Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Annual Review

Finally it's time for my annual review. I've been slaving away for a whole year and the time has finally come. It feels like its been more like 5 years and that I have aged 10 years since then. I was thinking this morning about time and working. It seems as though I have been willing the time to pass by as quick as possible and I am constantly measuring my time in paychecks. It's not that I'm living paycheck to paycheck necessarily but I get such a great joy out of making another payment on my credit card because it means that much less time that I will be working solely to pay off my debt.

Part of the process of the annual review is to do a self evaluation. The questions are pretty generic but are amazingly difficult for me to answer. Its easy to list my accomplishments and talk about all the clever ways I have overcome obstacles and been of use to the company. It's the questions about the future that really stump me. How am I supposed to answer the question, "What are your professional plans for the future?" "What skills would you like to acquire?" "How do you see yourself growing in the company?"

My honest answers to those questions would probably get me fired. "Well, I am really only working here until I get out of debt. As soon as I get out of debt and save up some money, I'm outta here!"

My only other real goal for the future is to buy a chateau (yes, a chateau), have a little vegetable garden and knit or paint or write for the rest of my life. I don't think this would sound great as a career goal either.

As this is my first job, I'm not sure what to expect as a raise. I would be happy with 10% but I'm not sure if this is low or high? My sister seems to think that I should ask for another $15,000 and then at least they would give me $10K but somehow I think she is crazy. The better my raise, the sooner I can get out of debt.

These stupid future questions are delaying my much needed raise. I've had the paper for 3 days and I'm still not done with it. I keep thinking about skills, skills, skills....what skills do I want??? And then I think about Napoleon Dynamite and his bow hunting and numchuck skills and contemplate putting that on my review just for giggles.

Current Debt: $18,036.31
(stupid finance charges)

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Monday, June 27, 2005

To Save or Not to Save?

Let me just say that I am terrible at saving money. Big surprise? Ok, Ok, I know what you are thinking...its not because I have out of control spending habits. Its just because saving money is so boring. I'd rather put my money to good use instead of hoarding it away in a dark corner like a squirrel hoards acorns for the winter. With such a huge amount of debt wouldn't it be better to pay off my debt than to put it in a savings account?

I did some research and found this cool calculator that can tell you how much money you would save or lose if you paid of your debt as opposed to putting your money in a savings account.

If for example, you are a slave to your credit card as I am and owe approximately $17,981.00 with a 3.5% APR and pay approximately $1,000 towards your debt every month it would cost you $839 over a period of two years if you put that into a savings account with a 3% interest rate.

A little savings is necessary to have around for emergencies. I've decided to put away $1,000 for life's little hiccups. They say that you should save at least 3 months salary in case of unemployment but this will obviously vary from person to person. I live at home and don't have dependents so I can get by on a small cushion while I dig myself out of my mess while other people with families and mortgage payments should plan on saving considerably more.

Saving money doesn't have to be all bad. I previously had my savings account with Wells Fargo and was earning not even .06% in my savings account every month. I finally looked around and found out that ING Direct pays loads more at 3% and offered a $25 bonus just for signing up through a friend and will give $10 for every person that you refer. So far, so good. I have referred 3 people plus the $25 sign up bonus and have made $55 just for saving my money. If any of you are in the market for a savings account, let me know and I will send you the link.

Current Debt: $17.981,00

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Another payday....

another credit card payment.

Current Debt: $17,981.00

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Driving sucks...why not rideshare?

Driving is a dirty habit. Not only does it really make a mess out of Mother Earth but it costs a fortune. Gas prices are only getting higher and I've already put an extra 18,000 miles on my car it just one short year.

To make it even worse, it is time consuming. I am going out on a limb here to say that southern California is the traffic capital of the world....well maybe not considering China. At any rate, even though I leave my house at 6 a.m. everyday I still end up sitting in traffic for an hour to get to work and an hour just to get home. If we break it down that is approximately 500 hours = 20 days = nearly 3 weeks that I spend every year in my car just trying to get to work.

Today was like any other day. I was basically parked on the I-5 on my way to work when I spotted a van speeding by in the carpool lane. On the side it read "Muy interessante," I mused to myself. So being the good employee that I am, once I got to work I immediately checked it out.

Apparently, I can have someone else do all the driving while we cruise in the carpool lane laughing at all the suckers in the non-"HOV" lanes. For all of you out there that aren't down with the rideshare lingo that's HOV for High Occupancy Vehicle. Awww yeah.

The cost for the rideshare is approximatley $75-125/month. That's about how much I spend on gas right now but if you subtract all of the additional costs of oil changes, insurance, wear and tear on the vehicle it is not a bad deal. For example:

A commuter driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima 50 miles to and from work pays approximately $40.17 in maintenance, $15 in additional insurance, $63.91 for gas and $147.92 in car depreciation each month, making his/her total approximate monthly commute cost $267.00.

* Depreciation
is typically the most dramatic commuting cost and most difficult to recognize. A car's value is based primarily on its age and mileage. Therefore, the older a car and the higher the mileage, the less it is worth.

* Fuel
alone in your own car is usually more expensive than the total monthly cost of a vanpool or carpool, and the current standard pump rate for gas is over $1.50 per gallon (ok, thats old, I admit).

* The need for maintenance increases in accordance with wear and tear. By using your car to commute to and from work, you increase the frequency of scheduled maintenance (e.g. brakes, oil change, etc.) as well as the likelihood of increased unscheduled repairs.

*Almost all major auto insurance companies offer significant discounts (10% to 30%) to drivers who designate their cars as a "recreational vehicles only," which means to be used solely for purposes other than driving to work.
Even better, there are tax incentives for ridesharing. The tax incentive will allow you to defer up to $100 a month to pay for commuting related expenses. That is insane!

Vanpool here I come.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Bonuses and Taxes

I'm rich! Woohoo! Well not exactly. My employer offers a $2,000 bonus if you refer someone who is hired by the company. I really wanted that bonus. I told everyone I knew to get a job at my company. I begged. I pleaded. JUST GIVE ME YOUR RESUME. I WILL GET YOU A JOB. It amazed me how hard it was to convince people to let me get them a job. I almost resorted to putting my own ads on

After sweating and toiling and losing most of my self dignity, I was able to get my friend a job and today I got the first half of my bonus (I will get the next $1,000 after 3 months). The only problem is is that after taxes my $1000 bonus turned into a measly $550.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem paying taxes. I think taxes are necessary to ensure that we continue living in comfort with roads, schools, and police officers. On a side note, I just want to say that I think its really contradictory for people to claim to be patriotic, support the war in Iraq and then bitch about taxes. You can't have it both ways people. But I digress.

The thing that really erks me is that I know that the HR person took out too much for taxes. Eventually, I will get this back in the form of a tax return at the end of the year, but in the meantime I am giving the government an interest free loan while I am paying interest on my credit cards. I used to think that overpaying on taxes was a good thing because I didn't notice it was gone and at the end of the year I got a nice lump sum of money. It was like painless saving. The only difference is that at least with my savings account I can earn 3% interest. If I overpay in taxes I get zip, zilch, nada.

I am done complaining now because regardless of how much I have paid in taxes I am still $550 richer. To celebrate, I made a nice little payment of $700 to my credit card bringing me to a new total of:


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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Raising the Minimum Payments

So have you heard yet? I hate to be the bearer of good/bad news but banks are starting to raise the required minimum payments from 2% to 4% every month. Currently, my minimum payments are approximately $383...soon they say my minimum payments will double to a whoppin' $767.28! Not that I mind or anything. I already pay more than that every month anyways. But I live at home and don't have to pay any rent and have a full time steady job. I feel bad for all those people living paycheck to paycheck who are struggling to pay just their minimum every month.

So far, Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover Card, and MBNA are among those planning on raising their minimums. JPMorgan Chase plans on experimentng with higher minimums later this year on a small portion of its customers.

I'm sure this will be great for most people as they will end up paying less interest overall. I was reading an interesting fact that a $10,000 balance at 18% would require about 58 years to pay off and cost $28,930.64 in interest at the 2% minimum payment rate. If the minimum payment were 4%, it would take 15 years to pay off and cost $5,915.67 in interest... a savings of over $23,000.

For now, lets just hope that nothing major happens that would stop me from being able to pay nearly $800 a month on my credit card. I guess quitting my job is definitely out of the question now. Damn.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Making Multiple Payments a Month as Opposed to One

I might be able to do this in just another short 18 months. Based on my current debt of $19,181.98 and my average interest rate of 3.5%, I should be able to pay it off by December 2006. According to a debt payment calculator found here I can shave 3 months off of my time by making bi-weekly payments and save $60 in interest payments. Yahoo!

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

10 Ways to Save Money on Gas


1. Avoid High Speeds
As your speed increases, your aerodynamic drag increases in an exponential fashion. Driving 62 mph (100 km/h) vs 75 mph (120 km/h) will reduce fuel consumption by about 15%.

2. Do Not Accelerate or Brake Hard
By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fuel economy may increase by as much as 20%.

3. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
Keep tire air pressure at the level recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. A single tire under inflated by 2 PSI, increases fuel consumption by 1%.

4. Use A/C Sparingly
When the air conditioner is on it puts extra load on the engine forcing more fuel to be used (by about 20%). The defrost position on most vehicles also uses the air conditioner.

5. Keep Windows Closed
Windows open, especially at highway speeds, increase drag and result in decreased fuel economy of up to 10%.

6. Service Vehicle Regularly
Proper maintenance avoids poor fuel economy related to dirty air filters, old spark plugs or low fluid levels.

7. Use Cruise Control
Maintaining a constant speed over long distances often saves gas.

8. Avoid Heavy Loads
Remove the sand bags from your trunk in the spring and pack lightly for long trips.

9. Avoid Long Idle
If you anticipate being stopped for more than 1 minute, shut off the car. Restarting the car uses less fuel than letting it idle for this time.

10. Purchase a Fuel Efficient Vehicle
When buying a new vehicle examine the vehicle's rated fuel efficiency. Usually choosing a small vehicle with a manual transmission will provide you with great fuel economy.

Sidenote: So, if you're not supposed to use the A/C...'re not supposed to roll the windows are you supposed to breathe??? Hmmmmmmm

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

I will prevail against my evil foes….

I knew I wasn’t just being paranoid. Someone is out to sabotage me and my efforts at getting out of debt. How else would you explain me running over a 3 inch spiky thing in the road causing me to get a flat tire? Why was a 3 inch spiky thing just chillin in the road anyways?? There is a time and a place for 3 inch spikes and it is not in the road in my driving path. Ughhh!!

So now I have tire problems in combination with my laptop problems…which I might add still hasn’t been resolved even after I spent $130 on a fancy new AC adapter. I know, $130 is a lot for an AC adapter but it was the only one that I could find at a physical store with a normal return policy. I just wanted to make sure that buying a new AC adapter would work before I bought a cheaper one off the internet and would have to pay shipping and handling both ways plus 15% restocking fee if I had to return the booger. Why an AC adapter for a laptop would cost $130 is way beyond me but the dang thing is going back and I am going to buy a cheaper one.

At least I know it’s not just me that is having all of this bad luck. I swear the planets are out of alignment as everyone I know is having some sort of misfortune happen to them (laptops being stolen, car accidents, etc). What gives?

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