Friday, June 30, 2006

HSBC is 5.05%

The email notification just came in the last hour. The interest rate is now 5.05%.
Thank you HSBC for helping me grow the emergency fund.

Little things that bothered me this week

Let me get my weekly rants off my chest.

1. The price of gas was not moving much, and all of a sudden Bam!! it went from $2.89 to $2.93. I had to suck it up and fill the tank, because I refuse to drive back to NYC where it is an average of $3.20 per gallon.

2. My search for a part-time weekend job is getting on my nerve. I spent all week searching online, and even got a call back. However, it does not mesh well with the full-time schedule.

3. If what you are calling about is not important, can you please wait till after 9pm (read free minutes). How many times must I say this.

4. The rent guidelines board in NYC has voted for a rent increase. On average this might be a 4% increase. Is it me, or should paychecks go up. OH well!!

Price of groceries, up up and away!

The price of groceries have gone through the roof. I just went to the supermarket and the damage was $200+ . WTH!! Granted there are three of us here for the summer, I did not expect to spend that much. The price of groceries have been increasing steadily over the past few months, at least at the supermarket where I shop.

One theory is that as the price of gas rises, everything else including groceries steadily rises too. The groceries I bought today will last at least three weeks because I am not going back to the supermarket before that. The budget that I set for groceries was lower than what I actually spent. Next time around I will be trimming the fat (no pun intended)!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Things I will not live without

OK, I will admit off the bat that some of these items might be a 'luxury' for other people. However, these are the things that I will not live without. Am not going to rationalize whether they are needs, wants, or luxuries. To me they are just basic and make my life a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Here goes:
* Broadband internet access ( I refuse to go back to dial up, plus I don't even have a phone line in the apt.
* Cellphone
* Magazine subscription (Essence, Black Enterprise and Oprah). I have been a subscriber since college, so I still get the student rate.
* Annual vacation (some place outside the continental U.S)

These are the items that I can think of that I could cut out and save some money. I have made other steps to reduce the amount of money I spend each month, and these items are non-negotiable.

Student Loan Consolidation Deadline

Interest rates on student loans will increase as of July 1, 2006. The deadline for consolidating student loans is June 30, 2006. I am urging all my fellow student loan holders to consolidate their student loans before the deadline to lock in the interest rate.
The last of my loan was added to the ones that were already consolidated.
Once you consolidate you loose the grace period. This is a small price to pay to lock in a lower interest rate.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Am stressed but thankful

I have been stressed a lot about my finances. How am I going to pay this bill, gas prices are too high, student loan payments, blah blah blah. Then it hit me, I am spending way too much time worrying. All this will do is give me a damn migraine or an ulcer. I did not get in debt overnight, and as much as I would like to waive a magic wand and have it all disappear that is not possible. So I have to just deal with it and be thankful.

Thankful that....
I am alive and healthy.
I have family (breathe girl, breathe) and good friends.
I have a roof over my head and food to eat.
I have a job with benefits.
I am free to express my opinions.

I love my life and am thankful for it. I just do not like my debt.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Emergency Fund Crisis conducted a poll on emergency funds. The results are a bit sad on my part since am at the very bottom of the ladder. Not to worry, I am working on getting up there.
Slow and steady winds the race.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Financial ADD

Today it finally hit me. I have financial ADD. What does this mean? I try to do too many things at once financially, without focussing on any one particular thing. Until I started blogging and writing things down, I would try to do one too many things at once. At the end I realized not much was getting done.
My focus has now changed. The goal is to accomplish the small tasks I set up for myself.

1. Save $1,000 in my HSBC emergency account. The balance today is $360. I will accomplish this small goal first before I take on any more.
Until I posted a few weeks ago on my goals, I have never written any financial goals. This is a start and I hope it makes a difference.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wallet Spring Cleaning

Today I finally decided to spring clean the wallet. All the credit cards were removed and placed in a drawer at home. I do not anticipate needing a credit card for any purchase in the near future. There will be no new purchases on the card except for the recurring toll payments that are charged each month for EZ-Pass. The tolls are charged to my credit card each month to avoid being low on funds at the bridge and being assessed a penalty.

I will put one credit card back in my wallet once I am able to pay off the balance in full each month.

Little things that bothered me this week....

I just need to get a few things off my chest.

1. Gas today cost me $2.93 per could be worse, I could have bought gas in New York where it is way past $3.

2. Does being the only one with 'good' credit in the immediate family mean you owe them anything (read: can you charge this for me)?

3. Why the hell is the interest on my Sallie Mae student loan more than two of my credit cards? I need to fix that some how.

4. It is taking me entirely too long to find a part-time evening/ weekend job to supplement my income and snowball my debt. The search is getting tiring.

5. My car is to take me from work to home and back. No am not driving you around any where, hail a cab for pete's sake. (I doubt ur actually reading this blog.)

6. Does anyone know what all those little taxes on the cell phone bill are for? Am gonna have to call and ask. There are way too many of them. Uncle sam and all his bastard state and city kids are irking me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

One day I will be an automatic millionaire

This book was a real eye opener. The lessons in this book are not new. However, the language was simple which makes it easy to follow.

So what did I learn?

Lesson 1.
Automate, Automate, Automate.
The basic premise here is to set all the finances on auto pilot. This will make life less complicated. Recently I switched all my regular bills to online bill pay. No more writing checks and putting them in the mail. I even went a step further and set up some bills on a recurring payment schedule.

Lesson 2.
Pay yourself first.
The goal here is to set up a retirement account and pay yourself first. The contribution goal should be a comfortable amount and increased over time to more than 15%.
Here is one lesson that is easy, and I have already partially accomplished. My pre-tax contribution is 6% of my salary, which has a dollar for dollar company match. This puts me at a 403b contribution of 12%.
My contribution will be increased to 15% once all my debt is paid off.

The second part of 'pay yourself first' is to set up an emergency fund. This is a goal that is already in progress. As of today's date there is $347 in an HSBC emergency account.

After reading this book, I feel a little better about my financial life.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Currently reading the 'Automatic Millionaire'

I just borrowed the Automatic Millionaire by David Bach from the library. This is one of the few financial books I have heard a lot about. A review will follow.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I love my insurance company

My insurance company sent me a nice surprise today. The renewal premium was reduced by $150. Thank goodness for bundling services. The payment was all set to go out from online bill pay, I immediately reduced the amount. Cash flow statement for June can breath a little easier. Renter's insurance is paid up to June 2007 and the car insurance is good to October 2006.
Great way to end the work week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Congratulations! Here is your degree welcome to Brokeville

Financial literacy should be a required course in college. The largest portion of a young person's debt before the age of 30 except for a mortgage will be student loans. However, colleges do not provide an education on budgeting, credit cards etc, etc.

A recent CNN Money article indicated that the average student loan debt is $19,000. I am happy to say I am just about average (who am I kidding am pissed). I have two types of student loans, the subsidized federal loans and a private loan from Sallie Mae. The federal loans were consolidated recently, which is an advantage because the rate is locked in before the increase in July. However, once I consolidated I lost the grace period and had to starting paying right away.

If I had to do it all over again there are some things I would do differently.

1). I would attend a public college for my undergraduate years. Unfortunately, I started at a private school which is where the bulk of my loans came from.

2). The private loan from Sallie Mae should have been as a last resort. I do not think I did enough research into scholarships, grants etc.

3). While working in college I would have saved some money to help pay down the debt once I graduated.

Hopefully, a some freshman out there will learn from my mistakes so that they won't end up residing in the city of Brokeville to long after graduation.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Random Money Rants

Major expenses (anything above $500 not including rent) have a way of putting a dent in any budget. My cash flow chart is prepared every two weeks, the day before pay day. I normally sit down and look at all the bills that are piled up and pay the most important. Now I know what my bills are each month, but for some reason I get a slight case of amnesia when it comes to major expenses like car insurance that is due every 6 months, or the fact that I owe the State of NY $600. I know, I know I should budget for it each month and put the money aside. However, each month there isn't any money left over. What's a girl to do? This is over $1400 that I need to 'squeeze' into my cash flow statement. Ouch!!

The tax people were very courteous and helpful when I called. The gentleman helped me to set up an installment plan so I can spread the tax bill over the next 6 months.
I have now learned my lesson the hard way. Before the next insurance payment is due in October I will try and raise at least half the payment over time.

The ever elusive emergency fund goal will probably be pushed back, unless I categorize car insurance as an emergency.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Access to a checking account

Yesterday I went to the post office to get a money order. I had to make a payment to a company that insisted on money orders. At the post office there was a lady on line in front of me who had a few bills in her hand, including phone, electric etc (no I was not being nosy). She proceeds to the counter and bought around 5 money orders. It then occurred to me that there are people out there without checking accounts.

Call me naive but with all the free checking account options I thought most people had checking accounts. Then I thought about it some more and realized that I live in an urban area with a high population of people for whom English is a second language. There is I believe an untapped market for banks to get new customers. It is also beneficial to these customers because they would be able to write checks for free instead of paying upwards of $1 for each money order. Purchasing money orders could add up to more than $10 per month or $120 per year.

I have two checking accounts. I was happy with my bank until I got a new job and realized there weren't any branches close to work. However, there were at least 5 Bank of America branches on my way to work. I opened an account with Bank of America last year and got $50 for doing so. The best thing since slice bread is online bill pay. All my regular bills are paid online. I make sure everything is scheduled on time. There is no need to balance my checkbook anymore (finally freedom). I log into the online banking every few days to make everything is ok. This makes my financial life a lot easier than writing checks, buying stamps and waiting for checks to clear.