relaxed. It's amazing what sitting at a computer does to me every day, and how much better I feel when I don't!
4. Sun salutations. Total fail. I did do some yoga on Peanut's parents' Wii Fit, and it turns out I have excellent posture in some of the poses I wasn't sure about. Neat!

5. Get the trivial wedding details out of the way. Mostly done! A few more things to take care of, a lot of things delegated, and I'm seriously done caring about the stuff that doesn't matter. 

September Goals
1. Get married! Kind of a cheat, I guess. I could say "Get married in as low-stress a way as possible."

2. Have a wonderful, under-budget honeymoon. 'Nuff said.
3. Deal with all paperwork relating to changing my name. I'm not actually sure I can do this all at once, as I might have to wait on certain pieces before I can do certain other pieces, but I can at least gather all my resources together and get a list of what to do when.
4. Combine finances. Literally (bank accounts, health insurance) and figuratively (spending tracker, spreadsheets).
5.  Dump a pile of money on student loans. Once we combine everything, we'll be able to identify the biggest pile of money we can throw at our student loans to kick off the whaling on debt mission.
6. Update blog to show the new direction we're going in. A new look perhaps?
Not-so-new monthly feature: New Year's Resolution Recap
1. Max out a Roth IRA automatically. Underway!
2. Pay down at least half my student loan debt. I've paid $5,200 towards a ~$20,000 debt.
3. Give to charity. I have a Goodwill donation pile that I STILL need to take in.
4. Finish graduate school while maintaining a 3.86 GPA and turn in my thesis early. Done! My diploma is ready for pick-up the day after the wedding.
5. Read more than 100 books. Done! As of today, I've read 99 books and started another!
6. Cultivate a more positive attitude. Doing quite well right now.
7. Take the stairs whenever possible. Oh, please.
8. Seven minutes of yoga per day. Pshaw.
9. Develop a regular posting schedule for my "real name" blog. Still not updating that one anymore. I need to cancel and delete it.
10. Make less of an impact. Taking cloth bags more often -- we actually started to get very low on plastic bags, which we use for garbage bags. I'm also making sure to wash my grocery bags now!

August Spending Review

Last spending review as a single lady!

Misc Income: $119.55 (Pinecone payments, interest, wedding gifts of cash)
Travel $105
Gifts $40
Sunny Vacation $100
Student Loan Repayment $260
Wedding $280
Car $303

Total savings $1,088
401(k) $295.40 pre tax (company matches that at 50%)
Roth IRA $454.54 
Total Retirement savings: $897.64

Debt Repayment
Student loans $0 (Not as bad as it looks -- it just worked out that due to traveling, I paid in September instead of August, and I'll make a second payment in September later this month as well)
Cell phone $69.42
Clothes $85.90 (summer pants, socks, black flats)
Dance Expense $160
Entertainment $16.73 (movie tickets)
Food—dining out $292.07 
Food—groceries $156.03 (I don't want to talk about these two categories)
Household $22.29 
Internet $16.00 (new lower rate)
Laundry $5
Personal $7.11
Rent $722.35
Utilities $90.83 (our electric bill was almost $200!! Thanks, heat wave)
Wedding $223.95 (dress alteration, hair doo-dads, Peanut's ring)

Total spending: $1,867.68

Networth IQ updated (see sidebar).

My retirement accounts lost three whole dollars this month, despite my contributions. Ugh. Peanut and I just got back from the Midwest where we visited his family and they threw us a shower. It was a lovely and relaxing trip but we spent a lot of money on food.

I can't wait to do the next spending review -- I'll only have one spreadsheet to deal with, instead of two and a half (mine, plus the joint, plus Peanut's, which I don't really have to deal with but we do the accounting together so it does take a bit longer). Next time, it'll all be one spreadsheet! Of course, we'll also have just gone through the headache of combining them, but I'm sure it'll be do-able. Yippee!