Saturday, March 31, 2012

Goals check-in: March

This seemed like a REALLY long month! Maybe part of it was my limit on spending.  Or not eating ice cream. :D Anyway, we're at the end of it, and while things are not perfect, I've made some gains on my 2012 goals.

Read 100 books in 2012.

There was a lull after #30 -- I didn't have any new material! I eventually got to the library, but in the meantime I reread a couple of novels that I had lying around. Those don't count toward the hundred book challenge. Now I'm up to #39.

Exercise for
90 minutes per week.
Um. No. I have been glued to the computer and my back hurts.

Friday, March 30, 2012

April Bonus Round

In addition to my goals for 2012 (which I will report progress on tomorrow), I add month-long bonus goals.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Honeymoon Flights!

Yay! Through most of a year of using my JetBlue American Express credit card and another six months of answering e-Rewards surveys -- during a time when I wasn't flying anywhere -- I've reached my goal of 20,000 TrueBlue points!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The cat came back...

The cat came back
The very next day
The cat came back
We thought [s]he was a goner
But the cat came back
[S]he just couldn't stay away...

Down to 95 Things

I've been playing around with the Day Zero Project, which is kind of like a bucket list and kind of like a to-do list. And, boy, do I love to-do lists!

Here's my 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days list.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Read Aloud Roundup: March 2012

This month, my sweetie wrote questions for grades 1 and 2, and I did questions for 3, 4, and 5; we collaborated on the kindergarten questions.

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill
What would you do if someone acted like Mean Jean at recess?
What kind of rules do you have for your school playground?
Why do you think Jean acted the way she did?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Recovering from early credit card debt

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about overcoming consumer debt, see Debt Roundup.

This is a guest post by my sweetie; she graciously agreed to provide an alternate viewpoint for the topic of Debt.

When Remy and I first started talking about money matters, I was surprised at how incensed she felt about the credit culture here in the States. It made me realize that here was someone who, without experiencing credit card debt first hand, knew how I felt and what I hated about it, too. That was refreshing. But, in talking to her about the differences -- culturally, philosophically, personally -- we have in our views about money, it was clear that my past experiences color the rest of my interaction with money. They also have affected our relationship as we’ve started living together and making plans to get married in the fall. Today I’m sharing a bit about my financial history and what I’ve learned from struggling with debt early in my life.

Student loans: my plan to graduate debt-free from grad school

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about living with and without debt, see Debt Roundup. Also, stay tuned for my other half's view on the matter, later today.

 I am in my second semester of a Master's degree program in library and information science. My plan to date has been to graduate in 2013 (either at the end of the Spring or Summer terms), and then to repay all of my student loans within the 6 months after graduation, before the interest kicks in. It's an ambitious goal, I've been told. Plenty of people have student loan debt! And the interest is so low... why not take the full 15 or 20 years to pay it off with the minimum payments? You'd free up so much money!

That's only very occasionally a temptation. After all, the amount that I'd pay in interest alone if I only paid the minimum each month is astounding. This online minimum payment calculator at says (with my rough number estimates) that I'd be paying the minimum amount for more than 30 YEARS and I'd pay back the amount of the loan PLUS nearly half that amount in interest! I think not.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Breaking down the budget

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about budgeting, see Budgeting Roundup.

I didn't know much about budgeting when I was growing up. I'm sure my mother had a budget, because she's smart with money and doesn't waste it, but I don't recall ever hearing numbers. If I wanted something, I usually got it unless there was another -- non-monetary -- reason for saying no to the request. And there were certainly items pressed upon me -- mostly clothing -- that I didn't want. I think if I'd heard, "It's time to buy back-to-school clothing. We have $XX to spend on it. What do you think you need?", I might have understood the process better. Instead, I slogged through clothes shopping (NOT my favorite!), offered up anything that seemed like it had a possibility of being accepted by my mom and wasn't a total pain to wear, and then she took it to the counter to pay for it. It was kind of weird how price wasn't mentioned. (This is an example of what my sweetie means when she talks about the differences in our backgrounds.)

So, once I'd secured my first full-time employment after college and made it through the inevitable upswing where I bought everyone way too many Xmas presents, I didn't immediately start budgeting. I just looked to see what money I had, and if there was enough in the account, I bought whatever it was I wanted. Ugh. I still cringe to think of how much cash slipped through my hands, and how much further ahead I'd be today if I'd put it toward retirement or emergency savings instead. Thankfully, I stayed out of debt -- I wasn't interested in having a credit card, and by the time I was, I wasn't the best prospect. My thin credit file worked against me, but that's a story for another time. Today I'm writing about how I budget, and what I get out of it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saving 50% of my income

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about saving and living on less than you earn, see Saving and Investing Roundup.

Out of all of my 2012 goals, the biggest one is probably saving and/or donating a combined 50% of my take-home income. Imagine dividing your income in half. Could you make ends meet if you only brought home that much on payday? It's certainly not the easiest thing I've ever done, but it's probably the best time of my life to do such a thing. My job is stable and my expenses are low; I've got myself and the cats to take care of, and my sweetie contributes as she can to the upkeep of our household.

Here are a few ways I reduce expenses so that I can meet my savings goals.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

AIDS/LifeCycle 2012

Living in the San Francisco queer community, I know lots of people who are affected by HIV and AIDS. I see a lot of marketing for antiretroviral drugs. I promote discussion groups and support groups for those living with HIV and those who have lost friends, family members, and partners to the disease and its complications. I go to a lot of fundraisers that benefit causes like hospice care, safer sex education, free HIV testing, and AIDS awareness.

I can't give money to them all. But I do give something every year to AIDS/LifeCycle, the 7-day bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against AIDS.

Relationships & Money: talking about important stuff

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about relationships and money, see Relationships and Money Roundup.

Today you’ll hear from my sweetie, who has experienced our relationship from the other side, and has a few things to say about how she and I deal with the topic of money.

One of the key differences in my relationship with Remy versus others (and for the sake of comparison, I’ll stick to my most immediate previous relationship) when it comes to money is that in my past relationships, I’ve been the one who holds the higher paycheck, the better pay rate, and the better head for finances.  With her, the economic situation is reversed; I’m on slightly lower footing. But our basic understanding around money has not lent itself to ease of discussion about money. So much of our experiences and ideas around money come from our upbringings (mine was low-middle/working class) and our viewpoints are heavily influenced by those early experiences.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm too lazy to be an entrepreneur.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about the pros and cons of working for yourself, see Entrepreneurship / Making Money Roundup.

"Entrepreneur" is one of those words I have to think about when I type it, like "bureaucracy". (So many vowels!) It's also, like "masseuse" and "atheist", something I don't think you should be calling yourself in public unless you can spell it correctly.

Thankfully, I only have to remember how to spell one of those words on a regular basis -- and it's not entrepreneur. Mostly because I'm too lazy to be one.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Women's Money Week Giveaway

Next Monday kicks off Women's Money Week 2012, and I'll be posting something each day on managing money (which, hey, I do as a woman!). I appreciate the chance to stretch a little as a writer, and I'm interested to see what others contribute.

Go check them out, spread the news, and enter their giveaway for a $20 Amazon card.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Big Vacation

I am so excited about this!!

These are things I've never done before (at least not as an adult responsible for my own travel plans):
-been on a multi-day road trip
-stayed in a hostel
-had a Spring Break vacation
-owned a (valid) passport
-been to Canada
-been on a cruise ship
-taken Amtrak

These are things I've done and want to do again:
-see plays at OSF
-visit Seattle
-take a week-long vacation

And I get to do ALL OF THAT in this vacation I'm planning! The catch is... I have to be patient, save up, and wait for the right time.