Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Out of Credit Card Debt!

Yes! You heard me! I'm out of credit card debt ahead of schedule. Of course, as much as I wish it was because of something I did, it is really because of last week's insurance refund check. I went home last Thursday and deposited it. Yesterday it cleared my bank account, and I did a "click to pay" at Citi. The payment was applied today, and I now have a $0 balance!

It's actually not as rewarding as I thought it would be. Probably because I didn't earn the money like I had planned.

On the money front, my parents still owe me $250 (they gave me a partial payment this past weekend), I have a little over $250 coming from Dealbarbiepays/cashduck, and I should be receiving a paycheck next Friday or the Friday after.

Today is a good day.

All my money I would normally be throwing towards credit cards is now going in an account to pay down my student loans.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The check is in the mail!

That post isn't coming tonight, but only because I had an interesting day financially.

Even though I live in the dorm, my permanent address is still at home. Logically, I get a lot of mail there. My mom stacks in all in my room on top of my tv, and I open it whenever I come home, except under circumstances.

If a package comes, something with delivery confirmation, something overnighted, etc comes my mom knows it's "important" and so she calls me. It's something very silly because normally I just tell her to open it, and then I have to wait for her to find the letter opener, open it, read the mail, and tell me what it is. Today I received a letter that had to be signed for, and so she called me right away.

Inside was a check for slightly more than $1,000. It was a refund from my insurance company (I paid out of pocket for a test earlier this year, and fought their decision not to pay, it looks like I won!), and it definitely came just in time. I plan on using this money to pay off my credit card, and socking whatever is left away in my savings account. I was becoming so frustrated with my finances this month that this is just pure luck.

On the bad side, the last of my student loans for the semester is scheduled to post a week from today, which means I'll need to update my student loan debt.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lagging in the posting

Okay, I'll be the first to admit I've been lagging a bit in posting this weekend, and it can't be blamed on school.

You see, generally on Fridays I tally up my running total of credit card debt, and savings. Then I add it to a spreadsheet so I can watch how my savings grow and credit card declines. But sometimes they go in the opposite direction.

I know that this past week will have been one of those weeks. My credit card debt total has risen in the past few weeks as I did not adequately save to cover my January expenses and quite frankly, I just don't want to see that at the moment. The beginning of the semester is stressful enough without the addition of some temporary rising debt.

This week though, I plan on taking a look at things, and transferring some money from my ING Direct account to my new CC Debt.

Maybe Wednesday or so, I plan on writing about the choice between dorm living and apartment living, and which options is best for me.

Today I spent an unnecessary $9.00. But it was totally worth it, I spent $2.50 on a parking meter for my friend, and the rest of the money going to lunch with her, but it was so nice to see her I didn't mind at all. Plus, I got some of the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

a breath of fresh air.

Long time no post. I moved back into my dorm room on Sunday, and started my new semester Monday, so I've been busy repacking/adjusting to my schedule/organizing, etc.

Today I learned that I truly was financially ignorant. When I first received my Citi driver's edge card, apparently I had 0% interest on my purchase balances for three months. I never realized this until today when I was looking at old statements. It's quite sad how I used to just ignore these things. I wish I had taken advantage of that offer.

I have been doing quite well on my 30-day challenge. Besides the money that I lent to my mother until her next payday, I bought ink for my printer (an essential), and I paid three dollars to have some loan papers faxed to my loan papers. For some reason they thought I graduated last semester, so I had to prove that I was still a student. Those are both unusual expenses, so I was correct when I thought that January was probably not the best month to be doing this. I suppose it will show me what sort of expenses I should plan for in my budget even if they are not monthly.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

My search for a summer job, over?

As I've previously stated, during the school year, I work for my dorm cafeteria. Which means, every summer when I go home, I have to find a new job.

Last summer, I started off my vacation with an ear surgery. After three weeks of recovery, I applied for two jobs through my city, a playground coordinator and a banquet server at the golf course my city owns. I got both of them. The playground coordinator's hours were too strict, the pay was low, the playground they wanted me to work at was in a not-so-nice part of the city, and I wouldn't have any company besides mounds of little kids. The banquet server at the golf course job seemed nice, the hours were varied, I would get tips, I'd work with adults, I'd have a varied work environment (different kinds of showers, the regular restaurant, weddings, and so forth) etc. In all reality, I was a banquet server/waitress/bartender (with no experience!), my hours were terrible, and the customers and people I worked with were practically squabbling little kids. However, I made amazing money there. I really don't want to go back this coming summer though.

My mother works with a young lady who will be having a baby in March. We shall call the woman Lisa. Lisa hears about me all the time because I'm the most responsible and well-behaved of all my mom's kids. Lisa will theoretically be on maternity leave March through the beginning of May when I get out of school. Lisa doesn't want to put her baby in day care when it's only three months old, so she inquired as to whether I would think about watching her baby 32 - 40 hours a week for approximately $8/hr, as well as doing a few other tasks for her.

There would be some pluses and minuses for this job.

The pluses - I wouldn't have to worry about taking days off. Lisa said as long as I was well-versed in putting the car seat in and putting the baby in the car seat, then I could take her wherever I wanted to. It wouldn't even matter if it was an appointment or if I just got bored and went to Target. Days off or conflicts were always a big deal at the golf course. Lisa wants her baby to be exposed to other languages and cultures, so I can play my Italian tapes and podcasts while at her house, to help keep the language fresh in my mind until the school year. I would also have time to sit around while the baby was napping, and I wouldn't even have to change out of my pajamas if I didn't want to. I'd save money on lunch because I could eat whatever I wanted in Lisa's fridge, and I could potentially (though god forbid I have to) make use of my baby/child CPR knowledge. The job is close to home, and since Lisa works with my mother, I don't have to worry about them being "creepsters."

The downside? I wouldn't make as much money as I did at the golf course. Tiny babies aren't my favorites things in the world, but I like them enough that this wouldn't be a terrible job. There are also 5 dogs and 3 cats, which would be a little extra work.

I can tell the pluses outweigh the minuses, so I really hope that Lisa decides to go with the idea of using me! I don't mind being a slave to a baby for the summer. This would be a fantastic opportunity, and would eliminate the stress of the summer job search for me.

Loaning money to mom

So, for the good news, I go back to school tomorrow. I start work on Monday, which means that money will be "rolling" in. The other good news is I am completely separated from "complicated boy" (some other PF blogger refers to a boy as such, but I can't remember who right now. I'll add the credit later if I do). Which means, less money spent on dates, anniversaries, etc.

On the bad front, tonight I went grocery shopping with my mom. You could say, what? Why is that a bad idea? Well, my mom has been really sick in the month of December, and she took a lot of time off work so that she could care for me after the surgery. My parents aren't well off financially (okay - they're basically financially irresponsible), so money was very tight this week. I bought the groceries so that my parents could pay me back later when they had the money again. My mom said on Wednesday, so we'll see. Since my mom kind of sprung the idea on me, I had to charge it to my credit card. The good thing is that I will be making a 6% rebate because of my Citi Driver's Edge Platinum Select Mastercard. Hopefully the "loan" will be paid back.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Convenience Checks

I was opening up some mail, and I saw that the bank I have a Visa through sent me some "convenience checks." They said it was a "congratulations" for paying off my Visa.

What is so convenient about these checks? What is it about them that congratulate me?

The facts:
- the checks charge to my credit card as a cash advance (instead of a regular charge)
- the interest is 28.99% (compared to the typical 16.99%)
- interest is charged from the date of posting (whereas I normally have a 31 day grace period)

I'm so glad I know these facts so that I'm not "tempted" to use these anywhere. They are going in the shredder where they belong, I'm entirely too proud of my $0 balance!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Why I Hate January

January used to be one of my favorite months of the year. I have no idea why, it's so cold and dim, but I guess I used to like the promise of a New Year. Oh, and the first week would be the last week of my winter break, so I would be working a lot. In high school I worked as a file clerk/inventory clerk at a car dealership in my city. I started off at $7.50/hr and three years later when I quit to go off to college, I made $10.50/hr. As you can imagine, that is not a job I wanted to leave.

So in high school I would start off my year with plenty of money. Now, I start of my year penniless.
I have the typical college job, working in my dorm cafeteria. I make $7.19/hr, which, is not bad considering what I'm doing. However, the way our pay works, I do not make a dime in the month of January. Since my break stretched from December 11th to January 8th when I go back to work, I received my last paycheck last week, and I won't get another for four weeks.

Last year it didn't matter at all, since I just whipped out my credit card and charged everything. This year I really don't want to have to do that. I have some money saved up, and it really helped that I spent most of this break in bed.

You see, I had surgery on December 12th, so I didn't spend the money I normally would have in going out with my friends, eating out (or anything), or on gas. That will help a lot, but darn it, January sucks financially!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The One Month Challenge... Day Four

Today is the fourth day in which I am undertaking The Simple Dollar's "one month challenge." A simple explanation is that the challenge involves writing down everything you spend in one month, not just trivial purchases, but also bills. Then, at the end of the month, mark everything "essential" or "non-essential", and compare the amounts. A more detailed explanation can be found at the link above.

I realized January was not a good month to pick to do this challenge. It's slightly unusual as school is out, so I am at home with my parents until the 7th. At home, I am more likely to spend money daily than I am at school (ironic, isn't it? For many it would be the other way). January is also unusual because I have to buy textbooks.

The first two days of the month, I spent no money. Yesterday, I spent $99.75 on textbooks, and today I had a haircut, and gas.

It's also very unusual for me to have a haircut, as I normally cut it myself. However, my hair is reaching down past my shoulder blades, so it's getting a bit hard to cut my ends to the same length. It was nice to have someone else tidy up my ends and cut my bangs and face frame for once. I probably won't have another haircut until at the earliest this summer. I also had a two dollar off coupon for my haircut, so at least it wasn't as expensive as it could have been.

There is another reason why January is an atypical month, which I'll probably talk about tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Excited to Spend Money

I was planning on going to bed early tonight, but instead, I just had to say, today, I was excited to spend money.

Yes, that's right, excited.

What did I spend it on? DVDs, CDs (no, not the good kind!), clothes? No, all wrong.

I bought my books for this upcoming semester.

Now, I'm not one of those students who is simply overcome with joy about school, so it's not that. It's the amount I spent on these books.

I spent $99.75. That includes tax and shipping. This is the first semester (okay, out of three, plus the two semesters in high school that I went to community college), where I have spent less than 100.00 dollars on books.

1st semester- fall '05 - 371.86
2nd semester - spring '06 - 242.37
3rd semester - fall '06 - 464.29

All three of the above semesters, I priced out the books, looking in the bookstore, on half.com, on amazon, on ebay, etc, trying to find the best deal. I probably could have saved money, and only spent about $70.00 if I had done that again, but I waited so long to order books, I wanted them to arrive on or before classes start on Monday. So I ordered them from the school bookstore. I bought used books mostly, and one new, and it was still only $100.00.

I am so excited.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Financial New Years Resolutions (or how I learned to love to plan my life)

My New Years Resolutions! (financially)

1) Save $2000 dollars in a separate fund in my ING direct account. This is roughly one third of my yearly income from my job (what can I say, I'm a poor college student!), not including windfalls or money made from GPT sites and Pinecone. It's entirely doable, but I will have to be disciplined.

2) Save $500 in the "buy stuff for my apartment fund" also in ING before the end of August. Also very doable, probably actually very easy. This money will be earmarked for new sheets (my dorm bed is an extra long twin, and the apartment I'm moving into has a double bed), shower curtains and rings, pots and pans, etc.

3) Pay off all credit card debt. Get to the point where I can use my CC and pay it off at the end of every month.

4) Track my spending for one month, then make a budget and stick to it. This will cut down on spending and help with 1,2, and 3. Perhaps go under the One Month Challenge that the Simple Dollar challenges us to go through?

5) Fill out my taxes earlier than I did last year, and use my refund to pay off my CC debt. Oh, and to not forget to sign my tax return. Last year I spent my tax refund on... new clothes I think, and junk food. I don't need either.

I think that's it for now. I'd like to do a monthly update on how I am doing in keeping these resolutions, but we shall see how that goes.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Years

Tomorrow in New Year's Eve. Monday will be the start of the 2007. I like when it works out so nicely like that.

What I always hated was when New Year's Eve and New Year's Day both fell on a weekend. You see, at the car dealership I worked at while in high school. We received a half day off, with pay, on New Year's Eve, and a full day off with pay for New Year's Day. If they fell on a weekend, we did not get that "bonus" day off.

That's actually not what I wanted to talk about.

Every New Year's Eve (well, every NYE since the 7th grade), I go to a party at my friend M's. I suppose most wouldn't consider it a party. A group of ten to twenty of us sit around in M's basement, watch "The Labyrinth" prior to midnight, and "When Harry Met Sally" after midnight. At midnight, we run outside, blow noisemakers, shoot silly string, and generally make a lot of noise. Throughout the night, we snack on vegetable trays, chips and dips, fruit, and other assorted party snacks, while sipping sparking grape juice.

My point of this is not to brag. You see, all of the above is provided to us by M's parents. I was thinking earlier tonight how lucky I am that I do not have to spend any money on my NYE festivities. That led me to think, I wonder how much M's parents spend on us every NYE without complaining or asking us to chip in?

I figure, for the cost of food, drink, party supplies, and the movies (we rented them every year up until a three or four years ago when M's parents bought them), they must spend at least a hundred dollars every year on us. That's over seven hundred dollars they've spend on our NYE party in the life of it happening. Almost a thousand dollars on friends of their daughter. I'm not even taking into account the cost of the extra utilities we use, the sleep they lose while we're there, and the time they spend shopping for all these supplies.

It's true that M's parents are reasonably wealthy, and they can probably easily afford the things they buy for us, but it's still not fair to them.

I cannot make up for the last seven years, but I think this year I will bring a small gift to them to show my appreciation. I don't know what I would have done these past years without this party, it is one of the highlights of my year, and what better way to spend the New Year than with friends?

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good (and safe!) night!

[Edit: And funnily enough, after thinking about this so much, M's mom has the flu, so we're having our gathering at another friend's apartment, and it's BYOE (bring your own everything)!]

Friday, December 29, 2006

Financial Aid

Financial aid, a subject that matters so much to some college students, and not at all to others.

I'm one of those students it matters to. My parents agreed to pay for the first year of my college, however, at the end of my senior year of high school, we found out my dad had prostate cancer. That one incident wouldn't have set them back too much, but this came after three years of him having at least one major illness (off work from two to three months). So, my parents paid for the first semester, and then sort of defaulted on the second semester without telling me.

This year, I applied for loans to cover the 4,000 dollars (approximately) each semester that was not covered by grants or federal loans, using my brother as a cosigner. The loans were approved, and then I found out that my parents hadn't paid for the second semester of last year. I recieved another 2500 in prorated (is that even the right word?) loans, leaving me with 1500 to cover. My parents assured me that they would pay for that remaining amount of money, however, it's almost January and they haven't. My mom keeps insisting she did and that finaid has messed up, but it's been so long since she started that claim, it's getting a little ridiculous. I now need to come up with 1500 dollars, so I believe I'm going to have to use my credit card to pay the amount off, at least temporarily. I'm really not excited about doing that, but I will if I have to.

I figure that if it's necessary, I have been doing cashduck and dealbarbiepays as a way to make money. I've been bringing in about 200 dollars a month from those sites, I could probably make more if I spent more time, or did some of the trial offers. My money from those sites is already paying down my credit card debt. Plus I'll be bringing in about $200 from work, and I can probably dedicate at least $75 to credit card fund. I guess it would be manageable, but I've spent all this time paying down my credit card debt, that bring back over 1,000, heck over 2,000 where it's never been before, would be very upsetting.

Oh well, thus is life, and thus is the cycle of debt. But I will be out one day!

My First Post!

I finally bit the bullet and started a blog.

This blog will be following me, your star performer, as I (hopefully) climb out of the cycle of credit card debt, save up money to pay off my student loans, and earn my way towards financial freedom.

You might ask who I am? I am, of course, Jenni, your host. I'm a 19-year-old in my second year of college. I'm born and raised in good ole' Michigan. I have a weakness for buying sweaters, shirts, DVDs, and anything at Target. I accumulated an insane amount of credit card debt in my first semester of college, and so now I'm teaching myself to be a lot more frugal. I do pretty well, however, I am human, and I do occasionally screw up.

Welcome to my journey!