Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pottery Barn credit card bonus

Whilst perusing the latest Pottery Barn catalog, I noted that the fine print of their credit card bonus program is actually pretty sweet. If you spend $750 during the six-month "program cycle" (which appears to be the first six months of the year, and the second six months) you get a $50 gift certificate to Pottery Barn. Plus, if you spend $100 in the first month, you get a 5% rebate certificate which you could use to make the gift cards go farther. If I spent $750 on my American Express card, I'd only earn $7.50 in gift certificates, so that seems like a good deal to me. To totally dork out, $100 in gift certificates just for spending $1500 with the card (and it doesn't stipulate anything about balances, so you could pay it off right away) gets you a 6.6% return on your money. If you don't want to shop at Pottery Barn, you could sell the gift certificates on eBay or get 70% of value without hassle at or a similar site. (Most of the time eBay'ed gift certificates will get at least 85-90% of value, but it's more time-consuming and you have to pay fees.) I'm probably going to do some credit card arbitraging once my current 0% deal expires and I pay it off, so I'll apply for this one too and get my free gift card.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

A new direction for my net worth this month...

I compiled my net worth statement this month and wasn't too surprised by the results - I'm down about $5,000 - because I finally decided to spend some of my damn money. :) This August, Boyfriend and I will be taking a week-long trip to Rome! I love to travel and Boyfriend took Italian all year, so it works out well. I am so psyched I cannot even begin to tell you.

I am doing pretty well on my "save all my salary, live on business earnings" plan - I am getting a little chicken though, since with paying for the Rome trip I'm down to only (gasp) two or three months worth of living expenses in the emergency fund. You can tell how chicken I am.

I've taken a new philosophy over the past six months or so - I'm finally realizing that I do in fact earn quite a bit of money, and that money isn't any good if you don't use it to get what you want. At first what I wanted was assurance of financial security, now and in the future, so my focus was on building up an emergency fund and retirement savings. Well, I have over $10,000 in cash, albeit earmarked for different purposes, and as of now I have a smidge over $40k in retirement savings. My outlook on savings could best be described as "starvation mode" - you can never have enough. But I am relaxing some, and not saving every dime. Another facet of my realization is that I am spending a good deal more now on restaurants, entertainment, movies, etc, and often paying for my friends (most of whom are students) because I've realized that one thing that I want is to go out and have a good time with my friends, and there is No Good Reason to not use my money to accomplish this end. :)

Next month I will be moving into a more expensive apartment (it's a duplex) and I am also really excited about this. We need more space, and I want a backyard very badly. (My guinea pigs haven't been outside except to go to the vet in a year and a half.) Boyfriend is getting a grill, partially because it is entirely my idea to move as he's perfectly comfortable in our current apartment, and he is putting up graciously with my shenanigans. (Of course, he also has a room to himself as an office, while my desk is in the bedroom.) Now we'll both have an office, and a very nice kitchen and dining room area, which we use extensively. Of course it is more expensive than where we live now, but this is yet another arena in which I need to remind myself that I can well and easily afford this. There is quite a difference between living below your means, and living vastly below them to the point of unhappiness.

I fully expect my net worth to reverse next month, as I am paying off the Rome trip in a lump sum. I also need to contribute more to my SEP IRA, but I have until April 2008 to do that, so I'm not in a hurry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Going once..

I posted before that I am looking to see if someone else would like to take over running the Under 30 Honor Roll and Festival of Under 30 Finances as I don't have the time to develop it into something better - if anyone's interested, please let me know!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bah, oh well

So we went to take a look at this house.. and I must say, I was a little taken aback. While I was fully prepared for the cracked kitchen tile and lumpy, painted-over siding, I was not prepared for the several joists in the basement holding up the central floor beam, nor for the fact that all the floors are sloped and a little spongy. Least of all was I prepared for the ladder made of 2x4's that is the method for getting into the attic (which is actually finished quite nicely and is, by the reports of Boyfriend, the nicest room in the house - I was too scared to go up the ladder since it leaned backwards somewhat.)

So just from our initial trip 'round the house, we decided this was not for us. I had been prepared to put $30,000 into this house, but not $60,000 or $70,000 - especially with the damp basement and potential house-sliding-into-one-corner problems. I had been under the impression that the house had been a rental for a few years, but apparently it had been rented out for TWENTY - and it really looks it. There are lots of repairs (like the 2x4 ladder) that look like a cheap, quick, not-particularly-durable solution to a problem. The roof similarly looked like it had been put on by an amateur with cheap materials - it wasn't evenly spaced, and we found part of a shingle on the ground. It's too bad because the backyard was pretty great for this area (yes, you really can buy a house on 1/50th of an acre) and it might be a nice house, if I had $70k. The real deal breaker though were the upstairs bedrooms, which are all quite small, and only one has a normal sized closet. One had a closet literally ten inches deep, and the third had no closet at all. So I backed away from this house - maybe in another few years. :)

So now I'm looking at places to rent, since I do want a bigger place. I found a place that looks great on paper, but I want to talk to the landlord and see what experience they have since I get the impression it's just some guy who owns a house and felt like renting it out. From the county auditor's site, I found that it sold in 2005 (presumably to this guy or someone he works for) for $228,000 - and you can do the math that the rent of $1200 is not going to cover that mortgage. So who knows what the deal is there. I also have my eye on a few other nice places, so hopefully they don't get rented out before I make the final call! My lease is up August 15th so that's a bit early for around here (most things are Sept to Sept) so I'm hoping to get someplace for August 1st, so we have two weeks to move.

In other news, CashDuck is quite busy now and I have added another person to my crew. :) At this point she's mostly helping me catch up on tasks that have been long neglected, and taking only a little workload off of me and my other crew member. Ah, such is business.. it grows faster than I can manage to hire people to take work off me. But things are going quite well. My wonderful ducklings raised $350 for breast cancer research with this month's promotion so I'm pretty pleased with that too! I am pretty much ducking when I am not eating, sleeping, or at work though. Yesterday, I took an hour to relax, which I am not good at, and watched some TV.

In other news, I fear that between my work and CashDuck and attempting to have a real life, I do not have time to administer the Under 30 Honor Roll and I'm not doing it proper justice. So for any fellow Honor Roll members, if you are interested in taking over the Honor Roll and making it the best it can be, drop me an email.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


OK, so I know I keep seesawing back and forth on this issue of should I buy a house. I had thought about it but eventually decided that I couldn't afford anything that was in the area that I wanted and had the amenities I wanted (like not sharing a damn wall with a neighbor) so I started looking at renting a larger place instead. Today we even went to see a potential new place to rent which was pretty nice.

Well, I got home from that tour and visited the Craigslist ads as I always do, and then for a lark went on the Prudential page that I use to look up local properties. And..

There is a great house for sale. It is a wee bit more than I wanted to pay, but I can afford it on my salary, not counting any CashDuck money or contribution from Boyfriend. It needs work, but I do have money coming in that I can use (plus if I put a nice downpayment down, I can take it back out as home equity in the short term.) It used to be a rental, so all the guts work, it just isn't terribly pretty. Very nice big backyard (which is pretty rare for the area) and a big deck. Plus, it is empty right now, which is important because I only have three months (approximately) to get this done. Boyfriend doesn't have intensive classes during the summer, so he'd be able to oversee the work a little bit, and my mom is retiring in June and really wants to help out too.

So.. I put in a request to see the house tomorrow, and for a quote from a mortgage broker (an Upfront Mortgage Broker, thanks Searchlight Crusade!) and maybe we can get this puppy going. Although it is a bit higher priced than I would like, it's going to be the only thing we can get a mortgage for in this area - and I'm pretty much guaranteed to get back all the money I put into it when we sell as all the other houses in the area are at least $50k more, and most are pretty nice houses.

As my mom said, you were meant for this house! But then, as I said, I just have to make sure no one else is meant for it too. :) Definitely be updates on this soon.

Edit: I just pulled my credit reports and scores, I have a 697 (???) at Experian, but a 749 from Equifax and a 740 from TransUnion. So I feel pretty damn good about that.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Head above water

This month has been a particularly crazy one for CashDuck, hence the long silence. But I am doing pretty well with it all, though it does mean I don't sleep quite as much as I'd like. Or blog, or clean the house, or feed the cat. (Sorry, cat.) Recent thoughts:

Taxes - Ouch. I paid about $4,600 between federal, state, and local (plus I paid some 2007 estimated taxes for local). H&R Block decided that I should pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes - however yesterday I got a letter from the IRS (which did cause some consternation when I saw it) in which they stated that I didn't actually need to pay the penalty and they were going to send it back to me. Awesome! Albeit in 30 to 60 days. Still essentially free money. I signed up for the federal estimated tax payment website, and am waiting for my packet on that, and attempted to sign up for the state program but it is rather confusing so I need to sit down and try to figure that out. Local taxes, I just fill out a little coupon and mail that in with a check, there doesn't seem to be an online method. If the state and federal systems weren't so massive that I'm afraid that a paper check would get lost, I'd do it there too as it's simple, but unfortunately doesn't leave much of a record.

Housing - I am really getting the itch to get a bigger place. Our current apartment runs $695 per month plus electric/gas which is another ~$115, so it's pretty easy for me to swing. This is a two bedroom apartment and currently Boyfriend has the small bedroom (it's pretty small) as his office, and I have the remaining space in the large bedroom that isn't actually taken up by the bed. I would really like to have my own room though (especially since then I could take a larger home office deduction if I had a whole room instead of a 5x8 area) and I really need more storage space for all the duck stuff. Second, I would really like a backyard that is fenced in and that dogs haven't been pooping in so I can take my guinea pigs outside. I used to do that all the time when we first moved here but then our second year here several dogs moved into the neighboring apartments and their owners allow them to crap right off the pathway, so I can't let my guinea pigs eat that grass for fear of getting an infection. So some space outside that I can absolutely know dogs haven't crapped on would be great. Third, we need more storage space - we had a great big closet that fit everything, but then (although this is both good and bad) our landlord put a washer and dryer in it. Plus, I am storing most of the unpacked CashDuck duck stuff on a giant shelving unit which is oh-so-lovely right in our living room. So I am really thinking about moving, but have to weigh more room and nicer space against paying at least $400 more per month for what I want. I found a nice place that's a block away, but despite the fact that I walked by this morning and the rent sign is still up, the landlord said it had been rented already. So I've emailed about another place that's a little farther from where I live now, but closer to where I work, but is available in May (and our lease here is not up till August). It won't be a tragedy if we have to stay here a little longer, and then maybe our current landlord will have something that I want available, since we really like our landlord. But I am just getting a little frustrated with how crowded our house is - the rooms are all pretty small or full of furniture.

Savings - I have successfully put Plan Not Living On My Actual Salary into effect. I will get paid $338 on Monday, split 80/20 between the bills bank account and the fun stuff bank account. I already sent off the rent check from my ING checking account (hopefully it will get there on time as I forgot to do it till yesterday so it won't go out till Monday) and transferred some extra money into my bills account. I also didn't get around to making my normal $500 Roth deposit in March so I will put in $1000 in a couple of days for March and April, and my 403(b) will get the $2500 from my salary, plus my regular nonnegotiable contributions, so I am pretty excited about this massive influx. I will also probably put some more money into the Fidelity SEP IRA that I set up - I put $4600 in during early March sometime, of which only $1000 was for this tax year, so I should really put some more in. Part of the logic of not living on my salary is that pretty much one way or another there is not any way for me to get out of paying self-employment tax on my CashDuck earnings, and how much I can save of that is limited to 25% of profit, so I might as well sock away as much as I can with my 403(b) and then put away whatever I can in the SEP afterwards. Also because I can continue sending in money for 2007 to the SEP until Apri 2008, but I can't do so for the 403(b). If I continue not living on my salary for the rest of the year, I'll nearly max out the 403(b) and 457.

MBA - I've been thinking about what kind of advanced ed I should get (as I have intended to get something or other all along) and I'm really leaning towards getting an MBA. The university where I work has a really great part time MBA program which you can get done in as little as two or as many as five years, and is very flexible, and all the classes are at night. The thing that worries me though is whether I will really have the time to do it with both working full time and doing CashDuck. I finally broke down and got someone to help me with CashDuck, but I would really need more help or more time to be able to do this. So the options there are, hire someone else to help me, or go to 32 hours or less per week at my full time job. Option 1, I don't know how helpful that would be because there is so much that would be really hard to spin off, and would require a lot more sophisticated of a structure in order to keep all of the gears running together. The person who helps me now is doing tasks that can be done anytime and don't really intersect with other operations, so it doesn't matter that I don't keep tabs on her. I have a few other things that could be spun off that are similar, but she doesn't have unlimited time or unlimited space for duck prizes at her apartment. :) Option 2 might be the way to go but I think I will wait until I have been there long enough that I am too valuable for them to say "no" to me going 80% (since it would then be 80% of me or 0% of me.)

In the back of my mind there is also option 3 which is to get a different, less demanding or less than full time job, because where I work now seems pretty dysfunctional and unless things improve I might leave too. I do like the work but the management stinks. Everybody keeps asking me why I haven't quit my job to work CashDuck, but the short answer is that I would become very neurotic working at home and having nothing else to think about. Plus I need the psychological security of having that income (even if I'm not living off it) and I wouldn't feel safe quitting my job without having large, large sums of money stashed away. Third, I'm young enough that having that kind of gap in my resume might be disastrous later on. ("You were in research and quit to run a website and now you want to do research again?") So I don't feel it's wise. I mentioned this to Boyfriend the other day and he told me that he would think I was nuts if I quit my job to run CashDuck, for pretty much the reasons I outlined above, but mostly the neuroticism.

A parting thought.. Anybody else notice that ING put in a total deposits amount at the bottom, that shows how much money you have among all of your accounts? I find this to be dangerous as I am practically a compulsive saver now, and I am going to be very unhappy to see that number go down when I have to pay CashDuck estimated taxes soon (since I park CashDuck tax money and general savings money at ING), but I do like seeing that nice big number (though more than half of it is CashDuck's money anyway.)

I will try to keep to a once weekly blog update as I feel very squeezed for time right now - if you saw my house (and desk) you would understand.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

See Me On The Tee Vee

Check this out! They actually didn't use very much of my footage.. but I'm glad they pronounced my name correctly. :) And they didn't use any of the shots of the guinea pigs which I think were definitely way more interesting than me talking.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Taking the big plunge

Today I filled out the paperwork - effective as of my payday at the end of April (since I get paid once a month) I will have about 86% of my salary deducted pre-tax and put into my retirement accounts. I have plenty of money in liquid savings, and will have more by then, so I know logically it will be perfectly fine even if I don't bring in another dime from CashDuck for at least six months, but it's still a little scary to only draw $500 of salary a month! (That is, before my deductions for my insurance premium, gym membership, and FSA.. that's why it's not 100% of my salary.) So I might only bring home $200 a month. I went in to my TIAA-CREF account and put in some allocations for it - I am hoping that the gibberishly named account that doesn't have any money in it is the 457. (All the other gibberishly named accounts have deposits from which I can figure out whether it's my involuntary contributions, voluntary contributions, or the Roth.)

I also signed up with Citi to get the $50 signup bonus (read about it here) but I forgot to put in the code. I was supposed to take out the code that was there, and enter another. Oh well, I can always use more bank accounts. :) I wonder what the original code was supposed to get you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


TIAA-CREF found my thousand dollars. All is well again.

I'm more heavily thinking about sinking most of my salary into the retirement plan.. I am going to pay SO MUCH in taxes this year that I am trying to stick as much of it into tax-sheltered accounts as possible. (Still filling the Roth though, since I can't retroactively fill it five years from now when I am in a lower tax bracket.)

Life is just chugging along. I am really incredibly busy with CashDuck.. and of course I am not making it any easier for myself by advertising so much and getting lots of new users, and working on new site doodads. :)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Now is the time for the twiddling of thumbs

It seems like the days right before the 15th, when I get the bulk of the money and can start making payouts and transferring money and ordering cards, are longer than other days. The 15th is always a busy day for me - all the cards get ordered, and all the checks are written. So I'm looking forward to that.

Unfortunately, the other thing that goes on just before payouts are reversals - usually though if I don't feel that the member did anything wrong, I don't reverse the member's credit. So far this month I have gotten at least 10 reversals and 4 Advertising Web Service reversals, and lots of CallWave signups were put "under review".. hopefully there won't be too many more reversals, but the bulk happen between now and the 14th, when the invoice is finalized.

Friday, March 09, 2007

O where o where has my thousand dollars gone

So I upped my voluntary retirement contributions for February, and they were duly taken out of my paycheck. However, they didn't show up in my TIAA-CREF account. This is bad. They always arrive at the same time as my work's contribution and my involuntary contribution, but this time something seems to have gone amiss and I am missing $1000. I notified TIAA-CREF and they are looking into it, and I notified my HR department and did not get a response. Let's hope one of them finds something soon.. I'm a little disappointed that I missed the really low stock prices day - TIAA-CREF said that when they credit the money, it'll buy shares at whatever price is current that day, not the day it was supposed to credit. (Dangit.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Me And My SEP

So I just set up an SEP-IRA for myself, partially because then I can contribute for last year, and knock a good chunk off the taxes I owe, and because I came across this wonderful bit of logic from Five Cent Nickel:

As I noted above, you can contribute to your SEP-IRA as either the employer, the employee, or both. In the case of the latter, it counts against your annual IRA contribution limit, so it reduces the amount that you can contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA. But in the case of the former, there’s no effect on your annual IRA contribution limit. Thus, it seems that you can use employer contributions to your SEP-IRA as a way of legally exceeding the IRS contribution limits.


See, an SEP can't be set up as a Roth, but you can still deduct it from your taxes, and you can contribute up to 25% of what your business makes each year. So I can contribute my money to either the SEP or into my workplace accounts, and it doesn't make any difference. This is attractive because depositing into my workplace accounts can't exactly be done when I have a bit of spare cash - I have to fill out a form and hope they process it before my next paycheck. ALSO, I could roll it over into a Roth whenever I pleased, and I'm not limited to waiting until I leave this job. So I could have my 403b, my 457b, my Roth IRA, AND my SEP IRA.. drool. (I'm definitely in the savings-is-addictive club.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Gonna be on the tee-vee

So about two weeks ago, I was contacted by a journalist who was looking for someone to be interviewed on camera about the new ING checking account. Apparently, I was the first person to say yes. A camera guy came to my house and filmed me talking about the account, at my computer using it, and then about 15 minutes of footage of me feeding the guinea pigs (including a couple minutes of extreme closeup, where his camera was almost touching the cage and they were eating a piece of celery right in front of the lens.) No idea how this will turn out, but I hope that gets in. :) This story is essentially going to be sold to a bunch of smaller networks, who will have their local news anchor read the copy and dub it over, so hopefully it will start appearing on the Web in late March. I'll post one if I find it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oh you temptress, TIAA-CREF

So I wrote previously about how I am trying to structure my contributions to cram as much money as possible into my retirement accounts this year. Well, TIAA-CREF just sent me a letter about this year's contribution limits for my 403(b).. and my 457(b). What what now?

Apparently I have BOTH a 403(b) and 457(b) set up for me through my work plan. I am not sure what a 457(b) is, but it appears to do the same thing that I am doing with my voluntary contributions to the 403(b). And my maximum limit on it is $14,740. Which means, total between the two, I could put away $30,240.

This has opened up whole new possibilities of cramming money into the account! I am tremendously excited. (Especially since I found out that you can only change your allocations once a quarter, and thus must plan more carefully.) So I think I will wait and see how things shake out in the next couple months as there may be some changes in my life going on, but I might be able to get a whole lot more money in there! (This would also save me a fortune in taxes, given how much self-employment income I have.) Very interesting...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Positive net worth!

I updated my NetWorthIQ page a day or two ago and it looks like I finally have a positive net worth! Click here to see my NetWorthIQ profile.

OK, so it's only $367 above zero, but it's a start! (Although I am currently only including my retirement contributions, not the actual value of the account, so if I used actual value it'd be about $2000 more.)

I have some pretty audacious savings goals for this year. I'm already trying to max out my retirement savings and I want to get up to a $10,000 emergency fund (right now at $4000 and change) as well as save up the money to pay off my 0% balance transfer when it comes due in December (I'll need about $4600, have about $2700 right now) so I've still got some work to do. I have some other goals to meet if I can do those, but those are the first priority.

I'm really not worried about paying off my student loan though - it's fixed at 3.9% and I'm getting 4.5% at ING, so it makes more sense to save right now than pay down the debt.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

OK how dorky am I...

I got all excited because Boyfriend asked me if I would do his taxes. Normally he mails his things home to his father, who has an accountant do them. Which is really silly, because Boyfriend has exactly one W-2 and an interest statement. It took us about half an hour, at least ten minutes of which was consumed by such activities as trying to get TaxCut to open in a browser (doesn't work in Linux or Firefox) and printing out the sheet he has to sign and mail in because he doesn't know his AGI from last year (which is what TaxCut asks you for to prove your identity.) We then went to the Ohio e-file site and filed that - hells no I would not let him pay thirty bucks to let TaxCut do it! He's getting a couple hundred back which is pretty nice. I have also been telling several other people that I will help them do their taxes, because I just don't see the point in paying a couple hundred for someone at a tax place to do what will take us and the programs in Free File half an hour. And maybe some chips. I do like chips.

I won't file my own until April, although they are done, so I can hang onto the money a little longer.. plus TaxCut still does not have the Ohio form that assesses me a penalty for underpayment. (I probably should have looked into this earlier, since the estimated tax payment deadline was Jan. 15th and I could have made that and saved some bucks. But, since I have no idea what they are going to charge me, I might actually earn more in interest than I will pay in penalty.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Free camera when you sign up for Key Checking

I got a Nano with their last promotion - now you can get what is actually a very nice camera. Click to check it out. You have to open a checking account and:

* Set up Direct Deposit and/or Automated Payments and complete two transactions each of $150 or more by June 1, 2007
* Or, use your new checking account to make 20 transactions - from ATM withdrawals to online banking to writing checks - and be approved for a new Key credit card by June 1, 2007

I'd personally go for the first one as it doesn't involve opening a credit card. I've always had great service from Key and they'd be my primary bank if there were a branch close by. Right now I use them as my bill paying account and things have always gone smoothly.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Someday I hope to be this guy, without the beer

Click if the image is unclear.

This is from PVP Online, a comic that I like to read. This character won a whole lot of money in the lottery and now spends his days drinking beer and playing video games with his friends.

But seriously, I have been thinking (not in a morbid way) about where I would leave my retirement money when I don't need it anymore. One thing I think would make a big impact on people's lives is to dispose of it to a foundation associated with the hospital I work at. This foundation generally pays for things like cab fares and hotel stays and other little things that are important to getting your cancer treated just like the doctors and nurses are - after all, if you can't afford to get there and you have no place to stay, life is going to be a lot more difficult. I know there are a lot of foundations that support research - and seeing as how I am in research, I certainly appreciate it - but the best drugs in the world will not find you a sitter for your kids while you are in the hospital, or drive you here from two hours away when your car is broken down.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shameless plug - Get a free Fandango movie ticket

Join the Johnnie Walker email club and get a free movie ticket from Fandango! I believe this will only be open until Feb. 15th. If you prefer, you can also join CashDuck and earn a dollar for completing this offer - but a free ticket is pretty good too. =)

Monday, February 12, 2007

A better plan

The more I thought about the plan I came up with yesterday the more stressed I got that it might not work out (like if they don't process the paperwork to return my contributions to a normal level in time!)

So what I am going to do instead with the extra savings is to max out the Roth now, and change my monthly contribution to $1000 from $500. That way I won't feel much of a pinch since I won't be contributing the $200 per month (which sadly since I am now in such a high tax bracket, I would only get post-tax about $300 from the extra $500).

Also I figured out that I would only be able to do the whole-month thing twice before I hit the cap on my 403(b) contributions. What a dilemna to have, eh? ;)

So if all goes as planned, I will contribute the following amounts to my 403(b) during the year 2007:

$3990 - involuntary contributions
$500 - already made, voluntary
+ $11000 - will make, voluntary
$15490 - juuuust squeaking under the maximum voluntary contributions

Also: $5784 - employer contributions
$4000 - Roth IRA

Total: $25274, maxing out both the IRA and the 403(b).

I am extremely pleased with myself. =) Maybe I will hit my retirement goal before 30!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I'm feeling very pleased these days about my retirement contributions. With the new job came a healthy pay raise, and since my involuntary contributions as well as my workplace's contributions are done on percentage, they've gone up 30%, to $814 per month. I'm also putting in $500 per month myself, so I'm now getting nearly as much in retirement contributions as I am living on. This is astonishing to me.

I've got an automatic contribution of $200 per month to the Roth, and I'll max it out by the end of the year. And I'm now saving plenty of money. So I'm casting around for ways to get more money into my retirement accounts. I don't want to contribute so much every month that I have to rely on other money to live, but the 403(b) is the only other option after maxing out the IRA to get more money into a tax-sheltered account.

So here's my plan. I use about $1800 per month to pay all the bills, rent, groceries, contribute to the Roth, etc. So my plan right now is that once I have a comfortable amount saved up, I'm going to change my retirement contribution amount for that month from $500 to $2000 or $2500 - essentially my whole paycheck after about $470 in pretax required deductions - and live on my saved-up money for one month. Then I'll change it back the next month and save up my money again. Then when I get another $2000 or so saved up, I'll have another "no-income" month and put it in the 403(b).

This sounds pretty good to me but I'm also kind of chicken about not having the money coming in. But I think I can prep ahead of time and make sure the bills money is in the bills bank account, and the living money in the living expenses bank account, and I've got my ING debit card in case there is an emergency. So perhaps next month... :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Saga of the pennies

So the desk I have at my new job was inherited from a nice lady who is friends with my mentor lady, so I know her pretty well and have spent a lot of time with her. I have returned several things that I found in her desk that I thought she might want. Today, I went to ask her about the pennies. Lots and lots of pennies.

See, in my desk drawer I have a tray, and in the tray are some rubber bands, binder clips, bits of paper, and about 100 pennies. It seems that she just dumped all her excess pennies in this tray, and pushed it to the back. So when I went to give her something that I found in my area today, I asked her about the pennies and if she would like me to bring them to her.

She made a face and said she did not want them. Apparently she really, really doesn't like pennies.

So I put them in a zip bag and brought them home to put in my piggy bank. Hey, it's 100 more pennies than I had before!

And if you were curious, yes, I also pick up pennies off the sidewalk. That's also one more penny than I had before.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Now up to 6 ING accounts...

I am a huge fan of ING Direct and have been for a long time - I joined in June 2001, the summer before I left for college, and my first account was named the "oh shit fund". (It is still called that.)

Well, I am now up to six accounts with them, having opened an Electric Orange account a week or so ago, and yesterday opened yet another savings account in order to hold my credit card payoff money. I have about $5700 on a 0% balance transfer and decided to just save it up and hang onto the money until it expires next December to earn a little more interest. Once it's paid off, I may start doing some 0% balance transfer arbitrage stuff to earn more, but we will see. But to keep that money separate, I opened another account. You can open as many savings accounts as you want under one customer number, and give them all different names, and they will have different account numbers so you can direct deposit into specific accounts. So right now I have my "oh shit fund", a house fund, a credit card holding account, an Electric Orange checking account, and two accounts for CashDuck which hold tax money and business savings. This should be enough accounts for me in a while.. I just do so love to have every dollar in its place!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Why I don't carry cash

Cause I took out $90 a week ago and have.. um.. $49 left, and no clear recollection of where it went. I know I went out to eat, bought some little things for my mom, a couple snacks, a bagel sandwich for breakfast, um..

See, I needed cash because I have to take a cab tomorrow and wanted to have cash on me to pay for it. And I figured I should get $90 so I could get closer to the actual fare than I would with only $20s. Then I thought I should get some fives and broke a twenty.. then broke a ten to get singles.. and now I have five $5 bills, nine $1 bills, and one twenty left. And that twenty was supposed to stay in my purse as emergency money.

Oops. I guess I have to go to the bank again.. but this time only take out $20!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pluses and minuses

Plus: I got my $50 National City gift card in the mail today - it was a Sharebuilder bonus for signing up through my National City account that I have for CashDuck. So that's pretty cool. Sharebuilder bonuses are awesome. (I invested my $6 in an S&P 500 index fund. It is now worth $6.14. How savvy am I?)

Minus: I got two W-2's that I had forgotten about - one for Pearson, which was a test-grading job that I had for about a month in April-ish ($988) and one for Kaplan, where I worked for exactly three days during the July-ish period when I decided I needed a second job and then decided that I really wanted to go home after work ($81). So that's about $200 more in taxes to pay since neither had much withheld. And it also makes me wonder where the thousand dollars went??

Plus: I finally am able to see information about Electric Orange, the new ING checking account, and I am ALL over that. They have a payment feature where you can send someone an email, they put in their banking info, and voila they get money! This is so cool I can't even begin to describe. Plus about 3% interest on the money you have sitting around in the account. I am so opening one for CashDuck!!

EDIT: I originally wasn't happy about this feature because you had to know their account info - but the description made it sound like you didn't have to anymore. On further investigation, it's the same. So I guess that makes this a neutral?

Minus: I went to Target on Sunday with a pocketful of coupons, spent $91 and walked out without remembering to actually hand over the coupons to the Target lady (about $10 worth.)

Plus: I got a prescription filled and actually had one of the free-gift-card-with-prescription coupons (which I did use) from Target, so I got a $10 gift card from that.

Plus: I get my first paycheck from my new job on Wednesday - and $500 of it is going into my 403(b). So, from my calculations, about $1340 will actually be deposited between my employer's contributions and my voluntary and involuntary contributions. Which is about as much money as I use to live on and pay bills other than debt. So I think that's pretty cool. If all goes as planned I may have to raise my goals of how much retirement money I want to save by 30! =)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Check out this edition of the Festival of Under 30 Finances!

Golbguru asked a really great question, and got some interesting answers.. I bet you wish you'd contributed now, huh? ;) Go look!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Because I am a dork...

I started doing my taxes tonight. (Despite the fact that I know I will owe thousands and prefer to keep the money in the savings account until the last minute.) Why? Because I am a huge dork and like to do my taxes. I use H&R Block, although now I make enough that it won't be free anymore. But it does nice things like import my information from last year.

Unfortunately, it seems that the form which you use for the telephone tax refund won't be available for two whole more days, so I can't finish. =) Not that I was going to.. but again, see the dork thing.

Upcoming Festival of Under 30 Finances!

Submit your post to this Friday's festival and answer this question:

Assume you are an average 25 year old with $25,000 debt (on account of your student loan) You have been given a lump sum $10,000 and the following four choices:

1. Invest it for your retirement funds.
2. Save/invest it for your future home.
3. Save/invest it towards your child’s/children’s future college education.
4. Pay part of your student loan debt.

You can pick only one of the above choices towards which you should use the entire $10,000. Which one will you pick? ..and Why? Assume that the rate of return on the three investments choices is the same and the student loan charges you an interest rate that is equal to this rate of return. Would your answer be any different if the amount was $25,000 instead of $10,000? Again, you can pick only one of the choices.

Click here to submit! You have until Wednesday at midnight, so plenty of time to mull over your choices...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The penny pinchers club

I think the lunching situation has been resolved - basically, it seems like I will be able to eat lunch with the other two new girls each day, although one of them is only over in our building temporarily to be trained, and will be permanently working about five minutes' drive from us. We've decided to go out to a Mexican place that they both like and I haven't been to - but we have all agreed that spending money on lunch is wasteful. One of them actually said, you know, if you spend $25 a week on lunch, that's $100 a month! (Which is of course something regularly said in the PF community, but I would have felt like a big dork saying it myself. =)

The three of us have also had long conversations at lunch about how people spend their money wastefully, and how people try to convince us to spend more money. (Both girls have significant savings despite holding essentially student-wage jobs previously.) They also both described themselves as penny pinchers. So I feel like I have found financial kindred spirits and I am quite satisfied.

They also serve as a kind of financial conscience - I know that I will feel wasteful if I bring in restaurant leftovers for lunch three times in one week because then they will know I ate out three times for dinner. ;) So that's going to keep me in line there too!

I did feel kind of bad on Friday though because my mentor lady didn't have anyone to go with because the lady we usually ate with is not there on Fridays, and I was going off to eat with the other girls. She did eventually find someone who would go with her, but if I hadn't said I was going with the other girls then it would have been just the two of us and she could have gone to lunch when she wanted, instead of waiting for someone else to come back to go with her.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Eatin' fancy on the cheap

Check this out kids.. I am very proud of this latest cheap dining escapade. I usually try to use a coupon or something every time we go out (to the point that, when Boyfriend wishes to go out, he asks what coupons I have handy) but this time I was especially skillful. I've taken quite a shine to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant that's unfortunately rather expensive. We went there for our anniversary and the bill including tip was over $120 - so not someplace you go everyday! But I got a $50 gift card (by cashing in 5000 points that were awarded with my Amex Gold which I got for CashDuck) and also signed up for their Fondue Club which gave me a coupon for a free chocolate dessert (about $14 normally.) But this time we knew what was going on (as the menu can be complicated) and got a cheaper package, as well as the gift card and free chocolate. So I present to you my eating on the cheap:

I left a tip of $25 and change to make $40 even - which is about as much as we'd spend at the Olive Garden, for a very swanky evening out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Update on the lunching situation

I brought my lunch on Thursday and simply took it with me to the diner - I felt a little silly so I got some fries too. (They do have good fries.) Then on Friday I didn't have enough time Thursday night to make the lunch, so I ended up spending another $7 for pizza. But there are also two new people who want to go to lunch with us (although we have not been able to locate them at the proper lunch time) who both bring their lunch, so I think between all of us we will start a movement here! Part of the problem is that there is no real place that we can sit in the office - there is a kitchen but it doesn't have any chairs and the table is covered in crap. They have co-opted another department's lounge though and that seemed to be OK, so perhaps we will do that next week.

A bit stressed about the job at the moment - my supervisor has been on vacation all this week, but over the weekend before she left she sent me an email about what people's thoughts were, and apparently people got the impression that I was not particularly excited to be there. I am not naturally a hugely effusive person, and I didn't think I came across as terribly excitable in the interview, but they were concerned that I wasn't interacting much with the patients (exactly what am I going to tell them?) or with the other clinical people when we were up on the hospital floors (who don't know me - and if you've ever worked in that situation, people are generally so busy that you chit chat and then as soon as the conversation is over, you mutually ignore each other and get back to work. So if the chit chat is just "hello, nice to meet you" then it's over pretty quickly.) My supervisor brought up in our meeting on Friday that there were other places that I could move to if this wasn't a good fit - at the time I thought she meant to a different working group (groups are arranged by type of cancer) but now I am wondering if she means out of my position entirely, and into doing data coordination or regulatory, which would involve no patient contact or even leaving the room much. So I don't know what's going to happen - I feel overwhelmed because I have to learn so much, and I don't think it's really fair to make my first week dictate that I should be moved immediately. I realize they don't want to waste time training me if I won't be any good, and my supervisor said that if it's too overwhelming and I'm not happy then I won't stay very long and that's not what they want, but if I get moved to another position that I end up hating, well, then I won't be there very long either.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Festival of Under 30 Finances up at The Finance Journey!

Click here and go check it out. Several bloggers wrote full length articles on this week's question, so you get to see a really in depth response.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Upcoming Festival of Under 30 Finances!

Click here to submit your post. This edition's question: Where do you see yourself financially in 10 years?

Do you think ten financial years will be gone in the blink of an eye, or do you think you'll be closer to your goals? Submit your article and your answer for us all to see! This edition is hosted by The Finance Journey.

My $70 Night Out (at a potluck in someone's house)

On Saturday, Boyfriend and I decided that we would make a Philly cheesecake for a potluck we were going to that night. So we went to the store and plunked down about $20 for ingredients (as we didn't own any graham crackers, five boxes of cream cheese, etc etc.) and took it all home. I put everything together, got the crust baked, poured it and baked it. Boyfriend took it out to cool and about half an hour later, we were going to put it in the fridge. He said, I wonder what it tastes like? So I took a spoon and took a little piece out of the corner. It was, how shall I say, yucky.

On further perusal of the recipe, it was discovered that I had left out the cup of sour cream. Which I guess you need.

So we went back to the store and spent another $10 or so buying a small frozen cheesecake, and an extra frozen pie since the cheesecake didn't seem big enough for ten people. I made the raspberry stuff for the topping (ie putting a bunch of frozen raspberries and melting them in a pot on the stove - they will liquefy) and we went off to the party.

There is no real parking around this friend's apartment, so we parked on the street. Illegally. (Sort of.) And were ticketed, which was $40.

So much for a cheap night out with friends! =)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Eating up my salary - and me being a party pooper

The first day at my new job, I went to lunch with some of the ladies, and I thought that was nice - they wanted to do something special and get out of the office so they could get to know me. However, it actually seems like they eat out every single day. Yesterday we went to an actual sit-down diner, and today we went back to the expensive cafeteria. (There are two cafeterias at the hospital - one is pretty low key, with sandwiches, soup, entrees of the day, salad bar, etc. I can usually get whatever I want for five bucks or less, including fries. The other one is actually several retail food shops, sort of like a mini food court - we have a Wall Street Deli, Mark Pi's, some Italian place that serves pasta and pizza, and a coffee bar/smoothies place.) No one has mentioned going to the regular cafeteria (although they have just as much variety, are somewhat closer, and are cheaper - and the ladies seemed to know an awful lot about the menu at Nick's Diner. (One of them had a fully punched buy-nine-get-tenth-free card, and said it was her second one. She's only been here a year and a half.)

So I am wondering what I should do. On the one hand, one of the ladies is basically going to be my mentor and I will be with her all the time, and I do like her so I don't want to miss out on lunching with her. Plus, I hardly know anyone else. And two, I don't really want to sit at my desk and eat like I did at my old job. That was very sad. But on the other hand, I don't want to drop six or seven dollars a day on lunch. Previously I usually brought in frozen dinners or Chunky soup, but there is no microwave at these locations (although there is in the cheaper cafeteria!) - so maybe I will start packing sandwiches or something that can be eaten cold? I gotta figure this out before I hemorrhage lunch money!! I've been paying for lunch with a $25 Visa gift card I got for Christmas from a family friend so I'm not hurting yet.

One thing that I think is interesting however is that my mentor lady was talking about how she's basically perennially on the edge of bankruptcy ever since adopting her children - the adoption cost $50,000 for both children, and they haven't had much extra money since. But, and this is a big but, she then went on to describe the lavish birthday parties she throws for them. Her kids just turned four, and she didn't do anything for their first birthdays, but each birthday since then they have each had a huge to-do with tents, decorations, full costumes for everyone, etc, to the tune of about $2,000 each. So two children, three birthdays each at $2,000, that's twelve thousand dollars! She also admitted to being a huge shopper - so between the shopping, the huge parties, and the eating out every day, I am not surprised she has money problems. On the way back from the diner I had to go to the bank and deposit some checks, since they are now open only while I am at work (as I am now working real hours) and my mentor lady asked jokingly if I was in the zero-money club too. I just kind of laughed and didn't say anything, I did not want to say that I was in there depositing six checks for a total of $2500, most of which came from CashDuck, and was going to my Roth IRA. I don't think they would have been laughing much after that.

Question for the rest of you - Do you feel like you are a big stick in the mud because you are financially responsible? How do you keep from raining on others' parades (even when that parade is running them into bankruptcy?)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dividends Yes Yes I Love Dividends Yes!

Evidently TIAA-CREF declared dividends when I wasn't looking (Dec. 22nd, to be precise) and I got a bunch o' free money!

TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Value Index Fund - Retirement Class $0.02
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Equity Fund - Retirement Class $0.06
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Blend Index Fund - Retirement Class $0.09
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Value Index Fund - Retirement Class $0.28
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Value Index Fund - Retirement Class $0.48
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Equity Fund - Retirement Class $0.54
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Equity Fund - Retirement Class $0.61
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Blend Index Fund - Retirement Class $0.62
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Value Fund - Retirement Class $0.69
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Value Fund - Retirement Class $1.38
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Value Fund - Retirement Class $2.70
TIAA-CREF Small-Cap Value Index Fund - Retirement Class $2.75
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Blend Index Fund - Retirement Class $4.15
TIAA-CREF International Equity Fund - Retirement Class $12.60
TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Blend Index Fund - Retirement Class $15.80
TIAA-CREF International Equity Fund - Retirement Class $36.35
TIAA-CREF International Equity Fund - Retirement Class $91.84

$170 of free money!! I love it. Not sure why all the parts were declared separately - maybe from separate purchases? - but each type used the same share price for each instance. But I'm pretty happy. My net worth will get a nice bump when all activity goes through for this month - I sent in money to fill out the rest of my Roth (about $2600) and with the whole balance transfer fiasco, Discover only ended up giving me a credit like of $6k so I am just going to pay the rest off, rather than pay the default 10% on the BoA card. Plus my retirement contributions for the month don't generally hit until the 5th-9th, which is why I wait to update my net worth till then. Can't wait for my new higher contributions to kick in at the end of this month!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

End of my first job, start of my second

I guess I have to change my little profile in the corner now, huh? Thursday and Friday were my last days at my old job, and wow that was boring. My computer was reassigned on the Friday before, for no apparent reason except that it was to be done by Wednesday, but I was taking Wednesday off, so it had to be done on Friday instead. I had planned on using my laptop to at least access my email and do some data entry, but I could not for the love of Pete get it on the wireless network. So I pretty much did nothing on Thursday, helped a coworker do some things, and then really did nothing on Friday other than take my plant and a box of my stuff over to my new job. At 11:30 my former supervisor told me that I could just go as there was clearly nothing for me to do (I was using a student computer and my office was stripped) so I did, at about 12:30.

Today was my first day at my new job. It's a bit disappointing that I don't get to have my own office anymore, but I realize how unusual of a luxury that was these days! We live in basically a humongous room which is divided up into six smaller sections, which then have desks in each of the corners, roughly. So I have a corner. It's reasonably nice though for a giant cubicle and the ladies in it are all great. I was instructed by one of them that I would be attending lunch with them - they didn't want the new person to have to eat lunch alone on the first day from not knowing anyone. =) They actually have a schedule set up (of sorts) for training; I will be having apparently about ten half-hour meetings with various people throughout the department so that they can tell me what they do. The first two weeks are pretty laid back and then I will start shadowing people for about another three weeks, and then I will be working on a protocol with someone else to get the hang of it before I am given my own. It is still a little weird to actually have work to do, but I suspect that I will get used to it. My work ability however is limited by the fact that apparently it will take two WEEKS to transfer my computer account over. If you are a new user, they can make you one in a day, but since I am an internal transfer this is apparently Rocket Science and has to be performed by a specialist. Or something. So I can't even use Word or anything, much less do the online courses that I am supposed to complete. Email luckily will not require much transfer, although I can't check it at work.

Also, I told a couple of my coworkers about CashDuck, although not in great detail - I only told one at my old job, and that was only recently. I felt like I was hiding its existence although I don't know really why I felt it was necessary to do so. Everything with CashDuck is going pretty swimmingly; it is now to the stage where I do not have to babysit it constantly. I think it wouldn't have done so well if I'd not been able to check things during the day for the first month, when there were a lot more questions and a lot more site issues, but it's OK for eight hours without attention. (Although people seem to take hour-long lunches and work 8 to 5 here, so I'll probably check my email on my lunch.)