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Coverage and Court Concerns

May 23rd, 2015 at 07:36 am

Congratulations to me! I finally settled on a renters insurance policy and yes it is for actual replacement cost and includes additional coverage for my computer. I also got a discount because they are partnered with my auto insurance company. Part of this process was inspired by some new gal pals, who happen to be lawyers that were talking about how the personal liability coverage works. Prior to my struggles I always had renters insurance, but I clearly did not understand how the personal liability portion worked otherwise I would not have scrimped on it. Well scrimp no more! The deductible is a bit lower than I would have liked, but my EF is not where I would like it to be yet so this made sense.

I can also add a separate rider to cover business property at any time. That came up because for my job I am being asked to travel to multiple locations and I have to take the company laptop. Perhaps I am paranoid, but I do not trust the company to take care of it if something that is not my fault happens and I may not have whatever absurd amount of money they claim it is worth lying around either. On Tuesday I will contact our IT person and get a value from him so they can give me a quote.

I also made major headway on that legal matter that crept up sooner than expected. I was able to just get a free legal consult and did not have to hire an attorney, thank heavens! The amount of paperwork was kind of ridiculous and the time spent in the courthouse was lengthy, but everything was completed correctly and filed. The actual cost ended up being a bit less than I expected, but it still would have been nice to funnel that money into my EF or toward debt repayment. Now I just have to wait for a judge to review it and give their approval, which can take a couple of months. Thankfully I have only had to miss one day of work to deal with this and do not anticipate missing any more. What a relief it will be when it is all over!

Some Success and a Snag

April 25th, 2015 at 08:38 pm

So here is some good news....

I passed probation at my day job despite all of the headaches with my boss. She is still making it very clear that she dislikes me, but I have not given her a reason to write me up or get rid of me. Passing probation means a raise which is nice, but I am still keeping my eyes open for other opportunities.

I also expected my 2nd job to end in the middle of March, but here it is the end of April and I am still there. I appreciate the extra money so I am trying not to let the long days get to me.

My expense tracking is getting back on track and it is amazing how closely I look at receipts now. One of the things that stood out to me looking at the first few months of the year is how much money I spent on water. I am on the go a lot so it has been more convenient to buy bottled water whenever I am out. Well at some point I brought that habit home and started exclusively drinking bottled water at home too. Thinking back I realize I have done this for maybe 2-3 years! Judging by the water purchases this year I estimate I was spending a few hundred dollars a year which is pretty ridiculous. I purchased a new water pitcher and filter and fill up my 32 ounce bpa free water bottle (got it free at an event) daily.

I also settled on a smart way to adjust my finances to accommodate that annoying legal matter. I did not stop my debt repayments, but instead reduced entertainment/dining out costs, have temporarily stopped funding my EF and am using the portion of my tax return that I allocated for a secured credit card. All of that should be enough and once the courts do their thing this should all be over in a few months.

And one piece of not so good news.....

Rent is going up $60 per month. I get that building maintenance and common utilities are expensive, but on the other hand I feel like I should be rewarded for being a quiet, non-destructive long term tenant. Even with the increase I am still paying a below market rate which I know I am lucky to have. It is just a little annoying that I am finally starting to get ahead and have some breathing room and then this happens. It would be too costly and inconvenient for me to move at this time so I am going to eat the increase and keep focusing on my goals.

Random Ramblings

March 14th, 2015 at 09:52 am

Ok so maybe my progress train has derailed a bit or maybe I am over thinking it. Here is the rundown of what has been going on.

1) Day job... It is terrible. The work itself is boring, not challenging, and despite what I was told in the interview process I am not actually using any of the skills I developed in my graduate program although they are paying me for those skills. My boss hates me and has made it clear she is not impressed with me or my work. I am doing exactly what my colleagues are doing and yet they get raves from her. There just do not seem to be any great options to try to make the situation better without winding up in a her versus me situation and her longevity winning. I am still in my probationary period and cannot afford to just walk away so I am trying to tough it out, but am also keeping my eyes peeled for other options just in case.

2) 2nd job... In February there were more hours available and we lost some team members so I expanded my schedule a bit. The extra money is good, but this on top of my day job and everything else is just tiring and made me realize that I do not want to work like this until I retire. I think for the longest time I just assumed I would have no choice but to work like this, but with my career change it will not be necessary since my earning potential has increased. March has slowed down which is nicer.

3) Spending... I have not gotten out of control here likely because I have been working so much. I am still eating out more than I would like due to the long hours, but my new cookware has arrived so hopefully I can change things soon. I have also treated myself to tickets to a few upcoming performances and arts related events, but had no problem saying no to shows that I thought were just way too expensive.

4) Expense Tracking... This I have totally slacked on. I have pretty much all of February’s receipts to enter and those from the beginning of this month. I know I did not go over budget because there is still plenty of money in my checking account, but I miss the organization of seeing everything on the spreadsheet. LOL! There is something I never thought I would say.

5) Debt Repayment... Ummm I have not done anything here since paying off that payday loan. I did call to take care of the second one, but their system was down so they could not process it. Then I just got too busy to call back during their business hours. I just feel kind of directionless in this area, but maybe I am just tired. I keep having the strangest thoughts..... What will I do when all the debts are paid? Of course I could use that money for other things. But what other things? What if I run out of other things? Maybe that sounds stupid.

6) Savings... I have slacked off on the 52 Weeks Savings Challenge and adding to my EF. There are plenty of funds sitting in my checking account, but I have to move them and I just do not feel like it or that could be me being tired again. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot remember why I wanted to save in the first place. This could be because I did not outline a purpose for the 52 Week money and because the things that would normally be emergencies that would create debt I am now able to comfortably afford.

7) Surprise!... A minor legal matter has popped up and no it is not debt related. It is something I expected to have to deal with at some point and apparently that time has come now. Thankfully I can handle the matter myself and will not need to hire an attorney. It will just be a pain to have to go down to the courthouse to get everything squared away. The fees are a bit more than I expected so I am considering pausing my debt repayment to take care of this. Or maybe I should pause my saving? I do not know.

Crazy for Cooking

February 22nd, 2015 at 11:55 am

New cookware is on the way! After plenty of research and comments on this message board I finally settled on stainless steel. The set will have all the pots and pans I need and has a good warranty in case there is a freak accident. It should be here in a week and I expect to love it.

While I was at it I decided to replace my aluminum rice cooker that long ago became scratched up and also makes my food taste a bit off. I found one with a stainless steel insert and it has already arrived. I even found a pressure cooker and crock pot combo that has a stainless steel insert and that should be here in a week as well. I could also use it to make rice, but I am one of those prepare many things using every single pot, pan, and gadget at once kind of cooks. Waiting to free up something would just get on my nerves.

I grumbled a bit about the cost of everything, but this is more of an investment that should last quite awhile. Plus I am hoping the savings on takeout will lead to it paying for itself soon. Now I just need to decide on bakeware.

Several Snippets

January 31st, 2015 at 08:56 pm

Wow January is over? In expense tracking related news, things are still going well. I have about $36 unaccounted for which is annoying, but not the end of the world. This could be vending machine snacks, gas, cash tips, or something I bought and forgot to ask for a receipt for. Regardless I just noted it on my spreadsheet as “I have no idea” so it would balance out lol.

In income related news I got a cost of living raise at my day job, which is good because that means more money toward debt and necessities. It just caught me by surprise because normally those adjustments are so low I do not notice any difference in my net income, but this time I definitely do. My 2nd job has cut hours due to less work and even though that is extra income it is still sad to see smaller checks. They are expecting work to pick up in February, so I am crossing my fingers.

My car insurance is up for renewal and will go down a couple bucks. I also reviewed my coverage and learned that there is no deductible for just liability/uninsured motorist coverage. All this time I thought I would have to pay a deductible if I got hit by someone with no coverage, but apparently not. My car is worth less than 3k and the mechanic says I should be able to get another 2-3 years out of it so I will continue with the same coverage.

I also was able to add that class I wanted to take for professional development purposes and I must say it was kind of exciting to just pay cash for the tuition and books. I could have used this money to knock out some more debt, but in the long run this will lead to more income and it was a way to celebrate getting rid of that title loan. Normally I would celebrate by going out to dinner with my family, but I did not tell any of them about that loan because it was entirely too embarrassing. Advancing my career is an even better celebration =)

Thoroughly Tracking

January 22nd, 2015 at 07:59 pm

Expense tracking is off to a good start for 2015 and I am glad I used December as a practice run. I am noticing that consciously asking for receipts or recording cash purchases in my cell phone to later add to my spreadsheet often makes me ponder whether I actually need the item or if there might be a more affordable option. I even surprised myself by actually taking some coupons to the grocery store when normally I keep forgetting them and then they expire unused.

Spending this month has been a little crazy due to a business trip I had to take, but I submitted my receipts for reimbursement immediately after my return. I did quite a bit of research to keep my costs low regardless and that worked out very well. In addition to this my car needed new tires, front brakes, and an oil change. All necessary maintenance, but still costly despite the deals I was given. I am also hoping to take a class for professional development purposes and will be paying out of pocket for that at the end of the month if my add request is approved.

Survey of Spending

December 31st, 2014 at 11:20 pm

For December I was given a free month at a nearby gym and surprised myself by attending an average of 4 times a week to a variety of classes. There are lots of options to go around my work schedule and it helped fill some of the down time I have too much of so I think I will stick with it throughout 2015. I even used my Google calendar to track the classes I actually attended which will help compare number of visits to monthly cost. Physically I noticed that I slept better and ate less in the evening after working out. It is funny how a morning workout, which I usually prefer, increases how much I eat throughout the day and does not seem to help me sleep at all. As an added plus they have a hot tub and the one at my complex is always broken which annoys me.

Thanks to my employer I was able to get the required upfront first and last month’s membership fees waived and $20 off my monthly membership for as long as I have it. Plus they had an end of the year special that reduced the application fee to just $10. If that is not enough they then told me that they now allow members the option of coming in and paying in cash each month instead of mandatory auto billing! They do require a card on file in case you do not come in on time, but I had no problem using my prepaid Amex debit card, which also keeps them away from my personal accounts.

In other expenses news I have completed my tracking for December and wow it is weird to see all my money listed like that. It is very helpful though to know where every cent went and to have a little bit of money left over for once. I cannot wait to see what my household bills are actually like each month now that I am finally caught up.

A couple of categories seemed high such as Clothing/Accessories and Dining/Drinks Out so I will watch those closely next year. Other categories were surprisingly low such as Gas and Entertainment, so I am curious if that is the norm for this time of year or not. I will have a better idea next year.

Advantageous Achievements

December 21st, 2014 at 06:56 pm

It is official..... I have caught up on all of my household bills! I can start off the New Year sans late fees and past due notices, what a relief! It will be so much easier to just pay them as they arrive and finally get off the which-bill-should-I-pay-now-and-which-should-I-juggle merry go round. I can also see if I qualify for incentives to lower any of them as well.

Additionally, I have done well bringing breakfast and lunch to work, which is a nice improvement and makes the day more relaxing. I even made a small donation to a charity that I feel very strongly about which is something that I am hoping to do more often as my finances continue to improve.

In other expense tracking news I am enjoying this process. As predicted it is not depressing the way sticking to a budget was and it feels way more flexible in terms of unexpected costs and things I want. At the same time I am not having any difficulty thinking first and often postponing purchasing wants because it is so much easier to see how close I am to my goals and I love accomplishing things.

I have begun to notice my wants (whether things, entertainment, etc) increase significantly when I have too much time on my hands and I grow frustrated sitting around by myself. I work two jobs, have a handful of volunteer projects, have hobbies, and yet I still have so much down time. This is so much worse this time of year as friends and family spend more time doing couple and/or kid things and my life is not like that. I ended up with a free guest pass to a gym in my area which has helped kill some time and improved the quality of my sleep. The monthly fee would not be a hardship and the New Year will likely bring a few specials so it is on my to consider list. Regardless I still have a ton of time to fill.

Perceptions and Progress

December 14th, 2014 at 11:45 am

We are what, a third of the way through the month? So far I am doing well tracking all of my expenses even though some of the numbers are a little surprising. For example, going out to eat or for drinks has cost three times what I have spent on groceries so far. Some of that going out is laziness or being social, but when I looked more closely at the receipts I noticed something else. Often I am going out for ethnic food which I do not know how to make at home and a number of the ingredients used are not found in standard grocery stores. There are tons of specialty grocery stores around, but perhaps I am wrongfully assuming they are more expensive.

Skipping ethnic food completely is not an option, so I have been researching dishes that can be made in a crock pot to hopefully save time and money. Of course I have to buy a new crock pot since mine broke awhile ago and I did not have the funds to replace it. Recipe searching has actually been a lot harder than I expected. Do the makers of ethnic food not think using a crock pot is a good idea? So far I have found a few Mexican and Indian recipes, but not many Ethiopian or Moroccan ones. That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cuisine I eat too. Regardless this is worth a try and I do actually miss cooking.

Other observations? This was the first month I paid rent in full and on time in I have no idea how long. Before I was so underpaid that I was dividing my rent over a few checks which meant getting a 3-day notice each month even though the landlord was aware of my situation and said it was ok to make payments. The notice was really for their documentation in case I did not make all my payments and actually needed to be given an eviction notice. Paying rent in full and on time should not be a problem going forward, YAY!

I also wanted to get my hair done last week and decided to try a local beauty school. It took a little longer since the students had to stop for instructor assistance, but overall I paid half of what I would have at a regular salon and they did an excellent job. They also do manicures and pedicures for far less than I pay elsewhere. I can see myself returning, but I do not think I would do something that required any kind of chemicals like coloring since you do not have the same recourse you do at a regular salon.

Excel is Excellent

December 5th, 2014 at 09:16 pm

Here you can see the modified spreadsheet that I am using for my expense tracking needs. There are some things I left from the original that I do not currently have or do such as Life Insurance, Car Payments, Vacations, or Netflix because they may be things I acquire or can just act as reminders of worries I do not have. I probably have way too many sections, but without being so detailed I am afraid I would forget to track something.

The original spreadsheet worked from net income which I did not like. I really wanted to be able to see all my money in one place and not have to go hunting for paystubs or W2s if I do not remember how much I paid in taxes or for benefits. Plus I have more deductions coming out of my checks than I am used to and I thought it might be helpful to see the whole year at once as I adapt to being in a higher income bracket. Wow that is weird to say still.

The difficult thing is forcing myself to track all those things that many would consider frivolous such as the Hair Salon, Spa, Clothing, or Dining/Drinks Out. Yes when money was practically nonexistent I enjoyed these things far less often and was not ashamed to search for deals, but these things are likely spending kryptonite for me. This is worsened by the fact that I tend to pay for them with cash which I have a harder time keeping track of. I have gotten rather defensive before when questioned about how much money goes on these things because I knew exactly what people would say. In the past I have sacrificed things that I should not have in order to enjoy these things, which is not good. If I am serious about improving my finances then it is important I be honest with myself.

It has only been a few days, but I have done well tracking my expenses. I ask for receipts and when that is not an option I note the expense on a notepad I carry in my purse. My focus is on getting caught up and so far I am doing that.

This might sound ridiculous, but I am kind of struggling with constantly having a positive balance in my checking account. I am used to having my account at zero (or negative) and pay day is a week or more away. But now one paycheck is more than I used to make in an entire month! December is special because I will get 3 checks instead of the usual 2. It is just very very strange. Then on top of it having a 2nd job? Having 2 jobs is normal, but actually making ends meet feels foreign. I wonder how long it will take to actually enjoy it and accept that I worked hard to earn this so I deserve it.