Thursday, July 30, 2009

Made it a month with no shopping

With only one more day of the month of July to go, it's safe to say that I made it the whole month with no clothing shopping! It may not seem like a big deal to some, but I found that my little impulse shopping excursions were adding up. The 'no shopping' was one of the six summer goals that I outlined earlier this month . I plan to do this exercise again in September (and perhaps extend it to October) after buying a few fall transition items and a black shoulder bag since my favorite one is showing its age. If I'm ever going to meet my financial goals, I'll have to pay attention closer attention to how I spend my money and really differentiate between needs and wants. How much stuff does one girl really need anyway?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lifelines in the Student Loan Sea

I guess I have student loans on the brain lately. Check out this recent article from the Washington Post:

Dundas, 23, is a new graduate entering a stricken job market with a master's degree, $30,000 in debt and far less earning potential than she expected when she borrowed the money. She works part time for the State Department.

"When I get paid, I think, 'All right, I have $500,' " she said.
"But then I remember I have huge loans, and it's really just, 'All right, I have negative $29,500.' And then I go eat ramen for dinner."

This summer brings a measure of relief. Starting July 1, student borrowers can cap their monthly payments at a modest sum determined by income and family size. A second initiative, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, will erase student debt entirely after 10 years for graduates who work for government or various nonprofit organizations.

Together, the programs amount to "the broadest and most expansive set of provisions we've ever had" to ease student debt, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, an association of college administrators based in the District.

"It's huge for students," said Carmen Berkley, president of the
United States Student Association, an advocacy group in the District. "You put somebody in a situation where they're not making too much money, and they're making $200 to $300 in monthly payments, and you're setting them up for failure."

It is daunting for recent grads to have such large amounts of debt when they are just starting their career along with a soft job market. I don't remember being warned of graduating into a tough job market and its implications when I signed my loan promissory notes...I doubt many others will either. Even in areas like DC, where the job market has not suffered as badly as in other areas, people are having a hard time with job hunting and fear of layoffs. For those who are already interested in public service jobs, this opportunity will probably want to take advantage of loan forgiveness programs like the ones mentioned in the article.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Student Loans - Paying While Still Receiving In-school Deferment

Since I am a part-time graduate student, my student loans have been in deferment. I had stopped my payments to divert the money I would normally allot to my student loans to other costs for the past few months. But I will resume making payments again in the fall though I am still a student. I have one more year to go in my program. The sooner I resume my student loan payments, the faster I can get rid of them! I plan to make a concrete goal for when I'd like to pay my student loans off at the end of this year, but in the mean time, just making payments regularly is my focus.

Window Shopping - Dresses

Dark Room Dress
Palm Beach Dress

Rajastan Maxi Dress
Mind’s Eye Dress

I haven't ordered anything from this website before, but I love looking at all of the lovely dresses they have. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reigning In My Spending Isn't So Bad After All

In an effort to curb my extraneous spending, I decided not to make any clothing purchases for the month of July. After looking at my bank statements for other leaky "holes" in my spending, I also decided that I would forgo random Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts visits and iTunes purchases (The Essential Michael Jackson was my final download for awhile to my iPod). I'm only about mid-way through the month, but I'm doing well so far.

I didn't cut my spending on:
  • Dining out and alcohol. I'm not a big alcohol consumer or a foodie so I usually order the most inexpensive appetizer item with water and no dessert when I eat out, so I didn't feel the need to cut those out for the month. Yes, I'm the girl that orders Shirley Temple's or Cokes sans the rum when I go to happy hour, but drinks are pricey! I get funny looks because I get mistaken for a teen on a regular basis anyway; and people assume I'm not old enough to drink, but it's less money leaving my pocket.
  • Clothing alteration. When you are petite, you just can't get aroung getting clothing altered. I took a skirt to get altered last week, because I wanted to get some wear out of it this summer.
  • Groceries. I baked my first cake earlier this month, a vegan red velvet cake. I'm not a vegan, but have never been a big fan of dairy, so after finding a recipe from this book, I decided to give vegan baking a try. While it was fun to make, I learned that vegan baking is expensive because of all of the specialty ingredients! I also had to go to two grocery stores to get items that the recipe called for such as agave nectar and coconut oil. Needless to say, I won't be baking again for a while.

Rethinking my needs and wants is good. It's been kind of a game to see how little money I can spend in a day. Everytime I go to buy something I could probably live without, I think about the fact that the money could be better used elsewhere. I'll check back in at the end of the month and evaluate whether to extend the no-shopping another month.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Finding Debt a Bigger Hurdle Than Bar Exam

I found this recent New York Times article interesting and wonder how many other people are having trouble fulfilling career goals because of student loan debt:

All his life, Robert Bowman wanted to be a lawyer. He overcame a troubled childhood, a tragic accident that nearly cost him a leg and a debilitating Jet Ski collision.

He put himself through community college, worked and borrowed heavily to help pay forcollege, graduate school and even law school. He took the New York bar examination not once, not twice, not three times, but four, passing it last year. Finally, he seemed to be on his way.

In January, the committee of New York lawyers that reviews applications for admission to the bar interviewed Mr. Bowman, studied his history and the debt he had amassed, and called his persistence remarkable. It recommended his approval.

But a group of five state appellate judges decided this spring that his student loans were too big and his efforts to repay them too meager for him to be a lawyer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Goals

Instead of doing monthly goals, I will instead do summer goals.  Some goals may take the next two months to complete, but I still want to be accountable for making progress on them for the remainder of the summer.

  1. Read two books on investing.  I've read several books on personal finance, but none that specifically talked about investing.   I am a big reader, but I'll take a break from my normal reading choices (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was the most recent) and read about something I want to learn more about.
  2. Apply for passport. I plan to travel international in 2010, so since my minor passport expired, I have to get a new one.  I'd rather go through this process well before I actually travel to avoid stress and having to pay a rush processing fee.
  3. Start contributing to my travel fund again.  I'd like to travel more in general and I have specific places I'd like to travel to next year, so I need to start consistently setting money aside.  For the past several months, the only savings fund I've been contributing to has been my emergency fund, and forgoing other saving goals, but I'll start setting aside money again for my vacation fund.    
  4. Go to the gym twice a week.  If I don't go to the gym more frequently, I'll be forced to cancel my membership because it makes no sense to pay a monthly fee when I go sporadically as I do now. 
  5. One month shopping moratorium for July.  I've been a little lax with monitoring my shopping purchases in June.  So, to get myself back on track, I won't be making clothing purchases for the month of July.  
  6. Talk to my graduate school advisor.  This fall, I will be about mid-way through the course work for my graduate program.  It's time to plot my classes for my remaining semesters so I can figure out when I can anticipate my graduation date.
For some reason, it's harder for me to stick to personal goals during the summer months.  I guess it's my minor rebellion for no longer getting long summer vacations.  But with a little more effort, I feel confident that I can make progress on my goals for this month.