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Big Plans & Extra CC Payments

August 10th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Extra Pmt To My SF Card: $150
Transferred to Orange Savings: $50

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I noticed that we seem to have a bit of an excess in our checking account. I'm not sure how it happened, because we certainly haven't been under budget much. I think it may have been certain amounts that I've allocated for things like BF's health insurance, etc. that we had to prepay a while back.

At any rate, I wanted to see if we would be needing this money in the near future... but BBT's online banking is down, so I can't check the amount we have right now. Another reason we need to look for another bank.

I know we have about $1300 in there right now, minus $60 I spent on gas yesterday, and a check from my work that hasn't cleared yet. So, just to be on the safe side, I'm estimating a conservative $1,000 to start with.

Now (10th): $1,000
Estimated Extra: $300
Amount Left For Expenses: $700

-$50 Food
-$100 Gas
-$60 Pets
-$125 Gifts
=$365 LEFT

(13th): +$500 (BF's Paycheck)
-$75 Electric
-$200 Gas
-$180 Car Payment
-$20 Food
-$40 Pets
=$350 LEFT

(22nd): +$980 (My Paycheck)
-$50 FFB Card Pmt
-$57 Cable
-$200 My SF Card Pmt
-$50 Discover Card Pmt
-$114 Personal Loan
-$51 Student Loans
-$100 Gas
=$708 LEFT

(27th): +$500 (BF's Paycheck)
-$875 Rent
-$50 BF's SF Card Pmt
-$150 AT&T
-$120 Gas
=$13 LEFT

So that works out about right, with some fairly liberal estimates for spending on food & gas (I think!).

This includes paying most things pretty early, and all of them by the due date. Because I estimated the amount we had available now pretty conservatively, I feel confident that we can take out the $300 to put towards other things.

So, where is it gonna go? I like the idea of putting a little in savings, while the majority goes to debt repayment. It is so rewarding to see our savings go up every month, even if it's only by a little bit.

I think I will split the $300 in three ways: $150 to my SF Card, $100 To BF's SF Card, and $50 extra to our Orange Savings. The payment to BF's card will have to wait a few days, until his updated balance is showing. He put one of our expenses on his card the other day because I had his debit card, so I want to add that amount to the $100... so it's actually $100 EXTRA, not just $100.

This doesn't count the $50 I've already added to our Orange savings this month.

I'm pretty excited!

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You may also notice that I've updated one of our goals on my sidebar. Originally, I had a goal of getting our total debt to $14,000 by the end of this year. But, since I've started putting a little bit of our "extras" into our savings account for emergencies and Christmas gifts, I don't feel like $14,000 is realistic. I want our goals to be a challenge, but not impossible. So, I've changed it to $15,000 by the end of the year. That will still be a challenge, but doable I think. We'll see!

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I've been up with the pup since 5:50 this morning, which kind of stinks because it's my day off and the rare day that I get to sleep in. But even after BF got up at 7:30 and offered to let me go back to sleep, I didn't really feel like it then. I'm afraid if I go back to sleep, I'll waste away our day off together and we won't get to do anything.

It came as a shock to me that BF went along with most of my plans for today. The only thing he wanted to nix was the eating at Red Lobster, which he suggested we do on Thursday night instead. That won't be bad because he gets off at 5 and I'm off all day on Thursday.

He even added that maybe we could check out a hiking trail instead. We have never been there before, and we're not even sure how to get there, but we're going to load up with bottled water and some snacks and try it.

So, in theory, our day will involve:

~Starbucks (gift card)
~Hiking (if we can find it)
~Library (they're open 1-5pm)
~Birthday Shopping (gifts & cards)
~Take Pup To The Park

I have no idea if we'll get all (or any) of it done, but it would be nice! Well, I'm off to take a shower! Everyone have a great day.

August Budget, Missing Stimulus Check?

August 3rd, 2008 at 02:22 am

OUR AUGUST BUDGET:

INCOME
My Pay: $1,990
BF's Pay: $1,000
Survey Check: $5
Travel Reimbursement: $190
TOTAL = $3,185

SPENDING/BILLS
Rent: $875
Cable: $57
Electric: $50
My SF Card: $195
D's SF Card: $20
Car Loan: $180
Student Loans: $51
SF Autos/Renters: $300
Personal Loan: $114
Cingular: $130
Pet Supplies: $60 + $50 Bark Collar
Food: $100
Gas/Maintenance: $600
Household: $20
Entertainment: $10
Hair Cuts: $10
Health Co-Pays: $50
My Discover: $163
Brother #1 Bday: $23
Brother #2 Bday: $33
Sister Bday: $23
Grandma Bday: $23
Orange Savings: $48
TOTAL = $3.185

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So that's for August. I have decided to track our spending on paper, just because it's easier for me to pull out when I have a quick second, and that way BF can see it as well. I might check our progess in a post about mid-August, but we'll see.

I really tried to look ahead and see what unusual expenses we might have, since I did such a poor job of planning for last month. August is a killer birthday month for us, so we'll be forking out money for gift & greeting cards for everyone.

I have been trying to scale back on the gifts, but it still adds up when there are so many at once. It's not like they are second-cousins or anything, either. Two are my brothers, who always manage to get me something, even though they are younger and one is still in high school. One is BF's sister, who always manages to buy him something she thinks he'll like. If it was his other sister, I would just send a card, because she always seems to find a reason NOT to get BF something (not even a card).

And then my grandma's birthday is this month too. I usually send flowers to her with a card, especially since my grandpa died and I feel like her birthdays might not be as "happy" as they used to. She's really had a hard last 10 years. But since I'm where I am, I am going to send her a gift card to Michael's craft store, which I think she'll really like, along with a greeting card that says "You're classy, You're sassy... you're still kick-assy." A perfect fit for my grandma!

I may have a little to add to the income side, if my mom & brother send me their reimbursement for the personal loan. Sometimes they forget for a while though, so I don't want to count on it for this month.

When I was updating our savings/debt totals for the end of July, I really anticipated being depressed. I was actually shocked to see that although I failed to plan for my work conference expenses AND we had the expensive emergency vet visit for the pup, we still decreased our total debt! So now I only get slightly depressed if I start to think about how much that total would have decreased if it HADN'T been for those unexpected things.

Another little bonus was how much my 401K is growing (and therefore our total savings/investments). I guess I never realized what a company match can do for you. Free money, yay! I can't wait until I can contribute more to it.

Our Orange account has $30 in it. It's amazing how good that $30 feels though. It may not seem like alot, but just knowing that I have that tucked away, makes me feel a little better.

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BF's stimulus check is missing in action. For some reason, I thought he had gotten & cashed it before he even moved up here, but he brought it up a few days ago and said he was still waiting on it. We checked with his parents at his old house - nothing. He called the IRS and said he could only get an automated system, which relayed him to another system, and then they wanted to send him a text message about something. He is supposed to get almost the whole $600, at least that's what his pre-check letter said.

He is really stressed out about it, so I'm going to see if I can find a number or something for him to call. I have a feeling that he wants to add this amount to what he's got saved for my engagement ring... so I feel really bad for him having to wait so long. Any ideas on who to call or what to do?

As I type this, my 3 favorite guys are all sleeping. BF is on the couch... we had rented a $1 movie, but he's so worn out from work that he fell asleep at 9. The pup is laying on the floor beside of him on his preferred blanket, and the cat is in the bedroom at the foot of the bed, stretched out like he owns it. It's rather nice to be the only one stirring... I can actually hear myself think. Smile

We need advice... pronto! :)

July 31st, 2008 at 06:01 pm

Okay... I have a few financial decisions coming up, and I need some advice before I make any decisions.

First: my truck.

It's a 1999 Toyota Tacoma, in fairly good condition, and the last time I checked, I got about 20 MPG. I've had it since I was 16, and it's always ran well for me. Recently though, I've had to replace the front brakes and the starter, which cost a pretty penny. I'm worried that I've started on a downhill spiral.

Now, the last time I got new tires was about 4 years ago, and one in the front keeps getting low. This morning, it was completely flat. BF is going to look at it when he gets home, but I guess I'll have to replace it. BF says we need to go ahead and get two new ones for the front if we're going to replace one.

My question is... I've been thinking about getting another vehicle for a while. This is the only one I've ever owned, so I'm not the type of person that has to have something new every year or anything. My pros & cons:

Pros:
=Pretty dependable.
=Paid off!!!
=Decent Gas Mileage.

Cons:
=Possibly starting to deteriorate.
=No room for the pup to ride with me.
=No extra cab or backseat for carrying anything.
=Gas mileage doesn't seem so hott when I'm driving 90 miles/day.
=Now needing new tires.

And just to throw an extra monkey wrench in things... my step-dad called to let me know about a buy-back program that Toyota is offering. Apparently, for some 1995-2000 Tacomas, there was an error in the corrosion-protection, and some have had extensive frame rust.

I have already called Toyota, and they told me that my VIN is one that could possibly be affected. So, the next step is to have an inspection with a Toyota dealer (got an appointment for next week), and see what they say. If the rust is repairable, they will do that, and Toyota pays for me to have a rental car in the meantime. If it is not worth replacing, Toyota will buy back my truck at 150% of the "excellent" Kelly Blue Book value!!!

Excellent value for my truck is $7,755... which would mean a check for $11,632. That would be freaking AWESOME. Obviously, if this is the case, I really have no choice but to take the deal.

But what if it just needs repairs, or not even that? Should I trade it in, or keep with it?

I would like to get something with better gas mileage, but I also need something that has some room for my big dog & (hopefully) one day family. I don't want to have to be buying something else in a few years. I was thinking a mid-sized SUV, which would probably get similar gas mileage, but have more room?

Should I go ahead and buy two new tires, or just one for now? Would one just be stupid?

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Second issue: buying a house.

Obviously, this isn't something that I need an answer for right now. But it is something that I want to start thinking about, as I don't want to miss an opportunity.

Here's the deal. I know you should have a good downpayment for a home, which obviously, BF & I don't have. But common sense is telling me a different story at the moment.

With my job, we will be moving in early spring to another location, hopefully somewhere with lower cost of living, but who knows. At that time, we can either find somewhere to rent, or buy a house. Then, in about a year after that, we'll be moving again to a "permanent" location. If we can't sell our house in 30 days, my company will offer to buy it from us at the appraised value. If we do sell, they pay all realtor's commissions, travel for us to look at new houses, etc. The relocation package is really pretty good.

So with the housing market the way it is, and us paying $900 rent right now, it makes sense to me that we should start investing part of that $900 in a home. I know without a downpayment, alot of it would go to interest, but even if $300 went to the value, that's $300 that we are wasting now. And with my company buying the house and paying relocations expenses, we should come out ahead, right?

I am probably missing something, but in general, is this right? I just can't imagine how trying to save $100/month for a future downpayment WHILE throwing $900 out the window in rent is a good financial idea?

Any help on either of these two situations would be GREATLY appreciated. (Especially the truck as it is a current decision!)

Thank you all!

Bring on the RIBS!

July 4th, 2008 at 11:05 pm

-SPENDING-
Gas for BF's Car: $17 ($82.06/$600.02)
Gas for My Truck: $20.03 ($102.09/$600.02)
2.77 Lbs of Pork Ribs: $4.13 ($12.17/$100)
2 Ears of Sweet Corn: $1.00 ($13.17/$100)
Pack of Butter: $0.99 (14.66/$100)

Since our checking account was on the blitz yesterday, BF & I decided that we'd better not go all-out on the dinner for celebrating the 4th. I suggested spaghetti with chunked chicken in the sauce, which he agreed to. Actually, he isn't much on pasta, and spaghetti is about the only kind he will eat.

Today I checked our account, and both of the false transactions have cleared from it. Our pending balance is just about the same as our actual balance, which is GREAT! By the time we pay rent, and BF's student loan payment, we will only have about $18 until my paycheck a week from now.

BF used $20 cash to get gas today, and I used my old debit card. As of right now, I think we have about $40 in my old account, and $14 in our new one. Hopefully we can get by on that until next week when the payday hits.

I was looking through a grocery sale ad at work today, and noticed they had country-style pork ribs on sale for $1.49/lb (they're usually $2.79). And since the checking account was okay, I decided that I'd surprise BF with a barbecue ribs & corn cob dinner tonight. He doesn't get off until 10PM, so we won't be eating until 10:30, but I think he will like it! Even better, I just noticed as I was tracking the expense that the ribs rang up at $1.30/lb! We will probably use one pack and freeze another, so the total out-of-pocket for dinner will be about $3.20 (we already have barbecue sauce, biscuits, and salad stuff).

My family will be here tomorrow evening when I get off work, so we've got to finish our cleaning tonight. That's what I'll be doing for the next two hours, then start getting prepared for dinner at around 9:00. Maybe our neighbors will be shooting off fireworks again tonight.

Testing Our Willpower

July 3rd, 2008 at 07:22 pm

Well, I was in between loads of laundry and dishes today, and decided to go ahead and make out BF's student loan payment.

Then I decided that since I hadn't really balanced our checking account in a week, I'd go ahead and do that, and then make out the rent check too.

So what did I find out when I looked at our account online? It was about $500 less than I thought!!! I was in shock for a second, because not only is rent due in two days, but we won't have a paycheck coming in for another week! So as my face began to get hot, I tried to figure out what the heck went wrong.

Thankfully, we hadn't made such a huge error that we were really $500 short. At BBT online, it shows you your "current balance" and your "available balance". The available is the amount you actually have to use, when you take into account all the "pending" transactions that have some of your money "on hold".

Usually these pending transactions are things like gas or grocery purchases, and within a few days they are posted to the actual account balance and everything is equal again.

Two of our pending transactions are from the online pet stores that I had attempted to order our pup's new crate from. The first one was the online-only store. We had decided to go ahead and purchase from there and pay shipping (before we knew BF was going to start work in TWO days), but then it wouldn't let us finish the transaction because we were using BF's debit card, and the addresses didn't match. I guess he still has his address listed as our old state, and that didn't match the shipping address, so it wouldn't let us use the card.

So, before digging out my card to use, I decided we should just wait. The next day, BF found out about his job and we ordered the crate from PetSmart. Later in the day, I found out that I could special order it through my work and it would be cheaper still. I called and was able to get the PetSmart order cancelled.

So guess what the $500 was missing for? Two transactions from PetSmart and MuttMart. They were from 6/29 and 6/30, which is weird because usually it only takes 24 hours for them to clear or post to the account. One was cancelled, the other was never placed, and yet they BOTH are holding $200+ apiece from our account.

I called the local branch, and she agreed that it was weird that they hadn't cleared or posted yet. But apparently there is really nothing they can do about it at the bank, I just have to wait for the two vendors to clear. Right now, I am PRAYING that they're gone by Saturday, because that's when rent is due.

If not, I have no idea what we are going to do. I really don't want to have to get a cash advance check from one of my credit cards. Even if we pay it back at the end of the month, that is still interest and stress.

And to top it all off, I had about $260 worth of checks that I wanted to deposit today. I looked up directions to the nearest BBT (10 miles away), and set out. 30 minutes later, I was still looking for the darn place. Gas wasted, time spent, and I am back at home with the checks still.

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And now the challenging part... as of right now, we have $83 in my old checking account. The BBT account won't be able to be used until those transactions clear and I can deposit those checks.

BF & I will both need gas tomorrow, and we also need to pick up some food and other stuff for before my family gets here. Of course, the old trusty credit cards are laying in my wallet waiting to be used.

That would be the easy way, to use them for purchases until it's straightened out and then hope we didn't spend too much. BUT, I hope we can exercise some willpower and determination, and get by on that $83 until we have the rest to run on. That will mean limiting our purchases at Walmart for food & other stuff, and only getting about $20 apiece in gas for now.

Ugh. It is times like these that I like to kick myself for my past financial mistakes. But there's no going back, so we can only try to do better. Wish us luck.

Our July Budget (Starts 6/30/08)

July 1st, 2008 at 12:27 am

OUR JULY BUDGET

INCOME
My Pay (After Taxes & 3% 401K): $2,065.78
BF's Pay (After Taxes): $900
Personal Loan Reimbursement: $235
Surveys: $27.50 ($7 + $20.50)
TOTAL = $3,228.28

EXPENSES
Rent: $875
Cable Internet: $57
Electric: $75
My SF Card: $199.65
BF's SF Card: $18
Car Loan: $180
Student Loan: $51
SF Insurance: $155
BF's Car Insurance: $115
Personal Loan: $113.61
Cingular Cell Phones: $125
Pet Supplies: $325 ($75 + $250)
Food: $100
Gas/Maintenance: $600.02
Shipping/Household: $20
Entertainment: $40
Hair-Cuts/Personal: $15
BF's Health Insurance: $0
My Health Insurance: $114
Health Co-Pays/Over-Counter: $50
TOTAL = $3,228.28

ANY SURPLUS = SF CC PAYMENT

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A few notes about our budget for July:

-I included an estimated $250 in the Pet Supplies Category to account for the cost of the pup's bigger crate.
-Cut Hair-Cuts/Personal to $15 because BF is growing his hair out, and won't be paying for a hair-cut this month.
-Entertainment is more because we are expecting visitors, and plan to try and do something fun while they are here.
-BF's Health Insurance is zero because we pre-paid for 3 months of coverage.
-Co-Pays/Over-Counter is more because BF intends to go to the doctor about a cyst, and I think that is the co-pay.

When did job offers get so complicated?

June 29th, 2008 at 02:54 am

I've blogged about BF's job interview yesterday. A recap & update (and rant):

BF put in an application online for the grocery store on Tuesday. Thursday, a guy from the store calls and leaves him a voicemail, saying that they were originally looking for 2 part-timers, but with BF's experience, they might be able to give him full-time with benefits. Then, before BF had even noticed the voicemail, the guy calls back again on the same day. This time BF answers, and the guy tells him the same thing... he could probably get full-time with is experience. They arrange for a face-to-face the next day (Friday).

BF goes to the interview, where he is told by the same guy that the starting pay for part-time is $7.50/hr, but that's for young kids with no experience. BF tells him he'd really like full-time, and would probably have to have at least $9/hr for our budget. The guy tells him he understands completely, he thinks BF will be great, and BF can probably move up the ladder just like he is (I'm guessing the guy is a department manager or something). He tells BF that he will talk to the boss (the manager?) and see what he can do for BF.

So he calls BF this morning and tells him that they just CAN'T start anyone out at more than $8.50, but that he could work a month and be moved up to $9.50/hr. BF tells him he's not sure if that will work, and the guy tells him that he can start work next week, and get 25 hours.

So BF calls and tells me, and I am pretty much ticked at this point. Why would that guy call and leave a voicemail saying they could probably get him full-time, then call back, then have an interview and act like he completely understands what BF will have to have, and then call to offer PART-TIME and $8.50/hr? And the fact that he was promising a whole $1/hr raise after a month of "good work" made me uncomfortable. Would that ever really happen, and if so... why not just start him out at the $9 he wanted? It just pissed me off because, if you know you can't hire someone full-time or pay them what they need, why waste their time?

Fast forward a few hours, BF calls to tell the guy he just can't do that, but thanks anyway. Then, magically, the department-head guy says, "Well, what if we can get you $9/hr and 40 hours/week, just no benefits? Would that be enough for you to come?" BF tells him no guarantee, but that would be the minimum. So the guy tells him (exact words), "Well, I'm gonna go to bat for you man, and if I fall on my face... so be it."

Am I just being super-paranoid, or does this sound SO car-salesman-ish? This guys is the one that contacted BF, that called his references, that read his reference letter, that interviewed him, and that has called him back since. And yet he has to "go to bat" for BF to the boss? If he doesn't have the authority to hire people, why is he leaving messages and interviewing them? And why did he tell BF that $8.50 was the absolute most they could hire at, and now he's saying it's possible to get more? Does he not see that he's cross-stepping himself?

Ugh. So here we are. The guy is supposed to call and let BF know whether he can get him $9/hr and 40 hrs/week on Monday. I'm even more confused on whether I want BF to take it or not. $9/hr is what we were shooting for, but I'm just not sure it will be what this guy is promising. Are they allowed to work people 40 hrs/week consistently without making them full-time? I know in our old state, if they did that for 3 weeks in a row, then you were automatically considered full-time, and eligible for benefits. So I'm afraid they'll give him 40 hrs SOME weeks, and less others, to keep under the threshold.

*Sigh*. BF says to look on the bright side, that he even had a job call and offer. I know that's the way to think, but it's just exasperating when I feel like we've had to wheel-and-deal for a GROCERY STORE job. I didn't negotiate that hard for the position I have now.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts & comments on this situation... we need BF to have an income very soon, but we also don't want to get screwed over.

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Good news for today... our two trial deposits for our ING savings posted today, so we were able to verify them. Now the ING account should be officially open for depositing & saving. I'm hopeful for what we can do with it.

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As far as our budget, I am debating on whether or not to start our "fiscal" month of July tomorrow (June 29th). The perfectionist in me wants to say "July is July", but the logical side of me says otherwise. Tomorrow is my day off, and we need groceries. So if I wait until July 1st to start tracking expenses, it won't include our groceries from a few days before. I may end up waiting until at least Monday before I start tracking July spending. Still undecided.

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I finished The Lovely Bones last week (one of my library reads). It was really good... moving at times. Made me appreciate just being alive a little more, and being able to experience life thus far.

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Well, I'm off to balance a checkbook, clean the apartment, and smack BF around a little for his texting to his cousin. (Hello! $0.20 per text!!!) And maybe some reading out of my other library book, InkSpell. Maybe.

BF's Job Interview, Extra $ To The CC

June 28th, 2008 at 12:51 am

Well, BF had his job interview with the grocery store today. According to him, it went really well, and the guy who was interviewing him wasn't much older than us (24 I think). He was from down south too, so they had that in common, and he seemed impressed with BF's work experience and references. They usually don't give new people full-time, but I think this guy is trying to work it out for BF. When he read the reference that BF's old manager had given him to bring up here, he said "Wow, this is serious... you should be interviewing for my job!" Lol.

The semi-bad news is that he said part-time people start at $7.50/hr. There is no way that we can afford that. Of course, he said that's for 16-year-olds with no experience, but he couldn't nail down what BF would get either. Of course it would be higher if he got full-time, plus he would get some paid vacation and benefits. BF told him that he couldn't work for less than $9/hr, and he would really prefer full-time. The guy seemed to respect that we have a budget and need to know where the money's coming from.

So... he is talking to the head manager tomorrow and is supposed to let BF know. If he hasn't called by 5:00, BF is supposed to call him.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I really expected the full-time pay to be higher than even $9. BF was making $9 back home working part-time, and that is a much lower cost of living. Here, I figured he could make $10/hr part-time or maybe $12/hr full-time. Ugh.

On the other hand though, he seems to think he would really like it, and was even talking about how he could transfer to another one of the stores when we moved (it's a national chain)... and maybe move up the ladder like the guy he interviewed with. So I don't want to rain on his parade.

The Pros:
+We can start getting the income sooner.
+BF's health insurance costs might decrease.
+BF gets paid holidays & vacation days.
+BF could possibly advance w/ the same company, as they are national.

The Cons:
-The pay isn't what I expected for a full-time job.
-He would have to work evenings alot, which means our schedules would be opposite.
-It's the same work experience that he has already, no new skills.

I am wavering between just telling him to take the job if he can get $9/hr, and telling him to hold out for something else. I even emailed him a bunch of customer service jobs off of CareerBuilder, but I don't know. AHHH!!!

The good (and weird) news is that we apparently don't have an electricity bill this month. For some reason, when I check the account balance online, it says we have a $2.00 credit and nothing due. We have been waiting for the paper statement to make sure, but haven't gotten anything. So I called tonight, and the automated system told me the same thing... $2.00 credit and nothing due. The due date is the 30th of this month, so I know it would be showing by now. The only thing I can figure is that when we called to get the balance last time, it didn't include the payment we had mailed... so we had paid for two months at once? Maybe? I don't know.

Anyway, as long as we're not getting double-billed next month, that is fine with me. And just to make sure that "extra" money was put to good use, I went ahead and applied $50 extra to my credit card bill.

Pmt to SF Credit Card: $149.65 (min) + $50.00 (extra) = $199.65

I also paid the personal loan by transferring money from my old checking account (what I had left) to the loan account. I haven't done that before, but hopefully it will work and save me $0.42 in stamp cost.

Pmt to Personal Loan: $113.61

Paid our cell phone bills, it was high this month because we added BF to my plan. We had to pay an activation charge to add his line, but I've switched it to FamilyTalk, so it should be considerably cheaper next month.

Pmt to Cingular: $182.01

I started to mail a payment to State Farm for my brother's life insurance ($14.01), but decided not to. We don't have much extra money, and my brother doesn't have any debts at this point that makes life insurance a necessity for my mother to have on him, so I'm not going to pay it anymore. I got it when I worked in insurance, and he always said he would pay for it, but I never asked. I'm going to contact my agent and have her change the address on the policy to my mom's, and let my brother know that he can continue to pay it if he wants.

So the only bill left for June is the cable bill, which we haven't gotten a bill for, but I know was due on the 24th. I tried to call tonight and pay it, but they closed at 5PM, so BF will be doing that tomorrow.

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And last but not least... I am getting everything ready for our "fresh start" in July. I want to start the second half of the year ready to go with our budget and tracking our spending.

In the next few days, I will be preparing our specific budget for July, and hopefully evening out the financial stuff we've got hanging in the air. I have two checks from my family (reimbursement for the Personal Loan) that I need to deposit, and I want to get our Orange Savings up and running by July.

So yes, we are determined. Every penny will be tracked, and every dollar budgeted. Smile

BF got a job call!

June 27th, 2008 at 03:03 am

So I did manage to go through some clothes today. I have two LARGE trash bags full, and the hanging space in my closet it filled to capacity. Now I just have to finish going through the rest of my piles of clothes and figure out where I'm going to hang the rest I'm keeping. It is weird to have your clothes hanging in other bedrooms? Lol.

I'm currently watching the "Fear Itself" series on NBC, and I have no idea why. Those kinds of shows always scare the patootie out of me, but I always get so sucked into them. At least BF is here now. Smile

The trip to the park today was fun. We ended up taking sandwiches and chips, and of course some water for the pup. We tied his long leash to the picnic table while we ate, then let him "explore" the park area. It was actually alot bigger than I thought, I guess you can only see so much of it from the road. There were all kinds of little bridges over the stream that ran through it, and trees and such. Apparently there is even a public pool up there, which we had no idea about! But in summary, a good time was had by all. The pup was so worn out from his adventuring, I didn't think we were gonna be able to get him up the stairs.

Other good news, BF had a job call today! It's a grocery store, and they said they were originally looking for two part-time people, but since he had experience, maybe they could offer him full-time. He is going tomorrow for an interview of sorts, so I guess that's when he'll find out if it's actually "full-time" with benefits, and the pay and all that.

In our budget, he needs to make $900/month, or about $225/week (based on 4 weeks per month). So I figure, with taxes, he'll need to work 40 hours/week and make $9/hour. Of course, he'll want retirement and health insurance taken out if he is eligible. But we are already paying for individual health coverage for him, which is probably more expensive anyway, so it will hopefully be a wash. So everyone please keep your fingers crossed that he gets good news tomorrow! $9/hour and full-time with benefits would be incredible at this point! Smile

Fresh Start For The Budget!

June 22nd, 2008 at 01:23 am

We are determined again. I've been trying to track all our spending this month, but have fallen short with all that's gone on. Especially since we've been using cash more, which is ultimately hard to trace.

And so I've decided that I will continue to track our purchases, but the June summary will not reflect all our spending. I just feel like I would be leaving alot out, and I want to make sure that if I look at anything analytically, that it is a true representation of our habits. All I know for sure is that we have spent more than we budgeted for this month.

I'm also going to go back to tracking our spending using this blog... I'll just post a short description of what expenses we had each day. That way I can have it all saved for the end of the month tally.

And finally... the budget is done! It will probably always be a work in progress, but I think we have some pretty good estimates in there now. I've broken down all our expenses to monthly, even if they are actually paid quarterly. At the end of the month, we will take the money we had set aside for that eventual expense and mail it to our savings account. It can collect interest for a month or two before we withdraw it for its actual purpose.

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In other news, we converted our cell phones to a FamilyTalk plan tonight. The change will take effect on July 8th, so I'm not sure if it will be reflected in our next bill or not. Our separate plans gave us 450 anytime minutes apiece, and cost about $120 before taxes and fees. The FamilyTalk plan gives us 700 anytime minutes to share (unlimited in our network), for $105 before taxes. So hopefully in the end, we will save a little money.

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I haven't heard anything from the woman I had talked to about babysitting. She emailed me from Craigslist, and said it would be a while before she needed me, but it would be nice to have the extra money soon.

I also attempted another article on AssociatedContent, this one about living with Great Danes (something I have LOTS of experience with)! It can take 2 days for them to get approved, so once I have something published I will put the link in a blog entry or somewhere.

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I'm off work tomorrow, so yay. That means I get to do some more free (library book) reading! We might rent a movie as well, since it only costs $1 out of the Walmart machine.

I got quite a bit of my coursework done at work today. We have independent study courses that we have to complete along with our regular training, and we have been so busy that I feel like I've fallen behind with it. I was able to submit four completed courses today, and request materials for four more, so hopefully I am headed in the right direction.

Pain Pills, Hotdog Stands, and Freelance Articles

June 21st, 2008 at 02:14 am

Well, I'm pretty excited right now. Usually at this point (when my day off is ending), I get a little depressed because returning to work is on the horizon. But since I worked yesterday and took off today, that means I only work tomorrow... and then I'm off again on Sunday! So it's a little better to know that I only have to go back for one day.

Determined to get a little done on our day off today, BF & I ran a few errands. First of all, we ran to the vet's office to get the pup's pain medication. They gave us a 60 day supply for around $65. We STILL need to mail those x-rays, so I think I might have BF do that tomorrow while I'm at work. He'll need to go to the post office since we need a special envelope. But at least the ball will be rolling on the surgery consultation.

While we were out, we also stopped by Walmart to pick up a can of wet dog food. Our pup is so picky - he always has been. We have put him back on a better version of dog food, especially for giant breeds, to make sure that his joints are getting the right levels of everything. The problem is, it's like he senses that it's healthy, and refuses to eat it alone. So we by the same brand of wet dog food and mix it, and up until a few days ago, that has worked really well. Now the little fart has decided that he's tired of even the mix, so we'll have to adjust it. The closest place to get the good brand of food is 20 minutes away, and we didn't even know if they carried another flavor we could use, so we decided to pick up a small can of cheap food at Walmart, just in case he refused to eat at all. We also ended up getting a bottle of hand sanitizer and McDonalds. (gasp!!!)

I still haven't gotten around to updating our spending trackers and budget today. But since I don't have to be at work until later tomorrow morning, I can afford to stay up a little bit tonight. Maybe I will get around to it... if so, I will update our Budget page on here too.

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And perhaps the funnest part of my day - I talked BF into going to the library with me while we were out! It's in the city next to ours, which is quite a bit bigger than we're used to... so when we ended up downtown it was such a weird experience. Walking in, there was an actual hotdog stand out front! I have never seen that except on movies or TV... craziness. I am proud of myself for thinking to check out the books I've wanted to buy.

I ended up getting "Inkspell", the sequel to "Inkheart" that I read a few months ago. I've been looking for it in Walmart every time I go, but no luck. I'm glad that I was able to borrow it today, even if I had to go to the Children's section to get it! Books are one of my favorite things to buy, and therefore one of my biggest financial weaknesses. Even though I usually get the cheap versions at Walmart, it's still going to save me alot of money to get them at the library. Plus, a little less clutter around the house when I get done reading them!

Because I was a little embarrassed to be checking out with a "kid's" book, I also got "The Lovely Bones" to balance it out. I've wanted to read that for a while too, and I am very impressed with what I've already finished.

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And last but not least... BF told me I should write a book today. Lol. I think it's just because I actually like to read (which he finds fascinating), but he has mentioned this several times, even saying today, "What? I would read it!" Well, I would hope so!

Anyways, instead of launching into a novel, I did a little research on some freelance writing online. I ended up at www.AssociatedPress.com, where you can get paid based on the popularity of your articles. I figure there's nothing to lose, so I've submitted my first article for approval. The topic is spectacular... "How To: Free Your Pets From Ringworm". Smile

What can I say, you have to stick to what you know, right? Perhaps someone will find it helpful. Anyway, I guess if it gets approved and is published on the site, I will post it on here for anyone that is remotely interested. Yes, expect some shameless plugs. Wink

If anybody is interested in doing the same thing, I have my own referral link:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/join.html?refer=237343

I have no idea if that link even means anything, or if it just takes you straight to my published stuff, but I thought I'd offer it just in case. There is also an option to subscribe people (via email) to be alerted every time I post a new article, if anybody is interested in that. Come on, you know you want the answers for ringworm! Wink

Okay, I'm done promoting. Back to reality.

Blog/Page Changes, Prioritizing.

June 20th, 2008 at 05:01 am

If you've ever paid close attention to my blog, you might notice that I made a few changes today:

=Updated Debt & Savings Tracker Pages
I finally got around to updating the running totals with our COMBINED debts & savings. (Although the savings didn't really change, lol.) BF hasn't called to get the exact pay-off on his car, so the debt for the car loan is estimated based on the # of payments we have left.

=Updated 2008 Goals In Sidebar
With BF moving in and having to find a new job, my job taking us to God-Knows-Where within the next year, and our pup needing expensive surgery, I felt like it was time to update "my" goals to "our" goals, realistically. I don't want the goal for debt reduction to be so drastic that one little set-back will make it impossible and disheartening. So I set our goal for debt at $14,000 by the end of 2008. The reason? I think it will challenge us to pay off debt and not become complacent, especially through the holidays. Also, with the pup needing surgery around that time (or January), I want to have as much of our other debt paid down before we have to arrange the financing for that. The surgery/rehab is expected to cost $5,000-$6,000, so if we can get our debt down to $14,000 before this, our total debt will not go over $20,000. I would really like to keep it under the $20K mark if we can.

=Changed Monthly Budget Page
I actually just deleted what I had on there for right now, because we've been working off another version that I made in Excel. I plan to revisit the budget itself tomorrow, and then post the latest edition to the "Our Monthly Budget" page.

=Deleted "Wedding Fund" Ticker
One of the goals that I took out for 2008 was to get our Wedding Fund to $1,500. I will explain reasoning later, but since it was no longer a goal, I didn't see the need for the ticker.

=Re-Purposed "Extra Income" Page
I basically just deleted the amounts I had added to my "$20 Challenge", so the slate is wiped clean as of 6/19/08. Now I will keep track of any extra income we collect, but it will not be going to any specific account. I figured we can use it as we see fit, but I do want to keep track of how much money we're bringing in that we wouldn't have before.

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I think that may be it! If you're wondering what sparked such updates, I really have no definite answer.

I did attend my first manager's meeting today, and I suppose all the talk about budgets and sales goals and margin dollars might have triggered my financial button again.

And so I have come away from this re-working with a new strategy. Like alot of people, I have struggled immensely with the idea of saving all I can versus paying down debt. For a while I have tried to do both, but I know that with credit card interest, this does not make logical sense.

A big reason for this (I think) is that I wanted to have some money saved for our wedding. I thought I would be more frugal and less likely to go overboard if I was using my hard-earned savings, rather than taking out a personal loan or using the credit card to supplement. But now, I have realized that there are too many variables to try and do all of this. For every $10 that I put in savings rather than paying on my credit card debt, that is more interest I am paying out the back door. So for the big picture, we will be better off financially to try and reduce our debt as much as possible before trying to save for anything.

Now, the big expense on the horizon is our pup's surgery in December or January. We still haven't mailed off the x-rays for the surgeon to look at (doing that tomorrow), but if everything goes as expected, we will be keeping him on joint supplements and pain medication until he is done growing in Dec/Jan and can have the surgery. At this point we'll need $5,000-$6,000. I feel a little more confident now that I have been approved for a personal loan through two different banks. If we end up being able to finance through CareFirst at 0% interest, that will be even better. But preparing for the worst case scenario, our debt will be reduced as much as possible (hopefully to $14,000) and then we'll go apply for the loan in December.

And the expense that will someday be on the horizon (hopefully not too long, lol)... a wedding. I have accepted that there is no way I can save a substantial amount of money in our current situation, and still be able to pay expenses and reduce debt. And so realistically, we are paying down debt as much as possible. And when it comes time to plan/pay for a wedding, we will probably have to take on some kind of debt to pay for it. At that point, I will just have to be very disciplined and responsible in what I spend. It's a hard decision to make, but hey, we've all got to grow up sometime!

So that this blog isn't all depressing, I will say that there could be some rays of sunlight. For one, if everything goes as planned with my job training, we will be moving around February of next year. I have been told that this will include a raise of about 10% in my salary, which will help. Also, I am hoping to get placed somewhere closer to our home state, and that would mean a much lower cost of living. Even making what I do now, if we lived in our home state, we would be MUCH better off with disposable income. And whenever BF finds a job, we might see that he is able to make a little more than we budgeted. But, none of this is guaranteed of course, and so I want to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Because I had to attend that meeting today, which is typically my day off, I am off tomorrow instead. And so tomorrow will be catch-up day for expense tracking & balancing the checkbooks, as well as updating my budget on this blog when it's completed.

Stay tuned!

Vet Visits Galore!

June 6th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

First of all, news about the pup: He is going to need surgery. While we were expecting this, it's somehow more stressful to know that we are definitely going to be scraping up some funds for it. The good news is that the orthopedic vet we went to was great. He doesn't do the hip replacement surgery (what our pup needs), so I felt like he was being very honest and upfront about what was best for us and our pet when he recommended it. It's good to know that he had nothing to gain from it from a marketing standpoint.

Anyway, we are calling to make a consultation appointment with a surgeon that does perform hip replacements regularly, and we were told to expect a total bill (surgery, hospital board, after-care, etc) of about 5-6 thousand. Definitely not pocket change, but we'll find a way to do it. The vet from Thursday also told us that most surgeons won't do this kind of surgery until the pup is at least 8-12 months old, because of future growth, so we may have a few months to scrape up the funds before we can even have it done.

So that is a little bit stressful, but then I look over at my precious pup lying on his blanket (which used to be my bed comforter, by the way) and chewing on BF's old stinky tennis shoe, and I remember that it's all worth it.

Another bit of stress is the fact that BF's parents will be here in 3 days! We cleaned quite a bit yesterday, and BF went over the kitchen today, but there is still alot that I want to get done before they get here. I don't know why I'm so nervous, I guess just because his mom is like a Martha Stewart or something, with everything always clean and perfect. That is definitely not our home, haha! I just keep thinking that they're going to walk in and think it smells like dog, or that we don't have much furniture, etc. Ahhhh!!!

AND... gas prices. Ick. There's no need to go into the details, but I just wish I had known that these increases were going to happen BEFORE I decided to save $400 a month by living 40 minutes away from my job. At this point, I think we would be paying the same amount in the rent/gas combination if we lived 5 minutes away! Ugh. Luckily, we are only here for at most another 9 months, hopefully less. And whenever we find out where the next stop is, I am determined to find a place VERY close! If we can just survive the gas costs until then.

Other than that, everything is going okay. Work is getting harder, with more projects that I need to get done and more work to do while actually at the store.

I did end up making a mini budget for us in Excel, and we've been doing pretty well with tracking our spending and bill paying for June.

BF is submitting resumes online for jobs, so here's hoping he finds something soon!

too many variables...

May 14th, 2008 at 02:26 am

Not much new to add today. I had to work, and then came home to have tacos for dinner with BF.

I've decided to start tracking each purchase again, but I'll probably wait until the the last week of May or beginning of June to do so. We worked on our joint budget a few days ago, and made alot of progress, but there are still alot of variables at this point. We have exact amounts on all our debt except for BF's car loan, so he has to call and get the payoff on that. I just like to know where we stand on everything.

The way it looks now, BF needs to find a job making at least $8/hour (shouldn't be too hard around this area), and then he'll need to work at least 38 hrs/week. Hopefully he'll get one making at least $9.50, which would mean less hours that he'd HAVE to work, but more money for the Wedding Fund if he did.

We plan to work on my truck on Thursday (my day off). Some of the guys at my work have given me some advice on determining if it's the starter, so we're going to try a few different things on Thursday morning, and then if it doesn't work, try to get it towed somewhere Thursday afternoon. Hopefully we'll get it figured out somehow.

As for this blog, I have updated much of it with our "joint" information, but it's a bit depressing. The total debt & expenses obviously increased with BF's addition to the household. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not that our debt really INCREASED that much, just that we've combined it into one place now. I'm glad that I started this blog when I did, because I think it will make it much easier for us to keep track of our joint expenses and budget now.

Anyway, time to crunch some more numbers and then hit the sack. Smile

It's Been A While...

May 12th, 2008 at 01:27 am

...since I posted last.

Things have certainly changed! BF is here, he actually ended up coming up a day early to surprise me (although he ended up telling me the night before), hehe. We have made the trip back to our home state for my college graduation, and my family had a bonfire party to celebrate, so that was awesome.

My truck has decided to quit starting completely, so thank goodness I've had BF's car to drive to work the last week. It's not starting at all now, so we're not sure if it's still the clutch switch or if it's the starter, battery, etc. Either way, we have to get it fixed soon. We bought some fuel injector cleaner tonight, and we're going to try that before we call to get it towed to the shop. *crosses fingers*

As for the budget... I'm ashamed to say that we haven't even had one written down for this month. Things have been so hectic with trying to close our old bank accounts, rearranging direct deposits and bills, odd expenses, and traveling, that it's been almost impossible.

Along the way, I've figured out that apparently my bi-weekly pay fluctuates according to how many hours I work. Not a big deal, except that I am on "salary". Why do they call it salary if I get paid less for 39 hours compared to 40 hours/week? And for overtime, I only get paid HALF my normal hourly rate. It's odd, but at least now I know to make sure I get in my full 40 hours if I want the exact paycheck.

BF is anxious to begin looking for a job here. Our original plan was for him to get one the week after we came back from my graduation, but that couldn't exactly happen with me having to drive his car to work. Even more reason for us to get my truck fixed soon.

There is a positive side to him being at home though (besides the fact that I get to see him more)... there is a lot less stress about the pup. He doesn't have to stay in his crate all day, and he sleeps pretty well at night. We've come a long way with the house training, the only issue now is that since we share the responsibility, sometimes we both let it slip our minds that he needs to go out. Usually we remember when we see him start circling, but every now and then we end up cleaning up a mess. But definitely alot better.

Since pretty much my whole budget will have to be redone with our new situation, I have alot of updating to do. I'll try to get to the My Budget page, as well as the debt/savings amounts on my sidebar. I'll have to include all of BF's expenses, and calculate about how much he'll need to be bringing in every month to cover the excess. My debts will probably go up a bit from last time, since I put many of my purchases on my Discover Card until I could transfer money from my old checking to my new. I haven't sent that bill in yet, so the balance is still there. I want the updated amount on my sidebar anyway.

Well... guess I'd better get to updating. I've missed reading everyone's blogs and updating my own. Kind of felt out of control when I wasn't posting my daily expenses or recording every small milestone in savings. It's good to be back. Smile

---> Forgot to add... WE FINALLY GOT A COUCH!!! YAY! Actually, we got a matching set of brown leather sofa & loveseat. I feel like we got a pretty good deal too, both for $1000 delivered. We stumbled on a place that was going out of business (they were right beside a Value City Furniture, go figure), and they cut the price down for us nicely. They even threw in four really nice throw pillows that match the leather on the couches. AND now I can mark that as one goal finished on my sidebar. We're thrilled. Smile

Food Budget's Gone... Planning For BF's Arrival

April 20th, 2008 at 04:48 pm

Purchases for yesterday (4/19):

Gas: $40.46
Snacks: $3.08 + $1.58

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It was pouring the rain when I got up this morning, but it has stopped now, so I might run to Walmart to pick up a few things today. On the list so far:

-Carpet Shampooer Solution
-Fabric Freshener
-Disposable Camera

I feel like there is more that I need, but since I forgot to write it down, I have no idea. Either way, I'm going to wait before I go, because if I don't need anything besides those three, I'm not going to waste a trip. I can go without those until Thursday (my next day off). By then I might have more to add to my list.

Because of my snacking yesterday, I'm pretty sure my food budget is gone for the month. It should be okay, because I've got stuff to make here at home & take to work, but I'll have to put in a little more effort as there is no wiggle room. I'm really trying to resist going over on the budget. It's hard when I know that I have a "safety net" in my checking account. I've just got to remember that I have a budget for a reason, and next month I won't splurge early on McDonalds!!!

So right now I've got some cheesy rice cooking, and I guess I'll try to finish the Kool-Aid that I made before making a pitcher of sweet tea. I wish I had just made tea to begin with, the Kool-Aid just isn't doing it for me.

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Puppy Update: We are SLOWLY, but surely, getting to our goal of total housetraining. Because I'm uncomfortable crating him all night right now, I am just getting up when I hear him get up in the mornings (if it's too early for me to get up) and putting him in his crate for 30 mins to an hour until I am ready to take him out. At least that ensures that he's not going to go on the carpet. It should be easier when BF gets here too, and I only have to take him out HALF the time.

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BF should be here in 9 days. Finally in the single digits! :P I can't wait, and I'm trying to come up with some neat things to do to celebrate.

I already have some cookie dough that doesn't expire before then, and that is one of our favorite things to do... make cookies together.

I also have a poster that I've decorated that says "Welcome Home"... kind of humorous because this will really be the first time it's been his "home".

We also have a $25 gift card to Red Lobster that I got as a gift for my birthday a few months ago, so we could use that to go out and eat, but will probably save it until the weekend.

So for the day he gets here, I have cookies & a poster, haha. I am going to try and have the apartment as clean as possible so he doesn't feel like he's coming home to a junkyard, and it will mean more time we can spend together not worrying about cleaning/laundry.

I also want to have a financial binder of some sort ready when he gets here, so we can start budgeting together. The May budget will likely be a special one, as we are going to be having some weird expenses (2 trips to our home state for my graduation & his cousin's wedding, buying a couch), and he will be finding a job in that time. The income part will be largely estimated, but we have an emergency amount to dip into if needed. Hopefully by June we will have a pretty standard budget in place.

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Well, lots to do today and not so much time to do it in, so I guess I should get started if I want to accomplish any of my goals for BF's getting here.

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Note: I forgot to add that I've tweaked my monthly budget again (always a work in progress, right?). This time I just changed the amounts going towards my credit cards and the amount I'm putting towards our Wedding Fund. After researching some average photographers and reception sites, etc., I've discovered that many of them ask for a deposit up front, and so we will need to have cash ready for that.

Because it's not possible for us to pay off our debts and save the necessary amounts at the same time, I talked to BF, and we decided the best thing to do would be to pay the minimum amounts (or a little more) on the debts, and put the rest towards our Wedding Fund. Any extra income from surveys, ebay, change, etc. will also go towards the Wedding Fund, as well as if we underspend for our budget one month.

So, at the end of each month, we'll mail in the total of our surpluses to our Wedding Fund savings account.

We could take out a personal loan for the wedding, but I like the idea of slowly paying down some of our debt, while saving as much as we can for our wedding. I also know that it will help us to be more frugal if we are saving, instead of knowing we are getting a loan for the wedding. We'll see.

New Brakes, New Router, New Clutch Switch?

April 18th, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Managed to get the truck to the shop this morning, and picked it up after work. $511.38 later, there is no grinding noise and the brakes are much better!

The mechanics said I needed new front brakes (period), and one new router. They managed to fix the other router, and cleaned/maintenanced my back brakes. I also told them about the issue of it not starting periodically, and they performed an electrical test. That guy said it was one of two things: either I need a completely new starter, or the neutral-safety switch for the clutch was going out. He said he thought it was the switch because when he wiggled the clutch, it started, but it could still be the starter.

Anyways, the $511.38 was the total for the brakes/router/labor/oil/tax today, and they had to order the switch for the clutch. He estimated that would be about $65 next week (but I'm not sure if that includes labor). I asked him how much a new starter would be, and he said with labor, somewhere between $300-$400 more. Whew! Let's pray it's not the starter, just the switch!!!

I do feel alot relieved, though. The brakes are new, the grinding is gone, and the oil is changed (next stop 119K miles). So hopefully when they replace the clutch switch next week, that will be the end of it for a good long while. *crosses fingers*

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Some random work news: I was taking out the trash before we closed the other night, and in my boss's office I saw a manilla folder with my name on it on her desk. I knew it wasn't my personnel file, because those are different looking, so I thought it must be MY manilla folder I had left in there earlier. I looked inside to see if she had marked anything else off my list, but then realized it wasn't mine. It was a manager's appraisal of my performance (monthly I guess), and with a quick glance, I saw that she had marked "Excellent" for my performance. Yay. Smile I assume that I will see that form officially at some point anyway, but it's nice to know she thinks I'm doing good right now.

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Eleven days till BF moves in. He's already cleaned his car out and washed it, so that he can pack his things in. Smile

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Puppy Update: Since I vacuumed/shampooed the carpet yesterday, he hasn't had any accidents. He didn't even get up last night and try to go. If we keep having problems at night though, I will wait until BF gets up here and then we'll crate him overnight. I don't want to do it now because he's my only company. Big Grin (Yes, I'm a chicken like that.)

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I need to figure out something to fix for dinner. I'm out of the ground turkey that I bought. I kind of feel like making some frozen veggies in the skillet, but then again I'd also like something with a bit more flavor. Hmmm, I dunno. One thing's for sure... I don't have much money left in the food budget for the month, so I can't go buy anything.

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Now that I've got the truck expenses taken care of (I hope), we need to start thinking about a budget for buying a couch. I have some extra from my signing bonus & tax refund, but I want to leave about $800 or so in there in case we need it before BF finds a job, or an emergency.

We want a brown leather couch, and we've decided that we'd like to go with a higher quality that will last us a while, rather than the cheapest just to get by. We have the cash for it, so I'd rather get something quality, but of course we can't break the bank either. Plus, we want to eventually have brown leather furniture as the cornerstone of our living room in our "real house". (That's what we call the house that we will someday OWN... instead of renting apartments)

Anybody know about how much a good, new, brown leather couch would cost? Anything we should know before shopping, any special kinds to look for? Any help would be appreciated! Big Grin

Lots to think about

April 11th, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Well, I thought I'd post a pic of the pup today... just because. Big Grin



Currently he is running around the apartment like a wild hog. When I took him out earlier, 3 different people stopped us to ask what kind of dog he was, how much they cost, etc. He's popular. Smile

He's done really well with the housetraining again today. Went out this morning before work, then when I got back, he went #1, and we had a wait a little while before he could go back out for #2 because it looked like a sudden thunderstorm outside. All is calm now though.

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On the financial side, spending for today was:

Gas: $20
McDonalds (lunch): $9.50

Actually, only about $5 of the McDonalds was mine, because I picked up lunch for one of my coworkers too. (She's supposed to pay me back tomorrow.)

I had to put both on my Discover card, because I have yet to get my money transferred from my old checking acct to my new one with a debit card. But the Discover card is easy to check & pay online, so I will add my expenditures on it this month to the planned amount I was going to pay, and all should be even.

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Went off to work this morning and forgot to take the move-in sheet that I was supposed to fax to my old apartment complex. BF suggested that I use my scanner and email it to them, which is a great idea, if I can only find the power cord for my scanner/printer. I'd like to get it done as soon as possible, so I can go ahead and face whatever the next crap is that they throw my way.

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I may pay some bills later tonight, so I'll update if I end up doing that.

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There are several big financial decisions that have been weighing on my mind lately. One of these is my vehicle situation. I have had the same truck since I turned 16 and got my license. It's been great, very dependable and easy to maintain. With the recent not-starting and ever-louder grinding noise though, I am scared that it's going to be a downhill spiral. I am especially distrustful of most mechanics, and so it would kill me to hand several hundred dollars over to someone to fix my problem, and then run into another (or the same) problem soon after.

I just wish I knew exactly what was wrong with it, and if I spend the money to fix that, if it will hold up for a while yet. It's paid off, so I certainly don't want a car payment if I can help it, but I also don't want to keep dumping money into something that is going to keep taking it.

Also, if I'm going to end up selling it in the next year, I'd rather do it sooner than later, because whatever I get will be better on gas mileage. I'd also rather trade it in while it still has the most worth, and not wait until something else happens to it.

I have never car shopped before, so I have no idea where to start. I like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, but can't decide if it would be better for me to go with a new car and get a warranty, or get something used and hope it holds up. Bleh... I really just wish my truck was fine.

The other decision I've been thinking about is how much money to leave in my checking account for emergencies. With BF moving up here and having to start over with finding a job, I want to have enough of a stash to cover us for a month or so. Also, we will be spending some extra on gas to get back & forth to my graduation in May, as well as his family weddings in May & June.

So I am thinking I should leave at least $1,000 in there. That would cover us for a month or so, and the gas expenses to get back & forth. But maybe I should leave more to cover my pending car repair expenses?

I do think that I'm going to go ahead and get my hair cut this week. I haven't had a cut in 4-5 months, and I want to look decent for my graduation pics with family. I would rather do it now when I have a little extra in my checking, before I start paying extra on the credit cards.

Alot to think about, and not much time to think about it...

Feeling accomplished

April 10th, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Wow. I feel accomplished. I always have big plans for doing things on my day off, but sometimes I get lazy or distracted and don't get everything done.

Today, however, I did manage to:

-Wash/Dry my living room rug
-Vacuum & Shampoo the living room
-Vacuum & Shampoo my bedroom
-Take out some trash
-Water the plant
-Clean kitty litter box

It was so nice out today (even a little hot!) that I also took the pup out to play Squirrel Frisbee (with his new 'flying squirrel' toy). It ended up being more like me playing frisbee by myself with him on a leash, but it was still fun. I would throw it, we'd both run to where it was, and then he would just run past it. Then I'd pick it up and repeat. :P

I still have a few other chores that I'd like to get done tonight:

-Wash/Dry my work clothes
-Clean up kitchen
-Get lunch/snacks ready for work tomorrow
-Take a shower so I don't have to in the morning
-Take some more random trash out (boxes, pop cartons)

My plan for my home is to try and keep it as clean as possible until BF gets here. I don't want our first few days of living together to be focused on vacuuming. With all the shampooing I did today, I think I can maintain it without TOO much effort. Baby steps.

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Puppy Update: WOW! He is doing so great today. (I don't know why I say that, I always end up jinxing myself) But there was even a point earlier, when I am almost positive that he actually went to the outside door and stood, wanting to go out. It may be just a coincidence, but when I took him out, he went immediately. Either way, he's doing so much better!
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More house matters... I've decided to make a list of everything that I would like to purchase for my (soon to be OUR) home. This list will take some budgeting for, especially because we have practically nothing right now.

For starters, I have a dining room table that I bought (with 4 chairs included) at Walmart for $105. Within two weeks, I set a bowl of hot soup on top, and the thin layer of wood material warped, so now there's a huge bubble in the middle of the table. Then it got even more wet in the move here, so there are small cracks and more bubbles on the top. Then there's the fact that I have no living room seating at all.

I had a $100 futon from Walmart, but it was so broken down that I decided not to bring it with me. I'll make a complete list and add it as a page on my sidebar. I think that will help me to slowly be able to budget and check items off as we can afford them.

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As I type this, I just saw on the news where people in Haiti are so hungry that they are making "dirt cookies" to eat. The dough consists of butter, water, and dirt. Just goes to show you that no matter how bad you think you have it, you could always have it worse.

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I've got to fax my move-in sheet from my old apartment to them tomorrow from work. Then I'll call and make sure it got there, hopefully be able to talk to the apt manager, and verify that I'm not going to be charged for the carpet. HOPEFULLY... it would be nice to have one more step behind me.

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Checked my checking acct today and noticed that a large transaction cleared, so I checked one of my credit cards:

Balance of only $3.15

Yay! I am going to go ahead and mail the rest of this small balance in tomorrow, and it should officially be done. Also had a NSD today Big Grin

Payday, Ebay Profits, Mystery Knockers, and more on BF's sister!

April 4th, 2008 at 01:00 am

Today has been a semi-productive day. The dog got me up early, reminding me that I HAD to go get his dog food this morning. I also had to take my rent check to the office, as I realized yesterday that I hadn't paid it. I wasn't sure what the grace period was (or wasn't), so I wasn't going to feel at ease until it was taken care of.

At this point, I started wondering if the rent was indeed $875 like I've been saying all along, or if it was $895. I knew it was $875, but for some reason I was doubting myself and decided to check. When I was skimming over the lease, I noticed a part that says the landlord has the right to require all rent payments in money orders or certified checks.

WHAT??? So I'm freaking out because there is no way I can get a money order OR a certified check in this state. I have all of my money in my old checking account in my old state. So I wait patiently until 9:00 when the BBT banks open. I was planning to explain the situation, and hope that they would let me cash a check from my other checking account, if I deposited some of it into the checking account I have with them.

BF called on his break from work, and I was so stressed that he said he hoped my day got better, and that he'd pray for me. Ten minutes later, at exactly 9:00, I decided to try calling the leasing office to verify that I couldn't just write a check. And what do you know, she said that was fine! Apparently they use the same lease for the hundreds of properties owned by the management company, so that particular clause didn't apply to me. Better yet, she said I had until the 5th to even drop it off. I called BF back to let him know that his prayers worked. Smile

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I also picked up some paper mess that the pup had made while I was in the shower yesterday, and was startled by a knock on my door. Not knowing who it was (and we don't have peep holes yet), I didn't want to answer. The pup was barking like a guard dog, and I just sat completely still, and didn't hear anything else.

I told BF about it later, and he said it might've been someone who just had the wrong apartment, which made me feel a little better, since there was no note or anything on my door from maintenance or package delivery, etc. So I go do my errands and come back, and I'm right in the middle of a survey when my doorbell rings. It's a rather loud doorbell, and hardly anyone uses them, so it scared the crap out of me. The pup is barking again, and I'm sitting in my computer chair frozen. I wait about 15 seconds, and don't hear anyone walking or talking outside the door. Just when I go to get up and see if there was a note, the doorbell rings again. I freeze again. Still no talking, no offering of who they are, no walking away, etc. Then about 10 seconds later, there is a knock. This time, it wasn't just a regular old knock, it was the EXACT rhythm that BF used to use when he would come to my old apartment, so I would know it's him.

So of course, what do I think? BF has crossed two states to surprise me, and he's going to move in even earlier than I expected!!! Yay!!!

Not. I grabbed the pup's collar and opened the door a crack, only to be faced with a middle-aged man and woman, dressed professionally, and then be battered with questions of how I'm doing and do I attend church, and did I before I moved.

Now, I am a Christian, and I do wish that I could get into a comfortable church here, but is knocking at strangers doors at 7:30 at night really the best way to go about recruiting people? I was really surprised to find out that they were from a Baptist church (which is what I attended back home), because I've really never encountered that. Anyways, after 10 minutes of them doing all the talking and me trying to keep the pup from escaping between my legs, I was handed a card with their cell phone numbers, and a pamphlet about their church.

All in all, I'm a little relieved to know who it was knocking at my door earlier, but I'm also a little freaked out that they came back twice, and were pretty persistent the second time. They also kept asking me alot of personal info, like my first & last name, if I was married or moved for work, etc. Kind of freaky.

It also sucked that in my pathetic state I thought it was BF at the door. Frown

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On to the financial stuff...

The shipping for all my ebay items totalled $13.80, plus about $2.75 that I had to spend on packing supplies. The total payments I received after the fee from PayPal was $23.65, so my net profit was $7.10.

It's not alot of money, but it's more than I had a few days ago! Also, it's a little less clutter of unwanted items around the apartment.

I've decided to take any extra income (overtime, surveys, ebay, etc.) and put it into our State Farm savings account (AKA Our Wedding Fund). I'll wait until the end of the month to mail in the deposit, in case there is anything else I might get to add.

-----------------------------------------

Pay day is officially Saturday, but I got my pay stub yesterday, so I know the amount I'm getting plus what's being deducted:

Net After Taxes: $1,075.66
Health/Dental/Vision: -$56.76
401K: $0.00
Net Deposit: $1,018.90

This check also incluses 1.12 hours of overtime, which amounts to about $6 more net pay. I'm going to add that to my $20 challenge, and put it in the Wedding Fund at the end of the month if it's still extra.

The good news: The net pay after taxes is a little higher than what I had budgeted for (based on two pay periods per month), so that may be a surplus at the end of April.

The bad news: The amount deducted for my insurance benefits is about $2.76 more than I budgeted from each paycheck, for a total of $5.52 more per month. I will check my next stub, but I will probably change the amount budgeted for that next month.

The other news: I had forgotten that my 401K contributions will not start until after my third month with the company. So at the end of the month, if I don't need the money to cover some other problem budget areas (like the insurance deductions), then I will stick it in the Wedding Fund.

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I requested payment from a survey site today, so hopefully I will get a $9 check in the mail this month. More for the Wedding Fund maybe!

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Gossip News: For those of you who read my post about the "situation" with BF's sister getting married again, around the same time as we would be starting to plan our wedding, I have some extra news:

Not only is one of BF's girl cousins getting married in June (they've been planning for like a year), he just found out today that one of his guy cousins is moving his wedding up to the end of May. They were originally planned for December of this year, but due to some unforeseen circumstances (one guess what it is), they will be doing it in May.

So... if my intuition is correct and me & BF will be getting engaged in the next three months (I could be wrong, I haven't exactly asked him, but I have a pretty good feeling about it), that will mean that at the same time we're announcing our engagement and starting to plan our wedding:

1) His cousin will be having his wedding in May.
2) His sister will be having her "shot gun" wedding in June.
3) His other cousin will be having her wedding in June.
4) My uncle's baby is due for July.
5) His cousin's baby is due in November.

And we're both VERY close to our families (uncles, cousins, etc), so each of these events will be a big deal for our families. It's starting to look like I am going to have to give up on waiting for "our moment" to be the sole event... if I want to get married any time in the next 10 years!!!

One card paid off... and *trying* to pay more!

March 30th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

After posting my summary for the last half of March, I am feeling a little more at peace with myself. Not really because the budget was great, because I only started really tracking the expenses on March 16th when I started this blog. But seeing my debt get reduced by quite a bit since I started has been a tremendous psychological help. I am trying to stick to the practice of snowballing my debt, and I think it will work.

That said, I am proud to announce that when my FFB Credit Card receives the check that I am mailing tomorrow, it will officially be paid off! It was the smallest of my cards with a balance of $2,280.78, but it is so NICE to know that it's going to be gone. Plus, they didn't offer a way to pay online without a $9 fee, so that will eliminate one more stamp & bill to pay every month.

Now I only have two cards left to pay on, and I am focusing on the Discover Card next. It has the lowest balance left, and they both offer easy payments online. I've updated all of the amounts in My Debt Tracker if anyone is interested!

I called my apartment complex (again) today to find out exactly how much I need to send them a check for. I was told that I'd need to call back at the end of March to get the amount of my last month's water bill, as well as the exact amount I'd owe for breaking the lease. I called a week ago (as I posted in my blog I believe), and was told the property manager was with someone, that she was the person who would need to help me, and that they would have her call me back. Never got a call. So today, I called 30 minutes after the office opened and spoke to someone, who said the property manager only works the first Sunday of the month. I explained what I was hoping to find out, she said she could do that for me, give her 30 minutes because she was in an appointment and she'd call me back. Two hours go by, still haven't heard from her.

I called back, and was told that she was just calling me at the exact same moment (what a coincidence). Then she told me that she'd only been there 3 weeks, but from what she understood, breaking the lease required 30 days notice, which I had already done, and then 2 months worth of rent. Since I was paying $489/month, that would total $978.

BUT... then she said she wasn't positive, so she would check with the property manager tomorrow and one of them would give me a call and let me know. I told her to leave me a voicemail if I didn't answer because I had to work.

My question is, what incentive is there for them to put me off like this? Maybe it is just a coincidence that I am not getting an answer, but it seems fishy to me. I am two states away, and I just want to pay them what I owe!

I would love to think that she's right, and that I'll only have to pay the $978. That would be about $1,000 LESS than I expected, and all of that could go to either my credit card debt or savings. However, I don't think that is the case.

When I called prior to making my decision to take this job, the person that used to work there (that I signed my lease with) gave more detail:

2 Month's Rent
+ Specials or Discounts I Had Received
+ Last Water Bill
+ Damages That I Caused To Anything

I know I didn't cause any damages, but I'm always nervous that they are going to try and pin something on me. I was receiving a special on the rent, which was $489 instead of $540/month. I received that special for January-March, and I got half of December's rent free when I moved in. So if I add up all the discounts I had received, that is:

$540-$489= $51 * 3 Months = $153
$540/2=$270
Total: $423

I also had my pet deposit on a payment plan, and had only paid $50 of the $200 it was supposed to be. Also, I think they would calculate the "2 months rent" based on $540/month, not the $489 she was talking about. That is an extra $102.

If they end up charging me for the rest of the pet deposit, and the discounts, that's an extra $828 on top of what she told me today. Plus the water bill, which should be no more than $30.

So we're talking [$978 + water] versus [$1,806 + water]. It sure would be nice to know the exact amount so that I can get on with the rest of my budgeting!!!

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Alright, done with the rant. I'll give them until tomorrow, and if I haven't heard from them when I get off at 4, then I won't be so nice.

(half of) March Summary

March 30th, 2008 at 05:59 pm

I decided to go ahead and summarize my March income/expenses today, and I am just going to start my "April" tracking on March 31st. Smile

This will actually only be a summary from the time that I started this blog on March 16th. Even so, I really think it's going to help me see where I am spending money and if I'm keeping to my allowances for each category. I have a feeling I will be making some adjustments & new allowances after this.

Also, I am going to go ahead and pay my credit cards, which are due around the 12th of April, so that I can update My Debt Tracker for the month's end. If I end up having anything extra for My Savings Tracker, I'll update that as well.

===INCOME===
{Salary + Overtime}: $1,626.55
{Signing Bonus}: $2,952.50
{Ebay - After Shipping}: $34.13
{Cash From BF}: $150
{Cash From Gran}: $20
{Easter From Mom}: $100
TOTAL = $4,883.18

===EXPENSES===
{Gas}: $145.01
{Food}: $25.15
{Pet Supplies}: $33.00
{Utilities}: $12.82
{Cell Phone}: $187.99
{Other Life Ins}: $28.02
{Personal Loan}: $113.61
{Household Supplies}: $13.15
{Clothing}: $10.00
{Graduation}: $195.00
{Cigarettes}: $7.94
{FFB Credit Card}: $2,280.78
{Discover Card}: $105.00
{State Farm CC}: $115.00
{Personal Loan}: $113.61
{Ex-Boss}: $635

I am waiting on a call from my old apartment complex to see how much I owe them, and then I might see if I can allocate any to my Wedding Fund or IRA.

Confused... reduce credit cards or save for wedding?

March 20th, 2008 at 04:21 pm

Okay, so I am at a crossroads with my financial plan for this year. I just started a new job, where I make $11,000 more in salary a year (plus overtime) than the job I was going to take right out of college, but the cost of living is also more here.

If any of you have looked at income and then the expenses I have, then you'll know that I don't have alot of money to spare these days. Now there is one more complicating factor.

I expect to be engaged within the next 2 months (it's an odd situation, I've been dating him for 4 years, I know he has been saving for a ring, and he's planning to move in with me in a month). I never thought I would actually see the engagement coming, but that's the way it has worked out!

So this brings to mind the question of how we are going to pay for a wedding/honeymoon. I am fiercely independent (have been since I started working at 16), so I refuse to go the traditional route and expect my parents to pay for the wedding. Honestly, my parents couldn't do that anyway, and I would rather know that I paid for it myself. My boyfriend's family will probably offer to pay for our honeymoon, since they paid for his two older sisters' weddings, but I don't think it's fair to let them pay for the honeymoon if my parents aren't paying for the wedding.

However, I know they (especially my mom because I'm her only daughter) will insist on helping some way. If it unfolds the way I think it will, we will probably let my parents pay for the limo & my brothers tuxes, while his parents can pay for part of the catering, etc.

We are not really hard to please, but I have no experience with wedding costs. I would think that we can have the wedding & reception for about $15k-$20k, and the honeymoon for probably $2k. I really have no idea, so theses are estimates!

I don't want to have a riduculously expensive wedding, but I also don't want to look back later and wish that we had splurged a little more, since it is only once in a lifetime (or it had better be, wink wink), and you can't have a re-do later when we have more money!

Okay, that went a little longer than I had planned, but the question I have been getting to is this: Should we be focused on paying as much of our debt off as possible, or should we be paying enough to stay current until the wedding is over, using the rest to save towards the wedding costs?

If it helps, here is a breakdown of our income & debt right now:

*Me*
Credit Card Debt: $12,000
Personal Loan: $850

*Him*
Student Loans: $4,000
Car Loan: $6,000
Credit Card Debt: $300

I would estimate that once our finances are combined, we will have about $300 a month to use for either paying off more debt or saving. This does not include what I have automatically taken out for my 401K.

Should I pay off as much as I can, and then get a fixed personal loan for the wedding expenses, or start saving for the wedding and wait until afterwards to start really working on the debt?

ANY HELP WOULD BE APPRECIATED! Sorry for such a long, rambling post Smile

The Situation

March 16th, 2008 at 07:53 pm

I guess I should begin by outlining my current financial situation.

*INCOME*
My Current Salary: $36,000 (Yearly)
or ~$2,220/Month (After Taxes)
Signing Bonus (One-Time): ~$3,000

*ESTIMATED MONTHLY EXPENSES*
Rent: $875
Utilities: ~$100
Gas: ~$400
Cell Phone: ~$100
Internet: ~$55
Car Insurance: $55
Renters Insurance: $7
Life Insurance: $33
Other Life Insurance: $60
Groceries: ~$150
Pet Supplies: ~$50
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: ~$130
401K Contributions: ~$85

=== +$120 For Debt Payments ===


*DEBT*
State Farm Credit Card: $6,473.54
FFB Credit Card: $2,042.62
Discover Credit Card: $2,043.69
Owed To Former Employer: $638.00
Owed To Former Apartment Complex: ~$2,000
Bank Loan: $803.56

=== Notes ===
The "Bank Loan" is actually my brother's expense, but I put it on here because the loan is in my name, so if by chance he couldn't come up with the money for the payment, I would pay it myself. Some of the amounts are estimated because the exact cost will be unknown until I get my first paycheck or the last day of the billing cycle closes, etc. Once these one-time payments get out of the way, I can budget more accurately.

As for the debt payments, I will have an estimated $120 (maybe more) to put towards them every month. The State Farm Credit Card will need about $90, The Discover Card about $15, and the FFB Credit Card about $15. That equals exactly the $120, which means I need to pay down these credit cards as quickly as possible!