Thursday, June 28, 2007
Fun and frugality and fuming, oh my!
So, last week involved a fair amount of spending, but 'twas worth it.

* I saw the delightful Hot Fuzz at the second-run movie theater, and was able to use my free pass. Of course, I then completely undercut the advantage by getting an ice cream sundae along with my meal. I think all the Cornetto in the movie worked its magic on me. (As did Simon Pegg, but that's neither here nor there. Heh.)

* I then joined everyone for the fabulous DC Blogger meetup on Thursday. (Guess the geographic cat is out of the bag.) We shared some appetizers, and bought some Krispy Kremes, and then Nick bought everyone fresh hot doughnuts. Nick is a superhero. I was delighted to meet everyone, especially mapgirl, who is practically my neighbor (and therefore drove me home). Hopefully we'll all do this again!

* I finally broke down and bought an EZ-Pass. Since it's easiest to use a major toll road to visit my aunt, I'm going to make use of it. And I'm hoping it will save me money in the long run, since I won't be getting cash out for tolls and then frittering the rest.

* I spent much of the weekend with my visiting grandparents; they covered a lot of expenses. I did buy some very necessary bottled waters after walking around Mount Vernon.

* Oh, yes, and I bought shoes. I really needed new black loafers (as in "my heel is completely worn down and the instep has broken seams so it's not even worth trying to resole them"). I am pleased with my new pair; they broke in after a few days.

This week has been sharply truncated. I've limited my spending to groceries, gas, a car inspection, and a donation in the memory of a coworker's father. I'm actually on track to bring in my lunch every day this week (sing now, in praise of the rice bowl, delivered warm and steaming from that trader known as Joe).

And I'd be really excited about next week, because my extra paycheck is coming in. However, I think vast amounts of it could evaporate, because my car's suspension (despite passing the inspection) is not pleasing me, and has not done so for months. If I have to replace my struts, there goes much of my fun money. So I'm trying to cut back.

And into the midst of this, my friend emailed me about our trip to Philly next month (for which I've been saving for awhile). She suggested a few exhibits, which sounded interesting. But I looked up the King Tut show and discovered that the basic timed ticket is $37 with service charges. For an exhibit I might visit for an hour. In summer crowds, no less (I'm still a bit of an introvert, so that's like running a marathon).

So I wrote back and said I'd rather not pay that much if we were going to visit another museum as well, and that I'd prefer to try and get the late afternoon ticket, which rolls in an IMAX ticket for $25. I'm now dealing with the email silent treatment. Feh.

I know this is a rare exhibition, but I'm spoiled enough by the Smithsonian that I don't think spending more than $25 on any one exhibit is worthwhile. Would you do it?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Three years.
That's how long I've been at my current job (as of last Thursday, although I had no time to mention it then).

Three years ago, I wasn't a complete financial wreck, but there were decided strains.

I had depleted all my savings. (The job offer I received right before getting my master's was contingent on a long security screening, and by the time they finally offered me the position, I'd already accepted another job. But it meant that my "keep me going until March" fund ended up stretching through June.) I needed to borrow over $2000 from my parents just to cover moving expenses and pay my first month's rent.

I'd pretty much only been paying interest on my unsubsidized loans, so my balances had not shrunk at all between starting grad school and finishing. My private loans were variable, and my full repayment started just as monetary policy tightened (and rates increased).

And I'd been so burned on lousy roommates that I refused to share housing even in a really expensive rental market.

But things have really improved.

I paid my parents back within two years.

My student loan balances have dropped 20% (despite a private loan consolidation that added a big origination fee in exchange for a whole two months of lower interest rates [now replaced with my credit union loan]), and every loan is fixed at below 6% (with the largest balances at 2.75%). Thanks largely to my dad, my PLUS-style loan will be paid off within the month. I'm hoping to knock out the Perkins within two years (four ahead of schedule).

Automatic and increasing contributions to my 401(k) style plan have led me to balances that now equal 35% of my gross salary.

My $500 "overdraft account" is more than fully funded, my downpayment fund is growing steadily, and my proper emergency fund should have a full two months of expenses (including money for COBRA payments) by the end of the year.

I'm still not where I need to be. I don't have a Roth for tax diversification, I have no dedicated funds for repairing/replacing my aging car, and trying to take a third trip in a year sends my forced budget into a tailspin. And I still need to scrape up lots more for a downpayment.

But I'm glad to see where I've been from the perspective of where I am.

Oh, and the other thing about getting to three years? I start getting six hours of annual leave per pay period. Whee!


Thursday, June 14, 2007
Pound foolish.
While I've managed to accumulate a few purses over the years, my usual modus operandi is to carry one bag all through the fall/winter, then switch to a lighter bag in the spring/summer. Since my beloved straw-and-bamboo purse gave up the ghost last summer (after three years' hard service), I needed to purchase a new bag earlier this year.

As I've mentioned, I tend not to buy much in the way of clothes and accessories, so when I bought things for my Florida trip in March, I did try to cut a few corners. And that included a relatively inexpensive bag. The larger one would have been $15 more, but I put it back.

However, the small bag I chose, while apparently the same size as my straw purse, was constructed with less depth. So my wallet, cellphone, sunglasses, and ID lanyard pretty much filled it to the brim. On a normal day, this wasn't such a problem.

But after I tried to add the book I'd bought for my cousin's graduation present (On My Own Two Feet, per Wanda's review), it was too crowded. So I tried to carry it by hand. And between slugging my purse, my umbrella, my lunch bag, and the book through public transportation, well...I found myself at the office with no book. I still sent the check I'd originally planned to send, but the lack of book sent $14 down the drain.

Next time, I'm just buying the bigger purse!

Also, while I don't think this particular story is that inspiring, the good people at Credit Card Lowdown think some of my posts are (along with those of 99 others). Thanks for the compliment!

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Monday, June 04, 2007
May/June net worth

This was one of my strongest improvements in months, albeit largely due to market gains.

Personal Items

I lowered my valuation on both my computer and my car. I keep my car's valuation at $100 below the KBB fair private party value.

Cash and Cash Equivalent

I've had to hold a few more dollars in my overdraft fund because my rent went up for June, and I'd rather allocate from savings than simply boost my net checking deposits.

Otherwise, I continue to contribute normally to my online accounts. I'm closing on some nice round number targets for each of those.


I do not believe this party will keep going, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Loan Balances

I can taste the PLUS-style loan being paid off. Taste it.

Other Debt

I had a month in which some big annual payments came due, as well as some medical expenses on which I await reimbursement. Despite that, I still managed to pay my outstanding balances and rein in the entertainment spending a bit.

The Month Ahead

I have a number of gifts to send out (graduating cousins, father, friend's wedding) and will deal with my higher rent and car insurance premium. I'm looking forward to July, when the squeeze will ease.