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A place for Get Rich Slowly readers to ask questions
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:54 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Maybe I should change to a different subject, since school loans and the sucky market means my net worth is trending down, down, down. Adding an extra certificate doesn't help with the money. I could go more slowly, and take on less debt, but I'd really like to finish school before 2011.

However, the debt is also going down, down, down, and I like that. I'm paying off 60% of my highest-rate credit card this month and should finish it off next month. Next, a couch. :)

Then I will need to decide: tackle the next debt, or start on my 2008 Roth? The next credit card is about $4K, at a whopping 3.9%. I will need $3K to fund the minimum of my Roth -- my 2006 and 2007 Roth contributions went to a volatile small-cap fund, and I think I've maxed out my risk tolerance there, so I want to put 2008 into Vanguard, which has $3K minimums for most of their funds. I'll probably plunk it into one of the international indexes.

I'm leaning towards saving up for the Roth. The reason is twofold: I'd like to get ahead in my Roth contributions, paying them at the beginning of the year instead of at the end; and I'd kind of like to take advantage of the sucky market.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:34 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
I have started seeing someone who is much more frugal than I, because he's on a cheap Ph.D student budget. He's mildly appalled by how much I spend (though he concedes that I'm not actually extravagant, considering my corporate-tool budget). So I definitely have more home-cooked meals and cheap entertainment in my future. Dating someone who's better than me at this is certainly going to help! Also, he is actually able to talk about money, which is one of my major requirements. My friends kind of get tired of my 401(k) babble, I think, except for the ones who are also actively working on money.

The school term is almost over, so my attempt at full time graduate school plus full time work is coming to an end. That was the impetus for a lot of the eating out and other flakey behavior. Finishing that should give me more time to do all the stuff I have been neglecting, much of which will help with frugality. Getting the kitchen back in shape for cooking, figuring out why my electrical bill is higher than I'd like before I add A/C to it, and so on.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:05 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Current stats:

CC Debt: $10K
Student Loan: $18K
Cash: $4K
Retirement: $23K
Net worth: -$1.5K

I almost have the highest-rate card paid off, but I'm going to be saving the money instead of paying it. I suspect that layoffs are coming, and if so I might be in the first cut -- and even if not, if they ask for volunteers, I'd go for it, on the theory that it's better to choose than to be chosen, and anyway I'm Not Happy. I'd actually be excited about the possibility of escape without losing my signing bonus, if I were better prepared. But I'm not in that bad of shape, so I'm not too worried.

My food budget should go down a lot over the summer -- not only will I be doing my own cooking more, but I have already paid for CSA fruits and vegetables to arrive magically on my doorstep every week. I'm looking forward to that.

The new relationship is working well so far. I'm used to being the frugal one, so dating someone who is more so is novel and cute. Also, it will be handy to have someone to go shopping with; part of the reason my grocery bills are a bit high is that groceries on the bus are kind of a pain.[/b]


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 Post subject: w00t
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 2:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
The crazy term was worth it -- I got two As. So my current GPA is 3.83. (I got a B in accounting. Considering that I'm completely unsuited to accounting, I'm counting that as fine by me.)

I have fiddled with Quicken and it looks like, in fact, I may be managing to keep everything floating around zero, despite increasing debt for school. I am saving enough to make up for it, which I didn't quite realize. Nifty! Despite RIF worries, everything feels nicely on track.

It helps that my retirement accounts are back in the black. Barely. But they are no longer bleeding. I count it my amazing luck in putting my big Roth contribution through on the lowest day since 2005. (I wasn't timing the market. I put a check in the mail and got lucky.)


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:06 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
I have an odd budget. Quicken says my main expenses for 2008 are:

Retirement (26%)
Housing & utilities (25%)
Food (13%)
Hobbies (5%)
Clothing (4%)
Medical (4%)

The average expenses in the U.S. in 2005 (http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann05.pdf):
Housing (32%)
Transportation (18%)
Insurance & retirement (11%)
Food (13%)
Entertainment (5%)
Medical (6%)
Clothing (4%)

Not all of the categories map very well. It's not helped that I am still figuring out Quicken reporting, and I'm not thrilled with what I've got so far; it's not showing what I pay on the debt properly. Still, it's interesting. I was convinced that I was spending far too much on food and clothing -- and I am! -- but I'm actually right in line with everyone else. Also, it's pretty cool that I'm putting so much into retirement (a big chunk of that was my 2007 Roth, but nevermind). I think of myself as medically expensive, but maybe not so much. And yes, not having a car really is saving me a ton of money.

All of my finance charges for the year add up to $105. The tag for this is "stupidity tax" (also used for library fines and such). My interest earned adds up to $65.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:20 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Work has nearly doubled the tuition reimbursement. Woohoo! I'm pretty sure that this was in the works before the stock tanked (it's the kind of policy change that takes forever), but I'm doing my best to take advantage of it. Worst case is that I'll end up having to take three classes in fall, but that's only if several options fall through. I'm on the waitlist for several summer classes, and one of them ought to work. If that doesn't happen, it looks like one of the fall classes I have to take may also be offered in spring, so I can take a different fall class that ends early enough to be counted on this year's tab (my scheduling is very, very, very weird).

I just opened a Vanguard Prime money market account. I have a tendency to cheat on my budget and make it up later, and I'm hoping that putting most of my emergency fund (aka layoff fund) next to accounts I never, ever mess with will help with that. It will make my ING savings look more anemic and less borrow-able. My plan is to get my ING fund to the same size, and then watch it and VMMXX and see if I can get a better sense of the difference between money markets and savings accounts. I know intellectually what they are, but it works better for me to watch them sometimes.

Regardless, liquidy emergency moneys are at $5500. Once they are at $10K, back to paying credit cards. When the layoff hopes are over, the extra emergency money goes to my 2008 Roth. If they are realized, I'm not too worried about finding a job. I'm becoming more and more aware of just how salable my skills are.

I have started calling my Amazon credit card the Amazon crack card. My life is set up so that most reward cards do little for me -- no gas and almost no fast food purchases -- so a reward card that rewards everything is good. I get a lot of basics from Amazon (free shipping on 40 lb bags of cat littler, srsly!) and so I always have a use for the gift certificates. It is, of course, paid off monthly, and I call every once in a while to get the rates lowered just on principle.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:12 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Work has announced layoffs in another state. Less than fifty people so far -- but in a company of more than 50,000 employees, who believes they're only going to lay off fifty people? Not I, said the little red hen. They could do that by just not hiring people (which they have also stopped) or letting go of contractors (ditto). I kind of hate my job, so I'm hoping they ask for volunteers.

I have $6K in cash saved and I'm saving $800/mo, so I feel like I'm in good shape. My field is in demand locally, I have been building my network, and I found a fantabulous letter of recommendation that I thought I had lost. I'm in good shape. If my favorite coworker gets hired at a new place, I will apply there even if I'm not laid off, because a) they had the sense to hire him and b) we work together brilliantly, as in getting very high performance bonuses from a very tightfisted corporation brilliantly. Also, someone to have lunch with every day would be awesome.

I'm being mostly ok about spending; I need to keep in mind that my idea of "mostly ok" is actually quite good compared to most people. It's just that dating a poor student skews the scale. Fortunately, we like each other's cooking.

According to Quicken, my net worth is $1500. W00t!

One big change, since layoffs are now actually announced: no new couch. I do have to replace the futon (which is so useless as a couch that it acts as a clutter-magnet), but it will be a used couch bartered from a friend instead of the nifty new microfiber sofa-with-chaise I wanted. Oh, well, Macy's will probably carry that sofa for a long time.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:10 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:13 am
Posts: 148
You sound quite prepared to leave your job and move on if you can. Bravo.
You are mentally so ready, your couch decision was merely icing on the cake.
I laugh a little when I read about your frugal dating, only because I married a very terrric, frugal man.
It helps when someone around you is also living financially lean.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:05 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Since the beginning of the year, I have paid off $6400 in credit card debt; increased my assets by $3500 (savings, retirement, etc.), and increased by school loans by $3000. I have $5,000 in layoff-fund cash, too. Especially considering that the retirement funds are in stock and (being mostly index funds) have done as poorly as everyone else's. I've put a lot more money into the retirement funds, and the unrealized losses have eaten a lot of that. But the losses are unrealized, and they bought shares that will someday gain, probably; if they don't, I will have a lot more to worry about than my investments. It is frustrating, but not bad, I don't think.

Paying off a bit more than $1000/mo in credit cards is pretty damned good. Especially on top of the savings and asset improvements. I hadn't realized I did so well. I was planning to put my tuition reimbursements to credit cards, but since I am planning on leaving, I'd better keep them in savings. I haven't received any tuition reimbursements yet, but I should be getting $5250 in the next couple of months.

I invested $600 in individual stocks from Sharebuilder, in large part because ING was running a promotion where they'd add some money to your account if you did so, and I'd been meaning to do so for some time. I got six stocks. Because of the job situation, I don't have any kind of automatic investment plan going. I invested mostly to get a feel for how stocks work. The best situation is that they will do well and can be added to my house downpayment, someday.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:42 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
I sold two short stories for $100 (total). I'm somewhat dubious about the anthology ever being printed, but they did sell. Now I can add "Will be published in upcoming anthology..." to my fiction cover letters.

I believe this makes a total of 5103.25 earned from freelance writing over the past ten years. This doesn't count technical writing jobs....

I should not quit my day job, but I should probably work a little more reliably on this. Though maybe I will wait until school is finished to get really serious.


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 Post subject: New Job!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:17 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
I just accepted a new job. It is a w-2 contract, and pays $20/hr more than I am making now.

I'm still in shock.


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 Post subject: New Financial Plan
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
The contract is for four months. However, they frequently extend and hire people. I can work there as a contractor for up to 18 months; then they have to hire me, or let me go, and they can't re-contract me for six months. This is a W-2 contract, not 1099, so I don't have to worry about extra tax.

I currently live off of ~ $475/wk. Six months at this rate (which is pretty high, since I could cut expenses a fair bit if out of work) is around $12K. With this job, I'll make an extra $800 per week. The takehome would be minus taxes, of course. I only need to save $350 of that in order to get my emergency fund to $12K by the end of the contract (I was already saving $250/wk, into retirement and employee stock purchase plan and layoff fund). I will be trying to get the emergency fund to $12K faster, of course. Once I have it there, I will fund my 2008 Roth in full.

The contracting firm actually has health insurance, but it doesn't work for me at all. Instead, I will be using COBRA from my current job. It's $375/mo and will last at least 18 months. I will do this at least until the end of the year -- I have already paid the deductible, so it's more useful that way. I will also be checking out my graduate school's health insurance and other possibilities. It's possible one of my professional societies has health insurance. Worst case, I will just need to find a benefits-type job in eighteen months. This doesn't strike me as overly difficult, even if my contracted employer doesn't hire me. My skills are a) very good and b) somewhat unusual and c) increasingly important, and I have the certifications to back them up.

I can't recall if the contracting firm has a 401(k); if so, I'll start with my current 6%, and once the emergency fund and Roth are paid up, I will increase that as much as they will let me, if the choices are in any way reasonable. (Even a stable-asset fund would be ok, since I'd expect to roll it over to my Vanguard accounts relatively soon; the point is that it's a) tax-deferred and b) doesn't eat into my IRA maximum.)

After all this, I will go back to paying debt. One nice thing about a good credit rating: I may have a lot of credit card debt, but it's all at very low interest rates, and just paying minimums for a while won't hurt much at all. Quicken tells me I've paid all of $200 in interest year-to-date; not that I think that's good, but it's so much better than it could be that I just don't worry about it much.

The likely-worst-case scenario is that I do not get extended on this contract. By then, I would have the emergency fund up to 12K, easily. The unlikely-worst-case scenario is that I get fired on the first day, or they stop using contractors for this (very unlikely -- they're asking me if I know people who could also do this...), or something like that. Then, I'll have to worry and scramble. But I've been in positions like that before, and done ok. I've done the math, and I only need about $17/hr to get by; I can get that kind of work easily.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
Current credit card debt: $8,937
Current school loan (in deferment): $18,966

Current retirement: $23,545 (cost basis $25,362)
Current emergency fund: $5,907

Known expenses: $2,167 repaying sign-on bonus


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 6:57 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
I have met the first setback in my new contracting life: the @!$%^!? Republican convention. The client company really wanted me to start as soon as possible in September and had set a start date of 9/1. But that's labor day, and there is a convention in town, so no one is going to be in this office. My new start date is 9/8. (To be fair, the manager and 3/4 of the team are in other states.)

I consider it practice for contracting in general. Right? Right. I just wish they'd figured this out before I gave notice.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:41 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:19 pm
Posts: 620
The problem with too much vacation time is too much time to get myself into trouble. I don't think I have done too badly, but I let the time pressure of various deals get to me. If it makes it any better, it's all something I've been planning on doing for more than a year, but put aside when I was saving money for the potential layoffs. And I do have the cash; just not as much as I would have liked.

So I bought the Adobe Creative Suite, a Mac Mini (I will be running CS on my laptop...), and an lcd monitor/tv, for a total of $1200. Ouch. Still, I haven't bought a desktop since 1998, my desktop publishing software won't run on my main computer, and the monitor/tv means that I can keep the computer in the living room instead of the basement. As a student, I get CS cheap; it's even cheaper now ($400 vs. $1800 retail) with a new Mac, as part of a back-to-school special that expires at some unknown date. The monitor/tv is $220 from Newegg, after a rebate. The most expensive item was the Mini, which is not exactly an extravagance for a desktop computer.

Eh, it's done. I do need a desktop and I do need more current desktop publishing software; I've needed them for a couple of years. I hate owning a monitor and TV I can't carry and that take up so much room. I should have waited until I earned enough from the new job to cover them, but I was afraid that the specials would sell out before that. It will be paid before the grace period on the credit card expires.

Next project: business cards.


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