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Big Dreams and Small Change



A Personal Finance Blog from a Recent College Graduate



Updated: 2015-09-16T14:41:19.674-05:00

 



The Holiday Bonus

2007-12-19T09:26:18.736-06:00

Since it is about that time of year that people receive their annual Holiday bonuses, I thought I would delve a little further into the wonderful world of bonuses!There are several types of employee bonuses out there, one of which is the Holiday bonus. These bonuses are described in detail in this article and I have included a brief synopsis from this article below.Common bonuses include:-Profit Sharing“A company sets aside a predetermined amount, usually between 2.5 and 7.5 percent of payroll but sometimes as high as 15 percent, as a bonus on top of base salary. Such bonuses depend on company profits, either the entire company's profitability or from a given line of business.”-Gain Sharing“This type of bonus program is most common in manufacturing plants and is designed to reward productivity and improved product quality. Gain sharing programs pay out bonuses for statistical improvements in production and quality on a quarterly or sometimes monthly basis, providing a sense of excitement for participants.”-Spot Bonus Awards"Spot bonus awards are typically $50 and up and can be made by your immediate supervisor and any higher-level person or peer in your company. You can get these for just being extra helpful."-Non cash bonusThis is a bonus in the form of a “recognition”, such as “employee of the month”, being recognized at a large company event, a trophy like award, a special parking spot, or an extra day off of work.-Sign on bonus"Given to new employees who have just joined the company, this award serves two purposes: to establish goodwill and to buy out any compensation "left on the table" from a previous employer."-Task bonus"Task bonuses are given to a team of employees for achieving a milestone or for completing an important project."-Referral bonus"Many employers offer referral bonuses to employees for recommending friends and acquaintances in hot job markets, as a alternative to hiring recruiters."-Retention bonus"Retention bonuses are given to employees in unusual circumstances, such as a merger or acquisition, or when an important project needs to be completed."-Holiday bonus"Holiday bonuses range from small gifts (for example, cash or the ubiquitous holiday turkey) to one month's salary."-Sales Commission"Sales commissions are awarded to salespeople for selling. Usually these awards are paid out as a percentage of sales volume."Bonuses are not only beneficial to the employee, but the employer as well. Profit sharing helps employees see how what they do effects the company as a whole, and help the employee to be more invested in the company’s performance. Gain sharing helps employees that work in production companies be united and more committed to making or exceeding production goals. Spot bonuses and non cash bonuses help employees feel more appreciated in their jobs, creating well being and making employees more likely to go above and beyond their call of duty. Sign on bonuses make employees feel obligated to succeed in their job right off the bat, in an attempt to “earn” money they have already received. Referral and retention bonuses lead to less employee turnover, due to the hiring of more dependable people (employees are less likely to “put their name” with someone who they already know is untrustworthy).Bonuses are also beneficial to the employer when they are used as part of an employee raise. For example if the employer gives the employee a 1% bonus and a 4% raise instead of a 5% raise, next year’s raise and bonus are based on a smaller salary.Option A: 4% raise w/ 1% bonusSalary: $40,000Bonus: $40,000 x 1% = $4004% raise: $40,000 x 104% = $41,600In year one, the employee will receive $42,000.Option B: 5% raise, no bonusSalary: $40,0005% raise: $40,000 x 105% = $42,000In year one, employee will receive $42,000.But after a couple years, the difference grows to makes quite a difference. Ahhh the power of compounding!Continuing the example above, with an employee that makes $40,000 a year, and receives a raise via Option A or Option B, this chart shows his salary difference ov[...]



Is it bad to ask for toilet paper for Christmas?

2007-12-12T11:25:52.700-06:00

For starters, I am usually AWESOME at making my Christmas Wish List. I know, I know, this is not a talent many possess… but I am lucky enough to be blessed in this area. Every year, in early December, my Mom, my Dad, my Boyfriend, etc. ask me for my Christmas Wish List. Ideas flow like beer at a keg party, and my list is perfected in a matter of hours.I know how to include the three basic types of presents. First, the large items, the probably-won’t-get-it-but-might-as-well-add-it items. (With the added benefit of making the presents in the next group look more reasonable.) Second, the really-really-want-it-good-chance-I’ll-get-it items. And lastly, the gift cards, which double as a list of stores the gift giver should shop at if they are uninspired.It’s a science.To my horror, when the time to make my lists came, I sat staring at a blank paper. You see, this year I have become obsessed with everything financial. I am budgeting my brains out. I no longer go to Target for fun. I have drastically cut back on wasteful spending. I am on an anti-clutter kick (a much needed anti-clutter kick).Wouldn’t you think this would mean I have a wish list a mile long?? Wouldn’t you think that I would run to the stores I have been avoiding and scribble down my list furiously??? It turns out that not only are my actions changing, but my mindset as well. I think I am starting to actually become a frugal person. I guess this is the silver lining to losing my “Christmas Wish List” expertise!The first thing I could think of for my Christmas List was a “useful” basket. A basket filled with garbage bags, ziplock bags, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, contact solution, paper towels, dish detergent, laundry detergent…. And even toilet paper. Yes, I’ve said it out loud. I want toilet paper for Christmas. How nice would it be to not have to shop for these things for a couple months?!?!When I thought of getting clothes for Christmas, it just made me think of the bin of clothes cluttering up my back room that I have been meaning to donate to Goodwill.Maybe I should ask for some DVDs, I thought to myself. But what about the new Blue Ray and HD DVD technology coming out? Won’t it be a waste to buy DVDs if I’ll just have to replace them in a few years?I used to change the “theme” of my bedroom every year. When I thought of choosing a new theme and perhaps getting a new comforter, I thought about how my current comforter is in great shape. The one I have is JUST FINE. And so is my current mp3 player, TV(s), DVD player, etc, etc, etc, etc!!!Oh the horror this brought me. I was stumped.It took me awhile but I finally came up with a decent Christmas Wish List. I admitted to my mother that I wanted toilet paper for Christmas. She gets me, so she is going to do some bulk shopping and get me my “useful” basket. She is amused by my new frugal tendencies.I also thought a couple other things that weren’t too embarrassing to put on my Christmas list, but were useful as well. I would love to have the new Photoshop software. I could really use some new running shoes. A craft table would help me be more organized. I could use some more baking supplies. Art supplies would definitely not go to waste. I would love love love a couple personal training sessions at my gym, and these would take up no space in my apartment! For my gift cards I picked places that would be useful for day to day things, like Target, Grocery Stores, and Gas Stations.My Christmas Wish List has definitely changed since last year, but in the end, it is a list I can be proud of... the new, frugal me.[...]



The Storage Bin of Wonder

2007-12-11T15:31:23.031-06:00

Last night I opened up my “storage bin of wonder.” This is the magic bin where I put all of the things that I pick up on clearance throughout the year. Whenever I see something that is too good of a deal to pass up, or when I see something that would make a PERFECT gift for someone, I buy it and store it away until Christmas time.

Some of my favorite things I find are candles, chap sticks or lip glosses, gift wrapping supplies, and jewelry. These things can be found on clearance randomly throughout the year. I also like to buy clearance items when the seasons change or right after holidays. After Christmas/Winter, you can get AMAZING deals on cute hats, scarves and mittens, which make excellent Christmas presents the following year. When summer is winding down, you can find excellent deals on outdoor candles and decorations, picnic wear, and gardening supplies. Since my mom’s birthday is in June, and she is an avid gardener, I stock up on these supplies when they are on sale. After each holiday, I like to pick up cute holiday hand towels. Putting together a package of “all seasons” gift towels can make a great present. Include an Easter, summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas towel. This can easily be done for under $10 dollars and is a very thoughtful and original gift (in my mind anyways).

Some other ideas are:

-Christmas mugs, for making a “coffee lovers” or “tea lovers” basket
-Red “Christmas” candles can be used on Valentines Day.
-Christmas themed plates for giving plates of Christmas cookies the next year

I try to shy away from buying:

-Clothes. Styles change, people’s size change, some people are very particular about their wardrobe. Too risky.

Anyways, back to my “storage bin of wonder.” Since I have been trying SO hard to not spend wastefully, my magical bin is not as full as I would like. The highlights were two 5 x 7 picture frames on sale for $1.59 each, and a beautiful angora scarf with matching gloves on sale for $2.99 and $1.99 respectively. I also picked up numerous gift bags, a couple sticks of soft lips cherry chap stick, and some cute ice cream dishes.

The frames will go to my parents, with some carefully chosen pictures from the past year. Luckily, I picked a girl cousin for my cousin gift exchange, so the scarf set will go to her.

Not only does buying clearance items throughout the year save money on gift buying (by getting the best deal possible), it also helps to spread out the spending, so you are not hit so hard in December.

This year I will have to remember that sometimes spending a little more than expected here and there, when I run across a good deal, pays off in the end. Hopefully next year my “storage bin of wonder” will be a little more impressive.



Goal #2 Update: Spend only $20 a week on food!

2007-12-03T13:45:37.327-06:00

Goal #2: Spend only $20 a week on food (including dining out!) between now and Christmas….Week #1: Monday 11/26/07 – Sunday 12/2/07I expected week number one to be easy, because I have lotsa lotsa Thanksgiving leftovers. I also went on a soup cooking binge the last couple weeks, so I have frozen Chili, frozen sausage cabbage veggie soup, and frozen ground turkey veggie tomato soup.I know technically I spent money on these things when I initially bought them. But I don't have record of how much I spent on them, and only eating things that I buy with my $20 dollar budget kind of defeats the purpose of this experiment... to save money! So my only rule is to only spend $20 each week. Previously bought food, free food, donated food... all acceptable.First, I took a little time to think of what the challenges I would have, and also think of what I had going for me to make this easier.Challenges:It will be hard to pack dinner on the two weekdays that I go straight from my full-time job to my part-time job…. And hard to drive by taco bell without stopping. :)It will be hard during Thursday night happy hour… no ordering food!Diet coke…my one true love. Stopping daily at the gas station for a $1.49 44 ounce soda could cost me nearly $11 of my $20 weekly budget! Time to find the best deal/sale on soda!I suggest you address your challenges ahead of time, so that you have time to make a plan!Bonuses:I have tons of Thanksgiving Leftovers.I just baked a dozen Oatmeal-Apple-Diet Muffins at my Mother's house over Thanksgiving weekend! These are perfect for breakfasts on the go.I might get a dinner or two from my parents. My Mom likes to come visit me (she lives 40 miles away) and my Dad likes to invite me to his house for Sunday night dinners.Food Log:Sorry if its TMI to write down everything I eat, but here is my daily food log, including how much money I spent each day. If the food doesn't have a cost by it, then it is something I had in my pantry, fridge or freezer.11/26/07 MondayOatmeal-Apple-Diet MuffinsBaby carrotsChili & StuffingTurkey w/ cranberry sauceFudgsicleDiet Coke $1.32Total: $1.32Remaining: $18.6811/27/07 TuesdayOatmeal-Apple-Diet MuffinsStuffing & Green Beans & TurkeyFudgsicleBaby carrotsBlack bean burger topped w/ Parmesan cheese & salsaTotal: $0Remaining: $18.6811/28/07 WednesdayOatmeal-Apple-Diet MuffinsTurkey Alfredo soup & StuffingFudgsicleChiliBowl of cerealDiet Coke: $1.32Total: $1.32Remaining: $17.3611/29/07 ThursdayOatmeal-Apple-Diet MuffinsDiet Coke: $1.32Stuffing & Green BeansBurger w/ fries $6.50 (I watched the big (disappointing) Packer game at the bar)Total: $7.82Remaining: $9.5411/30/07 FridayOatmeal-Apple-Diet MuffinsStuffing & TurkeyRestaurant Chicken Fettuccini Portabella FREE (Mom took me out to dinner)Total: $0Remaining: $9.5412/1/07 SaturdayPancakesDiet Coke $1.32Turkey (last of my thanksgiving leftovers!)Sausage Pizza $6.91 (It was a horrible winter storm, and all I wanted was to cozy up with a movie and pizza... I was weak!)Total: $8.23Remaining: $1.3112/2/07 SundayEggs w/ black beans & salsaDiet Coke $1.32Leftover PizzaTotal: $1.32Remaining: -$0.01Grand Total Spent: $20.01Review:Even with all of the leftovers I had, I still VERY EASILY spent $20 dollars. Those little things really do add up! The two biggest purchases (burger & pizza) happened on "special" days. There was a huge Packer game, that I do not get at home with my cable package. I knew I would most likely watch the game at the bar, and therefore eat dinner there. So I tried to pick something cheap, and not order an appetizer. And then Saturday there was a huge snow/ice storm, and I was craving pizza. The stress of the weather made me weak, and I went down to the gas station and bought a frozen pizza (Sometimes convenience trumps price). But I have to realize that "special" days are likely to happen every week, and learn how to get through different circumstances without overspending.I was also worried about my D[...]



Thanksgiving 'til Christmas; The Time of EXCESS

2007-11-26T10:59:38.513-06:00

Every year it seems as though the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is full of EXCESS. Excess shopping, excess spending, excess eating, excess work, excess travelling... excess! excess! excess! (Say that three times fast!) My goal between now and Christmas is to do my damnedest to counteract that excess, by keeping in check the things that I can control.

While shopping for presents, it is very easy to fall prey to the endless sales, bargains, and advertisements and buy for yourself. My goal #1 is to not purchase anything for myself (besides food and necessities) between now and Christmas.

Since I will be spending a more than usual over the next month for Christmas presents for friends and family, I would like to counteract that by spending less than normal on my food budget. My Goal #2 is to spend only $20 a week on food (including dining out!) between now and Christmas.

My Goals #2 & #3 will need to balance with each other, making them my most difficult goals. My Goal #3 is to diet and eat healthy between now and Christmas. I think of it as an early start to my New Year's Resolutions.

So somehow I will need to eat cheap AND healthy. Ah... the eternal struggle.

Since I can't really control if I have excess work and excess travel to do (my family is scattered among numerous cities), my last goal relates to spending. My Goal #4 is a little more vague, but I would like to plan and budget for the Christmas presents I am buying, and still be completely satisfied that I have given personalized, worthwhile presents for my loved ones. I've already got some good ideas for this one.

Make some goals for yourself that help counteract the craziness that is the holiday season. Or feel free to join me in my goals! Although it may seem at first that making goals is just adding more things to do over the next month, when you already have a million things on your list, I believe that making a couple goals for yourself will help you to be more grounded, more in control, and less stressed during this holiday season.



Thanksgiving Soup Recipe- Pumpkin White Bean Soup

2007-11-20T10:52:02.415-06:00

Here is a recipe for a very tasty soup, perfect for Thanksgiving. It is festive, different, delicious, filling, cheap AND easy to make. Did I mention that it is healthy as well? If you're looking to stretch your budget and try something new for Thanksgiving this year, give this recipe a try!

PUMPKIN WHITE BEAN SOUP:

Ingredients:

1 sprays olive oil cooking spray, or enough to coat pot
1 medium onion(s), coarsely chopped
15 oz canned pumpkin
3 1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
15 1/2 oz canned white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Coat a large soup pot with cooking spray and set over medium-low heat. Add onion, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin, broth, beans and oregano; simmer 8 minutes.

In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. (Note: Make sure not to overfill blender in order to avoid splattering.) Return soup to pot and reheat; season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top each with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

This recipe was highlighted as one of the seasonal recipes on weightwatchers.com.



Budget: How Bare Boned Can it Get?

2007-11-14T11:27:17.812-06:00

Just for fun I decided to find out what my budget could look out if I cut out EVERYTHING possible. No cable, no dining out, $100 for entertainment for the month, etc. Bare minimum only!For comparison, here is my current budget:*Although I pointed this out in my first budgeting post, I want to note again that this budget is my take home pay, aka after my 401K contribution.Here is what I could make it, if I super SUPER sacrificed:This makes a whopping 19% difference in my spare funds! Impressive! I thought I was on a tight budget already. This table shows the amount difference in each category, in dollars rather than percent.Analysis:Rent, Car, Loans, Cell Phone, and Insurance are fixed. I have decreased the amount available for Entertainment, Groceries, Gas, and Electric. And I have completely removed cable, my gym membership, and tanning.I would have to make some drastic changes to live on this budget, but if push came to shove, it would be do-able.I currently give myself a very lenient Entertainment budget. I enjoy concerts, going out to bars, and travelling. If I needed to, I could find inexpensive alternatives to keep myself entertained. I could go to the bars, but not drink (as my mother is always encouraging me to do!), I could take advantage of the free/cheap local events in my area, and I could put off any major travelling for a year or so.I am currently pretty frugal with my Groceries budget. I treat it as a game to see how little I can spend on groceries, but still eat well. I rarely dine out, or order in, and really enjoy finding new, inexpensive recipes to cook at home. My latest obsession is making new soups! Yet, I am completely sure that if I gave myself a $20 a week budget for food I could do it. Off the top of my head, I could decrease the amount of meat I consume by having one or two “meatless” days each week, eat oatmeal for breakfast (cheap AND healthy), stop drinking soda, and do some of my grocery shopping at ethnic markets. I’ve also been having some crazy thoughts about using ramen noodles in some sassy recipes… there will probably be an entire post on that.Saving $20 on both gas (as in automobile gas) and my electric bill is something I’d have to experiment with to see if it was possible. Currently, I pay little attention to either. Limiting my travel (per my entertainment cuts) would naturally save gas. I could also plan my errands to be more efficient, not drive home for lunch hours as much, and use public transportation when possible. I think I could make a $20 difference in my gas bill with just a small effort. And for my electric bill, I could be more cautious about leaving lights and fans on, and unplug chargers when not in use. Lastly, not using my air conditioner as frequently in the summer months would make a large difference.And now the three bills I could cut out completely; my cable package, my gym membership, and my tanning membership. Tear! It would be sad to see these things go, they are the luxuries that I most enjoy.Many bloggers have talked about doing without their cable package, and most of them find themselves to be happier, more productive people! Could I possibly be one of these people? Or would I become a social outcast, not knowing the latest plot line of Desperate Housewives? If I just couldn’t cut out TV cold turkey, there are many shows that you can catch for free on the Internet. Abc.com has a good number of their shows online including Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and many more. USA Network also has shows online, Monk for one. I currently get together with one of my old college roommates on Thursdays for some catch up time and to watch Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy. If she didn’t mind we could always watch it at her place, and take turns bringing the cuisine! In other words, I think I would survive… and maybe even prosper.My gym membership i[...]



FREE Haircut!

2007-09-13T11:04:36.509-05:00

The best things in life are free. :)

Today I found an advertisement for a FREE haircut! A local salon was completing advanced haircut training for licensed cosmetologists and needed models for FREE haircuts.

Although these programs carry some risk, being that the cosmetologists are in training, I consider this risk completely worth the reward.

A good haircut can run $40 dollars!

These were my thoughts when deciding whether to participate in this program:

1. Even when I pay $40 dollars for a haircut, I often get a cut I am not satisfied with.
2. These cosmetologists are licensed.
3. Since these cosmetologists are being trained, and probably watched by supervisors, they will be "putting their best foot forward".
4. Hair grows back.

Luckily I ended up with a cosmetologist who had been in the business for 12 years, and was enrolled in this training only because she was switching companies. I got a great cut, left a 5 dollar tip, and was completely satisfied.

Check out the businesses in your area to see if they do any regular training programs that you could schedule your haircuts around. Another great place to look is Cosmetology schools in your area.... they often offer free or cheap hair cuts, hair colors, manicures, pedicures, etc.



Are you a dipper?

2007-09-07T13:35:54.638-05:00

I like to dip. Pizza, bread sticks, steak, veggies, wings, crackers, pretzels.... You name it, I'll dip it.

I've been wanting to buy a set of little dipping bowls for the longest time. You know what I'm talking about, those dishes similar to what you see when you order your dressing on the side at a restaurant.

I think they would be so cute and useful. No more piles of ranch running into everything on my plate. But the voice of my mother runs through my head every time I am tempted to buy a set. I am enthralled with all the little kitchen gadgets that are out there. An avocado slicer?!? Awesome. But my mom will just shake her head at me, and say in disdain, "you don't need that."

Recently I thought of a free way to make my own little dippers! I am a fan of crystal light. I have always just thrown away those little pitcher portioned cups that crystal light uses for packaging. But it dawned on me that these little cups would be perfect for individual size dippers. So I am now washing them out and saving them to use as dipping bowls.

And I am saving even more money now that I have found the generic brand of crystal light they now carry at Walmart. (tastes the same, I swear)

Just a good idea I thought I'd share on this lovely Friday afternoon. Have a nice weekend!



Breaking Up With The Boyfriend.... Good or Bad For The Budget... Part One

2007-08-16T14:32:02.889-05:00

As I recently went through a breakup, I am trying to find ways to distract myself from my thoughts. I decided I would think about how this situation would effect my personal finances. I realized there are two topics to discuss. Immediate post break up activity... spend more or less? and Long term post break up activity... do I spend more or less as a "couple" rather than a "single".Part One: Immediate post break up activityDo I want to run to the mall and buy new shoes and clothes to make me feel better? Yes. Do I want to go grocery shopping and load up on extras like chocolate and ice cream for those lonely nights on the couch? Yes. Yes. Do I want to make myself feel special by making an appointment at the spa for a mani, pedi, and massage? Yes. Yes. Yes.Will I? No.Luckily I have picked up this second job that keeps me occupied a couple extra evenings a week. Not only am I not spending, I am earning.What am I doing to keep myself from spending on clothes, shoes, voodoo dolls and chocolate covered sundaes? I made myself a list of all of the things that I did not make time for when I was in my relationship. I have been neglecting my crafting, the apartment needs a mega clean job.I spent one evening devoted to cleaning. I did every single load of laundry I had. I scrubbed the tub so it sparkles. I cleaned the kitchen head to toe. I organized my linen closet. I vacuumed behind the couches. I dusted every surface I could find. I cleaned the windows. I cleaned under my bed (gasp).I am being productive, busy, and emotionally I feel like I am scrubbing his memory from my apartment.Next in line, clean the second bedroom. I am a pack rat. I have already been having the urge to reduce my clutter. I will go through every single box of shoes and clothes and crafts and old miscellaneous things. I will pretend I am on that one show, and make piles... to sell, to donate, to keep. I will put the things that are sellable on eBay or craigslist. I will put the things to donate on freecycle or to Goodwill. I will nicely organize the (hopefully small pile) of things to keep.After that I think I will rearrange the furniture. This is always fun, and when the memory of someone is everywhere you look, rearranging is a good way to make things feel fresh and different.And once my second bedroom is organized, I will know where all the supplies are to all the projects I have put off. I will enjoy completing each and every one.I have also been neglecting the gym. I am already paying for it, so I am going every evening that I do not have to work at my second job.I will take an evening to call all of those people I call periodically to catch up, my friends and family that do not live in the area.And all of these things cost no money.I think that when someone goes through a break up, they can easily revert to previous bad habits. For me, this is spending money. By consciously making a plan, I can come out of this situation a cleaner, better person... who is still in control of her finances.Expect Part Two Soon... Long term post break up activity... do I spend more as a "couple" or a "single"?[...]



Alternative Income: Picking up a Second Job

2007-08-13T09:32:33.103-05:00

So I scored a second job! I have been thinking about getting one for a long time, and I have kept a steady lookout for one that is juuuust right.My ideal job would be working one or two evenings during the week, and some reasonable weekend hours every couple of weekends. I have season football tickets to my Alma mater, and a pretty active social life, so I didn't want to be working a ton of weekend hours. The pay was not really important to me, flexibility was my priority. I would also like to work somewhere that interests me, with an employee discount that I would use.So I am now a cashier at a local craft store! The store is halfway between my work and my apartment. This is perfect because during the week I will be coming straight from work, and on the weekends I will be coming from my apartment.The hours of business are:M-F 8am - 9pmSat 9:30am - 5:30pmSun 11:00am - 5:00pmThis means that I can still have a reasonable bed time during the week. Also, no matter what, I will not be working past 9 on a Friday night (still time to go out afterwards). I wont have to wake up too early if I work on Saturday mornings, I will be able to do things on Saturday evenings (only work til 5:30!), and I will be able to wake up late AND still have time to relax after work on Sundays.They do expect some weekend hours, but they said as long as I give them my schedule, they will work around it!They also are working around my ongoing Thursday night plans with my old roommate (Happy Hour!!). All I said was if they were just picking days of the week to work, I would prefer not to work Thursdays, but no big deal. Well another girl that works there prefers Thursdays so it works out just perfect!The pay is only 7 dollars an hour, but I get a 25% discount! And I can definitely use that discount on crafts. Spending money at craft stores is one of my major weaknesses.I'm going to allow my first paycheck to go towards my crafting wish list (which is rapidly growing in my head), and try to save the rest of my checks.This is PERFECT timing, too. I am going to Europe for work in late September, and after that comes the holidays... both of which require some extra money.Making 7 dollars an hour, this is how much I can expect to make each month (before taxes) if I work 10-15 hours a week. This equals out to $3,636 to $5,460 a year (if I can handle a second job for that long)When considering a second job, spend some time thinking about your ideal job and what is important to you.Is it important to spend the least amount of time making the most amount of money? Consider giving up your weekend nights and bar tend. If you find the right place bartenders can make hundreds of dollars in a 4-6 hour shift.Are you a morning person? Consider working at a bakery early mornings before you go to work. If you picked up a 5:00-7:30 am shift on weekdays you could squeeze in 12.5 hours a weekDon't want your second job to interfere with your working out schedule? Become an aerobics/yoga/spin instructor and get paid to work out!Do you have a store that you regularly spend money at? I know my weaknesses are Target, Old Navy, and Craft stores. Get a job at one of your favorite and save yourself extra money by using the employee discount. My sister work in a department store throughout college, and got a 25% discount. This came in VERY handy for buying wedding gifts.Getting a second job is a big commitment, so I figure that it is okay to be picky. If you look hard enough or long enough, you will find a job that fits your needs and your schedule. And you will be a lot happier because of it.[...]



Making a Budget... Not a One Time Deal!

2007-08-08T14:04:23.615-05:00

Here is a nice article about making a budget. The parts I wanted to highlight are tips #8 & #9.

8. Assess your budget. At the end of each month, look over your expenditures to see if they are matching up to your budget. If they aren’t, determine if you need to work harder to stick to your spending plan; or if you need to rework your budget to reflect your actual spending.

9. Assess and assess again. A frugal budget is never finished. Continue to look over your budget every month to catch areas of overspending. Then, crunch the numbers again until you’ve made it right.

This shows that a budget is an ongoing thing, not a one time deal. If you make a budget then go living life as normal, you are not budgeting. You should continually assess your budget to check your progress and make improvements.

For example, when your contract period is over for bills such as insurance, cell phones, cable TV, Internet, and home phone, take the time to get new quotes to improve your rates. If you are happy with your service and feel apprehensive about changing carriers, take the quotes from competitors and show them to your current carrier. They will usually match (or even beat!) the competitors rates.



1 Comments

2007-07-27T10:25:03.374-05:00

Freitag FridayTranslation: Friday FridayWhile traveling in Switzerland last year I stumbled on the coolest business I have ever seen. I walked into a boutique that was full of messenger bags, handbags, purses, backpacks, lap top cases, cell phone cases, pouches, wallets... pretty much every kind of bag you can think of. "Bags... how exciting...." you must be thinking.But these bags are special.They are made of Semi truck tarp "used truck tarpaulin", car seat belts, bicycle inner tubes, and used air bags.Still don't think they are cool?Listen to the story of how this company came to be, from their website http://www.freitag.ch/In 1993 two bike riding designers (brothers, actually) lived next to a truck route in Zurich, Switzerland. Looking out of their kitchen one day, they thought it would be nice to have custom messenger bags made from one of those dirty 100,000 mile truck tarpaulins. They thought it would be unique, made only from recycled materials, and because the tarps are waterproof, the messenger bags would be waterproof, too! They started off making the bags just for themselves, then their friends wanted them, and then shops and museums wanted them, too.14 years later, each bag is still handmade, and still made from all recycled materials, and each one is still completely unique.But now Freitag bags are sold worldwide! Worldwide!! Here in the United States 24 different cities sell Freitag bags!! Quite a jump from making two bags for themselves. These brothers have made their dirty truck tarps into high-fashion boutique wear. There bag styles are called things like dragnet, night club, laura, top cat, dexter, renegade, fritz... and the list goes on.Shop over 1,000 bags on their website. OR you can actually design your own bag online. They have a program that allows you to pick the type of bag you would like, and pick out of the truck tarps they have available, then click and drag your mouse around to make the bag look exactly how you would like it. Now tell me that isn't cool. They even have a store made out of old railroad crates (don't quote me on that one but it was made out of old..... something.)Being quite broke at the time all I could afford at the time was a wallet. And I believe that cost me around 35 US Dollars. And if you sniff the wallet it does have a slight stench. But it is my favorite wallet.... ever. It is in my purse at this very moment.Why am I talking about this on my personal finance website? Because these guys are my personal finance heroes.Unique idea.... check.Took the chance to make it into a business... check.Low cost of supplies.... check.Great marketing.... can you say worldwide?.... um, check.They literally took trash and made it treasure. Awesome treasure. Imagine if you could take something that is thrown out every day and make it into something that sells.These guys are my heroes. [...]



Extreme Frugality, an entertaining how-to guide

2007-07-25T14:51:35.567-05:00

WARNING: These extremely frugal tactics are not for the faint of heart. Don't try these at home, kids.I had fun imagining all of the extremely frugal things I could do to be frugal if I needed to be. They are quite funny to imagine, but I just couldn't do most of them. BUT, in case you are literally broke and hungry.... or just bored and have questionable morals, here are a couple examples of EXTREME FRUGALITY.1. Stocking up on the free items they offer at the condiment station:You'll never have to buy these items again:-ketchup-mustard-straws-napkins-creamer-salt-pepper-splenda-jelly-mints-stir sticks-wet naps-sweet and sour sauce-soy sauce-taco sauce from Taco Bell-Arby's sauce(Ok, now visualize someone stopping by your place, and they open your pantry cupboard door for some reason, and instead of cans and bottles, you have bins and bins and bins full of packets. I think its hilarious)2. Shopping for your school supplies at local businesses that offer logo pens, pads of paper, or whatever else they are offering.3. Stop in for your daily coffee/lattes at your banks free coffee & cappuccino machine. I mean, they must owe you something after those overdraft charges you handed over to them before you got your finances together.4. Score a free meal during sample day at the grocery store. Call all of your grocery stores ahead of time to find out when each store has sample day and plan your schedule around it.5. Heck, even if its not sample day, go to the deli and ask to sample a couple different pasta salads. Tell them you're planning a party and you just aren't sure what you want to serve. Can I try that one on the far left, too? Imagine the possibilities... how many grocery stores are in your city? Hit them all.6. Lunch didn't quite fill you up? For dessert head over to an ice cream shop and sample a couple ice cream flavors... I mean, they make those tiny spoons because they WANT you to do it.7. This dessert requires a little planning, but pretend you are planning a wedding, and schedule appointments with different bakeries for cake sampling. These are guaranteed to be delicious desserts. They want your business.8. Want a healthy breakfast? Go to your local farmers market (with no intention of buying) and sample all of the fresh produce, and fresh cheese. Mmmmmmmmm.9. Free food right in your backyard. Make a dandelion leaf salad.... make sure there have been no pesticides though!10. Know your area well? Find a good area to pick berries along a path or roadside.11. Pull a Vince and Owen and take up wedding crashing. Visit a hotel each Saturday and find banquet halls full of people and join their fun and eat their food. If you're lucky it will be an open bar.12. And if you are really EXTREME, and you can't afford your nasty habit, smoke the butts of other peoples cigarettes found in the ashtrays found outside of most buildings.13. And if you are not afraid of breaking the law, send mail by writing your own address in the normal "send to" spot, and put the address of the final destination in the normal "return address" spot. Do not include any postage. This letter will be "returned to sender" which in this case is the intended destination. But really, I think that is called mail fraud. And that is all I have for now, folks.[...]



Who doesn't love free stuff!?!

2007-07-23T13:48:03.282-05:00

Who doesn't love free stuff? Every couple days while browsing the wonderful world wide web I check Walmart's free sample page. There are a couple offers at a time for new products on the market.

I have received lots of random samples of products including shampoo, conditioner, other toiletries, cat food, tampons, a greeting card, etc. Fun stuff! The shampoo and other toiletries are great for packing on trips.

I know there are other sample pages out there, but most of them seem to require you to complete offers, subscribe, get a lot of spam, etc. Walmart's free sample page is nothing like this. You click on the free sample that you would like, enter in your basic information, perhaps answer a couple questions, and that's it! A couple weeks later a little package shows up at your doorstep.



Piggy Bank Cash In Day!

2007-07-17T15:01:23.015-05:00

UPDATE: I turned in my piggy bank change to the bank today to add to my savings! I have been collecting change since May 1st and the grand total is $59.05. Woo hoo! This is averaging about $24 a month, which would be $288 a year! Veeery niiiice (borat style).

I am not going to include any advice about going to any Coinstar station to do this, because I don't see the sense in this. They charge a 8.9% fee! This is just not acceptable to me. Just head over to your bank to cash out your change for free!

Grand total: $159.05.... if I save just $7.95 more this month I will be right on track on my "2K in 12 months" goal.



Remember not to be "cheap" while budgeting!

2007-07-16T15:54:51.185-05:00

This weekend reminded me how generous people in my life are. As a result I have made a mental note to make sure to remember not to be "cheap" while budgeting!

I was out of town for the entire weekend. I packed in multiple activities each day in multiple cities. This morning as I was going over the weekend in my head, trying to track my spending, I realized how many meals were given to me for free!

Friday night I visited my sister's boyfriend's newly acquired bar & grill. He gave me a (really delicious) pizza "on the house" for making the visit!

I spent that evening at a friend's house who lived in the same city as my sister and her boyfriend. She cooked the whole group who stayed over eggs and hash browns Saturday morning!

Saturday lunch was the only meal I paid for. While tubing with friends we all split cost on food for lunch (beer and food 15 each!).

Saturday evening I went to a graduation party where there was a whole food extravaganza for dinner. Mmmmmm.

After spending Saturday night at my Mom's house, she let me raid her fridge for brunch on Sunday.

Then on Sunday evening I was invited to dinner to visit a friend who had moved out of state and was visiting her parents back home. We caught up over homemade lasagna and salad.

All of this makes me realize just how lucky I am to have the people in my life that I do. While on my mission to save, I need to keep in mind the generosity of my friends and family, and make sure not to be too cheap to return the gesture when the opportunity presents itself.

I think everyone can be generous without breaking the bank.

Here are a couple things I like to do, or plan on doing soon:

- Sharing produce from the garden with my parents, friends, and coworkers.

- I am going to a country festival for 5 days with a group of people and I always buy 2 dozen fresh bagels (with a coupon this year, yay!) for breakfast for the week. A couple bucks for a whole lot of happy campers!

-Sending cards/care packages to friends who live out of town. A card "for no reason" with a nice personal note in it feels very good to receive. I try to take the time to send a couple of these a year. Also, for my friends who are still in college, I like to send care packages on occasion. After realizing how much I loved care packages throughout college, I try to pass on the favor. I stick in lotions/products/candles/candy from the dollar store, and I am always picking up cute holiday socks right after the holidays when they are super on sale, to save for next years care packages.

This weekend made me realize these little gestures are not things that I should cut out of my budget!



Piggy Banks... Not Just For Children!

2007-07-12T14:23:03.646-05:00

In my attempt to save 2K in 12 months, I have decided to revisit my childhood. I am saving all my change in a piggy bank. I purchased a plain ceramic pig from Michael's Art & Craft Store. I actually purchased a set of 3-pack of smaller ceramic pigs from Michael's, and a couple paint pens. I used a 40% off one item coupon to knock down the cost as much as possible. Initial cost of pigs: $9.99Sale price: $5.99Paint pens: 3 x $.99= $2.97Total Price: $8.96 plus taxOf course, I could have made a piggy bank for no money at all, but being the crafty gal that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to go out and make one that is exactly what I wanted. If you don't care about the looks of your piggy bank, use a simple jar, milk jug, or coffee can. My only advice is choose something that isn't too big. Changing your coins in once every couple months will keep you motivated. And if you can't trust yourself, cut a slot in the top and seal the rest of the container so you can't touch the money until you change in your coins. If you want to do this as a family activity with kids, try making your own piggy bank out of paper mache.Why did I get 3 pigs, you ask? Well, I gave one to my roommate. Although this seems like a nice gesture it was purely selfish. I decided I would be more motivated to save my change if we were having a change RACE. So he decorated the "seams" of the pig with paint pen to look like baseball stitching. For a guy, its a creative, great looking piggy bank! I decorated mine with random doodles. I used the third pig as part of a present for my friend who just bought a condo, a creative house warming present. Anyone who just made the largest purchase of their life needs to save a couple pennies, right? If you're looking for a great, original, and inexpensive gift for someone, consider decorating a piggy bank. This would be perfect for any child, and just as perfect for a graduate. Know someone headed to college? Write "BEER FUND" on it and voila! no longer a gift for a little kid. Know someone saving for a motorcycle? Write "HARLEY FUND" on it and it will be perfect! Someone has made a business out of this... although I think that anyone, even those with little creativity or artistic talent, can make their own for way cheaper. I have been following one rule. Don't spend any change. At the end of each day I empty out my purse, wallet and pockets and put my change in my cute little piggy bank. The other day at the gas station counter my total bill came up to a dollar and four cents. I was thinking.... "Yessssssssss" (Napoleon Dynamite style). The lady thought she was being nice by taking four cents out of the "give a penny, take a penny" bowl, but I was thinking... nooooooo, that would've been 96 cents for my piggy! What a nerd I have become. I have technically been cheating on my 2K in 12 months, because I have been saving change since May 1st. But Monday is the big day where I plan on heading to the bank to see how much change I have managed to save up! I can't wait! Although it looks like it is a close race between my roommate and myself, I am nervous. He just started a job detailing cars. Since it is detailing for a car dealership, the cars are already sold from their original owners, he gets to keep all of the change he finds while detailing. You wouldn't believe how much he comes home with every day! Now go out to your car, clean it out, and use all the change you find as the start to your very own piggy bank. Every penny counts! [...]



Tuna, the other.... other meat.

2007-07-13T08:58:10.172-05:00

Tuna, also known as Tonijn, Thon, Thunfisch, Tovoc, Tonno, Atum, Tyheli, Atun, Tonfish... and according to Jessica Simpson, chicken, is consumed all over the world.It seems as though people either love or detest tuna. I am definitely a tuna lover. Lucky me because tuna is healthy, convenient and best of all.... CHEAP!A little history for you....The Tuna industry has been around for just over 100 years. Before the tuna industry existed, sardines were extremely popular, but around 1903 the sardine population dwindled. One sardine manufacturer tried using empty sardine cans for packaging tuna. Up until then tuna was thought to have no commercial value. Americans loved it and more and more plants started canning tuna! Tuna became even more popular during World War One. Tuna was a high protein food that was conveniently canned, perfect solution for American soldiers.Today over 1 BILLION pounds of tuna are consumed by Americans a year. Wowza!The most common form of tuna is chunk, light tuna in water. Since this is all I buy, its all I'm going to talk about! This type of tuna comes in canned and pouched form. Although the pouched form is a great idea, and makes eating tuna even more convenient, I stick to good ole' canned tuna. The pouches are more expensive, and the little time it takes to use a can opener and drain the tuna is not worth the extra money for me. Plus I drain the juice into a bowl as a snack for my kitty, and he looooooooooves it.Did you know you can buy tuna on amazon.com? Just a little fun fact that seems strange to me.So... Tuna is Healthy, Convenient and Cheap. Let me expand on that.Healthy:One 2 ounce Serving of Tuna:-60 calories-0.5 grams of fat-0 grams of carbohydratesLets compare this to 2 ounces of ground beef (85% lean beef):One 2 ounce serving of Ground Beef:-142 calories-8 grams of fat-0 grams of carbohydratesAnd when is the last time you had a 2 ounce hamburger!Eeeeks! This is over 2 times the calories, and 16 times the fat!There are many health benefits to tuna as well. Tuna (along with most fish) is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower the risk of heart disease, ease the pain of arthritis, reduce asthma complications. Tuna, as a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Tuna is high in protein which is necessary for building lean muscle mass and giving you energy.There have been claims that tuna, and other fish, are high in mercury and dangerous to eat. The U.S. Tuna Foundation addresses these claims here. Yes, you read that right, there is a U.S. Tuna Foundation. :)Convenient:There are tons of recipes for what to do with your tuna. I usually eat tuna for lunch, so I need something easy and quick to make.My favorite recipes are:Tuna salad sandwich:-1 2 ounce can drained-1 tbsp reduced fat mayo-1/3 cup cashews-1/8 cup shredded Parmesan cheese-1/3 cup diced celery-salt and pepper to taste-tortillaMix the first 6 ingredients and spoon onto the tortilla and enjoy. (The cashews, cheese and celery really stretch out the tuna making this a very filling meal). Also, I usually use a tortilla, but you can use bread or a lettuce wrap for variety.Tuna.. on a salad:I make a salad with lettuce greens, tomato, hard boiled egg, croutons, cucumber, and shredded cheese and add a 2 ounce can of tuna on top. I add ranch dressing and it is a delicious salad that always makes me stuffed for hours, a hard feat for a salad.Tuna pasta salad:-1 cup frozen peas-2 2 ounce cans tuna, drained-1/3 cup reduced fat mayo-1/3 cup shredded Parmesan-2 cup dry pasta (I used medium sized shells)I us[...]



Reuse, Reduce, Recycle: Good for the Environment... and your Budget!

2007-07-06T14:29:22.887-05:00

We have all learned about producing less waste by following the 3Rs; Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle. Practicing these 3Rs is not only good for the environment, but Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle is also good for your budget!REUSE:"Reusing items -- by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them -- also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again."-from http://www.epa.gov/msw/reduce.htmIdeas:1. Reuse old T-shirts as cleaning rags.2. Reuse shoe boxes as storage for organizing pictures, cleaning products or cosmetics.3. Reuse water bottles. My mom said that if you would have told her when she was young that they would sell water in bottles it would have sounded ridiculous. Yes, this might make her seem ancient... but that doesn't change the fact that water is FREE! Refill your water bottle at night, put it in the fridge, and have a nice cold bottle of water ready for you then next day! Rinse and repeat.4. Reuse plastic containers for Tupperware. Wash your containers from cream cheese, butter, sour cream, etc. and use them as Tupperware to pack your brown bag lunch (hint hint... brown bag your lunch!).5. Speaking of brown bagged lunches... Use your brown bag over and over again until it gets stained or ripped. My sister uses the cute little bags with handles from stores like sephora, bed bath and beyond, etc. to pack her lunches. These can last several weeks to months!6. Reuse soda cups. Do you get your soda from a fountain machine at a gas station? Many gas stations offer a discounted price if you re-use the same cup.7. Reuse shipping envelopes. Any larger envelopes you receive with bubble padding inside are worth saving and reusing. Use marker to "erase" old information, or tape on a clean piece of paper to cover it, and use tape to seal. Voila! You just saved yourself a buck.8. Reuse jars. Are you a crafter? Use jars from salsa, cherries, pickles, baby food, etc, for storage for your craft supplies.9. Reuse plastic shopping bags. These can be used as garbage can liners for small office, bathroom or bedroom garbage cans. Or as a packing filler for shipping. Or for transporting (bringing extra clothes to work, bringing a dish to pass to a party. etc)REDUCE:"Waste prevention, or "source reduction," means consuming and throwing away less.It includes:-purchasing durable, long-lasting goods; -seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible; -redesigning products to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use. Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment."-from http://www.epa.gov/msw/reduce.htm 1. Dryer sheets. Cut your dryer sheets in half.2. Shampoo. Does anyone actually use the "dime size amount" the bottle recommends? I know that I fill up my whole palm and slather it on. Probably half of it goes down the drain. Try using half of the amount you currently use and only have to buy shampoo half as often. Try this with your conditioner, shower gel, shaving cream & toothpaste as well!3. Soda. Drink water instead of soda every other time you would normally drink it, especially in restaurants.4. Stamps: Pay all possible bills online.RECYCLE:"Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. In addition, it generates a host of environmental,[...]



UPDATE: I opened an ING Direct High Yield Savings Account

2007-07-05T15:09:47.683-05:00

I have opened my first ING Direct High Yield Savings Account. It was easy as pie! Easy as falling off a log! Easy as 123! Easy as abc! Like shooting a fish in a barrel!



I signed up within 10 minutes, following all the simple instructions. Then the next day I had two small deposits in my checking account that I needed to confirm and voila! I am now the proud owner of a savings account that earns 4.5% interest. My initial deposit is $100 dollars. This is the first addition to my "2K In 12 Months". I only have to come up with $67 more dollars this month to stay on track!



I also set up a monthly direct deposit. So the first of every month $100 dollars will be deposited into my ING account from my checking. I have the feeling that the first few months I will be hurting a little from this difference, but after that, I won't even notice it!

$100 down.......$1,900 to go!



Weekend Entertainment... On a budget

2007-07-02T15:20:05.234-05:00

Keeping my social life while maintaining my budget is one of my biggest problems. I will live frugally all week long, but when Friday hits I can't seem to control my spending. One of my big problems is that I go to the bars for entertainment on the weekends. Bars are expensive! I'm not sure what it is like in your area, but the average cost of drinks in the bars I frequent look like this:2.75 beers4.00 mixed drinks3.00 shots4.00 bombsI can easily spend 50-60 dollars a night... which leads to around $100 dollars a weekend. If I keep this up for a whole month I can spend $400-$500 on entertainment! This is over 10% of my income! So I have composed a list of fun alternatives to drinking at the bars. A lot of these are geared towards summer. I'll try to think of more "winter" ideas... but right now winter is just not on the brain.Tubing: Get some friends together, pack a cooler, and rent tubes. Float down the river, get tan, drink, eat and be merry!Day at the Park (or someones house with a yard:) Break out croquet, lawn darts, bean bags, bocce ball, hacky sack, blongo ball , and have an impromptu tourney.Camping: Cheap and fun, assuming you have the basic camping equipment. Some campgrounds require you to bring wood from no farther away than 50 miles. If you can do this, buying/finding wood before you go will save you even more money.Road Trip: After college, everyone seems to go their separate ways. Keep in touch by making plans to road trip to visit friends that have moved away. Try to get a car load of people to go, the more the merrier! (Plus the gas prices are split more ways) :)Frolf: Frolf = Frisbee + golf. Frolf also equals FREE! Well, you'll have to purchase a disc, but these can be found at a used sporting equipment store for less than 10 dollars. But unlike golf courses, Frolf courses are free to the public.Day at the Beach: Not everyone has this option, but if there is a lake or ocean within 50 miles of you, take a day off to lay on the beach.Rent a Kayak or Canoe: If you have a lake nearby, get your exercise AND have fun by renting a canoe or kayak and touring the area.Fishing: 20 dollars for a fishing license for the season!University Tour: Your tour can be either self-guided or find a campus center for an official guide. Bring your camera, take pictures of your Alma mater or your favorite local campus. I recommend taking the pictures, getting a couple printed, and frame them. Farmers Market: Cheap, fun, exercise. Also a great place to go if you like to people watch. Did I mention how much healthier you will eat? And how much money you will save? Just make sure you don't go produce crazy. Only buy as much as you will be able to eat before it goes bad.And last but certainly not least....Festivals: Find a festival in your area using this site. I try to hit as many of these as I can! My favorite weekend of the summer is a country music festival. Next time you're sick of the same old, same old, or your wallet is looking a little thin, try something from this list! I know I'm going to try to do them all before the summer is over![...]



401K... on auto pilot

2007-06-28T14:42:05.031-05:00

Contributing to the 401K my company provides is one of the few financial decisions that I am proud of.A traditional 401K is a type of retirement plan that allows you to save money from your paycheck pre-taxed. This is a huge advantage because the money is not taxed until it is withdrawn from the account, which can only be done without penalty* when you hit the age of 59 1/2. (*except in special circumstances). Meanwhile the money in your 401K has time to earn interest and dividends, compounding tax-deferred. Money in your 401K can be diversified in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other assets, even real estate! Also, you have the immediate tax benefit of having a lower taxable income.Besides the tax advantage that the 401K provides, the other huge benefit is employer matching. Contributing to a 401K that your employer is willing to match is one of the best financial decisions you can make, because getting a 100% return on your money is difficult to do! The stock market only averages a 10% return (in long term investments). Joshua Kennon, from Investing for Beginners, is the author one of my favorite financial sites. Investing for Beginners is a great resource for newbies to the financial world. He has an article regarding the 401K, and makes a very good point encouraging everyone, even those in high interest credit card debt, to enroll in their 401K. If you are paying 20% on credit card debt, and not enrolling in your 401K with a 100% return, you are losing money. Joshua Kennon's article is also a great read to learn more about the basics of a 401K.My company offers 100% matching on the first 3% of my salary, and 50% matching on the next 2%. To take full advantage of the employer matching, I contribute 5% of my salary. My current salary is $43,958.16 .Here is the breakdown of my monthly contribution:3% that is matched 100%: $109.90Corresponding free money: $109.902% that is matched 50%: $73.26Corresponding free money: $36.63Summary:My monthly contributions: $183.16My company's contributions: $146.53Total monthly 401K contribution: $329.69Total yearly 401K contribution: $3,956.28Since I have 36 years until I am eligible to withdraw money at 59 1/2, and 42 years until the normal retirement age of 65, I am able to be risky with the placement of my funds. I have put 40% in high risk stocks, 50 % in low risk stocks, and 10% in bonds. The less time you have to invest, the more conservative you need to be with your investments. Which leads me to the main point of this post...The biggest advice I can give anyone about enrolling in their 401K is DON'T WAIT. The time value of money is so important. Time value of money is "The idea that money available at the present time is worth more than the same amount in the future, due to its potential earning capacity," according to answer.com. You can either put a minimal amount of money away each month now... or play catch up the rest of your life.I went to a financial seminar right before I graduated college, and one story the speaker told is burned into my brain. Its the story of Jack and Jill:Jill invested (with the help of her company matching) $4,000 for the first seven years after she graduate, and after that, she quit contributing.Jack waited 7 years, and invested (with the help of his company matching) $4,000 for the next 30 years.Assuming a 10% return, Jill would end up with $728,408 dollars! Jack would end up with $594,301. This is a difference of $134,107! Imagine if Jill would have kept co[...]



Analyze your Budget.... Where Can You Cut Costs?

2007-06-27T11:01:24.878-05:00

As I prepare to start my year long journey to save "2K in 12 months", I need to figure out where I can cut costs. To do this I am going to examine my budget.I am amazed, and not in a good way, at how much of my life I went through without sitting down and figuring out my monthly bills and formulating a budget. I figured out my very first monthly budget at the beginning of 2007... at age 23!!! Eeeks!Here are my current monthly/regular bills:- $769 Rent- $412 Car Payment- $102 Cable/Internet- $155 College Loan Payment #1- $95 Car Insurance ($568 every 6 months)- $65 College Loan Payment #2- $60 Cell phone- $60 Electric (average)- $55 Gym Membership- $25 Unlimited Tanning Membership- $11 Netflix- $1809 TOTALMy take home pay is $2, 445 a month. This means that I have $636 dollars to use at my discretion for gas, groceries, eating out, entertainment, and saving.I would like to add that I am also putting 5% of my pre-taxed income into my company 401K. I technically should say that my take home pay is more than $2,445, and include the money that is taken out into the budget, but I am trying to "trick" myself. I am not even thinking about the money that is being put towards my retirement. This way I do not miss the money. I also do not allow myself to consider myself saving, since I will not be touching this money until retirement, and I have other things to save for in the meantime. Some people may not agree with the decision to ignore my retirement savings, but when I was planning my 401K, I made sure that the amount I am investing would be enough for my retirement. The savings is on "autopilot" for now, and I will revisit my strategies in a couple years.Anyway, I digress....Here is a nifty graph to illustrate what percentage of my take home income is spent on individual bills:Of the $636 remaining, my goal is to spend the following:- $150 Groceries & Eating Out- $85 Gas- $300 Entertainment- $100 INGANALYSIS:I need a raise.Just kidding!!Rent: I have heard that 30-35% of your take home income spent on housing is the norm. According to this I am in the middle of this range. I still wish I would have skimped a little more on housing so that I can save more!Car: When taking out a loan for my car, I should have based my decision on my "debt-to-income ratio. I already had student loans, so I should have figured out how much car I could afford.Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) advises you have a "debt-to-income" ratio less than 15%. My debt includes:loan #1 (6%) + loan # 2 (3%) + car (17%) = 26% debt-to-income ratio This is baaaaad. I should have found a car with a $147 monthly payment to stay in the range that CCCS advises. I plan on re-financing my car loan now that my credit has improved. Expect a post on my experience soon!Netflix & Tanning Memberships: These are definitely the "extras" that I am going to force myself to cut.Car Insurance, Cell Phone and Cable/Internet: These are all things that I could reduce in the future. After my terms are up on these things I am going to get competing auto insurance quotes, consider changing my cell phone provider to take advantage of an offer, and consider getting a smaller cable/Internet package. Groceries & Eating out: My goal of $150 a month on food and eating out is a thrifty goal. But I think this is one of the areas that is worth the effort it takes to save money. Stop eating out, brown bag your lunches, coupon clip, visit farmer's markets, scour your weekly [...]



Gardening

2007-06-26T15:20:05.404-05:00

As you get to know me you will find out that I have tons of hobbies. For a 23 year old, some of them are considered dorky. But I am not ashamed to let anyone know how much I enjoy jewelry making, crafting, knitting, sewing, art, or any of my other "dorky" hobbies. There was one time that was kind of funny, in an ironic way...A couple years ago, my mother was just getting into Internet dating, and I happened to be home from college that weekend. I was sitting in her living room, knitting a scarf. My 50-something-year-old mother came back from a dinner date with a man that she had met on the Internet and introduced us. So there I was, 21, sitting in a chair knitting, while I was meeting my 50-something-year-old mom's new boyfriend. It was kind of a role reversal situation that makes me laugh every time I think of it.Anyway, since one of my latest hobbies will help me save tons of moola towards my "2K in 12 months" goal, I figured it was worth posting about. This year my apartment complex has offered its tenants the opportunity to have a 7' x 7' garden plot!I had been wanting to put a potted tomato plant somewhere, but my apartment does not have any balcony's or decks so I had nowhere to put one. So I was so all sorts of excited when I heard the news! Being the engineer that I am, I researched exactly how much space different plants need and got out my grid paper to plan out my garden to perfection. Optimize is a term you hear a LOT in engineering, and I believe I have optimized that 7' by 7' plot of dirt.My garden includes:- 2 mounds of pole beans with 5-8 plants on each mound- 2 mounds of snap peas with 5-8 plants on each mound- 3 tomato plants (Cherry 100's, Roma, and Beefsteak)- 3 foot row of carrots- 5 kohlrabi plants- 3 mounds of cucumbers- 2 mounds of zucchini's- 4 Romaine lettuce headsAre you missing out on an opportunity to grow a garden? If you are lucky enough to own a house, do you have a small area in your yard that gets a lot of sun? If you are in an apartment, is there a community garden area that you are not participating in? Do you live in a town where they offer community garden areas?If so, I HIGHLY recommend gardening. It is minimal work for maximum reward. Eating fresh veggies! Saving money! Spending time outdoors! Seeing huge fruitful plants grow from seeds! Nothing is more fresh and delicious than vegetables picked straight from the garden. A basket of some fresh veggies are a great (and inexpensive) gift to bring to all of the get togethers you will be attending late summer. As an added bonus, veggies are good for your health. Also, I cannot describe to you how cool it is to see a giant plant grow from a tiny seed. I don't care if that sounds "dorky". Every night after work when I walk down to my garden to water, the garden has changed. It's exciting.Here are my pointers for gardening:1. Make the most of your space without overcrowding..... Grow UP! Beans, for example, come in two varieties: bush beans and pole beans. By planting the pole beans and using stakes, trellis' or cages, you are using less ground area and utilizing the area above the garden. The more plants you can get to grow vertical, the larger your usable area gets.Think about it, if all your plants are 1 foot high, your volume used is:7' x 7' x 1' = 49 cubic feet (L x W x H) But if you have half of your plants growing 4' high (keeping in mind that you will never get carrots to grow 4' high), [...]