Two-step

Sep. 11th, 2014 01:22 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
When I hear music that I like, I would like to be able to own copies of it and also support the artist(s) who produced it. I don't need hard copies (CDs), but sometimes that's the most straightforward option.

Recently, I listened to Interpol's latest album, using NPR's First Listen thingy, which had a link towards the bottom to purchase the album while also benefiting NPR. Well, there's a way for me to show support for some of the NPR programming I continue to appreciate (I am grateful for print-versions of topics they cover, even if their coverage is simplified and watered-down relative to other news sources). PLUS it won't give NPR my most recent home address, so they can't send me junk mail. Great.

The only two purchase options are through Amazon or iTunes.

I got pretty peeved recently when I discovered that recent Apple operating systems have started using the App Store as the sole method for distributing software and updates, in particular because Apple was requiring credit card information as part of the process. I try very hard to maintain barriers between my personal financial information and online purchases because they take financial interactions to a new level of abstraction and make it too easy for corporations to drain money out of my wallet. As an example, I keep separate eBay and PayPal accounts.

So, no thanks, Apple.

Here's the Amazon purchasing workflow, which makes me think twice before actually purchasing any music through Amazon (I already try hard to avoid ordering material goods through them because I disagree with their predatory pricing practices and labor practices):

1. Put music in virtual shopping cart
2. Attempt to check out, get error message because my account does not contain any automatically saved payment information.
3. Enter in payment information as part of "updating account info."
4. Make purchase (click!...that was fast, with minimal confirmation windows)
5. Attempt to download music, get error message that I need to install the Amazon music downloader installer application.
6. Download downloader thing and install it.
7. Download music.
8. Delete credit card information out of Amazon account.
9. Move downloaded music into separate directory.
10. Delete Amazon downloader application and associated Amazon directories.
11. Listen to music.

Alternatively, I could pirate music and then try to make a direct payment towards bands/organizations of interest.

Sigh.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Hey, it's June. How did we get here? I certainly don't know, but I have a feeling that the whole summer is going to fly by and it will be August before I know it. I am both excited and nervous about August. I'll head to Portland for the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. From there, I'll go up to Seattle to spend about a week with my family, and from there I'll go to South Korea for the International Congress of Entomology. I'm toying with the idea of taking an indirect return route from there, flying back to Seattle and then maybe heading over towards Minnesota on the train. Minnesota, I owe you a visit, bigtime. I suspect if I do so, I'll be very tempted to jump off the train in Montana and stay there. Montana is a glorious place to be in the summer. We shall see about these plans.

August plans are tied to a consideration of my finances. Funding for academic work can be a tricky beast, sometimes. While my expenses are covered for the trip to South Korea, I'm not really in a position to get financial assistance to cover the conference in Portland because I'll be presenting work from my dissertation. However, this conference is a really important one from a career standpoint; I haven't attended any ecological meetings in the past, but enough of my work is ecological that I'd like to get feedback from an ecological audience. Plus, given that the meeting is in Portland, I'm hoping that there will be a larger contingent of colleagues from the Pacific Northwest with whom I can network.

So that expense is going to come out of my own pocket. It's not the first time, and probably not the last time, something like this will happen. Getting to be an academic is quite the privilege, eh?

My student loan repayments are also due at the beginning of each month. Today, while looking over the numbers, I discovered that I'm close to the one-third mark for paying back both my parents and Sallie Mae for my undergraduate education. I started to work on paying things back about five years ago, while still enrolled full-time in grad school, and have been trying to accelerate repayment ever since then. I cannot complain as vociferously about my student loans as current students are entitled to complain, as some of my loans were subsidized while I was in school, I was able to consolidate them at a fairly reasonable interest rate, and some loans were interest-free from my parents. Still, talk about pushing a boulder up a hill. It's hard to feel free while still in debt.

These days, I'm reading a book called Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis, by Kim Todd. One of the faculty members from ASU gave me a copy of the book. I find the narrative style somewhat annoying, but the fascinating qualities of the story shine through well. Merian was a painter and natural historian in the 1600's who documented caterpillar metamorphosis in Europe and in Surinam. One of the more unusual elements of her story is that she was a divorcee; her distaste for her ex-husband was strong enough to drive her into a religious sect, and caused her to flee from Germany to Amsterdam. A divorce in that era was financially catastrophic for a woman, and so it's pretty amazing that she was able to hang on and make a living while continuing to do the things she loved, studying insect natural history. So, a worthwhile book to read, overall. It's also making me itch to draw more, especially as I still owe my little sister some cricket drawings. So many projects, so little time...
rebeccmeister: (Default)
How does being careful/conscientious about how you spend your money affect your relationships with the people around you?

This question comes up a lot for me. Do I want to spend money to go to bars or restaurants and spend time with friends or loved ones? Should I spend money to travel and visit friends and loved ones? How much can I afford to spend? What's the quality of that spending? Can I figure out how to show my appreciation and encourage community in ways that do not stress me out, financially?

Interestingly, my closest friends here (and hey, even my best friend and siblings) prefer to do things that are inexpensive or free, in contexts that give a person a lot of freedom to decide how much, and what, to contribute. In a lot of cases, this is a conscientious decision. In some cases, it's driven by necessity (e.g. lack of a steady income).

Here's a case to consider: the Scrabble Society used to meet at a local coffeeshop, which would provide a relatively cheap drink and dinner, as needed (as opposed to a more expensive restaurant). Eventually we went further than that, switching to home-cooked dinners. Things still get fancy on occasion, with fancy desserts or fancy drinks. But we don't have the potential for the same kind of public interaction when we gather at someone's house.

I'm in that state, right now, where I am looking around myself and figuring that most of the people around me make more money than I do, or at least, spend money more freely than I do. Perhaps I'm wrong, though, and this feeling is a widespread misperception. In any case, I know that I personally must continue to be careful about how I spend my money, wherever I can.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
In further reference to yesterday's post, it looks like I am going to continue to see a pay reduction for the course of the fall semester. This wasn't a complete surprise, given that my program only guarantees funding for five years and we're looking at year eight for me. But it's still cause for concern, given that I'll be paying for health care and tuition out-of-pocket. Time to explore some financial aid options.

Whenever I reach this state with my finances (see last summer as another example), I inevitably think back to my first summer living in an apartment, before my junior year of college. My summer internship didn't pay me until the middle of the internship, so I quickly went broke right after the move, and had only ten dollars to my name for about 2 weeks. (I'm ignoring the student loan debt in that case, and in the current case).

This time around, well. Step one is to create a budget, based on my knowns: income through August (after that, ????), rent, utilities (pricey in the summer in AZ), cell phone bill (overpriced), general expense categories (food, animal care, "play money," etc.). Then it's time to get creative: where can I slim down? Well, I can't sleep if the thermostat is set above 87 degrees, so there won't be many changes to utilities - electricity is the most expensive part. Groceries, well, it's time to start checking prices much more carefully than before, to do more comparison shopping. I'll have to let go of my organic standards. Fewer fancy items, more basic staples. Animal care, well, there's not much I can do there. About the only other thing I can do is stop spending money on is coffeeshop expeditions and any miscellaneous item that I can live without.

Well, so it goes.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I think this is what it must feel like to own and operate a small business.

Because of my travel situation this summer, I have some random pockets of money to manage - money that I can't quite treat as my own, given that some of it is provided as reimbursements. I applied for three separate funding sources for the conference in Copenhagen this summer, and received funding from all three sources. Two of them can be effectively treated as a bundle, because they are both managed through the Giant University. The third is slightly more complicated. I have to be sort of strategic about which sources I use as funding for different aspects of the conference, too, considering that one stipulation of the third funding source is that I should visit research laboratories while I'm there to make connections for potential research projects.

Then there's the Bay Area trip in July. I'm fortunate in that there's a conference happening during the week before my brother's wedding, and we actually have funds to send me to the conference. But I didn't want to fly there, I wanted to take the train. Our business office will let this happen, but only for as much money as it would cost to fly there, plus I have to write an additional apology letter explaining why I'm taking the train (Dear Account Auditors, Airplanes release too many greenhouse gases and give me motion-sickness, whereas trains are efficient and allow me to work while traveling.).

I'm not even going to write about funds for my bridesmaids dress for the wedding other than to note that it has been fully paid for by funds provided by other parties (but I still need to deposit that check).

Then there's my summer funding. You know, rent and food, and maybe some clothing or bike parts. And the laptop fund. During the school year, we are paid on a schedule. Summer funding is not guaranteed in our program, and it's structured differently, so it's provided to us differently. As with last summer, it's a reduced rate compared to how much we are provided during the school year. They give it to us in lump sums, and frankly, I'm just not as good at dealing with lump sums as I am with scheduled pay periods. My general plan will be to act as if I do not have spare spending money. However, I will need to have some sense of how much money I have by the time I go to Copenhagen so I don't have to be as much of a tightwad as I was on the last trip to Australia. Plus, trips to visit other research laboratories might end up being an out-of-pocket expense, so I need to budget for those.

Umm, yeah. I think that's it? I'll just be glad when everything is over with and paid for and reimbursed.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well, last night I found out that my grant application for composting-related projects was not funded. The committee wanted me to find a place on campus to do the whole thing. My point is that on-campus endeavours are going to fail because of poor oversight. So boo to that, although I can't say I'm all that surprised. I can just point at the program and label it as greenwashing. That program already funded a different composting project on-campus that failed. Instead, I will persevere with my current efforts and will thumb my nose at the university. I have enough other projects to tend to.

But! In other news, my funds for purchasing a replacement laptop for the one that was stolen last June are finally growing, albeit slowly. It took longer than expected to finish paying myself back for the trip to Australia, but by now I only owe myself $3.03. Hooray! It sure takes a lot of self-control to be deliberate about how I spend my money, and how I spend time with [livejournal.com profile] scrottie so as to not spend a lot of money, heh. I also finally wrote my annual check to my parents to pay them back for the funds they loaned me for my undergraduate education, and my annual check to the Giant Student Loan Corporation for those loans. They're deferred, yes, but some of them accrue interest, and I'd rather not have my interest accruing interest.

This year's sum was paltry relative to the last couple of years, but the balance was at least high enough to pay off more than just the interest on the Giant Student Loan Corporation loans. In percentages, it was about 0.6% of last year's total. I suspect this year's figures will be similar, because I will probably have to teach over the summer, and the associated summer pay is less than what I'm given during the school year. Ah well. Incentive to wrap things up here.

The best news of all comes from last Saturday: as I was riding my bicycle home from the farmer's market, I spotted some money that had been thrown in the road by somebody. I went back to collect it up, and came away with a whole $0.72! Not too bad for some free money, just lying in the road.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I generally don't get into hair-pulling moods, but trying to work out a nonprofit's budget in a coordinated fashion with seven other people is a real pain.

In some ways, though, it's interesting to discover "real-world" applications of a lot of the tutti-fruity things I've learned as a graduate student. I'm thinking mostly about a discussion that took place in a class I took on grant-writing. We spent one of the classes talking about collaborative writing, and how to do it successfully. The professor who was advising us said that one of the worst possible things that can happen in a collaboration is if one of the involved parties basically takes over and hands the other parties the almost-complete final version. That's because collaborations need to involve interactions during all stages of the development of a project, from the initial vision through the building and structuring to the final polishing.

I feel like I'm being a bit cantankerous through this whole budgeting process, because I have a particular vision of an appropriate process. Step one, come up with expense categories, both for previous expenditures and anticipated expenditures. Present categories to other involved parties, get input, and revise based on input. Step two, calculate total categorized expenses for previous expenditures. Step three, use previous expenditures and detective-work to structure the final budget according to the expense categories. I also think that it is my role as Treasurer to drive this process forward.

One of the other parties involved in this project seems to have a conflicting view of the relevant expense categories, but hasn't quite caught on to this fact, or is attempting to brute-force an alternative set of categories by preemptively doing parts of the process. That puts me in a difficult situation, where I either have to undo all of that work, and then do things how I envisioned doing them, or just give up and stop trying to make things happen my way.

But in any case, I think I'll move on now to update my own finances. At least in that case I get to make all of the decisions. And I don't budget specifically, anyway; I simply keep track of expense patterns, and use that information to make future decisions.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well, one nice benefit of not spending much money is that it's much easier to keep track of what I have actually spent. My brother and sister learned this lesson really early on, back when our parents would make us keep track of our finances every month. They basically decided to not spend any money. Me, well, I just did a crappy job of keeping track at that point, and spent however much I earned or was given.

Anyway. I've been relatively diligent about monitoring these things since 2006, the year I resolved to keep better track of my finances so I could start paying off my undergraduate loans (deferred through grad school, yes, but accruing interest pretty quickly, to the tune of $330 per year). So there are lots of numbers to play with (I can't do a thorough job, though--ants beckon again already).

So altogether it turns out that I spent a grand total of $814.61 in June. That's mostly rent ($450) and groceries ($165.70). Utilities and my cell-o-phone make up another $100. It helps that I haven't had any of those semi-regular big expenses this month (ceramics, CSA subscription renewal, plane ticket purchases, bike ride registration). Those will return in July, I'm sure. But I figured many of you, my loyal readers, would be kind of interested in these figures so that you have a frame of reference for my spending habits, and maybe a frame of reference for your own spending habits. I just wish I'd kept better track as an undergraduate--now that would make for some interesting comparisons. My rent and utilities were pretty comparable then ($437 and $80/month, respectively, my senior year of college), but I can't remember how much I averaged on groceries (probably around $160, in fact).

For most of the remaining months for which I have readily available data (that's January 2009, and January, February, August, September, and October of 2008), that's about $400/month less than what I've been averaging. Spending on eating out is way down ($30, mostly spent on the mountain biking expedition up north, versus at least $150/month in most prior months), and groceries have been halved, probably because I stopped going to the farmer's market and stopped buying more expensive organic and pre-processed foods (crumpets, soy lunchmeat, avocados, etc.).

Anyhow. Ants.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
On Friday morning, I got the call from J that her parents' apricot tree was full of ripe apricots. That led to an abrupt change in my morning plans. I high-tailed it up to south Scottsdale and immediately collected up the available fruit. J's dad had devised this really great apricot-collecting system--he created 4'x8' frames that were on 2' tall legs, and then stretched bedsheets across them. Then he arranged the frames beneath the tree. With the help of a small rake, we gave the tree a shake or two, and all of the ripe apricots fell down into the apricot stretchers.

The poor apricots suffered a bit of a bruising on the ride back to school, but nothing *too* serious.

The real adventures then happened yesterday. I woke up bright and early to go and check out [livejournal.com profile] faisdodo's garage sale, and came home with a pair of awesome bar stools, some bike shorts, knee-warmers, and my favorite Zadie Smith book (White Teeth), all for $19. I love garage sales, and I was happy to help J at least a little with clearing things out before she and R move to Japan (!).

After that, it was time for the farmer's market. For some reason or another, everyone at the farmer's market was determined to give me at least a little discount yesterday. The bread guy undercharged me by a dollar, the stand selling bunches of basil accidentally put the wrong price up ($2 instead of $2.50), and the big farm that sells the most produce (=line wrapped around the corner 30 minutes after the market opens) gave me at least a small discount, too (every 10 cents counts!). I know that much of my disposable income goes towards the purchase of quality cooking ingredients, so I'm going to have to cut back on those, too, as I continue to save up for Australia. So it was a bit of a relief to realize that the market salespeople look out for their regular shoppers every once and a while.

I avoided further temptation by skipping my usual jaunt up to Lux after visiting the market, and instead headed straight home, and then headed back out the door to the grocery store to stock up on staples and pick up some canning lids. When I got back, I turned the 6 cups of apricot pulp into jam, and canned it. There's something so satisfying about making jam and canning it. I love it. I am thinking it might be cool to do some sort of jam exchange with those who have access to different sorts of fruits, but I'm not sure if I have much surplus to offer, yet.

After that, I went over to the ceramics studio to check up on some pieces, and ended up throwing some new awesome pieces as well. There's something to be said for twice-a-week ceramics time. Then I returned home once again, and set about making some more of those tasty vegan ocean cakes for a birthday party in downtown Phoenix--it was P's girlfriend, C's, birthday. She lives with her mom in one of those old houses in downtown Phoenix that feels like a real place, with real character. Their pool was an old, funky, geometric shape, and the house was furnished in such a way that I really just wanted to spend a few hours poking around through all of the cupboards.

By the time I rode home, it was close to midnight, and I was tired. I think I put in at least 50 miles of riding yesterday, between the market (~20 miles), the grocery store (~7 miles), ceramics (~7 miles?), and the party (~20 miles). All signs of a busy, full, Saturday.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Yesterday morning I took a few extra minutes to update my monthly financial records and assess my funding situation for the summer (since I finally got information about what I would be paid). In that whole process, I discovered to my dismay that across those pay periods I will be earning only 3/4 of the amount I usually earn during the school year. Goodbye, easy life. After scrutinizing my spending records, though, I think things will be okay in the long run.

On occasions like this, I always like to think back to the summer before my junior year of college, when I had only $10 to my name for about a month before I was finally paid for my summer internship at the Joslin Diabetes Center. Now *that* was stressful--my first time living in an apartment, managing all of my expenses. This time, I should at least be able to afford rent, groceries, utilities, and cat ownership. The real issue will be my plans to go to Australia for the World Masters Games in October. I will still be able to afford that trip, provided I am more careful about my spending habits between now and then. If all else fails, I have been diligent enough about setting aside money for savings and undergraduate student loan repayment that I can borrow from myself in the short-term. But I'd rather not.

Instead, it will be time to get creative, and to practice even more fungality, as the Scrabble Society calls it--the art of enjoying oneself without spending money. Sadly, that is going to mean fewer visits to coffeeshops, no new garden gadgets, and probably cutting back on fancy foods. But I'll survive, and am still bound and determined to keep paying off those undergraduate loans. In the long run, I think I will enjoy the trip to Australia even more if I go with the knowledge that I had to do absolutely everything in my power to earn the trip.

Having less money always means that one must be more conscious and conscientious about where one's resources are spent. That's not always a bad thing. And that concludes this personal pep talk. Back to science.

Accounting

Apr. 9th, 2009 05:45 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I finally filed my taxes this morning. Due to a lack of information when I arrived in Arizona, when I originally signed my hiring paperwork I did not request to have enough money withheld to cover all of my state income taxes. I usually have a slight extra amount withheld for my federal income taxes, so things generally balance out between them. But collectively, they provide me with no motivation to file early because there's no refund waiting that I could tuck into my savings account sooner rather than later.

I also finally updated my spending records for March, which always puts me in an interesting frame of mind. Some of my friends make fun of me for keeping (more-or-less) meticulous records of my spending habits (I still find my margin of error pretty shocking). I have to smile inwardly whenever that happens, because I know my financial self all too well: if I'm not meticulous, I will simply spend all of the money that I have.

Since I'd like to be able to save up for big purchases, like my upcoming trip to Australia next October, and since I'd like to be able to pay off the money I owe to my parents (and Sallie Mae) for my undergraduate education, I have stuck with the meticulous route. And besides, isn't it kind of convenient and nice to know where your money is going?

Now that my taxes are filed and I know my annual income for 2008 (my personal record-keeping for 2008 got spotty), and now that my financial life has reached some sort of stable-state, my inner statistician is sorely tempted to start analyzing my spending habits.

For example (and this is a really basic thing), I determined that 10% of my income goes to federal and state income taxes. After taxes, 24% of my income went towards housing, 15.6% of it went towards groceries (not including eating out; this is a rough estimate), 5.2% went to utilities (including my cell phone; this is also a very rough estimate), and I managed to sock away 13.9%.

Once I get all of the 2009 numbers, I will have so much more data to play with...heh heh heh...

Eye(sigh)t

Dec. 3rd, 2008 01:10 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I am seriously seriously tempted to just jettison part of my financial planning system in favor of getting laser surgery on my eyeballs here and now. I think I have many of my personal neuroses under wraps, but one thing that I have a difficult time dealing with is having poor vision. This was exacerbated by broken glasses this morning. My older glasses have a different prescription in them, and it's not the right one so it's making me feel neurotic. When I can't see clearly, I can't think clearly, either.

I could just stumble around without glasses, but without them I'm probably legally blind by now, so it wouldn't be very safe for me or for other people. And it would make it rather difficult to read things.

I have to consider the numbers. First, there's the expense of getting replacement glasses and frames, where I should really go through and have a new eye exam and all that jazz, too (which is the strategy I'm operating with at the moment, except it means waiting until Friday for the exam and then who-knows-how-long for new glasses, and at what sort of price). Eventually, they will also break, or in the very least the lenses will get scratched and they will wear out.

Next, there's my undergraduate loans to consider, as well as my feeble attempts to cobble together some sort of longer-term savings because, well, it just seems like a wise idea. I realize that $30k in undergraduate loans is a paltry sum compared to what many people face as a result of their poor housing decisions, but frankly I'd like to pay it back some day and enjoy some financial liberty. Especially because I owe a good chunk of that money to my parents, who could use it.

If things went well, this whole eye surgery business could end up costing around the same amount as the computer I'm typing this blog entry on, which I managed to pay for in relatively short order. But if it doesn't go welll, who knows what will happen next? I don't have a ton of resources to fall back on. That's the thing with grad school--they won't let you starve, but one still must be rather careful about one's financial decisions. Most of the time, I actually appreciate that fact because it keeps me from excessive spending or waste. But it makes a person feel a leetle bit vulnerable at times.

I think I just need to discuss options with some of the people around me whose opinions I trust with regards to such decisions. Le sigh.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Heh. On Wednesday at Scrabble, my friends and I got to discussing personal financial matters, which was a good reminder for me that I had been putting off updating my finances for a few months (since the beginning of the new year, yikes!). Ignoring one's finances is a silly thing to do, because the fact that one has earned some money and spent some money doesn't change in the face of denial. Hopefully I'll get back on track with my diligent note-keeping, as it turns that potential worry into much less of a concern, and I'm a bit annoyed that although my long-term savings are adding up, my savings for big-ticket items like eye surgery aren't gaining much momentum. So, to myself: scrimp! scrimp! scrimp! save! save! save!

Besides, being thrifty is fun and creative.

Oh, that reminds me that I still need to make my father's birthday present. Ahem.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Some of you may recall that at the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006, I made a New Year's Resolution to do a better job of managing my finances so that I could buy things that I wanted and also pay off some of my ponderously large undergraduate debt*.

My strategy was relatively straightforward: start to keep track of every penny that I spend**, and start to put money into my savings account. I do not use a budget because the process of budgeting stressed me out and led to noncompliance because it is too fussy, but I do categorize my spending and devote some time to thinking about whether my spending is in alignment with my values and means. Everything that I put into savings is quartered, with one quarter devoted to repaying my parents (they provided above-and-beyond financing for my expensive education), one quarter devoted to Ms. Sallie Mae, one quarter devoted to longer-term savings (currently a CD), and the final quarter devoted to petty materialistic desires that are 'spensive (this quarter is my incentive to myself to save).

Well, 2006 was pretty successful. There were some rough patches here and there, but I managed to more or less keep track of what I spent and get myself out of the cycle of spending everything that I earned. With the help of an additional tutoring job that first year, I also got into the habit of putting my extra income directly into savings. That allowed me to purchase my fancy-schmancy road bike last spring. And 2007 has gone reasonably well overall, too, though I haven't had any supplementary income and have much more expensive living arrangements (I just keep thinking--if my rent were $100/month less, that would be $1200 over a year!). In fact, the only major differences in my financial habits were an increase in the amount going to rent and a decrease in the amount going to savings.

I look forward to maintaining the same sorts of habits in 2008, but the overall success of the 2006 resolution has made me wary of making other New Year's resolutions. This one was so well-defined, complete with concrete measures of my progress and well-thought-out systems, and so it's hard to make any other sort of tongue-in-cheek resolution.

*Well, it's not so large as many graduate debts for professional degree programs, but when you make as much as I do and expect to make about the same amount for a goodly number of years to come, it can be pretty overwhelming--at the present rate of repayment, I'll be working off these loans for the next 15 years--they totaled around $30k to begin with.

**Some of my friends make fun of me for this, but I know myself well--either I track everything, or I track nothing and spend everything, and so this seems the best solution.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well, based on the financial advice of the people I trust the mostest about such things, I have opened a CD account. I might not be rich as a grad student, but I'm certainly not poor either.

I'm not sure if it's this experiment, life in general, the time of year, or the fact that I stayed up a bit late that made me wake up in a foul mood this morning. My mood was foul enough that I decided to skip rowing. I'm not sure what I need to do to recover from this irksome state, but for now I'm crossing my fingers that it goes away on its own. After waking up, I proceeded to lie in bed and think about all of the things I want to do and all of the things I need to do and all of the things I plan to do. I am forever a perpetual list-writer.

Last night I went to the fabric store with L, which was a nice expedition. It was strange to walk around and think about the types of personalities that such stores are designed to appeal to. I saw a few too many aisles full of semi-cute, semi-crappy plant stands and decorative hooks and garden baubles. I bought a mini-cupcake pan and some pieces of styrofoam and a container to store thread. And some bobbins.

L said she struggles with some of the same things I struggle with in grad school--we're good at figuring out how to spend our time in a given week, but it's much harder for us to think further ahead and to juggle more than one project at a time. It's kind of reassuring to know that other people have the same sorts of problems, even when we aren't sure how to resolve them.

Well, time to go back to counting leaves to feed to ants. Yes, my life is just that exciting.

CDs

May. 22nd, 2007 04:27 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I keep on forgetting to post about this.

I'm considering putting a sum of money in a CD--I won't need to touch it for anything anytime soon. Are any of you out there, o internets, familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of CDs?
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Ugh. Time to find some cheaper hobbies. Yeah, right. Actually, I think next weekend in Sacramento will be it for rowing trips until maybe next fall--airfare and hotel costs added up quickly. Maybe I should consider camping out instead. Airfare is still cheaper than owning my own car and driving, too. After I get back, I plan to lie low and improve my spending buffer again.

I was really happy with how much money I managed to stash away last year, but this year is starting to look like it's going to be more expensive, which isn't surprising since I'm working less (no tutoring) and living in a more expensive place. I keep telling myself it's worth it--my standards of living are pretty sweet, and I can afford to pay for things that are important to me, like good food and rowing.

Meh.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
For me, a big part of retaining good spending habits is reading inspirational articles on the matter. Here's a recent one that's pretty basic and straightforward (but then again, developing good spending habits is a remarkably basic and straightforward process!):

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0305/p13s02-wmgn.html

What I like about this article is its emphasis on the psychological aspect of spending decision-making. I have to say that, having worked hard to develop better spending/savings habits, I'm now quite reluctant to part with my hard-earned money in this hunt for a road bike...It's quite an interesting phenomenon.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Well, this summer has been a bit crazy in financial terms, what with moving to a more expensive home and conferences and travel, so I managed to get a bit behind in tracking my spending. This is a bit disappointing because it usually means that I am close to reverting to old bad habits like spending money without really considering where it is going, and using up all of the money I have managed to save so far this year.

However, one thing has changed: my approach to dealing with these inevitable backslides. It used to be that when I started getting overwhelmed, I would just give up altogether and spend until my bank account said zero. But I came to realize something incredibly simple: I cannot take back what I have already spent, so I might as well own up to my spending behavior. And the longer I wait, the more complicated/frustrating it becomes to own up. Interestingly, all of the guilt I feel about getting that extra latte at 3 Roots or whatever tends to dissipate when I keep track of it. I do believe in enjoying things that make me happy and align with my values, after all (y'know, like taking good care of my bike and supporting local businesses). And it's probably because if I try to keep track in my head, I'm left wondering, "So, is that the twelve-hundredth latte I've had this week? I'm spending sooo much money on coffee!" without really *knowing* if that's true.

So I managed to update my August expenses and went through and updated my list of Things to Acquire, and suddenly I feel much better about life. I just find it so much easier to prioritize my spending when I document it on paper instead of trying to keep track of all of it in my head (what can I say--I have a small head). With the above expenses, I had to dip into some of my savings and now have to figure out how to repay myself, which is going to be challenging. But step 1 is to track things on paper; and hopefully, as in the past, the rest will follow.
rebeccmeister: (latte)
Since today was the last of the month, I updated my expense records this morning. I'm pretty impressed with myself--knowing where every penny goes is pretty enlightening. E and I had a conversation the other day about the post I wrote a little while ago about Whole Foods, in which we talked about the challenges involved in making ethical food-buying decisions. She seemed a bit skeptical about how much of an impact her food purchases would really make on the food industry. I can now say that, out of my total income for the past three months, I have spent 13.5% of it on groceries and another 5.6% of it on eating out (for a total of 19% of my income). That's about the same amount as I spent on rent (21.6%)--that's huge! So every single one of my little food purchases--a cookie here, a latte there, a bag or two of groceries a week--really adds up to be a substantial part of my income.

I should point out that I consciously make it a point to buy food that is aligned with my values, and thus it is probably a *bit* more expensive than many individuals' food expenses. On the other hand, I recall reading somewhere that people today spend a significantly smaller fraction of their total income on food compared to times past. So I feel that it's still reasonable for me to pay more money for the food I eat, especially given that it supports my values.

So that was one interesting thing to be able to summarize (the statistician in me has just realized how much more fun I could have with all of this newly-collected data). Another summary that I *thought* I would get really excited about is the summary of how much money I have been stashing away in my savings account. As I look at those numbers, though, they have stopped meaning the same things that I initially thought they would mean. I started my savings strategy at the beginning of the year with the intent of using the saved money for four things: paying back my undergraduate loans to my parents and Sallie Mae (2 things), establishing long-term savings, and establishing savings to buy bigger-ticket items that I want. I included the fourth thing as an incentive to put money away for the other three things. That way, I figured, I would be able to reward myself for developing good saving habits.

Concurrently, I have been keeping a list of the things that I want to acquire (in my pocket squared Moleskine notebook--gotta love 'em). I should really start putting a date on items when I add them to the list. As I think I have pointed out before, the interesting thing about keeping these items on a list is that while I purchase many of them and then check them off, I also cross things off when I decide I don't want them after all. Again, it has given me a better perspective on my spending habits.

Anyway--long story short, what with saving money up, I am finding that my conscious urges to keep on saving money are beginning to overpower older, unconscious urges to spend it all away. If you're my father and you're reading this, you are probably pretty happy for me, because you have known me for the vast majority of my life as a spender. But it's really neat to feel like I can develop a better relationship with money, without feeling like I'm limiting aspects of my life that are important to me.

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