Oops… Spending confession

I woke up yesterday morning with a brilliant idea.

My dad NEEDS an electronic picture frame. That would be the PERFECT gift for him.

So when we were at Best Buy getting my dad the $300 laptop they had on special this week, I found one that was on sale for $79. Last night I opened it up and loaded some photos on to it.

Worse yet, I put the purchase on my credit card because I knew that I didn’t have “enough” money to pay for it. Which is a bold face lie because I have around $300 left in my “Fun Fund” and over $700 in my E-fund.

So I obviously need to pay it back. I’m just disappointed that I fell prey to the temptations of spending. It was also the first time I’d been to a store in like a year. I had just been staying clear of temptation. (Also, the same frame is available on Amazon for $67… and I have $25 in Amazon.com giftcards from Swagbucks just sitting in my account that I could have used… it was really an impulse buy for me).

Then I got home and I’ve just been eyeing the Netbook on Woot today. It is exactly what I want and a reasonable price. But I know logically that I shouldn’t spend $226 on a Netbook when I have debt. But man do I want so hard and it is exactly the Netbook I’ve been looking for. The specs are right, the price is right… only my budget is wrong.

*sigh*

Sometimes it sucks to be financially responsible when you KNOW your old self would do something, and you know that you SHOULDN’T, but you really, really, REALLY want to!

**After the fact note… I’ve convinced myself not to buy the netbook because of this article about repairs rates of the different brands of laptops. I have a Sony laptop and love it, so I’ll probably just wait to save up money for a Sony Netbook. $200 more, but if it can last me longer without repair or failure it is worth it to me. Also, all my other electronics are Sony so they interface nicely (not that this REALLY matters in the grand scheme of things… I would probably also get suckered into a Toshiba if the price was right).

Book Lustings…

I went to Borders today with my dad. He picked up two books – and pointed at the book I got him for Christmas and said “Man, that’s on my Christmas list” – I smiled smugly. Knowing I had pre-ordered the book for him in September. Go me for knowing my dad! =)

Anyway, I saw a couple of books that I kinda wanted to get (clicking on the images will take you to their Amazon.com pages):

Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self

I love Christian. And the book was really fun to flip through. I am very tempted to buy this from Amazon. I may use my Swagbucks to get it. Yeah… I’m about 80% positive I’ll get this. I love that the reviews all show how empowered the women were about fashion after reading the book. I’m so unconfident about fashion that I could use a dose of that for sure!

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

I love the idea of these books, both this one and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. Just read the excerpt from the back cover:

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands the original text of the beloved Jane Austen novel with all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels? This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest—and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!

I love Jane Austen – probably one of my favorite movies is Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly.

I’m just a huge fan of period fiction, especially when mixed with zombies or sea monsters – who wouldn’t love that?

I’m just so thankful that with Swagbucks I can order all the books I want for FREE! Also, I checked my library and they have the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book. SWEET!

I’m thinking of making myself a reading list for 2010 – or maybe a reading goal. What good books have you read recently or would like to read? I need some recommendations!

Fun Fund Expense – Shipping and a Movie

Shockingly, when I deposited my checks and cash for the past few days, my receipt said that my Fun Fund was currently sitting at $401.

I mean, I’ve only been adding to it recently, not taking anything out – but I was just shocked by how much was in there.

The only money I put in this account is from tutoring and doing surveys. $401. Wow.

I was hoping just to get enough to cover the scuba trip in January with my dad (if he can make it, I’ll talk to him about it tomorrow when he picks me up from the airport).

Anyway, I decided when I got to the post office to mail my Christmas presents that I needed to pay for that out of my fun fund. Technically the fun fund is supposed to pay for: Entertainment, Clothes, Gifts

And since I’m mailing Christmas presents to my family I’m counting it under the gift category. The shipping for the three packages I sent out and one letter was $27. OUCH – and I sent everything as cheap as I could. I didn’t care if stuff got there by Christmas because frankly, I ENJOY getting packages after Christmas – it extends the holiday for me (also, it was half the price!) 😉

Mr Cousin came down this evening so that we could celebrate him finishing the Fall semester. (Don’t worry, it was all very friendly – we make MUCH better friends than we ever did a couple!) He paid for the dinner at Wendy’s and then we went and watched the $5 movie at the theatre (which I paid for out of my Fun Fund – $10 total!).

The movie was “A Serious Man” – and I knew NOTHING about it going in.

The movie is based on the Book of Job. Which actually (in my mind) made it a great holiday movie because of the religious undertones. However, that doesn’t mean that it is warm and uplifting and heart warming. In fact it is quite the opposite.

The movie, and the Book of Job, directly ask the most pertinent question that religion (specifically Judaism and Christianity) has: How can we reconcile the existence of God in a world where bad things happen to good people?

A Serious Man shoes us the trials of a modern day Job. A faithful Jewish man who works as a professor of Physics, who suddenly finds himself with a cheating wife that is asking for a divorce. A daughter who steals money from him. A 13 year old son who smokes pot. A student who tries to bride him for a good grade, and the threat of not getting tenure… and of course more… as the trials of Job would go.

It is so very hard watching the movie understanding how such a man could still believe in God. And the main character (Larry) also finds it difficult. He speaks to Rabbis who offer him nothing but glimmers of intellectual wisdom that do nothing to calm the heart of someone who is hurting.

While in the Book of Job, God eventually rewards Job for his faithfulness (after a good chastising for his doubt in belief), the Coen Brothers leave us wondering – will anything good ever happen to Larry? Or will his life just continue to be a series of unfortunate events?

Like most Coen Brother’s movies, this one isn’t for everyone. However, for those of you familiar with the Book of Job, you’ll probably find the experience quite rewarding and thought provoking.

BTW – has anyone else noticed that the book in the Bible that goes through the horrible tribulations of a faithful man should have the same name as the place we go every day to pay for life? Job. I’m sure someone has noticed this before…

Short Notes

  • Car repairsI got my car fixed yesterday. With the 5% discount from putting it on the Firestone card and my $25 off coupon it came out to $475. Not too shabby. I tried to put the $475 on the card already, but since the charge hasn’t posted on my account I can’t make the payment yet. Hopefully it will be posted by the end of the day so I can pay it off before I leave for Christmas.
  • Dog Emergency – My dog got bit yesterday at daycare. I was horrified. He has a HUGE gash on his belly. It was just shocking to me because my dog is a very huge sweet heart. He tends to run away from agressive dogs. Apparently it was a very random thing – Jack walked by the dog and the dog flipped and bit him. I had to buy some alcohol pads to keep the area clean and some antibiotic to keep it from getting infected. Since I’m dropping him off for boarding on Wednesday I’ll have to accept that if it gets infected they’ll need to transport him to a vet and back. If that happens it will probably cost $1-200. Not horrific, but not in the budget. Here’s my little boy so you can see how adorable he is:

  • Christmas – I need to get my packages sent out to family that I won’t see when I’m away for Christmas. I also need to do laundry and pack and make lists of what I need to take and all that. For some reason it still hasn’t hit home that I’ll be GONE in less than 36 hours for Christmas!
  • Emergency Fund I decided that for 2010 I would decrease my E-fund contribution to $33/month. That will get me approximately $400 more over the course of the year. Thus, I’m increasing my debt repayment to $1,067/month + $2/day for a grand total of $1,127/month. This will be the BASE payment. Any extra that I don’t spend in my bill paying account will be applied to my debt at the end of the month.

Don’t be surprised if my posts get a bit sparse for the next 10 days. I’ll be, as far as I know, without steady internet during that time. I don’t have a backlog of posts, so I’ll just post when I can. I will try to get two or three posts written tomorrow before I leave, but there are other things that are more important to do before then.

So if I don’t “see” you all before then – Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

~SS4BC

When Is Your Financial Birthday?

Sure, sure, I could tell you I’m a Leo born in 1980. But that isn’t what I’m referring to. I’m talking about your FINANCIAL birthday.

I can tell you when I was financially conceived – it was September 2008.

The little seed of personal finance was sewn and I started to grown within the womb of my personal finance blog. I started this blog to keep myself accountable and to connect myself with individuals who would provide me with encouragement. I was nourished, I grew. Sometimes I felt like I might miscarry – but I continued to grow – I did not give up.

Then it happened, August 12 2009 – I was financially born!

As MPP pointed out in a comment on my post last Friday, she could tell when the change occurred. This day, August 12th, was the day of the (non)-infamous six mile walk in Salve Regina, Rhode Island. My water had broke. The last straw had been pulled. I wasn’t going to take this debt lying down – I was going to DO something about it. That day started the last 4 months. I’m still a new-born as you can see. Still struggling to get through each day. But each day I get stronger and hopefully I’ll be able to stand, and to walk, and run – debt free – in no time.

What was your financial birthday?

My Car – A Love Story

My car recently passed 100,000 miles. Currently it is sitting at 100,225. Exciting, huh?

I get my oil changed every 5,000 miles. Why? Because that is what the owners manual recommends. So I go every 5,000. I don’t see any point in going every 3,000 if it isn’t recommended for my car.

It had been 5,000 miles and I needed to go – so I went. I also had noticed that my brakes had been squeaking the past few weeks, so I asked them to check that too.

As you can imagine, my brakes needed to be replaced, they actually are 95% worn – so they DEFINITELY need to be replaced. So that will cost me around $226 dollars – I have a $25 off coupon – so now I’m down to $201.

They also found that my thermostat is leaking. The mechanic said that this is a common problem with my type of car, and sure enough an internet search revealed that it is VERY common for my car. However, from the reviews I’ve read it tends to happen between 50-75,000 miles – so I considered myself very lucky that I got so far without having to replace my thermostat casing.

So I’m coughing up the $270(ish) to pay for this as well.

All told I’ll need a little less than $500 for everything.

And thus the question is posed: How to pay for it?!

I include $180 in my yearly fund for car repairs. However, I currently only have available to me $40 in my yearly savings because I paid for my ACS registration last month and Christmas this month with it. The working premise of my yearly savings is that I won’t have to pay for more than two “events” that I’m saving for in a given month. Oh well, no budget is perfect.

Here is the tentative plan:

Step 1: Put it on my Firestone card – I get a 5% discount for putting the balance on the Firestone card (don’t worry, there are more steps!)

Step 2: Pay off Firestone card with $40 from Yearly Fund and the remainder from my Emergency Fund before any interest collects on it – I’m talking about putting the money on the card the same day I get the total, so don’t fret – no more debt here!

Step 3: Replenish emergency fund with the remaining $140 I’ve budgeted for car expenses on January 1st

Step 4: Replenish rest of emergency fund with extra money I will get from substitute teaching this month – I picked up 4 hours last week and I have another 4 hours scheduled for this coming week. That will give me a total of $200 extra outside of my budgeted money. I’ll get this money in my December 31st paycheck from the community college.

Step 5: This is where I’m unclear as to what to do. All of the above measure will pay for $380 out of my $500 bill. So I have two options:

  1. Lower my debt repayment in Janaury by $120 to immediately replenish my E-fund to $1,200
  2. Keep my E-fund contribution at “normal” levels knowing that in will only take 2-3 months to get back up to $1,200 (I was planning on lowering my E-fund contributions in 2010 to help pay off my debt quicker)

So which option would you recommend? (I know what I’m leaning towards, but I’d love to see if the “general” personal finance community agrees with my hunch…)

P.S. – I’ve changed my blog format, so if you read this through an RSS I’d love for you to pop on over to the site and give me your comments, critiques and suggestions about the ‘new do’ !

And The Winner Is…

I wanted to congratulate Sunflowers for being the lucky random winner of the pedometer! She has made the commitment to go the extra mile with me and in return will be receiving this fantastic pedometer.

So far my attempts to go the extra mile have gone well. I’ve taken the stairs every chance I get – and since I work in two different buildings – with my labs on the 4th floor of each – this has been quite an effort to do every hour! I have caught myself pushing the button for the elevator, realized what I was doing and then backed up and took the stairs.

I’ve also started parking in a farther away parking garage. It is about three blocks from my building rather than one, so it isn’t too far away – but still going a few extra steps each day.

I plan on going running quite a bit while I’m visiting my dad in the fair weather of the Southwest for Christmas. I’ll keep you abreast of the details!

I’ve also figured out my next step, and it will be quite a difficult one for me but one that will definitely be necessary!

Did you know that by taking the stairs every day rather than the elevator you can burn 28 calories each trip? If you take the stairs three times a day you’ll burn 3 pounds of fat a year! Just from taking the stairs. Remember those 3 pounds next time you’re considering pushing the elevator button. 🙂

Wait a minute! I DON’T want that?!

It struck me like a ton of bricks the other day at lunch.

One of my coworkers was discussing his new elliptical machine and him and his girlfriend (also my coworker) bought. Oh yes, and the TV they got to go with it. Gotta have the TV, right?

And another one of my coworkers then started talking about how he just bought a new TV – 60″ flat-screen I think?.

The old SS4BC, you know, the one before I started to get rid of all of this debt… the old SS4BC would have been salivating. “A new elliptical machine? How much did that cost? Do they offer financing? I wonder if I can get one? What size screen on the TV? Do they have store cards? I want one! I want one!”

And I realized something – I’ve CHANGED.

Sure, I still want stuff. Sure I still have wish lists of things I’d like. But I want to have/do things that I LOVE – not just things to keep up with everyone else’s things.

I’m not lusting after what the Jones’ have anymore. I know I can’t afford that elliptical machine. Nor do I need a new TV.

And what STRUCK ME as they were talking about their new gadgets and gizmos wasn’t what I felt – but contrary – the lack of feeling. I couldn’t have cared less. It was as if I had a shield around me protecting me from their consumerism. And that shield was my dedication to being financially secure, getting rid of this debt, and only buying things I’ve planned for and saved up for and have the MONEY for. (Side note: Can anyone else tell from this last paragraph that I just stayed up all night finishing Breaking Dawn?)

And there you have it – each of these tiny baby steps I take each day actually have netted a change – not yet a full monetary change, but a mind-set change. And I think that is FAR more important.

Fun Fund Activity: Scuba Diving!

Me and a caribeean reef shark in the Bahamas - Dec 2007

One thing you probably don’t know about me, because I haven’t really talked about it a lot in this blog, is that I’m a Divemaster. I’ve been diving for the last 14 years (I started when I was 15, I’ll let you do the math).

Diving is one of those activities that I rarely get to do because it is prohibitively expensive, but that I absolutely love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

If I could spend the rest of my life with water all around me (and not die) I probably would.

The last time that I went diving was July of 2008 – two months before I started this blog. I went diving in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. It was absolutely freezing cold – and I loved it. In three days we got 12 dives in and I couldn’t have been happier with life.

Every year I go to Ventura, California for a conference in January. Every year I go to this conference I think “Man, I sure want to dive the Channel Islands while I’m here” – and every year I don’t do it, but promise myself that I will the next. Last year I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. I was in such a sad financial state January of 2008 that I could barely pay for my rental car that was getting reimbursed.

Me in the Upper Penninsula July 2008. Yes that IS a toilet. =)

However this year is a completely different story. Not only can I afford to pay for myself to go to the conference (and get reimbursed, of course!), but I’ve intentionally not been spending my fun fund money because I am GOING to dive this year. It also turns out that the day I can dive is also my dad’s birthday – so I’m planning on asking him if he wants to be my dive buddy for his birthday present. The total cost is $120/person. Which would be $240 total + tip + some rental gear. All in all I imagine that it will cost me around $300, if my dad can make it. Bonus points though because we can stay on the ship the night before (don’t have to pay for a hotel!). Currently I have $288 in my “fun fund”. I’ll likely get another $100 before finals week is over.

If my dad can’t go with me (I’ll discuss it with him over Christmas when I have more of an idea of my financial state), I’ll definitely still go by myself. I have the money saved, the desire, and the time. So why the heck not?!

For $120 we’ll get: 4 dives with air, breakfast, lunch, and a bed to sleep in the night before departure

It is really quite a good deal!

I’m soooooooooo excited that 2010 I will FINALLY dive the Channel Islands. I have been telling myself that “I should do it” since the first time I went to this conference – in 2003! That’s 7 long years of waiting. I’m so excited to get back into the water – even if that water is a cold 60F!