"Secret skimping is out, like false bosoms." - Marjorie Hillis, Orchids on Your Budget, 1937.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You're breaking my heart

Yet another rate cut. Good, bad, or fugly?

Decorating Dilemma

Has anyone been able to successfully reconcile the drive to beautify your new apartment with precious goods (like that $300.00 tufted ottoman) with the drive to beg, borrow, and steal (don't steal!) by taking the lime green table and chair that someone put out for the garbage collector, for instance? I'm so conflicted!

My parents are giving us some things, but we don't even have a couch. I'm going to try to rely heavily on craigslist, of course, but even refurbishing gets expensive (e.g. these examples in Sunset Magazine). This one really cuts deep, because nothing gets me going like mirrored side-tables (see before and after below).

I've been scouring decorating-porn for ideas, and frankly, I think it's becoming a problem.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Just about a moonlight mile on down the road...

I currently share an apartment with 2 other girls in a really nice neighborhood. Because this apartment hasn't been renovated in quite some time, and my room is very small, my rent swallows up only about 14% of my gross income.

However, I've decided it's now time to start livin' in sin. In fact, my boyfriend and I just signed an application for an apartment about a mile and a half from my current place, which would be almost 23% of my gross income (and something like 31% of my net income) just for my half of the rent.

The flurry of activity in my checking account is making me so uncomfortable. I can see all my hard-earned money slipping through my fingers as I type this. We decided on this apartment because all the other ones we saw were more expensive and smaller. Living like sardines doesn't appeal to us, but it's not like I'm looking for luxury. I don't get how anyone affords to live in this city.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Head Under Water (but a bit better than last time?)

Since I made so many changes lately, I've decided to do a quick net worth check.

Emergency Fund: $8,709.20
Checking: $109.00
ING Funds (total): $1,365.54
Roth IRA*: $3,100.00
401k: $311.52
Total Positive: $13,595.26

Rent: $530.00
Credit card: $710.00
Student Loan I: $14,902.85
Student Loan II: $1,242.14
Total Negative: $17,384.99

Net Worth: -$3,789.73

Have I left anything out?

*hasn't cleared yet

Birthday Present

As a birthday present to myself, I finally opened a Roth IRA.

I knew if I didn't start out with something simple, there was a good chance I'd put it off forever, so I opened a Vanguard Target Retirement account.

Of course, now I'm sitting here tapping my fingers, waiting for them to take my initial deposit. Is this really going to take 8 days to happen? Are people going to be getting their economic stimulus checks early and start driving up the prices before I can get my shares? Does that happen? Rawr.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Orthodontia ain't cheap

Ok ya'll...confession: I'm obsessed with my teeth -- flossing them, brushing them, bleaching them, keeping them, basically. But I'm also very stressed, apparently, because I grind like a horse at night. This means I've worn various night guards, and while my teeth are still straight, they've kind of shifted inward. Apparently no one but me and my orthodontist can tell, but I'm obsessed with correcting it.

I had a consultation today with the orthodontist who did my braces. He confirmed my concerns and said he could totally fix everything with Invisalign! YAY, right?!? $5-$6k worth of "yay."

So I'm conflicted. While I would love to dive right in, I feel it would be a financially irresponsible move right now for me. How does anyone feel ok about spending that much money on a non-essential procedure?

Monday, April 14, 2008


Today we had a 401K talk.

Apparently, the employer contribution is 100% vested immediately when it goes into the account, which is good/weird, because I thought the vesting schedule said it wasn't at all vested until 3 years have passed. I'm still unclear about when the match actually goes into the account, because I have yet to see it. I think he might have said the end of the calendar year, which is kind of a bummer.


I finally filed my taxes on Saturday.

Rather, I paid TurboTax the $30 to file for me. And you know what? It was worth it. The little refund-counter in the upperleft corner scrolling up through the numbers made it feel like I was winning the lottery.

I got a $402 federal refund and a $126 state refund. Add that to my projected $600 tax rebate, and I've got $1128 to put toward moving expenses. And since I could be moving earlier than expected, it could not have come at a better time.

Which reminds me...

Right now, about 20% of my take-home pay goes toward my rent. When I move, I'm probably looking at a huge rent increase (to about 30-37% of my take-home pay, and that's only if I don't change jobs). How am I supposed to be able to absorb that? I guess it's my fault for choosing to live in this city!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Raggedy Ann

Over at Get Rich Slowly, JD wants to know what people splurge on.

Well, I'll tell you.

I splurge on anything vaguely medical. Or, let me clarify: I splurge on anything masquerading as necessary medical care and/or aesthetic preservation, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Diet. I'd call Jenny, attend Weight Watcher meetings, or lay down $100.00 for a bottle of quality Rx-grade supplements. Just show me where to sign.
  • Dental care. Less gladly, but just as quickly, I'd hand over the wallet.
  • Skin care. I would use Retin-A and/or Differin even if my insurance plan didn't cover the cost. I contemplated Botox, but knowing me, I would get temporary eyelid paralysis.

I also go out to eat a lot. I never order drinks or apps, so that really cuts down on the cost, but I am a big tipper, so at least there's that?

Otherwise, I try not to hemorrhage money.

Grow Up and Blow Away

Along with my new budgeting plans, I've decided to take the advice of many bloggers out there and finally open some ING subaccounts. So far, my separate funds are as follows:

Student Loan Fund
Future Fund
Roth IRA

I am planning to move sometime in either June or September (don't ask), so my "Future Fund" will cover some moving expenses, plus deposit and first month's rent... unless I end up having to move in June, in which case, there won't be much money in there. I'm also planning to start saving for a wedding in case I want to get married in the next 10 years. A house would also presumably fall into this category.

I have a "Medical/Dental" category because of an awful, mostly unexpected $850 dental bill I got this year. It's never fun to take that big of a chunk from your savings. While I do plan to save $50/paycheck into this account, I think next time I'll use CareCredit. I've never used it before, but my mom works in the dental field, and recommended it. It's normally interest-free for 3-18 months. If I knew for sure that I had money set aside to pay for it, why would I use it? Well, I guess I wouldn't if I had the money set aside, but I would use it to avoid dipping into my savings.

"Gifts" is its own category, because, now that I'm a fully-functioning adult person, I'll have friends getting married any day now. That's a lot of gifts.

I thought about adding a "Clothes" fund, but I buy clothes infrequently enough not even to bother.

What are your categories?

If you still haven't opened an ING account yet and you'd like to, leave a comment for a referral. You get $25.00 for free for signing up and depositing at least $250.00, and I get $10.00 for spreading the word.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Friends with Money

I just saw an old friend from college, and we talked money for bit.

He's 23 too, and has saved up about 45k so far (not including the approximate 20k in retirement funds -- I think his salary is around 70k). And here I thought I was doing well!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Now that your wallet is all lit up

I think I thought I wasn't going to air my exact numbers.
But I was wrong, because here they are (before I change my mind):

Emergency fund: $10,000.17
Checking: $224.53
401K: $207.68 (this is the amount I've contributed so far -- I have no idea how much is actually in the account)

Total Positive: $10,432.38

Credit card balance: $594.23 (paid in full monthly)
Student loan I (at 4.75%): $14,823.80 (started at 17,381.00)
Student loan II (at 5%): $1,227.37 (started at 1,640.00)

Total Negative: $16,645.4

Net Worth: -$6,213.02

My trigger finger's itchin' to put most of my emergency fund toward student loan I.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm considering picking up a part-time job to accomplish a few things:

First, I'd like a little extra money. Ideally, that extra money would also come with discounts on things I need, like clothes or food, or other perks.

Another big issue is that I'm still on the prowl for a future, and by that, I do mean a career. Even more than the first 2 requirements, it's essential that I try some new things out and find something I'm interested in.

Does anyone have any success stories to share with me?

You were young, and man, you were sad...

There have been a lot of articles lately about workplace bullies, which are basically variations on The No Asshole Rule. I'm going to be honest and say that I've dealt with a few here at First Real Job, Inc., and I may have even been one a few times.

So for those of you still unsure whether your boss is a bully, here are a few favorite bully pastimes:

1. Excessive yelling, screaming, shouting, or swearing;
2. Sarcasm, haranguing, and public humiliation; and
3. Treating the underlings like shit.

Please note, this is not to be confused with valid criticism. A lot has been made of Gen-Y's need for incessant fawning and praise. Some people are more adept than others at taking criticism, and ideally, your first job should thicken your skin a bit. While criticism is tough, it's also necessary, and in the end, invaluable to your progress. This post is not about that -- it's about workplace abuse.

While, admittedly, there are a few strategic reasons to be an asshole, there are far more reasons not to be, including the following:

No one likes to work with assholes, especially when those assholes are in positions of authority. The new hires get out before they get sucked in.

Employees will go out of their way to avoid reporting bad news to asshole bosses. For that reason, the business could be falling apart, while the boss is none the wiser. Productivity also goes down when people are obsessed with hiding things, or worried about the next nuclear fall-out.

Whether the illness is legit, fabricated, or imagined, asshole bosses cause more sick days that non-asshole bosses.

Bullying creates sad, angry zombie employees, and everyone knows zombies eat brains. Just sayin'.

I think I'm past-due for some defunkification.

Salary Malaise

A salary is a solution and a problem all wrapped into one.

Pros: A salary guarantees a steady flow of money each month as long as you're employed. Your paycheck is written out for the same amount every 2 weeks. There are no surprises.

Cons: There are no surprises. No matter how many hours you log, or how hard you work (or not), the numbers are always the same. Where's my motivation?

I'm not asking for a lay-off, thankyouverymuch, and it's not time for a raise, so I'm thinking about getting a part-time job for a little extra "surprise" money at the end of the day, some social interaction, and perhaps a field-trip into uncharted occupational territory.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Calculation Theme

I'm really into coupons.

As a 15-year-old cashier at Kroger, I didn't appreciate when old ladies would hand me fist-fulls of coupons that wouldn't scan. I wasn't such a hard-ass though. Instead of arguing, I manually entered expired coupons and coupons for different merchandise (what did I care, right? Also, was that seriously almost 10 years ago?).

Now I'm on the other side of it, and I feel like the cashier has a similarly low opinion of me. Using multiple coupons also sort of feels like stealing, which makes me incredibly nervous, but also a little excited. Sort of like that IKEA commercial where that woman is running out with all the new stuff she bought incredibly cheap, screaming at her husband to start the car, as if she had just pulled of a heist.

But seriously, does anyone else feel dirty, especially when combining coupons?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A word from the expert

My dad's friend works as a financial advisor, so occasionally I'll try to pick his brain for financial advice.

I thought I would get a thumbs-up on my plan for a Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 fund. Instead, he countered with Permanent Portfolio. I've never heard of it, but looking at the breakdown, it seems excessively conservative. His explanation was that this Vanguard target fund is relatively new, but Permanent Portfolio has been around since 1982, and has performed well, even in the last bear market. Ok, I'm down... maybe. The fees are higher than Vanguard's, but he said it might be worth it in the end.

I'm still worried it's not aggressive enough. Anyone want to throw any other thoughts into the pot for consideration? I'm fixin' to set this shiz to simmer while I go do my taxes [finally].