Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tracking the Savings

I did it.

I bought my first smart phone.

I still feel weird about it, but I'm adjusting.

Basically, when I switched to Ting a while ago, I could not get my picture messaging to work.  I never thought I would consider picture messaging a necessity, but being without it for two weeks was driving me crazy.  Not only could I not see pictures sent to me, but I also couldn't take any to send to myself or other people.  I like to take pictures while out running, so I knew I would miss that, but I just didn't realize how much I rely on that feature.

I emailed back and forth with Ting's support staff, who were really great, but eventually I came to learn that Sprint is discontinuing that feature for all non-smart phones.  Since Ting uses the Sprint network, that meant me as well.

One of the great things about Ting is that there are no contracts.  One of the drawbacks of not having a cellphone contract is having to pay outright for a phone.  That means, depending on what kind of smartphone I settled on, I was staring down the barrel of a very big charge on my credit card.  So I waited.

I managed to go a whole month without my beloved picture messaging, but finally, in the span of one afternoon I:

  1. Found a really good deal on a used phone via Amazon
  2. Got a picture message of a friend of mine wearing Google glass that I couldn't actually see
  3. Got offered an extra shift at job #3
These occurrences were the perfect storm I needed to make me pay the $226 for an excellent condition Apple iPhone 4s.  I ended up going with the iPhone because pretty much everything else I own is Apple (which makes me feel a little hipster and filthy), and I just wanted the transition to be as easy as possible.

Now, I'm $200 over on my cell phone budget according to mint.com, but My monthly bill is half what it used to be, and I intend to use little-to-no data, so my bill should stay low.  I'm also going to keep track of the money I save via various apps, and count that toward how long it takes to recoup the expense of the phone.  I've already used Target's Cartwheel app to save a cool $.63 and earn a badge! It's amazing how excited I get about badges which both do and mean nothing, so I'm well on my way.

Now I need help from my frugal friends.  What apps can you not live without? How do you save money using your smartphone?  I shelled out a lot of cash for this thing, I want the savings to be worth it!



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

But What About...?

I'm a little obsessed with the show Shark Tank.  What it is, if you're not familiar, is a show where entrepreneurs pitch product ideas to venture capitalists--the sharks-- in an attempt to get financial investments to expand their businesses. It's interesting because I'm fascinated but the ideas people come up with; I'm curious about venture capital and investing; and it's just a strangely entertaining show.

Some of the product ideas are just terrible, and occasionally people get laughed out of the room, but a lot of the ideas are surprisingly smart.  I even realized a while ago that a company that is next door to my yoga studio was on Shark Tank, and apparently their business has blown up.  The downside is that it sometimes feels a bit like advertising, but I've only ever bought one thing I saw on the show, and it was actually a product none of the sharks invested in:

The Rapid Ramen Cooker.  It's basically a square bowl the size of a dry cake of ramen noodles.  Certainly it didn't change my life, but it was pretty cheap (a set of two for $12.99) and we use it at least once a week.

I was watching a recent episode though, and I was just utterly confused by one of the products that got pitched.  A husband and wife came on pitching an alternative to paper towels called Bambooee.  The difference was that these towels are made of bamboo and they can be washed and re-used up to 20 times.  The couple went on and on about how the mission of their company was to reduce waste and be green.  That's awesome, but there are also things that already exist called: TOWELS.

I have towels that I've used far more than 20 times.  I use paper towels too, but either because I'm cheap or because I grew up in a house that considered paper towel use to be extravagant, I don't use them much.  


Bambooee is at the 20 minute mark

I bought a four pack of 3M microfiber cloths and a two pack of Trader Joe's Super Amazing Reuseable Kitchen Cloths.  I'm pretty much set.  The Trader Joe's cloths are the right size that I can clip them into my Swiffer Vac and mop the floor that way (found the Swiffer vac on a curb and it charges with the same size adapter that powers my tv speakers--free FTW!!), and I use the other cloths for cleaning everything else.  I wash them all with my gym clothes once a week.

Maybe there's something I'm just not getting here, but isn't the greenest option out there to just buy regular towels? I guess it's hard to keep turning a profit on something that people rarely need to replace, but I feel like I'm the smartest guy in the room.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Even Free Comes With a Cost

There's nothing better than a free lunch, or a free prize or a free sample.  My bathroom is full of hotel soaps and samples I've gotten over the years, and I've spent the last few months trying to use them all up before I'm allowed to go buy new things.  It's working pretty well, actually, and I'm sure I'm saving some money, even if I can't exactly track it.

I had a thought though the other day when I was doing some online shopping for a new bag: The things you own often cost you money in ways you couldn't really predict when buying them.

For example.  A co-worker of mine drives a Smart Car.  Smart Cars are great because they get excellent gas mileage and you can park them practically anywhere.  One big drawback, however, that I only learned about recently is that apparently Smart Car was acquired by Mercedes Benz a little while back.  That means, when my co-worker recently had to buy snow tires for his car, the sticker price was significantly higher because he had to buy them from Mercedes.  Also, most people who own Smart Cars must not live in places where you need snow tires, because he had to special order them, which also cost extra.

At least he saves money on gas, but I frequently envy Smart Car owners assuming that their car costs must be lower than mine--perhaps not so.

Similarly, when I started my job, work gave me an iPad.  The boss wants us to comfortable with them, so everyone is given one when they start.  It's a nice little bonus, and I really appreciate it since I would never have bought one myself.  I took mine, brought it home, and used it to play a lot of games on or to watch tv on while I was falling asleep.  I never brought it back to work because my purse was too small to hold it.  Turns out that work kind of doesn't like it when they give you an iPad and you never actually have it when you need it.

So I had to buy a new bag.

Sure, you're thinking well, you didn't have to, you can just carry the thing (lazy dumbass).  But I honestly was so worried that I'd either drop it, set it down and forget about it, or have it stolen that I just never took it anywhere.  Whenever I had it with me, I was just so on edge all the time.  Also, there were plenty of times I intended to bring it to work and I just forgot to grab it on my way out the door.  There was also the time I was juggling purse, iPad, recycling, lunch box and lunchtime reading material when I almost threw the iPad in the outside recycle bin.  First world problems, for sure, but it became a bit of a real problem.

Because I'm super picky about bags, it took me months to find one that I would actually like to carry with or without iPad, and it took me even longer after finding one to actually pull the trigger and make the purchase.  I am glad I have it, and I now bring the iPad to work every day, which is pretty handy, but it's also rather annoying that I had to spend $40 on a new purse when my old one works fine (though it's kind of falling apart).  However, I am ultimately pleased with my decision--more than I thought I would be.

Have you encountered some hidden unexpected extras with purchases?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm a Ting!

After a while, if you're like me, you've cut all the expenses that you can or are willing to cut.  My rent, and internet are a fixed amount.  My utilities, I try to keep low, but when it's 15 degrees out, a girl needs to stay comfortable.  Gas for my car, phone bills, groceries--I try to keep those as low as I can without feeling like I'm depriving myself, but it still feels incredibly frustrating to get my paycheck and spend it all in a single day with little-to-nothing left over for savings.

So this is why I'm really, really excited to have found a way to cut back on one of those bills.

I've been with Sprint for nearly ten years, and I've hated Sprint for nearly that entire time.  Their service in the part of town where I live is lousy; they renew your contract for two years every time you get a new phone; they've tricked me into getting a new phone when I didn't actually want one; for some reason, they claim that my email address doesn't work every time I sign up for paperless billing (note: I've had the same email for longer than I've had sprint--it works fine); and for what I use my phone for, I'm just paying what feels like way too much money.  For instance, last month's bill, I used eight minutes of talk time, and sent and received 48 text messages.  My bill was $46.  That $46 also includes a 15% discount that I get because I used to work for Pepsi.  For what I use my phone for, that's just too much money, but I've always been too lazy to shop around for a better deal--if there even is one.

I've had Ting on my radar for a while now.  I actually blogged about them a year and a half ago, but at that time, if I had switched, I would have had to get a new phone, the only phones they supported were smart phones, and you couldn't keep your current phone number.  So I got on their email list and kept up with new developments.  Finally, they posted that you could port your number from your old phone AND, they had a lovely picture of my current cell phone on their website:
It's not fancy, but I love it
Last night, I made the switch, and when I woke up this morning, I had an email telling me how to reactivate my phone.

So far, there are two downsides:
  1. I use google voice instead of listening to voicemail, and that feature was disabled.  I'm not sure if I can get it back, but I haven't tried yet.
  2. There are issues with texting pictures to your email, which is something I did do a lot.  I saw that in their terms of service,  so I was prepared for it, but I'm not sure how much I'm going to miss having that option.
The upside: Currently my bill is $6.  Obviously, that will go up when I send more texts, etc., but now I have a lot more control of my expenses AND I'm not locked into a stupid plan.  If I decide that Ting doesn't work for me, I can just bail.

I'll keep you posted, but I'm feeling pretty smart right now.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gone Dormant

I've had the idea in the back of my mind over and over for the last few months that I should really write a blog entry.  But then, I haven't.  My blogging has been super sporadic since I started my new job, and while a lot of that is down to just having a lot more responsibilities i.e. coming home tired a lot, another big part of it is that whole getting paid once a month thing.

It seems that when I don't have money coming into my life on a regular basis, I just don't think about it that much.  I kind of suspected that would be the case, but it's also surprising how it's just not on my radar.  I still update my daily budget, and I don't think my spending has gone out of control, but I feel like I have much less of a handle on it.  Nothing I can do about that, so  I'll continue to try to adjust.

Strangely, the month of February has brought a few extra checks my way, which has got me thinking about money again.
  • I filed my taxes and just got two healthy tax returns.  Since I am a good citizen, I immediately made a student loan payment.  Since I have been really, really slacking in the student loan payment department (I've been paying the minimum, but not attacking with my previously aggressive strategy), I found that paying $500 got me back to where I had been in November.  BUT, I made sure that my entire payment went only to the principle balance of one of my high interest loans, so that will save me major ducats over the long haul.
  • I worked a shift at job #2, which isn't a ton of cash, but 60% of that goes into my Roth IRA, which I have really been neglecting.
  • I did jury duty--again.  I got called up for jury duty exactly three years ago (which is the minimum amount of time they can wait), and then BOOM, blue notice in the mail again saying they would love to have me back.  Still, work paid me for the time I was sitting in the jury box, and I have a cool $30 coming in the mail soon.

On the downside, I had the major expense of a new laptop.  I finally decided to spend the money on a nice Macbook Pro, rather than keep buying a cheap PC every three years.  Thankfully, I have an emergency fund for just such an occasion, but unthankfully, I hate having to spend that much money on anything.  I just hope this computer actually lasts.  Cross your fingers for me!

Since getting paid monthly is going to be my situation for the foreseeable future, I really am hoping I adjust soon.  I have barely saved anything since starting this job, but the extra expense of living alone has made that difficult--not impossible though.  The weather is getting more temperate, and I don't have any major expenses coming up, so I'll keep plugging away!

Ever served Jury Duty?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Losing Weight for Fun and Profit!

I'm always on the hunt for a low-maintenance scheme that nets me a bit of extra cash, and I'm pleased to report I may have found the best one yet!

There is a program called Shape Up Rhode Island that kicks off every year in January.  I've always wanted to participate in it because I love exercise, and I love competition (apparently).  The competition thing is a recent revelation to me since I quit all sports by third grade, but it seems that when I'm competing at things I'm already good at, I get a bit crazy.

For $25, you sign up for Shape Up, and either pick a team or get placed on one.  Then your teams compete to get the most steps and hopefully win the grand prize, which this year is a trip to Europe (note: it does not say where in Europe--I suspect Poland.  Place your bets).

I've never participated before because I never wanted to pay the $25.  Now, my employer is willing to pay that, and I found that there's another weight loss research study available, and I'm participating in that as well.  All I have to do is track my calories and exercise, which I do anyway, and log it on their online platform.  Then I have to check in four times and get weighed.  I will earn between $1-$10 per week for 12 weeks, plus $25 each time I have to go there to weigh in and $50 for the final weigh in.  It's not a ton of money, but it's also earning money for something I was planning on doing anyway, so it's pretty awesome!

It's always nice when a scheme just falls into your lap.  I intend to put all this money in my travel fund, which hopefully will motivate me even more.  Now if winter would just go away so I can run outside, I'll be all set.

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014, Oh My

So, my holiday season consisted of a lot of sloth and not a lot of blogging. I honestly have no excuse.  I don't do cards, bake cookies, travel--I didn't even put up a tree.  The only reason I have for being such a bloggy slacker is probably that really heavy lasagna I ate at the work holiday party.  Man, that was so tastey but it settled like a brick in my stomach and destroyed all ambition.

So, 2013 is done, and I could not be happier.  What a stupid year.  Yes, it did get better in the second half--for me and many of the people I love who were also having a shitty year, but still.  Perhaps I've gained perspective or something, but I'm still a bit cranky.

I've always hated the notion of New Year's resolutions, so I am loathe to say anything that sound like I'm making them, but I do have plans for 2014--better late than never.

1. Keep De-Cluttering
I'm doing well in this, and I intend to keep it up. I've reached the point where for some things in my house, they just have a place.  I don't have to think about cleaning up, because I just put things back where they go.  My mother always told me that life would ed be easier if you were organized and had less stuff, and I guess she was right.  Too bad it took me so long to believe it.

2. Keep Saving
I am a bit annoyed that my expenses seem to always be a too high to put as much money into regular savings as I'd like, but I am doing really well with putting money into retirement.  I'm going to scale that back a bit just so I have more liquid cash, and so I can still put money into my Roth IRA.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oVpUimHiYg
3. Move More
My new job is pretty sedentary, and also pretty overwhelming at times.  I've been in the habit, since I don't have a gym membership, of just doing running and yoga and that's it.  That means, when I'm sick of running or yoga, I really don't get any exercise.  Well, I finally decided to actually do something about that besides just whining.  I bought a Rodeo Core, which is a rather ridiculous machine that supposedly works your abs.  While I find that if I sit on it for longer than 20 minutes, I get a bit of a headache, it's also really handy in that it's pretty quiet, uses no power and I can do it while I'm watching tv.  I honestly do get tired using this thing, so it must be somewhat effective at something besides making me look like a total moron.

I also have a membership to the gym at the college where I work.  It's a bit intimidating to work out next to 18-21 year olds, but it's cheap and since I no longer have a treadmill in my house, it's necessary.  In addition to those two things, I have completely fallen in love with DailyBurn, which is a streaming exercise video service.  It costs $10/month, but they have videos for everything.  when I was housebound the other day after my car wouldn't start, I did some kettlebells with Coach Cody, and felt totally badass.

Hopefully as it continues to warm up and we get more and more day light, I can run outside more often and start biking again.

And I think that's it!  Maybe I'll think of something else later, but probably not.  What are your plans for the year?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ThredUp Check In

It's weird to see my clothes on the internet
I heard back from ThredUp about the items I sent to them, and I've already sold something!  I was a bit lazy when I sent my items and I didn't total up how much I sent to them.  So I know that they didn't take some things, but I'm not sure how many.  I do remember sending in a really nice pair of Banana Republic pants that are too high-waisted for my taste, so it's a shame they didn't take those.  But, it doesn't really matter because I would have just eventually given them to a thrift store anyway, and now ThredUp can just do it for me.

They took a total of six items I sent in-- One blazer, one button down shirt, two skirts, one pair of pants and a dress.

Unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed at the total amount I'll be getting when the stuff sells (and it will!).  Those six items will next me a cool $10.40. Since I never sell to consignment stores, I have no idea if that's a good or bad deal, but it's $10.40 for my travel fund that I would previously not have had.  Plus, my closet looks better.

So far, the items that has sold is a super adorable skirt I got at Banana Republic that was always just a scootch too short.  I don't know if when I bought it that was the only size they had, or if I was just feeling really thin that day, but I'm pretty sure I've only work it twice--at most.  I hope it makes someone else very happy.  Other items includes a skirt that's just too short, a too short dress (seriously, you'd think I have super long legs or something, which is not the case), a blazer that just isn't me and a too large pair of pants.

What's interesting to me is to see the markup on the items and my payout for them.  For instance, the skirt that sold was listed by them at $18.99 with me getting $6.30 (my best-priced item).  Other items are selling for around $10, and my take-home pay is around $.90.  Again, I have no idea if that's standard for consignment, but it seems a wee bit low...  Oh well.

Anyone else tried ThredUp?  What do you think?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Check In and Cheap Week

Nope, none of this yet
I'm doing relatively well on my plan for November.  My plans were:
  1. Sticking with eating from the pantry.   
  2. No extras. 
  3. Cut back on drinking. 
  4. Cut back on eating out.  
  5. Cheap student theatre instead of professional. 
  6. Start scheming.  
  7. Hibernate

1. I've been buying more groceries, but I'm still working on cleaning out the freezer.  I'm down to a mere three boxes of veggie burgers and one bag of frozen veg.  Next, I'm going to turn my attention to the dried goods a.k.a split peas, lentils etc., but I did use up some barley and dry soup mix in November.

2. I did not do the Mews 5k nor the Thanksgiving Pie run, but I did add back DailyBurn to my hulu+ account.  It's only $10 a month though, and when it's damn cold out, I don't want to go for a run.

3. I have cut back on drinking.

4. In the month of November, I only ate out twice, but did also order in pizza a couple times.  Still, a vast improvement.

5. I went to professional theatre, but it was free with a friend who writes theatre reviews!  I also went to a student production of Streetcar Named Desire.  Tickets were a mere $7, and the show was actually really good. We also bought tickets to The Book of Mormon, but had a gift certificate for those.

6. I've been scheming a little.  I sent in some clothes to ThredUp, but I still haven't gotten a quote from them.  I'm trying to keep the heat turned down low and use a space heater in the room I'm actually in rather than heat the whole apartment.

7. Over Thanksgiving, I had five days off, and I spent most of that time reading, watching tv, running and going to yoga.  I feel fantastic and it was cheap!

December should be more of the same, but actually started off a bit expensive already.  I paid car insurance, but I had money in savings for it.  I'll have to pay quarterly car tax soon, but I have savings for it.  I bought a plane ticket, but I have money in my travel fund for that.  I'm going to the second annual Yelp Merry Marketplace tomorrow, but I don't really need anything so hopefully I can buy cool stuff if I see it, and then fill up on free food and drink.  Wednesday night there's a concert I want to go to, but it's only $25 (a bit pricey, but it will be worth it).  After that, the only things on my agenda are yoga, running and reading--all free! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's One of Those Posts!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I think that Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays, now that I no longer work in retail.  I like that it's a holiday devoted to gratitude and gluttony.  Even though I personally don't eat turkey, I still find it very easy to fill up on delicious sides.  And last year, a local pizza shop served up a thanksgiving pizza with stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey and a side of gravy (for dipping).  I tried it (without turkey); it was interesting...  I'm glad I had it, but I don't think I'll get it again this year.

In grand tradition, I'm going to list of a few things I am thankful for, and please add yours in the comments!

  1. I am thankful for my job.  Not only do I love it, but it pays me a living wage, has retirement matching and offers affordable health insurance.
  2. I am thankful for my car.  I actually kind of hate my car because it has a bunch of random quirks that are just annoying, but it also has over 100,000 miles on it and still runs just fine.  I intend to drive it until it just won't drive any more. I'm lucky to have a car that runs well and I don't take that for granted.
  3. I am thankful for my health.  I have no major health issues, and despite the fact that I seem to have wintertime perma-sniffles, I'm doing just fine.  Your health can change in an instant, so I am going to appreciate what I've got.
  4. I am thankful for my friends--both in person and virtual.  I have met so many people over the years who I'm still friends with.  I love being able to know people from all over the world and I love keeping up with people easily.  Which leads me to...
  5. I am thankful for social media.  See above.  I have lived in so many different places and had so many different jobs that I've met hundreds of people who I actually care about, but whom I would never call on the phone.  I love that I can keep up with their lives with relative ease on facebook or other social media outlets.  I also love that facebook allows you to develop friendships more slowly.  I'm a rather reserved person until I know someone, so it's much easier for me to seem interesting (and have things to talk about) when I'm not put on the spot.
  6. I am thankful for my boyfriend and my kitteh.  Ah, the men in my life, they are good.  Wee Watson and I have been together 12 years (since he was about five months old) and he has been my best cat friend and faithful mascot.  BF and I just had our five year anniversary, which is bonkers because I still don't feel like running away.

    I promise he's not actually morbidly obese--it's the angle
What are you thankful for?