Friday, January 30, 2009

Tax Season Blues

I'm sure I'm not the only one stalking my mailbox for W2's. It's time to file our taxes and for many of us that means were are getting money back (unless, of course, you live in CA.). Depending on what your situation is, this might be what you need to make a nice dent in your debt repayment or maybe boost whatever savings you have (I am really hoping none of my readers are going to blow their money shopping). I am getting a rather large refund because I started working in September and got 2 bonuses (not performance-related, I'm not that good) which were taxed very highly. Voila, 3k+ refund. I say 3K+ because I don't know the exact amount. I don't know this because even though I started up my turbotax filing Jan 3rd my office has not sent me my W2. We have an automated epay system and they have not put that up there either. Have I mentioned I work in an accounting environment?

Well, using the information I got from my last paycheck, my fed. refund should about somewhere around 3k. I don't have a W2 from a job I worked last year because it's getting sent to my mailbox in my previous city. I don't have the form from my bank letting me know how much interest I made from my savings (HSBC - making me feel like a rich person that gets interest income). In fact, the only people that have been on point with this whole tax brouhaha have been the federal government - with my student loans. I've been able to view that information since the first week of January -ONLINE! Chase, who has my other student loans just sent me that info.

Anyway, that's just me complaining. It has technically been only a month so I should be patient. My real problem is that I might not get my refund from one of my states. The state I moved from requires health insurance before you can take your deduction. I am not sure if I had health insurance when I lived there.


I started this about a week ago so a lot of things have changed. I am not in possession of my main W2, my student loan info and I have confirmed I had health insurance coverage! wohoo. My federal refund is sitting at 3k now and my state is around 1k. It's going to change b/c I had a part time retail job but that W2 got sent to my former state. Going to pick it up this weekend and then I'll be all set. I'm toying with putting it all towards my Bank of america Gold option. It would be nearly paid off and probably take 3-4 more months to be paid off. That would free up $450 a month!! I have to look at my cash flow, because I need to set some money aside to pay for the cable and Internet I just got. I'll let you know how that works out. It's exciting to be so close to having one debt paid off! Even though I just moved some of the balance around it still feels good.

How are you guys utilizing your tax refunds?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gone for a minute

now I'm back with....UPDATES!
sorry you guys. Things have been pretty busy these past couple of weeks. It's a busy period at work so I have been working 12 hours days. Unfortunately, I don't get paid extra for all these hours. The only upside is that the company buys dinner for us. This has been good for my wallet but so bad for my stomach. I think I have gained 5 lbs in the last two weeks!
In terms of spending, working so long has prevented me for spending any money for the last two weeks. I have not even had time to take out my weekly $10 allowance (for the last 3 weeks). I finally did yesterday and now I have $50 ($20 that I didn't spend last month). It seems like so much! It's funny because last year my weekly allowance was between $50 and $60 and sometimes it would be gone by tuesday (I take it out on Fridays). This "extreme saving" as I like to call it has changed my outlook. I have another example of how it's changed my mentality. My job is such that I work on different clients for a set period of time. Sometimes I work from the main office. In the past 2 months, I have always brought my lunch. I changed locations this week and brought my lunch on Monday. Imagine my surprise when not a single other person on my team did. It seemed so bizarre to me. That office didn't even give it's employees access to a microwave. I had to ask the deli guy to heat up my food! Anyway, I thought that maybe things were cheaper in this cafeteria because the office is not in NY. Tuesday, I was running late and didn't have time to make a real lunch so i grabbed 2 packets of oatmeal with the intention of having that for lunch. During the day, I started thinking about how much of a hassle it would be to make the oatmeal since I couldn't heat it up myself. I like my oatmeal just so and I didn't think the deli guy would take that much direction from me since he still had to make sandwiches and was doing me a favor. Long and short of it, is i decided since I had money in my wallet, I could buy lunch just this once. I got a quesadilla and a drink. It cost $10. I was so shocked and annoyed. It REALLY upset me to just hand over $10 to the cashier lady. I just kept thinking, now I only have $40. I know I will not be getting lunch at this office anytime soon. Thing is, before I wouldn't even have thought about it. The quessadilla was not even that good by the way.

I had a houseguest this week and he also did a lot in terms of me saving. Although I had to feed him and drive him around, he bought my groceries for the month and filled up my tank. He also paid for everything that we did the whole week! That's $90 that i will not be spending this month and splitting between savings and credit cards.

There is one bad thing to report, I got cable and internet over the weekend. There were two main reasons.

1. I was so busy at work, I no longer had time to surf the internet or blog. If I wanted to maintain this blog and keep up with all of yours I needed access to internet. I also need it to pay bills and just keep up to date.

2. Working so many hours was making me miss my fav tv shows (they are all on network tv) and I felt I needed DVR so i could record them. If i'm going to be saving money by going out less, I needed some form of entertainment. Problem is that it costs about $100 a month. I am going to have to use part of my tax refund to pay it otherwise i'd be in the red by june.

I'm sure I could have chosen to keep sacrificing but then i'd be really depressed and bored and I don't think I'd have the motivation to keep paying this debt off.
Anyway, this post is long so i'll write more later. I just wanted to let you guys know about another blog that's pretty interesting. Check out It's an interesting read.
I'll update my meters this wknd.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Report

This weekend was great for a lot of reasons but first, I'd like to say welcome to all my new (to me) readers! Wow, my readership spiked over the weekend. I'm not sure why but hey it motivates me to keep writing. Welcome ninja, bogeygirl, greeni$black and 4461. I'll be sure to check out your blogs this week. Bogeygirl, send me an email at and I'll send you the html for the progress bars.

The reason this weekend was great was because I did so much but I didn't spend a single dollar. Here's how that happened. My friend was visiting from Europe and stayed with me. I was very happy to see him but scared about increased costs of feeding and housing another person. I knew I couldn't be like - "yea i'm having cereal for dinner, what do you want, cornflakes or rice krispies?" It worked out okay though. I cooked but I managed to create good food out of the things in my house.
Friday my other friend came from out of state and we went to breakfast. I was resigned to blowing all my eating out budget at IHOP but she reads my blog and knows my story and paid then entire $20 tab.
Saturday my friend from Europe's girlfriend came in and I drove them around. Luckily, I had to rent a car for work (commuting this entire week) and so I drove that car around and didn't have to pay for gas! Then we saw a movie and his gf covered the tab and then he covered dinner afterwards.

Sigh. I have nice friends. Nothing much to update. Actually, there is one more thing. I mentioned I have to commute out of state for work this week and I was apprehensive because I will have to pay an $8 toll everyday. It's reimbursable but I would have to wait 2-6 weeks to get it back depending on how fast payroll processes it. That was not something I budgeted for and since my budget is so tight, I didn't really want to take that money out of my checking. I was toying with the idea of taking it out of my savings but my manager offered me his EZ Pass today when he hard i didn't get a rental that had one (I didn't know that was an option). My stars are definitely aligned this if I could land a date :).

I have made $15 from surveys so far. I am going to put this money in my big ticket savings. It's not a lot but it will add up. I get most of my surveys from pinecone. Surveyspot sends me stuff too but it takes longer to get the money so I haven't cashed out yet. I opened up a capitalone rewards checking because BOA is starting to charge fees for their savings account.

Before I forget, thanks to miss accountability, I'm going to check out the 0% offers. I probably should not get more credit cards because I seriously have too many (i have over 7 if you include store cards. I primarily use only 2) but I shouldn't care about my credit score right now since I'm not in the market to buy a house.

I don't think I have much more to report today. I'm off to check out all these fabulous new blogs I've discovered.

Will report back soon!

Stay on budget.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My CC debt is under 40k!

All my payments hit today and I updated my progress bars. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my total credit card debt is under 40K. It sounds like progress. My graduate loans are in the negative because they accrue interest everyday (i post the payoff amount) and I have not paid on them since I started this blog. I'll make a payment on the 30th though so I'm not to bothered about that. Both my student loans are ahead of schedule in payment.

It seems like my commentors have dropped off. Maybe my posts are not stimulating enough. I guess it's not a very big deal. This is as much for me as for my readers. If there is something you'd like to have me blog about, let me know. I know some people like Jim at mydebtblog have stopped blogging but hey, google tells me that there are people reading so feel free to comment.

It seems like a lot of people are struggling with balancing debt and living life. Debtkid has an article that talks about it. What do you guys do? Do you stop everything so that you can focus on paying your debts? No new clothes, no going out, no vacations etc? Or do you still treat yourself?
I think I fall in the middle. I haven' t bought any new clothes because I feel very guilty to spend that much on a sweater when I owe almost 100k. I will be just fine in the clothes I have already. I'm not going to get arrested for wearing the same coat everyday or not looking like a fashion plate. I haven't taken an vacation that I had to pay for but I will be going to my cousins wedding in the UK bcoz... it's my cousin. That's one thing I won't allow debt to make me miss. I might have to put something on my credit card because I don't have enough saved up for a ticket but I will be sensible about it.

I have kind of stopped going out unless I can get in for free and I definitely don't spend money on drinks (hey, it improves your flirting skills). I do pay myself an allowance ($10 a week) to spend on whatever I want without restrictions. That's my way of keeping sane. I don't know, it's worked so far for me and I've stayed on budget. How about you guys? where do you draw the line?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Payday!

This means I can pay some bills! Yay! I no longer have $5 in my checking account. The only problem is that it won't last for long. Right now payday means money in, money out. I'm okay with that though because it means my debt is decreasing.
Unfortunately, something I didn't take into consideration when I did all those balance transfers is that my minimum payments are higher on those accounts. It would have been okay if the minimum on the account I transferred from decreased but because it is a line of credit the payments are fixed. I had to adjust my budget because I didn't have enough in the credit card category to pay even the minimums on all my credit cards. The end result is that I am on a very tight budget. There is no room to go more than $2 in any category so that will be tough.

The other thing that is a bit disappointing is that the increased minimum payments means that I can afford to pay only the minimum on the 2 cards (cap 1 & USbank). I haven't done this in years. I always pay at least $50 more than the minimum. Since my payments are going to be fixed, this will change as the months pass by.

I looked at my budget for the year and realized that my BOA Line of credit will be paid of by the end of the year. Sooner if I get a big refund. That makes me so happy. I know I didn't completely pay it off because I transferred about 10K to other cards but I'm still excited. It had the worst APR's ever.

I figure once that is paid off then I'll have some breathing room. I pay about $450 a month on that account and it will be great to have that paid off. I'm going to use a modified snowball approach. I am not going to put the entire thing towards my other cards. I will use some for debt, some for increased saving and some just to sit in my checking so I have a little cushion.

There is something at the back of my mind that I feel is going to bite me in the you-know-what soon. I have not received a gas bill since I moved in in October. I called national grid early December and they said that they could not get into the building the first time and someone would be along to read the meter in a couple of days. I asked if I could schedule a time for them to come when I knew I would be in and they said no. I don't want to get a $900 bill some months from now and have them tell me it's due in 15 days. I have never used gas before and so I have not idea what my consumption is every month. If anyone has any ideas or advice please let me know.

I know a lot of people got paid today so my question is - "What did you do with your paycheck?"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Buy Coupon

Last post I swear.
If anyone needs $10 off on let me know. i have a coupon that expires on the 24th and I'm not going to use it. Shoot me an email and I'll give you the code. Please let it be for something you were going to buy before you read this post :)

Balance Transfer games

I must not have much to do at work today.

So I realized after updating my finance charges for the month of January that this BOA line of credit is ridiculous. I paid $250.24 in finance charges for Jan. That's about half of what I pay on the card monthly! This whole 4 steps forward, 2 steps back does not sit well with me.

So I moved the balance.

I moved $6000 to my Usbank card and it will be at 9.4%. It cost me $180 in fees but I think it's worth it. I don't plan on paying off my debt in 6 months so I will "make up" the fee in the difference in charges. My problem is I don't know what to do about my debt meter. I don't want to change the numbers because they represent where I "started". Yeah, I am anal about silly details like that.

I think maybe I'll just have the USbank be in negative (which will be depressing) till I get it to where it was originally. Good news is, I was playing around on turbo tax and it looks like I will be getting a really big refund. I had $1000 that's in my budget already so anything over that will go to my debt! Can't wait till I get official numbers (where are my w2's?). Anyone else excited about doing taxes?

Anyway, what do you guys think about the new font and color? I thought the black was hard to read and the text was kind of small.

A series of Unfortunate events

aka how to spend >$120 @ target.

You can sort of tell where this is going right? This weekend was not so good in the finance department. I told you all about my master plan to save money on household items. I got a $120 gift card FREE that I was to use to cover 3-4 months worth of household expenses. Well, that didn't work out quite as planned. I went to target on Saturday and I spent, ta-da, $134.44.

Yes, you read right. I spent more than the entire gift card in one trip. Did I buy a vacuum cleaner? No. A microwave? No. Foreman grill...any appliance? Nope, nope, NO!

So what the heck did I spend all that money on. I'm going to list it out for you guys. I'll add a special notation on the things I have NEVER bought before.

Cleaning supplies (what, you thought you were going to see makeup and beauty products?)
Scrub sponge (6pack) - 5.99
scrubbing bubbles - 4.59
clorox toilet (2pack) - 3.69
method granite cloth (1st time purchase) - 4.19
scrubbing bubbles - 3.19
formula 409 - 2.69
tide detergent - 14.69

toothpaste - 4.49
toothbrush (4pack) - 7.34

6cup - 3.99
4cup - 3.99
12cup (2)- 13.98
5cup - 4.49
5cup - 3.69
1cup (2) - 2.99
toilet paper - 15

Summers eve powder (1st time purchase) - 2.89
playtex (2 boxes) - 16.08
kotex - 6.09

That's it. Anything super special? No. Somehow, I had the gall to be shocked when the lady was ringing up the purchases... I thought my bill would be slightly over $40. Um...hello? Toilet paper alone was $15! Yea, I obviously was not thinking. I think what happened is instead of buying for one month, I saw things like a 4pack of toothbrushes and thought, "hey, that's a great deal!" and I tossed it in my cart. The upside is I don't think I will need to go to target for a while. I don't know if I can last 3-4 months but I definitely will not be going in February. The downside is that I had to whip out my credit card to pay the $14.44 difference. Why? Because I only had about $5 in my checking account. Smart move? No.

I didn't really need ALL of those food containers - I could have put one back. I don't think I had to have bought 2 boxes of tampons either. Oh well, I've decided that once I get paid, the $14.44 is going to come out of my household budget for January. So it won't be $0 like I hoped but it'll still be less than $40.

The title says a series of unfortunate events, so you know there has to be at least one other thing I did wrong. All you astute readers would be right! I was really bored Sunday, being that I don't know that many people in the city yet. I def. have cravings when I'm bored so around 4pm I decided I wanted cake ... and ice-cream. This is despite the fact that I have $1 in my wallet and about $5 in my checking account. Paying down debt was not in my mind. Haagen Dazs and Sara Lee were though.

I went to the rite-aid near my house.
No sara Lee cake.
Should have gone back home.
Nope, I walked further to the Duane Reade.
No Sara Lee Cake and no ice-cream
Should have gone back home.
Un-huh, I walked further to the grocery store.
Searched and searched for Sara Lee.
Couldn't find it.
Should have gone back home.
No way, after all this effort? It's a grocery store, there HAS to be Sara Lee cake somewhere.
Find it in a remote corner of the store. On to ice-cream.
Hmm, ice-cream here is much too expensive (suddenly cost is important?)
Decide to just buy the cake*
walk back to Rite-aid and buy ice-cream there.
Put it all on credit.

What is wrong with me? Then i get annoyed that I ate the ice-cream and cake b/c I went to the gym all week. Wow, putting this in words is allowing me to view myself from a distance. Anyway, this is going to come out of my budget when I get paid, so I am essentially using my "pocket money" on stupid ish!

I vow to be better. I need to make significant progress in this debt battle.

* At the grocery store, I actually picked up some waffles, some syrup and other groceries to buy, before a little voice of reasoning told me how dumb I was being. I was thinking that since I was going to use the CC to pay for the cake, what would an extra $10 count? This was the thinking that landed me in trouble and I hope you guys just stay away from that temptation. Every dollar counts. Using the CC @ target was what made me think to use it again for the desserts. It's almost like the pringles ad - once you start, you can't stop.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My APR's

Jim over at mydebtblog asked me what my APR's are. I thought it would be a good thing to share with you guys.

Capital one - 10.8%

BOA Line of credit - 21.99% (grr!)

BOA Credit Card - 0% till I think April, then 14.99%

Merrill Lynch - 3.99%

Us Bank - 14.75% that is in place to be reduced to 9.99%

Grad loan - 6.8%

Undgrad Laon - 2.88%

There you have it. As you can see, Bank of America is out of control and they refused to lower the rate. Matter of fact, when I called them to lower it, they reduced my credit line (they did the same of Merrill Lynch too since they own that) and effectively destroyed my credit score. They left about $60 on each account even though I had about $5000 in unused credit. I'll save that for another post because it makes me MAD.

Luckily I had a purchase check for my capital one account with no fees. It's not 0% but at the current purchase rate which is about 10% lower than the Boa. I'll take it. Just unhappy I couldn't transfer the whole thing out. The thing is, If i get a new credit card, I don't think I can do a balance transfer because it's a line of credit not a credit card. Let me know if you guys no any different! I really don't want another card but at this point, my credit score can take as many hits as it likes.

It was 672 on dec 2nd and I think it dropped to 657 shortly after the Bank of America Fiasco. Not sure what it is but I'll be checking on it every now and then.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Progress so far

I paid $1165.5 to my BOA line of credit. It was $37.50 higher because my friend remembered that she was to pay half of the ticket since I got it while taking her somewhere.

I locked myself out of my house yesterday and was scared I'd have to pay a super sized NY fee to get it open but my landlord was nice and lent me the master key. He even brought it to my office. :)

I had another savings mini-windfall. My job has this program that allows us to get points for doing healthy things like going to the gym and the dentist. I had 120pts which translates to ... $120 that I could use for a gift card.

I was very happy and thought about all the gifts I could get. $120 could get a me a cool gizmo at best buy, it could take me places at macys...

Then reality hit!

I am broke and in debt! Those are things I could have done if I hadn't been so stupid in my younger years. I could afford to splurge on random gizmos (can you tell that that word tickles me?).

What's a responsible city girl that's tryna get out of debt to do?

I did the responsible thing (yay me!). I used ALL of it to get a target gift card.

Umm.. I don't get it. How is that responsible? They sell a lot of gizmos there.

Good question. I do most of my household shopping (soaps, toilet paper, body lotions, e.t.c.) at target. I think my super downsized budget for 2009 allows me to spend $40 a month on all and everything household related. I figured that if I just used the gift card that's $40 extra a month I have to put towards my debt. Not a lot but hey, brick by brick.
I officially have $5.06 in my checking account to last me till the 15th. This is because of some timing issues that caused me to pay my entire rent with my first check. Hopefully, nothing crazy comes up.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 in Retrospect

I have finished going over my budget for 2008. The numbers tell a story. A very sad story. I spent $10,0075.75 on debt. In some places (not NYC) that is enough for a down payment on a house. This is why I am broke. Do you know what I could do with 10K? I'm sure you do. This is why this has to end.
I got $1400 from my folks to pay for a computer I had bought to replace one that was stolen. I am putting $1129 towards the BOA loan and keeping 271 to pay off some tickets I received. The timing of this could not be better as I was not sure how I was going to pay those off and they are all (3) past due.
I have no money until the 15th because I just paid rent with my last check so it should be interesting to see how this month works out. The good thing about me is that I have a cash flow sheet that I update regularly so I am always aware of my cash situation and don't usually get into crazy cash strapped situations unless a major unexpected expense occurs. I have a category called unplanned spending but it's usually about $100 a month. I will try and figure out a way to get this on the blog so you guys can see where my money goes.

Trisha over at
blogging away debt inspired me to keep a record on what I pay as finance charges and boy it was an eye-opener! In December I was charged $415.91 in finance charges. From September to December I was charged $1619.07. Lord only knows what the total for the whole year was. That was as far back as I could go without paying for old statements. I need to get this number as close to zero as possible. The major culprit is the BOA gold option loan because the interest rate is 21.99. They have refused to bring it down so I am doing my best to move it around and pay it down. I'll post monthly on that.

In 2008 I went overbudget by $500.97 but I ended up with a balance that was $294 higher than budgeted due to unexpected income. That's not bad but I will try to stick closer to my budget this year. My biggest categories for overspending were eating out ($262.51), clothing ($373.57) and unplanned spending ($641.57). I don't have a budget for clothing this year. I have too many clothes. I don't need anymore and I need to
lose weight. Eating out definitely needs to be watched. I have a sensible budget and I shouldn't be going over by so much. I definitely need to look at what fell into unplanned spending to see what I can plan for. I know a lot of the excess came from my move.

2009 is going to be much better and I am wishing myself success in all my endeavors.

What do you guys have planned for the new year?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How to get a debt-o-meter

I finally got all my numbers in and my debt meters are up and running. Yay me! I'm going to take a second to talk about my numbers before i get into the step by step guide.
As of January first 2009, I owe other people $72,647.85. Yikes. That's about 10K more than I make a year. How in the world did I get to this stage? I'll save that for another post.
What's my plan for the year.
I said earlier that i wanted to get my credit card debt specifically under 35K. It's currently $41,338.12. That's very doable. I think overall, I want to reduce my debt by 10K by the end of the year. That will give me a little push. The problem is that my rent is very high. More about that later too.

On too the meter. I guess my post inspired others to do a similar thing. I am still going to write a step by step guide but fellow blogger over at out of debt again did a much more comprehensive guide and it has pictures. Feel free to head over there if you don't understand my instructions or you just learn better visually.

Step 1

Head to the layout section of your blog
Select add a gadget
Look for gadget called add html/javascript.
Select it

Step 2

The gadget should appear. Position it where you want. Click on the box to edit it. Then paste this code in:

EDIT: It won't let me paste the code. It converts it to the bar. So anyone that wants the code email me or visit the website I linked

All the bolded items are things you can change. You can title it whateve you want. The part in purple can be copied and pasted on the next line if you have more than one credit card. The percentage tells the bar how far out to go (the tracking progress part of the bar) The $0 is how much i have actually paid. Some people change that to percantages. The other number is my total debt. You can also change your total from left to right.
If you want to get real technical you can change the color. I have color 692 but that might not work with other color schemes. Unfortunately I don't know any other color codes but you can probably google it or look at the source page of another persons blog.

Step 3
Tweak it till it works.

That's all folks. If you have any simple questions - feel free to ask me. I might be able to help but remember I am not a compsci person at all

Debt O Meter

As you can see, there is some "construction work" happening. After days of bothering people and trying to have them help me put a debt meter on my site, I took a crash course in html and I'm doing it myself. It's mostly by trial and error so it's gonna take a while. Don't worry, as soon as I figure it out, I'll do a step by step guide on how to get this on your site so other newbies won't be as frustrated as I have been