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!
Okay, breathe with me. Last month’s heating bill was ~ $44. This month’s heating bill = ~ $66. My jaw literally dropped and I instantly placed a call to my energy company to schedule a free high-bill re-check. Then, I called my husband and broke the news to him. lol. He claimed he wasn’t surprised, but I was honestly was. In retrospect, and if I’m brutally honest, the high heating bill was my fault. My usage of my small space heater was drastically increased (I’m talking about turning it on daily for ~ 12 hrs each day!). Being the argumentative wife I am, I argued with Matt that it must have been the 3 – 5 times we must have run the heater for the house or leaving lights on. In any case, this is a huge wake-up call for me. I cannot do things like run a space heater for 12 hrs daily and not expect my heating bill to bite me in the ass. *sigh*
In other news, if you have been living under a rock, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates further and while this is goodÂ news for borrowers, people with money in savings account (i.e. us) are essentially seeing our savings rates slashed too. Right now, ING Direct’s Current Annual Percentage Yield is 2.75%. I’m not complaining though because it is still better than Wachovia’s saving rates. Now I’m on the topic of finances, I just have to say that we have done rather badly in terms of savings. This wasn’t because we went on a huge spending spree. We had strategic investments i.e. payments to make. For one, I finished making payments on my laptop and we also bought a used car from Matt’s friend (which was a steal). Nevertheless, I’m forging ahead and I clearly won’t make my saving amount of ~$5, 000 for the year (although that goal was set while at my previous job).
The Suntrust account is still 75% paid off and I’m disappointed that I didn’t do more to get this figure up. Nevertheless, my financial goals (going into the new year) will be:
- Keep making “payments” to our ING Direct savings accounts: Again, it bears repeating that everyone needs an emergency fund. Ideally, this should be 3 – 6 mths worth of money that will allow you to ride out the loss of 1 income source, a health issue, a car wreck, etc. We technically don’t even have an emergency fund yet because once I remove the cost of our current liabilities (just 1 credit card), we’re left with not much. These payments will occur monthly and the deposit will be at least $150 each time.
- Pay off Suntrust credit card before April 2009: This is a rather modest goal and definitely eases the pressure. We have enough room to keep making just the minimum payments, but I’ve been reading horror stories about people who saw their lines of credit cut in half & their credit scores plummeting. I definitely want to keep my score (~ 720 in all 3 credit bureaus) looking the way it is. 🙂
- Resume payments to Fidelity ROTH IRA: Since the purchase of my laptop and other big ticket items, I put my payments on hold. I haven’t actually begun investing the current funds in my ROTH IRA because it needs to be at $2,500 or above in order not to incur yearly (not sure if they are monthly) fees for making investments in mutual funds. The only way to get around those pesky fees is to commit to making automatic payments of $200 or more in order to invest in mutual funds.
- Consolidate my retirement accounts: Actually, this is already done because I’ve got my employer’s matches going into a Fidelity retirement account as well as my contributions. Fidelity’s also the holder of my ROTH IRA. The consolidation largely refers to the previous holder of my retirement account. It should be interesting how this all plays out on my taxes filings.
- Figure out investment options with Matt’s retirement account: His rate of return is currently -26% while mine is -1.8%. Now, my low rate of return is largely because Fidelity (for some reason) has about half of my stuff in a money market account. I’m sure when all that’s migrated to actual investments, I’ll see my rateÂ of return get lowers. Now, Matt’s retirement account is managed by Merrill Lynch and while they provide a more hands-on approach, their selection is a little bit limited (not to mention confusing!). I just want to put his funds into an investment “bucket” (so to speak) because they takes the headache out of managing his account. I adjusted his investments to spread the risk so I’m hoping that it will stem the bloodletting. lol.
Enough of the money talk. 🙂 I’m currently jamming to some Alicia Keys. Peace and I’m out!
Only in my household is it not strange to remember that my permit expires in about 24 hours and then, I make frantic calls to the husband and my employers to: take me to the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and excused from work for about 1 hr. Thankfully, we managed to beat the hordes at the DMV and we got out of that place in less than 30 minutes. Score!! The sad part, however, is that I’ll have to rinse and repeat in less than a year all because USCIS has seen it fit to give me a “conditional” LPR status versus the old-days-of-yore 10-year limit on those green cards. I’m not too bothered by it though. Just the thought of needlessly spending $10 again to renew the card makes me a bit … itchy. Renewing my drivers’ permit is the least of my worries. Renewing my permanent resident card is the real hassle although I won’t have to worry about it until next year. Still, who would have thought 2008 is already half over? The USCIS filing fee already leaves a huge rock in my gut (~ $545), but I’ve already started saving towards it. Thank God for ING Direct‘s sub accounts! They actually make it easy for you to save! I have to restrain myself from pouring too much of my paycheck into my savings accounts 🙂 I’m sure I won’t be over-saving (if that is possible) because I’ve committed to contributing $200 to my Roth IRA account. It should not put too much of a dent in my earnings because on my previous salary, I could, in theory, fit in my $200 IRA payment so now that I am earning a little bit more, I can definitely fit in the Roth IRA payments. Saving for retirement (or just for savings sake) is definitely a priority with me as my posts on finances will tell you. However, I recently got M & I signed up for something that’s really confidential. lol. I’m itching to tell you guys about it, butÂ I promised I wouldn’t. No, it’s not something that’ll make me/us super-rich or bestow us with honorary degrees. It is something that I’ve been wanting to participate in (for a long while now) and I was getting to the point of thinking the organization was a total fraud. Well, I’m a believer and I’ll write more about this in a couple of years. lol.
In other news, classes for the students will begin in a little over 3 weeks. I spent the better part of yesterday with my boss who showed me how to skin a dog’s forelimb. He is a veterinary toxicologist by training, but he clearly loves anatomy and he spent the rest of the time showing me the various muscles around the dog’s scapula and the canine equivalent of the human upper arm muscles.Â I actually remember much of what was shown to me yesterday! I really find it interesting although time will tell if it’s just early employment jitters or the real thing. lol. I learned about the dog’s scapula last week i.e. the names of the parts (see on the left). I’m on the humerus now and hopefully, I’ll be done with that bone by this week or the middle of next week.
(Picture is from Guide to the Dissection of the Dog: 4th edition)
It’s definitely a little bit hard to remember all those names, but the good thing with nomenclature is that it tends to be logical and follow patterns whether it be directionality (dorsal vs. ventral) or positionally (above or below, supra or infra). I’ll let you know how that goes in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve got a bunch of embalmed dogs to count up. These dogs will serve as the veterinary students’ dissection dogs to work with during the semester. It will be my job to see that they preserve their animals well and try to keep the laboratory clean. I should be getting scrubs this week and also get some T- shirts so that I don’t totally ruin my entire wardrobe. I think it’s safe to say that my favorite pairs of jeans (blue and black) have been ruined. lol. Well, not so much ruined as “they are not for fancy wearing” anymore. 🙂 They’ve got blood on them. Oops!
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!
Today was my first day on my own in the lab. It was not bad at all although I was really worried that I would not have computer access at all. The IT department finally created my login id and granted me access. I still haven’t been granted access to certain buildings because my personnel data hasn’t been updated. It’s a little bit of a hassle because as of yet, I have not been able to select the benefits I want. However, I’m not stressing yet because I am within the 31 day window. The job (as usual) comes with a 180 day probationary period and my previous benefits. An added bonus for me this time around is that I can pick between choice A and choice B for my 401(k) package. The defining difference between plan A and plan B for me is the fact that I would be vested immediately in plan B whereas I would be vested after 10 years with plan A. Vesting is an important fact for me now because I learned the ‘hard’ way with my previous position that vesting means you get to keep your company’s match! This means that when I was released, I lost the entire 9% match and had my only my 5% contributions. That made me a little unhappy so this time around, because I will be selecting plan B, I will have a slightly lower employer match i.e. ~ 8%, but that’s still pretty darn good. I’m at the lab so I can’t do too much non-work stuff. 😀 Have a great day!
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.