Monthly Expenses: September (bonus edition)

Okay before I get on with my Sept expenses, I came across this HILARIOUS article about one mans attempt to pay his debt with a drawing of a spider. The first email is above, but to laugh even harder go here and check out the full email dialogue. If you’ve already seen this, then I’m pissed at you for not sharing it with me.

Now on to the expenses. As always, here’s the quick breakdown of where all my money went…

Explanation of Income:

Salary: My take home pay from the day job. I get paid every two weeks, so this usually doesn’t fluctuate too much. It was a little higher than standard pay this month because I am on a business trip and have earned some overtime while here. Keep your eyes peeled for October because my monthly income is going to be even higher!

Gift: As I confessed before, I accept gifts from Momma Ninja when she is feeling generous. I use this money exclusively to pay down my student loan. I know some refuse to accept cash from the bank of mom and dad….I’m not one of those people 🙂

Explanation of Expenses:

Auto: Any maintenance and fuel costs associated with my car, excluding car insurance. Boo! This is the highest fuel cost I’ve had in a while. Usually I’m around $40 a month in gas. Don’t worry though my gas bill in Oct will be $0.

Dining: I like to keep my dining bill under $100 each month, so I was pretty much right on the money. Yes I spent $7 more than my goal, sue me.

Groceries: My goal is to keep my dining and grocery total under $250 each month. I was over a $100 under budget this month. Confession: I’m on a business trip and they paid all my food costs from Sept 18th to the 30th.

Interest expense: Ah, stupid evil Sallie Mae….we meet again . I have a monthly obligation of $220 on my $17K debt. But I say “Screw the minimum monthly payment!” I’m trying to rid myself of this evil ho-bag as quick as I possibly can. 

Travel: I still haven’t really figured out a good method to track my expenses while I am on business. I pretty much include all expenses (dining, hotel, hookers) in the travel category ’cause I don’t really see a point in itemizing these expenses. I get reimbursed for all travel related costs so I got nothing to worry about

The other categories were too unimportant or self explanatory so that is why I didn’t cover them. The overall total at the bottom is the cash I had leftover after all my expenses. I had $346 left over which is sitting in my checking account right now. I have way too much money in my checking account, $3K, so once I get back home I’ll be throwing another pretty penny at the student loan.

* Are you wondering why I post the previous month’s expenses a couple weeks late? I use quicken to track my spending and I have to wait until the end of the billing cycle before I can download these transactions. I know I could manually add each expense as it comes, but I am entirely too lazy for that. Thanks for checking in and if you got any comments, tips, or advice I’d be more than happy to hear it. *

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?

Fly finances (pun intended)

If I could be any animal I would be a house fly. Okay, not really, I’d probably be a fire breathing squirrel, but house fly would be second on my list. Yeah I know flies are pretty gross looking and only have an average life span of about a month, but they do have one thing going for them: persistency. Sure they are rather annoying, but ya can’t really say they lack commitment or dedication.

I was at the beach this weekend, trying to get my tan on, but a handful of flies were doing everything they could to prevent me from reaching ultimate relaxation. They’d buzz around me and land on my legs and stomach. I would try and swat at them, but they are just too darn quick and seemed to narrowly escape my hand each time. I think the flies got some sick pleasure out of taunting me, as they continued “touch and go” landings on my body. As annoyed as I was, I had to acknowledge the fact that these flies were persistent.  Even when facing certain death as I swatted at them, they never gave up on their mission: Annoy the crap out of Debt Ninja.

This may be a stretch, but hear me out… Our financial attitude should mimic that of a fly. When declaring war on debt, like so many of us have, we have to keep consistent and remain committed to our battle. Paying down my student loan is not exactly my idea of a good time, but committing to being aggressive and throwing all my extra money at it will surely benefit me in the long run.

I have a stated goal of getting out of debt and becoming a bagillionaire. A fly has a goal of bugging the crap out of me while I chill out on the beach. Sure our goals are different, but the only way to achieve them is remaining persistent. Just as I tried to stop the fly from reaching it’s goal (primarily by attempting to murder it), it’s important to be aware that our lenders are going to try and prevent us from becoming debt free. They’ll try and add late fees, increase our interest rates, and penalize the bajeezes out of us for sneezing. But we can not… I repeat, CAN NOT, let our creditors “swat” us to death. We will fight, persevere, and ultimately end up victorious. Let this be a lesson to you all, although flies may be gross, they can teach us a thing or two about managing our money.

When in doubt, go overseas

My first international business trip has taught me some valuable life lessons. For example, don’t drink the water. Maybe I’m naive, but I only thought this was true for Mexico and Kazakhstan, didn’t know it was a virtually universal rule. Jet lag exists. I always thought it was some excuse people made for being cranky and/or lame. I did experience my first taste of jet lag on this trip, but I still think the term is overused. Jet lag for a flight from New York to China…maybe. From New York to New Jersey….I don’t think so. Lastly, and the most important lesson, people make bank when working abroad.

There are a couple different private companies, where I currently am, that work on various government contracts. I have spoken with quite a few of the employees and am quickly realizing, they have the sweet life. Their incomes are average, but the benefits are second to none. I make $50K a year, but someone here can make $35K and walk away with more in their pocket. Here are a couple of the benefits all local defense contractor employees receive….

No federal income tax. Talk about a freakin’ sweet deal. That right there automatically saves them 15%-30% of their income. They do pay a 5% tax to the local government, but I’d rather pay 5% than 25% any day.

No housing costs. It’s all 100% paid for by the company. If you’re single you live in “dorm style” housing. If you’re married or have kids you get a small little two bedroom house. Sure, the living arrangements aren’t the most “contemporary”, but I’d live in a cardboard box in San Diego if it were free.

No food costs. When I learned the employee’s here don’t pay for food, I just about pooped myself. There is a buffet style dining hall, that everyone has access to at no cost to them. Granted eating in the same dining hall could get old, but they can go spend their money at the grocery store or the food court if they want.

No automobile, cell phone, internet, TV, water/electric bill related costs. Thats’ right all the bills that nickel and dime us, don’t exist out here. Since it is a military base, internet and tv are provided to everyone. There isn’t a cell phone tower for 1000’s of miles, so no cost there, and the island I’m on is so small, it’s a bike only island. Imagine no car payments, no insurance, and no gas.

I’m sure there are even more benefits to working for a US company in a different country, but this is what I’ve heard about so far. To depress me further, I did some quick number crunching to figure out exactly how much I’m paying to live in California. I make $50K, but calculating in all the costs I mentioned above, it’s more like $30K. I really had no clue someone can have a lower income, but make more money than me. I guess the $20K I’m paying each year to live in the states must be worth it…right?

The dreaded third pay check

For those of us that get paid every two weeks, we face an epic battle, that others do not. For us, managing a budget is no easy task. Ten months of the year, things are just fine, but when March and October come around, my whole world turns upside down…I get an extra paycheck.

Although it is definitely a good problem to have, it does make things more difficult than other payment plans. We are really left with two options…

We can break up the two extra paychecks, by twelve, and calculate that in to our online budget app. Say for example you get $2K every two weeks. That means 10 months of the year your income will be $4K, but for two months it will be $6K. You can take the extra $4K (from the two extra paychecks) and divide that by twelve, this gives you $333. For budgeting purposes, you can average your monthly pay to be $4,333. In my opnion this method sucks. It’s a lot of work, a lot of planning, and a waste of time.

I subscribe to the “Booya, extra money” budgeting plan. Instead of breaking up my extra two paychecks over the entire calender year, I simply pretend they don’t exist. If I get $2K every two weeks, then I budget my cash flow around a $4K monthly income. When the time comes for the extra paycheck, I get to do with it what I want. Why? Because I have established spending habits around a $4K income.

If you haven’t noticed…it’s October, which means I’ll have an extra $1,500 coming my way. Perhaps I will buy 1,500 McChickens, maybe I’ll give it away to one of my lucky readers, but most likely I will contribute to my Roth IRA or pay down my student loan. Ah, the life of being a frugal ninja 🙂 I know there are others that get paid every two weeks. What method do you use? Is there a third option I haven’t thought of?

Improve your work situation

I’m going to be perfectly honest. I don’t think my boss liked me very much when I first started working. Unfortunately, I can’t really blame him. I was pretty arrogant. I had done well in college, and felt it was now time to kick a$$ at work. I don’t think I was a total douche bag, but I probably did carry a slight douche-tastic scent.

Fortunately, I have been pretty good at most things I work hard at. Probably because if I suck at it, I just give up and never do it (aka swimming and chess). I’m a Type-A kind of guy and have done some pretty cool things for my relatively young age. Why would I think work was going to be any different? I started my first day ready to climb to the top and be the highest performer/most valued employee.

Fast forward one year after my start date. It’s annual review time and I anticipated hearing praise and worship from my boss, let’s just say that’s not exactly what happened. I sit down with him and am told that I’m not really a team player and I have put too much focus on trying to be the best.

I was devastated. I’ve never really received a negative review before, on anything! At first I was offended and wanted to argue all the negative points my boss brought up, but then I had an epiphany. Instead of argue why I’m a valuable employee, why don’t I just do more to show him I’m valuable

During my second year of employment I started volunteering for less than desirable assignments. I’ve increased my productivity to be one of the top performers on my team. I check in with my boss every couple of months and ask if he has any advice on things I can do to further increase value to the agency. Essentially, I started being a team player. I had to swallow my pride, and rely on my boss and coworkers to nurture my success.

Luckily I think it has worked. I have a better relationship with the boss now. I don’t think he sees me as an arrogant young punk, but instead as someone that has a genuine desire to work hard and be among the best. I guess the moral of the story is this. The best way to improve your work situation, is to be flexible and willing to adapt to the needs and/or recommendations of those more superior to you. Having a pleasant relationship with your boss is absolutely crucial to having an enjoyable work experience. Even if you think your supervisor is a total tool; shut up, smile, and say “Yes sir, thank you sir, anything else I can do for you?”

How far will you go to get a good deal

We all have “that friend”, the one who will drive 30 miles across town to save $0.02 per gallon on their gasoline. I get a kick out of how far people will go to get a good deal. Call me crazy, but I’ll almost always take an okay deal with minimal effort, over a lot of effort for a good deal. That’s not to say that I don’t get a little intense from time to time.

Let’s run through a little test and see if you are normal bargain shopper, or if you fall in to the “obsessed with getting a good deal” category. Answer the following questions….

1) Do you shop on The day after thanksgiving (black friday)?

2) Do you send in rebates valued under $5?

3) Have you changed your savings account more than twice in the last year because of better interest rates offered elsewhere?

4) Have you bought more of something than you actually needed just because it was on sale?

5) Do you try and barter with salespersons that work at stores that typically don’t negotiate? (Best Buy, Costco, etc)

If you answered yes, to any of those questions, you are probably a pretty intense deal seeker. I have to admit I am guilty of question 5. I was at Costco once looking to purchase a monitor for my computer. The specific monitor I wanted was sold out, except for the display model. I tried for about 30mins to barter with the Costco manager, hoping he would give me a discount for purchasing the display model. He wouldn’t drop the price, so I had to punch him in the face say goodbye and leave monitorless.

We are probably all guilty of obsessive deal hunting, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. If you plan to wake up before 8am on Black Friday this year, you just might have an addiction to getting a good deal. I mean come on, people die at Wal-Mart as they get trampled by the bargain mob. And what about extreme couponing? Bargain Life posted an article about that sort of couponing and what it does to the family.Anyone else feeling brave and willing to share an embarrassing “deal hunting” story? Are you guilty of doing the across town gas station fill up?