My birthday! :)

I’m in a Floetry state of mind today i.e. rather introspective, but in a very good way. I turned 24 last week and I had a special day with my husband. I felt thoroughly pampered as we went through the day. We went to the Goodwill store to pick up some crockery and clothing (3 shirts) for me (for under $30).  For the uninitiated, Goodwill is a thrift store that has everything except groceries. Their merchandise is from donations by people so they sell secondhand clothing and secondhand items. If you are looking for a recession-friendly budget, Goodwill is a place to check out. The Dollar store was next for some cheap & much-needed hangers for our closets. Then, we went to dinner at Ryan’s which is a kickass buffet-style restaurant. We gorged ourselves (literally) and had fun people-watching. I used a buy-one-get-one-free buffet coupon so our meal came down to $12, but we ended up spending close to $20 because we tipped our waiter pretty heavily. He was a good sport and made our time there very enjoyable. We also felt slightly guilty for the sins of another party of over 10 people that trashed their area. It was unreal. Granted, that party had kids with them, but couldn’t the parents or adults pick up after the children? Do you want to bet that that same party gave a shitty tip? I have just one word for people who abuse the generosity and good nature of others: Karma.

In retirement account news, I’ve have nothing to say other than constantly checking my portfolio is a bad thing. 🙂 Thankfully, retirement is a long way off so I’m not too bothered. Matt’s accounts have also taken a hit, but not as bad as mine (his rate of return is in the negative single digits while mine are in the negative double digits. Ouch!). Our emergency fund is slowly, but steadily creeping upwards. As you know, a good emergency fund should be good for, at least, 3 months of all living expenses. We’re making some progress, but car troubles have put a dent in the growth. It’s somewhat depressing to keep troubleshooting problems that never seem to be solved. We recently purchased a used car from a friend of ours. We knew the car had had some serious trouble i.e. the owner even got the transmission replaced at one point, but because it was a solid car (Chevrolet Impala 2000), we went ahead and paid the asking price of $1,200. To date (and to my knowledge), we have put over $500 into that car and that amount looks to be growing. I know nothing about cars so I’ll defer to Matt’s knowledge & trust when he says it is a solid investment. 🙂 It should be obvious that I hate spending money on anything except electronics. LOL.

That’s it for now. Have a great week!

MMA goodness!

If you know M & I, you’ll know that mixed martial arts are just some of our interests. M’s managed to get me interested in the sport too so we’ve gone out to some bars together just to watch the pay-per-view fight cards (of course, we had to pay for this privilege by patronizing the restaurant). Tonight’s the free Ultimate Fighter finale featuring Amir Sadollah and CB Dollaway. My favorite to win is Amir because he can go the distance and his special weapon is his kicks which CB (from the looks of things) couldn’t counter. I am a bit worried that Amir’s flying kicks won’t be enough to give him wins once he moves to the big UFC league. I hope he does well because his sense of humor kept things lively. Tim Credeur was another fighter who deserves to be a UFC fighter because he’s got the same quirky sense of humor and just has a big heart.

I’m currently having a lazy day at home, doing what I’ve been doing for the past week or so: getting myself mentally ready for my next adventure. At times, I feel like pinching myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming. I’m talking about my husband. I swear that he has the biggest heart ever. My parents have commented that I’m taking this well and it’s largely thanks to M because he pulled my head out of the well of depression by telling me the facts i.e. losing a job is not the end of the world and that we would survive in the event I didn’t end up with anything for a few more months. After getting picked for an interview with the big fish, he was my biggest supporter and even experienced my anxiety. We’ve got that connection where we feed off our emotions. If I’m feeling down, M actually starts feeling physically ill and calls me to see if I’m okay. This has happened too many times to be accidental. Honest. 🙂

Anyhoo, because of the impending or possible loss of my steady paycheck for ~ a month (by God’s grace, I’ll have a smooth transition), I’ve gone into savings and debt reduction overdrive. Right now, I’m having M pay the rent money while my biweekly paycheck goes towards our joint ING Direct account (instead of having his separate ING Direct account, I decided to just add him on so what’s mine is his and vice versa), the SunTrust balance, my cell phone bill and our utility bills (internet and power). I think opening that savings account was the smartest account. If I keep up my savings pace, I will be on track to save close to $5,000 for our emergency fund. Again for a brief recap, the emergency fund is intended for emergencies and I hope we won’t have to tap into it just yet. Once the emergency fund is funded to whatever limits we have decided, then any specific needs or trips will need to be saved for, starting from scratch. In light of the increasing gas prices and general sticker shock, I’m mulling the idea of keeping a spreadsheet of my Walmart purchases and their prices at the time of purchase. After a predetermined amount of time, I’ll calculate the percentage by which the original price increased by. It should be interesting information to have.

Health-wise, my heartburn/acid reflux has flared up again so I’ve resumed taking my medication for it. It seems to do a good job as I’m already experiencing relief from it. It’s prescription only so it’s pretty powerful. That’s all for now.

A little something something

M bought my bike yesterday so it’s truly mine now! *cue evil laughter* Because he had to take care of ‘bidness’, I missed going out on my bike ride yesterday. I have been craving a trip to the movie theater so I am going to make an attempt today to do that. M will be at work so I am preparing myself for the task of timing my exit from work to coincide with the bus which comes once every hour. So wish me luck! I totally want to see IronMan and Spiderwick Chronicles. I love all (almost all) things fantasy. lol. If I don’t make it to the theater, I’ll go riding. Things were a bit relaxed at work this week and part of me suspects my female boss for being responsible. It’s sometimes funny how she knows when to push and how to bring out the 100% in me. I am also not going to kid myself that she can bring out the stern taskmaster at any moment so I will be wise not to take anything for granted. Have I said how selfless M is? 😀 I think he’s just now realizing all the trouble he’s married. lol. Remember M, 1 year down, ∞ to go.  So buckle your seat belt! 🙂 With this new month, I am:

  1. Recommitting to living a healthy and personally satisfying life which has started to incorporate healthy eating, healthy thought patterns, healthy patterns of exercise and positive thinking through obstacles.
  2. I am also going to pick up the slack on my credit card payment schedule as well as saving for our emergency fund. Right now, my end of year goal for the emergency fund is $5,000. Experts recommend at least 3 months’ worth of living expenses to as much as you feel like would suffice for your family.

Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. 🙂

Savings, Retirement and WordPress woes

Of late, I’ve been reading a lot of personal finance blogs and I could kick myself for the information that I’m discovering that I wish I’d known before. Nevertheless, it is not too late. I am turning 23 this year and I got started on my first ‘real’ job. My job automatically contributes the maximum amount from my paychecks to a 401(k) which they match at a rate of 9%. This is pretty good. Their benefits are good such that M has dropped his employer’s health plan in favor of mine e.g. they cover 90% vs his employer’s 80% plan). Based on stuff I’m reading, here are several things I’m learning:

  1. Debt resolution should be #1 on your list. You can do this by paying it down aggressively or “snowflaking” approach popularized by Dave Ramsey i.e. you pay little at a time, taking money from little areas that you might otherwise ignore. In my case, snowflaking will be the best way to go afterall that’s pretty much how I cleared up my Bank of America credit card. Let me see them collect 20.74% APR on a zero balance card. In your face!!
  2. Building an emergency fund. The idea of an emergency fund is emergencies. It’s said that an emergency fund should be “three to six months worth of basic living expenses”. Without going into too much detail, this will also require me/us to practice some serious snowflaking habits. Now, I started this one out the wrong way. What did I do? I put $100 in a tip jar. Now, this is a special tip jar, but M just showed me a neat way of retrieving money from this jar so I’ve safely retrieved the $100 from this jar, but that’s not what was wrong with my approach. The money was just sitting in my tip-jar when there are no-cost high yield savings accounts that are liquid (i.e. easily accessible assets)! So, I have started an Orange Savings Account with a 4.10% annual percentage yield. All you need to open this account with is: $1.
  3. I’m also learning that it is a good thing to participate in another type of retirement account (the IRA or individual retirement account) called a Roth IRA. I would go out right now and start one, but the biggest obstacle is committing to the somewhat hefty payments that need to be made monthly. Additionally, I’d like to set up one for both Matt and myself so it will take some number crunching. Last night, M & I couldn’t sleep and we actually sat down (or up cos we were lounging on the bed) and tallied our cost of living. We are going to do some interesting things with that discovery and I’m pumped about being savings, et cetera.
  4. A key principle to getting rid of debt and not getting stuck in the cycle is not channeling all your funds towards the debt such that when some mini-disaster strikes, you will end up having to resort to dipping into the credit card pool. It’s taking a little while for me to wrap my head around that, but it makes perfect sense. For a while last year, I would throw quite a bit at both cards and by the end of the month, I’d find out that I was essentially going nowhere! However, little chips here and there caused me to wipe out the Bank of America card, some old lingering school fees, etc.

That’s about it for now. I’ve been going nuts tinkering with my WordPress 2.3.2 installation because contrary to my last post’s congratulatory tone, I still am getting the “tinyMCE is undefined” error which causes the toolbar to disappear. I finally hunted down Dean’s FCKEditor plugin for WordPress and I’m typing merrily once again. I hope the WordPress developers fix whatever is causing the TinyMCE toolbar to disappear. I mean, I reuploaded a fresh instance of WordPress 2.3.2 (after deleting old files) and my toolbar showed briefly. Today, I logged in and coudn’t get my toolbar to show. Anyhow, I’m working with the FCKEditor now so I don’t care too much. In more WordPress news, I’ve been discovering some really cool plugins most notably StatPress! It’s like stats on steroids!! l recently transitioned from using the WordPress Reports plugin because it kept “forgetting” that I’d put in my Google account information a zillion times. So, I decided to go with Local Analytics which gives a lot of customization room. Still, I really miss the nice report view that the WordPress reports gave me. I haven’t gotten used to the really complex Google analytics interface and it takes me a while to figure who visited my site, and from where. It’s a confusing mish-mash. That’s why I still have Statcounter running on this site because it condenses the information and presents it in relevant bite-sized and digestible chunks. Hey, I’m easy to please.

Oh and lastly, I finally gave into activating the Share This plugin because it really wiped out several things in one fell swoop: giving you the ability to email/IM/twitter any post you like to your friend/enemy/frenemy as well as posting it to any or all of your accounts on Facebook/MySpace or the next hot social networking site. I didn’t like that the original developer (Alex King) had sold the plugin and that I had to sign up to use the plugin, but it wasn’t that painful and I just hope I don’t get spammed. Besides, the older version of the plugin is still available. He’s pretty involved in the WordPress community and I trust his plugins. Alright, I’m getting tired. It’s red flag day and I’m really twitchy. I wonder how come I am relatively docile up until the day comes. Then, I turn all grumpy and usually, my grumpiness is even what alerts me to the possibility that the red lady’s come a-knocking! I know, weird. I’m pretty regular although not to the exact day. It’s more along the lines of a windows of 7 days. So, stay outta my way for the next 5-7 days. lol