Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Am I the only one that still likes writing checks?

I'm sure I'm in the minority in this, but I still like writing checks. To me, writing checks signifies that I'm "really a grow-up" because for so many years I watched my parents and other adults do this. I remember actually writing my first mock-check in the 6th grade, before this, I just watched other adults write checks. My middle school didn't have a personal finance curriculum but my teachers did teach us life-skills types of things like writing checks and being able to read a the stock market page in the newspaper. I have set up automatic bill pay for many of my reoccuring bills, so the occasions where I need to write checks are lessening. Not using checks is a greener method of paying bills and I'm sure that one day when I'm old and grey I'll be explaining to my grandkids how 'back in the day' we used paper to write checks because they will be long gone.

I won't focus on maxing out my Roth IRA until 2011

I opened up a Roth IRA last year and contribute to it on a monthly basis through an automatic transfer, but I'm going to shelve the goal of maxing it out for a while. Yes, I know that the power of compounding and time is important in saving for retirement, but I'm going to just be happy with the fact that I have an IRA account that I contribute to regularly at the age of 25 instead of beating myself up that over the fact that I haven't yet maxed it out. I would like to make some headway on some existing goals like increasing my emergency fund and paying down debt before I take on another goal. I feel like my plate is full enough. I think increasing my income (still thinking about how to make this happen), paying down my student loans and finally paying off my credit card completely will give me room in my budget to play with, so I plan to max out my Roth in 2011.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Donations to Haiti May Be Deductible on 2009 Returns

According to a recent post on a New York Times blog, “If you made a charitable contribution to the relief effort in Haiti, you may be able to claim a deduction on your 2009 tax return.”

Normally, contributions are deductible only for the same tax year in which they are made. But both houses of Congress moved quickly to make an exception, which allows taxpayers who itemize their tax deductions to deduct their donations on their 2009 returns for qualified Haiti disaster relief. President Obama is expected to sign the measure shortly.”

If you plan on making these deductions, be sure to keep your receipts! “Generally, a bank record or written communication from the charity will suffice, but it should include the charity’s name, along with the date and amount of the contribution. If you made a donation through your cellphone via text message, keep your telephone bill, which must also show the name of the organization and the date and amount of your donation.”

This news is interesting, but I personally did not give my charitable donation for the aid of Haiti to get a tax write-off, I gave money because I found it so sad that fellow human beings are suffering after experiencing such hardship after a natural catastrophe. So far, I have sent a donation to the American Red Cross and a text message donation to Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti organization. I plan to give two more donations to Habitat for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders during the month of February. It has been a goal for me to do charitable giving on a monthly basis for a long time, and making small donations for Haiti has just been a way for me to jumpstart the process.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Trip of the Year: Paid For and Planned

I planned and paid for my first trip of 2010: a cruise in February to the Caribbean with my family. The trip is actually a birthday cruise and I'm excited about it because I've never been on a cruise before! I waited until the last minute to pay for this trip because I didn't think I'd get my passport in time, but since I did, I bit the bullet and decided that I should go. The cost of the cruise package would have been less if I'd paid during the early-bird rate, but I can live with that. So far, I've paid for:

Roundtrip flight to port: $160
Cruise package: $550

Being the lover of clothes that I am, I'm already set for clothing for this trip : ) But I'm still debating on whether I will pay to get my hair done in some type of style that requires minimal work during the cruise, or just do it myself. I also haven't determined how much money I'll allot myself for spending for the duration of the cruise. It probably won't be much since I don't have to pay for food during the trip and I'm not really big on buying souvenirs on vacation. This trip depleted my travel fund, so I have to replenish it to pay for a my travel plans for the rest of the year. I have started paying for my next 'big trip' of 2010 this spring and still have my heart set on going to Europe or Africa during the fall, but we'll see.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Budgeting for Baby Shower Gifts

I currently have three close friends that are expecting right now and so I will be attending at least three baby showers during the course of 2010. It’s only January, so I could feasibly have other friends with “special announcements” as the year goes on. So now comes the question, How much I should budget for each baby gift? I’m thinking of setting a limit of $25-$35 per gift. I'd love to spend more, but I think that limit is what I can reasonably afford right now with the other goals I am saving for this year. As a twenty-something, I expect to have to allot money for wedding and baby shower gifts pretty regularly for the next several years, so I'd better get used to it!

I like giving a variety of things and usually use gift bags but this time, I plan to look for inexpensive baskets to put the gifts in which is “greener” anyway because they can be reused. I won’t actually go into detail on what gifts I plan to give because I believe some of my friends occasionally read this blog (and I’ll also make the final decisions after looking at their registries), but here are some items I’ve given as baby gifts in the past that have fit in my targeted price range:

  • Bath toys
  • Bath tubs
  • Diaper bags
  • Baby bath towels and wash cloths
  • Lotions, soaps, shampoo
  • Diapers
  • Onesies (6 months or older)
  • Clothing (6 months or older)
  • First Aid Kits for babies
  • Spa gift certificate for Mom-to-be

How do you decide what price-limits to set on gifts for special occasions like baby showers?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Donate to Relief Efforts to Help Haiti

As I'm sure you have heard on the news in the last day or so, Haiti has suffered a 7.0 earthquake that severly impacted the nation. Reports on exactly how many people have been affected by the earthquake are still coming in from media outlets. A donation to charities that are assiting with relief efforts will be included in my budget this month and I hope you'll make room in your budget as well:

Click here to donate to UNICEF’s relief efforts.
Click here to donate to Wyclef’s charity, Yele Haiti.
Click here to donate to the Red Cross.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wannabe World Traveler

Taking at least one international trip this year is at the top of my New Year's resolutions for 2010. I'm pretty sure at least one trip will be a cruise and I'd really like to go to Europe or Africa as well. I feel one step closer to making this resolution actually happen because my passport came in the mail recently. I haven't been out of the country since I was in high school and let my passport lapse (silly move). I'm going to start making travel plans in earnest over the next few weeks. Looking forward to filling my passport with some stamps in the near future!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My 2010 New Year's Resolutions

I've honestly had my resolutions done for a few days, but it's time I got around to posting them:


  • Take one international trip
  • Apply for two grants for non-profit organizations I am involved with
  • Participate in Nanowrimo
  • Exercise at least once a week
  • Blog more frequently
  • Take more photos


  • Increase emergency fund by $1700
  • Eliminate all credit card debt
  • Start future goals fund (home purchase, car purchase, etc) and contribute $1500
  • Two month shopping moratorium at some point in 2010


  • Write/publish a minimum of two freelance articles
  • Generate $500 income outside of my day-time job
  • Obtain a professional mentor
  • Complete all course requirements for my graduate program
Some of my resolutions are repeats from last year, but some are new ones I've never tried before. I am not the type of person to beat myself up over resolutions I don't accomplish at the end of the year, but I still like to put them on paper to get them at the fore-front of my thoughts instead of just thinking about them. Writing my resolutions down (or posting them on this blog) is a higher level of accountability for me than just talking about what I want to accomplish.

I hope everyone enjoyed a nice holiday season and has a happy and prosperous New Year!!