Saturday, December 31, 2005

Things I Learned From 2005 & The Years Accomplishments

What did 2005 teach me?

1) Determination can accomplish anything.

You cannot be crippled by overwhelming situations. The only way to change things is to take a deep breath, develop a plan, and stick with it. It's been hard; it's been a pain but that will make it way more satisfying when I am finally debt-free.

2) Support makes the journey more bearable.

I want to thank each and every one of you who visit this site and offer words of encouragement and advice. Before I started this blog I felt all alone. My debt was a dirty secret that I didn't want people to know about and the loved ones that did know about it couldn't relate. It has been great to read about people going through similar situations and learning from them as well as being held accountable for my own progress.

3) Keeping track of your finances electronically only works if you keep a back-up.

After my laptop died in July, I lost all of my financial info that I saved in Quicken. Oops! I learned you need to keep a copy somewhere other than your hard drive. I wanted to be able to do a year in review but I'll have to make due with what I have.

4) Don't expect to get the raise you deserve without asking.

I posted here before about my 4% raise but I didn't post about how they increased my raise to 9% when they feared me leaving for another job. I was a bit jaded along with a few other employees; word got around and well they increased my raise. I wasn't happy with how it happened. I should have told them straight up that I thought I deserved a bigger raise without all the drama that ensued from me not speaking up. It wasn't a monumental raise but it was easier than finding a new job. Lesson learned.

5) Consolidate student loans early.

I didn't look into consolidating my student loans until after it was too late. I thought since I only had one payment that I didn't need to worry about it. Alas, I was wrong and if I had consolidated just a few weeks earlier I could have locked in a smaller interest rate.

6) Commuting is a waste of time and money.

I am so glad I made the decision to move closer to work. I don't have as much money to pay back towards my debt but I am able to make it worth it by cutting down automotive related expenses (gas, maintenance, depreciation), working more overtime, and being able to go back to school to increase my earning potential. Plus, eventually I would probably eventually run up lots of medical bills with stress related illnesses.

7) PPO is not the right option for me.

Some people really like having a PPO. It is nice to be able to go to almost any doctor you want, when you want until you have a major medical catastrophe and you are responsible for 20% of your medical expenses. I never knew how much X-rays, diagnostics tests and hospital stays could cost until I had to pay 20% of them. As soon as I was able to, I switched to an HMO.

2005 was a good year for me. Here is what I was able to accomplish:

1) Since the beginning of the year I have paid off more than $13,000 of credit card debt. I wasn't able to create a comprehensive graph showing the progress but I found this old graph from one of my first posts:

Image hosted by
and a new graph that shows my progress from July 2005:

Image hosted by
The spike in the first graph comes from when I transferred my car loan to my credit card using a low interest balance transfer check. So in 2005 I consolidated my credit card and auto loans and reduced the amount of interest I was paying every month while making it easy to aggressively pay down the debt.

2) Paid off $1,250 of my student loan debt. Not a huge amount because I was focusing most of my energy to the credit card.

3) Saved nearly $2,000 for retirement in my 401k. Again, not a lot but it is something. Next year I will be 20% vested in my company's matching so I will have even more.

4) Weathered a major medical expense without having to rely on credit cards. Who knew that having an appendix taken out could result in more than $2,000 in medical expenses? No more PPO for me.

5) Moved out of the family home and got my own apartment. Bought furniture and all the other comforts of home without having to put a single dime on my credit card.

All in all this year has been most productive and I feel it can only get better in the future. Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2006:

1) Pay off credit card by September 1, 2006.
This will require me to pay a little more than $1,000 towards my debt every month. Right now I have been having a slightly difficult time finding the $1000 to pay every month but I think I can do it if I try harder.

2) Continue to save for retirement and stay at my job until I have at least reached the 20% vested mark.

3) Go back to school and complete at least two courses that I think would be interesting and beneficial for my future.

4) Once the credit card is paid off, focus on the student loans with as much intensity as the credit card.

5) Learn more about investing.

6) Increase savings in both savings account and CDs.

I find it almost therapeutic to look back on the year, both at what went wrong and what went right. It's by learning from our past mistakes that we grow to be better in the future! Hope everyone has a safe and prosperous 2006!

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Grocery Game

I was recently reading an article on CNN Money that discussed how to Shave $150 a week off of your grocery bill. I was intrigued. Who would be able to cut that much money out of their weekly grocery bill? I probably don't spend $150 a month on groceries, let alone $150 per week. The gist of the article was to plan ahead and only buy what you need and cook meals with ingredients that overlap. Not a bad idea but nothing revolutionary. One of their suggestions though, did pique my interest. They suggested to make a game out of grocery shopping and reference a website called The Grocery Game. I had to check this out.

Basically, The Grocery Game is an online subscription service that provides weekly lists of items on sale in your local area. The list is broken down into color coded items; green are free items, blue are the "best deals for stockpiling", and black are items you should buy only if you need them.

It sounds like a good idea but I'm hesitant to try it. It would save a lot of time on cutting coupons (I don't really use coupons anyways) but it also seems pointless to spend money to save money. The subscription is $10 every 8 weeks...working out to be $1.25/week. That is not a huge amount of money but would it ultimately be worth it?

The problem I find with grocery coupons is that name-brand items with coupons work out to be just slightly less (if not more) than generic store brands. Why spend time and effort to buy name-brand items at a discounted price when you can buy the generics, which are basically the same thing, at a lower price without the coupons?

I'd love to hear what others think. Are you a coupon-clipper? A faithful consumer of generic products? Or maybe a little of both?

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, December 26, 2005

2006 - The Year to be Debt Free

Looks like 2006 will be the year that I finally become credit card free. It's hard to imagine a life without credit card debt hanging over my head. It has been nearly 5 years since I got myself into this mess; practically my entire adult life has been spent with a credit card bill. Let's just say that it will not be missed.

I've finally got the debt to under $10,000. Losing a digit feels awfully nice. Since May when I started this blog I have almost cut my debt in half! Not too shabby for 7 months of hard work.

As the new year approaches, many of us will be thinking of our New Year's resolutions. Here are ways to make sure that we stay on track to achieving our goals (Source).

Constantly Evaluate Your Progress
Having an action plan is not enough. The captain will have to constantly evaluate his progress in order to be sure he is on target. Unforeseen obstacles are sure to arise, such as a hailstorm, or increased southerly winds. As a result, he may have to increase his speed or guide the boat in a more westerly direction. In other words, notice what is working and what is not. If an approach is not working, don’t waste your time with it. Change your approach.

Never Lose Sight of Your Goal
Take the time to review your goals every morning when you get up and every night before you go to bed. This will keep them fresh in your mind. If you think reviewing your goals twice a day is too much to ask, maybe you should reevaluate what it is you want. Ask yourself, “How important is it to me that I attain my goals?”

Don’t Procrastinate
Procrastination is a “silent killer”. Understand that the only way to achieve your goals is to take action! Knowledge means nothing if you don’t apply it. How many people have you come across with an unbelievable amount of education working a mediocre job? The world is full of people who don’t apply their knowledge. On the other hand, chances are you know of people with less educational background who apply everything they learn. These people are usually the ones who are most successful in all areas of their lives. Do something right now that will help you to achieve your goals. There is no time like the present! Get the ball rolling. Each step you take brings you one step closer to the life you want. Remember the motto, “The road to Someday, leads to the town of Nowhere”. Someday is today!

Finally, you ought to have your key goals in front of you on a regular basis. You should look at them at least weekly to ensure you are making progress and to see if you need to modify your plans in anyway.

I hope everyone is having a safe and fun holiday!

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Move on Up or Move on Out

Today was just one of those days. I had one of those moments when I was able to step back from my life and look at it objectively from someone else's point of view. When I thought about it, I really had to ask myself, "WTF are you doing?" You know its never a good feeling when you have one of those moments.

I have to admit that my job is not terrible and I am not paid terribly. I could continue working there forever living this mundane existence and getting by with modest salary raises. A job is a job; it pays my credit card bill and the rent. I could try to look for another job but I feel like that would be just trading in old problems for new problems. I've looked around at job postings online and I just feel like I'm not qualified for any of them. How could I have gone to college and graduated with a degree, had a high GPA and still not be qualified for any of these jobs that I know I could do in my sleep. Where are the jobs that require a degree in Anthropology!

Better question, why did I think that getting a degree in Anthropology would be a good idea? I thought I could be a professor, until of course that I realized that I am terrible at explaining things, hate talking in public and despise "academia". Anthropology would have been a great idea if someone would just pay me to read books, contemplate life and maybe one day, write a great book.

So after a day of nearly quitting my job, coming home and looking at jobs and becoming thoroughly discouraged at my prospects, I decided that it was due time for me to sign up for classes to gain some real skills (mad skills if you will). I've been thinking about it and procrastinating for a while. Today was the last straw and I am on my way. I am going to take an intro class in Accounting just to see if I like it. I have always thought that accounting would be really boring, but after starting this blog and pouring over my finances, I realized that it really might just be the thing for me. Plus, when I buy my chateau and have my B&B I will keep awesome track of the books. If I end up realizing that it truly is boring, what the heck. At least I can then scratch it off my list of possibilities.

add to saved by 0 users

Friday, December 09, 2005

Change of Address

Little did I know that merely updating my address would save me $57 a year! I have changed my address pretty much everywhere except my auto insurance company. I knew I had to do it but it was one of those things I kept putting off and then forgetting to do. So today I sat down and called the company and updated my address and the rep told me that it would save me $57 a year. The rest of my payment for this policy term will be prorated so I will pay less for the next 3 months! Sweet. I'm mad at myself that I didn't do this sooner because I could have been saving money months ago!

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, December 05, 2005

No luck in Vegas

Well I made it back from Vegas in one piece. Too bad I can't say that same for my wallet. My dreams of winning the jackpot and paying off my credit card in one fell swoop were never realized. I actually came back -$100 from gambling. At one point I was up about $75; I should have called it quits while I was ahead, but you know it never works that way. It was just too easy to sit down at a machine and lose $20 in the blink of an eye. I would look at the other people gambling that had sat at the same machine for goodness knows how long and wonder how much money they were losing by the minute. So depressing to see all that money and have none of it be yours!

We did eat lots of good food, saw a cool show and had a great time. So all in all it was a good trip and I'm glad we went. Hopefully, I will have that bug out of my system and can go back to focusing on paying off my debt. I learned on Friday before I left for Vegas that they were going to increase my bonus so I don't feel so guilty for going anymore.

Christmas is coming up so I'm a little worried about that eating up money for my credit card. This year, my family decided to do a secret santa gift exchange in the place of buying a Christmas present for everyone. That is a great relief because not only is it stressful to try to find that perfect gift for everyone in the family but it is expensive too! I feel that gifts should come from the heart throughout the year when you can afford it, and not just from obligation because it is Christmas. I'm hoping I will be able to find that one special gift for someone that they will truly appreciate!

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, November 28, 2005

Laziness and Guilt

I must be in one of those debt reduction rough patches. It is getting hard for me people! I think part of the reason I stopped updating this blog is due to laziness. It is tough always trying to think of new things to write about, not to mention having to write about it! Another big component of it is being in a new environment. Once we moved into our new apartment I kind of just lost interest. I'm not sure what it is about the new apartment but it just feels different when I post on the blog.

But most importantly, I think the biggest reason why I haven't been updating is GUILT. I have some confessions to make. I have fallen off the debt-reduction wagon. Once we moved I had to spend tons of money on new things for the apartment. I stopped caring about being frugal. If I wanted a new coffee bean grinder, I bought it. Why? I don't know. Because I wanted it! I wanted new clothes, so I went and bought those too. And rent is not cheap! My last paycheck was the first paycheck that I did not take money out of for the credit card. It was a tough decision for me but if I had put the usual $500 towards the credit card I would have no money left for Vegas.

Yes, thats right. I said it. VEGAS. I am finally taking a vacation. It has been so long since I have done anything fun that I figured I might as well live a little. I'm scared I'm going to look back on my 20's and remember only the sweat and toil of paying off my stupid credit cards.

But paying off my credit card is still a huge priority to me. I think I've just got to find some good balance between LIVING and paying off debt.

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, October 30, 2005


I got the internet back! We are all moved into our new apartment. We have most of the furniture and amenities of everyday life all set up now so I don't really feel like I am living at a hotel. All of that stuff cost tons of cash and I must say it was kind of addicting spending all of that money. Imagine having to buy nearly everything for your apartment...we bought a couch, a chair, an entertainment center, a dining room table, a bookcase, not to mention the dishes, the towels, the rugs, etc etc. Once I broke through that mental barrier of not being able to spend money, I was buying stuff left and right. I have got to get back to my normal frugal self, especially now that I will have rent to pay. It will not be easy but I still think my goal of getting out of debt in 2 years is still feasible. Only 11 more months to go and I will be debt free!

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I haven't given up...

Don't worry, I have not given up blogging. I have been internet-less at home for nearly 2 weeks now and only have access at work. We hope to have internet again in 2 more weeks once we have moved into our new place and have gotten everything hooked up with our new interent service provider. So it might be a while before things resume again as normal but I will be back! And I'm still on the path to a debt-free life despite the fact that I have not been blogging!

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Checking In

Sorry all for the lack of posts. A huge rant will be coming soon but suffice it to say for now that Verizon is the devil. My internet works only when it wants to and Verizon doesn't really seem to care at all. I have cancelled my service effective 10/13 and can't wait to sign up for SBC Yahoo once we move.

The move is only 2 weeks away so we are busy buying all the stuff that we need and getting rid of all the crap we don't want to bring with us and trying to get some cash for it. Amazingly someone bought my ancient SNES for $40 from Craigslist and I've had luck selling other random stuff on Ebay so that is helping out.

We are slowly getting all the stuff we need for our new apartment. We bought our sofa and chair yesterday and got our pots and pans, cutlery and George Foreman grill from Amazon yesterday for $100 because they were offering $25 off when you spend $125 in their Kitchen and Housewares Department. I'm slowly getting over my "spenders block" but it still is tough for me to make a solid decision on buying items. They opened a brand new Target by my house and it's my new favorite place. I went there two time yesterday to look at stuff for the apartment but ended up not buying anything but kitty litter and cat food. Their Home furnishings department is huge and they have a much bigger selection than any other Target I've ever been to. For some reason though, I can't just buy the towels because I think "is this really the best buy on towels??"

Anyways, like I said, I'll probably post a huge rant against Verizon soon but I just can't do it right now. The thought of reliving those traumatic events is too much for me right now. :)

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Mr. Wendal

The other day, I was listening to some old music in my music library and happened across the Arrested Development song "Mr. Wendal". Remember that song? It was big back in its day. I still love it. I love most of their songs really but when I listened to it again some points really resonated with me.

Here, have a dollar,
in fact no brotherman here, have two
Two dollars means a snack for me,
but it means a big deal to you

Be strong, serve God only,
know that if you do, beautiful heaven awaits
That's the poem I wrote for the first time
I saw a man with no clothes, no money, no plate
Mr.Wendal, that's his name,
no one ever knew his name cause he's a no-one
Never thought twice about spending on a ol' bum,
until I had the chance to really get to know one
Now that I know him, to give him money isn't charity
He gives me some knowledge, I buy him some shoes
And to think blacks spend all that money on big colleges,
still most of y'all come out confused

Mr.Wendal has freedom,
a free that you and I think is dumb
Free to be without the worries of a quick to diss society
for Mr.Wendal's a bum
His only worries are sickness
and an occasional harassment by the police and their chase
Uncivilized we call him,
but I just saw him eat off the food we waste
Civilization, are we really civilized, yes or no ?
Who are we to judge ?
When thousands of innocent men could be brutally enslavedand killed over a racist grudge
Mr.Wendal has tried to warn us about our ways
but we don't hear him talk
Is it his fault when we've gone too far,
and we got too far, cause on him we walk
Mr.Wendal, a man, a human in flesh,
but not by lawI feed you dignity to stand with pride,
realize that all in all you stand tall

For me, I think it really resonated with me because I realized how this journey of getting out of debt has really changed me as a person. I feel like I am finally able to get off the treadmill that people run on, trying to always have the newest car, the right clothes, and a house full of crap only to find out that what they have now acquired is "passé" and they have to buy all new crap to keep up. Its good for me to step back when I'm thinking of buying something, and think that a large portion of the world lives without a lot of the crap that I take for granted, things like hot showers, running water or even food to eat.

This new "simplicity" approach to life is much saner for me. It feels good to have less stuff crowding my life (by the way I just sold some more stuff on ebay and got about $50). I think once I have my debt paid off I will finally be in control of my life. I'll have the control to make smarter career choices, the control to help people and the control live the kind of life that I want to live. That's what money is there for, right?

add to saved by 0 users

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Spending Block

I think I have finally broken through a case of what I call "spender's block". Think of it as "writer's block" but instead of not being able to write, you're not able to spend money.

For months I have been wearing the same UNCOMFORTABLE shoes to work. They are awful. The toes are so narrow that I feel like I am doing permanent damage to my feet by wearing them by disfiguring them into an un-foot like shape. I keep wearing them because I don't want to spend the money to buy new shoes. I know I have to buy them eventually; I've looked at Target for cheap shoes that were comfortable from time to time but never find anything. Finally, yesterday I figured that since I had that $2.00 gift certificate to Mervyn's that I should try to look there.

I looked and looked for shoes that I thought were both stylish (because I am oh so stylish) and comfortable. There were these hideous looking shoes that I tried on that felt so good that I almost bought them despite the fact that I would look like I was 80 years old wearing them. There were also these shoes that were so-so but I couldn't bring myself to buy shoes that were so-so because I knew I would be wanting to buy another pair in a couple of months becauase I hated the so-so shoes.

So I crossed shoes off of my list and thought that perhaps I could spend my $2.00 on something for the new apartment. I looked at towels. I looked at dishes. I looked at appliances. But I just couldn't buy anything. The thing about Mervyn's that bugs me is that all of their prices are jacked up and then they say that everything is 40% off so that you feel like you are getting some fabulous deal. I wasn't going to play that game. In my head I kept thinking, I could probably get that at Target for cheaper. So, before I made any RASH decisions with my $2.00 I decided that I would think about it and shop around first.

So when I got home I went to Target to compare prices on things like dishes, pots and pans, silverware, etc. It got to be so frustrating because almost none of the products had all good/average reviews. It seemed inevitable that each product had a comment like "i put these in the dishwasher and they fell apart" or "this blowdryer burnt my hair and I found clumps of hair on the bathroom floor". Yikes! Sometimes I think that product reviews really help but at the same time makes it soooo much more difficult to choose.

So what do I do? Instead of making a decision, I head on over to Amazon to see what they have. Even more choices! And to make things even more complicated, Amazon is offering $25 off when you spend $125 in their Kitchen & Houseware or Bed & Bath departments. I could easily do that in this whole moving process (not that I want to).

What is a girl to do? Who knew that buying cutlery could be such a process. Why can't I just muster the courage to buy a toaster?

The good news is is that I at least found a cute, comfortable pair of shoes today. Bad news is that they cost $75. I'm o.k. with it though because shoes are the one thing that I would prefer to spend a little bit more on so that I know that they will be comfortable and will last longer (crossing my fingers on that one). Also, when I got home my neighbor had dropped off a nice toaster and some silverware that they no longer need. So maybe spender's block was a good thing!

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why I should clean out my desk more often

Today I have been in clean up mode in preparation for the move. I've been trying to go through and get rid of stuff that I don't use or don't need any more so that it won't be such a chore when we have to pack up all of our stuff in boxes. Today, I turned my forces to the desk drawer, a virtual black hole apparently. I rarely use this desk drawer and things that get thrown in here are mostly forgotten...until I decide to do a major clean. I was shocked to find:

1) An expired $5 Borders gift certificate
2) An expired $2 Best Buy rebate
3) A valid $10 Barnes & Noble gift certificate
4) A valid Mervyn's gift certificate with a $2.87 balance
5) A Nordstrom's gift certificate with $0 (you must imagine how excited I was at the prospect that it still contained a balance)
6) An old photo that I thought I had lost and was glad I didn't

Wow! I guess that teaches me a lesson. I have a really bad habit of letting papers accumulate and pile up and telling myself that I will get to it later. Obviously I don't otherwise I would have not let that $7 go to waste. But I'm stoked about finding the gift certificates that are still valid! Ya!

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Money & relationships

I know that the #1 cause for divorce is money problems. So I am kind of worried about moving in with my boyfried. We've never had any issues with money before because we've never really had to split bills before or make decisions together. Now that we are moving in together those days are over. He's already driving me crazy because he just doesn't get me. He is one of those people that would rather pay the extra money to avoid the additional effort while I am the total opposite. I would much rather get a better deal and incur a little bit more inconvenience.

Exhibit A:

He doesn't want to bother looking around for cheap/free furniture on Craigslist or at yard sales. He would rather spend a lot of money on furniture that looks nice and will last than search for a good deal. I really don't see the point in spending tons of money on furniture until you buy a house you are going to stay in for a while. Why? Because we may need to move again and I don't want to worry about having to find a place that will be perfect for our furniture or worry about trying to sell it if it doesn't fit or whatever. I would rather feel comfortable just getting rid of it if something did happen.

Exhibit B:

He doesn't think that a savings of $10 off of our cell phone bill is a lot of money and is not worth the effort of switching.

Exhibit C:

He wants to buy a brand new car instead of buying one that is 1 or 2 years old simply because he can't say that it's brand new. I don't understand why you would rather pay thousands of dollars in depreciation rather than own something that someone else has already driven.

Exhibit D:

When we go to the grocery store he will grab the first thing he sees instead of comparing brands to see which is cheapest or what is on sale.

Eventually I think it will drive ME insane that he doesn't care where his money goes and it will drive HIM insane that I am always looking for a way to save a buck here or there. Aye carumba! What am I getting myself into?

add to saved by 0 users

Friday, September 23, 2005

25 Signs That Show You Know How to Handle Money

I randomly came across this article while searching for inspirational money quotes (per Donald Trump's advice of course). After reading it, I realize I still have a lot of work to do!

According to Al Jacobs, here are the 25 Signs That Show You Know How to Handle Money:

1. Your credit card bill is paid in full each month with never a penny in interest incurred.

We all know how I stack up on that one!

2. You understand that the variable annuity in which your neighbor just invested will prove to be a sad mistake.

What is variable annuity?

3. Despite orchestrated furor by the media, you recognize that the $30 it costs to fill your vehicle’s gas tank is cheaper in today’s dollar that the $15 it cost 20 years ago.

Ya! At least I get this one. Doesn't mean I like it (I'm not complaining either though).

4. You enjoy financial talk shows for their entertainment value while knowing that 95% of what’s said is nonsense.

I've never actually seen a financial talk show? They exist?

5. The only type of life insurance that you’d ever consider purchasing is a term policy.

No kids; haven't even thought about it yet but I vaguely remember that those terms you pay into that are same as cash after X amount of years are a rip-off.

6. You’re not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip you get from a friend or relative.

I'm not tempted to invest in anything yet!

7. You have serious doubts that the 3-unit course in basic English composition offered at Eleganté University for $900 is any better than a similar course conducted at Midtown Community College for $60.

Oh yes, I'm totally feeling him on this one.

8. You are sufficiently sophisticated in real estate to know that the worst house in the best neighborhood beats the best house in the worst neighborhood.


9. You owe nothing on the vehicle you drive.

Wellllll, technically I don't. But realistically, all the money on my credit card is actually my car loan.

10. You have a pretty good idea by mid-November how much your income tax obligation for the current year will be.

I'm all about the IRS tax witholding calculator.

11. When hearing that the S&P 500 Index just hit an all-time high, you are not inclined to call your broker with a buy order.

Nope, I'm really not inclined to call.

12. It’s beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane would purchase a timeshare property.

Ok, I see it.

13. Your checking account balance never drops below the minimum limit that triggers a monthly service charge.

Thank goodness this is true!

14. You’re aware that an option to pay your auto insurance premium in two installments, with a "modest convenience fee" instead of a single payment, probably works out as a loan at about a 25% interest rate.

What? wow, thats lame. I must rethink my car insurance payment...

15. Although you thoroughly enjoy the home in which you live, it’s considerably less expensive than you can afford.

I'm laughing at this one because I don't own a home and can't imagine the day I will be able to afford one (at least in southern California).

16. You know practically nothing about the option market—and intend to keep it that way.

I have no idea what he is talking about.

17. You feel instinctively that every dollar you contribute in FICA taxes to the Social Security system is a dollar lost to you forever.

Yeah, and it really pisses me off.

18. Whenever you’re negotiating a purchase and qualify to receive a discount, you do not hesitate to ask for it.

Sadly, I'm really bad at this.

19. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held.

Trust no one.

20. You make the maximum possible contribution to your retirement funds.

Nope, not yet.

21. Whether your choice of wristwatch is a top-of-the-line Rolex, a fashionable Cartier, a respectable Bulova, or an economy Timex, you recognize that all are battery-operated, with a similar quartz movement, and none fail to keep excellent time.


22. You find it baffling why anyone would buy a lottery ticket.

The lottery is lame.

23. You cannot remember when you last borrowed money for an unexpected emergency.

Does a credit card count? I'm going to say that it does.

24. The newspaper advertisement offering a half-pound silver commemorative medallion from The Perfidious Mint, at the "special advance price of only 139 dollars," forces you to suppress a laugh.

Yeah, who buys that stuff?

25. You have no confidence in the concept of "Investor Confidence."


add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Should I pay off the credit cards or the student loans first?

I made a decision when I started aggressively paying off my debt that the credit cards would come before the student loans. It made sense at the time because I was paying more every month in interest towards my credit card than I was towards my student loans. Right now though, I find that I am paying more interest towards my government subsidized student loans than I am towards my credit card. I started mulling over in my head the different approaches I could take to this situation and decided I needed to consider all of the pros/cons of each different scenario.

Here is the current situation:

Student loans: $9,717.02 5.125% APR $41.49/month
Credit Cards: $12,999 3.5% APR $37.91/month

Scenario 1: Stay the course

I could continue paying each separately, making the minimum payment to the student loans while paying any additional income towards the credit card. Once the credit card is paid off, focus all additional income towards paying off the student loans.

Scenario 2: Split the bill

I could continue paying each off separately but focus an equal level of aggressiveness towards both loans.

Scenario 3: Consolidate

I could transfer the entire balance of the student loans to the credit card, using a low APR promotional balance transfer. I would pay a one-time fee of $50 and reduce the APR to 2.99%. The lower APR rate would save $200/year.

After juggling each possible scenario in my head, I’m thinking that the best route of action would be to stay the course. Why?

1) Student loan interest can be used as a tax write-off. Essentially, any interest (up to $2,500) that is being paid towards your student loans can be deducted from your taxes. You cannot do this with credit cards! Ultimately, for me, the tax benefits would be $90 off of my taxes but for some people it can be up to $350.

2) Credit card companies are evil. They are in business to make money off of you. Thus, having debt with credit card companies is a much riskier business. The federal government will be more forgiving of you if you miss a payment or are late on a payment. With the credit card company, if you are ever late on a payment they can jack up your interest rate to as high as it can go. If that ever happened to me I would be screwed because at 24% APR on the amount of debt I have right now I would be paying $273 every month in interest.

3) If I transferred the balance of my student loans to my credit cards my debt to credit limit ration would jump back up to nearly 100%. This would ruin my credit rating.

4) Not to mention the fact that it would be so depressing to see the credit card debt go back up so high after making such an effort to pay it down.

But why oh why is my interest rate on my student loans so high?!?

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, September 19, 2005

Savings Down...Infomercial Spending Up?

Savings are at an all time low!

Yeah, we reached a new record for the lowest savings rate in history (well at least since 1959). Awesome! Apparently, Americans save on average a big, fat NEGATIVE 0.6%. That means that Americans on average spend consistently 100.6% of their income and save absolutely nothing. My goodness, what is wrong with us? Not that I am one to talk or anything, but there is something seriously wrong with this picture.

I think I know what the problem is though. As I was driving home from filling up my gas tank before gas prices shot back up, I heard an astounding fact on NPR. Did you know that those silly infomercials that they play in the middle of the night generate an astounding $350 billion every year? That works out to $1,000 spent by each man, woman and child in America on worthless crap. I apologize, but I have not been able to find a link to substantiate it but even if it is remotely true, it is very disturbing.

Nothing they sell on TV is worth the money you pay for it. For instance, let's consider the Suck Kut. Seems like a good idea right? It sucks, as it cuts!

Image hosted by

Wrong! Take it from Garth, it definitely does suck!

Image hosted by

Ok, I know that was a shameless throwback to Wayne's World but I just couldn't help it. When I think of infomercials that is the first thing that comes into my head.

Anyways, Americans need to get a reality check. I fear that the combination of personal debt and national governmental debt will be our downfall. This is a particularly scary article:

Experts warn that heavy debt threatens American economy

Wars, nation building and natural disasters coupled with tax cuts are forcing us as a nation to borrow more and more and more and more....

How can we be so rich but be so poor?

I feel more than ever that it is my patriotic responsibility (o.k. don't laugh) to get out of debt. Just one more reason to add to the long list of reasons why my debt sucks so eternally bad.

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Finally...Back to Normalcy

Well I guess they did end up turning off my internet for a week...they were just a week late. I was totally unprepared for it and was not as productive as I thought I would be. We finally got it up and working again. I am still trying to overcome the trauma but hope to have lots to post in the days to come.

We found the apartment that we are going to move in to and have already given our holding deposit for the apartment. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Excited because I will finally be a real "grown-up" with my own space and I will be living really close to work which will be maximum 10 minutes commute everyday. Nervous because rent is pretty steep and we have no furniture and will have to buy tons of crap for the apartment. Also, if anything happens, like one of us loses our jobs, we will be a much tougher situation with having rent to pay.

I have been scouring Craigslist for any free stuff that we could furnish our apartment with. I was sooo close to getting a free washer and dryer but was too slow (the lady had barely posted it 40 minutes before and someone had already called). We won't be moving in for a little over a month so we have some time to find some good deals, free stuff from the site. Wish me luck!

I finally got the second half of my referral bonus in my paycheck yesterday! After taxes I was only left with about $500 out of the $1000 but that will definitely help with the debt reduction/move out effort. I'm torn between saving the money for moving expenses vs. using it to pay down the debt, so for a while I will have to pay down a little bit more conservatively. I did make a payment to bring the debt to under $13,000 so that is exciting. By the way, if anyone knows a qualified candidate for a sales manager in the real estate industry (L.A. area) send them my way! My company is offering an $8,000 referral bonus for referring someone they hire into the position. $8,000 would pulverize my debt level!

add to saved by 0 users

Friday, September 16, 2005

Out of commission...again

Who knew canceling a phone line would have caused so much drama?

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, September 12, 2005

I'm moving out...and theres nothing you can do about it

That's right. I've reached the end of my rope. It's time for me to leave the nest for good. I know what you are thinking. How will you ever pay back all of your debt within your set goal? Don't fret. It's still possible. I won't be able to pay it back in 9 months like I had dreamed, but I will still be able to pay it off within 2 years of starting this blog. All is not lost!

We have an appointment to view an apartment tomorrow. It is quite a bargain at $1,200 for a one bedroom. It pains me to think about how much rent will cost but normal people do it all the time, right? I'm hoping that this place will be nice; at 850 sq. ft. it is the biggest and most affordable 1 bedroom in the area. Water, trash and CABLE is included, so those are some added bonuses. Cross your fingers for me!

This apartment is only 4 miles away from where I work and according to Streets and Trips it will take me 6 minutes to get to work and cost me a whoppin' 39 cents to drive one way to work. This will greatly enhance my quality of life and save me money on gas and depreciation/maintenance on my car. With all of that extra spare time I hope to be able to take up some sort of hobby that will generate income....for making.

I am officially now a "professional" jewelry maker. A while back I thought it would be fun to do but never got to good at it but did manage to make one bracelet. I didn't think anyone would really want to buy it but it had just been sitting around in my closet so I decided to list it on Etsy. I figured there was nothing to lose by listing it since Etsy is not charging listing fees until November 1st. Well, I posted it last night with a price of $5.99 (I really just wanted to get rid of it) and by the next morning someone had already bought it. Woohoo. Perhaps I will have to make more. Wanna see?

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Free gas!

Yesterday, I filled my gas tank up for free! Well, o.k. it wasn't technically free but it still felt like free. How you may ask? I received $30 worth of gift cards to Mobil from My Points.

My Points is one of those pay-to-click sites that will give you "points" everytime you buy something from their site or read one of their emails. I have never technically bought anything through their site and earn all the points just from visiting sites from their emails. I get about 3-4 Bonus Points emails everyday and each one of them is worth 5 points. I think it took me about a year to get enough points to redeem the gift cards for $30 worth of gas.

Now, there are 2 ways you can look at this. You can think, "One year of clicking on emails and all you got was a $30 gift card for gas? That's not a great return for your time."

Or you can think (as I do), "Wow, $30 for gas just for turning your otherwise unproductive time into productive time. Great!"

They have lots of other gift cards for retailers like the Gap, Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, Home Depot, etc etc. but I figured if I was going to have this little My Points thing help me reduce my debt, I better redeem the points for something that I would have otherwise normally spent my money on, or an actual expense. So, that $30 will translate into an additional $30 I can put towards my debt. Yay!

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I'm baaack! Did you miss me?

Well, the lady at the phone company lied to me. My phone line was cancelled on Tuesday but miraculously the internet never died. I was happy and sad about it at the same time. Happy because I could still check my email, my online bank statements and google search anytime I wanted. Sad because I didn't have the self-control to live without those things for a while. I did make an effort to spend way less time at the computer and was able to cut most of my consumption.

To fill the void of non-internet time I went to the library and picked up lots of financial-type books. Sometimes, when I go to the library I wonder what the person checking out my books must think as I am getting all these money books. But as Jerome would say BAH, who cares what they think. ;)

So here is what I have been reading lately:

Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

Die Broke by Stephen M. Pollan

Think Like a Billionaire by Donald Trump

How to Get Rich by Donald Trump

I've been reading bits and pieces of all of them here and there. I find with books like these it's not necessary to sit down and read them front to cover. I definitely don't read every word of them because most of these books (except the Trump books) do a good job of getting their point across in the introduction and just use the rest of the book to ramble on and give support for their arguments (I guess thats what most books do, right?).

Anyways, all of these books have been entertaining and motivating. One thing that surprised me was that even the richest of the rich are "penny pinchers" too!

"Call if penny-pinching if you want to; I call it financial smarts."
~Donald Trump
Once I have had more time to read each one of them thoroughly, I hope to be able to have more to share!

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, September 05, 2005

Out of Commission for a While

In my attempts to simplify life, we are getting rid of our extra phone line. I'm not sure why we even have it. We got the additional phone line years ago pre-cell phone and pre-DSL. Now that I make most of my calls from my cell phone and we don't have the crappy dial up 56K modem, the additional phone line is just a waste of money. Unfortunately, the DSL line is connected to the additional phone line that is going to be cancelled so I will have to transfer the DSL service to the main line. This wouldn't be so bad except that it will mean an interruption of DSL service for a week! So that means the only internet access I will have will be from work and I will have to find something else to do with my time at home other than surfing the internet.

People used to live without the internet for their whole lives; can I live without it for a week? We shall see. Maybe, I'll like it so much I'll get rid of it for good. :)

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Everyone has got to have some sort of motivation pushing them to do things. Saving money takes a lot of things (discipline, commitment, hard work) but without strong motivation I think most will fail in the face of temptation. There has got to be something bigger and better out there that will justify continually making sacrifices. For some, it is the desire for financial freedom, the freedom to quit their job, or a hatred of their creditors. For me, it is my dream of owning a chateau and living a simple and uncomplicated life.

I know that may sound like an oxymoron, "A simple life in a chateau," but I assure you it is not. The reason that I really want a chateau is so that I can run it as a sort of bed and breakfast, or a "gîte" as they call it in France. You can buy a chateau in France for probably about the same amount you can buy a nice house in southern California. The property that I am absolutely drooling over at the moment is "La Maison Verte" which has 16 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms PLUS 4 indepedent apartments on the grounds. Can you guess how much this would cost? Only $1.2 million! That may seem like a lot but I checked around to see what $1.2 million would buy you in my town. A nice 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house! So, the French property sounds like a great steal in comparison.

So, whenever I start feeling the urge to spend some money or get disillusioned by my debt, I quickly start looking at pictures of nice chateaux for sale. The open countryside, the gardens, the beautiful buildings, all make me start fantasizing of my life in my chateau. A typical day: Waking up to make a nice breakfast for my guests. Having breakfast in my dining room with people from all over the world. Spending some time in the garden. Lounging by the pool. Making tea. Perhaps planning a trip to visit the Mediterranean Sea or the mountains nearby. Bike riding. Wine tasting. Reading a book by my fireplace.

Then I start getting even more pumped up to make my debt go away as fast as possilbe. I look around and think of what I can sell. I scrutinize my budget to see what expenses I can get rid of. And hopefully with all of this motivation, I can make my debt go away in just 9 months!

add to saved by 0 users

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Are you prepared for a disaster?

I couldn't imagine having to go through what the people in Louisiana and Mississippi are going through right now. It is such a terrible tragedy and I hope that I will never have to go through it. Each of us can make a contribution so please, make a donation of money or blood to the Red Cross.

The fact is, it could happen to any of us so we need to make sure that we are all prepared. Every household or family should have both an emergency disaster kit and an emergency plan. Make sure you take care of this or else you may regret it later! Don't put it off as one of those things you'll eventually get around to. An emergency (earthquake, flood, hurricane, terrorist attack) can happen at any time and won't wait for you to get prepared.

Here are some tips for getting prepared taken from Department of Homeland Security.

What you should have in your emergency kit:

Water and Food

* One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
* Children, nursing mothers, and sick people may need more water.
* If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary.
* Store water tightly in clean plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
* Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person
* Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
* Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.
* Pack a manual can opener and eating utensils.

Choose foods your family will eat.

o Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
o Protein or fruit bars
o Dry cereal or granola
o Peanut butter
o Dried fruit
o Nuts
o Crackers
o Canned juices
o Non-perishable pasteurized milk
o High energy foods
o Vitamins
o Food for infants
o Comfort/stress foods

First Aid Kit

In any emergency a family member or you yourself may be cut, burned or suffer other injuries. If you have these basic supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt. Remember, many injuries are not life threatening and do not require immediate medical attention. Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. Consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.

Things you should have:
* Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex).
* Sterile dressings to stop bleeding.
* Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect.
* Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
* Burn ointment to prevent infection.
* Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes.
* Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant.
* Thermometer (Read more: Biological Threat)
* Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
* Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies.

Clothing and Bedding

If you live in a cold weather climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that the power will be out and you will not have heat. Rethink your clothing and bedding supplies to account for growing children and other family changes. · One complete change of warm clothing and shoes per person, including:

* A jacket or coat

*Long pants

* A long sleeve shirt

*Sturdy shoes

*A hat and gloves

*A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

Things it may be good to have:

* Cell Phone
* Scissors
* Tweezers
* Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
Non-prescription drugs:
* Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
* Anti-diarrhea medication
* Antacid (for upset stomach)
* Laxative
* Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* Whistle to signal for help
* Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
* Moist towelettes for sanitation
* Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
* Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
* Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
* Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers, and important family documents
* Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
* Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or a print out of this information
* Rain gear
* Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
* Cash or traveler's checks, change
* Paper towels
* Fire Extinguisher
* Tent
* Compass
* Matches in a waterproof container
* Signal flare
* Paper, pencil
* Medicine dropper
* Feminine supplies
* Personal hygiene items
* Disinfectant
* Household chlorine bleach

You can use bleach as a disinfectant (diluted nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

Having an Emergency Plan

Probably the worst part about a disaster is not knowing if your loved ones are o.k. You could be anywhere when a disaster strikes, at work, at home, at school, in a mall (hopefully not in a mall, because that would mean you are spending money, hehe). Here are some good things to have in place just in case you and your family are separated:

* It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.

* Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.

* You may have trouble getting through, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient.

As is illustrated by the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, you can't always rely on government officials and aid agencies to help you out in a disaster. Make sure you have done all you can to take care of yourself and your family in a disaster.

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

43 things

One of my fave sites out there is 43 Things. Basically, the whole site is a list of things that people would like to do. I'm not sure why I love it so much. Maybe it is because I love making lists. Or maybe it is because I love thinking of new, fun things to do (that maybe one day, eventually, I will actually go out and do).

Of course, the #1 thing on my list is to get out of debt. When I added that to my list there were just about over 900 people on the list. What I've noticed, is that the number of people who have added that to their list keeps growing and growing. Total number of people who counts "Get out of debt" as a goal is 1,221 people! The total number of people who has actually counted that as a completed goal....only 71.

I'm not sure if the growing number of people on this list is a good thing or a bad thing. It could mean that more people are recognizing the evils of debt and are making an effort to become financially stable. GOOD. It could also mean that no one is actually ever succeeding at getting out of debt and are just losing the fight against the credit card companies. BAD. It could also just mean that the website is attracting more members and thus the numbers mean nothing. NEUTRAL.

At any rate, I hope that soon, I will be one of those who can claim "get out of debt" as one of their accomplished goals.

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Going to the movies...

Movie ticket prices have been steadily increasing in price, to the point now where I really must want to see a movie to go see it. I mean, really, ticket prices are just out of control. Why would I pay $10 to go see a movie that I might not like? If I'm going to pay $10 for 2 hours of entertainment, it better be the best movie ever made.

Movie studios are always whining about people pirating movies and using that as an explanation of why ticket prices have sky-rocketed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't buy it. Part of it has got to be inflation as well, but in my eyes, movie prices should be going down, not up. Why? Because movie theaters have managed to cram in as much advertising before the movie starts that their ad revenue alone should be able to cover the costs of the movie.

I want my movies for free if I'm going to be subjected to continuous advertising while I wait for the movie to start. FREE. Like TV. I don't have to pay the television network so that I can watch "24" or "Survivor" or whatever else comes on TV. Why? Because I am forced to sit through commercials (well I used to have to sit through commercials and then Tivo came along). Ad revenue pays for the programming. In the movie theater we are being screwed because we are basically paying the movie theater to make more money off of us by subjecting us to annoying commercials.

It's not that I hate advertising so much. O.k. I do, but I think there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. I remember when the advertising in the theaters amounted to a few non-obtrusive slides that rotated innocuously on the big-screen against the subtle drone of some bad elevator music. That was cool because at least you could get to the theater a little early (to make sure you weren't sitting in the front row) but still carry on a conversation without having to scream over loud, flashing commercials.

Advertisers like Coke, M&Ms, Levi's, television networks, cell phone companies, etc, etc. must shell out beaucoup bucks to have their names paraded around in front of a captive audience waiting patiently for their movie to start. That drives me crazy.

What is my solution? Luckily for me, there is a theater nearby that is independently owned and still charges only $3 for a matinee movie and $5 for a prime showing. They only have 3 theaters (very limited movie choice here) and the theaters are pretty crappy but you get what you pay for. To make it even better, they don't play any crappy commercials while you wait for the movie to start.

If a movie that I absolutely must see is not playing at my dear cheap-o theater we always try to go matinee. Ticket prices are cheaper and afternoon showings are typically less crowded so you don't have to show up as early to get good seats.

Also, I haven't done this, but I know that you can buy discounted bulk movie tickets at Costco. 5 tickets to AMC will run about $37.50 and 5 tickets to Regal will run $34.99, so you can get matinee prices at any time.

And last but not least, I Netflix any movie that I may be interested in seeing but am not dying to see right away.

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Simple Life

I admit, I used to want a lot of crap. DVD's, clothes, shoes, books, perfumes, make-up, you name it. I loved the feeling of going to the mall, looking at all the things to buy, giving myself over to the abandon of choosing whatever I wanted, watching the cashier ring up all my purchases and then handing over the credit card so that I could finally possess all of these "things". I got a rush from carrying around loads of bags and then rushing home so I could go through all of the stuff again. The rush, however, was like any drug, and only lasted a short time and so it was necessary to repeat, repeat, repeat. Until of course, your whole life is just FILLED with crap!

Crap here, crap there, crap everywhere so that you don't even know what crap you have, so you have to go out and by the crap again. Then you end up with crap to the third power because crap breeds crap. You run out of room to put all the crap. You hide the crap under your bed. You trying to get creative with how you arrange it in your closet. You have to buy storage systems (more crap) to organize all of your crap.

The crap takes over but somehow you just can't part with it. You think, "Well someday I might want to wear those pair of shoes" even though you have not worn them for 2 years. Or "someday that book might come in handy" because you never know when you will need to look up info on the nomads of the world.

You know its bad when you go through the closets and it feels like Christmas. "Oh I forgot I even had that". Even though you probably haven't looked at it or thought about it for 5 years, you just can't part with it because "you never know".

Well, I have definitely stopped acquiring new crap but haven't done a thing about getting rid of the old crap. Ok, well I did get rid of the old laptop and I have been selling books. But I am taking it to a new level. Cleaning out the closet. Cleaning out the garage. If I haven't used it for a year, it's gone.

I think there is something to be said about living simply. Only buy what you need and put it all to good use. No waste. Less stress about things breaking. More mental clarity. Better feng shui. More money in the bank.

I'm going to clean out the closet and try to sell whatever I can. If it doesn't sell, it will be donated to the Good Will and hopefully someone else will be able to put it to good use, because its not doing any good sitting in my closet!

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Caring for Our Furry Loved Ones

I have two sweet precious kitties, Isabelle & Samantha (yes, they are named after soap opera characters). They are both very special to me and I fear the day that they will get sick and leave me. I take them in regularly for all of their vaccinations, make sure that Samantha (the outdoor cat) is in by her curfew so that she won't be eaten by coyotes, and generally make sure they are well taken care of and loved.

But lets face it: pets can be expensive. If anything does happen to the precious furry ones you could be paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for surgical procedures, treatments and medication. Pet medical insurance is available but costly. I haven't done a lot of shopping around but at one site they would charge about $35 a month for full coverage which works out to be $420 per year. If you have 2 cats like me, that would be $840 a year!

Well, Isabelle and Samantha are both due for their vaccinations. I was ready to call the vet to schedule them for their annual torture (they hate the vet) until I read this article on Smart Money called "10 Things Your Veterinarian Won't Tell You". In it, they claim that vaccinating your pet on a regular basic can be more harmful than helpful. Really, it makes sense for your vet to encourage you to bring in your pets every year for their vaccinations, because they make tons of dough on these routine visits. But before you go in make sure you ask the vet to take into consideration your pet's:

  • age
  • current health situation
  • lifestyle (indoor/outdoor)

Doing so may ensure that your pet is not receiving unnecessary vaccinations that could cause cancer or epilepsy and saving you money at the same time!

Also, make sure that you check into low-cost vaccination clinics that may be available. Our veterinarian offers half-price vaccination clinics on Saturdays. Clinics may also be available at your local pet store.

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Long Term Financial Goals

Now that I have finally gotten up some momentum and am paying off my debt at lightning speed, I feel like I might finally be able to see the light at the end of the credit card debt tunnel. I feel like I have had this burden on my shoulders for as long as I can remember and don't know what I would do without it. So, I started thinking of what my financial goals are for when I have finally defied my debt and decided I should lay out some of my long-term financial goals.

1) Pay off the Student Loans

When I started aggressively paying off my debt, I decided that I would think of my student loans as completely separate from my credit card debt. I pay about the same amount of interest on my student loans as I do on my credit card, but my reasoning was that credit card companies are way less forgiving than the U.S. government if I was late on a payment. Plus, I can use the interest I pay on my student loans as a tax write-off.

But alas, it still needs to be paid off. Write now I have $9,823 in student loans and pay only $106 every month. I hope to be able to pay this off in a year after my credit card is paid off.

After the student loans are paid off, I will be completely debt free!

2) Save up a $10,000 Emergency Fund

After I pay off all my debt, I want to make sure that I never ever have to be in debt again (aside from a home mortage). I think $10,000 would be a good amount of money to have for those emergencies that always tend to pop up (i.e. an appendix bursting...oh wait, I don't have an appendix!). Not only that, but having $10,000 in the bank would mean that I would never have to feel financially insecure again. If for some reason I hate my job and wanted to quit, I would have the power to do that. If I lost my job, it would not be the end of the world because I would have enough of a cushion that I could live comfortably for a few months while looking for a new job.

3) Save up a down payment for a house

This will be a doozy. Housing in California is ridiculously expensive. I was looking at condos thinking maybe I could find something for $300K. The only condos I could find within that price range were ghetto 1 bedrooms. I'm not sure how young people ever buy a home in southern California but I'm hoping in 2-3 years that my boyfriend and I will both be able to save up $25K to buy a condo/home somewhere!

4) Save for retirement & Pay off the mortgage

Once all that is taken care of, its just a matter of making sure that we are set for old age. It would be lovely to be able to retire early, sell the house in so cal, and buy a French Chateau where I can enjoy my time relaxing, drinking wine, having a vegetable garden and tending to my 20 cats. That would be the life!

Image hosted by

add to saved by 0 users

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What people will do for a $50 laptop

O.k. so you might have already seen this but wow, I just had to say something about this. Apparently a mob broke out when they were selling laptops for $50.

"People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd."

What the heck is wrong with some people? I may be nuts but I'm not going to kick someones grandpa just to get a cheap laptop! Geez. Get your heads checked people.

It reminds me of the time that Ikea had a promotion at their stores where the first 50 people who showed up to their stores dressed up as a Christmas present would receive a $100 gift certificate. My boyfriend and I thought it would be fun to go and we were willing to get up pretty early for $100 gift card each! So we can some big boxes, wrapped them up in gift wrap and headed over to the Ikea store at 5 a.m. By the time we got there, there were hundreds of people already lined up. People had tents, sleeping bags and had set up camp right out there in the Ikea parking lot. At first we were just going to keep driving, but I really wanted to get out and talk to these people. They were some hardcore folks. Some of them had been there camped out for 2 days! Others were waiting in line in the freezing cold even though they were clearly not the first 50 people. One lady was freaking out because she was number 51 and was duking it out with numbers 49 & 50.

But c'mon! Lets get real people. $50 laptops and $100 Ikea gift cards is nothing to get worked up over!

add to saved by 0 users

We're in the money...

I'm doing the money dance right now cuz I'm in the money! My money making "schemes" are finally coming through!

First of all, I finally got rid of my broken laptop. I sold it to some freaky guy on craigslist for $300. He told me he was going to use it to do some medical research in Cuba and at first I thought, wow thats great, it will be put to good use. But then he kept talking and talking and was getting a little looney, telling me that this medical device that they would be using could be hooked up to anyone, the device would scan the persons body and it would tell you exactly what was wrong with them. If that wasn't cool enough, he then said that the device would "heal" whatever was wrong with you by sending out electrical energy waves. Whatever! Apparently, he has to do all of this "research" in Cuba because the FDA and the drug companies have him on their hit list because of this ground breaking technology. Hmmmmmm....well later I checked out his website and found out that he was selling these things for $12,000 and he was throwing in a "free" laptop with the purchase. Ha! Now I think I've figured out where my broken laptop is going! Regardless, he did pay for it and now I am $300 closer to getting out of debt.

Also, the auction ended for the cell phone that I won in my sweeping days. I got about $120 for the phone which is pretty dang cool!

And...if that wasn't cool enough I have been selling some of my old books on So far only about 5 books have sold out of about 40 but I think that since school should be starting soon a lot of people will be looking for books for their classes!

So grand total for all of my exploits has been about $410!

I do have a comment to make that is totally unrelated. I went to the gas station today (and paid wayyy too much for gas) and decided to buy some gum. I was feeling adventurous so I thought I would try this new flavor called "Cherry Chill" from Eclipse. I'm not quite sure what exactly I was expecting but I was not expecting to get a piece of gum that tasted like a cough drop! So please, whatever you do, don't waste your money on this crappy ass gum!

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Getting All Gazelle Intense

I'm sure a lot of you have already read or at least heard about Dave Ramsey's book the Total Money Makeover. Well I finally got around to checking it out at the library and started reading it yesterday. I can't say that the book has taught me anything new or radical but it is a great motivational book. Ramsey talks a lot about "getting gazelle intense" about paying off your debt and saving money and while I think I have been super focused for a while, the book has reaffirmed my craziness and reassured me that it is o.k. to be a little whacky and a little maniacal about getting your finances in order.

So with that in mind I started to think about how else I could speed up the debt elimination process. I decided to finally try to sell some of the books that have been collecting dust or sitting in the garage for some time now. I kept all of the books from my college years and thought perhaps one day they would come in handy so never wanted to get rid of them. Truth is, there is probably only .01% chance that I will ever need or want to read these books again, and if I do I could just go to the library and check them out. So I went through all my books and came up with a total of 37 books that I have put up for sale on If they all sell I could take in about $275. I predict that a lot of them will probably not sell but money is money and besides that I'll have gotten rid of some unnecessary clutter.

I'm also stepping up my efforts to sell my broken laptop. It is a good laptop that just needs some repair so I am pulling for $300. I also have the cell phone that I won up for sale on ebay and right now the bids are up to $90 and there is still 2 days left on the auction. I am crossing my fingers! If all of my plans pan out, I could get a maximum of $675!

On another note, today is the 3 month anniversary of my blog! So happy birthday to the blog. When I started I was $19,794.23 in the hole. Today I am $15,688.50 in debt so in 3 months I have been able to pay $4,105.73. If I keep it up at this rate I will be out of debt in less than a year!

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Update: My Identity was NOT Stolen

Everyone can rest assured that my identity has not be stolen (me most of all)! Disaster has been averted and the charges should be taken off my card soon.

This is what happened.

After writing the blog post I told my boyfriend all about my little fiasco (yes, you guys get the news before the bf) and he was like "thats weird, I just paid my Cingular bill". He looked up the exact amount of the bill he just paid and it matched exactly to the new charges on my credit card. He said he paid his bill online and that normally when he goes to pay his credit card info is already in there and he just has to verify the amount and click o.k. So he goes back to the page where he paid his bill and MY credit card number was there. We haven't really been able to explian why my credit card number was showing up on his account. I have tried to run through all the possibilities and ruled them all out:

1) I have never used my credit card to pay for anything on his computer (I haven't even used the credit card for over a year)
2) We have never shared a cell phone account
3) I don't even have an account with Cingular
4) Our cell phone numbers are no where near being similar

The only thing I can think of is that we share the same address and they somehow mixed them up. Either that or my boyfriend thought he could pull a fast one on me. :P

At any rate, he called Cingular had them reverse the charges and all should be well. They couldn't offer an explanation either (no surprise) but it worries me that my credit card information could so easily be accessed by another account. Why do they even still have my credit card on file? Perhaps I'll have to have my credit card number changed!

add to saved by 0 users

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What the F*^%&*?

I am so lividly mad right now. I was checking my online credit card statement as usual tonight and noticed something that sent me into a fury. The balance was as it should be, $15,788.50, but when I looked down at the pending charges I saw a charge for $52.36! I don't know what this is all about as I have not used this card for purchases in over a year. I don't even keep the card on me. It is tucked away in a drawer somewhere so that I never ever use it. Not even for internet purchases. So where the heck did this charge for $52.36 come from?

I called my credit card company and asked them why there were these pending charges on my account. He said that it was a charge from Cingular and that it posted to my account with a valid authorization number. WHAT?!! Cingular?? I'm not even a Cingular customer! Well, I used to be but then they got on my nerves so bad that I switched to TMobile. So what the heck are they doing charging my credit card when I haven't been their customer for 9 months now??

The guy said that he basically couldn't do anything at this point because it hasn't yet posted to my account and I should call back in 48 hours and I could either file a fraud claim or enter a dispute. I'm sure that will be 48 hours of pure hell for me. I've asked them to put a hold on my account just in case any new freakish charges try to show up on my account. Knowing me, I won't be able to sleep because I'll be thinking all night how someone is trying to sabotage me and steal my identity! ARrghghghgh.

add to saved by 0 users

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I won, I won!

Before I started blogging I had this other little obsession that I thought would help me get out of debt quick. I have a confession to make; I was a SWEEPER. Sweeper as in sweepstakes enterer. You would not believe the inordinate amount of time I spent searching for sweepstakes and entering them. I had a whole system going. I had software that swiftly entered in all of my contact info, spreadsheets of all the sweeps I was entering. I was Sweeps Crazy. I hoped and hoped I would just win a car or some grand prize cash jackpot and my debt woes would be over. I entered sweeps while watching TV, while talking on the phone and basically any free moment I had. Until one day, my spreadsheet file got corrupt and I was devastated at the loss of all that time and effort I had put into it. I mourn the loss of my spreadsheet.

So for all my blood, sweat, and tears of entering sweepstakes the fruit of my labor was basically a $1.00 cash prize from Webstakes and an XXL t-shirt from Sirius radio.

Until today...

I got a package in the mail today and was positively perplexed because I hadn't ordered anything recently. I opened it and there it was. The 2004 Nascar Nextel Cup Series i736 cell phone. I had totally forgotten that I had won this on an instant win sweepstakes I had entered months ago. Now, I am not a Nascar fan, nor do I need a new cell phone, but I can try to sell it on ebay and get at least (hopefully) $100 for it.

This will definitely not get me out of debt but it makes me feel like I at least got something worthwile out of my sweeping days.

add to saved by 0 users

Monday, August 08, 2005

How to get yourself into $30K of debt

I've received enough comments that express mild amazement and puzzlement at the magnitude of my debt that I feel it again time to explain how I got myself into this mess in the first place. My very first post does a good job of setting the scene but I can't expect all you late comers to sift through all my posts to get the full story. So here goes...take notes; it's a skill to accumulate so much debt in just a few years.

It all basically started when I was 19 years old and did a study abroad program in Paris. I had received a Platinum credit card with a limit of $5,000 not too long before my departure. At that time I was pretty responsible with my credit cards; I used them but always paid off the full balance every month. Why they decided to give a 19 year old full time student with only a part time job is beyond me...but they did.

I had loads of fun while I was abroad. Too much fun in fact. Money wasn't real to me. The ATM never told me what my balance was and I wasn't receiving any statements or bills in the mail so I was completely oblivious to how much I was spending. I went out all the time and could easily blow $50-$100 a night on dinner, drinks, and taxi fare. WTF was I thinking? I don't know. Anyways, I would aslo travel on the weekend going to other cities and spending money on hotels, souvenirs, more drinking and going out, clothes, who knows what else. My rationale was that I would only be able to do this once so I might as well live it up while I was there. Instead of using cash for all of these things I ended up using my credit card and it was all downhill from there.

By the time I came back I had amassed a couple thousand in debt. Can't remember exactly how much. Problem was was that I didn't have a job so I had to borrow money from my credit card to pay for the credit card. Smart, I know. Even smarter was that when I came back my spending habits were still out of control. More shopping, more going out, more stupidity.

I also went back to Europe to visit some friends and backpacked for about 3 weeks. I didn't have the money to do it so I just put it on the credit card.

By the time I was going to transfer to UC Berkeley I think I had about $6k in debt and I was living off of financial aid. I finally got my act together but was living off of about $17k/year paying $800 for one bedroom sharing an apartment with 4 other people, tuition, books, and a credit card payment to boot. So I didn't make much progress on paying it off. In fact, it just got worse because I had to pay for furniture, dental work, lord knows what else. I think once or twice I had to put rent on the credit card. But I was living honestly like a monk; I never went out; I never bought clothes. It was crap. By the time I graduated I was about $11k in debt.

So when I graduated I didn't have a car. I bought a car. And it wasn't cheap. I think I paid about $18,000 for my car. Please don't say anything. I eventually transferred my car loan to my credit card so I could get a lower rate and so I would only have one bill every month.

So there you have it. All my stupid mistakes laid out for all to see. But I've reformed and am determined to learn from my mistakes and try to start over with a clean slate. Initially I wanted to pay it off in 2 years from when I graduated college but instead I've revised my plan to do it in 3 years (2 years from when I started this blog).

I hope you've enjoyed this little blast to the past and don't think I'm too crazy. ;)

add to saved by 0 users

Saturday, August 06, 2005

You all are just so predictable

How did I know I would get my ass handed to me if I mentioned that I might move out thus crushing any dreams I had of paying off my debt in a timely manner. Thank you, thank you. You will have your way. I have had the "moving out bug" thoroughly chased out of me (much to my boyfriend's chagrin). I guess I will have to "suck it up" and be patient until I can exorcise my financial demons.

Tips to Help You Save Energy - Part II

I don't know where you live but it is dang hot outside where I live. Here are some tips to help you stay cool and conserve energy (and money) at the same time.

* Schedule regular air-conditioning checkups. Just like your car, your air conditioner needs a regular tune-up. With proper care, your air conditioner will last longer, operate more efficiently, and save you more money.

* Get off to the right start. Read the owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's instructions before turning your system on for the first time. The following spring, have a trained service person do an annual checkup.

* Keep it clean. Keep your air conditioner clean, inside and out. Check, clean, and replace the filter regularly (do not operate the unit without filters). Clear away accumulated dirt and debris from the outside condenser units annually. (Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific model.)

* Install your air conditioner in a shady location. Air conditioners exposed to direct sunlight use up to 5% more energy.

* Precoolers can reduce your cooling costs if you have a central air conditioning system and live in a hot, dry climate. A precooler is a water-cooled device that attaches directly to the front of the air conditioner's condenser unit. The precooler draws hot, outside air over water-saturated pads. Water evaporation from these wet pads lowers the temperature of the air before it enters the air conditioner. This precooling enables the air conditioner to work more efficiently and use less energy.

* If you live in a hot, dry area, an evaporative (or "swamp") cooler can be an inexpensive way to cool your home, either replacing or assisting regular air conditioning. Evaporative cooling is much simpler than air conditioning and uses much less energy. An evaporative cooler uses a simple fan mechanism to draw hot, dry outside air through wet filters. The resulting evaporation cools the air that the fan then directs inside.

* If you live in an area with a moderate climate, you may be able to use a whole house fan for most of your cooling needs and reserve your air conditioner for the hottest hours of the day. Because whole house fans depend on cool outside air, coastal areas (and other locations that are cool in the evening) are ideal. If your neighborhood remains hot in the evening, a whole house fan isn't right for you.

Whole house fans are usually installed in an attic, flush with the ceiling of the house. When outside temperatures are cooler than inside temperatures (usually at night), the air conditioner is turned off, and the windows are opened, the whole house fan pulls cool, fresh air into the house through the open windows and pushes the hot inside air out through attic vents.

* During the summer, heat trapped in your attic can increase the temperature throughout your home. Though not as effective as a whole house fan, an attic ventilation fan pushes hot attic air outside, reduces the attic temperature, and cools the rooms below.

* Simple and functional, ceiling fans are one of the most decorative ways to control the temperature in your home and are effective during the summer and winter. In hot weather, a ceiling fan on high speed can lower a room's temperature by as much as 10 to 12 degrees. This reduces your air conditioning needs substantially. During the winter, a ceiling fan set to a slower speed moves rising warm air around the room.

* Know your numbers. If you have central air conditioning, set your thermostat to 78°F or more during the summer, 85°F or more when you leave your home for more than four hours. Unless you have furniture, art or equipment that could be damaged by excessive heat, turn your cooling unit off when you leave your home for more than 24 hours.

* Don't overcool. Don't turn your thermostat lower than normal to cool your home faster. It won't work.

* Keep heat-producing appliances away from your thermostat. Heat emitted by television sets, lamps, and other appliances will make your cooling system work harder.

* Use zone cooling. To avoid wasting energy -- and money -- cooling a room you're not using, close doors and/or vents to that room. (To avoid damage to your central cooling system, close off no more than one-fourth of the area of your home.)

* Use your shades. Closing drapes and shades -- especially on southern windows -- will help keep the sun out and your home cool. Cover eastern windows in the morning and western windows in the afternoon.

* Beware of humidity. When outdoor temperatures rise, avoid activities that generate humidity, such as cooking, bathing, laundering, and dishwashing. Wait until the early morning or evening. Your kitchen's exhaust fan will help get rid of heat and moisture, in addition to cooking odors.

* Use air conditioning wisely. You can still control your cooling costs on days when you have to use your air conditioner. Keep all your doors and windows shut and avoid using a humidifier or evaporative ("swamp") cooler at the same time you run the air conditioner. The leaks, drafts, and moisture added by humidifiers and evaporative coolers force the air conditioner to work harder and use more energy.

* Consider your landscaping. In the summer, leafy trees provide cool shade. In the winter, bare branches allow the sun to warm your home. Small shrubs can block heat reflected from patios and pavement. And planting vines over southern windows can reduce the effect of the sun's heat.

add to saved by 0 users

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I suck so bad

Ugh, I've been so bad about updating this blog this week. Everytime I try to start I get perturbed and disgruntled and have to take a break. I always think if I walk away from it later it will come to me easier but it never does.


I need to move out of my familial home. It is just too much for me. I have been living at home for over a year now and I feel as if I will go bonkers if I don't get out of here. The lack of space, privacy, the long commute are all enough to drive a person mad. But lets face it, rent is not cheap. Then you have to think about all the bills....the electricity, the water, the phone, you know.

I figure if I move out I will only be able to pay half of what I am paying towards my credit card debt every month. At my current rate I should be out of debt in about 16 months. If I move out I won't be out of debt for another 32 months which is almost 3 years. I would have to change the name of my blog and I would feel like a total loser.

So what's worse? Living at home or living at debt?

I did make a concession. Earlier I wrote about my Thai vacation that I was planning on for November. I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time but I really can't justify spending $2k on a vacation when I live the rest of my life stressed out about my debt. I am going to wait until I'm out of debt and can truly enjoy the vacation to go.

Sorry if this post is a little sporadic. I just had to purge it out of me! ;)

add to saved by 0 users

Sunday, July 31, 2005

$5 GC From So Cal Edison

Just found this on the Southern California Edison's website. They will give you a $5 Target Gift Card for taking this 15 minute survey. You need to be a Southern California Edison customer to participate and have your account number handy. The survey will ask you questions regarding your household and your energy use. At the end they will give you customized energy tips to help you cut back on energy usage that you can download and save in PDF format.

Also, you can save 20% off of your electric bill if you reduce your energy consumption during the summer months by 20% compared to the previous year with the 20/20 Summer Savings Program.

Not to fear my non-Edison readers. Here are some energy tips that you can all enjoy (from Edison's website):


The recommended temperature for your refrigerator should be between 10°F and 42°F, while the recommended temperature for the freezer is between 0°F and 5°F.

Don't let the frost in your refrigerator get more than 1/4" thick. Frost acts as an insulator and forces your fridge or freezer to work harder. Auto-defrost refrigerators take care of this problem for you but use more energy.

Turn Power Save to OFF and set the Humidity Control to DRY. (These switches control a heater that prevents sweating or condensation around the refrigerator door in humid geographic areas.)

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer doors seal airtight. Close a dollar bill or piece of paper in the door. If it pulls out easily, your refrigerator may need a door hinge adjustment or a new gasket.

Vacuum the refrigerator coils twice a year (or more if you have long-haired pets). Dirty coils make the refrigerator work harder and use more energy.

Automatic Dishwashers

Run your dishwasher only when full.

Use your dishwasher's automatic energy-saving cool-dry cycle. If your machine doesn't have this feature, turn it off manually after the final rinse and let the dishes air dry. Air-drying your dishes reduces your dishwasher's energy usage by 40%.

When purchasing a new dishwasher, use the EnergyGuide labels to compare the annual operating costs of similar models. Also look for these energy-saving features:
Short cycle selection for lightly soiled dishes.
Less hot water usage.
Automatic air-dry cycle.

Ovens and Stoves

Get a pan ready to go and place it on the burner before you turn on the heat. And don't forget to turn the heat off when you're through using it.

Use the right pan for the job. Foods will cook faster and at a lower temperature if you use pots and pans with flat bottoms and tight-fitting lids. Oversized and undersized pans waste energy.

Don't pre-heat the oven unless you need to. Preheat only for baked foods that require precise temperatures, such as cakes, cookies, and breads. Casseroles, roasts, broiled foods, and other dishes don't need to go into a warm oven.

Follow the recipe and use the oven light as your guide for timing. Every time you open the oven to check on your dish, about 25 degrees of heat escape.

Turn your oven off about five minutes before the allotted cooking time is up. Leave the door closed to retain heat.

Microwave ovens use approximately half the energy of conventional ovens.

More to come later!

add to saved by 0 users