Living on a Shoestring (Read: My Budget), But (Mostly) Feeling Abundant

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Taken at Kit Carson Park in Albuquerque.  I loved the way the stormy sky combined with the leave-less cottonwood trees to create an otherworldly feeling.

I have been meaning to blog for the last few days; I’ve been feeling inspired to write.  But I’ve also been extremely motivated to work on a side project, doing legal transcription.  There is a time deadline to it, and it’s something that I find quite interesting, so most of my free time has gone to that in the last week and a half.  Listening to lawyers talk, well, it reminds me why I walked away from that career field, and I’m SO GLAD I did, even though it was a choice that has stuck around with me for my financial life ever since.  I used to beat myself up over that and the financial choices I made, but now I just try to move forward.

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Little Baby O, or Osito as I call her.  She melts my heart with her sweet disposition every day, and just look at that cute little face! 🙂 

I promised you a post on my budget, and I think I’ve got my new payroll stuff calculated pretty well. I’ve received a few paychecks and have determined that I am losing about 18% of my pay to taxes.  (Pisses me off that I make so little and pay such a percentage while people like Trump make billions and then pay nothing, but that’s a topic I won’t go further on in this post because I’ll just end up jumping up and down on my soapbox.)

I have figured out what my fixed expenses are every month, so I’ll write those down first.  Some things, like my renter’s and car insurance, I pay on a semi-annual and annual basis, so the amounts you see below are what I need to save every month (and have taken out of my paycheck via direct deposit) to have that payment ready.

  • Auto loan: $141.42 (let’s call it $142)
  • Rent (includes utilities): $525
  • Tower Garden (only until April 2017, unless paid off earlier): $81.54 (or $82)
  • Cell phone (unlimited data): $95.45 (or $96)
  • Car Insurance: $58.33 (let’s call it $60)
  • Amazon Prime: $8.25
  • Renter’s Insurance: $17.33 (let’s call it $18)
  • Citibank Credit Card: $58 (minimum payment)
  • CapitalOne Credit Card: $59 (minimum payment)
  • Private LAL loan: $167.11 (let’s talk about that a little more below)

The total of all of these comes out to, with some of the figures rounded as noted above: $1215.36.

Some of these amounts might seem scarily high for someone in my income bracket, but here are a few details.  The LAL loan has been paid way in advance, and I’m talking years ahead of schedule from when I was making a lot more $ in Boston and paid off several thousand of it before I decided I was going to make a crazy life change and move to the southwest.  So there is flexibility with that loan.  I could literally call up every month for the next four to five years and tell them to not make the automatic withdrawal payment, and I would not be in default.  However, interest would accrue and accrue and accrue, so I am not doing that.  I am, however, not paying the full $167.11.  Instead, every two weeks, when I get paid, I pay $20 on the loan.  It’s enough to cover the interest and make a small payment of about $15 in principal every month.  The total amount on that loan is still over $10K so it’s further down my debt snowball than the credit cards.

When I take out the $167.11 number and add in $40, that makes my fixed expenses a little less scary.  The number is $1088.25.  Now I can eat, and so can my pets! (Of course, if you have read my blog for a while, you already know I will go hungry first before they will.) 

You might also think my cell phone bill is high.  It is, but I have unlimited data through T-mobile and the way I access the internet at home is by using my phone as a mobile hot spot.  I don’t have a wifi provider, router, etc.

So what’s my income?  Well, I usually get about 37-38 hours per week, so I will budget myself based on what I would make per paycheck if I only worked 37 hours.  I will have $45.01 taken out, pre-tax , of every paycheck for my health, dental, and vision insurance through work.  Yes, I realize that seems incredibly low for all of them, but it’s a high deductible plan.  The deductible is $4500.  The choices at work were not great – even the lowest deductible plan of $1850 was going to cost me $152 per paycheck, and I definitely couldn’t afford that.  I usually only go to the doctor anyway for preventive care and for routine things like eye exams, dental cleanings, and to get my prescriptions rewritten.

Oh yeah, my income.  If I average myself out to 37 hours per week, I have a salary of $23,088 before taxes. We get paid every two weeks, so I budget based on two paychecks per month.  (Yes, there are two months of each year where I then get an extra paycheck.  It will go straight to debt and/or savings when I get to that point.)  I have decided to put 3% of each paycheck into the 401(k) they have at work which is through Prudential.  That comes out to about $53.20/month going into the 401(k).  After subtracting my before-tax benefits, I am at about $1632.70.  Then I pay taxes of 18% or  $293.87.  Also, I am paying $2.80 per each paycheck for long term disability.  I have calculated my take home pay to be roughly  $1,338.87. 

I elected to not get coverage for short term disability because it was going to cost me at least $15/paycheck. I definitely had to make some tough choices when it came time to enroll in benefits, which I am happy to say I am now ELIGIBLE for!

I plan on continuing to work out, and will be starting to run again.  I’ve been getting the bug to do so, outside.  Morgan and I walk on what they call the Bosque Trail and yesterday I saw lots of runners out there, and I really wanted to join them.  So, I’m going to.  Why just wish or dream when you can DO? [update since I started writing this post, I did it yesterday!! It felt freaking awesome even though I’m slow as molasses fighting gravity to go uphill.]

So, let’s do the math.  $1,338.87 minus $1,088.25 leaves me with $250.62 to feed myself, my pets, and put gas in my car.   Luckily, gas here is cheap, and there is a lot to do for free. It’s part of why I moved to a city again, to take advantage of what it has to offer.  Also, I tend to eat pretty cheaply and hardly ever eat out.  And my pets, I know where to get the best deals for their food and litter, toys, etc.   I’ve been budgeting about $55 per month for gas, and so far I’m doing it.

Those of you who know about Dave Ramsey know that he preaches that we shouldn’t save for retirement until we are out of Baby Step 2 (paying off debt.) Well, here’s the thing.  I’m 44.  I can’t wait until I get it all paid off.  I need to be saving NOW.   If there is one thing I know, it’s that when you save for retirement, having more time can make a huge difference. I hear the stories about how little many people have saved by my age, and I’m glad to say I’m ahead of the game at least in that respect.   But I can’t just forget about it, and rely only what I saved when I had a higher income.  I don’t have kids, so there is no one to look to, to take care of me when I get older.  I need to worry about me.

Looking at these numbers, one might feel a bit constrained, and you might wonder just how I can feel abundant in the face of it.   The way I’m feeling abundant about things is by reminding myself that I am following my heart and refusing to live by what others think I should do.  One of my current coworkers thinks I’m insane to have left a good paying job at Harvard, and a small bit of me occasionally agrees with her.

But, then I think of how I’ve grown over these past 17 months or so.  I’ve faced my fears in a way that a lot of people wouldn’t.  I drove cross country all by myself with just my car, and my pets.  I found an RV for us to live in and a place to put it.  When that town didn’t work out, I found another place for us and was able to sell the RV for almost the same amount as my loan on it.  When I knew that Lake Powell wasn’t for me, long term, I moved myself to Albuquerque, and then faced the scariest thing I’ve ever done. (Well, besides leaving my marriage.)  I moved without already having a certain job waiting in the wings.  Those of you who know my fear (actually, more like a phobia) of being homeless,  know how much anxiety and stress that caused me.  A LOT.

I’ve realized what are the actual necessities that I have in my life and for the most part, what are wants.  I need a car to get me back and forth to work.  I need a roof over my head and that of my animals.  Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than being able to provide that for them.  Seeing all of them dozing, knowing even in their subconscious, that they are safe and warm, is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  Yes, the place where we are now is temporary, but I’m working on figuring out what neighborhood(s) would be better suited for us and in which my budget will work.  (And I think I might have found one!)  And having the transcription work, even if this is the one and only time I get it, will allow me to chunk away at those credit cards.  I need to take everything from that project and put it on the credit cards because eventually my federal loans will have to be repaid again (I’m on deferment because of my in-school status.)

I just finished reading a book titled Money, a Memoir, by Liz Perle.  In it, she talks about the emotions that women attach to money, how what we’ve seen as money habits of our parents as children affects us in how we deal with money in our own lives, how women can fight an inner battle between wanting to be independent and wanting to be taken care of, at the same time.  It made me think of the time when I was married.  My ex-husband made good money and my salary (looking back) was actually pretty decent.  I was able to save 14% of my salary into a 403(b) at one point. Life was definitely more comfortable, financially speaking, but I didn’t feel like I was truly alive. Today, I do.  It’s not always comfortable, and not always a happy feeling, but I feel like I am being more true to myself, and that is something that money can’t buy.

And with that, I’ll end this post which I’ve wanted to publish for several days now!  How do you feel about your budget?  Do you feel like you’re living a life of scarcity, or a life of abundance, or do you feel like you are somewhere in between? 

Thank you, as always, for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinching Pennies Until They Scream, or at Least “Squeak”

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Many of  you know that I left behind a very good paying job in the Boston area when I moved to the southwest to chase my simple dreams. I had a pension into which my employer put 10% of my income, in addition to my 403(b), and my rent was definitely lower than it could have been for the area I was in, and the building. (Some people might think $1100/month for a studio is a lot, but then again, they didn’t see my studio or have the awesome guys living and working in the building who took care of everything, or the reservoir out back.)

Some days, I look back and think “what was I thinking?” when it comes to how I spent my money. What seemed so important  at the time, whatever it was I thought I needed (I now know it was, I wanted) – I can’t even remember what most of it was. I made more than three times what I make now. Ok, wait a minute. I need to retype that to really let it sink in. I made more than three times what I make now.

So, how am I surviving?! Well, I am really paying attention to where my money goes, and where it doesn’t. I’m not doing the envelope system as Dave Ramsey advocates, because, to be honest, I don’t feel comfortable carrying a lot of cash on me in a city that definitely has its crime problems, even in the good areas. I do, however, have a very small pink notebook that I carry in my purse. On two of its pages, I have written down what my budget is for each category, and then I subtract from it when I have spent money in a particular category. This is the first month I have been doing it this way, so we shall see if what I have predicted or budgeted for each category is actually realistic or not.

I’ve also utilized a few apps and websites to help me whittle down even pennies. Some of you may have heard of some of these, but if not, you should definitely check them out! By the way, some of the links I have mentioned below are referral links – please note, I am not getting paid by any of these companies to discuss them or include their links. I’m just simply telling you my opinion of them, and I will be adding referral links to my page from time to time as I find what I consider good ways to or make a few extra pennies.

Ebates – I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, but it’s worth mentioning again.  You can either use the app on your phone, or add it as an extension to your browser (I use chrome) and if you are shopping for things online, and go through ebates first, you get cash back. The percentage of cash back differs from store to store, and you get paid quarterly as long as your cash back balance is at least $5.01. Payment is made either by paper check or paypal if  you have an account. It’s like finding extra money somewhere on the ground or in a coat pocket you had forgotten about. It’s your money you are spending – why not try to get some of it back if you can? And yes, this is my referral link.

Ibotta – this is a FREE app that allows you to search for items that have rebates on them at a large variety of stores! Places like Walgreens, Walmart, Sprouts, Smith’s grocery store, you name it. You “unlock” a rebate and then take a picture of the UPC code, as well as your receipt. You can get $10 just by signing up, and then when you hit $20, you can withdraw your cash, either via paypal or to redeem gift cards for places such as Amazon. It’s not that much work, and honestly, you’re already spending the money, so why not snap a few pictures and get yourself some money back in the process? Please check out my referral link and use referral code: ergflfx !  You will get $10 just for signing up, and I will get $5!

Receipt Hog – this is another FREE app that has you take pictures of your receipts that are no more than two weeks old.  You accumulate points based on the amount of the receipt and if you keep meeting targets (such as uploading receipts every week, no matter how small the dollar amount), you get more “pulls” on their “slot machine.” Pulls on the slot machine can get you actual $ or as has been the case for me, more coins. Once you reach a certain amount of coins, I believe it’s 1,000, you can redeem for gift cards for places like Amazon. For me, I buy some of my pet’s food or other things on Amazon, so it’s like getting a discount coupon down the line to save me money. Available for Androids and iPhones!

Grocery store apps for digital coupons and fuel rewards. There is a grocery store in ABQ called Smith’s, which is what I consider something close to Safeway, like we had in Page.  In addition to viewing their weekly ad, so I can see what’s on sale, I can also download coupons to have sent to my rewards card, so not actual physical cutting of coupons, yay!  Then, if you use your rewards card at the fuel pump, you save $.03 for every gallon, just in every day use. But once you have earned 100 points with your reward card, you save $.10 per gallon of gas! However, one way to quickly rack up points without spending $100 is to fill out the survey that is mentioned on your grocery store receipt. That gets you 50 points, and you can do it once a week. So, you could spend $50 on groceries, and then fill out the survey and get 100 points in one week, thus saving yourself $.10 per gallon.  I have a smaller car than most (a Mazda2) but think about the savings, added up over time, if you were to have a big SUV or truck!

Answering surveys online and on my phone. For Androids, there is an app called Surveys on the Go. It is also available via iTunes. The surveys only pay about $.50 or $1 each, but they also only take about 1-2 minutes, if that. I’m up to $4.75, and once I get to $10, I can withdraw my cash. Every little bit will then go to my credit card balance. We all pull out our phones to kill time, sometimes, such as at the grocery store. I figure, why not earn money at the same time? I also do surveys through SurveySavvy (which also pays you monthly to install their software on your devices such as tablets or phones so that they can observe your online behavior for market research.) I’ve downloaded it onto my phone, and after a few initial snafus (it seemed to be slowing down my phone, but a phone update seemed to cure that problem), it seems to not have any effect on the speed of my phone.  There is also another website called Opinion Square, which rewards you in points for completing surveys, which can then be redeemed for gift cards, for again, places like Amazon!  SurveySavvy has been having some problems lately with their site, so for the current time, I’m actually liking Opinion Square better. If you want to join it, drop me a line or comment below and I can email you from Opinion Square so we both benefit!

I’ve signed up to be a mystery shopper via the Secret Shopper app. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but will let you know what I think of it. It will allow me to get out into the world and earn a small bit of cash at the same time. I know someone whose husband did it a lot at one point back in the northeast, and they could at least enjoy a family night out to dinner that cost them very little if nothing.

Finally, I received a flyer in the mail the other day about donating plasma. As a new donor, you make $50 each time for the first 5 times you donate. After that, the amount goes down based on how much you donate (being vertically challenged, I’m at the lower end of the donation level, so I will likely only get $20.) However, I’m told the plasma center runs promotions every month. I’ve donated twice, and they say that you can donate up to 2x per week, but I will not be doing that for a few reasons. First, you can’t donate two days in a row, and well, my days off are now going to be Wednesday and Thursday. The actual act of donation takes me about 30 minutes or so – I stay hydrated the day before (and try to every day, honestly), as well as afterward. Plus, there is the admin side of things – they only open at 7 and I’m told there are people usually waiting in line already at that point. I have to be at work every day by 11, and my mornings also consist of taking care of The Herd, which includes Morgan’s “walk the crazy out of her” walks. So I will likely only be donating once a week at the most. I also am a bit  leery of giving away too much of my plasma without allowing my body time to regenerate it.  I also value my veins, a lot.  In Europe, they only allow you to donate every two weeks. Is it a bigger industry in the United States? Possibly. They pay you on a prepaid debit card, which I’ve used for both groceries now, as well as pet food. Whatever I save from spending out of my own bank account for these items, I will then put toward my credit card balance.

I’m also starting the basics of meal planning, which I will write about in a future post too. It’s what prompted me to start looking at the weekly ads for Smith’s and Sprouts.  People who have gotten out of debt swear by it, so I figure, if  I can’t beat ’em, why not join ’em?!

As you all know, a penny saved is better than none. And five dollars saved is better than none. It all adds up, in my book. It’s like that “latte factor” we all hear about so often.   You may not agree with all of these ideas, but for now, they are working for me, and as of now, anyway, the US is still a free country where people can do what they want (God help us get through the next 4 years!!)  I haven’t started looking for a second job yet because I know I will be leaving this apartment by mid to late April, and may end up moving closer to my full-time job. (I will talk about those thoughts in a future post). If I’m going to work two jobs, I want them to be conveniently located near each other so as to save on gas and time away from my furballs.

And FINALLY, a friend has asked me to help with some legal transcription – yay! She lent me her foot pedal and I’m downloading the software to get it all to work with my laptop as I write this post. I can’t wait to get started – I used to take a lot of dictation, and I’m looking forward to learning about the subject matter at hand (for confidentiality reasons, that is all I will say.)  I hope to not let her down and make some extra cash in the meantime so I can BEAT, BEAT, BEAT THE HELL out of my credit cards.

And yes, I have made headway on my debt this month – I will update you about that and my budget probably next week. I need to get a full paycheck under my belt to properly budget – for right now, I’m just estimating the amount of taxes and things that will be deducted from it. (I didn’t get paid for Thanksgiving because I didn’t work it and it fell on a Thursday, which is one of my official “weekend” days.) Starting in January, I will also be on the company’s medical insurance, so that will affect my bottom line.

So many future posts!! Thank you as always for reading, and Morgan and the rest of The Herd say they are sending “slobbers and kisses!” to all of you! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Musings with Morgan: God-ZILLA!!!

So many of you were so nice to me after my mommy let me write a post last week that I decided to tell you about something really scary that happened to us last week. But before I get into that, I want you to know that even on a scary day like we had, it was still MY BEST DAY EVER!! Because I got to spend time with mommy, and I got outside and we took a drive in the car!

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My mommy says one of the drawings reminded her of a kangaroo.  Um, what’s a kangaroo?

My mommy took me to some place called National Petroglyph National Monument so I could sniff out a lot of smells and she could look at pictures drawn on rocks with rocks. Or, at least that’s what she said had been used to make the pictures. Who knows? All I know is there were LOTS of smells, and I was on the constant lookout for bunnies or road runners or snakes. (Shhh…don’t tell my mommy I was looking out for snakes, because that would totally FREAK her out!) I was doing my best to protect her, which is my job and something I do well. Usually, I protect her from cars driving by, by lunging at them, or from outdoors cats, who I also try to lunge at, or hot air balloons in the sky. Even though they may be miles away, they can still HURT us, you know?! I have to protect my mom!

So, anyway…we went to the visitor center first to find out about the trails, and luckily, they have two trails on which you can take dogs like me. I waited in the car while she went in and it felt like seven years til she came back, but eventually she did. It’s always the BEST THING ever  to see my mom again when she leaves me. I don’t ever want her to leave me. It’s why i sit right in front of her most nights when she is home from work and working on her computer or playing on her phone.

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Mommy thinks some of these drawings look like aliens. Um, what’s an alien? 

So yeah, where was I? Ok, a nice lady at the visit center drew on a map for mommy so she knew where to drive to. The national monument has something like 35,000 petroglyphs in it, and mommy said it’s like 17 miles long. She said some of the pictures are from back around 1300 and she kept saying “can you imagine, Morgan?? So long ago, people were HERE!!??” Um, do I have to point out to her that I’m a dog, and I have no concept of time? All I know is that every time she leaves me, I feel like it’s FOREVER until she comes back!

As is my usual custom, I decided to take a poop soon after we started walking. I say soon, but it was far enough from the beginning of our walk that my mommy then had to carry it in a bag for the rest of the way. Hee hee hee. I always laugh when she gets stuck doing that. I think it’s super funny. But she just sighs….Btw, did I mention how proud I am of how badly my poop stinks?! Because I am.

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Finally, a picture of me!! I’m trying to cozy up to Baby O. How come she has such a large bed for such a small body and the bed I had to sleep on was so small??! Not fair!

My mommy took lots of pictures, but she decided to only show a few to you with my writing. She told me some are drawings of animals, some are of other people, some are of what look like alien faces, some are what she calls geometric shapes, and some of them, well, no one really knows what they are. But she thought that they were cool. As long as mommy was happy, I was happy.

My mommy had decided for us to start back on the second half of our walk when I heard IT. I mean, I HEARD IT! Mommy said something like “Morgan, why are you pulling all of a sudden?!” Couldn’t she see it?? Couldn’t she hear it?!?? It was plain as day! I could hear it come from at least 7 miles away! There it was – GodZilla!!! And it was coming closer and closer and closer to us! I decided right then and there that we were gonna make a break for it, and started RUNNING! I mean, RUNNING! My mommy had no choice to follow me! But it kept on coming! And coming! Faster and faster! My mommy was trying to keep me on a path, but I was not gonna have any of that – we had to get out of there and FAST! GodZilla was coming for us and it was gonna KILL US!

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Me and Baby O are expert sleepers. I’m just so glad to be able to sleep every night in a home. I love my mommy for giving me a home, so much. ❤

I ran into some bushes and my mommy saw that I had even come partly out of my harness. She basically dove on top of me at one point to get it back on, and kept saying “Morgan, it’s ok…it’s ok….” and I was still a bit freaked out, but GodZilla seemed to be floating away from us. It went over what my mommy calls a “crest” in the hill near us and then I didn’t see it anymore. That’s the only time I let myself relax, just a little. GodZilla was gone and I had saved us. Mommy just didn’t understand what I had done.

When we got back to the car, I was still a bit freaked out. I climbed into the front with mommy and sat down on the floor in the front on what she calls the “passenger’s side.” I didn’t even want to drink any water- all I could think about was our getting out of that place and being safe with my mommy again. She told me that what we had seen was not GodZilla (I think she’s wrong) but really just what she calls a hot air balloon. All I know is, it was evil and it MUST BE DESTROYED.  What would my mommy have done if I hadn’t been there to save her?!

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Mommy got super excited when she saw this one – why? I don’t know. All I know is, God-Zilla showed up after she took it!

My mommy insists on including some pictures of me and my brothers and sisters in this post – please try to forgive her as she just can’t help herself. But I gotta say, writing this post has been exhausting and I need my beauty sleep so I’m gonna fall asleep now, right at my mommy’s feet which is my rightful place in this house. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Thank you to everyone for being so nice to me about my last post. I’m really liking this dictation thing! Until next time, slobbers and kisses!!!

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Mommy calls this “cuteness overload.”

 

 

 

 

 

Journey Through Debt: A Shopping Ban, You Say?

What the heck is a shopping ban, you might ask? And why in the world would one ever want to do one??

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image from Pixabay.com

So I got the idea from Cait Flanders, who decided to put herself on a two-year shopping ban, after having paid off $30,000 of debt in just two years. You can listen to her talk about it on her Budgets and Cents podcast.  I’ve taken a really good, hard look at my finances, and have decided there are just some things I have to do. The operative word in that last sentence is HAVE. If I want to be serious about paying off my consumer debt, meaning my credit card debt, auto loan and then that pesky private student loan I have, I need to get SERIOUS. Every video I watch on YouTube about people getting out of debt and how they have done it – they all include the word or concept: SACRIFICE. You can’t get out of debt without changing your ways.

So,  when Cait went on a shopping ban, she did give herself a list of approved items that she could buy if she needed to during the shopping ban. So I’ve been thinking of what that list would include for me and here is what I have come up with:

  1. nutribullet/ninjabullet/magicbullet blender system (or something similar).  Right after I posted about my debt hurdle last week, mine died. I used to have a cheaper one made by Oster which only lasted a few months – the motor on it was just not very powerful. The NutriBullet is a bit more expensive (I paid about $85-90 for mine about two years ago), but it is super powerful and I do drink a lot of smoothies. It’s a good way to get a lot of veggies and fruits and protein powder in your diet if you don’t want to eat a ton of salads. And I have to admit, I like salads, but I definitely like something that is a bit heartier at times, like rice or pasta.
  2. Jacket or sweater for Morgan. Pets get cold too, and I understand sometimes it can get down into the single digits in ABQ. So if she seems like she is getting cold out on our walks, then I will get her one. For right now though, she seems just fine!
  3. Plane ticket to Florida for May 2017. It’s my brother’s wedding and I have been saving for it since I first heard about their plan. I almost have enough money saved for the ticket now but am hoping that flight prices come down. I’m going to keep looking pretty much every day. And did you know that you can use Ebates to go to sites like Orbitz or Travelocity, and then earn money back on your ticket?! (Seriously, I’m loving Ebates!)  And I may need to get a rental car unless I split one with my mom and her husband, which they have offered to do. Just depends on which airport I fly into, I think.
  4. Still mulling this one over – a dress for my brother’s wedding. I say this because as of right now, I have two dresses and I wore each one this past year for each of my nephew’s weddings. I’m sure that if I do buy something, I can get something that isn’t too expensive, and there are always second hand shops. If need be, I could get it altered. It won’t have to be anything too fancy because the wedding will be on the beach.
  5. I will occasionally let myself buy a ticket to a movie or museum type-thing. But honestly, there are a lot of free museums and places I can go to here in ABQ, and there really isn’t one movie that I am just dying to see. Not something that I would want to spend full price on. Unless the new Fast and Furious movie comes out, because well, that I would go see as a first run movie. (No judging!!)
  6. Renewing the domain name for my website when it comes up, but I don’t think that’ll happen until summer 2017.
  7. Necessities such as food for me and the furballs, toiletries, and gas for my car.

Honestly, when I look around at my place and my lifestyle, I don’t think I need much. Nor do I think I want that much either. Because, let’s be honest, needs and wants are very different, even though we can often get the two confused. I have plenty of clothes, and I wear scrubs to work, so there’s nothing to buy for there. I have lots of extra blankets and pet beds, etc. I use milk crates as my bookshelves of sorts, and milk crates also act as the base of my bed. (I have a four-inch latex mattress topper on top of them and it works just fine for me and the furballs.)  I’m also planning on selling a few things also, to free up some cash and room in my apartment.

Also, As I’m looking toward the future and when my lease is up, I’m even considering apartments that don’t have kitchens, because I’ve realized that since living here, I don’t use mine a ton (because of the insect problem I wrote about in an earlier post. It’s getting better since they’ve sprayed, but still, I’m DONE with dealing with that.) So if that happens, a fridge will be on the approved list of items, and probably a toaster oven. But if I do move to a full-fledged studio, then I won’t need those. I even watched this video on youtube about a lady who moved into a place that only had bathrooms in the hall – she seemed to make it work and also seems happy with her choice!

How long is my shopping ban going to be for? I’m not sure yet. I should probably keep it in place until at least when I move to another apartment. In fact, I think that’s what I will plan on doing. See how much I can save or pay off debt in the meantime.

Btw, an update. I have bought a magic bullet since I started writing this post. However, I bought it online through Kohls.com, which was offering an even stronger one than I had before (this is 900 watts, the last one was 600, and it kicked ass), at 30% off. I then used an online discount code for an additional 25% off, and shopped through ebates.com to get an additional 6% in cash back! If you haven’t heard of ebates, check it out, and please use my referral link! If you’re buying stuff online, you might as well get it through ebates, so you get some more money back into your pocket.

Would you ever put yourself on a shopping ban? Why or why not? 

As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

Musings with Morgan

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My mommy keeps taking all these pictures of me!

My mommy reads the blog Change is Hard, and occasionally that lady, Dawn, lets her dog, Katie write blog posts. My mommy really enjoys them so she thought it would be cool if I wrote something, just to change it up. (Ok, actually she’s taking dictation from me because it’s almost impossible to type on a keyboard when you have paws like I do.) Details, schmeetails, I say.

By the way, I’ve been added to her The Herd page! Check me out – don’t I look like a model in my picture?!!!?

So, anyway, I want  you to know that today is the BEST DAY EVER!!! I mean, yesterday, I thought was the BEST DAY EVER! But today is it!! Can tomorrow even be the BEST DAY EVER???!  I guess we will see!

So, I guess I should tell you a bit about myself so you know where I’m coming from with these posts. I was what they call a “rez dog” – that means I was born on a reservation and I lived on it for a few years. I had a couple litters of puppies, and my owners cropped my tail, as they sometimes do to cattle dogs (or heelers, as I am also called).  They weren’t that nice to me – they never let me inside their house, at all! (So different from my mommy now, who always insists on bringing me inside after our walks, and then giving me a treat!) I love my mommy. Have I said that yet? Because I really do.

Anyway, the people who I first lived with wouldn’t let me inside their house. They would even put their foot in the door to keep me from going inside. I really couldn’t understand why they didn’t want me to be with them. Was it something I did? Was it something I barked?

When I had had my second or third litter of puppies (I am a dog, so I can’t count), they brought me to the Page Animal Adoption Agency. At first, I felt lonely for them, I mean, they were the only people I ever knew. But soon, I met some really nice people named Natalie, and Sharon, and Doris, and Sara and  Brian and  Shelley. These people were so nice to me. They gave me hugs and kisses and took me on walks or car rides to the park or canyons. They encouraged me to cross over what i learned is a threshold, from the outside of the building to the inside. And they let me hang out in the room with all the cats, and they let me hang out with lots of little puppies, I love cats and little puppies. It’s the bigger dogs I don’t like. So, yeah, I don’t have any problems with Osito, or Baby O, as my mommy calls her sometimes.

My mommy has three cats, and I’m really trying to be friends with them but two don’t seem to like me very much, and one of them seems to tolerate me. Callie and Max hiss at me, and HoneyBun occasionally hisses at me, but I have noticed when she raises her paw to me, her claws aren’t out. I know she doesn’t want to hurt me. The other two, I’m not so sure about. Mommy says to give it time, but how much time do they need?? I mean, I’ve been with Mommy now for a month!! A whole month of living indoors! A whole month of sleeping on a bed at night!

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This is one of the places we went this weekend  – Tingley Beach!

My mommy and I go on walks every day. She says she’s “walking the crazy out of me,” and I have no idea what she’s talking about! I just do flips and circles in the air sometimes because I want to go, go, go! and sometimes she’s not moving fast enough for my liking. So I just need to give her a little encouragement, ya know??!! And on weekends, we go on long walks. I’m not sure how long they are, but she keeps taking me to all these new places with woods where there are lots of smells and places where I feel the need to leave some pee mail behind for my brethren. 🙂

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We went to this place this past weekend too. My mommy kept saying “Morgan, can you believe all these pictures?? They are hundreds of years old!” (All I cared about was the smells on the ground, and then when that evil hot air balloon showed up, I was FREAKED out!!!)

Anyway, it’s getting late and I need to get some of my beauty sleep. I’m already on the bed, and dictating all of this takes a lot of energy out of me! But I kinda like this writing thing, ya know? Maybe I will write again soon! And remember, this is the BEST DAY EVER!!

My Debt….Journey out of Hell

I know there’s a saying that says if you find yourself in hell, just keep walking, because eventually you will get yourself out of it. The other day, I did something scary, but necessary. Except for my federal loans, I added up all of my debt. (The federal loans are just too overwhelming to grasp.) And here’s what the picture looks like (avert your eyes if you don’t want to be scared, or is it scarred, for life?!)

Tower Garden: $407.70
Capital One credit card: $2,651.65
Citibank credit card: $3,929.69
Auto Loan (through a credit union): $6,005.16
AES Loan (private student loan): $10,567.09

Grand Total (again, avert your eyes if you need to): $23,561.29

My gross income is just barely above that. As Dave Ramsey would say, I don’t have a debt problem, but an income problem. So I plan on trying to find a second job if I can. Or, finding a way to make money online. Some of you have given me good ideas in the past.

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Rio Grande River, as seen from the Tingley Beach open space area

I’ve also listened a lot to a podcast called Budgets and Cents. The “Budgets” part of the podcast is Cait Flanders, and she went on a shopping ban for one year. After the first year, she decided to continue it for a second year. During that time, she only bought essentials like food.She had a pair of jeans that ripped and she eventually had to replace them. When her one hoodie just got completely gross, she got another one, but only after months of looking for the perfect hoodie. It might seem a bit extreme, but it did help her to really appreciate the stuff she did have. I know it will help me too, even as I continue to get rid of stuff I have accumulated over the past year, but realize I really don’t need. Every dollar I save by not shopping for stuff, will go to the debt.

So, I’ve decided to do something similar. I’m not going to shop for things I don’t need. Just groceries for myself and for the furry ones, pretty much. And I am going to start checking out all the free things to do in Albuquerque. There are actually quite a few free museums that I can take a look at, ranging from the atomic bomb to meteorites! After all, part of the reason I moved to a city was to take advantage of amenities a city has, that a smaller town does not. I’ve already been checking out a lot of the free open public spaces and am really enjoying checking them all out with Morgan. We both get the fresh air and exercise we need.  So, occasionally, I may pay to go into a museum or some place like the Botanical Garden that does have an entrance fee. But I will space those out accordingly. I know if I don’t treat myself occasionally, this won’t work. I just have to remember, it’s ok to treat yourself, but in moderation.

I am going to keep my gym membership to Planet Fitness. It’s only $21/month and working out is once again, very important to me.  It all works together.  It’s helping my morale improve, and I am liking the way I look in the mirror, more.  Same thing with my running sneakers – if they wear out, I’m going to replace them. One thing I do know that it is worth spending money on is good sneakers if you want to run. Since my health insurance at my new job (once it kicks in, in January) has a high deductible, I need to focus on eating well, and staying healthy. Luckily, those are two things I already realize the importance of.

So, you will notice that up above, the debts are arranged in order from smallest to largest. I plan on paying off the tower garden first. I plan on taking a couple hundred out of savings, and then paying the rest out of my paychecks. (I’m not using it in this apartment since I heard that roaches like water, and well, it’s a hydroponic system. So I may try to sell it online.)  Then, the money I was paying to that every month (about $81) will go toward the Capital One card. I’ve found that gas here is cheaper than it was in Lake Powell (it was a tourist destination, so no surprise there), so whatever I budget for but don’t use per month, is going to go the debt payoff. I get paid $10 every month from  my credit union for having my checking account with them, having money directly deposited, and using my debit card a certain number of times. So, guess where that is going?!

I am paid way ahead (about 5 years) on that AES student loan, so I plan on making smaller than the full payments every month of $167.  It accrues about $27 in interest every month, so I plan on paying more than $27, but also paying it every two weeks, when I get paid. You see, student loans are different than other types of loans. The interest accrues daily. So while it may not seem like a lot, every little bit can help. It’s kind of like paying off your mortgage twice a month instead of just once a month. It shortens the loan time.  (I just paid $20 on it this morning.) The money that I am not paying toward the AES loan will go toward the Capital One card. That should help  a lot since the Capital One card has a higher interest rate.

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one of the few moments in which I could get Morgan to sit still on  our walk at Tingley Beach

The Citibank card is currently on a 0% interest rate, and I need to check to see when it ends. It was 21 months when I signed up, so I think I have another year or so. If that time comes up, and it’s not paid off (the likely scenario), then I will transfer it to another credit card which is giving 0% interest for a certain number of months. Then I will snowball what I had been paying on the Capital One card into the minimum payment on the Citibank card, and then on to the car, and then on to the AES loan at the end. The car loan has a low interest rate so a lot of my $142 monthly payment goes to paying off principal.

So yes, this is the snowball method. It’s different from picking the debt with the highest interest rate, but it does provide you with more “wins” and let’s face it, handling money is an emotional thing. If it wasn’t, we would all be millionaires, right?!

I’ve updated my direct deposit with my work – luckily, they allow you to put your paycheck into 5 different accounts! So from every paycheck, I will be saving for the annual or semi-annual bills that come up, like renter’s insurance, car insurance, etc. That way, when the bill comes due, the money is there. And I am also continuing to save to go to my brother’s wedding in Florida in May.

I watched this video earlier today via the His and Her Money youtube channel, and I was definitely inspired. This girl started out making $15K per year and she owed $25K on her student loans. She paid it off in about 3.5 years. I don’t know that she had some of the expenses I have, but if she can do  it, then I have no excuse to not even try on my end.

I will talk about the budget I have planned in a later post because this one has already gotten way too long!  But I wanted to get this post out there so that the few of you who read this blog regularly can be my accountability partners. I need people to know what is going on. (And thanks to those of you who do read it regularly, even though my posts have been somewhat sporadic lately.)

Finally, I will leave you with a picture of Baby O doing what she does best: sleeping. 🙂 Well, she snuggles pretty well too. LOL (She and Max are both snuggling up to me as I type away. There could be worse things in life than having two animals trying to love you at the same time.)

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my adorable baby girl, Baby O

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below. 

 

 

 

 

Wow…Just Wow… (Or, did that just happen?)

One of the ponds near the Rio Grande River - at the Alameda open space area.

One of the ponds near the Rio Grande River – at the Alameda open space area.

Those titles could apply to so much in my life lately. The election, where I just couldn’t believe my eyes as the map filled up more and more with red (I think it’s fair to say it’s pretty obvious I’m a liberal.) But more than that… about 3 weeks ago, I packed up a U-Haul and loaded my car onto a transport trailer and drove it 450 miles from Page, AZ to Albuquerque. Had I ever driven a U-Haul truck before? NO! Was it the smallest one they have? NO! (The smallest one can’t handle the auto transport, I found out.) Had I ever towed anything before? NO! Sure, why the hell not learn how to do both all at once and drive all day with two dogs and a cat inside it? What could possibly go wrong?!

[For the record, I’ve used U-Haul before – it was always just another family member who drove it while I drove a jammed-to-the-gills car in front of them.  Also, in case you were wondering where two of the other cats were, they were with my friend Jordan who drove ahead of us with his car. To ensure he stayed my friend afterward, I gave him the two least likely to cry the entire way – Callie and HoneyBun. Max the Diva rode with me and yep, he was pretty talkative for about half of the trip. Sigh.]

So, um…yeah. I moved to a new city without having a job lined up. Had I ever done something I felt to be so risky in my life before? NO! Stability is very important to me – a phobia of mine is ending up being homeless. And in Albuquerque, there are quite a few homeless folks. So at a lot of intersections, I would see the signs they were holding up and thought, oh my God, what happens if I can’t get a job? Now I have all these animals to feed and I can’t let them down. I’ve promised them that they will always have a roof over their heads.

The first night, I saw a roach in the apartment. And then a few more. Um…yeah….I super freaked out.  I am a pretty clean person and have been neurotic about making sure my food has been cleaned up and put in plastic bags or jars ever since. No dirty dishes for me. I’m told that they are common in these parts, and especially in the southern end of town where I live because it’s a student section.  My friend Jordan said I will just have to get used to them. Say what?! No matter how clean you are, if your neighbors have them, you likely have them.

So now, every time I get up in the morning I do the check to see if there are any I can squish, or stomp. And yes, I am getting used to this new normal, but I still keep saying out loud, “six months til the lease is up and we are out of here!” By the way, it’s not like there is an infestation of them like you hear of in horror stories, but the fact that they are here skeeves me out, so I’m definitely going to find a new place to live come June 1, if not sooner. It’ll just take some hard work and lots of questions to folks I will meet as to where I can move and where I can find someplace that will allow me to have my pets.  I’ve already started asking around and plan to take some drives to other parts of the city, with Morgan in the back seat of course!

Well, a week to the day after I moved here, I had a job offer. Actually, two. And two days later, I had a phone call from the city of Albuquerque about an animal handler position I had applied for. One job only paid minimum and no benefits, but it would have involved working with cats and doing a lot of cat adoptions which really interested me, since it’s something I did a lot of on a volunteer basis back in Boston. But ultimately, the job I took is full time, with benefits, and it’s a closer commute, and the pay is better. I’m still not going to ever become rich working with animals, but it’s a wage that will allow me to support myself and my fur family, and that’s important.

Now, as many of you may recall, part of the reason I moved to Albuquerque is because of a vet technician program at one of the community colleges. I wanted to establish residency in NM as fast as I could so that I would only end up being considered an out-of-state student for the 1st of 5 semesters. Well, here’s the good news…(as if getting a job wasn’t already cause enough for celebration!)  So, my job is working as a vet receptionist at what they call a hybrid hospital. There is the General Practice side, where I will be working, and there is an emergency side, as well as many specialties covered such as oncology, acupuncture, etc. One of the benefits that they provide is a break on the tuition to Penn Foster and its veterinary technician program. Also, because they have partnered with Penn Foster, I can do the externship that is necessary to complement the online school, with the hospital where I am working. And, the cost will be about 1/3 of what it would cost me to attend the local community college, and I can do the course work on my own schedule.  To me, these are all pluses. The program at the community college is small, so when classes are offered, there is usually only one section, so there wouldn’t be so much flexibility in terms of scheduling for classes. With online, I can do it at 4 a.m. if I want to.

Once I knew I had a job, it helped me to relax a bit.With the election results and my not knowing if I had a job or not, I found that my stomach had been clenched for two or three days. It was clenched or tight for  so long that even my back started hurting. So after I knew I had a job, and had a few days until I started, I let myself play a bit of tourist. I went to the Botanical Garden and might be going back after Thanksgiving because they decorate it with a bunch of Christmas lights and I think it’ll look really cool. And you guys know me, where there are animals, I will find them. They have a very small farm at the botanical garden so I spent some time with this beautiful steer, and hung out with him for a bit. I scratched his head and part of his back/shoulders for quite a while, and he didn’t move away so clearly he liked it! I felt so bad for him – he was there all alone. (Sorry for the bad quality of the photo.)

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I’ve also joined a gym – Planet Fitness, so it’s only $10/month and it’s super clean and well taken care of. And yes, there is even some “eye candy” for me to watch while I’m dying of boredom on the treadmill! 🙂  And they have all these Open Spaces here in Albuquerque, so I’ve taken Morgan on walks at four of them so far. (The Aldo Leopold Forest is my favorite trail so far.) It’s a great way to be out and about, getting fresh air, and some exercise at the same time. Plus, it walks the “crazy” out of Morgan, lol. She gets so tired that I can get some work done when we get home!

So again, sorry for the long silence between blog posts. I have actually had this post written for about a week now but had problems attaching pictures (i’ll explain how I am getting internet for my computer in a later post) and then I had a problem with my chromebook. But it’s up and working now – I’ve jut given up on adding the pics!

I’m going to be writing a post shortly about how I plan on tackling the debt I’ve accrued over the past 17 months after having quit my well-paying job to work for much less money. I love my new job – the people I work with are great, the clients are also for the most part. (You’re never gonna find perfection at the work place.)

As always, if you have a comment or suggestion, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!