Tag Archives: budget

Money Management Wrap-Up

It’s hard to judge my progress for this week, but I suppose you have to take in account a learning curve. Most of my project have been about certain actions, not a level of understanding, which kind of makes me feel like a failure. But, you get ahead in life by actions, so here’s my meager list:

– I learned about what I spend money on, and set up budgets based on what I care to spend money on

– When I spent money on things, I did so conscientiously

– Reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I’ll talk more about this book once I finish, but truly, I wish I read this 4 years ago.

– Figured out a retirement plan (so weird at age 24) between my Roth IRA and 401K

– Interviewed my financially resourceful friend Emily Cardella

– Saved money by using coupons

-Oh, and bought a $300 painting, which was an investment, right? When I saw it in Stuart, I couldn’t stop looking at it. When my mom said she would buy my next ticket home for Christmas, it was a done deal.

Personal financing is going to be an ongoing challenge.


Money War

You may have noticed that I didn’t put concrete tasks for me to work on for this project. That’s because, truly, I don’t have any clue what I’m doing financially. I could tell you I plan on packing a lunch everyday, but the amount of money I spent eating out/getting coffee during lunch this year is roughly 5% of my salary (and a lot less than that since my one comrade at work moved to New York). What I really want to do here is read as much as I can, and ask as many people as I can about personal finance. For me it’s not these daily battles, it’s the war.

From the advice of my good friend Graham, I started a 401k last year, and it’s already astounded me how much money compounded. So, for the past year I’ve been imagining myself retiring and traveling around the world first-class. Then this week someone said, “what about your Roth IRA?”. Apparently I need that to shelter my money from the taxes-of-the-future (say it in a spooky voice, it makes it more fun), and to use to put a down payment on a home in the future. So I did some research (love this article/guy), lowered the amount i was putting in my 401k and am attempting to automatically transfer money into a Charles Swab IRA.

For me, if you give me a box (or a budget) I will fill it up–no matter how big or little. The main thing I’ve been working on is delegating my money into other places (account my car loan gets taken out of, savings account, 401k, Roth) so all that I have left is a cushion amount, and enough to live comfortably.

When I say I want to live comfortably, my comfortably doesn’t necessarily mean your comfortably. I’m trying to find out what I value spending a lot of my spare income on, and then saving on the things I don’t. To figure that out, I use Mint.com to figure out my where I spend most my money. This way I can win more battles.

For me, this is mostly restaurants/groceries/bars. I live by the philosophy that you should spend more on the things closest to you. Certainty what goes inside you should be most important then? This is how it came about that I spend most of my money on groceries. A lot of the brand loyalty stuff doesn’t matter to me, though. Logan taught me how to cut out ALL the coupons I need from the Sunday paper (not just the Publix ones, but the manufacture ones too). These are the ones we brought to go shopping with:

I’m the type of person who buys 4 rolls of toilet paper at a time of Cottonelle, or whatever commercial has the bears, but we certainty didn’t shop like that on Sunday. We spent about $200 dollars, but most of it will last us for a while, so later in the month, all we need is some extra stuff–like if there’s a specific recipe I want to try, and don’t have the ingredients for. PLUS, we saved $50. I actually high-five’d Logan at about aisle 4. Well, not really. I went to high-five, and he looked at me like I was a dork. Apparently, this is nothing new to him.

What I don’t want to give up (at the mercy of everything else) is traveling (although I bought 7 round trip tickets this year, bit much), going out with friends/family/boyfriend. A good tip I recently read was, invite people over instead of going out. On Friday we went out, and I allowed a couple of my friends to buy me a drink. Usually this embarrasses me, and I almost immediately buy them 2 more drinks to make up for it. Instead, we invited those people over to our place for late night snacks. Then, instead of going out to our favorite Thai or Cuban restaurant for a date-night, yesterday Logan met me half way to my work in Fort Pierce to get the amazing lunch special at the greek place in the afternoon.

What do I need to cut back on? Basically, I should never be allowed in Target again.

Featured: Emily Cardella

When I was thinking about what of my friends I would interview for money management, Emily didn’t initially come up. Yes, she’s been known to teach me money-saving tricks, like getting day-old loafs of bread from Jimmy Johns and a pound of cheese to snack on, but it always seemed to me we were never depriving ourselves, just being resourceful or adventurous. Truly, I should be putting her interview under a project about exercise (perhaps you’ve seen her out running with her basset hound); or travel (besides one awesome trip I took with her to Colorado, she’s also been to Australia, and most recently, biking along the West coast and visiting me); or baking (ask her to make frosting or cookies, she can do it off the top of her head); or compassion (when you meet her, it’s incredibly obvious how much her friends, family (including her dog), boyfriend and patients are to her). Alas, her well-rounded nature has put her here.

EF (Me): What was your upbringing like in respects to how it affected your money management?

EC (Emily Cardella): I was brought up in a family without extra money, and I think it allows me to be able to keep calm and find other things to do when I’m nearly broke, but it also makes me want to succeed that much more, to see what its like to have money and be able to buy things when I want them. Also, I’m deathly afraid of spending more money than what I have, which I’ve only done once, when I went to Australia. It was easy when we were in college and no one had money, but I find the more mature my friends get, money wise, the harder it is to keep up with the things they want to do, consequently I am constantly looking for ways to save money and get by with less so I can do things with friends when they are around.

EF: If you won the lottery, what would you buy?

EC: First I would pay off my Australia loan, then I would give a lot of it to my parents, because I know my school was a huge financial burden to them, and they haven’t had a decent vacation in a long time. If I had any money left over I would help [my sister] Danielle pay for school (and probably [my boyfriend] Josh), then hope I got into PA school soon so I could just pay that off too. I’d visit all my friends in their crazy faraway places, buy them things (make them love me more). Then if any money was left over I’d start looking for my dream house. I’d probably buy another dog in there somewhere too. Unfortunately I never even buy lottery tickets, so this is never going to happen.

EF: What are some elements that were involved in choosing your career?

EC: I think at the core I just like helping people. Even when I wanted to be a vet I just wanted to help the animals and their owners. I get satisfaction out of making other people feel better, relieved. I hate seeing people struggling and hurting.

EF: What will you be doing after you retire?

EC: IF I retire, (it sounds kind of boring, and I’m just trying to start my career, so I have a few years before I’ll start thinking about retiring) I’ll probably be hanging out with my cows, training dogs, and snowboarding.

EF: What was the best thing you recently saved money on?

EC: Unfortunately, no matter how much I “save” when buying things I always see it as spending money. I really want these $100 pillows from Younkers, they were 50% off last week, and with the 15% coupon I could have gotten them for pretty cheap, but my mom works there too, and I didn’t have her with me to get another 23% off, so I didn’t buy them. I could have potentially “saved” a lot of money on those pillows, but not buying them at all saved me money too! (Probably just going to ask for them for my birthday)

EF: What was your last splurge on?

EC: Haha, probably that big trip around the US. :S

EF: What do you spend most your money on?

EC: Traveling. Almost every time I save up a big enough portion of money it gets spent on a trip somewhere. I may have to quit doing this for awhile, sadly.

EF: Who is better at saving money, you or Josh?

EC: Hard to say at this point, mostly because one of us has always been in school not making money while the other one has a full time job. We’re both pretty equally good at saving, which is one of the reasons I like him.

EF: What is something people would be surprised that you buy on a regular basis?

EC: The only things I repetitively purchase are food items, the next thing I’m buying is the Jim Croce album, Photographs and Memories, ($8), and yesterday I bought the Carpenters Christmas album for $0.50, both are incredible albums. I’m really excited to get a record player.

EF: What are things we can do on a daily basis to live a good life?

EC: Help others, but don’t scare them with your weirdness. Run (and/or exercise). Brush your teeth. Call your friends. Reflect. Be thankful. Have fun with whatever you’re doing. Get to know yourself. Bake. Build. Grow. Share. Relax.

EF: Do you have someone you look to for inspiration in your life?

EC: Everyone, I’ve found that if you get to know people, almost everyone has an inspiring story. My mom, and Riven. Really all my friends inspire me, I put you all on pedestals.

EF: What activity makes you most happy?

EC: Being outside. And playing with Tucker. Simplicity is the key.

EF: What would be your last meal?

EC: Something my mom cooked, anything really, as long as she made it.

EF: Who do you admire most in the area of music?

EC: Any of the small-time artists struggling at local coffee shops and bars. For some reason they always sound amazing to me, I love live music.

EF: In the area of sports?

EC: All the runners. Seriously, I’ve been trying to get myself running on a regular basis, it takes so much dedication. I succeed about 2 out of every 7 days.

EF: In the area of design?

EC: Love Sac. I really wish I had enough money to get the Sactionals. Brilliant.

EF: Where do you want to be right now?

EC:I think I’d like to be climbing a mountain. Or making another attempt  at snowboarding. However, I don’t mind where I’m at right now either. I have the day off and it’s beautiful outside, perfect temperature and the leaves are changing colors!

EF: If you could give someone advice, what would it be?

EC: Don’t stop believin’

Saving Money On The Web

I think I stumbled across something incredible. Have you ever hear of Brad’s Deal? It’s this guy who built the site to show his friends and family how and where he saves money, but now, years later, the Wall Street Journal and even Oprah recommend his site for saving deals. Well, anyway, there’s this one deal on there for 90% off of gift certificates at Restaurant.com, so I go the, put in Minneapolis (because it’s still habit), and there’s a deal where you can get a gift certificate for The Ugly Mug where for $45 you get $100. I’m pretty sure this means if you simply put in the code WOW you get $100 worth of food and drinks for $4.50! Uh, someone get on that!

Let me share with you some of my favorite money-saving sites. You will find it is devoid of any coupon-cutter sites, because after spending hours at work trying to refine my websites, seeing these jumbled messes makes my chest tighten and my eyes try to revert back into the sockets. If you really want a suggestion, go to Retail Me Not which seems to have its pixels in order at least. These are nice though:

My ultimate favorite one is complements of my friend Stephen, Mint.com. I love this. I just put in all my accounts (USBank, PNC, student loan and car loan) and it just organizes them all in a user-friendly way. I like that I can see a pie graph of where all my money is going, and a bar graph of my net-income for whatever months, but, my favorite part is that I can creat budgets for things like going out to the bars, and it sends me an email telling me when I’ve gone over budget. Note: this is really nice to receive when you’re hung-over. Just a friendly reminder that you drank too much this month!

My other favorite money-saving website is called BillShrink.com.  They have some stuff for finding your cheapest credit card, savings/CD accounts, etc. but I just use it to find cheap gas. I just have my home address and my work address in there, and it sends my email alerts to where is cheapest on that route to get gas. So far, Pilot has been the ultimate winner.

People keep asking me where I get my flights (since I travel a lot these days). This tip was from my friend Graham, Matrix Airfare Search. Don’t know when is the best time to visit me for cheap flights? Put in your airport (or several close ones) and my airports (MLB, PBI, MCO), how long you want to stay (3 days to forever) and it will tell you what flight to get within a month. If you know the exact days you want to go, this will tell you what flight to take.

Then, of course, Groupon. I’m trying to remember that it isn’t really a deal if I wasn’t going to get it in the first place… especially since I haven’t even gone on that balloon ride yet.

Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Quinoa Salad

For dinner I was desperately craving Chipotle, but since I treated myself to tacos yesterday when I forgot a lunch, I figured I better be true to my plan to save money. Thus, Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Quinoa-Salad was invented. What goes into that you may ask? For me it was: spinach, pepperoni, broccoli, a slice and a half of sharp cheddar cheese, some other green leafy stuff I think we put on fajitas last week, parmesan cheese and water chestnuts (which weren’t going to go bad for a while, but I like the texture), all mixed with quinoa and italian dressing:

I thought I was going to have to some big money on Monday when I came out to my car during lunch and there were 3 guys/hooligans standing around my car. They announced to me that my tire was flat, and in a much better scenario than I pictured when I saw them, helped me get to Firestone. There I waited for 45 minutes trying to keep myself from stressing out by reading Spin. When it came to pay the bill, the guy said it was “no biggie” and actually gave me a free tire gauge! Karma?


Negative: $7.64 for lunch yesterday at Es Tas

Positive: Tire Gauge

Generosity Wrap Up

I’m wrapping up my generosity project, but I wish I wasn’t. Going from living around my friends and family and working at PBS Kids on a show I felt really made a difference in the community, to living in Florida, has left me feeling a little lost. Trying to really contribute to the world in a positive way has made me stop moving through it like limbo, biding my time.

An amazing part of really paying attention to how I treat people, is that I pay more attention to the people that do this really well: the person at the deli who always remembers peoples’ names, orders, kids, etc.; the woman in the office who sends the elevator back to the first floor in the morning, so others don’t need to wait for it; my dad who made a big batch of gluten-free waffles so I could have the stereotypical waffles and ice cream breakfast; the people who come over and help clean up before they leave; my mom getting me pretty cut-out mason jar toppers (i use mason jars as votive holders obsessively); etc.

On the other hand, I notice people that aren’t very kind. I’m not saying I did a great job of being generous. It’s especially hard to not be sarcastic at work, reclusive in the mornings and at night and un-selfish when I’m with my close friends and family. I have this awful Napoleon complex I developed in middle school when I was a lot shorter than everyone. It’s like this character that talks over people, but I can’t stop it until it’s too late. Even if people laugh at my jokes, I still feel bad. If you’re really concentrating on it, it feels like negative and self-involved people suck the air from around you, even when it’s you.

Next on the agenda is money management. Probably not going to be the most interesting project, but I need to watch what I spend in order to accomplish other things I want to do (like go to Norway next summer). There’s too many things I allow myself to spend too much money on, like: flying somewhere about once a month, getting massages and my nails done, oh, and a dozen other little obsessions, like my devotion to creating the perfect bed. Whereas most people my age are content with a set from Target, I have 4 sets of sheets (including nice egyptian cotton ones for queen and king size beds), a cloud like duvet cover with special hypo-allergenic filling, 2 duvet covers, and my new addition, a $200 quilt.

I’m sick. I need help.

Carried over from other projects:

  • Gluten-free diet.
  • More fresh veggies and fruits.
  • More hobbies and activities, less TV.
  • Avoid things that insult my soul
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be more charitable and generous
  • Make my friends/family know they’re important to me