Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Spending Report: June-July 2012

Here is my budget and spending for the month:

Projected Income: $2400             Actual Income: $2448.50

Catagory Budgeted Actual Difference
Rent $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Tithe $240 $244.65 -$4.65
Taxes $400.00 $294.76 $105.24
Health Insurance $100.00 $99.04 $0.96
Cell Phone $43.00 $43.00 $0.00
Gas $50.00 $8.77 $41.23
Food $310.00 $314.11 -$4.11
Car Insurance $72.00 $72.00 $0.00
Doctor’s Appt $50.00 $100.00 -$50.00
Medication/Contacts $170.00 $224.13 -$54.13
Personal Care $20.00 $28.90 -$8.90
Home Supplies $10.00 $0.00 $10.00
Roth IRA $250.00 $250.00 $0.00
Emergency Fund $75.00 $75.00 $0.00
Tuition Savings $360.00 $268.50 $91.50
Entertainment $130.00 $154.79 -$24.79
Gifts $30.00 $21.75 $8.25
Christmas Savings $50.00 $50.00 $0.00
Misc $10.00 $57.00 -$47.00
Total $2,370 $2,306.40 $63.60

 

This is my first month with no rent! My lease is finally over.  Unfortunately most of the money freed up from rent went towards medical expenses.  I had a minor accident while I was learning how to ride the scooter so I ended up with medical bills.  Even with insurance, co-pays to doctor, physical therapist, and medication added up.  Originally, all the medical expenses budgeted for the month were for my husband’s annual allergist appointment, contacts, and regular prescriptions.  We ended up pushing back the allergist appointment buying contacts to next month.  On a high note, we spent less than $10 on gas this month! We did not have to fill up the tank for our car at all this month since we only drove it about once a week.

 

Weighing the Offer

I heard back from the financial company I interviewed with and they extended an offer–with a catch.  In my previous post, I had mentioned that while I interviewed for a full time salaried position, I was asked whether I’d be interested in the internship position too, knowing that I would be promoted to a full time position within 1-2 months (with conditions that the company won’t tank and that I don’t completely screw up my job).  So, I ended up with the internship, which begs the question: is it worth taking since it pays less than what I make now? (Note: I haven’t heard back from the biotech job, and they told me I wouldn’t hear back for at least two weeks.  I’ve been in the biotech/university research long enough to know that people change their minds constantly about hiring, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided not to hire anyone in the end.  Ideally, the biotech company would tell me what their decision is, so that I can make an better decision).

The first question to tackle is whether I can trust the interviewer’s word.  I have a tendency to distrust what supervisors promises, since I’ve seen so many broken where I work.  So far, everything that people from the financial company is consistant, whether something is said or written in an email.  They’ve given no reason for me to distrust them and they’ve been very clear and open about expectations for me and what I should except out of them.  Still, my natural tendency is to distrust those I don’t know, especially if they will have a strong influence over my quality of life.

The second issue is the family finances.  If everything that my interviewers have said is true, then even with a 1-2 month paycut, I will still make more money in the long run since my salary potential is much higher than if I stay with my current job.  I have a pretty confortable amount of money sitting in my emergency fund, so short term I should be fine.  Also, my husband makes a little bit of money ($450/month pre-taxed) with his RA job that we can use (all of it currently goes into his tuition savings account).  Again, this goes back to trusting the employer keeping his word.  We will have to significantly increase the transportation budget since I will have a 20-30 minute commute everyday.

The next thing I need to consider is my sanity.  Right now, I don’t know how much longer I can handle being at my job.  There are way too many things that makes the work environment toxic and while I do my best to help I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.  The work I do itself isn’t difficult nor stressful.  It’s dealing with some of the people I work with that is frustrating.  I know that there’s no guartentees that my next job won’t be the same way, but at least I can hope for a better environment.

For the most part, I’ve made up my mind to take the position.  If I get an offer from the biotech company while I am still interning, I’ll use that offer as leverage to speed up the promotion process (I explained to them during the interview that I had already interviewed for another position).  If they can’t/won’t, then I feel like I have reasonable cause to take the other job.  What would you guys do in this situation?

The Job Search & Interviews

I’ve been really busy lately studying for my midterm and catching up on all the papers that I have to turn in each week.  On top of that, I’ve been recovering from a minor scooter accident (I’m going to let my husband drive it from now on).  But, there is some good things happening during this season of busyness:  I had two interviews!

I’ve been looking for a new job for quite some time.  The work environment where I am is pretty toxic.  There’s a lot of distrust between my boss and the employees in general.  There’s a lot of backstabbing and drama between the employees. On top of that, money is constantly being mismanaged.

The two interviews are for extremely different jobs.  The first one I interviewed for is in the financial sector.  If I get the job, I would be working with investment portfolios.  It’s an entry level job, but there is a lot of potential for advancement in the company.  During the second interview with this company, I learned that everyone who interviewed for the internship position wasn’t available to work in the specific time slot that they are needed.  So, they asked me if I would be interested in the intern position if it led to a full-time job.  I went ahead and said yes, even though I would get paid $2/hr less than I do now and have no benefits.

The second interview is with another small biotech company.  The way it’s set up is like the one I work at now, but it actually has a product out and has a source of revenue.  I learned about the company through one of my really good college friends, whose mom and dad both work for the company.  For this job, I would be working in a clinical lab 70% of the time and doing administrative work about 30% of the time.

I am not exactly sure how the interviews went.  I always try to prepare answers to common questions, but there always seem to be one that I’m completely unprepared for.  At this point, I am trying not to over analyze everything and just hope for the best.

What the Obmamacare Supreme Court Ruling Means For Me

Note: This is not a post to debate whether the health care law is good or bad, or how to best fix our health care system.  I’m not interested in a political discussion. Also, I am by no means an expert on the law.

As most of you have probably heard, President Obama’s signature legistation was upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court last week.  Barring any repeal, the law seems set in stone.  The law overhauls many aspects of the US healthcare system, but what does it mean for my pocketbook?

Right now, my employer covers half of my health insurance premium, so the new law does not change anything for me dramatically.  I think the biggest change would be higher premiums, since the law doesn’t allow too much of a premium differential between age groups (I was hoping that the gender gap in premiums too, but it doesn’t look like that was even discussed).  I’ve already seen my premiums increase 7% this year.

The biggest benefit of the act for us is the provision that allows people to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until they are 26 years old, regardless of their marital status and whether they are a student or not.  Before the Affordable Health Care Act passed, in order for someone to stay on their parent’s plan, usually the person had to be a student and single.  Without this, we would have to purchase an individual plan for my husband, which would be expensive (my company doesn’t cover spouses).  Instead, my husband is able to remain on his parent’s plan, which is cheaper since they have a large group policy with his father’s company.  And as a bonus, his parents offered to continue to pay my husband’s premium as a way to help him through school. 

How does the the Affordable Healthcare Act affect your finances?

 

Tips for Selling Your Wedding Dress

In a previous post, I shared some places where you can sell your wedding dress (or buy a pre-owned one).  I successfully sold my dress with RecycledBride and I wanted to share my experience and some tips.

I bought my dress and floral sash from David’s Bridal for $718.68 including tax.  I sold mine for a total $415, almost 60% of the original cost.

Tips for Selling your Dress Online

  1. Price your dress right.  The listing sites suggest listing the dress from 50%-75% of the original price.  If you price your dress too high, it will not sell.  My listing price was $375 for the dress and $40 for the sash.  I’m assuming that I priced it just right, since I received five inquiries within a week
  2. List on multiple sites, but avoid those with listing fees.  With sites that don’t require a fee, why list them on ones that do? Especially when a sale is not guaranteed?
  3. Include plenty of pictures from a variety of angles.  Your first two pictures should come off of the designer’s website with their model wearing the dress.  That way, if a bride-to-be is looking for a particular dress from a certain designer, she would be able to instantly recognize it.  The next few should be picture of you wearing the dress at different angles.  A woman looking for a size 8 dress will want to make sure that it looks good on a size 8 woman.  A dress that looks good on a size 0 model might not be flattering for someone wearing a different size.
  4. Write an honest, detailed description.  Let brides know whether the dress has been altered, if there is a small rip or stain, etc.  Be sure to include other accessories you may want to sell with the dress.
  5. Be prompt in answering inquiries about the dress.  Buyers love good customer service.
  6. Beware of scammers.  Never accept checks, cash, money orders or Western Union transfers.  Stick with Paypal and Escrow as your method of payment.
  7. Don’t underestimate shipping costs.  Remember that shipping cost also includes the box, packing material and tape in addition.  If the bride is not in a rush to receive the dress, the cheapest shipping option is the parcel post through USPS.  Make sure to spend the extra money to provide a tracking number and delivery confirmation.  It could potentially save you a lot of headaches.
  8. Dry clean the dress before you ship.
Side Note: In my area, drying cleaning a wedding dress starts at $130. In other words, it is not cheap to dry clean a wedding gown.  However, since my dress was simple with no extensive beading or lace, my dry cleaner charged me the prom dress dry cleaning rate of $30.  So, a less ornate dress will save you about $100 on dry cleaning, which is an expense that a lot of brides do not think about.
 
Have any of you bought a used wedding dress or tried selling one?

Five Necessities I Hate Paying For

  1. Oil Changes and Car Maintenance: I hate spending extra money to keep something running.  I know it’s what you’re suppose to do, but I still don’t like paying for that kind of stuff.
  2. Health Insurance: It’s expensive, and from my experience, everytime I try to file a claim, the insurance company tries to find a reason to deny it, which means I spend over 45 minutes on hold with their customer service.  Yet, it would be foolish to go without it.
  3. Parking pass: I know that what I’m paying right now for downtown parking at my apartment is a bargin, but since I grew up in small towns, I’m not used to paying for parking.  Yes, I could park for free on the street four blocks away, but the neighborhood four blocks away is ranked the 14th most dangerous neighborhood in the US by NeighborhoodScoutReports.com.  I don’t plan on walking there by myself at night, so the better alternative is to shell out money for a parking pass.
  4. Gas: Yes, I listed another car-related item. For some reason, I always underestimate how much it would cost to fill up a tank.
  5. Tuition: This isn’t really a necessity, unless your career goals requires a degree. I don’t really mind tuition itself, but why does it have to be so expensive?

What are some necessities you hate paying for?

Week-In-Review

This past week, I finally changed my last name, got a new driver’s license, and updated my W-4 documents.  The next major task is opening a joint account for me and my husband at our credit union.

Here are some posts I liked this week:

Spending Update: May-June 2012

At an initial glance, May-June looked pretty good; it looked like I went under budget.  The problem was that I had overestimated my income.  I was almost $200 off!  I forgot to take into account the unpaid vacation days I took during the last pay period. My husband got his first paycheck so that is included in our total income, though I forgot to include it in our projected income, which turned out to be a good thing.  About half-way through the month I realized that my paychecks were not going to hit the $2400 mark, so I was able to curb some spending for the rest of the month.  Most of my savings came from taxes, since I guess I was a bracket lower than usual.  I ended up “borrowing” a small money from my Christmas fund to keep me from spending more than my income.

Projected income: $2400.00                                            Actual Income: $2203.90

 

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Rent $500.00 $500.00 $0.00
Tithe $240.00 $219.00 $21.00
Taxes $400.00 $230.85 $169.15
Cell Phone Bill $45.00 $43.00 $2.00
Gas $72.00 $52.99 $19.01
Car Insurance $100.00 $72.00 $28.00
Groceries $250.00 $246.80 $3.20
Health Insurance $99.04 $99.04 $0.00
Car Maintenance $30.00 $44.00 -$14.00
Doctor’s Appointment $70.00 $0.00 $70.00
Personal Care $25.00 $27.29 -$2.29
Home Supplies $10.00 $47.06 -$37.06
Medication/Contacts $130.00 $151.70 -$21.70
Roth IRA $150.00 $150.00 $0.00
Emergency Fund $75.00 $75.00 $0.00
Christmas Fund $35.00 $31.21 $3.79
Entertainment $178.00 $187.24 -$9.24
Miscellaneous $0.00 $25.90 -$25.90
Total $2,409.04 $2,203.08  $205.96

 

My lease to my apartment ends Jun 30, so I made my last rent payment.  Hopefully, there will be no more rent checks for awhile, which means that about $500 will be freed up in our budget.

Saving Money In College as a Resident Assistant

The tuition of a four-year university is already daunting, and the cost-of-attendence just keeps climbing.  Adding a bigger blow to the wallet is that many universities are requiring students to live in expensive campus housing and buy a meal plan.  One way to get around paying for the extra costs is getting a resident assistant (RA) position in one of the dormitories.

What is an RA?

An RA is a peer mentor who supervises students living in residence halls and dorms.  Responsibilities include conflict mediation between roommates, planning events for students, helping students transition to university life, helping with check-in and check-outs, submitting maintanance requests, and enforcing university rules.  RAs usually go through a rigorous training process.  Usually students cannot apply for an RA position until they are finish with their freshman year.

What are the benefits?

Compensation varies from institution to institution.  Usually, RAs will get free room and board.  Another perk is that RAs are not required to have a roommate, which is usually madatory in university housing.  Some universities will also pay an hourly wage on top of the room and board stipend.

What are the drawbacks?

The main drawback is having less freedom than the average student.  When my husband was an RA, he was required to be in the building by midnight during the week, and by 2 a.m. on weekends.  During holidays and breaks, he could not just go where ever he wanted whenever he wanted.  He had to divide holidays between the other RAs in his building.  For example, each year he had a two week Christmas break, but he had to either go home a week later or go back to school a week early.  He also spent one weekend a month on-call, which meant he could not leave the building the entire weekend, expect to take two hour-long breaks to get lunch and dinner. 

The second major draw back depends on what kind of students live on your assigned hall.  If the students are conciencious of others and well-behaved, then the RA will spend a lot of time having fun hanging out with their residents.  If the students are wild and immature, the RA will spend a lot time disciplining students and mediating conflicts.  One year, my husband was assigned to a floor of rowdy freshman boys.  He spent a lot of time busting residents for alcohol and drug violations and trying to clean inappropriate graffiti (use your imagination) off the walls. 

The Numbers

My husband spent two years of his undergraduate career as an RA, and just began a new RA position recently.  As an undergrad, he received a generous scholarship from the university that included full tuition and a $6700 annual stipend and an annual $2500 scholarship sponsored by the state (read about scholarships in Kentucky here and here).  So technically he did not need any extra money to pay for his living expenses while in school.  Since his RA position provided him free room and board, he pocketed stipend and stuck it in a bank account.  In two years, he saved $18400 from his stipends alone.  On top of that, he was paid an hourly wage of $6.90 for 13.25 hours a week for 37 weeks a year for a total of $3383 annually.  Assuming that he spent between $250-$300 a month on gas, entertainment, and eating out (this is a high estimate), he would not have needed to touch his stipend at all.  His biweekly paycheck was more than enough to cover his miscellaneous expenses.  Overall, my husband was able to pay a semester of dental school with his own savings.

Money saved in two years as an RA: $18400

Right my husband is starting his second gig as an RA in the graduate student housing complex.  Instead of trying to build his net worth (only to wipe it away paying for grad school), the goal of taking the position is to cut costs.  Right now, we get a free one-bedroom apartment that includes all utilities, internet, and cable.  The university charges $779 for the same room so in a year we will save $9348.  However, if he did not have the RA position, we would not live in campus housing and find someplace cheaper.  I estimate that an apartment, Internet, and utilites (we wouldn’t get cable) would be average $625/month or $7500 annually.  On top of that, he will get paid $7.50/hour for 15 hours/week for 52 weeks, which is a nice bonus since he would not be able to get a “regular” part time job.  So, his annual salary is $5850 which we will put directly into his tuition savings account.  With these savings combined with the money we had already saved, we may be able to delay taking out loans for another year.

Total Costs Cut: $13350/yr

Overall, a college student has the potential to either build a large savings account or greatly reduce the amount of loans needed.

Saving Money with a Scooter

My husband and I are always trying to find ways to cut costs, especially in the area of transportation.  We’ve already cut back to one vehicle since we both live in walking distance to school (for my husband) and work (for me).  The one car we have is old and has a ton of miles on it–over 310,000–so it’s not very dependable.  The car doesn’t like short five mile trips in the city (it likes to shut off at when it’s in reverse), which is what most of our driving consists of, but it usually does fine on the highway.  Also,  the car gets terrible gas mileage in the city.  Our solution?  Getting a scooter.

Note: I know that getting bikes is a great option in a lot of areas, but my city is not biker friendly.  Bike lanes are limited and bike racks are hard to find, even in the downtown area.  Several of my friends had been in biking accidents.  One got hit by a truck and another by a car.  A third friend passed out because of the heat and dehydration while biking to work.  Someone found him laying on the side of the street and took him to the nearest hospital. All three ended up in the emergency room with concussions, which is an expense I would like to avoid.

Scooters are extremely popular mode of transportation in other countries, and they seem to be gaining some popularity here, or at least among my husband’s dental school classmates.  An under-50 cc scooter gets between 75-100 miles per gallon, and does not require an extra license, tag, or registration in Kentucky (check the requirements/laws in your own state).  In other words, there are no extra costs other than gas and maintenance.   We should not need to spend too much money on maintenance since one of my husband’s good friends fixes motorcycles and scooters as a hobby and refurbished used ones for side income.

Weighing the Pros and Cons
Before deciding on making a large purchase, I like weighing the pros and cons, to make sure not we’re not making an impulse decision or just trying to keep up with the Joneses (which in this case would be my husband’s dental school class).

Pros to getting a scooter

  • They get great gas mileage,  between 75-100 miles per gallon, so more eco-friendly than a car  
  • They are great for running errands that don’t require the storage space of a car
  • A used scooter costs is fairly affordable typically costing less than $1000 (at least in this area)
  • No tag, license, or registration required if the engine is less than 50 cc, so no extra “taxes” like a car
  • Much easier to find parking in the city, can avoid paying for parking

Cons to getting a scooter

  • They cannot transport a lot of things
  • If the engine is under 50 cc you cannot ride it on the highway
  • Not much protection from bad weather, and it’s pretty much impossible to ride in the snow and ice.
  • Getting into an accident on a scooter is a scary thought
  • Seems like it would be easier to steal than a car

The verdict
We decided to buy a used scooter.  In regards to the cons list, I’m not too worried about the first two listed.  We  can use our car if we need to transport things, and each week the only trip that would require a car is going to the grocery.  Also, I don’t mind that we can’t ride the scooter on the highway.  I don’t know how I feel about cars zipping past me at 70+ mph.  The only major concerns I would have is that we can’t use the scooter for about three months out of the year because of snow, ice, and rain, that it doesn’t seem as safe as driving a car, and that it seems easy to steal.  I think that making safety a priority should lower the risk of theft or getting into an accident.  

Saving money on transportation is a huge priority for us.  Getting a scooter would cut our gas expenditures  by one-half or even two thirds.  Depending on how much gas prices are and judging by our previous driving habits, it would take between a year and a half to two years to break even, which is much faster than the estimates of break even points for hydrid cars.  

Paying for the Scooter
Once we decided that getting a scooter wasn’t a bad idea, we needed to figure out how to pay for it.  Were we going to start a scooter fund and contribute each month or were we going to use the extra money from cash wedding gifts or my husband’s tax refund? We decided to use my husband’s unexpected tax refund to purchase the scooter.  He didn’t send the tax refund before we got married and did not have any plans on how he was going to use the money. Plus, he wanted a scooter more than I did and would probably use it more often.  So, we did not need to take any money out of savings or our regular budget to purchase the scooter.  

So far, I think it has been a good purchase.  We’ve only had to take our car out once or twice a week, and it’s a good feeling when you spend about $2 to fill up the scooter’s tank.

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