Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Financial Goals: Update

It's been a long time since I've done one of these but I'm back! I have had a lot of changes to my finances, mainly I'm in the process of buying my first home!  From a purely financial standpoint this may not have been the best decision, however the home is in an ideal neighborhood, I LOVE the house and can see myself (and my fiance and future family) there for a long time, so I'm comfortable with my choice.

Save $4000 by January 2013 I've added about $2200 to my savings this year and so far I haven't touched any of the money that has been added to my savings account since I opened it.  I'm scheduled to close on the house in about 2 weeks and unfortunately I will have to pull out about $1500 for closing.

Maintain a buffer of $100 in my monthly budget. From March to May I maintained about a $400 buffer each month.  In June I went on a vacation and had some minor expenses relating to the house (ex paying for a home inspection) so this buffer was only $49.  I did put down a $1000 deposit to secure the venue for my wedding next year, but I didn't include this in my monthly budget because I have been saving cash and gifts from family members in an envelope labeled Wedding Fund (old school, I know).

Maintain $0 credit card debt.
I used my credit card for my regular monthly expenses (grocery, gas, etc.) and pay the balance in full by the end of the month.  So far this year I've gotten a $50 Gift Card using my credit card reward points and by next month I should have enough points for another $25 card!

Open a Roth IRA
Haven't done this yet. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Money Lesson: Stay Busy


I love the feeling of having plans.  Nothing is more exciting--or makes the workweek go by more quickly--than having something to look forward to on the weekend. I also find that having weekend plans keeps my spending in check.  On the days where I have nothing to do, my boredom leads me to the mall or browsing the aisles of Target...and we all know how tempting it is to spend once you set foot in the stores!

I've also noticed that I'm more prone to constant snacking and mindless eating on those lazy days where I just stay in the house reading blogs and watching Netflix.  There's a saying that goes "the Devil finds work for idle hands to do” and I think there may be a little truth to it.  When there is something on my calendar, even if it's something like a visit from family or plans to attend an event, I'm usually occupied for a number of hours, engaged in some activity that doesn't require me to spend money, and I'm not even tempted to spend any money.  Sometimes I get engrossed in a good book or working to craft a blog post and the next thing I know, I've had a "no-spend" weekend!

If you are like me and are tempted to shop out of pure boredom, find ways to stay busy! Visit your loved ones, spend more time on hobbies, and find budget-friendly activities to occupy your weekend!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Money in your 20s: 5 Things Everyone Should Know

Women's Money Week 2012 Participant

I am participating in the first annual Women’s Money Week, a project to empower women to take control of their finances.   Today's topic is Money in your Twenties/Thirties/Forties/Fifties/Retirement. Check out the Women's Money Week 2012 website for more posts from some amazing Women Money Bloggers!    

For some this period may represent your glory days while others may refer to it as a Quarter Life Crisis, but your 20s is a time of amazing transformation. The bridge connecting adolescence and adulthood, your 20s may bring your first (full-time) job, first love, first major purchase (ex- a new car), and first experience with recurring bills (student loans anyone?).  With all these “firsts,” it is important to make sure you are making smart choices and creating good habits to carry you through the rest of your life…ESPECIALLY when it comes to your finances.    Here are a few things that I believe everyone should know about money before leaving your 20s to put you on the path to financial security:

How to create a budget.
You have probably heard this before, but the budget is one of the basic principles of personal finance. For some, this may be your first experience making enough money to actually support yourself.  In order to manage this new fortune, you need to keep track of the money you have coming in (income), the money you have going out (expenses), and make sure that your income is always greater than your expenses.  

Avoid the credit trap!
When I was in college, there were credit card companies all over the campus offering free t-shirts, mugs, etc.  just for signing up.  In that setting I was eager to sign up for my first credit card, but luckily I refrained from actually using the card for over a year and truly considered it a tool to be used for emergencies (and the occasional tattoo—don’t judge me lol).  Your 20s is a time for establishing and building your credit. Because you probably have little to no credit already, you probably won’t have the best credit rates, so spending recklessly on your card and carrying a credit card balance from month to month means that you may face hefty interest charges.  That spring wardrobe you caught on sale might not be that good of a deal if you buy it on credit and have to pay an extra 10-20% over the course of a year.  Also, don’t mess up your credit early by applying for a lot of different credit cards, maxing out card, and missing payments.  Not only do these immediately hurt your credit score (which would affect your future interest rates on home/auto loans), but they create bad financial habits that become more and more difficult to break.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2012 Financial Goals: February Update

Save $4000 by January 2013 I contributed $210 to my savings account this month through automatic direct deposit. I also took part of my tax refund along with some of my "buffer" in my checking account and added $600 to savings, so I've already saved about $1000 so far this year!

Maintain a buffer of $100 in my monthly budget. I've really been sticking to this one, and February was almost as good as January.  By the end of the month I had an extra $650 left over after expenses and savings!

Maintain $0 credit card debt.
I used my credit card for my regular monthly expenses (grocery, gas, etc.) and paid the balance in full by the end of the month.

Open a Roth IRA
Haven't done this yet. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Money Lesson: Stop Torturing Yourself

i'm gonna punish you / wait i'll punish myself for you / okay. at least i'm in control

 I have a confession...sometimes I procrastinate and allow issues to linger instead of tackling them right away. A few weeks ago, I was working on a task at my job but I just could not get myself to take the actions needed to finish it. For some reason, I felt this task was so daunting and so time consuming that I just wanted to avoid it at all costs. i knew I would have to finish the project eventually, but at the time I chose to let it sit on my desk for a few days while I kept myself busy with other work that was equally as important but probably less urgent. The problem is that each day it sat on my desk, my anxiety regarding the work increased and what should have been a proverbial "molehill" quickly became a "mountain" in my head. Finally, one day I came to my senses. I asked myself, Why am I spending all of this time agonizing over this work when I can just buckle down and finish it?

I've created similar scenarios while working on my finances. I know I have spent more hours worrying about how much I owe in studnt loans than actually creating a solid plan to pay them off quickly. I've purchased items that I quickly realize that I will never use, but instead of going to get a refund, I would just put things away in my closet as I worry about going over my budget for the month.

 Some of you may have the same problem that I have of putting myself through unnecessary suffering. Do you find ourself avoiding the mailbox because of the many final notices you get, or notice your heart racing when the phone rings for fear that it may be a bill collector...BUT you go shopping every weekend faithfully(and never coming home empty handed, might I add)? Or maybe you feel yourself drowning in debt, but rather than reaching out for assistance (negotiating new loan terms, exploring economic hardship provisions, getting credit counseling or financial planning assistance) you suffer in silence  day after day.

 Well I'm here to tell you: Stop torturing yourself! Do whatever is needed to rid you of the burden of your financial worries. Action is the first step in obtaining freedom, so imagine how good you will feel when you trade in your procrastination, avoidance, and associated stress for knowledge, progress, and ultimate achievement!

Featured Blogger of the Day! Yay!

Today I am a featured blogger of the day at! What an honor :)

If you are on, add me @

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Your Mindset Hurts Your Finances: 3 Examples

make it rain guys pictures, backgrounds and images

“I work hard to make this money, so I’m going to enjoy it!”
It’s true, you probably worked hard to earn your money.  But think about all the hours you had to put in to earn your salary…then think about how quickly money can fly out your hands.  It only takes minutes to swipe your debit card and lose $50 on a “quick run” to Target, or to hit the checkout button at Amazon and purchase the assortment of items that you’ve had patiently waiting  in the shopping cart.  Spending money is easy-it’s quick, there are so many ways to spend it, and lots of people who get paid to entice you to spend.  Because spending is so easy to do, it is easy to get yourself in trouble by overspending, sinking into debt, and racking up credit card interest charges or bank overdraft fees.  Also, maintaining the habit of spending all your money is risky; in the event of an emergency—such as illness, job loss, or needing household repairs—you will not have the money to cover these unexpected expenses, which would then lead you into debt.

“I’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here!”
If retirement is over 20 years away, it may not be one of the things at the forefront of your mind, but ignoring it can have dire consequences.  You don’t want to work until you are 70 years old because that’s the only way you will have enough money to survive.  There may come a time when you are no longer able to work to support yourself; the decisions you make today can affect your financial security and the quality of your life during that time.  In addition to planning for retirement and funding a retirement plan, it’s important to consider what the future economy will look like.  Consider inflation, which means that the dollar you have to day will have less purchasing power in the future.  Skimping on your retirement contributions or underestimating how much is needed in the future will leave you with an unpleasant surprise when retirement age arrives.  Lastly, procrastinating when it comes to retirement contributions—or even procrastinating about adding to your savings account—means you miss out on the benefit of time.  The earlier the save, the more time you have to make your money grow.  "Someone who puts $4,000 a year into retirement accounts starting at 22 can have $1 million by age 62, assuming 8% average annual returns. Wait 10 years to start contributing, and you'd have to put in more than twice as much -- $8,800 a year -- to reach the same goal."


“I can afford that, it’s ONLY $x (or $x per month)!” 
A low purchase price may make you feel better about spending your money, but make no mistake-there are more factors to consider when making a purchase.  A low price means very little if the item you get is of poor quality and will need to be repaired or replaced in the near future.  Also, the purchase price is hardly ever the “real” price of an object.  Whether it is tailor fees for a jacket, replacement ink cartridges for a new printer, or a data package for a new cell phone, most purchase require additional service charges.  Ignoring these additional costs can result in a seemingly minute cash expenditure that creates a big dent in your budget in the future.  Likewise, signing up for monthly subscriptions like gym memberships or cable services can negatively affects your budget  as you are increasing your fixed monthly expenses, leave you more cash strapped each month.   You are agreeing to regularly pay a guaranteed debt, while your future income may not be guaranteed.  The future is unknown, and in the face of an emergency, you may find yourself unable to meet these financial obligations.  There may be fees for late or missed payments, and even penalties for cancelling these services, so it is in your best interest to think long and hard before entering into one of these agreements. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Financial Goals: January Update

Save $4000 by January 2013 I contributed $210 to my savings account this month through automatic direct deposit. In the next week or so, I will transfer a lump sum ($300-500) into my savings account. Wondering where I'm going to get that lump sum? Keep reading...

Maintain a buffer of $100 in my monthly budget. I did a great job of limiting my shopping and my restaurant meals this month.  I went out to eat only 4 times this month and what shopping I did was from the clearance rack.  By the end of the month I had an extra $700 left over after expenses and savings!

Maintain $0 credit card debt.
I used my credit card for my regular monthly expenses (grocery, gas, etc.) and paid the balance in full by the end of the month.

Open a Roth IRA
Haven't done this yet. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guest Blogging Round-up: December

Last year  I wrote about all things finance from the young adult’s perspective in a series called Pennies-Nickel-Dollars over at Pretty Natural Divas.  Take a look at my posts from December:  

The Hidden Costs of Shopping A purchase is never just a purchase. A warning about additional costs associated with shopping. 

6 Money-Saving Apps  6 smartphone apps to make your shopping easier and save you money. 

On The Web: Money Article Round-up Highlights of my favorite personal finance articles I found on the web. 

New Year, New Goals Goal-setting tips, just in time for the New Year!

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Money Lesson: Don't Eat The Cookie!

Recently I shared some of my financial goals for the year, but I didn't tell you all about the other life goals that I have. One is to improve my eating habits, and part of the way I've been doing that is to track calories and keep a food diary using the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone. My motivation was tested when my fiance decided to make some chocolate chip cookies. I had space in my calorie count for the day to have a cookie, so of course I was ready to run in the kitchen to get one...BUT, I decided to enter the cookie into my food diary before actually eating it, and boy did this make all the difference.

The app I use tells me how much progress you can make in 5 weeks if everyday you ate like you did today (in terms of calories consumed). By eating this 150 calorie cookie and getting into the habit of "splurging" on an extra 150 calories each day, the amount of weight I can lose in 5 weeks would be decreased by 1.5lbs. This was a light bulb moment for me...when it comes to health or even money, each seemingly small decision you make is important, as they collectively form your set of habits that will either lead you to your goal, or lead you astray. That afternoon vending machine break and the weekly trip to Target that leaves you $20 poorer each time may seem like small amounts of money, but added together can really hurt your budget. 

Every time you make a bad decision, it becomes easier and easier to make another one. Also, each bad decision makes it easier to fall off the wagon of change because even though we all know that you can make mistakes along our journey, we all have had times where we accept mistakes as failure and just stop trying all together.

To commit to a lifestyle change, we have to first commit to taking the journey one decision at a time. At each "checkpoint" (decision), we have to decide whether to move closer to our goals, or to move further away. We will have missteps along the way, but we just need to work on making those mistakes occur further and further apart.

I think this commercial from Fidelity illustrates my point pretty well:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Financial Goals

It's a new year, so it is the perfect time for a new set of goals.  I made awesome strides in my financial life in 2012, and I hope to continue that success into 2012.  Here is a list of my goals for 2012, along with ideas for behaviors that I can do to help achieve them. 

Save $4000 by January 2013
  • Direct deposits to savings: Already set, with the current setting can save about $2500 without doing anything else.  May increase the amount saved each month.
  • Save 50% (or more) of tax refund.  I saved a good portion of my refund last year and used part of it to pay off credit card. 
  • Increase income.  This year I will be eligible for a promotion at work that comes with a 10% raise.  Also use money earned from Swagbucks (gift cards), online surveys, and credit card rewards to decrease some of my regular expenses instead of using it to buy frivolous stuff

Maintain a buffer of $100 in my monthly budget.  A few times in 2011 I went over my budget (note: I think of my savings as a bill I have to pay, so I didn’t actually spend more than I earned, just cut into the amount of money I put into savings each month).  After I build up a few months of a buffer I will transfer that amount to my savings account.
  • Tell myself no when I’m lusting after an item in the store
  • Limit costly restaurant meals
  • Use cash when shopping for personal supplies, clothes, food, etc to make sure I stick to the monthly budget.

Maintain $0 credit card debt. 
  • Pay credit card balance in full each month
  • For major purchases and wedding purchases, create separate savings account/sub-account to take care of it instead of using credit card.

Open a Roth IRA
  • Read blogs, books, etc to research options