401k Decisions

Since I recently changed jobs, I have to make the decision as to what to do with my 401k earnings. Right now, it stands at approximately $1200. It’s not much, but it still could be what gives me a small boost up in the debt war.

If I were to request a check, they would automatically withhold 20% which would give me approximately $960 after that withholding (and possibly subject to more withholding later when I do my tax return). But, if I transfer it directly to my IRA (which I haven’t contributed to since I opened the account 7 years ago…), I would have no penalty of course.

It comes down to security now versus security for the future. That money will be worth a lot more when I retire in 40-45 years (I plan to work beyond the standard retirement age of 65 should health allow me) and contribute to some sound mind currently knowing that I am saving for my [distant] future. The interest earned on the IRA would be far greater than the interest paid on the credit card. But, flip side, there’s a lot to be said for taking it and paying off a credit card for the sake of sanity.

What would you do? It’s such a small amount that I’m struggling to decide what to do!

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Ace in the Hole

My ace in the hole came through! I didn’t get as much cash as I expected, but I did get enough to pay off all but $300 of CC2!

That brings me to:

CC1: $1104

CC2: $300

And CC2 will probably be zero by the end of the week, after I’ve had a chance to balance the budget.

If I don’t have the entirety of my credit card debt paid off by December, then I’m doing something majorly wrong. I’ve barely spent money, I just pay, pay, pay as money rolls in to the credit cards, and soon I will be commanding a higher salary. I’ve also taken on some private lessons and I will be shortly leaving for a babysitting gig. These credit cards do not stand a chance! I just need to keep my focus, especially with the prospect of furnishing a house coming just around the corner. We are trying to come up with a plan on furnishing our home that won’t break the bank but still get nice, sturdy pieces that will last us a long time.

Another Website

Salt put me on to another website in the debt pay down realm- SaveUp. It easily linked to ALL of my accounts, no problem, within minutes. It also gives you credits for saving and paying down debt which you can use towards entering in for prizes (certificates of deposit, cash, jackpots, loan payments, vacations, etc.). I love the concept, it is already high on my list since it was so easy to link my accounts and if I actually do win some prizes, even better!

Why do I keep on endorsing these sites? Because as much as I like the idea of making a personal budget and forcing myself to spend in a certain way, it just doesn’t happen. These sites allow me to see EVERYTHING in one picture, so if you’re like me, you always need new tools to discover and help you in fighting your debt. Someday I’ll develop a true sense of self-discipline and create a beautiful spreadsheet of expenditures, but it hasn’t happened yet and until I do, I like these websites that help out!

 

And, by the way, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Ugh, Febuary

February was a bit of a brutal month.

I’ve expressed this sentiment before I believe, but there are times where I’m so overwhelmed with things to do, it paralyzes me. I just can’t seem to get anything done despite having a billion things to do between now and June 1. Wedding, dance recital, HOA treasurer stuff, the list never ends. I no sooner cross things off my list than something else pops up. I’ve become a psycho to-do list keeper- I have ones I write down that have immediate deadlines and ones I keep on my phone that have far-out deadlines. This psycho to-do listing has helped me out in the finance department. How?

Over the past weekend, I’ve started to write down extraneous things I need to buy that aren’t groceries. This has forced me to plan better and smarter when I need to buy those extra things. For example: I needed to buy some liners for my Litter Genie. My usual MO is to just buy it when I see it. This time, I wrote it down on my “To Buy” list, looked for a coupon, price compared online and decided to buy it at Target where I could get an almost two for one deal and use a gift card I had gotten for signing up for an online service. A $15.74 purchase turned into a $4.74 purchase. Also, writing down my “To Buy” purchases forces me to realize I don’t need it immediately. I can shop around until I find the best deal. A lot of the stuff on my list is stuff for the wedding, and while I’m trying to get it all done sooner rather than later (trying to curb that “I AM JUST SO OVERWHELMED!” feeling), I can shop smart. The trickle down effect- less money spent, more money towards paying down debt!

This didn’t come out of no where. February threw a wrench into my pay-down plan.

No sooner than I had written that I’m killing the cosmetic loan debt in March than I took my car in for its safety inspection in mid-February. And failed.

Driver’s side headlight and brakes failed. This means when I take it into my garage, I go ahead and get an oil change and they inspect everything else and find more things.

The rotors, luckily, were still in good shape. But, they found moisture in my brake fluid, so that needed to be flushed and changed. Filters needed to be changed. Valve cover gasket and struts are busted (I’ve known about the struts for a few years actually, I’ve just chosen to ignore them, they aren’t a necessary fix), but I declined those fixes, opting instead for them to lift the rear brakes to help the new front brakes last longer and rotated and balanced the tires as well. Battery is also running low on juice and they wanted to replace it, but I declined that $150 fix- I can do it on my own for $80.

Total damage- $665.45

And I put it on CC1.

I COULD have just used my debit card and pay for it all out of pocket, no damage to my credit cards done. But, I was in an emotional state when they told me, and draining that much money out of my bank account just seemed an unwise choice at the moment. Not to mention paying off the cosmetic loan and putting a chunk of money into savings for the wedding was in the back of my mind.

Today, before I transferred money into savings, I paid some of the new CC1 debt down as well as CC2. I put over $500 into savings, leaving $1000.00 even in the checking account from which I pay my debts. After paying the two credit cards this afternoon, I have an even $4500.00 in credit card debt and $1947.54 left to pay off on the Cosmetic Loan. I expect to make approximately $815 on my next paycheck from the full time job, and approximately $155 from the part time job, which would bring my checking account to ~$1970. Subtract $250 from that for my student loan payment and I’ll have around $1720, just a couple hundred short from paying off the cosmetic loan this month. 😦

I tried posting on Facebook my babysitting services for my friends to make some extra cash, but no bites. Of course, I am still waiting on the offer from my ace-in-the-hole (it feels like it’s taking forever!) and I might get a paid modeling gig soon. I’m also looking forward to a $90 drop in my 6-month car insurance premium in April (but I pay it monthly, so it’ll be about $15 less a month, but still money saved=money toward my debt). So, my hopes aren’t dashed yet. The continuation of my “To Buy” list I feel like is also vital to the pay-down since it’s forcing me to plan better, and the natural trickle down effect of reduced stress which means less impulse buying.

Stay tuned- things could always change in a matter of days (and (I’m hoping they do in a good way)!

Taxes, Habits and Savings

I wish I could say January was a great month. It was, in fact, a very strange and off month, and I know many of my friends had a very weird and off month as well. Maybe it’s this absolutely wacky weather we are having in our neck of the woods that is throwing everything off, but I really can’t wait for things to even out!!

Taxes

If you’ve been paying attention to politics lately, you should be aware that they let some of our tax breaks expire and hiked up the withholding on Social Security. If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, hopefully you’ve at least been paying attention to your paycheck and have probably noticed more than just a couple of cents less per paycheck since this has happened. I really thought it wouldn’t be that bad, but for my part-time job where I earn around $180 a paycheck, I have noticed more than $20 less a paycheck! Un-flipping real! I can’t really say how significant the hit has been to my full-time job yet due to sick days and what not, but I’ll have a better idea tomorrow. Obviously, someone on Capital Hill didn’t get the memo about how the economy is doing lately and that taking such a big chunk of many of our paychecks won’t help matters any. I have a lot more feelings about this, but I’ll leave at WOW, HAVING LESS MONEY PER PAYCHECK HURTS (and makes it harder for me to reach my financial goals)!!!

Habits and Savings

I have, I believe, managed to change some of my spending habits. I have taken the primary spending categories- food, gas, cell phone and car insurance- and capped myself out at $500 a month and have managed to successfully do that in January without feeling deprived. I had started to move towards this in November and December, but this month was when I realized that I needed to make it work and make it work I have! Basically, I take the $500 and subtract my cell phone bill amount and my car insurance amount. Whatever is left over, that is my food and gas money and gets transferred from the bank I have my checks direct deposited to into my other bank (I have two banks, first I was just going to switch, then the whole financial melt down thing happened and I like having my eggs in a couple of baskets now). I now plan my food spending well so as to minimize wasting money and wasting food- when I go to the market, I think about what I can make for dinner and eat as left overs the next day for lunch, and that is what I buy for the week. I find this plan has served me well so far.

Also, to start building up my savings more, I have $25 from the food and gas allowance automatically transferred into savings at the beginning of the month so that I don’t even think about it. If I am good and careful, I hopefully have a few dollars left at the end of the month that can also be switched over to savings as well. Of course, today is the end of the month, and I do have some money left, just sigh of $20, but my February allowance doesn’t transfer over until Monday and I do need gas in my car. I will re-evaluate the bank account on Monday!

 

The main takeaway is this: sometimes, things happen that lower our income or change our circumstances. But with careful planning and a stick-to-it attitude, you can better your financial situation.

Wedding Planning Update

I was specifically asked to talk about my wedding, and though I did talk about it once, I’ll give you guys an update and information about the small details.

The General Details

We will be having an outdoor ceremony at what is a nice time of year in our area. It starts to get a little humid around the beginning of June, but it isn’t too bad. No bridesmaids or groomsmen- it’ll just be me, him and the officiant up at the alter. My nieces and nephews will act as the flower girls and ring bearers. Hot pink and black are the wedding colors, the reception will be in the main manor home on the same property as the garden and it has a lot of vintage character, just how I like it. (Part of the reason I decided it was the right place was because they have an old-Hollywood glamour vanity in the bridal dressing room, soooo me.)

Dollars and Cents

I’m not being stupid about how I spend my money on this wedding. I found my photog and DJ via Craigslist. Actually, the photog is a funny story….

A couple of years ago, I posted a request on Craigslist for a photographer to come out and do some holiday shots of my fiance (then just a boyfriend), myself, and our pets. This guy replied and said he would do it Trade for CD (TFCD) which basically means he’ll take the pictures, edit how he likes and we get the CD, but they can do whatever they wish with the pictures, including using them for promotional purposes. The pictures he took were great, and we were very pleased with the product- he’s a phenomenal photographer. Well, when we got engaged, I really wanted to hire him to do our photos. One catch- his base package is $2500!!

So, over time, I had posted ads on Craigslist, hoping to find gold again. We had one guy, but I sat on my hands too long and lost him. So, I kept on posting. Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I post one last ditch ad before I went for a photographer that was more than what I wanted to pay, but still was within my allowable budget. I start getting replies to my CL ad when low and behold, my photog from a couple of years ago replies. Not just replies, but is willing to do our wedding for approximately 75-80% off his normal price! I punched my fiance I soon as I saw the email, and when he turned and gave me a puzzled look, I told him about the ad and who replied. His face immediately turned to relief and said “SOLD!” We talked to him the next night, and now I just have to send off the deposit. I was so relieved, that my immune system tanked the next day and I was sick for a week.

The DJ was also found via CL. No fun story there, but we met him today, him and my fiance got on beautifully and we were sold. He will cost less than half of what most wedding DJ’s normally charge.

A friendly acquaintance has offered to do the boutonnieres, corsages and my bouquet for free, I just have to provide the flowers (I can get 100 roses from Costco for $80). I’ll make sure the photographer gets her some nice photographs to “pay” for her help, she’ll also probably be my best friend’s “date” since my best friend’s husband won’t be able to make it. The centerpieces are just going to be vases filled with [fake] rose petals, filled with water and a floating candle. I bought 5 bags of the petals for $10, I can get the vases from Michael’s for $5, but I’ll use their coupons to save more money. And to give it a little more depth, I’ll get plain mirrors from the dollar store. My plan after is to sell the stuff to recoup some of the cost (and in general, I don’t need 10 vases and mirrors!).

A friend, who’s a chef, convinced his boss to shave over $4K off their price tag for catering. Always helps to have friends in high places. We will also buy our own alcohol to save moolah. The cake and cupcakes will probably total $400-$500, standard price, I actually don’t know how we could possibly save on that outside of myself or a friend making them (which I honestly don’t want to do, we live near a famous cupcakery so we want to treat ourselves on this).

I bought the save-the-dates and invitations on Vistaprint, which again is waaaaaaaaaaay less than your standard stationary shop. The save-the-dates and invitations are beautiful. I will jazz up the invites though with some cardstock and ribbon to make them look like those expensive stationary store invites.

The Bottom Line

Apparently, weddings cost on average over $27,000. When all is said and done, ours will probably come out to about $12-13,000 (not including honeymoon costs). We wanted a traditional wedding, and let’s face it, that costs money. But, utilizing what resources are available to you and doing your research you can save a lot of cash.

Time for a Blog? Me?!?

I know, I know. I’m a week overdue for my December Debt Picture.

Past two weeks have been insanely busy, stressful and I was battling the un-flu last week as well. It’s been hard to want to do what I need to do.

And, honestly, this month’s picture isn’t super pretty.

I really have not wanted to look at my debt. I HAVE paid off CC1 minus $13 on interest from last month’s balance, but there was a glitch with the cosmetic loan and my monthly payment was not paid. CC2 is probably way up too thanks to new kitty bills, Christmas gifts, and I have to admit, I might have been stress shopping some. So, what I paid off on CC1 is probably null when I factor in CC2 [over]use.

Awesome Things Have Started to Take Shape

Last month, I did a small experiment. I put $300 in one of my checking accounts, and used that debit card to pay for my gas and food and small extras. I used it all, and then had to use my other debit card for one more gas tank fill (approximately $44). This month I put in $350. Hopefully that will get me to the end of the month, and if that does it means I have successfully shaved $50 off my monthly livings expenses.

One of the those small extras was a weekly automatic $5 transfer from checkings to savings. I really want to build up my savings account more, like I’ve discussed before, and I figure an easy, small weekly transfer won’t be missed and will help me build up my savings some. I will continue this, and as things get paid off I’ll be able to increase that amount.

I also sold some stuff on eBay! A Coach purse, some Harry Potter stuff (yes, I’m that kind of nerd) and I’m working on selling some music boxes now. I tried selling one of my music boxes, but no one bought it so I will try again. But, I’ve sold three things and after shipping expenses, I’ll have netted around $50, so I can’t complain- every little bit helps. Less clutter too (thank God- I watch “Hoarders” and start freaking out about all this crap I own, so less muss, less fuss).

I tried getting any babysitting gigs I could via Craigslist, but it didn’t work (got one nibble, but that person needed a weekday babysitter). A friend, however, needs me to babysit her kids one night and I’ll do that for a little extra cash.

Finally, remember that ace in the hole? Well, there is a certain medical aspect to it, and I discussed it with my doctor. I think I’m ready to call the ace in the hole and get it dealt with, so I’m not counting a December debt kill down and out yet.

I may or may not post the picture for this month, I’m still trying to gain the courage to look at how much damage has been done to the one credit card. Stay tuned…

Websites for Your Visiting Pleasure

I apparently have a lot of things to say today! I have been thinking about doing this post for a while, so time is ripe!

Great Websites to Visit and/or Sign up for (all free)!

Finaid.org: I can’t start this list without the big kid on campus when it comes to learning about student loans. Educate yourself before you educate yourself.

Debt Payoff Calculator: Visit this site to calculate what you need to do to pay off your debts

Credit Karma: Great website to track your credit score. This is a great motivator to get yourself to payoff debts.

Credit.org: This will direct you to their Educational Guides. Now, this company’s main product is a Debt Management Program, but I just want you to read the educational guides. They provide great advice.

Annual Credit Report: Get your annual credit report to make sure that everything is accurate and that you haven’t been the victim of identity theft over the past year. Don’t sign up for the sites that require you to “try” their credit monitoring and that crap- those are scams to take your money.

Envelope Budgeting Technique: Interesting way to do the envelope system. Her blog in general has a lot of frugal tips.

Pinterest: If you haven’t used Pinterest yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Why include it on this list? There are a lot of great ideas on there that will help you learn how to make your own stuff that will help you save money. For example: I normally pay $6 for eye makeup remover that lasts a month, trying a recipe that cost $6 to make that should last me WELL over a year. That’s just one thing in hundreds that I’ve pinned that has saved me money. It’s also how I found the previous link.

One from a reader: Bill Shrink: Helps you find ways to save money on common expenditures and utilities.

I hope you find these websites helpful. If you have anymore that you like to frequent that has helped you with personal finance, please say so in the comments!

**Disclaimer: I was not nor have I ever been paid by any of those websites. Those websites are my own finds and are only as good as I think they are. Use at your own risk as using any site that collects data is a risk!**