Financial recap and other musings

So, I haven’t said much about savings, retirement planning et cetera. In fact, all that stuff seems trivial in the face of the real depression-style era that is looming ahead of us if things continue as they have in the US lately. The economy is in a free-fall as more people and investor panic and yank their money out of the system. I don’t blame them, but it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. *shudders* Anyhow, I’m not retiring anytime soon so I hope that my investments will stand the test of time. I’m sorely tempted to do the usual trick of investors i.e buying stocks at low prices, but what if they never recover? Well, that was not the sole focus of this post. I was going to talk about our energy usage and brag a little bit even about how two of us are keeping a low energy footprint in our apartment in the face of a hot summer and now, perhaps an unusually cool winter? Here’s a chart I whipped up in Excel:
As you can see, we haven’t even cracked $42 in bill payments yet! Clearly, we’ve shot up during the summer, but not enough to get me worried. My guess for this winter will be that we won’t hit $50, but I anticipate running some standalone heating elements because I’m really anti-cold. πŸ™‚ According to M, reason number 2001 to have more body fat. Here are the actual numbers:
Now, if only other areas of expense resemble our energy costs! In fact, our utilities are the most stable liabilities we have i.e. internet and energy. Food and Gas are the current major money guzzlers and we are working on a means to cook at home more. We are paying the price of eating out and constantly having excuses for not cooking at home. Heck, I can’t count how many items have gone bad because we didn’t cook them in time.

Payday is nigh and I’m already feeling pinched! Here is a quick breakdown of some of the pre-programmed expenses I have:

Jane’s expenses
HP Laptop Credit Card $500
SunTrust Credit Card $100
Roth IRA $200
ING Direct Savings $250
Rent $275
Cellphone $50

Now, in a sick and twisted way, seeing the expenses laid out gives me courage to keep going on because I know that my aggressive strategy will pay off! For instance, after another such $500 payment to the HP laptop fund, I’ll have an extra $500 to “play” with. We have slowed off on the SunTrust payoff, but I’ve been snowflaking little amounts to it so I fully expect to have a balance of zero by the end of the year. I’ve been making little contributions to a christmas fund so that I’ll be able to get little tokens of appreciation for people. Overall, I don’t think our financial outlook is dire. After I got my laptop, things got thrown off kilter a little bit, but I definitely don’t regret that purchase. In a couple of years, I see myself upgrading the laptop i.e. giving Matt this one and getting the next OS upgrade that Microsoft has to offer. On that sombering note, I’ll sign off and I bid you all a good night!

Money and the DMV

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 πŸ™‚ 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, but  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 whcanine scapulao 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.  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. πŸ™‚ They’ve got blood on them. Oops!

A Good Feeling

Things have been moving along even more smoothly than I hoped for. All I can say is God works in mysterious ways.  I had the chance to visit and I got along fabulously (in my humble opinion) so I hope, as M said, they make the right decision. πŸ™‚ Now, it’s just a waiting game. In other news, I might just get my wish to rollover my current 401(k) account. My first choice is Fidelity because it seems they have a good customer service base and generally better at providing guidance for first time investors. I’ll need all the help I can get, preferably for free.

I’ve been getting progressively better on the bike. I finally learned how to stand properly in order to power up hills. Apparently, I had been doing the stand wrongly so I was putting too much stress on my knees which will need to recover from the abuse. πŸ™‚ He’s taking his tutoring seriously and has gone as far as ordering the Mountain Biker’s bible in order to put me on a training regimen. lol. I don’t mind one bit because biking is a great way to stay in shape! My legs and arms are proof of this and all for going out for at least 30mins daily! M’s class is going along well although I’m a bit of a nagging wife in that respect. He’s got his learning style and I’ve got mine. They don’t overlap and I need to respect that.

With respect to financial stuff, nothing has gone towards the SunTrust credit card debt yet. Thankfully, nothing is being spent using the card so it’s stagnant. I’ll be sure to see some movement before the month ends i.e. sending some snowflakes towards that. Savings are also growing slowly, but surely. Even if it’s $10 a week, that’s still something. The point is that I am actively making the changes which will come in handy for when a larger source of income comes my way.

In yet other news, I find that I get bored online once I’m away from my feed reader (FeedDemon which I paid for, but turned around to become free!). I would use the online Newsgator service which has my feeds, but it’s painfully slow. I’ve resorted to constantly refreshing the pages of Google News in order to get my news fix or hunt for information. It doesn’t help that my science reading material is not at my apartment. πŸ™ When I get the new job, it should hopefully allow me to indulge in purchasing more books to increase my knowledge. Continue reading A Good Feeling

A teeny tiny update and I start speaking pidgin English

Okay, some changes have been madeto Google’s Adsense terms and conditions. Nothing that will adversely affect me, but one of the things that stands out is the requirement of all Adsense publishers to have a privacy policy on their sites (I’ve had one already in place) addressing concerns surrounding cookies, web beacons et cetera. Visit JenSense for an in-depth breakdown of all that is needed and the changes. Accordingly, I’ve updated my privacy policy. Also, for a quick rehash of the program policies pertaining to Adsense, visit this Q&A (for the US). In other news, another Daylight time change will happen sometime tomorrow. I will ‘lose’ an hour and by that, I mean if I wake up and it’s 8am in my head, it’s really 9am i.e. time skips forward. Does that make sense? In my mind, I’m losing an hour but they say it’s ‘gaining’ an hour. I guess, it is ‘gaining’ an hour extra of daylight. Correct me now because I suspect I’m wrong. πŸ™‚ I made some chili today again and it was excellente! M came home on his break to get some of that yummy goodness. I don’t fault his decision. I stopped by the L to take care of some business very briefly and I’m contemplating stepping in briefly tonight (i.e. around 10.40pm) to do a simple thing that will save me some work during the week. I hate feeling like I’m slacking off but this is the first weekend in a while I don’t have anything on the weekend. I’ve been catching up on my feeds and ruthlessly deleting those that haven’t updated their blogs in a while. I think I should post more about various things that strike me when I read about that. We’ll see.

As far as savings go, we’re fluid. I’m actively using my ING savings account and please shoot me an email at my (firstnamelastname@yahoo.com) or my contact form if you need a referral to open up your very own savings account. I recommend it highly. It keeps my money safe from where my nimble hands cannot touch it. I get a kickback of $10 if you open up an ING savings account with at least $250 and you get a kickback of $25 for opening the account with that amount of money! It’s a win-win situation, friends. We’re actively resuming our apartment search after an unexpected spike in our heating bill again which does not bode well for the summer. I don’t think our landlord understands our need to keep our bills to the minimum we can get them to. Yes, I understand the need for comfort, but when propped against the fact that (1) you know how to cut costs but seemingly won’t (presumably because you aren’t the only one bearing the brunt of the bills) (2) some odd logic concerning heating cycles and heating furniture 2 days in advance of a ‘mere chance of snow flurries’. Alright, there’s some exaggeration and I love my LL, but our heating bills are just crazy up in Hotel California. This month of February, he told me the house heating bill was $200. Split 4 ways, that’s roughly $100 for M & I on gas heating alone. We haven’t tallied up the utilities. Well, I’m fairly certain we’ll be coughing up over $150 again in utilities which really really is rubbing me the wrong way considering that (I’m going to be a bit bitchy here. I’m hormonal) we are not living in a 1bd/1ba apartment! Folks!!! See me see wahala. Na 1 room we dey live out of sha. Parlour no be anytin to write home about. No be say we get to run the place o. Na soso animal doti dey eff up the place. I dey fear to invite health department because na jail den go carry all of us go. Na so I dey scratch my head so, dey wonder if this place sef worth the kain money we dey spend for here. I tire oh! Make una help me beg M say e no worth am again. At all. Especially as LL con dey bring one kain pikin to come join our craziness. Haba. Our LL sef dey one kain o. Make hin dey wait for summer. He don find mugu wey go dey chop bills abi. You know I’m serious now that I’m breaking out my broken English. In fact, I’m cracking up so much that I think I’m going to start blogging pidgin English about semi-sensitive stuff. lol. Peace and good night!

Just some thoughts

I’m sure you remember (or not) that I had a brief impromptu meeting with my boss. Well, it was very interesting. I am reticent about 80% of the time and that makes me be perceived as "still waters". Actually, his words were he "doesn’t have any idea what my plans are" and it was in a good way i.e. he didn’t think I was aimless, but that he didn’t know what was going on in my head. Lots of things. Today, I heard RS tell me that I didn’t want to be a techie forever. Amen to that! It is not financially possible to do what I’m doing at my current pay scale. However, he said that I was "doing it right i.e. talking less and doing more". That made me glad that I want to be felt and not just heard. I want people’s first words about me to be that I’m a hard and honest worker. Now, I understand that I will have to (and I do want to) receive additional education. Right now, what I ideally want is some experience and I mean, varied experience. I’ve been doing the research on several programs and a lot of them are sadly not in my current state of domicile! Now, you understand my seeming reluctance to do "anything" just yet. On the good side of things, I work at a school and obviously, it would be a seeming no-brainer to transition from worker bee to student. I’m blessed to have the kind of bosses (a husband and wife team) that I do because I know that despite misunderstandings, they will work with me whatever route I choose, just as long as I pull my weight. My 6-month anniversary for my place of work is coming up and I’m excited because I will be eligible for a tuition assistance program should I choose to take any classes or pick up a course of study. Now, I’m obviously limited as to what I can actually do because I will be juggling school and work, but it’s a nice thought to have.

In other news, thanks to our refund, we’ve been able to accomplish several things. Firstly, we took care of some pressing business. Next, M fixed up his car and his trunk now actually is secure! lol. He got his other car out of hibernation and with a new battery and a replaced fuse, it works like a charm!! He says he gets better mileage on this other car so sometime soon, we should be riding around in this other car and give "Old Faithful" a rest. πŸ™‚ Also, we gave our SunTrust credit card debt a hefty dose of relief. πŸ™‚ to the tune of almost $600. Let me take that back. We actually put $300 towards the credit card, but then when I logged into the website to see my balance, it was thisclose to a certain figure that I decided to go ahead and pay a certain figure to see it reach a certain balance. More for symbolic reasons. So that made it almost $600 put towards the credit card in just this month of February. I’ll be done paying for that sucker before summer rolls around and boy! will it feel good to not dedicate money towards credit card bills!

I am still socking money away in my ING savings account. I am still trying to convince M that saving is a good idea. πŸ™‚ Just  kidding. He obviously knows that already. He just really doesn’t like dealing with online banking. Additionally, I’m frustrated with ING’s slowness in taking funds from my checking account! I mean, how long does it really take? With my SunTrust credit card payments, I’ve been learning to fine-tune how I time my payments so that it gets withdrawn or posted to my account right away i.e. in a day or two. Thus far, I think if I make payments before the end of the month, it gets posted asap. Anyhoo, no sweat. I’m learning the fine art of juggling my payments and knowing when to hold off on any spending so that all pending charges are through and then, resuming the madness. J/k. I meant being the responsible saver that I am. πŸ™‚ 

Finally, I’ve got a fun weekend planned. Take a guess, people. Actually, don’t. I’ll be working. I don’t mind. It’s for a good cause. I got some bad news about a protein I’m working on which I "purified" and that we sent in for sequencing. For the lab’s sake and my sake/sanity, I hope to high heavens that the ball wasn’t dropped in my court. I am quite positive that I did things right, but like one of the bosses always says, it’s the simple things. My fingers and toes are crossed.

Life’s lessons

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.