Credit score…dropping

April 7, 2012 at 6:45 am (credit score)

My credit score has been dropping in the last year, and it just dropped again. You’d think that my decision to pay off my debt would be a good indication of credit worthiness, but apparently not! The credit bureaus have their own criteria, which I am obviously not meeting.

I recently closed one of my 2 US Bank cards. It had a $0 balance, and they sent a note that they were about to charge me an annual fee. Screw that! I got the card because of a zero interest rate offer. Used it, paid it off, and never looked back. I don’t need a gazillion credit cards, so when I got that letter in February, I opted to close the account. My credit utilization how now increased (bad), the number of credit cards I have available has decreased (bad), and the length of time my credit has been opened has only partially been affected (slightly, ever so slightly good).

The other big reason I’m being dinged is because I had a hard credit inquiry. I just bought a $999 road bike (plus taxes, plus 2 service plans, plus cheap pedals, plus a cage for my water bottle). I opted to go with free financing for 6 months, with GE Capital, for just over $1100. Be able to pay it off in 6 months without having to effectively slow down my debt payments? Fabulous! Not having to pay interest charges by putting it on a credit card and then not pay it off immediatley? Even better! Having decreased the average age of my credit cards by a chunk, oh well. Having a hard credit inquiry (meaning I am about to use credit and am a bigger credit risk since I don’t have enough to pay my bills…), oh well. It was still a good decision, but according to TransUnion, not in the short run!

It will get better eventually. In the meantime, here’s a list of my credit fluctuations that I’ve gotten off of CreditKarma:
April 2010 – 794
Sept. 2010 – 787
Dec. 2010 – 788
May 2011 – 779
March 2012 – 779
April 2012 – 772

I have seen my credit fall from 794 two years ago to 772, a whopping 22 points. In that time I have closed a credit card of over 18 years (FU Citibank!), and I began paying down debt. I opened a few zero percent cards (US Bank/Discover), and opened an REI card for the awesome rewards (since I shop at REI frequently!). I have always been fully up-to-date on all my payments. Yet, I am supposedly 97% less credit worthy than 2 years ago.

Go figure.

debtmaven out.


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I love ham…but my budget doesn’t

April 6, 2012 at 9:42 am (Being Frugal, food) (, )

Remember yesterday when I posted about frugality being my new BFF? Here is an example of life in action. I was resolute in sticking closely to my budget this month. I went home, flush with cash (having just gotten paid), and I needed to do a bunch of shopping to fill the larders so to speak. I went to 2 super markets (one was only to deposit my check, since I don’t typically like shopping there due to their lower-quality stock) and the liquor store. I splurged and bought a bottle of apple jack brandy (yum! $21). When I went to my favorite market they had yet another sample of kurabota ham. It’s Easter weekend, after all!

Unfortunately, I ate a bite. I asked questions on how to cook it! (This is a meat I am unfamiliar with). I was shown the display of where they were and told (in a whisper) that this brand was better than that brand. My taste buds were aroused after my little amuse bouche (ie, a bite sized sample) of ham. I actually snuck 2 samples, one of the outer crusty area, another of the yummy meat with bits of fat attached (2 separate sections of ham). Mmmmm. I was hooked.

My intense hunger (yes, I was quite famished at that point, always a bad thing in a food store) coupled with my salivating taste buds had me looking at the options. A half ham for $35-$45 (bone in), or a mini piece for $25 ( bone out, more per pound). OR I could go for the tiny portion for just $15 (it was very mini, and bone free). I agonized. I picked up. I caressed and felt the proportions and contemplated how much meat on the bone. I thought about how yummyit would be for dinner. What I would make with it (polenta, roasted veggies, scalloped potatoes from scratch, baked potatoes). I thought of my lunches for all of next week completely covered (ham sandwiches EVERY DAY). I thought about being a single person cooking for 1. I looked back at the price tag, give or take $25-$35 for a cut I’d want to take home.

I decided to leave it in the store. I felt sad. It’s the next day and I’m still salivating about it now. I may go back and pick it up. I may wait until the week after Easter to see if prices come down. But as sad as my hind brain is at missing out on all the yummy haminess I gave up, my resolve and my budget are pleased and quite smug. I escaped with my resolve intact.

I will see what happens in the next week, but for now, I’m in good shape. I made a delicious meal of steak, roasted veggies, and polenta as a splurge last night, sans wine, but had a few shots of brandy, and had a great night. I have wonderful leftovers today for lunch, and I have a bunch of yummy things still at home for when I next feel like spending an hour or two cooking. Plus I still have a ton of cheap dinner options for a few days.

Ham – 0
Frugality – 1

debtmaven out

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Spending update…frugality, my new BFF

April 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm (overspending, spending habits) (, )

I’m excited for my planned budget diligence this month. I’m raring to micromanage my finances. Strange, but I made a decision about 2 weeks ago to not. spend. ANY. money beyond my current bank account/remaining budget for February, and it’s been really great to have that hovering over my thoughts and consuming me in my spending habits. What does that mean exactly? Well, it meant that after I paid off my previous massive spending on my credit card, I had very little left over. I had a few evenings of planned restaurant/bar spending ahead (happy hour with a free entree coupon from Outback to spend time with a close coworker that’s having a difficult time at work, then drinks and noshes with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks). I put my foot down and decided not to spend anything further on my credit card. I couldn’t spend even $20 to buy “just a little something extra” at the store for dinner. I had just finished paying off my last 3 months of excess spending and didn’t want to hemorrage any more into March. Please note that when I say credit card spending, I mean not having enough in my budget, then spending on my credit union credit card temporarily, and paying it off within the same billing cycle. It basically means temporarily borrowing money before I pay it back in full (ie, it means poor planning and overspending during a single paycheck period!).

So I got to the point that I was forced to eat food out of the house and not buy any food that I craved but couldn’t afford. It meant that I scrounged to find food to prepare lunches. It meant that Il ived within my means. Crazy, huh?! Well, I made it, I got my paycheck today and I have already planned out most of my spending for the next few weeks – carefully, and with much deliberation.

I’m going to be uber-careful about food spending. I’ve noticed a really awful trend. Since being on my own in my new place, I have been a lot more wasteful with food. I have on more than one occasion, purchased some kind of meat, had it in my fridge, not cooked it in time before it expires, and instead gone out to eat with friends. That’s overspending by a factor of 2! And how wasteful! So I’ve decided to ONLY purchase food that I plan on eating in the next 2 days. I drive immediately by the supermarket that I shop at, so it takes no extra time to drive there. I am out of food and plan on stocking up tonight, but in a mini-way.

In the immediate future, I will be purchasing basics to have in the fridge (mostly veggies & fruits, lunch fixings, coffee and milk, and one protein for tonight). It doesn’t mean a full-out $75+ bill of food for the week, some of which has become spoiled before I get to it. It also means that I will not be going out to eat until this weekend. When I do, I will ration myself to ONE trip out. Yes one. If I don’t make it out, great – I have an extra trip out I can use later in the month. I will be buying a full tank of gas. I may go to costco and get the gas and get some cheese (but limit my spending in the store to $30 or less, which is completely insane at costco!). I may buy a bottle of liquor at the store (Apple Jack brandy, my latest favorite). But that’s it!!!

I will not be buying red wine every time I go to the store. In fact, I may specifically not purchase any for a few weeks (even at one a week, that’s $35 for a month!). I’ve been wanting red wine several times in the last few weeks, but hard liquor lasts much better than an opened but undrunk bottle of wine. And a tiny shot is really all I’m looking for. So no wine purchases for a while. I’ll probably make a few pots of soup this week, too, a great way to stretch spending.

I did get my first electric bill. WAAAY lower than I expected. Including a set up fee of $16, and including half a month of turning lights on for an hour during my deliver/unpacking phase before I lifted there, my bill for 5 weeks is $33 (which includes my heat!). So it’s $15-18 (extrapolated) for 3 weeks of use. I had no idea what to expect. A house is much more expensive than an apartment with shared walls and on an upper level! I had budgetted $50/month for electric, but I have already downgraded that to $30/month (and I expect it to be even less in the summer!).

The other major expense I now have to recover from is the purchase of my NEW roadbike! I spent a bit more than planned – I upgraded to the next level, and spent $1000 plus taxes and some service plans. I was able to get some financing (free for 6 months), which will let me pay it off gradually and within budget, with no fees. However, that means that I have much less disposable income for other things for the next 6 months. In a previous post I mentioend having $200 from selling an area rug – I will apply that, and what is left will basically come out to be $150/month until paid off. That leaves me with $50 of extra spending a month for anything not already budgeted for (my “extra” spending catagory is $200/month, for things like haircuts, photography supplies, entertainment, art purchases, you name it). I expect that to definitely be an issue, so I think I may  have difficulty staying on top of my $700 extra payments towards debt. And I still have a bunch of bike accessories that I need to purchase, too. I have made this deal with myself. If I can spend at least $600/month extra on debt, then I can consider buying something beyond the $50/left, but I’d prefer not to.

So. Frugality is going to be my BFF in the next few weeks. I will be very structured (and have been for 2 weeks!) and careful. I’m looking forward to seeing how good I can be!

Happy spring, all,
debtmaven out

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Budget buster spending on the horizon

March 27, 2012 at 11:02 am (things I may buy) ()

I just did a big post on severely cutting back on my overspending. One week later, and I’m contemplating an $800 purchase! I’m considering buying a new road bike. I currently have a clunker, heavy, in need of some serious TLC and a challenge for long rides.

This past weekend, my girlfriend S and I went out for our maiden ride of the year. 30 miles and very bruised seatbones later, we discussed riding regularly (like our weekly hikes the previous 2 years) – S has a foot problem that is hampering her ability to walk let alone do a 6-hour hike. So we are going to focus on doing bike rides this year. In fact, I want to, by the end of the summer, be able to do a ride around Lake Washington (about 60 miles).

My current bike will definitely not cut it. So I started bike shopping. I know my bike sucks. I bought a road bike a year or so ago because i wanted to try it out. However, the one I bought is vintage and has the gear shifters halfway down on one of the frame bars. I feel like I’m reaching to the ground when I shift, very freaky and uncomfortable! Needless to say I haven’t ridden that bike at all. $200 wasted.

I know I need a new bike. New entry-level bikes cost $600-$800. Not including accessories like paniers for carrying extra water, lunch, a repair kit, a spare jacket. I’ll also need some more clothes (one pair of bike shorts is not sufficient): pants, a pair of shorts that don’t hurt after 1 hour (the seams are poorly done and cut into my skin), arm warms, etc. So, minimum $700-$900. Ugh.

I am serious about sticking to my $200/month spending limit on non-budgetted items. So how am I going to pay for this?

1) $200 for selling my recently purchased rug (that I bought in January) – it didn’t work in my new apartment and S said she’d buy it for me (it is perfect for her place). Money is pending, but I should get it from her shortly.
2) Sell the vintage road bike I bought for $200. I figure I can at least recoup the $200. I’ll post it on craigslist this weekend and keep it up until it sells. Bike season is coming, and I’m sure people will be looking to buy.
3) Buy it on a credit card – that will defer payment due (in full) an extra month (note that I do not have any credit card debt and would use it for ONLY something major like this, with the understanding that I would fully pay it off by the end of the statement due period).
4) Use part of the $200/month extra money over April/May – I figure I’d be able to get about $100/month to put towards a bike.
5) Defer accessory purchases until later on, after the bike is paid for (probably June or later).

This will give me about $600 by May. Not quite the full amount I need. Mixed in with the pressure to “buy now” is that I need a smaller frame, so there are less options for my size. Bike season is coming and inventory will be going down as summer approaches. I’m an REI member, and they have a 20% off coupon for a single item, availble until April 15. So if I use it, I need to purchase it before then.

Still working out the plan, but I’m carefully shopping. I went to 2 places this past weekend and will go to a few more places this weekend. I’m going to try and rent/borrow a ride bike from some local bike stores – I’ve never really ridden a road bike before (my current clunker is a hybrid). I’m putting in lots of research – this isn’t an impulse buy, and I need to do my homework.

Remaining focused,

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How budgetting helps me figure out my spending trends

March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm (budget, spending habits) (, )

I have a budget. I’ve had one for over 3 years. Sometimes I think it’s more a spending ideal than an actual set of rules to follow. At least, that is how I’ve used budgetting. Sure, it lets me figure out how much money I have and when to pay bills. It lets me be aware of what I need to save up for (uh oh, my timing belt is coming due in 2 months, better save up extra!). However, I’ve never used it as the final authority of when to cut off my spending. Maybe that’s my problem. I’m a wishy washy budgetter and don’t always take it seriously.

I’ve really been focused on my pending habits and trends, and figuring out how I spend my own money, now that I’m single. I have a big excel spreadsheet that I use for my budget, and then at the end of every month, I “hide” all the details and just show the bottom line for each catagory. Basically, I can look at the totals for all months side by side, and really compare month to month my spending habits. In other words, I can recognize trends.

So what did I determine? Since December (before that, I lost a lot of data when my previous computer died and haven’t spent the effort to redo my budget before Dec 2011), I always overspend in the same 2 catagories: food and extra purchases.

I’m supposed to spend $350 on groceries, and $100 on restaurant spending. Nuh uh. Never happens. The best I do is about $500, my median spending is about $550 and at my very worst, it was $650. Keep in mind during this last 4 month period, I *have* moved, so I had a lot of too tired to cook nights, too busy moving and cleaning nights, and a lot of connecting with friends after my breakup nights, so I spent a LOT more than usual. I also bought a lot more premade foods (a precooked chicken, a bottle of wine, and salad make a great meal to give someone when they donate their time to help – how cheap is it to make them work and not feed them?).

My restaurant spending is often more $150-$200 typically. I’ve been evaluating how $100 is spent. If I go out, it’s often $20 for breakfast or lunch, and $25-$35 for dinner. If I only eat out 3 times a month for dinner, and not do any lunches or meals out when I’m out and about, then I can stick to that $100 budget. But I really think that’s unrealistic. If I truly had gazelle intensity to my debt payoff, then I would eat out less. Heck, I’d make lentil soup and rice all the time, but I don’t do that. I’m not trying to out-frugal-ize the personal finance blogosphere. I’m trying to live within my means, live responsibly, pay off my debt, and be sane.

It means that I don’t go out for weekend getaways, or go out drinking at bars regularly. Or get really expensive dinners, with appetizers, 2 drinks AND dessert. I typically get a meal and a drink, that’s it, and tip well. I use meals out as a way to connect with my friends, and be social, and get out of the house. I’m ok with spending more, and I think $150 for restaurant spending per month is realistic. For me. And I’m ok with that.

I think my “food” spending is higher because I’ve been buying more wine when I go to the store. I also have been shopping at higher quality places, that are more community owned and responsible. Quality is higher, but so are the prices. And if you’ve ever shopped in Seattle, you know how expensive it really is! What i don’t do is splurge on expensive cuts of meat (I can’t remember what filet mignon is like!!) or fresh king salmon (like i used to). But I don’t buy cheap meats either. I always do free range, natural, hormone free. Free range, cage free, organic eggs are $5/dozen. I could do eggs that cost half the price, but socially, I won’t go there.

I rarely buy clothes (I shop a lot at thriftstores) or shoes. I don’t buy books at all (yeah libraries!), and go to the movies about once every 3 or 4 months. But. I seem to be spending a LOT of extra money. The last few months I’ve been wanting to dress a little more girlie. I wear jeans, clogs, t-shirts, and fleece pullovers every single day. I work in a warehouse, so I can dress super casual. I wear this stuff on the weekends. I wear it out. I have 4 pairs of jeans and that’s all! But lately, I’ve been wanting more nice accessories. I’ve worn the same necklace for the last 3 years, every single day (just about). I wanted a new necklace. Then I found it. Turquoise. An eagle, articulated, cool, brightly colored, and strong and perfect for me, and this new phase in my life. So I bought it. $270! Then I bought a few other things this month, a drapey triple chained necklace with a big jewel stone, and a gorgeous pair of velvet gloves, all significant things I can use for years, but still! I’ve definitely overspent this month – instead of $200, I spent $565.

Last month was $324. January was $544 – I had to replace some furniture pieces when mr. maven moved away. I bought some significant things, and I bought them on craigslist, used, but they still cost money. A $200 8×10′ rug, a $100 floor lamp (it was mid-century and I love it). In December I bought myself a $240 ceramic sculpture by my favorite artist for a whopper of a budget buster total of $522.

So there you go. I spend a lot on food. I have rationalized that it’s ok what I’ve been spending eating out (within reason), and I realize that I have GOT TO GET MY EXTRA SPENDING UNDER CONTROL. There. No more art purchases. No more jewelry. No more furniture. If I want it, save up for it. But no more just go out and spend.

I’m going to really really push to not use my credit card at all. I am going to leave a cushion in my checking account, and not spend all my money the day after I get my paycheck. I need to leave myself my budgetted amount for food, eating out, gas, my $100 “extra” per paycheck, and be ok if I run out by not spending anymore. For real this time.

See how great budgets can be? After 3 years of this, I’m pretty good at it, but I’m still not perfect. It is really helpful to see where I need to be vigilant (and always!).

I’m going into April in a good place. I’ve figured out how my paychecks are to be spent, with enough room to cover small purchases. I’ve finally fully paid off my credit card (and no more “borrowing” from my mini funds to pay it off so I don’t get charged fees, and then in the next paycheck have to payback my “loan” from the mini funds, which makes me not have enough money, and have to use my credit card again – downwards spiral, you see?). I’ve finished covering debts to clean up after mr. maven’s departure, moving expenses, and deposits on my new place. Everything is now refunded, paid up, and starting at a zero balance (when it’s supposed to be at zero). My taxes are completed and my refund has been spent (on debt of course!). It’s back to normal. I still have to adjust my new budget, but I’m ready!

Happy spring to you all!
debtmaven out

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Budget overhaul and spending rein-in

March 16, 2012 at 9:19 am (monthly budget, overspending, things I bought)

March is here and half over. I’ve been thinking a lot about my finances and money and spending in the last few weeks. I’m also ready to recover from my move and all the extraneous spending that I’ve been involved in. I’ve been playing with my personal debt payoff calculator that I built in excel. I tweak it and update it as I send in payments to my car loan and my SBA loan, and it’s really keeping me focused on a semi-daily basis if I’m on track (news: I’ve been slipping, so need to readjust!). I’m also trying to rein in my enthusiasm about spending. Moving is over. No more excuses to eat out so much or have preprepared foods (ie, more expensive, less nutritious). I also have to get myself into a new regular routine, both financially, but also physical and social. In a way, moving was like a blank check – I gave myself an allowance to go out and spend money on food more than I should have. I used the excuse of going out with all my friends regularly (and separately, ie, more often and thus more expensive!) for a bite to eat and to get together. On one hand, it was great, I feel like I am establishing my friendships with people I haven’t had in my life before in this way (2 new friendships developing since the ex left), but on the other, I am not doing it decisively and in line with my budget. So I’ve been overspending.

I also decided to buy myself this absolutely *beautiful* turquoise necklace to the tune of $270. I haven’t bought a piece of jewelry for myself for over 3 years, and the last one was $22! In a way it is symbolic of this time in my life, and I have been wanting to have something new to wear. But again, I have been spending a lot and need to chill out on the spendthrift front!

Because I’ve been spending *a lot* on food and eating out, I decided to really knuckle down this week and use the food I have in my fridge, even if I don’t want it when I’m driving home past the really high-priced/excellent quality supermarket that is close to my place. I also need to decide NOT to eat out unless it’s the weekend. I need to portion my eating out to be once per weekend to keep me in check. Having that as a benchmark/rule should really help me avoid the restaurant overspending and allow it to happen socially as it should be (and not just me being lazy and not wanting to cook).

This coming paycheck next week (I get paid on the 5th and 20th) I have already allocated fully. I realized that I have to readjust how I pay my bills. My old landlord was ok if I gave her rent money after I got paid on the 5th. Then I started paying her online through pop money. That would take up to 4-5 days to clear (if you choose the free/longer payment method). That worked out ok, I was consistent from month to month and she was fine with it on the 9th/10th/or 11th. However my new landlord wants payment by the 1st. Totally reasonable, but I don’t get paid until the 5th.

How to get payment in 5 days earlier? I considered doing a temporary 5 day transfer out of one of my savings funds to tide my checking account over until then, then repay back what I borrowed when my paycheck clears. But then I realized that there was a better option. Instead, I’m going to have to pay sooner, like the previous paycheck. So this coming paycheck (2nd half of March) is now earmarked to pay my April 1st rent. This will cause a little adjustment to my debt payments. I actually calculated what bills were due on which half of the month. I split my regular payments (food, restaurant and gas spending) to be half and half, and realized that it makes the most sense to pay equal payments towards debt on both paychecks. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Paycheck 1:
$225 for food and restaurant spending
$60-$80 in gas
$50 (guestimated as i haven’t gotten a bill yet) for electric
$38.32 for gym membership
$253.11 for car payment
$200 for my car maintenance mini-fund
$33 for my xmas/gift mini-fund
$100 for random spending (housewares, subscriptions, photography spending, extra stuff I want to buy, clothes, etc)
$100 for my vacation mini-fund
$350 towards debt
$18 towards hulu/netflix
Total: $1430

Paycheck 2:
$225 for food/restaurant (same as pc1)
$80 for gas (same as pc1)
$745 for rent (including the $50 storage unit)
$40 for internet
$63 for car insurance
$100 for my SBA autopay to cover monthly payment due
$100 towards stuff (same as pc1)
$350 towards debt
Total: $1703

I usually get paid somewhere around $1500 – $1700.  If I have a smaller paycheck than I’ve allotted for, then I’ll just pay a little less towards debt during that 2 week period, and adjust when I get a higher paycheck. It should average out. In the immediate future, that means I’m going to pay less than I’ve estimated for March, to move up my rent payments.

The other final revision to my spending that I have to take care of in March is paying off the huge dump run fees I incurred when getting rid of ex mr. maven’s treasu..I mean junk. It basically cost me $300. Don’t know if he’ll ever pay me back for it (he’s said he is going to send me money, but that hasn’t happened quite yet). Either way, I need to pay off my credit card before I get charged any fees for it, so I have to bite the bullet and pay it off this month. So due to that, no debt payments for the rest of this month (unhappy face).

I’ll check in again next month or after and see how my budget has adjusted.

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Moving complete, settling in, and passing the 50% mark!

March 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm (milestones, moving, paying debt) ()

Ok. I’ve MOVED. I’m mostly done. Now I can get back to the business of debt paying and budgetting and achieving my goal of becoming DEBT FREE. I am seriously on track to finishing by the end of 2013. For real. In fact, I just passed a major milestone – I have less than 50% of my debt left!!! I’ve currently paid 51% of my starting debt (and that includes having purchased a newer car in that time period, too).

I’ve finished the physical moving. I spent $46 on a rental truck for the weekend (great deal, and I even elected to get the optional $18 insurance). Spent $20 on gas for the rental, and that’s it. I did make several trips in my car throughout a 2 week period, so I’m sure I wasted about half a tank of gas, make that $30. Ate a lot of pre-made food (roast chickens and salad no more!) and ate a lot of take out for about 2-3 weeks. THat’s harder to calculate, but I’m guessing $150 extra? Then I had to buy some extra tools (where are those phillips head screwdrivers I had so many of…?), spackle, oven cleaner, etc. I had to buy some basic things, like a shower curtain, so let’s say I was able to move for $350.

I’ve still got piles of stuff to get put away (I get to move from my temporary storage the landlord let me use to my own personal locked storage this weekend!). I have tons of art to hang, and lots of rearranging ahead, but it’s mostly set up for now. I realized that I needed some specialized things. I have virtually no counter space in the kitchen and a big open area for a small table. It’s not very hospitable to eating there, so I decided instead to get an extra counter. I tried looking at craigslist for tables and realized that what I really wanted was a sofa console table style thing. But everything was either expensive, far away, or 6-10 inches too short (table height, not counter height). I ended up having our crate shop at work help me. One night this week we designed it, cut the wood and in 45 minutes it was ready to go home and assemble! It’s PERFECT (and free!). Now I have to get some primer and paint it.

I did just get my $880 tax return back, whoo hoo, and put $1000 towards debt this month. I didn’t have to pay rent, but I’m recovering from moving expenses. I think I’ll be able to put an additional $300 towards debt in the second half of the month, after my second paycheck, which is exactly what I had hoped to pay this month. I’m on track, how great is that!

I’ve been putting tons in towards my mini-funds for savings. My car fund is getting big fast. But I’ll probably have to drop a grand in repairs in the next 2 months, so that’s exactly where it should be. I’m really pushing to save some play money for travelling. Real travelling, the kind I haven’t done since 2001. An airplane trip somewhere, maybe a hotel, or international travelling… location TBD. I’ve been considering a long weekend to Santa Fe with a girlfriend maybe later this spring.

I have noticed a trend towards more going out, restaurant eating, and bar visitations. I need to curb that a bit or at least continue to show some forebearance in that regard. Being single and trying to be social with friends has caused me to spend more in that arena than I had been previously. So I’m continuing to struggle with food and restaurant spending (as always!), continuing to really pump some money into temporary savings for car and travelling (go fun!), and I’m back to paying about $950/month towards debt (both minimum payments and principal). I’m back to normal, and more than halfway to my goal! Time to celebrate! Have a glass of champagne everyone!

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Moving… cleaning up…and budget craziness

February 17, 2012 at 7:00 am (budget, moving, mr. maven) (, )

My life is a whirlwind of activity and will continue to be so until March. I’m just going to post a hodge podge of activity financially related that have been impacting me this month:

When ex-mr. maven left, he also left a lot of crap for me to deal with. I may not have mentioned it previously, but he was a bit of a pack rat/scavenger. He would collect odds and ends that he would want to use for building a house, or furniture he wanted to refinish at some point, etc. etc. He also is an artist/photographer like me, so he would collect and hoard frames (particularly large ones) for projects, most of which were not used, particularly since we could get them for free from my job. So when he left behind his sh*t, I was left to pick up the pieces. Literally. Luckily a good friend (of us both) offered to help, so she helped me pick up a rental truck, and haul all the crap into the truck. By the end of the day, here’s what we did: 3250 lbs of refuse, one 14’ rental truck, PACKED TO THE GILLS with trash, 7 hours of labor, $239 for the dump fees, $46 for the rental, $8 for the gas (plus a meal for us both, I bought her breakfast for her help). You can bet mr. maven will pay me back for this. This unfortunately had to go onto my BECU credit card, until I have enough to pay it.

I’m pretty close to the edge with my finances right now. I pretty much have my paycheck fully spent and apportioned by the time I get it (including paying myself first into my mini-fund savings and debt payments), so I don’t often have a lot left over for additional spending. Thus, unexpected things like the dump fees go straight onto the credit card until my next paycheck. As long as it gets paid off before the next statement, there are no fees.

Ex mr. maven just got hired, yeah!!! He has a service job and will be making 15.50/hr…to start. Not bad! His expenses will be relatively low, plus he’s less than 5 miles from home, so his travel expenses will be low. They provide him a uniform, so no expensive suits. He will hopefully still pursue work in the legal field and continue to look for higher paying jobs. As he is able to pick and choose employment more easily than most places in the US (due to the oil boom there), he should continue to try and move up the payscale ladder! I fully expect him to repay me for the costs of getting rid of his garbage.

Ex-mr. maven also mentioned he wanted to pay me back for some of the missed expenses while we were living together. I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but the last 3-4 months of him living with me he paid at most $100 towards rent per month. It was a major sore point. Financial inequality like that really causes friction and resentment. It did little for our relationship, and we did have heated discussions more than once by the end of that time period (and just before he told me he was leaving). I won’t hold my breath, but I hope that he will at least give me $300 for the dump/uhaul.

Tonight, whoo hoo, I get the keys to my new apartment! I have already packed a bunch of stuff and will try and bring a car load of stuff every evening to reduce the difficulty of a) finding enough packing materials to do it in 1 go, b) lower the time/energy expenditure to carry ALL MY STUFF into the truck, IN ONE DAY, UP ONE FLIGHT OF STAIRS and c) reducing the time commitment of all the people who are offering to help so it’s not such an onerous activity. Plus, I’ve been having bad luck getting free supermarket fruit boxes, so I don’t have a ton to go around. I hope to unpack the boxes I bring over so I can reuse them. It may be a little challenging to put them places, when I don’t have furniture there yet, but there should be enough room to stash stuff/pile it, plus all the closets I have! Update: I’ve now hauled 2 car loads of stuff and the piles of stuff is a bit unnerving, but what else can I do? Most of my furniture won’t fit in my car! Plus I can’t move it myself, safely.

I have made a big pile of stuff to get rid of. Rather than put it in the dump or just take it straight to a donation truck, I want to try and recoup some money for having purchased all that crap in the beginning, or for my time and energy in cleaning up after mr. maven’s departure (a good portion is his!). So this weekend I’m having a yard sale. Rain or shine! After all, I have a covered back porch. I have been making signs to post, which take time, and I have to post photos and details to craigslist tonight. Since you only get 4 small images per post, I’m going to post a few times so people get a sense for what I have. Whatever doesn’t sell I will donate. I can bring most of it in a car to the donation truck, which sits every weekend, in a parking lot 3 miles from my house. There is a large piece of furniture I need to get rid of that I may not be able to sell. It’s too big for my car. That’s the only iffy part that I’m not looking forward to.

My company has a nice relationship with a local trucking company – we lease a fleet of trucks with them, so they know us and offer good discounts to employees on rental trucks (particularly for me, since I call them regularly!). Uhaul charges $30/day plus .99/mi mileage. Let’s just say that I am getting a screaming deal. They will let me rent, with a Friday pickup, for a whole weekend, for 1 day, $20, plus only .1/mile. I doubt it will cost more than $35, plus the cost of fuel. I will need to use the truck for a dump run/donating large bulky items that won’t fit in my car, if needed.

With all the stuff going on, moving, packing, planning, yard sale, organizing, did I mention packing? All by myself… well, let’s just say that I’m having difficulty focusing well on food and food preparation. My energy level is hit and miss, so I am not preparing food quite up to the standard I usually do. I bought lunch out today since I didn’t plan and make enough food for dinner and lunch. I expect this behavior to persist for the next 2 weeks. I’m not going to sweat it. If I eat out lunch 3+ days a week for 2 weeks, so be it. It’s good for my sanity, if a minor hit to my budget.

My finances are still haywire and probably won’t be normal until April. I still have expenses from January that will hit me in the February budget (since they are on my credit card, which delays payment by a month). I had to spend more on my deposit/first month rent. The total for that is $1270. Rent ($695), extra week of rent prorated ($175) for access in February, the storage space ($50), and my deposit ($350). Luckily I had already paid my last month’s rent for my current place in the beginning, so it wasn’t a double overlap of rent for 2 places at the same time, just a few hundred extra. I was able to cover it on one paycheck, but it didn’t leave much extra for anything else. I will have an additional truck rental for the move to pay for this month, too, and the $300 dump run fees from mr. maven – I will get that back, but it may be a month or two after I pay for it (to avoid credit card fees). In March, I won’t have rent to pay, so all my “rent” will go to debt (yeah!!!), so that will skew the March budget in a strange way. I’ll also get back some of my deposit from my current place by end of March, so that will be extra income. And I should get some snowball money from the yard sale next weekend. So you see, nothing will be right or normal until April.

Time for work…debtmaven out!



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Do you trust the people you work with?

February 11, 2012 at 7:11 am (work) ()

I’ve griped lots about my job and coworkers on this blog through the past few years. However, there is one facet that I have never really discussed – and that’s how everyone looks out for each other. We may all have issues with each other, and there may be enormously distinct cliques and favorites, but the one thing you can count on with EVERYONE I work with is honesty.

I work in a unique environment. We handle high value objects for the public, and are given immense responsibility in how we handle these objects. Part of that is going through a background check upon employment. Not a drug test (80% of the company would fail, from what I’ve surmised, even a good portion of the management), but an actual criminal, complete, full, background check. I guess that accomplishes something good – people I work with are upstanding, honest people.

Enough already, what am I talking about? Well, yesterday, I was on my way home, and got a call from a coworker. They found my wallet in the parking lot and were going to leave it on my desk. Yeah! I didn’t even know it was missing! (but it would explain that wierd bump when I pulled out that I don’t ever remember in that area of the parking lot). I don’t even have to wonder if any cash is missing. No one at work would do that. How do I know? My wallet is still at work, and I’m not overly worried. On an almost daily basis, someone will leave their wallet on the main counter in the building. Happens almost daily. Phones, personal effects, you name it. I’ve been working there over 5 years and I have never heard of a theft of personal items since I’ve been there. It just doesn’t happen. There is a sense of camraderie among many of my coworkers. It’s pretty common for Friday at the end of the day to gather in the kitchen, buy a case or so of beer, chips, snacks and hang around and decompress. One coworker has even brought in bloody mary fixings (a gallon of homemade bloody mary mix, a big selection of celery and asparagus, and of course, 3-4 liters of vodka, hey, we all seem to drink a lot 🙂 ). Hard liquor is not unknown, either (but as it’s more expensive, it’s less common than cheap beer).

So how is it where you work? Do you worry about leaving your bag unattended at your desk? Do you take your purse (if you use one) everywhere you go? Or are you blithely unconcerned about your stuff because you trust everyone you work with, like I do?

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2012 changes continue

February 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm (house, Improving Financial Health) (, )

In January I lost my ex’s share of rent due to him packing up for greener fiscal pastures (see my post on his move to ND). What to do, what to do? Get a second job? Not so easy and a big pill to swallow. Move to a new residence? Looking pretty necessary.

So I discussed with my bff and former roommate and she expressed interest in sharing a house together. Roommates/sharing expenses/high cost of utilities are a common theme in our discussions. We even went to look at a few places.

Thursday she came over and told me she wants to stay where she is, to keep her gym and weight loss regiment stable. I totally understood! Plus, she has been making noises of possibly moving away from Seattle, and within the year. It would suck to get a house togther, then have her leave and have to find a replacement roommate. What if I couldn’t? I’d be stuck with a higher rent than I’m currently paying! So that plan was off.

We discussed what I should do and all things seemed pointed to me moving. I’ve never ever in my life considered an apartment. It seems so…clinical. I mean, come on, a beige box, cheap housing, usually on main roads, ugly views… Keep in mind that I’m sure there are very nice apartments out there, but my goal is a less expensive place that I can live in while saving money. I don’t really want to do the high-end high-cost apartments. I could also do the roommate/shared house thing. I seriously considered applying for the roommate option, but here are my considerations:

I am 40 and have accumulated furniture. I can’t fit all my stuff in the back of my car any longer. I have a couch, a buffet, 2 full-size bookshelves, a dresser, a bed, and a lounge chair. That won’t fit in a bedroom. I have a whole bunch of kitchen stuff (I love to cook). Plus I have bicycles and lots of art for art shows, and I mean a LOT (which consume a lot of space). I’d have to find a place with either 2 bedrooms (more expensive apartment), or get a place and pay for a storage unit. Plus I don’t really want the drama of comings and goings and rules of houseshares (been there, done that, it can be a lot of work).

On Thurs night I started looking for apartments. On Friday at work I decided to look again, and try and schedule some walk-throughs for Saturday. I set up 2 apointments and left a bunch of appointments.

The first one I looked at was perfect. Old historic building, lots of vintage charm, working fireplace, relatively large, with ONSITE storage available for $50 (in the shed next door, plenty big for ALL of my art and my bikes!). Only problem? It was in seriously high demand, in a very very sought after location, Alki beach, steps from the water, and he had 10 appointments scheduled for the rest of the day (he had even pulled the ad from craigslist after a few hours due to the demand). Ugh. I did my best to sell myself and be congenial. I gave him my manager’s name and phone number as a reference for employment. I was woefully unprepared. I didn’t have any of my old landlord names or phone numbers. My smartphone internet connection was not working and I couldn’t even look up a property manager’s phone number. Ugh! I left, sad and wistful.

3 hours later, he called and said it was mine if I wanted. How soon could I move in? My manager apparently really sold me to him! And apparently I’m a really good fit. And no one ever leaves this place – most people have been there over 10 years (it has 6 units). OMG. I was terrified. It’s one thing to know I have to move. It’s another to actually make it final.

I called my current landlord, broke the bad news, gave notice, and went to sign paperwork. Whew. It’s official. I can move in 2 weeks, and have to be out of my current place by March 1.

Here’s the breakdown:
Current Rent: $895
Current Utilities (averaged): Gas ($50/month), Electric ($70/month), Water/Sewer/Garbage ($80/month)
Total: $1095

New Rent: $695 
New Utilities: Electric only ($50/month is my guess)
Storage: $50
Total: $795

Savings: $300 per month!

I guess I’ll just have to get used to living on the beach instead of having a private back yard. And I get to stay in the same general neighborhood, which is what I wanted. It’s bittersweet, but will be good for me in the long run.

Here’s to achieving your goals this year…
debtmaven out.

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