Category: Personal Finance

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 139)


1.

It’s the last week of the month which means free topic week on Totes Awesome Channel!


Youtube Link

I talk about turning 30 and being stupid with my loved ones.


2.

I usually have my Friday post uploaded the first half of the day on Fridays but am only now just starting at 9:15 pm. It’s been a busy week both outside of work and at work. I got home from work at 8:30!


3.

VEDA (Vlog Every Day in August) has started! It’s exciting and this is my fourth year. It feels like what I imagine summer camp would feel like. You see a lot of old faces every day for a month in August and meet new friends! I plan on posting weekly recaps with videos. If you’re active on Youtube, you can follow my personal channel to keep up more regularly.


4.

As of today, I’ve met my personal goal of paying down $4,500 of my student loan. Which means I’ve paid down more than double what I paid down in 2012! I’m so proud of myself and more motivated to keep on keeping on. I was planning on abandoning my retirement resolution of $2,000 and just keep going with the loans. However, I read somewhere recently about how much money you should have save for retirement by the time you’re thirty (I’m not used to owning that number as an age), and I wasn’t even near the low end of the range.

So the new goal is to only pay the minimum amount of my student loans every month and put all the excess towards a Roth IRA. Finally. My Roth IRA will get some attention for the first time in years.


5.


Currently Reading: Dark Places

Still on a mystery murder kick.


6.


I felt very loved this week. My friendships are the most cherished things in my life and this week I was reminded of how lucky I am. Even days after my birthday on Sunday, checking the mail was such a fun adventure in sweet letters, beautiful care packages, and hilariously themed boxes. I wish I could just win the lottery and scoop up my people and go somewhere awesome.

birthday package

This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ department team lunch to get to know new hire ♥ sending my Boston friend’s resume to my company and hoping for having her closer ♥ funny ball themed gift box from Jennifer (it’s so funny and clever, I’ll post it on Wednesday as a Wordless post) ♥ birthday lunch with coworkers who are basically more than coworkers ♥ reading ♥ rare affection from Bob the dog ♥ date night with Anita! ♥ catch up phone calls ♥ balls potluck ♥ sushi happy hours ♥ getting help at work from programers

Question: How do you feel about your retirement fund?

Pay With Isis Launches in Austin and Salt Lake City

A few weeks ago, AT&T and Isis contacted me with a fun opportunity to be one of the first people to try out Isis, a wallet app. Isis is currently only available in Austin and Salt Lake City with select vendors. Isis holds virtual versions of your credit cards and debit cards. I love the concept because I keep my cards in a cigarette holder that often pops open in my bag, spilling my cards loose in my purse. I also sometimes grab the wrong card or get a little performance anxiety when I hold up the line at checkout because I’m fishing for the right card.

Currently, 60+ vendors are Isis enabled in Austin. When you download the app, it comes with a directory of nearby vendors. You can also see Isis coupons from vendors.

The video above shows how you can pay by holding up your phone on an Isis enabled credit card machine. So far the only criticisms I have is that vendors need more training on how to use Isis. I’ve held up the line at Wholefoods as I tried to pay for some groceries. I eventually got it to work with customer service. What I was doing wrong was that once I open the app, I had to touch a button to “enable” payment. It was a cinch after we figured that out. The only other problem I had was the lady at Jamba Juice today and I couldn’t figure out how to use the Isis buy one Jamba Juice get one free offer. We both agreed that once it catches on, this could be an innovative and faster way to check out at your favorite businesses. The people at Isis customer service hotline are extremely helpful too!

If you’re in Salt Lake City or Austin, I encourage you to check it out! It’s fun to be ahead of the curve.

Full Disclosure:  Isis and AT&T provided me a phone and a preloaded Isis app to test out.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 18)


1.


I relate to this:

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”-Sylvia Plath


2.

Lily, Jamie, and I try to see each other at least once a month for dinner. A while back, I bought a Groupon for a restaurant none of us have been to, which allowed me to join them for dinner without shelling out additional bucks! I say I have about a month more before I’m comfortable financially again without dipping into savings. What’s a little significant for us and this blog is that I think Lily gets to finally make a debut on one of my blogs. I often food blog our dinners but Lily is always the missing face. For the first time in 4 years, she’s allowed me to take ONE picture of her. I thought I’d get more mileage from this photo if I double blog it. Here and whenever I get to writing up the restaurant review.


Lily, Jamie, Me


Jamie is never camera shy with me.


3.

I try to start every day with 3 stream of consciousness pages written in my journal as per The Artist Way. I’m on my 5th week and I did very poorly this week. I kept going to bed too late and last night I stayed up to canoodle with the boyfriend and watch Jersey Shore. Alan’s in the middle of a move into a house with four new roommates so I’ve been giving him some space to take care of stuff and get to know his roomies. I’ve missed him! So spending time with him trumped going to bed early which trumped writing my pages.


4.

This week’s writing prompt was “punishment.” Kind of timely because before we drew it, I had just have a conversation with coworkers about the kinds of punishments we endured as children from our parents. My parents spanked my younger brother and me. Younger brother got spanked pretty often whereas I rarely got the wooden spoon from mom. The only memorable spanking I had was on my open palms with a metal ruler and it was 20 licks. I missed every single word on my first spelling test. I almost spelled “delayed” right but I spelled it like so, “de-layed.” The next year, I won the spelling bee.

Aside from spankings, Asian parents can be pretty brutally creative with their punishments. Alan said his parents made him stand with his arms raised. This reminded me that on occasion I had to do the same thing! Another popular one is kneeling. Not lazy kneeling where you have your legs tucked comfortably underneath your butt, but as if you’re praying on a kneeler in a Catholic church. They’ve also had us stand with our noses pressed against the wall.


5.

Next time I’m in Houston I want to borrow (or steal?) my mom’s sewing machine and jump into sewing and thrifting. This blog is my inspiration. Momma has stopped sewing anyway unless I bring her home clothes to alter or straps to reattach.


6.

I’m always engaged in some kind of self improvement project or dabbling in a new skill. On my horizon right now is to educate myself and gain experience in investing. I’ve already saved up my year’s worth of expenses in an emergency fund, I have no consumer debt. So my new goal is to pay off my $24,000 student loan in 5 years and instead of padding up my emergency fund, I will start an investing fund. I realize this has been one of Neville’s advice to me for a while but I was overwhelmed with my lack of knowledge and kept putting it off. I will dedicate 5 hours a week to read and learn. I got my 5 hours out of the way this week when I read and finished Rich Dad’s Cash Flow Quadrant.


7.


Let me share a helpful link: How to disable Places on Facebook.

See, my phone is pretty simple. I get a lot of compliments on it because it’s skinny and tiny and sleek looking. I picked it out as my first birthday gift from Alan because it was purple and because it was simple. I just wanted a telephone number pad. Dinky camera is nice. It also has a radio and mp3 player I never use. It is not a smart phone and it does not do geotagging. So when Facebook released Places where you can geotag your locations, I almost didn’t bother disabling it. I disabled it on the off chance that a friend would tag my location and an apartment burglar would know I’m not home. Unlikely, but that’s why I took the time to disable Places.

Last week, it actually ended up being unexpected blessing. I lost a coin flip with a group mostly guy friends and I found myself in a strip club. Not really a big deal but unbeknownst to me, a friend attempted to tag me. My facebook friends and work friends would have had a chance to see on their newsfeed that on a work night at 2am, I was at strip club. Not very kosher, yes? I recommend disabling.


Questions: How were you disciplined as a child?

What? Being Married = money?

I told you I’m broke for another month or so right? Well, here’s a conversation I had with the just turned 7 year old kid I’ve babysat since he was born. (I don’t think I’ll ever leave this family. I have unofficially adopted them.)

New 7 Year Old:
You should buy me that toy on TV. Since you didn’t buy me anything for my birthday.

Me:
Dude, I owe you one but right now I have no money.

New 7 Year Old:
Oh that’s right, you’re not married yet.

P.S. As pointed out in a comment from my BFF, this is a single mom household and his mom is totally a superhero of a mother. Kind of weird for him to think marriage is a source of money.

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 16)


1.

This week was riddled with hints and signs about lottery tickets. We pulled this week’s writing prompt and it was “lottery ticket,” Lottery Ticket, the movie, is coming out tonight, there was a lottery joke in Eat, Pray, Love, and a lottery ticket being brought up in the movie Other Guys. Triggered, Alan and I bought 20 lottery tickets yesterday. Neither of us are regular ticket buyers.

So uh, wish us luck!


2.

I had the best low key casual date night with Alan last night. We watched The Other Guys, picked up lottery tickets, ordered take out, and ate while we watched Jersey Shore. I had a rough few days and he’s been making me laugh til my cheeks hurt.


3.

I like dates. Everyone should schedule monthly or bimonthly dates with their peoples. We should do so urgently, before we all get families and less time to laugh over a cup of coffee. Wednesday I had a movie date with Brittany, last night it was Alan, and today for lunch I have a date with Deesh. We’re grabbing noodles on campus. Tomorrow I have a cupcake date with Selina and Lil. Life is especially good when you sprinkle it with lots of dates.


4.

I started a Vietnam fund for my parents and me. They don’t know yet and I don’t plan on telling them. I have a whopping 30 dollars saved. Am contemplating starting a general travel account. Hmm, at which point do you have too many allocated bank accounts?


5.

This week has made me realize just how important family is.


6.


Here’s my VEDA for 8/18/2010. Topic is books. It is a tiny bit over 5 minutes and this with major cutting. I can go on forever on books! Click here if you wish to read more book reviews book thoughts.

Youtube link


7.


This is today’s VEDA video; topic: Blogging. I walk you through my history with blogging. It looks a little spooky because of Alan’s lighting.



Youtube link

My 3 Money Mantras

I have a few friends, all girlfriends actually who struggle with credit card debt and budgeting. As I’m reflecting on these close friends, I’ve noticed they have a three things in common.

  1. They love to shop and suffer from occasional bouts of impulse buying. (me too!)
  2. They do not have an emergency fund.
  3. They live paycheck to paycheck.

I’m really not a financial expert but I think I’m pretty aware. I took the Charles Schwab Money Fitness Quiz and scored an 86 which is rated as “Good.” I know exactly my money weaknesses and strengths.


Weaknesses

  • Forgetting to pay obscure bills (as I’m typing this I still need to pay an overdue tollway bill).
  • I don’t max out my Roth IRA (hopefully this year, I can bring myself to save that 5K and max out for the first time ever.)
  • I don’t really know how or what to invest my money in or the best way I should diversify.
  • I have over 23K in student loans.


Strengths

  • I automatically save at least $100 every paycheck.
  • I do not withdraw from my savings save for trips and the very occasional lending money to loved ones.
  • I have an emergency fund.
  • I pay off my credit cards in full every month.

I’m always trying to motivate my struggling friends to adopt the good habits I live by. I hate that they live paycheck to paycheck and if anything were to happen they will be scrounging around for aid or going into deeper debt. I’m by no means perfect and sometimes I flounder. (This month, I spent more than I made.) So I’m going to write this blog entry in dedication to a few girl friends and impart what mentalities have worked for me.


My 3 Money Mantras

1. I used to do a lot of weight loss counseling at my previous job and one thing that I noticed when people relapsed on their weight loss program is that they don’t forgive themselves and get back on the saddle. They are so ridden with guilt that they start letting it win by staying down for the count. They tell themselves, “I’ve done so badly and eaten at McDonalds this morning, might as well go all out and treat myself to a whole pint of ice cream tonight. I’ll start my program again next week.” This mentality is counterproductive and doesn’t make sense! You can always and should start again right away. The same goes for money. If you exceeded your budget this week and it’s only Wednesday, don’t go for broke the rest of the week. Start anew right away.

2. We’re all going to continuously fail. Failing is part of life. There’s no avoiding it. However, don’t set yourself up for failure. If you have never saved in your life, choose an automatic minimum to put into savings that is attainable. If you think you can realistically save 200 dollars a month, do it. If after a month you weren’t even close, adjust accordingly! Go all the way down to 20 dollars a month if need be and inch your way up. As inevitable in life as failure is, it’s important to not set yourself up for it.

3. Create a price to opportunity ratio. Let me illustrate this mentality with real thought processes I go through. This one I went through yesterday: I overspent in June. I moved (movers were 260). I bought renter’s insurance (120). I bought books and event tickets ($60). I lost count of how many meals I ate out (moving made it difficult to cook.) I indulged in a lot of treats (clothes, outings, etc). I’m finally moved in and had lunches planned to bring to work. Yesterday, my coworker was walking to Chipotle and I needed to buy a greeting card next door. I love me some Chipotle and really wanted to just scrap my lunch in exchange for a burrito bowl. Follows is how I walk away from many of my small mundane impulses is to evaluate the opportunity.

Q. Is Chipotle fairly attainable?
A. It TOTALLY is. It’s on campus, walking distance, and under ten dollars. Hell, I have two Chipotles less than a mile away from where I live.

Q. Will this be my last opportunity to eat Chipotle?
A. Far from it!

Q. Can I resist this week and be satisified with coming back later?
A. Absolutely.

Impulse resisted!

That’s three big mentalities I’ve found financially useful and effective but I’m always seeking to learn more, so please share your tips.


What are some of your financial philosophies or personal policies?

This post is written as part of 20SB Blog Carnival on friends and money. For more entries about friends and money, click the link.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 4)


1.


Last week, a huge dust bunny appeared in our stairwell at work. A few days later, a sign went up.

RIP dust bunny

RIP DUST BUNNY

This tickled me so greatly, I thought I’d share. Also, it’s now almost been two weeks and both sign and dust bunny are still there.


2.

A few days ago at my night job, someone was chatting us girls up when he interrupted himself and said, “There’s a cow in the parking lot.” None of us believed him. I know I live in Texas ya’ll but
really I haven’t seen any cows up close and personal except for in the first grade on a field trip. I spot them from far away when I drive from Austin to Houston but no cows have I seen in either city. The dude was right though. There was a cow in our parking lot! I snuck out there and got as close as I could muster and snapped a picture for you. It didn’t happen unless I have a picture to prove it.

COW!


3.

The ladies at my night job and I are doing a potluck Monday night and the theme is Italian night. I work a full time day job so it’ll be best to do something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I was thinking desserts… Hmm. I would love ideas if you have any.


4.

Sunday, Jamie and I have a cooking date. We’re going to tackle making fried dumplings! The recipe will be from a cookbook I won from SteamyKitchen.com at TECHmunch, the food blogging workshop I mentioned last week for 7 Quick Takes.


5.

My layout at GirlEatsWorld.curious-notions.net is generating a lot of overhead. I don’t know what that means other than it spits out an internal error and I have to contact our domain host to “optimize” it. This means I’m now in the market for another layout which makes me sad because I really enjoy the layout that I have. Go ahead and take a peek at it before it goes away… That blog has become my baby.


6.

I miss Houston. I’m going for a weekend in a couple of weeks for my Daddy’s birthday. I cannot wait to see some Houston friends, eat some Houston foods, eat Momma food, and take my dad out to a birthday brunch at my most favorite restaurant.


7.

I’ve reached my saving’s goal for a year’s worth of emergency fund. Now I need to make a few more new goals. I’m thinking I might try to dabble in stocks which is a daunting task for me. I own a total of one stock. And that is Google. That’s the extent of my experience. Ha! Also, am waiting for my free 2,500 Continental miles to kick in from doing a buddy a favor and opening a Chase bank account. I wanna see a little bit more of the world, please.

Case of the Mondays

twitter status

I’m groggy. I’m cranky.

So I’m trying to budget OUT 400 dollars a month to engage in a weekly activity I think may be beneficial to me. Hence the trying to bring lunches and dinners to work. Extra 400 is kind of tough with all the other miscellaneous expenditures (yes, I really needed those Conan tickets and yes, all weekend celebrating my roommate’s birthday IS necessary, dammit. Finally, I DID call my dentist to make sure they take my new dental insurance but they ended up charging me for that visit anyway.) Needless to say, I had to cancel next week’s appointment til further notice.

On to happier things, some happy photos from this past weekend.

Brandi blowing out candles
Blowing out her candles off the dilapidated cake I made her.

Brandi and me at Bacon Takedown
We went to the Bacon Takedown yesterday! As part of my birthday gift to her.

Happy Ides of March, ya’ll. How was your weekend?

I hustle.

I work a night job 2.5 weeks a month. Originally, it was a part time job to hold me over til my next full time position. After I found a new position in December, I realized I enjoyed my night time gig so much that I’m going to keep it and see what happens. It’s pretty draining. I started up the night time job for the month of January (it usually starts midway through a month and ends before the first week of the following month is over) this week. I started my new day time job beginning of December so really this is just my 2nd month of doing two jobs back to back. I wake up between 6 and 7am on these days and leave my day time job between 4 and 5pm. Get to my night time job between 5 and 6 and then get home at around 11pm. If I’m good, I’m in bed by 1am. December was brutal for me adjusting but this week wasn’t so bad. I unwind by listening to an audio book on my commute or call long distance friends to catch up. (I watched an Oprah episode yesterday about cell phone usage and how it affects your driving so I’m seriously going to cut down the car conversations.) If it’s a night I make it over to Alan’s, we usually catch up on a show (this week it’s been American Idol) and then I shower, crash, and start over.

This of course isn’t a permanent lifestyle but this is me hustling for now. Upon reflection, I do not regret resigning as a clinical research coordinator in May in the midst of a full throttle recession. I may not sleep much, but I sleep more than I did and more peacefully. I’m almost half way through rebuilding the emergency fund, and this night time gig makes me savour the weekday nights I have remaining.

Maybe I’ll live vicariously through ya’ll.

How do you spend your week day nights?

2009 in Review

In comparison to 2008, 2009 was awful! The one thing I can think of that 2009 had over 2008 was that I read more than double the books I read in 2008. I’m anticipating the fresh feel of a new year that is 2010. In the meantime, here’s a review of how my year has gone with heavier emphasis on my blessings verses my misfortunes.

Note: All links open in a new window.

January 2009


Celebrating New Year’s with the boyfriend

February 2009


Alan and I at the Killer’s Concert

March 2009


Rodeo, Austin, TX

April 2009


Selina’s Birthday

May


Celebrating Sae’s law school graduation

June 2009


Cindy and me at Grand Lux Cafe in Houston

July


Brandi and me on Fourth of July

August

  • The first two weeks of August, I tried to squeeze in as much time as I can with Alan because he was about to leave for Korea for up to 4.5 months.
  • Starting, August 16, I started counting days Alan was gone.
  • Kim came to visit the weekend of the 22nd and we saw Wicked.
  • I saw 500 Days of Summer three times this month, in theatre, of course. This is the first movie I’ve done that.
  • Jon visited from NYC.
  • I got a part-time, part-time (yes you read that right) job, thanks to Brittany dropping a good word for me.


Alan’s last night out with friends before going to Korea.

September

October

November


Having hot chocolate at Ren Fest.

December


After party in the car.

I’m a blessed girl. Instinctively, I’d tell you my 2009 was pretty awful but when I write it all out like this and focused on the good rather than the bad, I can see now I’m still quite lucky. Farewell, 2009.

Tell me how your year went. Or better yet, if you have a year in review entry, I’d love to read yours.