Bring it on haterz

I still stand by my statement the other day “Personal finance bloggers are a pretty tolerant bunch.” That said, after Dr. Faith shared with me the comments on this Give Me Back My Five Bucks article, I’m learning that personal finance readers, may not be. Krystal bought a new car for $30k and received a verbal beating from several readers. Well, after today, it might be my turn. I welcome the abuse 🙂

I finally have enough money to pay off my student loan…but I have no plans to do so at this point. If you follow my Net Worth updates, you will have noticed I have $5,182 in my checking account and $14,735 in my savings account. Together I have essentially $20,000 liquid. My student loan balance is at $17,867. I could pay off my loan today, and never make another payment to Sallie Mae again. I could, but I wont.

I have had quite the history with Ms. Mae. I started out making double minumum payments, then after some insight from my readers decided to up the ante to at least $1,000 a month. Then just a couple months ago, I got real crazy and decided to throw all of my discretionary income, paying between $1,000 to $2,000, on it each month. It seems that my plans may be changing yet again.

I’m probably going to be decreasing my monthly payment to about $500 each month for the foreseeable future. There are a few reasons I’ve decided to decrease my debt repayments and increase my savings rate.

1) I’m still going through the application process for my dream job and a “final offer” is hopefully not too far away. If I do get the job, then I will be entitled to receive “full” relocation benefits. One of the benefits that comes with this relocation package is aid in purchasing a home (down payment or closing costs). That could be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 in free money. The catch is, you only have two years to claim your benefits. That means I could potentially be purchasing a house within three years. I want to build a large cash savings, to give me more flexibility and options, when looking at what house is right for me.

2) I don’t anticipate being single much longer. While there is nothing set in stone with Girl Ninja, I don’t plan to date her for another 4 years. I want to bring a healthy savings account in to the relationship for peace of mind. Having $30K in the bank would make me feel much more at ease.

3) I can always pay off my loan in full with the money I’ve saved. If a year from now I’m not any closer to getting hitched or landing my dream job, I can always pay off my student loan at that time. Sure, I would be paying 7% interest on the $17K over the next year, which would be like throwing away a grand, but I save a crap load of money by, having a roommate, cooking most of my meals, rarely driving, no alcohol, etc. So consider this one of my PERSONAL expenses. You may think I’m crazy for throwing away $80 a month on interest, but people drop far more than that at the bar each month.

4) Most important reason: It’s what I feel like doing right now. I know it may not be the smartest financial decision, but oh well, it’s my choice.

I still plan to pay $500 a month on my student loan, which is more than doubling the minimum payments. Plus, my financial lifestyle is very fluid, so a month from now I could very well be back to hating my loan and paying the sucker off ASAP. I welcome any and all opinions. Am I being a complete moron? What would you do? Although I’m defying Dave Ramsey logic, can you see where I’m coming from? Let me know what you think, good or bad, I have some thick skin 🙂

Who invented babies

Seriously who invented babies, or better yet, who invented the desire to have babies? A while back I wrote an article about the cost of having a kid. Recently, Budgets are Sexy posted up a little article, discussing children becoming a part of his future. The article reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who is currently pregnant. The conversation went a little like this…

Me: Have you ever wondered why we want to have kids? I mean it’s pretty weird when you think about it. They cost a lot of money, take up a lot of our time, can be quite frustrating, and they poop themselves. I’m really perplexed why we desire to have children.

Friend: I use to think the same thing. They definitely cost a lot of money, but the joys of owning having a kid, must outweigh any of the perceived negatives.

Me: That’s true. I definitely agree there must be a benefit to having kids, but I feel like if I had no concept of children, and then read about them, I would never want one.

Friend: Yeah, on paper having a kid probably isn’t the most fun sounding thing. I guess we all have an innate desire to provide for and nurture someone else.

Me: I guess that makes sense.

Friend: Sure having a kid is going to be a lot of work, but being responsible for someone’s well being is kind of cool when you think about it. Being able to help someone that can’t help themselves is a pretty rewarding experience. I think that’s really what it comes down to.

Me: Plus once they are like twelve years old, you can make them take out the garbage and stuff.

So what is it bloggers? I know the majority of my readers are younger and probably don’t have children, but I’m sure there are some parents out there reading this. What is it about children that are so darn compelling? I know they can make me smile and feel warm fuzzies inside, but so can apple pie. There has to be some deeper underlying desire… right?

Mini Fridge Hell

I now can say I have experienced a little taste of hell. As you all are aware, I am currently on a business trip on a very tiny island in far east Asia. I have blogged a few times about my food setbacks when I wrote about packing a lunch and how awkward eating out alone can be on business trips.

Consider those issues trivial compared to the issue I now face. There are only a handful of food options where I’m staying. There’s a burger king, subway, pizza place, one buffet style cafeteria, and a grocery store. After two weeks of whopper juniors, 12 inch subs, and medium pizzas, I’m pretty sure my stomach wants to punch me in the face.

My hotel room is equipped with a mini-fridge and a microwave. I’ve done the peanut butter and jelly thing a handful of times, but I am in need of some nutritional meals that don’t require an oven or a stove. The meals I typically make for myself, back home, all require some type of cooking.

Imagine your oven/stove broke down today and you couldn’t get it fixed for six weeks. What would you work in to your diet? I’ve flirted with the idea of making a salad, but would get pretty sick of it after about two meals. Right now my “mini fridge diet” consists of PB&J, cereal, apples, pears, oranges, and yogurt. That’s all I got. I’m freaked out by cooking things in the microwave (I feel like it makes my food toxic….crazy I know) so frozen dinners and the like aren’t really an option.

Anyone have any crazy delicious sandwich combinations that are easy and never get old? My culinary skills are quite elementary so try and keep it to recipes you would trust a 3rd grader with 🙂 I may be a Debt Ninja, but I am in no way any kind of Chef Ninja. Oh, and keep in mind the grocery store on this island is pretty ghetto so pre-made sandwiches/salads/soups don’t exist here.

Don’t tempt me 0% financing, okay tempt me a little.

Check it out. Say you are in the market for a really nice flat screen TV (I’m not). You have been saving for the TV for quite some time and have narrowed it down to the exact model you want. You know it’s gonna cost you $3,000 and you think you got everything all figured out. Then, out of nowhere, a curveball comes your way. The Best Buy employee asks if you’d be interested in their “0% financing for 12 months” option. What do you do? What do you!

I never thought I would sign up to finance anything, ever, but something about that nice and round “zero” is tempting. Maybe it’s like a donut though. Looks good, tastes good, but once you eat it you immediately regret your decision.

I have read some whore horror stories about people who signed up for 3 months of 0% financing, only to find out when they tried to pay their balance in full (at the conclusions of their 90 days), they were slapped with some ridiculous early payment fees…apparently the contract they signed stated you couldn’t pay your balance off for 12 months without being penalized.

I know there are some 0% finance scams, with incredibly shady terms. But (Yes, I just broke a rule and started a sentence with “but”) there also appears to be some that are rather legitimate, namely those from larger companies.

So the question is bloggers, do I play with the devil, knowing I could minimize the impact of a four figure purchase by splitting up the cost over a 3, 6, or 12 month period. If you were gonna drop $3K on the TV would you take the free financing or exercise sound financial knowledge and pay for the sucker up front? Anyone have any experience with the 0% financing game?

Where are you holding back?

There are some things that we want and other things we need. Water is something I need, Dr. Pepper is something I want. Food is something I need, a burrito is something I want. You get the point right? Just because we want something, doesn’t mean we HAVE to have it.

I actually wrote on June 8th, 2008 about the importance of delaying gratification. The post centered around my desire to buy a really nice SLR digital camera. It’s something that I have wanted for about two years now. My birthday was in July and I decided to utilize my birthday wishes to satisfy this want. I asked Mama Ninja for a generous contribution to my SLR fund. She told me should would transfer money in to my account when I was ready to make my purchase.

Well in case you haven’t noticed it’s September and I’m still digital cameraless. For some reason I have a continuous internal conflict with myself when it comes time to getting serious about buying the camera. I’m totally scared I am going to have buyers remorse. I would dread dropping over $1,000 on a camera and then getting bored with it after a couple months. I guess I’m a Bi-polar Ninja because I definitely go through phases when I really want it, and then think it’s a big waste of money the next day.

Mama Ninja is still patiently waiting for me to make a decision on what I want for my birthday, but I’m being a little bit of a drama queen. I’m definitely holding back on this purchase and I don’t really know why. I can afford it, I’ve wanted it for a long time, Mama Ninja will help contribute, and I really want it. All valid reasons right!? WTF is my problem? I like being frugal, but I don’t want to be the weird person that never enjoys their money. What are some thing that you want, could justify getting, but at the end of the day choose not to get? What have you done in similar situations? Have you dealt with buyers remorse? Help a Ninja out!

Checking accounts and wiping your butt

Seriously. I have never really put much thought in to how much money I should be consistently keeping in my checking account. If you follow my net worth updates, than you’ll notice I have mentioned trying to keep about $1,000 in this account at any given time.

Ask me where I came up with the idea that $1,000 was a good number. I have no freakin’ clue, I guess I just pulled it out of thin air one day. I got to thinking maybe, I have waaaaay too much chillin’ in my account, after all it could be earning 1.5% interest in my online savings account. Or maybe I don’t have enough? Should I be keeping a mini-emergency fund available at all times, say $2K-4k?

Maybe, just maybe, I’m doing this checking account thing all wrong. Shoot it’s kind of like wiping your butt. Have you ever thought maybe you wipe your butt wrong? Seriously, it’s not like you would know that you have bad butt wiping form. Maybe you are a front to back wiper, when the rest of the world goes back to front. Do you go in between the legs? Or sneak attack from the back?

Although, $1,000 seems to have worked just fine for me over the last couple years, I’m curious how much you all keep in your checking. Do you go with a set dollar amount? Do you keep “x” amount of months expenses in it? Do you keep as little as possible in there so you can earn interest on the rest? Contrary to what you may be thinking, I am not concerned with your butt wiping rituals, but would love to know your checking account routine.

Kwajilein here I come!!!

If you’re like me, you’re scratching you’re head and thinking WTF. Well mi amigos, apparently Kwajilein is one of the freakin’ small islands within the Marshall Islands. Again, if you’re like me you’re wondering “Where the heck are the Marshall Islands?” A quick geography lesson shows that they are located between Hawaii and Australia. Check out the image below…

I got an email yesterday notifying me I’ll be heading there mid September through late October to do some work. I’ve never been off the North American continent so I’m excited to see what other parts of the world are like. A couple random things about Kwajalein (or as I like to call it “The Kwaj”)…

  • The population on the island is less than 1,000 people.
  • Bicycle is the primary mode of transportation as private vehicles are not allowed.
  • It’s 3.4 miles end to end and 0.62 miles at it’s thickest section.
  • The island is leased by the U.S.
  • The water has 100ft visibility and is 80 degrees….hell yeah!

Anyways, enough about where I’ll be, moving on to more important things… While I am there I will be working 8 hours of overtime a week. I have two options with the overtime I will accrue over the six weeks I’ll be there. Get paid for it (at time and a half) or bank it as paid time off. I’m a terrible decision maker, as noted in previous posts, and would appreciate your input.

Here’s how I think it would break down. If I take overtime pay for the 48 hours I will get paid $1,740 for that time. If I were to add it to my annual leave, I would get paid $1,162 for that time when I did take it off. Here’s a few of my thoughts: If I take the money, then I pocket about $1,218 of it after taxes. That’s a butt load of money to just pass up. If I choose time off I never get that $1,218, but I exchange it for 6 extra days off this year.

So what would you do? Imagine your boss says “Hey you, you can take a week off whenever the heck you want and get paid for it or I’ll give ya an extra paycheck this year.” Which one would you take. The personal finance side of me says take the money and run. The lazy ass in me says take a week off and get paid to do something fun. I guess this is another awesome dilemma to have, but any and all opinions would be appreciated.