Thursday, March 26, 2009

Saving and Debt Priorities Edits

I filed my taxes earlier this month because it was one of my monthly goals for March. After spending my federal tax refund in my head several times before I actually received it, I decided to use a chunk of it to purchase a MacBook. The rest of the refund (about $800) went to my emergency fund which let me reach my $3,000 amount for my short term emergency fund earlier in the year than I thought I would. I'm still waiting on my state (District to be accurate) refund, it will go straight to savings though.

I must say I LOVE my new computer. I didn't realize how slow and ancient my 5 year PC laptop was until I started using my new MacBook. This will most likely be my largest purchase of the year and I think it was worth it. I am a grad student and having a reliable computer is important to stay in touch with my instructors and to do assignments. I also enjoy all of the features Mac's have but still need to play with them to learn how to use them.

So now that that purchase is out of the way, any other unexpected and expected windfalls in 2009 will go toward these categories:

  1. Emergency Fund. Since I am far from having 8 month's of living expenses saved, I will continue to add to this fund (a minimum of $50 per month) but still have to evaluate how much I want to save by the end of 2009. I realize if I had a true emergency, my savings is meager and I want to remedy this as soon as possible.
  2. Credit card balance. I've been treading water with my credit card balances, not really increasing it, but not really paying off which is ideal. I want my credit cards to be completely paid off by this time next year, I can't start another year with this albatross around my neck. I will pay a minimum of $500 per month on my credit card debt from now until the end of the year. Out of the three credit cards I have, I am focusing on the card with the highest balance because it has the highest interest rate. I know people like Dave Ramsey have a different view on this, but I HATE paying high finance charges and would rather pay down the higher interest card faster than the lower interest cards (one currently has a 0% APR). I know my progress is less apparent this way, but its the way I prefer.
  3. IRA Starter Fund. I still have the goal of opening a Roth IRA with Vanguard, but don't want to raid my emergency fund to open one up, so I am saving separately for this goal to achieve by the end of 2009.
  4. 2010 Travel. I want to go on at least one international trip in 2010. So even if its just $5 or $10, I will add to this fund each month.
Other goals like a car fund, student loan pay off, and home down payment are to be saved for 2010. think my goals will remain the same through the rest of the year. I haven't been focusing on my finances much recently. But now its time to get refocused. My budget also needs to be tweaked, my birthday month is soon coming to a close and I've felt very spendy lately (I'll blame it on a minor quarter life crisis now that I'm 25). Hey, I'm human! But now it's time to get my spending back in check.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring "Window Shopping"

Forever 21 Floral Strapless Dress

Marc Jacobs - Totally Turnlock Tobo Bag

Hayden Harnett Helena Wrap Dress

Forever 21 Sunrise Halter Dress

ASOS Ribbon Skirt

I'll get back to blogging about more substantive subjects like my progress on my savings goals next week. For now, I'll just admire pretty clothing on the Internet and try to seek inspiration for ways to wear clothing I already have in my closet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hunkering Down In Recession: A Return To Thrift?

Here is a recent article I found interesting:

Here's a puzzle. But not a very enjoyable one. Americans need to save more. They also need to spend more because no recovery can take place with consumers on the sidelines. That's the nub of one of the many challenges facing the battered, reeling economy. For some 20 years, Americans said no thanks to thrift. We consumed at a prodigious rate — big houses, powerful vehicles, enticing electronics, and convenient, frequent travel — all made affordable (or at least that's how it seemed) by low interest rates, easy access to credit and fast-rising home equity that we used as an irresistible piggy bank. At the same time, we deposited less and less of our income into real savings accounts. For decades until the early 1990s, personal savings — after-tax income minus expenditures — averaged in the neighborhood of 9 percent. That's when our collective bender kicked in. Socking cash away for a rainy day became an afterthought. In 2005, at the height of the real estate boom, the personal savings rate dipped into negative territory. Clearly that was not sustainable.

I think the economy has everyone including myself trying to figure out how to save more while not completely stop spending. I am focusing on basic savings goals, like increasing my emergency fund but I wonder how much money would really make me feel comfortable? One month of living expenses? 6 months? 12 months? It just doesn't seem like enough...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my actual birthday, not my blog's "birthday." I am now 25, a quarter of a century year's old. 25 seemed really old when I was younger, but honestly, I still feel like a kid (and often get mistaken for one). I feel old enough to not make immature decisions, but young enough to still reach a lot of my personal, career and financial goals. Even in this tough economy, I still feel very hopeful and positive for the future. Happy Birthday to all of the other Pisces out there!

Friday, March 6, 2009

March 2009 Goals

I am a week late, but here are my goals for the month of March, which also happens to be my birthday month. I's like to make some real headway on my personal financial goals in my 25th year. I will reflect on my progress during the first three months of 2009 at the end of the month. So, here are the goals:

  1. Complete FAFSA.

  2. Stay on top of reading/assignments for my class. I need to stay on top of my reading so I don't have to play catch-up when exams or assignments roll around.

  3. Exercise and stretch at least 2 times a week. I completely fell off the wagon on this goal last month, I will do better this month.

  4. Go to bed at 11pm every night. I have developed the habit of staying up entirely too late and needing caffine in the morning only to crash in the afternoon, a vicious cycle.

  5. Choose a weekend in April to go to Florida, price and pay for tickets. I haven't visited my Dad in a while, and it would be nice to experience some warmer weather.

  6. Stay on top of personal endeavors such as blogging, non profity stuff.

  7. Start looking for an online writing course. I am leaning toward taking a Media Bistro online writing course, but will look around for others that look helpful.

Here is how I did on my goals for February:

  1. File taxes.--PASS-- I did my taxes with Turbo Tax and got my federal refund back.
  2. Apply for one freelance job. --FAIL--I will table this goal for now, because I need to focus my energy on my Accounting class which starts soon.
  3. Make one new dish.--PASS--I did make a new dish but I still need to do this more often to get out of my baked chicken and rice comfort zone. If anyone has a good soup recipe, pleae let me know, I'd like to make some from scratch because I never have before.
  4. Go to the gym more often.--FAIL--No excuse, I just need to do better in March.
  5. Stay on top of my reading for class.--PASS--I did stay on top of reading for the most part, but I still found the class tough, its just hard to grasp microeconomics concepts in eight weeks.