Friday, May 28, 2010

Flexible spending!

I realized a few weeks ago that I overestimated my flexible spending for the year. I put aside $900 for co-pays on doctor and dentist visits and prescriptions but here's how it's looking:
  • Doctor co-pay I usually only end up spending this once a year at my physical, unless I get really sick with a strep or bronchitis. Expected yearly spending: $50 at most
  • Prescriptions My birth control pills run $16 a pop four times a year. Add in an antibiotic prescription just in case, and it comes to $80. 
  • Over the counter Say $50 for over the counter medications. 
  • Dentist The last couple years, I've spent a few hundred bucks at the dentist each year. Cleanings are free for me, but I've needed cavities filled and a few root canals and crowns. I expected to need another root canal this year, but I've been taking much better care of my teeth and it looks like I don't--which means I put aside several hundred bucks that now needs to be spent elsewhere. Expected: $500+; reality $0. 
  • Vision, therapy, etc. I'm done with therapy, I no longer need vision care since I'm still covered for yearly checkups under my Lasik plan. 
  • Total: $180 in expected spending.
 Eek!

As you may know, flex spending is use it or lose it within the calendar year so I've got to use it all up. Luckily, the plan I've got is pretty great about what it covers so here's what I got today:

$154.77 got me
Benadryl pills
Condoms
Eye drops
Sunblock for body and face
Tylenol cold & sinus caplets for day and night
Gas-X
Lotrimin for athlete's foot
A digital thermometer
Unisom sleeping aid tablets
Ace heat and cold compress
Band-aids
Dramamine
Breathe Right nasal strips

I was already well-stocked on Vicks vapo-rub, Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol, and Advil so I didn't go there. I missed out on a few things I could still use, like topical anti-itch ointment or cream (think Calamine lotion).

I've still got $700 to spend. What else should I get?

Some of the great things the plan covers are condoms, sunscreen, topical acne medication,  allergy products, bandages, eye drops, etc. Things that are NOT covered include dental care products (toothpaste, mouth wash), feminine care products (tampons, pads), toiletries like chapstick, moisturizer, q-tips, vitamins and supplements, and gym fees. I'll be checking with the dentist to see if there's any other work I can get done this year and also visiting specialists (dermatologist) and a general practitioner for a whole bloodwork routine, but what other OTC stuff would you get, if you were in my situation?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cost of changing my name

As I mentioned, I'll be changing my name after Peanut and I get married. I stumbled across an interesting post on a wedding blog--the economics of name-changing.

I can't quite figure out the costs for myself just yet. I'm not sure how much it'll cost to get a copy of our marriage license from the midwest state where we're getting married--shouldn't I kind of get that automatically? I hope I don't need to go in person to the courthouse, since we're not local. Note to self to look into this.

Otherwise, it'll cost me $12.50 to get me a new license (and I am DEFINITELY getting a new photo) and $75 to get a new passport. It shouldn't cost me anything to change my name at work or with any of my banks or insurance companies or anything.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rings and Things

Okay, well first of all, I found out how much my dress cost and I am horrified.

$825.

Plus I still need to get it altered a bit. I think I'm going to really need to consider selling the dress after this. Although it would also work for a red carpet event. So maybe I just need to work on getting invited to one of those.


(Yes, that's the stock photo of my dress there on the left. It's Maggie Sottero Cassia.)

However, my mother is absolutely over the moon and so happy that I picked a "real" dress that it's basically worth it. There's a lot else that she's not thrilled with and this gives us a compromise. And she paid for it.

Now, rings! Well, I meant to post a photo of my engagement ring but apparently I never got around to it, so here you go!

That's the Etsy special. I'm not sure why it looks so dark, but at least you can see the purple clearly.

Now, my wedding band is what everyone's been asking me about...and it's not the great story you're all hoping for probably. Basically, I wanted an eternity band with stones going all the way around, but I didn't want diamonds. While at the mall over the weekend, I wandered into The Limited, and they had an eternity band with cubic zirconia. It was $26.00 and they have a student discount, so I bought it!

The first picture shows the stones in detail, the second blurry one shows how it's still got a colorful sparkle despite being CZ. 




I probably won't wear both rings together as they don't match up perfectly well. I'll probably wear the band on my left ring finger and the amethyst ring on my right, or not at all. I don't feel like either of them will be the rings I wear forever and ever--when we're old and rich I'll probably want to upgrade to some heirloom diamonds or something like that. But for now, they represent me very well, and you can't beat the price--$83 for both!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dog Ate My Finances?

Aw, crap.

Someone threatened to out Dog while I was out of town, so I didn't get to respond to her query about whether we'd read a private blog. Well, Dog, I definitely want to keep reading you! How can I get an invite?

littlemissmoneybags at the google email and all that.

:)


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh boy!

Ladies and gentleman (do I have other male readers besides Peanut?), I
have a dress. A wedding dress. From a bridal boutique. It's...white.
And has some sparkles on it. Oh god. All the things I said I didn't
want. I know! At least it's not poofy.

I can't talk about how much it cost. Mostly because I'm not quite
sure--my mother bought it, which I so appreciate, but we had kind of a
crazy day and I left the salon without a decision, then called her
later and asked her to go get it. More to come on that but it was more
than I ever thought I'd spend, I know that much. We did get a free
bridesmaid's dress for my sister though, so that's awesome.

I also found what will likely be my wedding band, for the fabulous
price of $23. The rest of the week: family time, cake tasting and
flower picking. Like choosing. Oh, you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Combining finances

As usual, Red beat me to a wedding-related post and I'm dropping in my two cents later. This time, it's about combining finances. Red and D are keeping their finances fairly separate for their own good reasons. At the other extreme, Peanut and I are throwing everything into one pot and stirring it up good as soon as the paperwork's signed. Here are our reasons:

1. Simplicity. We've been doing the joint-and-separate account thing for nearly a year, ever since we moved in together. It's been fine, but it's a giant pain to balance everything and make sure we're using the right debit card for whatever purchase, and it's one more financial institution sending us junk mail. I can't wait to have ONE bank with ONE checking and ONE savings account and not have to figure out were we even on groceries for this month or does the joint account owe someone money for something.


2. Value. Peanut is paying off his student loans aggressively and as soon as I'm out of the grace period, I will too. By pooling our money and aggressively paying all of our loans in order of highest interest rate, we will ultimately pay less interest. We may only save a few hundred bucks, but hey, that's something. Also, I'm benefiting from the education those loans got him. And he's benefiting from the education my loans got me.

3. Equal partners. As I write this post, Peanut is creating a massive master spreadsheet that will serve both as a spending tracker and a net worth tracker. The way it's set up will require both of us to participate at least nominally in keeping it up to date, meaning that we will both be aware of our financial situation on a regular basis. I realize that we're a little unusual in both being so involved with our finances, but this is a set up that allows us both to feel like we're in control and also communicating about what we're doing. Since money is one of the major sources of contention in marriage, this will help to keep us on the same page. Sort of insurance, if you like.

This is a good time to address one of the issues that most people have for keeping at least some finances separate, which is that you should always have access to "cut and run" money in case of an emergency--like the husband beats on his wife and she has to escape. Frankly, I find this so ridiculously offensive it's hard to put into words. In a joint set up, I would be just as capable of freezing Peanut out of all of our funds as he would, and I know for a fact that I would not do it. I wouldn't do something like that even at my angriest, most fearful, and most vengeful point against my stalker ex, so I can't imagine a scenario in which this would possibly apply to my relationship with Peanut. I realize that the women in those situations didn't really expect that it would happen to them either, but I still find it offensive that I need protection money and he doesn't.

As to stuff like buying gifts for the other without letting them know, well. We've always discussed how much we spent or set a limit, so oh, well. We just won't be as romantic as other people (but we'll be rich! *cackle cackle*)

4. Preparation for going to one income. It'll be much easier for us to adjust to a single income later on if we already have everything combined and think of it as "ours" instead of "mine" or "yours". In fact, starting now it'll be as if it's all one income, and our goal will be to live on half of that income, using the rest to pay off student loans and then save. 

So that's covers the how of accounting--we'll be mixing everything up (one checking account, one savings account, one ING account) and adding one another to our credit cards. We'll be keeping track of expenses and paying bills together. But what about budgeting?

This is something we've touched on but haven't finally sorted out yet. We know that I spend more money on clothes and Peanut spends more on electronics, and that I go out to eat a little more frequently. We'll want to make sure we both feel like we can spend the money we've individually earned from our work without being resentful that the other person spends money on stuff that we don't think is as important. I also save for specific purposes and keep track of those sub-accounts (see my sidebars!) whereas Peanut saves whatever he doesn't spend and then when he needs to make a big purchase he does so. So I've got a "gift" fund and "travel to parents" fund and he doesn't--how will we reconcile that? He's not accustomed to marking funds for those purposes and I'm not giving it up.

So more to come on that in a future post!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Linkfest!

It has been a looooong time, since I've done a linkfest.

I signed up at FormSpring as LilMsMoneybags so if you've got any questions to ask anonymously, ask away! If I get enough questions, I'll do a post about them.

20 Something Finance talks about marketable  hobbies, the best kind to have! I have a mixture of the second two, hobbies that only top people get paid for (belly dancing) and things there is a demand for (mystery shopping). I read somewhere earlier this week that only the top 1% of dancers get paid to perform. That's amazing, because that's true for me. Very humbling, and it makes me grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.

QuarterLifeFinances did two truths and a lie--here are mine!
Personal
1. I have never gotten stitches or broken a bone.

2. I love scary movies, especially the gory ones.

3. My first piece of published writing happened at age eleven.

Finance
1. I have spent over $300 on a pair of shoes.

2. I once hit a jackpot on a slot machine.

3. I have never bought a pet.

I love this mantelpiece-as-headboard. Someday I will do something like this!

Interesting discussion over at Blogging Away Debt about how much people spent on their weddings. The range is all over the place, from a few hundred bucks for an elopement to close to $20,000. Our budget will probably be something under $10,000.  

The New York Times tells you how to give yourself a financial checkup. I really like the last section, particularly this bit: At its core, financial planning is not simply about money. It is about finding the best way to finance what you want out of life, whether that is spending more time with family and friends or traveling.

One Man's Blog details how he'd hack your weak passwords. I'm all over this! Stop using the same password for email and banking! Stop using easy to guess phrases as passwords!  He's got great tips on creating unhackable passwords--pop over and learn a few tips.

2Million talks about how 12% of people are expecting to cut cable and satellite TV in 2010. We don't have cable -- we just plugged the cable into the back of Peanut's monitor (which is also a television) and get clear broadcast stations and a few teaser channels from the company that services the building. We don't watch enough television to justify the expense, and honestly, I've only ever had cable when I lived with roommates who insisted on it. I don't miss it at all--and I'm glad to hear that more people will be giving it up.

Small Notebook talks about how to simplify your stuff by choosing the classics -- something I want to keep in mind when we create our registry.

J.D. tells you to ask for a discount instead of waiting for someone to offer one. Good reminder! We've been in our apartment nearly a year, and I wonder if we're getting the best deal on our internet service (our only non-essential utility). Next month I'll call them up and ask.

Electronic coupons are watching your every move online. This made me sad. I love printable coupons, but I cut way back on the ones I'm printing and I'll never do one of the ones on Facebook again. I'm mad at Facebook anyway, for their latest privacy "options". I'm almost ready to delete the one I have and set up a fake one with all fake information in it. The only reason I haven't done it yet is that I'm friends with my grandparents on there and I don't know how I'd explain to them why I "unfriended" them.

Also, I'm just putting it out there--pretty sure that May goal #4 is probably not going to happen. I got an unexpected graduation gift from my grandparents and I think I could use it pretty well on a few new wardrobe pieces. So, uh. Yeah.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Recap/May goals

April Goals
1. Book venue for ceremony/reception. Well, my rule was that this was the only thing I had to do this month, which helped. I booked the venue and paid the deposit. I’ve tentatively picked out a menu. We’ve finalized the guest list and are collecting addresses. I also booked the photographers and paid their deposit. I’ve started hunting for an officiant and a cake baker and have a couple leads on the latter.  I did some research into the requirements for getting a marriage license. And with my dad’s unexpected contribution, I now have the outlines of a budget.

2. Keep optional expenses low.  So-so. I did get a massage during spa week, but I kept my food costs lower than the month before.

3. Chill the freak out. I think there were no wedding-related tears this month! So I’ll call this a success.  

4. Cook a new dish. Peanut and I made doubles, and we also made crunchy onion barbecue chicken, which was NOM.  

5. Do some decluttering. Meh. I posted the TV on Craigslist and got a bunch of flakers and one guy whose negotiating skills needed some work. I also have a bunch of stuff set aside to take to Goodwill, but haven’t actually taken them. On the plus side, I’ve taken three dozen magazines to the Laundromat!


May Goals
1. Complete a draft of my thesis. I have 13 pages written of 30 as of right now, and I am writing this blog post to procrastinate. My first draft is due June 10, but I’d like to be a little speedy gonzalez here and just get ‘er done. Update--I wrote another five pages tonight! 



2. Wedding plans: finalize budget with mom, pick baker, pick florist, pick officiant. This might be too ambitious, but I hope at least the first three can be done quickly and painlessly while I’m in the wedding town in two weeks. If not, I revise it to the following: taste cakes, try on dresses, gather all addresses.

3. Do up a new budget. My raise changed my income again and while I had projected what it would probably turn out to be, I didn’t get my second paycheck with the raise reflected in it until yesterday. I might be able to squeeze a few more dollars into one savings fund or another, which would be fun.

4. Not buy any new clothes. I haven’t bought any new clothes since 2009, with the exception of some jeans and yoga pants purchase with rewards points and no cash. I want to go clothes shopping SO BAD RIGHT NOW. I don’t even need anything, aside from some cute summer dresses and shoes, and maybe a few new cardigans, and some pants, and you know, I could really use some new bras as well, and I mean, if shirts are on sale also….NO. The only bit of clothing I should buy in May will be a wedding dress. 

5. The 100 pushup challenge. Technically, I started doing this in April, but I haven’t had much success in keeping up with it. Which might be in part because I have no accountability. So, I post it here, and hope that your scowls and scolding will help me have beautiful arms for my wedding day.  

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 just paid for my last class out of pocket. My grace period ends in September. I expect $5,000 in tuition reimbursement from my job by then, and have an additional $2,300 set aside, with $260 being added monthly. My loans are currently at $19,568.48. This is going to be too easy.
3. Give to charity. I gave to Doctors Without Borders, but nothing else yet.
4. Finish graduate school while maintaining a 3.86 GPA and turn in my thesis early.  I’ve got 13 out of 30! Plus six pages of bibliography!
5. Read more than 100 books. I’m at 51 books read in 2010, and not yet halfway through the year. Woo hoo!
6. Cultivate a more positive attitude. I did better at this!
7. Take the stairs whenever possible. Every time I walk into the building, I think about this and get on the elevator anyway. I do take them down, though…
8. Seven minutes of yoga per day. I quit this in February or March. I decided I hated the seven minute routine. Instead, I’ve been going to a yoga class every weekend. This is more challenging, and I can’t “cheat” with an instructor around. It seems to be working—I feel stronger, can do the poses better, and have lost a few pounds.
9. Develop a regular posting schedule for my "real name" blog. After I found that my stalker ex was retweeting my posts last month, I haven’t updated since. I don’t know if I’m going to keep it up anymore, honestly. It freaked me out a lot, and I don’t think it’s as important for my career or whatever. I like this blog better, and maybe someday I’ll even “come out”, or like buy the right domain name and stuff.
10. Make less of an impact. I can’t say that I did anything measurable in April, despite Earth Day being in there. Well, I did decide that I am no longer taking lunch to work in plastic Tupperware if it needs to be reheated. I’ll use glass for that.

April Spending Recap

Misc Income: $3,254.85 (gift from Dad for the wedding, interest, pinecone payments, birthday gift, dance payment)
Savings
Travel $105
Gifts $40
Sunny Vacation $100
Student Loan Repayment $260
Wedding $280
Car $150

Total savings $935
Retirement
401(k) $295.40 pre tax (company matches that at 50%)
Roth IRA $454.54 (monthly transfer)
Total Retirement savings: $897.64

Spending
Cell phone $77.86
Entertainment $10.80 (book, coat checks)
Food—dining out $82.50 (lower than last month!)
Food—groceries $146.70 
Gifts $18.07 (friend's birthday)
Household $32.28
Internet $16.98
Laundry $13.50 (lower than last month!
Medical $16.00 (remember how my birth control prescriptions were supposed to be free? Well, they're not. But $16.00 is cheaper than it used to be!)
Personal $115.73 (massage + tip, laser hair removal tip, shampoo and stuff)
Rent $708.13 (regular $687.50 plus an increase to our security deposit for when our lease is renewed this summer)
School $2,000 (first payment for summer class)

Utilities $38.78
Wedding $750 (venue deposit, photographer deposit)

Total spending: $
4,502.39



Okaaaaaaay. Well, that wasn't a typical month by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't bad at all, either. I managed to spend less than last month in the food categories, so that was good. 


Networth IQ updated (see sidebar). Increases there as well--nice to see my retirement funds increasing by a little more than what I'm contributing.