Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Apologies and Updates

Apologies for the lack of posts the last couple of days. I've felt like I don't really have anything to say, although that's not completely true. I guess I just don't have anything topical to say, i.e. I've been lacking specific topics or overarching ideas for posts. This blog, however, was never meant to contain great philosophical or financial material, so that's really not an excuse. This blog was meant to chronicle my journey toward debt freedom and beyond, and certainly I can find something to say about that.

On that note, I'd like to share some exciting news. As of Friday, I completed one of my goal progress bars! After receiving a lot of the money I've made from my December Alternative Income goal (which is also nearly complete - see next paragraph), I sent a final payment of $488.67 to AES and they are now out of my life forever! That company has been particularly irritating to work with; they have terrible customer service, and they were very unaccommodating when I tried to get a forbearance or deferment during a financial hardship a couple years ago, so it's nice to be rid of them. Best of all, I have $190 to add to my debt snowball!

On the December Alternative Income side of things, the progress bar only reflects what has actually been deposited into my bank account thus far, but the real total is closer to $1200! My parents sold some of my furniture that was still at their place from when I moved, which was $150. I sold a couple things on eBay for over $300, and that money should be arriving in my account from PayPal today or tomorrow. Last but not least, I have over $600 in payments from Amazon that will be deposited next Monday! I'll keep updating the progress bar as things come in, but it should reach 100% in the next 24 hours.

That's all the updates I have for now. Keep the encouragement coming! I love reading your comments!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Money Won’t Solve Everything – Sometimes You Need Someone to Care About You

My grandma has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, so she often says funny things that don’t make sense or tells the same story several times in one day. It’s a sad disease, no doubt, but Grandma is just so darned happy-go-lucky that we can’t help but find amusement in it. My family often jokes about the things, but in all seriousness, her situation has gotten me thinking about things I haven’t thought much about before.

In my mid-twenties, I haven’t thought a lot about my old age. It’s just too far away to comprehend right now. Between my grandma and the financial thinking I’ve been doing lately, however, I’ve realized that I will eventually get old, so I’ve started to plan for retirement.

I’m not married, but even if I do get married someday, I will probably not choose to have children, so there’s one question on my mind that all of the financial planning in the world can’t answer. Who will take care of me when I’m old?

We’ll all need someone to take care of us. I’m not talking about the care that a nurse or other professional would provide. I’m talking about someone to listen to us tell crazy stories or remind us which relatives have passed away. My mom, my dad, my sisters and I provide this type of care for my grandma. We call and visit, and we’re there for her for the little things, like hugs and picnics and jokes we’ve heard a million times.

With all that’s been going on with my grandma, not long ago I asked my ten-year-old niece if she would take care of me when I’m old. I was half joking, but she happily agreed, and told me that she would pick out my home and listen to me tell the same stories over and over. Lord only knows what life will bring on over the next 40 or 50 years, but it’s nice to know that someone will be looking out for me when I need it the most.

What about you? What questions have you been wondering about lately? What issues do you have that money won’t solve?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Recipe: TV Girl's Morning Oatmeal

Today's recipe is what I enjoy for breakfast nearly every morning. It's healthy, simple, cheap, and highly customizable.

1/4 cup Oatmeal
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Vanilla Yogurt
Some frozen fruit or berries

Make the oatmeal according to the microwave directions on the package (oatmeal + water in a bowl, then microwave for a minute and a half). Stir in the fruit or berries (blueberries are my favorite) and let them sit for a couple minutes to defrost. Stir in the yogurt and enjoy!

Note: fresh fruit works as well, but for me that leaves the oatmeal too warm and it tastes weird after I put the yogurt in, so if I'm using fresh fruit I put the cooked oatmeal in the freezer for a minute or so to cool it off a little.

I'd love to hear if anyone tries this! Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for customizing it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December Alternative Income Update

My $600 December alternative income goal is going EXTREMELY well. As you can see from the side bar, I've made about $240 so far, but that doesn't include a couple things I'm expecting soon. Here's the breakdown:
  • Half Price Books - $58
  • DVDs sold on - $182 (after fees and shipping)
  • Christmas bonus from work - $200
  • eBay auction - currently at $264 with four days left (before fees and shipping)
Total: $690 (after eBay fees and shipping)

And it could still climb higher. I've got another eBay auction with no bids yet, but similar auctions have sold for around $100 and there's still four days left. I've also got a few more things waiting for the right buyer on, as well as my skis that are up for sale on Craig's List. The total could potentially get above $1000!

Where's all that money going? The first chunk is going to AES. That company has been particularly irritating to work with, so when I send the final payment in the next few days I'll feel a huge sense of satisfaction. The rest of the money will be used to beef up my emergency fund. It's not at full capacity yet, and after fixing my computer I'll really want to get it back up to a comfortable level.

Onward with the money-making!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My Emergency Fund Is About to Come in Very Handy

When I got home from work yesterday, I pushed the button to turn on my computer and then...

Nothing happened.

Literally, nothing happened. Complete silence. No lights or sounds whatsoever.

After checking the stupid things (the computer was plugged in, other things plugged into that outlet were working, etc), I started to panic. Just about then, my roommate came home and said that her computer had done the same thing a couple of months ago, but since she had her laptop she hadn't worried about fixing it yet.

One phone call to a computer geek friend later and we found out that a series of fluctuations in power had caused damage to our computers' power supplies. Basically every time the fridge turned on or the vacuum cleaner was run, it fried the computer a little bit at a time. The cost to fix it should be about $30-50, unless the motherboard was also damaged, which I think would be another $80.

I'm pretty attached to my computer, so this is stressful for me, but I'm trying not to think about it too much and just be really thankful for my emergency fund.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Parents and Finances: What Do I Say?

I mentioned last week that I had a frustrating financial conversation with my mom over the holiday weekend.

A little background:
My parents have always been okay with money. They make about $75k a year between them, they have no car payments, their mortgage is only about $850 a month (with 8ish years left), and they have enough saved for retirement, but they have $35k on a HELOC. After listening to me ramble about personal finance like it was going out of style, a couple months ago my mom asked me to show her how my budget worked and how to set one up for herself. The first thing I did was ask her to think about what was important to her and what goals she wanted to set, but she sort of dismissed the idea and just wanted to do the budget. I walked her through the rest of the process and I've been giving her advice little by little (when asked) ever since.

Then this weekend she asked me about her savings accounts at credit unions. She has two savings accounts at two different credit unions, but doesn't use or need them for anything specific. She puts $25 a month in each of them to keep them active so that if they have an emergency and need to buy a new car, they can get a good rate from the credit union.

Basically she wanted to know if $25 was a good number to put in there, but there were so many things wrong with the whole scenario, I hardly knew where to start. All I could think was, EMERGENCY THAT WOULD FORCE YOU TO BUY A BRAND NEW CAR ON SHORT NOTICE????? Are you kidding me??

Of course I didn't say that. I tried to be polite and tactful about pointing out that she not only didn't need to buy a brand new car, but that she also didn't need to get a loan for one, and that there was no emergency that would FORCE her to do this, but the conversation quickly devolved into pointless arguing. Mom said that "at their age" they would never buy a used car again, and I said that the entire point of any of this was to not go into debt. I told her I couldn't understand what kind of emergency she was even talking about. She said a car accident. I said that's what insurance is for. She said they won't pay enough to cover a new car. I said they don't need a new car, and the argument went in circles from there.

I don't know if I'm not explaining things right or if she's not listening to me, but somehow the message is not getting across. I kept obsessing about this conversation for the next few days, trying to figure out what to say to her.

In the end I think the root of the problem is priorities. She and my dad have not sat down and figured out what their financial priorities are. They say they want to retire early, remodel their house, and buy a new car or two, but they already have $35k in debt. At the rate they're paying it off, they'll finish the same year they want to retire, and that's without buying any new cars or remodeling the house. If they do everything they're talking about but don't give up anything else to do it, they're on pace to be in debt when they retire, and I can't figure out how to get them to see that.

It's very frustrating to have them ask for my advice and then not take it. I know that I can't make them change their behavior, and that they're predisposed not to listen to financial advice from their daughter, but I don't want to give up trying to help them. I'm going to visit again for Christmas in a couple weeks, and I'm sure personal finance will come up in a conversation at some point. I want to say something that will spark a realization, but I don't know what that is. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekly Wrap-up - Week 4

This week has felt hectic because I had a ton of stuff to do after being gone last weekend. Nothing exciting or stressful, just things like laundry and cleaning and unpacking and the all-important catching up on my TiVo.

I managed to get a few things listed on Amazon yesterday, and I've already sold some of it. After fees and shipping, I've made about $157 toward my $600 goal so far. I'm really excited about this goal because it's big, but it's definitely doable, so I started a progress chart for it in the sidebar. I'll update it this month as I work toward that $600. Only 74% to go!

Other than that, this week has been mostly about finishing up the November budget. I managed to spend $9.45 under budget on gas and $8 under on groceries, so I'll add that to the $270 I'm sending to the AES student loan in a couple of days. If December goes as well as planned, I'll kick that loan off my list before the new year!

Now for the linkage: