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).Â 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!
Or so the saying goes.. 🙂 Since the year began, I’ve been hard at work with a new (to me) course for the Spring Semester. My job’s physically demanding and thankfully, I’ve been up to the task. I love all my bosses especially as I feel really appreciated. The students I’ve been working with also appreciate the work I put in to making the laboratory a comfortable place to be despite the circumstances. lol. Matt’s been acing his tests and exams. I couldn’t be prouder of him and how far we have grown as a unit. Not too long ago, I posted a status message on my Facebook page about how nothing beat taking a stroll in the woods with the one you love. That continues to hold true and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of a life partner. Alright, enough sappiness. 🙂
In personal finance management news, our heating bill saw a $20 spike in the month of December and we continued getting heating bills in the ~ 60s for a while until last month when it finally came down to $58. However, that didn’t give me much consolation because our energy usage per day was still higher i.e. ~ $2 per day. In any case, we’re doing pretty good considering I’ve sorta given up being so strict.
With news of the American economy tanking, Matt & I have continued our habits of keeping our credit card debt as low as we can i.e. 22% of our credit limit which is just enough to let the credit card company that we are actively using the card, but low enough for them to understand that we are not in trouble & maxing out the card. Our savings are not where I’d like them to be, but that’s to be expected when unexpected expenses arise. It didn’t make it easier when our federal and state tax refunds were less than half of what we received last year. Thankfully, we have a good grasp on our finances and it didn’t really matter whether we received a tax refund or not. As a matter of fact, I’d rather keep more of my paycheck and receive a smaller tax refund because I’ll be able to put the money to better use when I have ownership of the funds right away!
In retirement account news, my Fidelity 401(k) has been tanking. My rate of return for this year is ~ -14%. Thankfully, my employer’s match takes the sting out of seeing the funds drop because the way I see it, it’s not my money that’s disappearing although it kinda is. lol. Does my weird logic make sense? I haven’t even looked at Matt’s retirement accounts lately although his accounts should do well. That’s about it for now. A ‘thicker’ post to come!
Not quite literally, but today, I got to hang out with a bunch of dogs from the little Italian greyhound, the rottweiler, the boxer, the bloodhound all the way to the big (think 155lbs!!) Saint Bernard. They were ridiculously cute and I was as happy as a lark today at the lab. It was a bit of a juggle today because I had to take a trip to the Human Resources department and get signed up for a retirement plan. It turned out that contrary to what I had been told by a previous HR representative, I am eligible for the optional retirement plan versus having to stick with the teachers’ retirement plan. I was over the moon because this means I won’t lose my institution’s match of ~ 8% in the event that I don’t stay with them for at least 10 years which is the time it takes to get “vested” with the Teachers’ Retirement plan. I’m currently keeping all my eggs with Fidelity (my Roth and 401(a) plan). I also plan on rolling over my previous funds that are currently with TRS. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I know I’ll be fine i.e. it’ll take some time, but I will become somewhat comfortable with learning about funds and how to make investments. I signed up for one of the Fidelity Freedom Funds for now and the rate of return didn’t look too promising so I’m pretty positive that I’ll be diversifying once I get some more information.
Some might call it a “Dirty Job” :), but those who know me understand that I find it fascinating. I see the potential to learn and I’m just raring to go. One thing that I might have underestimated about this job is the amount of physical activity it requires. I’m almost constantly walking back and forth. In fact, I ferried a (I swear) 150 lb goat to my lab today! I was not so much as transporting the goat carcass as I was being carried by it. lol. That animal weighed a lot more than I did. Nevertheless, I’m just feeling the love from all angles. Call it the honeymoon period, but everyone has volunteered to come on down and help. I’m the only one in the actual lab. building so it does kinda get lonely and spooky because the ceiling makes all sorts of weird noises. I don’t scare easy though. 😀 Today, I got to strip the flesh off an animal (hint: the most loved of the marine mammals). It was long dead, cut up and boiled down. This is the one of the necessary steps to creating the skeletons you see on display in labs, museums, etc. Hopefully, I’ll have a hand in piecing the skeleton together. The next step is to de-grease the animal by soaking the bones in soapy water for 2 – 3 months. The bones then get bleached and painstakingly pieced together! I look forward to the process. It’s very intense, but I’m preparing myself for it mentally. I’m already getting familiar with the handbook on the dog’s anatomy. 🙂
Classes will begin soon and so will the madness. I’ve got to be ready. My departmental manager returns tomorrow and I’m ecstatic. There were certain things that were not handled as promptly as they would have been had she been here. I shall make a beeline for her office ASAP and get my issues sorted out (hopefully). Speaking of issues, apparently, because I experienced a relatively short period of un-employment at my (former) now-employer, my name was still on file with the health insurance folk so I don’t need to do any more sign-ups regarding that. However, I will not be able to get myself off the “defined benefits” retirement plan because I’m technically not a “new employee” because I had less than 2 weeks between my old job and the new job. *shakes head* No fair!! I was so excited and looking forward to managing stocks and funds, and what not. lol. Who knows? At the very least, by their same logic, I am fully expecting that their 9% match for the time I spent in the old job will be there. I will have to call them tomorrow to verify this. It will only be fair and if it is not, I may have to exercise whatever persuasive powers I have or root around in the rule books to find a way to leave this “defined contribution” plan because I’m really not happy about their 10-years-before-you-are-vested rule.
Which leads me to the topic of finances, my favorite whipping boy. 🙂 So, this month, despite nearly turning out to be a bad month as I got laid off from my first job, turned out to be really good for our finances because I got over 2 weeks of annual leave pay which covered the period from when I was actually laid off to when I got my new job. Essentially, I didn’t lose any pay despite losing a job. I didn’t do anything stupid with the extra money. Actually, let me amend that. 🙂 I did invest in some summer dresses, jeans and shoes which turned out to be roughly under $80 total. I have invested in some applications for my Palm Treo i.e. the King James’ Version on the bible (PocketLight KJV) for my smart phone and a Mobile Coach for tracking exercise, food, etc. I also send some large snowflakes to our emergency fund and our credit card. I totally anticipate clearing out the credit card before the year ends and reaching our emergency fund account goal. I have also taken the step (finally) of creating my Roth IRA account at one of the big 3 (Fidelity, Vanguard and T Rowe Price). I will have to commit to sending $200 to this Roth each month in order to escape the high amount needed to open a Roth IRA ($2,500). I’ve got to run. Have a great week, all!
I’ll start with the good news first: a college pal of mine has an interview at my would-have-been alma mater and I’m so excited for him. I am sure that he will get an acceptance. I just hope he remembers me when he’s receiving the bounty. 😀 Also, it’s been several months that I’ve been running Google Adsense on my pages. I still haven’t received any checks in the mail because the amount of money earned is a long ways from $100 (the minimum amount an account must earn before a check can be cut). Accordingly, if you find the ads relevant or interesting to you/someone you know, feel free to click through to see what that the buzz is about *wink*. "A click a day helps a sistah stay fly." lol.
The bad: certain actions were set in motion. Obviously, I can’t say too much because this is a very public place despite the fact that I call it my personal blog to spew all sorts of crap onto. Nevertheless, I vented to M and he acted as my counselor. There was an overwhelming sense of negativity from a certain person (edit: not M. He read it and told me it sounded like this was about him.) and it was just depressing being in the presence of said person. I understand that I need to clean up my act. Demeaning comments are not really necessary be those comments about me or others. I don’t do well with water cooler talk. Nevertheless, I fell asleep with the word "Patience" on my lips. Now more than ever, I see that it was extremely portentous i.e. my making the word "Patience" my motto and guideline for the year. Now, more than ever, it would be wise to exercise caution and patience in all things that I do. Okay, it wasn’t as melodramatic as it sounds, but I was really upset. I’m excited with the moves we’re making. As far as savings go, a minor setback occurred, but I’m determined to chip in for my sister’s wedding. The traditional wedding is tomorrow and the ‘church’ wedding in sometime in April. I will have to confirm the actual dates. I really hope I can witness the event in, at least, pictures.
In other news, I got serious about setting up my Roth IRA, but the events yesterday prevented me from doing that. However, the person who I was meeting with was super nice about me pulling out of our appointment. That was very reassuring and I intend to make good on, at least, seeing this person. M & I have also received our W-2s (finally, damn!) and we’re pondering whether or not to go the H & R Block route or do the free federal e-file thing which we both qualify for. I’m super leery of putting the wrong things in and ending up owing the IRS money. That’s one of my nightmares. Anyhow, I’ll update y’all on what we decide.
So, in the vein of savings, retirement and good old financial planning, M & I hashed out a budget. Essentially, it hinges on us staying at our current residence. Some changes are occurring at the residence which should lessen bills. I’ve kept a stranglehold on the thermostat so that our collective heating bills have been lower. I claim sole credit for that. lol. M & I are resolving to cut down further on eating out which will put more money into our pockets. An obvious way to save more would be to earn more and I’ve got a plan for that. It will involve oodles of perseverance and constant repetition of my single-word motto of the year: P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E Anyhow, at the behest of the parents, I can’t be too revealing on this blog so I’ll put up a password-protected post sometime in the future with the clue in the post’s title.
In other news, M & I went to a Lutheran church today. It was a small church not far from our residential area and it has its roots in the Catholic church. Now, I haven’t committed or anything. I’m honestly not tied to one church or the other. Like the priest/pastor said today, "she was tired and hurting and just needed a place to be where people cared for her". He was telling a story. That’s all I care for. I’m tired of the denominational bickering and I just want my Christianity simplified. I’m rambling and will sign off at this point.