Oh Where Art Thou?

Well I have been missing out on posting to my blog like I would like to. Between getting ready for the move, working long hours (even though I am salary and don’t get the benefit of overtime), sorting through our belongings on what can stay and what should go to the thrift store, and having my computer hidden on me (hubby thought he was being funny and helpful). I am finally back.

I have been working on paying down my debt even more and have scheduled small payments for my car (just a little more than halfway there for the payments), pay my phone bill, and found a real nice surprise that I didn’t have to pay my cable bill this month (hehe apparently I paid before the statement was posted and a little extra so I don’t have to pay as much the next month). I only have to pay for one more month of rent and then I will be officially moved into the new place. We didn’t find a house yet but we plan to continue to look, most of the places we looked at were not great. We did find a condo for rent that we are going to live in (super excited!!) one town over from where I am currently living. We still have to sign the lease, just waiting on hearing from the realtor. Then the hubby still has to figure out logistics for the movers for him and once he has that figured out I can figure out the logistics for planning movers (which I need to do in the next week… yikes!!!). This is especially a big issue to resolve as I have to travel for work the last week of June and the new place won’t be ready until mid-June so it is going to be a tight schedule.

I haven’t been able to put much into savings this month due to some unexpected bills and gifts (namely medical bills). I definitely haven’t been able to put anything into my IRA but my 401k is thriving… well barely. My 401k is taken out of my paycheck and since it has only been since December I have definitely not had much going toward it. Especially since I had lost my job in October and had to use my 401k to stay afloat with bills (and living expenses) until I started at my current job and since I had to take a one lump sum (to minimize taxes) I used the rest to get ahead on some bills too.

As long as there are no unexpected events that occur in the next 6 months I should have my car roughly 75% paid off and will be ahead of schedule to pay off the loan.

On top of that I have had my credit score go up more than 20 points. Which will help as we look for a house. My credit score hasn’t been the greatest the last year and namely because of my lateness on payments. I took out a credit card which didn’t help my score at first but it is helping now as I continue to make payments with it and pay it off. Another thing that doesn’t help is not having an account open more than 5 years but I am still young that this will be an issue for a while.

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Creating a Savings Plan

As I continue the road to financial wellness (meaning the health of my savings and bank accounts). I recently looked at my spending habits: how to assess, manage and monitor my charges to get them under control. Today I thought I’d share how to create a savings plan.

Each one of us will have some differences in our savings but ultimately the crucial step is to achieve our financial goals.

THINK – Close your eyes and picture yourself two years from now. This is a bit harder than you think (especially in this economy). Now image that you can see yourself and visualize one image that reflects strong financial management-buying a property, leasing a car, etc.

SCRIPT – Write down your goal. Anywhere. Your diary. A post-it. Your daily to-do list. Putting your objectives into words forces you to think more clearly. It also helps to make them more tangible and realistic. Mine (and I am putting it here) is to pay off my car and own the title, along with repairing the damage to my car that someone so nicely did one night without leaving a note.

SHARE – Tell it to someone else. Email your best friend. Text your hubby. Or tell me! You can post it below or email me at thriftygreengal at gmail dot com!

Now that you have set your vision, put it into motion.

Setting up an automatic savings plan which deducts directly from your monthly pay check is a solid approach. I set mine up with my employer to take $25 and directly deposit it into my savings account. But I also have my bank to put money from my checking account into my savings account every time I pay a bill.

Be aware: savings accounts at banks are low at the moment, so you will have to shop around. My bank offers a higher interest rate if you use your card 5 times a month. But you should check out your local credit union as they typically have a higher interest rate.

Don’t think you can accomplish this in two years? Let compromise and revisit your timeline or redefining your aspects of your vision. For example, if you plan on purchasing a piece of property buy a fixer-upper instead of a brand new home.

Whipping Your Finances Into Shape

As you know, one of my goals is to get into better shape, and not just physically but financially too.

Financial wellness can mean different things to each of us, but we all appreciate a sense of control. Do you know how much you are spending each month? On food? On clothes? On vacations?

Thanks to credit cards it is really hard to know. So this is my first task – to gain a sense of financial control.

  1. Get Organized Β – Thankfully to technology these days you don’t have to sit with your calculator and be friendly with it. Sites like Learnvest and Mint can help you better understand your spending habits by categorizing your purchases, complete with pretty little graphs. I prefer Learnvest over Mint but you can try both and see which one fits you better.
  2. Create a Budget to Track Your Finances – Use the information from Learnvest or Mint to create a budget. You now got a better sense of your spending habits, this should be the basis of your financial plan. Set limits that reflect your previous behavior (this can get a bit tricky, as you need to start with reasonable expectations). For an example, if in December you spent $200 on Starbucks, try to not promise yourself to go cold turkey, but to limit your intake on Starbucks to a few times a week and make coffee at home (which is easy these days since the creation of the Keurig to make single cups quickly).
  3. Make a Savings Plan – There should be some room between your income and your expenses. Make a savings plan starting with the questions of: How much do you need to save? If you are in your early 20’s you need to save at least $30/week towards your IRA or 401k and if you are older and just starting your IRA or 401k you will need to be more aggressive at putting money away for retirement. When it comes to vacation how much is to much? And so on…

As I continue to work on my financial goals I will give your more insight to each of these.

2013 Goals UPDATED

Just a month since I have published my goals for the year. And some things have happened recently in my life that will help in the long-run but in the meantime I still have to maintain my spending roughly the same.
My hubby got re-located back here (and yes we have been living separately while he has been located in IA for work) and we are looking for a place for us to live together now that he is back here in Illinois. (We could have stayed together if the drive wasn’t the death of our finances.) Both of our leases are up in the next month or so. We have already talked about budget since we have been on our own separate budgets for the past 18 months to keep savings to a maximum. I will contribute a bit to the payments of our new place but will be mainly paying for the utilities (since he makes just a bit more than I do that it just seemed fair). This will help us both financially since we were both paying our own rent, our own electric, etc. I’ll pay for the cable and internet bill too.
Since I still have payments on my car I will be able to pay off my car quicker as I can throw a few more dollars towards my car payments. I’ve also just made it halfway through my payments.
I had opened an IRA with my bank (they don’t have a minimum as long as you have an account with them) and have contributed $125 towards the account. Not much but it is better than nothing and I’ve made a pretty penny in interest. Once I get more in there the interest will start to look better.
For my life goals I am trying for every other week sometimes it happens to be every week which is ok as long as I make it clear that I can’t stay long. I typically stop by because I picked up some clothes for my niece and nephew for them to wear or I had something delivered to their house instead of my apartment (especially since things seem to either go missing or I can’t get to my package because the office has closed for the day).
While my hubby is in transition in his new job he is staying with me and we have been using coupons for as much as we can. Or we at least look for the best deal when we go shopping together (or at least spend 15 mins discussing in the store which offer is the better one. Not really saving time there but at least saving a few bucks).
When we eat out, we eat out fairly cheap. Meaning $7 or less cheap. Which is okay sometimes but we tend to eat at home or will splurge for a more expensive option for lunch/dinner, like Chipotle.
All over all I feel that we are doing fairly well.

Here is a recap of my goals:

2013 Life Goals

See my parents every other week. – For some time I took off from seeing my parents to live my life without them scrutinizing every little thing I do/did. We are slowly working through our rough relationship but we are trying none-the-less.

2013 Financial Goals

Reach a net worth of $10,000 –Β I am slowly saving between my IRA, my 401k, savings account, secondary checking account (which earns interest), and mutual funds. But I also need to pay off some debt and also pay off my car which technically falls under my debt.
Reduce monthly spending down to the necessities + $100 free for all budget – this is going to be hard since I have to use my credit card at least once a month so I don’t get charged by them.
Use more coupons and membership cards – I can’t tell you how hard it is to use coupons… one I like saving paper and two I don’t get coupons for the things I buy on a regular basis 😦 But I am going to try harder to use coupons. Why membership cards? Well some of them actually give you money back to spend on future purchases and others give you discounts that people who do not have a card can not have (or they give you both). I’ll write a post in the near future about the benefits of membership cards and the pros and cons of each one. πŸ˜‰

2013 Career Goals

Update my resume – should update every 6 months anyways so this should be something that I do twice a year…
Continue my education – to be able to go places in life you need to be on top of the newest trends and the newest software(s)

2013 Goals

It’s a little late but we still have most of 2013 to go. So better late than never…

2013 Life Goals

See my parents every other week. – For some time I took off from seeing my parents to live my life without them scrutinizing every little thing I do/did. We are slowly working through our rough relationship but we are trying none-the-less.

2013 Financial Goals

Reach a net worth of $10,000 –Β I am slowly saving between my IRA, my 401k, savings account, secondary checking account (which earns interest), and mutual funds. But I also need to pay off some debt and also pay off my car which technically falls under my debt.

Reduce monthly spending down to the necessities + $100 free for all budget – this is going to be hard since I have to use my credit card at least once a month so I don’t get charged by them.

Use more coupons and membership cards – I can’t tell you how hard it is to use coupons… one I like saving paper and two I don’t get coupons for the things I buy on a regular basis 😦 But I am going to try harder to use coupons. Why membership cards? Well some of them actually give you money back to spend on future purchases and others give you discounts that people who do not have a card can not have (or they give you both). I’ll write a post in the near future about the benefits of membership cards and the pros and cons of each one. πŸ˜‰

2013 Career Goals

Update my resume – should update every 6 months anyways so this should be something that I do twice a year…

Continue my education – to be able to go places in life you need to be on top of the newest trends and the newest software(s)

Spring Cleaning 2013

Well it is that time of year again. When we switch from our winter wear to our spring wear and everything else that we need to take care of for the change of the season.

According to Blueprint, “100 Reasons to Get Rid of It,” 80% of what we own we never use and 1.4 million Americans suffer from clutter and chronic hoarding. Because of this we burn 55 minutes a day looking for things.

There are many other options rather than throwing things in the trash. Remember the old phrase? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Spring cleaning is the time to reduce the clutter, by either reusing for something else, recycling (such as donating or recycling).

Here are some steps to reduce:

  • 1-800-Got-Junk – Pay someone else to take out the (big, cumbersome) trash.
  • Public Storage – Lock it up in more than 2,100 locations around the USA
  • Salvation Army – Schedule a pick-up with your local Salvation Army
  • Earth911.org – Find local recycling and reuse programs for all kings of household items
  • 127sale.com – Set up shop at the World’s Long Yard Sale, August 2-5 along 450 miles of Highway 127 in southeast US
  • Have your own yard/garage sale on National Garage Sale Day, August 10
  • Swap-O-Rama-Rama – Attend a nationwide clothing exchanges and do-it-yourself alternation workshops
  • WildZipper.com – Watch as a pile of your favorite old t-Shirts are converted into a quilt

Here are some steps to reuse:

Cell Phone

  • Verizon Wireless – Put a refurbished phone (of any brand) into the hands of a domestic violence victim
  • Eco-cell.com – Or let its sale benefit an environmental charity
  • Care.org – Send a phone to the field staff of a poverty-fighting mission

All Technology

  • Rethink.eBay.com – work with charities to find homes for consumer electronics
  • YouthForTechnology.org – Put scanners, computers and cameras in the hands of deserving, impoverished kids around the world

Air Miles

  • Red Cross – For Red Cross staff and volunteers
  • HeroMiles.com – For deployed soldiers
  • Marrow.org – For transplant patients
  • ChildrensCancerAssociation.org – For terminally ill kids

Furniture & Appliances

  • ExcessAccess.org – Match your household items with a local non-profit’s wish list
  • Help1Up.org – Furnish homes for disaster victims
  • DressForSuccess.org – Give interview and work clothing to disadvantaged women
  • MakingMemories.org – Donate a wedding gown to benefit breast-cancer patients
  • OperationFairyDust.org – Send formal wear to teenage girls who need help getting to the prom
  • OneWarmCoat.org – A free coat to anyone who needs one

Other

  • SuitcasesForKids.org – Supply children in foster care with luggage
  • UniteForSight.org & GiveTheGiftofSight.org – Send eyewear to men and women in underdeveloped countries
  • Goodwill – Fund job training programs and social services
  • Freecycle.org – Post donations for charities (and regular folks) to claim
  • Habitat.org – Donate leftover building supplies to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores

Here are some steps to recycle:

  • Nikereuseashoe.com – Recycled footwear materials become sports and playground surfaces.
  • Patagonia.com – Donated Capilene base layers become polyester fibers for new Capilene garments.
  • Pangea organics’ packaging becomes an herb garden when planted in soil.
  • Cargo cosmetics’ PlantLove lipstick tubes come in plantable boxes that sprout wildflowers.
  • Pencilthings.com – Old newspapers become colored pencils.
  • Vivaterra.com – Rubber tires become sleek purses…
  • Passchal.com – …or rugged iPod covers.
  • Gaiam.com – Plastic soda bottles become durable hammocks.
  • Recycline.com – Yogurt containers become colorful plates, flatware, toothbrushes, and razors.

By cleaning up and getting rid of clutter it will make your life better.Β By getting rid of clutter you will reduce housework by 40%. Erase a $10K credit card debt (with an average interest rate) 65% faster – and pay 75% less total interest – when you pay double the typical minimum monthly payment. Around 23% of people pay late fees on bills they cannot find.

Because reducing clutter you can get something back.

  • When you return six (6) MAC cosmetics containers to any MAC store and receive a free lipstick.
  • Trade in an old iPod and receive a 10% discount on a new one.
  • CoinStar.com – Easily convert spare change into “real” money.
  • GiftCardBuyBack.com – Get cash for gift cards you’ll never use
  • PaperbackSwap.com – Trade the books you have for the ones you want
  • Peerflix.com – Trade the DVDs you’ve seen for the ones you haven’t
  • Spun.com – Clear off your CD shelves, and make money in the process
  • TitleTrader.com – Great entertainment exchange: books, music, movies and games, all swapped in one place