Work From Home Wonder ($99,805)

Quick little post today:  I worked from home today, because of the snowstorm.  I had a call at 8am, earlier than I typically am in, and had something I was working on until an hour and a half after I normally leave, so I worked over two hours extra today–but was home and work-free over an hour early!  Hopefully I’ll be able to do this more often soon enough.

I get my first standard paycheck on Friday.  When I say standard I mean, the one I expect will be the same going forward–will all of my deductions taken out.  Hopefully with the same amount of money to spend each month I can be more consistent with my budget and, more importantly, more consistent with my spending within that budget.

But for now I’m probably going to spend some money on baby shower gifts…but don’t worry, I planned for it.  

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January Recap! ($98,670)

Still/back under $100,000!  And I did pretty great this month, if I do say so myself.  This is largely due to an extra paycheck because of the (in name and salary only) job switch.

The pretty picture:

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Student Loans!

I paid off $2,567 in PRINCIPAL this month.  All of the “Fees and Charges” pie is interest paid on loans.  I think this is smaller than usual because of the timing of my payments vs. the payments last month.

I spent $632 on auto/transport this month.  Some awesome things about February:  my auto insurance is split into 10 monthly payments, so I don’t have a payment next month; there’s $84 I don’t have to pay.  It’s a mutual insurance company, which means I’m also expecting a dividend payment of about $150 or so.  My employer also just announced a discount program on car insurance, so I may look into that to save more money (though a friend of mine is my insurance broker, so I may stay where I am, and I kind of like the dividend thing).  I am getting rid of my towing plan–only $20 annual, but I have AAA, so I don’t need it anymore.  Knock on wood, but it’s also been MONTHS since I locked myself out of my still-running car (yes, I’ve done this more than once).  February will also be the last month that my train pass will have to be purchased completely with after-tax dollars.  Probably another $20 in savings each month.  Lastly, I drove to the farther train station much more than usual this month, resulting in more gas and parking spending, which I hopefully won’t repeat in February.

Food: $429 this month, about $300 in groceries.  This is probably the smallest amount I’ve ever spent in this category.  I need to reign in my pretzel purchases (maybe with more snacks for the train), but I won’t beat myself up too much.

It’s pretty rare that I have a separate pie slice for health and fitness.  This is from a doctor’s bill at the beginning of the month, and a prescription that I’ve submitted a reimbursement for (I didn’t have the account number information for my new health/prescription plans).  I have another doctor’s bill that I’ll be paying in early February from the same appointment (one for lab testing and one for the appointment and procedure itself), so the budget there will also be unusually high.

The “Other” and “Shopping” categories are what I really want to work on next month.  I spent $45 at Walmart in the middle of the month, and have no idea what I bought.  None.  I do know that it wasn’t groceries, though I sometimes do my grocery shopping there.  I spent another $40 on Amazon (light bulbs, a lint lizard that I haven’t tried yet, but is pretty necessary for some spaces in the house, and a paper towel holder to mount on my island).  But seriously, what did I buy at Walmart?  OH! I bought an over-the-toilet storage unit for some additional much needed storage space in my newly-organized apartment.  I feel better now.  The phone bill and my Netflix/TiVo are monthly bills, but tickets to a Red Sox game, and a paint your own pottery night added an extra $120 this month.  I might be spending a big chunk on some concert tickets this month, so this category probably won’t be going down too much in February.

In summary, I’m pretty happy with this month’s spending and debt progress.  I’ve already scheduled a loan payment for February, and I’m hoping that moving the money out of my account early in the month will prevent me from spending.  I’ll post more on the February budget this week!

Grocery Lists ($100,026)*

As I had hoped, I limited myself to 4 (okay really 5) trips to the grocery store this month, going only once a week. The first three times I brought a list with me, and only bought things on the list (admittedly, one of those things was often “snacky thing for work”). I spent about $75 each time, including the time I stocked up on paper towels. On Saturday I made a semi-planned stop at Whole Foods–I was by my old apartment an hour and a half away, and there is one right there. I had planned on stopping at the one closer to my house, but since we were there…long story short I like their California rolls (the closest I’m likely ever getting to liking sushi), and they make them fresh in the store unlike the WF by me. So in addition to my intended purchase of bags and bags of frozen strawberries, I bought some sushi dinner.

My last grocery trip of the month was on Monday night. I had a lot going on this weekend and was unable to plan for a real grocery shopping. In desperation (needing bananas to go in my smoothie with all those strawberries), I stopped sans list…and spent $100. I still looked at the circular in advance during the day, but there was no real meal planning.

The good news is I’m exactly at my $300 budget for groceries this month, and won’t be stopping again until at least Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be a little under budget in February.

* One small complaint: this includes both the vested and unvested portions of my 401(k)–I’d prefer to only see the vested, and am debating whether I should remove it from Mint entirely.

December Recap! ($103,396)

Ugh!  I did an extraordinarily bad job budgeting this month. Or, rather, staying within said budget.  Here’s my spending breakdown from the month (ALL THE PRETTY COLORS!):

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Education and Fees & Charges are (rightfully) big chunks of this not-so-tasty pie, but they should account for over half–they don’t.  I spent a tiny bit less on principal and a tiny bit more on interest this month–should just be reflective of when the payment was made in the month (I wish I got paid semi-monthly instead of bi-weekly, so these could always be the same):

Principal Payments:

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Interest Payments:

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That makes “Shopping”, “Kids”, “Personal Care” “Auto and Transport” and “Other” the big spending categories.  Some of the shopping was Christmas presents, but, um, not most of it.  I bought $160 Uggs at the beginning of the month (I love them, but I don’t know if I love them $160 worth), and about $150 at Old Navy that was for myself.  Damn you Black Friday.  Toward the end of the month I spent $325 on eBay–I bought two purses to celebrate the new job.  I’m also thinking about buying a Spin bike, but if that’s all I do for celebratory purchases, and don’t inflate my lifestyle too much, I’ll consider this a victory.

I spent $600 at Babies R Us.  The stroller and pack-and-play my sister registered for were both on sale, and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to save over $200 (again–Damn you Black Friday!).  I would have spent this money (and more on the shower and smaller baby gifts) eventually, but wasn’t planning for it in December.

The $120 on getting my hair did [BLONDER — and way shorter] was planned, but sadly fell in with a month of crazy spending.

I spent way more on parking than usual this month–for two reasons.  Reason numero uno:  bought a book of five parking passes for $100 at the new work building.  Because $20 a day in the city is a bargain when I need to drive in.  See: the day I spent $35 on parking when I went in late for a doctor’s appointment last month. I also went out to watch a football game with a friend on Sunday and spent $40 on parking.  I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I’d cancelled on her the previous weekend–but if I’d realized I’d have to spend $40 to park initially, I wouldn’t have made that plan. Lesson learned.

Most of the transactions in the $500 or so in “Other” were planned: life insurance, credit report, phone, (2) TiVo.  It also includes about $80 in Christmas presents…for my dog.  And a doctor’s visit co-pay.  Lastly, it includes $120 at staples, $80 of which is for the biggest piece of crap filing cabinet on the planet. Which is getting returned.

So the budget page looks something like this:

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This actually doesn’t even capture the “Everything Else” category, which is over by about $1,400… Yeah. Though a small point in my defense: about $200 of my food and other random costs were reimbursed from job two.

January should bring more income and–hopefully–less irresponsible spending on my part.  To be continued I guess.

Glee! ($104,392)

Not like the TV show…but like wicked happiness!

I realized when checking to see if they posted my payment, that my “Law School Loans” (one from the school and one a Perkins loan, both through one servicer) had a balance of $22,025 or so.  That’s so close to a total of $5,000 paid off on those loans in two years!  So I scheduled a payment for the 20th (I can only schedule payments on four certain days of the month–I can do an immediate payment but it means paying a processing fee).  I’ve been carrying this one as $22,900 on Mint.com, but on the first of the year I’ll move it over to $22,000 and start anew.  Part of me thinks $5,000 is a lot, but I also realize I have about 8 more years in my payment plan if I were paying only the minimum. I also have to consider that this is only one of my servicers.  If I paid another $2,500 off in 2014 on this loan alone, $6,000 on another, and $9,000 on the last set…holy crap, that’s $17,500!

I’ve got about $110,000 in debt going into the new year.  How much can I pay off in 2014?  What’s realistic?  What’s a reachable stretch goal?  This is all dependent on whether I get an official full time job, and if so, when?  If I’m concentrating 100% on debt payoff in 2014, I think a decent goal would be to get under $90,000–hopefully I’ll start seeing bigger chunks of the same payments going toward principal instead of wasteful interest.  My goal may change based upon my living situation, but the net worth I’m targeting should be about the same (around ($85,000)).

Hopefully this milestone will help me stay relatively on track for the rest of December!  Bring on the Christmas money!

De-Motivated ($104,234)

I’m not sure if I’ve been slacking on posting because I’ve been slacking on my budget, or if I’ve been slacking on my budget because I’ve been slacking on posting. We have a classic “chicken or the egg” situation here.

This month I spend almost $600 on non-Christmas gifts.  All in baby gifts for my future nephew.  It’s money that I would have spent eventually, though I probably shouldn’t have spent it right now. I got an email that they had some things 50% off, and I figured I’d check the registry to see if there was anything there on crazy sale, and I got over $100 off on one of the big items they registered for, something to go with it, and another registry item that was on sale.  

I’ve also been doing more spending than usual on myself.  I don’t know if this means I have to be less stingy in other months to prevent myself from large chunks of purchasing a month or two down the road, or if I should plan for quarterly or semi-annual clothing splurges.  Most of what I bought is clothing that can be worn to work–which I do need more of–along with a needed scarf for myself and some gifts for the boy.  I’m a little nervous about the gift giving thing.  I’m worried my gifts are too practical and come off as less “thoughtful,” and that he’s going to come up with something super sweet that I can’t match with “Here’s some socks I got you.”

I’ve done virtually no food shopping for myself this month.  So far I’ve managed to avoid spending money on lunches, but I haven’t been able to avoid the delicious pretzel cart, and I’ve bought coffee more times than I’d like to share.  I did spend $100 on an ice cream party, along with several other purchases that are reimbursable, so I’ll be depositing that $200 check today.  Christmas related expenses I still have are: one more small gift for the boy, some stocking stuffers, money for my parents’ presents from me and my sister, and some Christmas gathering food.

The good news is that with all this money going out, I have had some carry-over in my checking account from being so disciplined in prior months.  So I’m hoping I can still send my usual amount to my federal student loan (even though it routinely says I have nothing due).  Though I have spent a lot of money, I only have another $100 or so in fixed expenses yet to be charged for the month–I just have to be disciplined about not spending on needless food purchases.

The bad news: I’ve spend $3,428 so far this month, with a budget of $3,935.  That’s without a $300 student loan payment posting (I’m guessing on Monday), and includes the spending I was reimbursed.  Doesn’t leave much more room for the above spending, or unavoidable purchases like food (at the grocery store, and not from the pretzel card), so that savings that is hoped for each month won’t be happening this month.

This week has been really crazy for my second job, with the semester ending and some related and unrelated issues.  But all of that ail be completely over on Saturday, so hopefully I’ll get some rest in the four weeks I have off.  I’m hoping this will also mean more time for cleaning my apartment and cooking meals in advance, but we’ll see how that goes.

($103,299) But really like ($104,100)?

Why will my Monday purchases not post to my credit card?  

Yeah, that’s right, I spent a crap-ton of money on Monday.  On my credit card.  Okay, I did that last part for the points or rewards or whatever.  I’m trying to show activity on my credit cards–I have the money sitting in my account to pay the minute I get a statement.

So the credit card part is fine.  The actual spending itself? Eh.  I did get a small Christmas gift for my boyfriend, but mostly I bought Uggs for myself.  I justified this by telling myself that I’ve spent very little on myself in the last few months.  Really it means I have to be super vigilant about not buying lunch (oh hey, guess what I’m doing tomorrow?) and going out to dinner/need to be good about planning meals.  I do not look forward to this at all as I’ve been having an extremely blah week.  I’m a little sick, and I skipped coffee on Monday and Tuesday, both of which contributed to me practically falling asleep at my desk at work each day.  So I haven’t felt really productive, which makes me very uneasy, given I’m trying to show that my work warrants a full time position.  I know that I’m doing things, but I’m not always positive the things that I’m doing are adding value.  Basically it’s just stress that I’m not good enough, which is exacerbated by the temporary nature of my position.  Hopefully, I only have to worry about this temporary status for another month, but there are days when it really wears on me (“Hey are you going to this event” (that all employees were invited to) “Umm I’m not invited to that…”)

But hey! I just noticed that my total debt is under $110,000!  It will be back over once those charges post, but should be back under before the year is out. Small goal accomplished!