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!
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.
On my Facebook page, I posted that Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” was my theme song for 2008. Take a moment to read the lyrics and then, come back to read this post. 🙂 phew. That is one powerful song. So much happened in 2007. Where do I begin? For starters, I quit my PhD program for personal reasons. Shortly after, I got married to a really sweet man. 4 months, I got a job that fits me to a tee. So here I am, almost a full quarter later and a new year to boot! What have I learned? I need to trust in myself and ask for higher pay!! Okay, in all seriousness, I do need to trust/believe in myself and know that I am a premium addition to any team. However, I will cut myself some slack and say that I fell prey to the “first job” syndrome. I am not too worried at this point because I have my eyes on the long-term prize i.e. gaining invaluable laboratory experience which will allow me to proceed in my career goals which are still a gooey mess in my mind, but will solidify into discrete items with time. 🙂 I have also learned that I cannot live in an island. No matter how gun shy I am or no matter the baggage I’m carrying, I need to communicate. Thus far, I’ve been horrible on that front especially with relatives and even worse with friends/acquaintances. I hope to do better.
So many things are running through my mind. For starters, I’ll talk about the consistently-cropping up bee in my bonnet: financial security. Only this time, I’m a little more obsessed about it. 🙂 Hear me out and don’t laugh. I know my pay right now is pitiful; Matt’s just as pitiful. Even combined, our pay is pitiful. 😀 However, it’s never too late to get a reality check or merely do a self-check/assessment. I’m not very good at accounting and I frankly detest having to balance books. However, in order to be able to save money or not live from paycheck to paycheck, you need to know what’s going into your bank account and what’s leaving from it. The main issue that I am wrestling with is balancing the need to save money versus paying off debt versus getting things that we need (or perhaps want). I’ve got so many ideas in my head that I truly feel overwhelmed. However, M & I have come to the consensus that before we do anything major, our debt needs to be paid off. Specifically, our credit card debt which as off now, is under $2 000. That’s right. As of today, I have paid off my Bank of America credit card which wasn’t a lot to begin with. Once the payment goes through, I shall be giving the good folks at the Customer Service Department a call to renegotiate my annual APR which is a hideous 20.74%. Here are a couple of things that are going through my head right now:
- We need to clear out debt which will happen in the first quarter of this year via ordinary payments or from our tax refund windfalls. My conservative estimate is we will receive at most $1 000 total between both of us. If I deduct all I can possibly can while preparing the taxes, at least $1 000 will be expected. Nevertheless, I’m not leaving my eggs in that basket.
- We need to have an emergency fund. Now, I will say that I went “Huh?” when I first heard of this concept. However, after reading and subscribing to a bunch of financial blogs, I find that it makes absolute sense. What is an emergency fund? Ideally, it should be cash or money sitting in a readily accessibly savings or checking acct that earns interest and should contain ~ 3 – 6 months worth of money that you can live off of in case of an event like being fired/laid-off, etc. Now, at any given point in time, I think I have ~ $200 that I can scrounge. That amount obviously is not enough to even get us through 1 month. Another obvious item I’m leaving out is Matt’s income which can actually sustain both of us under our current living conditions of ~ $370 (rent + utilities). However, I prefer to think in terms of my income solely which will help me be more aggressive about being frugal. My first thought when it came to saving was to think of the piggy bank. Sadly, this was before I read about actually making your money earn money for you i.e. putting money into savings accounts to earn interest. So, I’ve got over $100 in my piggy bank/money pot which I still keep going, but I just won’t put big bills in it anymore.
- Funding a retirement account. Thankfully, my employer has > 9% matching and an automatic system where I contribute 5%. I would like to contribute more, but I can’t go over 5%. So, my options are a tax-deferred savings plan i.e. 403(b) or 457(b) which employer-approved providers. I essentially need to sit with the employer-approved providers and ask them important questions like if they’ll let me rollover to a different account with no or very minimal fees, etc. I hope to make a move or decision on this before the end of the first quarter this year.
- Getting an additional income source via a part-time job preferably on weekends or at worst, 3 hrs nightly. I think it’s doable. I used to come in to work on the weekends throughout last year. I never did full 8-hr days, but I think I can stand to cut back on coming in on weekends except when it’s specifically requested of me. CS rarely does weekends, but earns over five grand (grossly) more than I do. We are on the same academic footing, but I guess times were much better when CS was hired. 🙂
That’s about it for now. I started this post last night, but M made me go to bed. Now, I’m out of ammunition. Have a blessed day!