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.)