Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goals Check-in: January

So, how am I doing on those goals?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Easy Investments for Beginners (or Lazy People)

I'll tell you right out: I am NOT interested in playing the stock market. I don't have the nerves for it. I don't have the math skills to enjoy it. I don't have the money to have it really pay off. And I SURE as heck don't have the time.

However, one of my goals on the 101 things in 1001 days list is to invest in the stock market. I know it's good for my future to beat the inflation rate, at least. But where do I start with only a small amount to invest? How do I know what stocks to pick? How do I know when to buy more of something that's going to be the next Microsoft, or sell that Bear Stearns look-alike (I had to look that up, but it's not pretty) before it takes a dive? And what if I get it wrong? What if I get it RIGHT, even? What is that going to cost me in fees and in time?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bonus Round!

I've decided to add a few challenges to the year's goals each month. In January, along with getting the whole plan started, I cleaned out my closet and got rid of a bunch of stuff. I also opted out of junk mail, including email and credit card offers!

Coming up in February, here are my special add-on bonuses:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Be weird.

I have to confess that I've never really followed the Moses of personal finance. You know, that dude that everyone blogs about. The one they credit with their financial turnaround.

Dave Ramsey.

I mean, I understand the concept of "baby steps" and the "$1000 emergency fund", and at least half a dozen other principles I've seen referenced in my daily reading material. I've just never picked up one of Ramsey's books.

But I ran across a new reference today at Grand Per Month, in a post by Melissa of Mom's Plans and Fiscal Phoenix. Mr. Ramsey has said (and it's been repeated in bumper-sticker and window-decal format, if you feel the need), "Debt is normal. Be weird."

Well, heck. I LOVE being weird. And I've never been much good at being normal, it's got to be said. All the way back to toddlerhood, if you ask my parents. (Please don't ask my parents.) And I recognized myself and my anti-credit-based-economy soapbox in that slogan.

Debt is normal. Be weird.

Not having a credit card (as I didn't until 2010) is weird. Not having credit card DEBT (which I didn't, and don't) is weird. Not owning a car (never have; probably won't in the near future) is weird. Not having a big expensive wedding (which we won't) is weird. Not spending lots of money on coffee, gas, and TV is REALLY weird. And that doesn't even touch thrift-store shopping, coupon-clipping, or my other favored forms of minimizing materialism. All weird.

Guess what? I'M WEIRD.

But I'm not buried under debt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Juggling bowling pins, chainsaws, and books

As I go about introducing myself to a new crop of virtual classrooms, it becomes apparent that I've got a full plate this semester.

-I'm working full-time (40 hours/week) in the office.
-I'm taking 10 credit hours at library school (which they say is equivalent to 1.5x the number of undergraduate credits).
-I'm planning a wedding for October.
-I'm selecting books for the Read Aloud program.
-I'm reading lots of books for myself.
-I'm minding the lending libraries at work, home, and church (maybe! soon!).
-I'm embarking on some major goals, including saving/donating half of my take-home income.
-I blog here about all (most) of it!

I need either more hours in the day, or an ability to turn down interesting diversions. :)

Just a heads-up for anyone who swings by at the beginning of this semester: I may be busy elsewhere. I'll be around, posting (and writing more about those books I'm reading) when I'm able. The more you comment, the more incentive I have!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Update your resume!

How many times have you heard -- from your professors, career counselors, parents, LinkedIn groups -- "Always have an updated resume on hand"? Oh, blogger boys and girls -- this tip paid off a whole bunch this week!

First: You just might need it in a hurry.

My sweetie's back on the market this week, and having to make only a few changes to the resume(s) she last used (and then saved online, in a Google Doc) meant less downtime. Aside from a few online gigs (check out Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit if you haven't yet!), she's launched a new search for a full-time or part-time job in the area. Resume at the ready, she's set to network with friends, browse LinkedIn and Craiglist, and get her feet back under her FAST. Consider whether you'd be ready to knock on a temp agency's door tomorrow morning if today you were let go, your position was cut, your relationship or housing situation changed, or the company you work for closed their doors. In an uncertain economy, that extra bit of preparation can have big results.

Second: You never know when you'll stumble across a golden opportunity in a narrow timeframe.

Wednesday evening, my standing appointment was rescheduled, so I was actually home baking cookies and watching Netflix. Although the semester hasn't officially started yet, some professors are making their course pages public a little early. I figured I'd get a head start if there was anything new to look at, so I logged into D2L and checked the new emails from the SLIS list. Last week, an announcement for a student assistant position was posted -- someone to help with the debut of the Virtual Internships Program at SJSU (a collaboration between the records management folks at SLIS and the management info systems department in SJSU's College of Business, as I currently understand it). The assistant would work 10 hours a week (paid!) creating, populating, and updating a database for current and future interns and their supervisors. The work seemed right up my alley, but I was concerned that the position would itself be an internship, with concurrent enrollment in LIBR 294 -- and I won't be eligible for that course until after I finish the Spring semester. (Not to mention that most of the paycheck would go toward tuition fees for the course credits!)

So I emailed the head of the program to ask whether this was an internship, work-study, or what. (I phrased it a bit more elegantly.) When I'd had questions about the Virtual Internship program last semester, she'd been very responsive via email, so I was hoping to get an answer the next day. I was NOT expecting an email an hour later explaining that the position was not an internship (and therefore I could apply), but that the application deadline was THAT NIGHT! Resumes would be reviewed the next day, and "tomorrow will be too late". Yikes! Guess it was a good thing that I asked right away.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Larkin in last semester's LIBR 204, and the helpful input I received from Jill Klees at the SJSU Career Center, I had a resume suitable for this position at the ready. A few minor updates and a solid cover letter later, I'd applied for the position! Turn-around time from receiving the email: about half an hour. AWESOME.

As I write this, I don't know whether I'll be offered the position. But at least I'm in the running! I also think that I'm an excellent candidate for the job. The sense of accomplishment of finding a job opening that fits with my work skills and experience, and is also connected to the SLIS program, is a great encouragement to my fledgling job/internship search. So I'll repeat the wisdom, and gladly -- Always have an updated resume on hand!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Month-by-Month Phone Plans

Yesterday, I added my girlfriend to my MetroPCS family plan. It saved both of us money on our monthly cell phone bill!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Brooke's Books: The Brooke Jackman Foundation

One of the books I read to kick off my hundred-book challenge of 2012 was Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends, by Dennis Smith. The author interviewed many people who were deeply and personally affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including Robert and Barbara Jackman, parents of Brooke Jackman, who was only 23 when she died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

The stories in this book were all moving, but Brooke's seemed special to me. She had just started a new job at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of the North Tower, and was able to make one of the last outgoing phone calls from the WTC to say goodbye to her family. Her story tugged at my heartstrings. In some ways, I identified with her. Her parents describe Brooke as someone who "was always reading", someone who stopped in at Borders every evening on the way home from work. To honor her memory, they started the Brooke Jackman Foundation (TBJF).

The Foundation provides reading programs and literacy services for at-risk and underprivileged youth, to commemorate Brooke's love of reading, her helpfulness, and her desire to be of service. TBJF distributes brand-new books -- one for every child -- to the children participating in its programs. For several years following 9/11, the Jackman family and their community gathered together to stuff backpacks with books and school supplies, but now the operation has grown beyond that scale -- over 10,000 backpacks filled! In addition to providing disadvantaged youth in the New York City area with back-to-school supplies, "Brooke Packs" were also distributed to 200 children who had experienced the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in the Southern US in 2004. The Foundation promotes parents and children reading together, an activity which strengthens family bonds and improves literacy skills. In partnership with the Books for Kids foundation, the Brooke Jackman Foundation has opened four small libraries in sites such as domestic violence family shelters and the Crimes Against Children Bureau at the Kings County District Attorney's office. On top of all this excellent work, TBJF grants funding to outside literacy service providers in schools and non-profit organizations.

This month, I donated the funds I earmarked for charity to the Brooke Jackman Foundation, because I believe that they are doing good work encouraging children and their families to love books. In my own life and career, I want to promote reading for everyone, especially children. What Brooke's family is doing though the Foundation is inspiring and uplifting. I hope that they will continue to grow even more in the next ten years.

Unsubscribing from Junk Email

One of the extra steps I've taken this month to reduce STUFF in my life is to unsubscribe from email I don't need. It's not really "spam" -- that is, it's not entirely unsolicited or irrelevant to my interests. That stuff gets filtered into my Spam folder by my email client, for the most part, and I only see it when I skim over the subject lines to make sure I'm not deleting anything I need. I'm really talking about what still lands in my inbox.

Some of the email I get on a weekly or daily basis is left over from actual purchases I've made, or from a project I was working on last year, or from companies I like. I know where to find their websites! I don't need to be notified of every sale that comes along. So I'm using this month to weed out the (very few) promotional emails I want to receive from the larger mass of junk.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Librarians do the unexpected!

So I provided Nelson over at Financial Uproar with some, uh, research for his recurring Saturday posts, and now I'm his new favorite person. He's fickle, though, so I don't expect that to last long. Go check out my contribution of Serena Williams, a babe loosely related to finance (What? She's loaded! Although I'd've used this picture to get a bigger reaction.), and enjoy the snarkiness of a fun personal finance blogger. Just don't listen to him when he writes about why you shouldn't go to university. You could end up driving a potato chip truck for a living.

Supermarket Savings

I get a little excited about saving money. It's kind of weird to most people, but a lot of personal finance bloggers understand. So here's a long part-confessional/part-bragging sort of post about what I saved on the first grocery purchases of the year.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Textbooks for Spring Semester

I'm seeing a lot of statuses on Facebook grumbling about textbook prices. It must be that time of year already!

I've already priced out my textbooks for the semester and found some good deals on used books from Amazon and on semester-length rentals from College Book Renter. (I'm waiting for payday before I buy mine, but I have them in my shopping cart already.) Even with reduced prices, it comes out to about $160 for 5 books. Oof. And I know that's really nothing compared to what I paid at the campus bookstore as an undergraduate. Why are textbooks so expensive??

This infographic explains some of the reasons:

Textbook Shakedown
Via: OnlineEducation.net

Okay, so say you're stuck with a list of expensive textbooks. How can you get textbooks for less?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Strange Search Keywords

Hack Library School, that excellent blog for LIS students, just posted their 2011 blogging stats. I'm impressed! They're definitely a popular location. (Go, check them out!)

Now, I'm just starting out on this blog, and it's a hobby I have to cram into little spaces of free time between work and school. But I do watch my traffic stats on the Blogger dashboard, and I keep an eye on which posts get the most views. One feature I hadn't noticed until last night is the Search Keywords (under the section on Traffic Sources). I guess some people are stumbling across my blog while looking for something in a search engine -- not just from the links I post to Facebook and LinkedIn.

For now, most of the search keywords that led users to click on my listing are from (presumably) other library science students: "libr 285" competency proposal and subject analysis "libr 202" head the list, and also someone's search for design and implementation of instructional strategies for information professionals. Boring stuff like that.

But the best keyword search so far?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Laptop Lunch #1 of the year!

This was (some of) my lunch today:

I thought to snap a photo when I was mostly done with my entree -- leftover chili and rice and tortillas. The star-shaped things are biscuits, and my sweetie packed a little container of honey and some jellies we picked up at a hotel breakfast a while back.

I won't be posting every day, like some very organized people manage to, but I did want to acknowledge the cuteness of the biscuit stars and show off my new lunchbox in action. I am a lucky girl to have my lunch packed for me -- and in such a nice, eco-friendly purple box, too!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's the little things...

One other gift I received for Christmas was a lifetime membership to LibraryThing. (Check out the widget in the left sidebar -- that's LT!) While a basic membership allows me to list up to 200 books on my LibraryThing account, a premium member's listing limit expands to 5,000. Both annual ($10) and lifetime ($25) memberships are available, and my personal elf happened to pick up my gift from the LT holiday sale at only $15! There was a little hiccup in getting the membership code applied to my account, but an email exchange straightened that out.

This is such an excellent gift because now I can add all of the book titles that were donated to the HMCRA Read Aloud Program in previous years, and have them all in one place. Keeping a catalog at LibraryThing helps me (or any other volunteer for the program) in the following ways: