Making and Saving Money

Because of a rather large expense at the beginning of the month (a trip to San Diego to see my best friend defense his thesis and to get laser treatment on my legs) I managed to find myself lost of $550 from the lasering, $80 on rental car gas, and $65 for the rental car. All of this was money that I was planning on putting on my credit card. Because my account balance was so close to the maximum, and my payment hadn’t gone through yet, I ended up having to put all of this on my checking account. Which, while it did bring the balance on my checking account to an abysmal $75 after I paid all of my rent and bills, I think it may end up being a good thing for me.

Since the middle of August I started the application process to become a tutor. I finally finished my final exam on Friday and got accepted as a tutor yesterday morning. The way that it works is that the schedule is set for the week by Saturday. So I couldn’t get on the schedule for the week. However, you can log onto and if there are more students waiting than there are tutors available then you’ll get those extra students. This is called “floating.” The rate that you get paid while you are tutoring is the same to that which you would get paid while tutoring when you’re on the schedule. The only difference is that you don’t get paid to wait.

After doing a night of “floating” I ended up tutoring for 143 minutes, which came out to $27.44. I can assume by this that I’m making about $12.50/hour, which is higher that I thought I would be making as a probationary tutor. (I had read on some other blogs from 2007 that the rate was $10 for a chemistry probationary tutor, so I was pleasantly surprised.)

So, when you are scheduled to be tutoring, you also get paid a minimum amount (like $5 or so an hour) while you’re not in session. You also get first priority if any students log in. Based on last night’s racking in and the enjoyed flexibility that I had not having to be online but feeling free to go make dinner, watch tv, ect while I waited for a student to appear — and still making a decent chunk of change — I think the way to go with this tutoring thing is to schedule myself for 5 hours (the minimal amount of hours) in non-peak time. Like 6am-8am in the morning eastern time, so that I can get paid $5 for checking my email, updating my blog and waiting for a student to appear. Then just floating during the peak times on nights that I want to. This would give me the flexibility to stay late at work any night that I needed to, but still make sure that I made a decent amount of money per week.

Of course, one could imagine that if I was on the schedule during peak times that I would make even more money since I would be getting paid for waiting time as well. I’ll have to try out both methods and see which I prefer. Though I like having only the OPTION of tutoring in the peak times, since then I can “on a whim” join my coworkers after work for ‘drinking time’ or a movie, ect.

Okay, so what am I going to do with this money — and how am I spending the money that I have?

Since I’m dirt ass broke this month because of the afore mentioned trip to San Diego, the tutoring money this month is going solely to keeping me from putting money on my credit card. After this month, the tutor money will be my sole spending money. If I want to eat, I have to tutor. If I want to go to the movies, I have to tutor. If I want to fill up my gas tank, I have to tutor. I made $27 last night for working 2.5 hours. I should very easily be able to make enough money in 3-4 nights of tutoring to pay for a week of expenses. And if not, I just tutor some more! So my secondary job is going to pay for all my day-to-day expenses and my regular job will go to paying my bills and building up my savings.

Right now the largest portion of the money that I spend goes to food. I used to go to Starbucks every morning for a Chai latte. I then went out with my co-workers every weekday for lunch. Then typically some sort of midday snack/beverage. I usually always eat lunch during the week at home and tend to eat soup or chili for dinner.

Things that I’ve done so far:
1. I only go to Starbucks a maximum of twice per week. I don’t want to cut it out completely yet, but paying $3.70 everyday for a breakfast that I drank wasn’t good. So now I go on Monday mornings (when I have group meeting and need a tall caffeinated beverage) and any other day of the week of my choosing. The past week this was Sunday. Now, for breakfast those other days I’ve started going to the bakery downstairs from Starbucks. For $2.04 I can get a piece of delicious banana bread and a hot tea. Some other suggestions that I’ve gotten from my friends are to buy a bag of day old bagels from a bagel shop and a tub of cream cheese and eat this. Or just to make my own banana bread for breakfast — though I’m not sure I would be able to a priori make it for less than $0.74/slice. I’ll have to look that up. Also, I can get a cup of hot water for $0.25 instead of $1.25 for the hot tea. Then I can bring in my own tea. So for $1 I can have the same breakfast that I paid $2 for, which I used to pay $3.70 for. That is a savings of $2.70 per day! Which comes out to $54/month and $648/year! When you look at it that way, it makes it a really easy decision what to do for breakfast every day.

2. Lunch out with my coworkers is the most expensive part of my day — but also the only social interaction that I get in the course of a week. So it is hard for me to completely cut this out of my life and instead bring my own. I also have yet to convince myself that food that I would make at home will (after all costs involved) be cheaper than food I would from a restaurant. What I have come to appreciate though, is how much soda costs at restaurants!!! Typically, to get a soda added to your meal, I pay between $1.50 and $2 for a 12oz soda! NO ONE should pay this much for soda. Craft ways to save money here: Don’t buy a drink when you go out. Just by doing this I can save $360/year! So I’ve started opting for the water. Also, I have started looking at the menu, finding the 3-4 things that I would be okay having, and choosing the cheapest option. I’ve cut my spending down from $8/meal to about $5 by doing this. However, $5/meal is still a large amount. I’d like to get lunch down to about half that. Which means I do have to stop going to lunch with my labmates by half. So my plan is to pack a lunch to bring with me 2-3 times a week. Not Tuesdays, because that is $2 cheeseburger day. But any 2 other days of the week. My only requirement for lunch that I bring is that is isn’t in tupperware that will mold if I don’t eat my lunch. I have thrown away and spent a lot of money on tupperware that I have just had to throw away because I was never going to eat it. I envision a return of pb&j sandwiches and some chips and fruit. I’m still not convinced that this will be less per week than eating out — but I’ll do the math and find out.

3. Midday “snack”. I will usually drink a Mr. Pibb from the soda machine ($1.50) or a Rockstar ($2) at this point in the day. Ways that I can start reducing money here are by buying a 12-pack of generic soda to replace it and/or buying the Rockstar only when it is on sale. Also, I am limiting the Rockstar consumption to 4/week rather than my 1 every day that I have going on now. We’ll see how this goes.

4. Dinner. I’ve always done pretty well with dinner because I like to keep it fairly light. I will buy hearty soups or chili that are between $1-2 (depending on the sale) and eat these. I would like to incorporate more vegetables here, and perhaps a way to cook dinner that will result in left overs for lunch.

I’m guessing what needs to happen is that I need to designate a day to go to the grocery store (probably Monday evening). Give myself a budget of $20. And say “Okay, here is your money for 5 dinners, 3 lunches. Make it work and make it healthy!”

So right now I’m spe
nding $12-15 dollars per day for food on average. I’d like to take it down to about $5 per day on average. I don’t know if this is possible. Any suggestions would be welcome!!


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