Friday, January 30, 2009

Feeling much more in control of things.

When I first started my new job I tried to map out exactly what would come out of each paycheck, and made an Excel list to try to keep track. I thought $100 a week would suffice for all random expenses and sent the rest to debt and savings.

That didn't last very long. There were of course expenses that I did not plan on (such as a $39 per month prescription) and I kinda sorta flipped out. Since a large chunk of my income is going to debt repayment and to emergency savings, and I didn't want to cut back on either of those things, I got very upset about how I was going to be able to afford the things that I want, and how I would save for anything other than the emergency stash.

Part of what I was flipping out about was that I hadn't planned my deductions very well and sent too much money to debt and savings, and didn't really think about the recurring expenses other than that. So I pulled out my Quickbooks CD and made myself a ledger (business name: Me) and started entering all transactions. It's been about a month and I think I'm doing well with it. It's nice to know how much I am able to spend, and I also enter in transactions ahead of time that I know I'll have (for example, entering in the cell phone bill weeks ahead) so I don't get any surprises. (Except of course for Maggie's dog daycare place, which seems to pride itself on never cashing a check that isn't two or three weeks old. Don't you people want my money?)

Today I went the extra step and set up automatic bill pay for all credit cards, and my student loan, and automatic transfers to the two savings accounts (one for actual savings and one where the bills money stores up.) So now on payday all of that will disappear and what's left is the money that I can use. Chase is very useful in that regard, because you can pay bills to nearly anyone and set up a weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc schedule. I'm also counting on the fact that biweekly is not quite twice a month to help pay things down faster.

Switching to this wacky every-two-weeks thing is weird for me, since at my previous job it was once per month. That was super easy - just pay everything on payday, and you're done. But here's hoping that doing everything automatically means I won't get behind on anything. (Plus, I'm terrified that I'll accidentally miss a payment and get hit with universal default rates on everything - which is about the worst thing that could happen, financially.)

One odd thing I did notice - my paychecks are apparently not exactly even, because it alternates between $1240 and $1239.99. =)

On the other side of things, I'm trying to increase my discretionary money by making more and cutting expenses. Maggie's daycare got the ax, going from five days a week ($75 per week) to two days ($40 per week). They sell discount packages where you buy 10 or 20 days at a time, and once I have a little more in savings I'll buy her a 20 day package to save money on the average price of a day.

I've also been signing up for more mystery shopping - I did a dozen alcohol compliance checks last weekend for $8 a pop (plus lots of snacks!) and signed up for a restaurant shop ($35 reimbursement at a place that that usually covers the bill - not making money, but hey free steak!) and several grocery store shops. I use a free job site right now, but I used to have a trial subscription to a paid one that I'm thinking about renewing. It's $60 a year for a silver membership, but there really were a lot of shops on there that never show up on the free one. So that might be worth it. Perhaps another thing to wait until I have more in savings.

I also tried a new avenue - back in October I worked a one day event, and the company had the damndest time getting me paid. First they never sent it at all, and when I called to check where it was a week later, she told me that she didn't have my address. Really? But you had my telephone number, so that seems easy enough to get. Then (theoretically) she FedExed the check to me, but mysteriously FedEx failed to find my house - twice. I find this suspicious as we've never had any other package unable to be delivered, and she wouldn't give me the tracking number, or say if I could pick it up at the facility. Finally I just came to the office in person and she left me a check. Which, naturally, bounced.

I called the office and talked to her and she was very apologetic and said she'd get me a money order. That was, um, four weeks ago. I've tried her cell and the office several times since then as obviously no money order has been forthcoming. This is especially sad since the office is literally two doors from a post office. So I finally got fed up and sent the check to a bad-check processing company (who monitors the bank account and re-processes it when there's money.) So hopefully that'll come through soon as it was for $109 and that's nothing to sneeze at!

I also applied to grade tests online but don't know when I'll hear back on that - that would be nice, as I've done it in person twice before, and certainly have plenty of free time!

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