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Archive for June, 2008

Mid Year Goal Assessment

July 1st, 2008 at 02:49 am

So here we are, already half-way through 2008!

Time to take stock.

I've posted my goals on the sidebar, and so far, I'm not terribly happy with my progress. I really doubt that I'll either save 15% of my income OR lose 15% of my weight in 2008.

So far, I've saved about 5% of my income. This is far less than planned. On the other hand, one thing that I did not really take into account sufficiently in setting my goals is that I suffered a fairly big salary cut (17%) back in September. I'm still getting used to living on a reduced income. I did well at saving last year because I had more income. Now I'm living on less income *and* prices are higher--yet I've still managed to save *something*. So I really should be happy about the savings that I *do* have.

I did have some "extra" expenses during the first half of the year (medical bills, a plane ticket, and $560 worth of textbooks for courses I am taking), but I'll probably have about equal "extra" expenses during the second half, as I am having a home repair done, and need to take my car in for inspection. There's usually about one $300-$500 car repair bill during the year and I haven't had one yet, so I won't be surprised if something of that size needs doing in July when I get the car inspected.

Food costs haven't decreased at all--not surprising given inflation but there are still some bad habits I can improve on. I'm going to try to be more mindful of them as the year progresses. If I can make some changes habitual over the summer when my workload is lighter, perhaps some of that will carry on through the fall.

Weight loss isn't happening--I *did* lose 9 pounds during Jan and Feb, then gained it back in the interval since then. Going to try to lose it again during July and August.

Career change progress, mortgage paydown, and investing are going reasonably well. The market is down horribly as are my retirement assets, but I'm in for the long-haul so not panicking over short-term decreases. I *do* think we're in a recession, but recessions don't last forever. The economy will turn up at some point and I'll be in the market to take advantage of the increase when it does.

Three No-Spenders in a Row!

July 1st, 2008 at 12:39 am

I know some of you are laughing, but that's pretty major for me! Three in a row, and seven total this month.

Despite the no-spenders, I went over total anticipated spending by quite a bit.

Dental Emergency: $430
Veterinary bills: $500
New Glasses: $470
Plane Ticket $400

All of these events *were* planned for, at some point, just were not in the original budget for the month. Medical expenses (both human and animal), of course, are hard to plan; I knew I'd get glasses and buy the plane ticket this summer, just wasn't sure on June 1 whene I'd do those things. On the other hand, I *thought* that the gutter replacement would be done in June, but it will be done in July. Here's hoping for no medical bills in July and that the gutter project comes in as budgeted.

No-Spend day and a Primo Marketing Study Invite

June 29th, 2008 at 01:40 am

Yay, today was a no-spender!

I also received an invitation to participate in a marketing study which will require 6 hours of my time but also compensate me $200. I'm a member of a marketing panel run by my grocery store--they invited me on to the panel about a year and a half ago, and every month that I log on and participate each week, they give me a $10 credit towards groceries. I've earned it every month except one, so that's already about $170 I've gotten from participating on this panel.

Last week they asked for participants for a Health & Wellness study. Part one involved keeping a journal of activities and recording them for 5 days; that took about 2 hours and that part paid $50. On the basis of responses, they selected a subset of people to participate in an in-home interview and grocery shopping trip; that will take place Wednesday morning and will pay me another $150.

Nice to bring in a little extra money as I've not been working this summer, just living on my 9-month teacher's salary that gets paid out over 12 months!

Planning Summer Expenses

June 8th, 2008 at 03:15 pm

I need to think ahead about how I'll handle "extra expenses" this summer, given the change in my summer plans (my previous entry). So I'm "thinking out loud" here.

My income from my FT job will handle my basic expenses, but cannot handle multiple extraordinary events--eg a medical or veterinary emergency or a major car repair--there's the emergency fund for that, but if I'm just living off the FT income, as I am for the next 3 months, it's hard to rebuild the emergency fund when I go into it.

Right now the only known additional income is a $300 gift from my mother. I may be able to add some part-time earnings to this.

And there will be multiple extra expenses this summer:

Home Repairs: 1200-1700
Tuition: 400
New Glasses 400? (it's been 4 years since I got some, so it may cost more now)
Trip to L.A. 500 (should visit Mom; it's been 2 years & she turns 75 soon)

That's $2500 that might have to come from savings, and I would expect at least $500 more in either unexpected vet or car repair bills, just based on past experience.

So that's potentially $3000 from the E-fund, minus the $300 gift = $2700 from the E-fund, or 28% of it. Certainly doesn't deplete it but also it will take most of the rest of the year to build it back up again.

I'll have to see what I can do about earning some part-time or temp income over the next two months. In addition, I'm trying very hard to cut back on my food expenses especially (the most malleable), and hopefully luck will be with me and there will be no major vet bills or car repair expenses this summer.

A change in summer plans

June 8th, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I've decided to change my original summer plans. The original plan was to take one summer school evening class and to find an accounting internship during the day, as I don't have any actual accounting experience, just 3/4s of an undergrad accounting major completed (this is a post-BA certificate; I already have a Ph.D. in another field but after 20 years have given up on getting tenure in academia; hence the career change).

Alas, I really dropped the ball on getting an internship--it's something I should have gone after in February and March. But I didn't. The past two years, I've been working one full-time teaching job at a day college, a part-time teaching job at an evening college, *and* have been taking a class a semester, too. It's an intense schedule and so I didn't get around to applying for the internships when I should have. So I told myself, well, there's "Accountemps," or I can try asking a couple "friends of friends" with small local CPA offices if I could do some work for free.

The school semester ended in mid-May, and I spent the first two weeks after getting life organized around the house--housework and home maintenance are relatively low priorities given all the other stuff, and some things were in need of attention. Then my summer school evening class started. But as we got into June, I began feeling like it was really late to ask for a summer internship. I also was feeling panicky about the fall, when I am currently scheduled to take *two* classes on top of my usual full-time plus part-time teaching load. One has really been as much as I can handle, and I even had to take an incomplete on one last fall. So I've been feeling as though the fall will be an impossible task, but I contacted the instructors and got hold of the textbooks ahead of time and said to myself, "maybe I can do this if I get most of the reading done ahead of time." But that reading takes time, of course.

To shorten an overly-long story, I've given up on the internship idea for the summer. Instead, I am going to take a second course for credit that starts via distance learning on Monday. I may take a third class as well (during the evening in second summer session), albeit one that is not a requirement, so I may audit it rather than take it for credit. And, so I start getting out there in the accounting marketplace, I am going to contact one or two of those "friends of friends" and do some informational interviews and seek mentoring. The actual accounting work is going to wait.

This plan will make things financially tighter--I have my base salary coming in, but no second-job salary, so my income is down 23% for June, July, & August from what I'm used to. And there are some big expenses coming up that may require me to dip into my savings. I'd been planning on some income from an internship to replace some of that second-job income. But the new plan *greatly* reduces the panic I've been feeling, and it will make the fall much more do-able, as I'll only have to take one class on top of the full-time & part-time jobs, and I know I can handle that. Plus now I can think more seriously about visiting my mom sometime this summer, during July or August.

Home Repair Decision

June 5th, 2008 at 02:00 pm

Now that I've been a homeowner for 2.5 years, I have my first major home repair to make--the gutters on my front and back porches have rusted through (they're old steel half-rounds).

So I've been getting estimates--I contacted 5 contractors; 4 have been by so far, and I have 3 estimates in hand.

In any case, I'm going to get seamless aluminum "K" gutters--no need to worry about rust again.

The choice seems to come down to either spending about $600 for .027 gauge "industry standard" gutters, or spending about $1200 for .032 gauge gutters--he showed me a piece of one and it really does look much more sturdy than the typical gutter. The .032 gutters come with a 10 year warranty on workmanship and 20 years on the parts.
I need to call back the contractors for the .027 gauge gutters and ask about a warranty, since neither contractor whose estimate was in this range spontaneously mentioned one.

As I'm writing this, I'm convincing myself to go for the $1200 gauge gutters, at least in the front. The front porch has a roof that still is under warranty for another 10 years and is in good condition. I'm not sure about the condition of the "soffit" or section underneath. The back porch has a stationary aluminum awning which the gutter hangs off of--it's attached to wood strips that are screwed to the awning supports. The awning supports are beginning to rust a bit, and one contractor (the one who hasn't gotten back to me yet) said that he recommended replacing the awning instead, and said he'd give me the name of the contractor. He tried to scare me that during an ice storm it could collapse on my dog. While it might need some new supports on the far side of the porch, the awning itself is perfectly good, and it is firmly attached to the house, so I just vowed for the moment to get a roof rake before next winter. I'm hoping to have that awning last another 10 or so years--if I'm still in this house (and the only reason I wouldn't be is if DBF & I get married), I'm hoping to renovate the kitchen and expand the house by about 3 feet into the patio, which would entail redoing the concrete patio as well.

Also this summer I need to have the roof silvercoated, the furnace serviced, and I desperately need new glasses (it's been 4 years and I'm reading thru scratches). That's at least $1000 in additional expenses there--and, to be prepared, I should probably expect about another $500 in unexpected expenses, either a big car repair or a big vet bill. Praying neither comes to pass, but I can't ignore history, and I haven't had either of those since a $500 vet bill in February, and I usually experience about 3 major "unanticipated expense" events a year. (Hopefully the laws of probability will work in my favor--if things work out to average, I'm still way ahead in expenses paid on based on the $8000 I spent on Henry the year I adopted him!)

Also I really should travel to L.A. and visit my mother this summer--another $500 expense.

Summers always end up being pricey, and this summer my income is low, which means that some of these expenses will get paid for out of savings. I have one more year on my job and then need to make the big career change, so I hate going into savings to do this--which is the one temptation to go for the $600 gutters. They might not last as long or look as pretty, but that's about what I had originally planned to spend (based on the first estimate that I got way back in March when a contractor was working on a neighbor's roof).