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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some lunchtime math

A co-worker of mine just put an offer on a condo, and commented that he might have to pick up a part-time job to make the payments (and still have spending money, I assume). While my first thought was whether or not he should be making the purchase, I then began to think about ways he could save money.

This particular co-worker buys his lunch every day in our cafeteria. Let's estimate that he spends $35 a week on lunch. He likely spends more, but I'm playing the estimation game. On first glance, that seems an easy way to save $35 a week.

But wait. If you don't buy your lunch, you have to bring your lunch (because giving up meals is not a healthy way to be frugal). Brown bagging it is still not free. Bringing a sandwich or leftovers would be pretty frugal. I've been eating a lot of rice, beans, and cheese with a side of veggies lately. That's not expensive.

Let's be honest though. 75% of the time, I have a microwaveable meal for lunch - usually a Lean Cuisine or a Weight Watchers Smart Ones. Why? I like them, they're filling, and they're easy. And relatively low-cal.

I only buy these when they're on sale (well, most of the time). Lean Cuisines typically get knocked down to $2.50, and Smart Ones to $2.00. We'll use the higher price for this estimate. If I brought a microwaveable meal every day in a week, it would be about $12.50 a week. Ok, that's less than $35.

But wait. I don't only have one thing for lunch. Let's use today's lunch as the standard. I also have a Coke Zero, some baby carrots, an apple, and a granola bar. If I bought the Coke Zero full price (I never do), it would be 50 cents a can. I'm going to estimate the carrots are about 50 cents as well, and the apple cost $1 (I bought five very large, very delicious apples at the market for around $5 this weekend). The granola bar cost around 60 cents.

Adding that all up, that's $5.10 for the day, or $25.50 a week. That means my friend would save less than $10 if he ate like me. And like his purchased meal, this requires very little prep time (other than putting the carrots into a baggie and putting it all into my bag for lunch).

Of course, this estimate could be horribly skewed. First off, aside from the "main dish," that calculation assumes that everything was bought full price. Secondly, my "lunch" gets consumed throughout the day and covers both the meal itself and a morning and afternoon snack. If my friend is buying or bringing snacks, that's an added cost.

Still, that's a savings of at least $40 a month. Enough so that he wouldn't have to take a part-time job? Probably not. But I wonder if there are other little easy ways he could save a few bucks. Dollars add up!

Monday, April 28, 2008

A decision (for now) on buying a home

Those of you who have been reading this blog a few weeks know that I've been pondering buying a home. See here and here. I've decided that for now, buying just isn't right for me and I'm going to continue renting. A number of factors influenced this decision.
  1. I got some bad news at work regarding a promotion for the group I was hired along with. I don't want to go into details, but I will not be getting the promised promotion (and raise). Because of this dishonesty, I am looking for a new job, but for now, I have to realize that I'm financially stuck where I am for the foreseeable future.
  2. With looking for a new job, I want to know where I'll be working before I make a decision on where I live. Right now, I have a quick, easy metro ride to work. I would hate to buy in this area and then up working completely across D.C. in an area where I didn't think to look for a home.
  3. Right now, it's just me. I was out for a run the other day, and I saw some people out doing yardwork and I realized that I've come to value the free time I do have on the weekends. Yes, I spend a chunk of it catching up on all the chores I haven't done all week, but I appreciate the fact that I don't have a yard to work on.
  4. I kind of like the fact that if something breaks in my apartment, I call maintenance and they deal with it. I don't have to worry about an emergency fund to cover a new oven, for example.
  5. I can't guarantee that I'll be living in this area two and a half years from now. Maybe that's a silly reason, but it's just another factor to be considered.
  6. Given my current salary, a mortgage payment and dealing with taxes and all the other fees that go with home ownership is doable, but barely. And probably not on the type of place I want to buy.
  7. Yes, rent is not cheap. But there are perks that come with rent. No property taxes. Security on site (a nice feature for a 20-something female living alone). A gym. Someone to collect my packages when they arrive. Sweet location.
I think I have always believed that buying a home is just something you do, when a lot of people, especially in big cities, live much of their lives in apartments. I think that with where I am in my life, renting just makes more sense. And it means that I can save up more money to put towards a down payment on the perfect place when I'm ready.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How to make money blogging!

In the past few weeks, I've been noticing a lot of posts by newish bloggers about how to make money blogging. Not just a little money, but how someone can make blogging their primary source of income.

Can you make blogging your primary job? Sure. Can anyone do it? Anyone who's got a good idea and the dedication to keep going. There are a number of PF bloggers out there who make a good amount of money from their blogs. What do they have going for them? Not only do they run good ads on their website, but most importantly, they provide good content. These bloggers update at least once a day, probably more often than that. They provide posts that are interesting to read and provide useful information. Their sites are well designed, created so that the ads are present and prominent enough to please the sponsors, but not so prominent that they are annoying. Most of them don't use pay per post type services - the sites that pay you for writing about a certain product.

Blogging for a living is not easy. It's not like you can sit down and write a post in an hour and then have the rest of the day to yourself. You have to spend time researching and planning posts. You have to promote your site. You have to find sponsors, and you have to keep those sponsors happy.

For the majority of us, blogging will never be a primary source of income. But a good blog can bring in a little bit of extra cash. I've got ads running on my site. I don't think I'll ever make a significant amount of money from the site, but I am hoping to be able to make enough on the site to perhaps get a domain name for the site and some hosting outside of Blogger. And after that, I'd like to be able to blog for charity. Sure, it might be only pennies a day, but every penny counts.

So if you're looking for advice on how to make money blogging, all I can suggest is to provide good content. Personally, I would also suggest not inundating your visitors with ads and text links and popups - for me, those are the types of things that make me remove a site from my bookmarks. And keep at it. A lot of bloggers who are making money by writing have been at it for years. It's not something that happens in a day.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Earth Day Every Day

I don't think you could go anywhere this week without being confronted by information about Earth Week and doing something good for the environment. There were signs, commercials, stories, festivals, and more. I have to admit, I do wonder if the people who are so all about Mother Earth during this time of year feel the same way the rest of the year.

Sometimes, doing good for the Earth goes along with being frugal. Drinking filtered tap water rather than bottled water saves money and reduces waste, for example. But sometimes you do have to spend a bit more to do something good for the Earth. It might mean buying organically grown food or more efficient light bulbs (though those will ultimately save you money).

I admit, I also spend money where I don't necessarily have to. One thing that I did to reduce my waste is buy a few reusable grocery bags. Some are the cheap bags purchased at the store for 99 cents, one is a very nice canvas bag from Trader Joe's, and I also bought a big tote from L.L. Bean to make it easier to lug groceries back from the store. I still found myself coming home with plastic bags after making a quick stop at the store on my way home from work, so this week, I picked up a ChicoBag that I keep attached to my keys - this way I'm never without a reusable bag. Could I have saved money and bought cheaper bags? Sure. But these bags make me happy, and I like carrying them, so I'm more likely to use them.

Like a lot of people, I also had a pretty sizable collection of water bottles containing BPA - some Nalgene bottles, some bottles given out for free by various companies, etc. With all the news lately about a possible link between the use of this plastic and the possible leaching of endocrine disruptors into the liquids stored inside, I decided it was in my best interest to get a few new bottles. I picked up a BPA-free bottle by Nalgene, as well as a really pretty Sigg bottle. The Nalgene bottle was relatively inexpensive - under $10, so did I really need to spend almost twice that on a second bottle? No. But I like the bottle, and it makes me happy to see it sitting on my desk.

(For those of you looking to get rid of your polycarbonate bottles, don't forget about all the non-food uses for these types of bottles. You could use it to store your change. Or pencils. Or art supplies. Or you could use it to make a travel first aid kit - yes, one of the benefits of using a bottle to make this kit is that it can be used for water if necessary, but in my opinion, if you're in a situation where you need to empty your first aid kit to have something to drink water out of, potential chemical leaching is probably the least of your worries, and besides, it's still crush proof.)

Have any of you picked up any new, earth-friendly habits that you're hoping to keep up with, even after Earth Week is over?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Minimizing the loss

This morning, just before I walked out the door, I reached into the basket I keep right inside the door to grab my metro pass. And... nothing. It wasn't there. I pulled out the coat I wore yesterday and checked the pockets. Also not there. Now, I'm pretty good about putting the pass in the basket when I walk in the door, so I was a bit worried by this point. Checked a few other places in the apartment where it might be, to no avail. I stopped at the desk on my way out of the building, and it hadn't been turned in.

At this point, all I can figure is that I dropped it between the metro station and my house.

Thankfully, the D.C. metro system lets you register your card, and if it is lost or stolen, you can call and they will transfer the funds on the card over to a new card and send it to you right away. They charge $5 for the service, but you're really just paying for a new card, which costs $5.

As of this morning, no one had tried to use my metro card, so I'm starting to wonder if perhaps it fell behind the bookcase when I tossed it in the basket.

Either way, for the peace of mind of knowing that there's no one out there spending all the money on my metro card, I'll happily pay the $5.

So this is a lesson to all of you in the D.C. area with SmarTrip cards - REGISTER YOUR CARD! And if you're not in the D.C. area and have some sort of permanent metro card, check to see if your area has the same type of service. It's fast, and in D.C., it's free. Can't go wrong.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Farmer's Market - Redux

I was telling a friend last night that I went to the Farmer's Market that morning, and she replied that she did her best to avoid that particular market because everything was so expensive.

I actually did a bit of cost comparison yesterday when I went to the Farmer's Market. Mainly because after I went to the market, I went on a planned trip to Whole Foods to pick up a few odds and ends I can't get anywhere else. I decided to price out some of the items that I had seen at the Farmer's Market as well. I was surprised to see that a lot of the fruits and veggies priced out exactly when looking at cost per pound. A few things were a cent off ($2.49 at Whole Foods, $2.50 at the market). Of course, with taxes, that makes it a few more cents off, but overall the prices were the same. I didn't price everything at my regular grocery store, but I do know that apples were exactly the same price.

So what makes the Farmer's Market worth it? Well, number one, I enjoy the experience. I look forward to walking up to the market on Saturday mornings and seeing what they have to offer. I frequently pick up fruits or veggies I wouldn't normally buy, just to try something different that week. But more importantly, I like supporting local growers. For the most part, I feel like I'm buying better quality products as well. The products are fresh and the people are passionate about what they're selling.

So maybe it's not the most frugal choice. But I'm not really spending any more money than I would be, and I enjoy it. Can't complain. I'm eating an apple I bought yesterday as I type, and it is absolutely delicious.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Farmer's Market!

Today, my local Farmer's Market reopened for the season. It was kind of a disappointing showing of vendors, as a number of them don't come until later, when they have more to bring. It is early in the growing season, I suppose.

I picked up some fresh bread, some apples, and some apple butter (I have been waiting for this particular vendor's apple butter for a few months now). I ran to the store afterwards to pick up some odds and ends, and I did some price checking. I really wasn't paying any less than I would pay at the store (save for taxes), but I still felt like I was not only getting better products, but I was doing something good for the community and for the environment. I like supporting local businesses, and I like the fact that my apples weren't trucked all the way across the country and handled by countless people before they made their way onto my plate.

I'm excited to have the market back, and I'm eager to see what other vendors have signed up for the year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Deobligating Emergency Funds

In the past month or so, my budget has been an additional source of stress that I really didn't need. I was over budget in a number of categories, while still trying to work on that YNAB concept of living on last month's income. Things were clearly not going well.

I had also realized that while my work wardrobe was great for the winter, my sweaters were not going to cut it for the summer months and I had to spend some money on some shirts for work. And in another 50 miles or so, I would need a new pair of running shoes.

So I had all that occurring on one Excel spreadsheet. But over here, on another Excel spreadsheet, was the account that I had designated my emergency fund. It very easily had 10 months of normal expenses in it - not just the expenses I would have if I lost my job and needed the emergency fund for 10 months. And this isn't including my normal savings account - this is just the emergency account.

After a stressful day at work, I came home to find the budget spreadsheet open on my computer. And I made a decision. I took $1000 out of my emergency fund account, transferred it to my day to day account, and reworked the budget.

And it was like a weight had been lifted. I was no longer overbudget in a bunch of categories, and I can "splurge" on the $10 charity event on Friday. I can go to the store and buy a few nice, yet inexpensive items to wear to work. I can finally buy the frame for my bar association certificate.

Do I plan to spend all the money this month? Absolutely not. But it's the padding I needed to get me through the expenses flying at me from all directions. Will everyone agree with this tactic? Probably not. But for me, I think it was the right decision. If nothing else, I feel better about my financial situation, and that's what's important.

Plus I won't have to wear sweaters to work in July. Always a good thing.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Budget Busters

Mrs. Micah recently posted about her budget busters and so I'm tagging myself for this meme. What are my five budget busters?

This comes at a time where my budget has already been busted and exploded for the month. So it is well timed.

1. Not planning ahead
I think this is the biggest problem with my budget. YNAB has helped me plan ahead in a lot of areas, but in other areas, I completely neglect to think about what I might need to spend before I make that month's budget. For example, I have been setting aside money for my car insurance payment for the past two months. I have planned ahead so that the bill won't make a huge dent in my monthly budget. But on the other hand, this month, I only budgeted $50 for dining out. At the beginning of the month, I knew that I had two dinners planned with friends. I live in D.C. The odds of me being able to go out to two nice-ish dinners and spending under $25 each time, including tip, is very small. Very very small. I should have budgeted more in that area.

2. Unrealistic goals
Sometimes, I look at the month, and I think "Oh, I can get by without spending more than $10 this month on household items." Never mind that I typically spend closer to $15-$20 each month in this category (it's a broad category for me). And inevitably, I end up spending more than I planned to.

3. Buying in Bulk
I don't just mean buying from a store like Sam's Club or Costco (I never go to either anymore). I mean that I have a habit of stocking up on things. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Especially if I'm buying something on sale. One of my personal vices, for example, is that I have a can of Coke Zero every afternoon. It's a sweet, calorie free treat that calms my cravings for a snack and keeps me going. It's a vice I'm not willing to give up. So I go through a 12 pack of Coke Zero in a little less than 2 weeks. Today, I counted that I still had 7 cans left, so I didn't need any, but I decided to check the price anyway when I went to the store. 12 packs were on sale for $2.29 under their normal price. Not a bad deal! So I picked up two. Nevermind that I didn't need them. Yes, it was a good price, and I saved nearly as much as I would spend on a single 12 pack, but in terms of the budget, that was money that shouldn't have been spent. I do this when things aren't on sale as well. I notice that I'm out of frozen broccoli, so when I go to the store, I pick up two bags rather than one. I go through it in spurts, so I might use both bags this month, I might not. Could I have just bought one bag? Yes. (And note that I pass the grocery store on my walk home from the metro, so the idea of an "extra trip" just means a few minutes, no driving needed.)

4. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul
So I notice that I've blown my restaurant budget for the month. But hey, there's $15 left in my household budget! So I'll just reduce my household budget for the month and then add the $15 to my restaurant budget! Perfect! Until a week later when I realize that I'm out of laundry detergent and really do need to wash clothes sometime this month. Whoops.

5. Groceries
Groceries are a hard category for me. This also falls into my buying in bulk and my failure to plan ahead categories. Food is the hardest area for me to budget. I try to eat healthy and also eat frugally. I will never buy ramen noodles, even though they're cheap. They're not healthy. I spend a good amount of money on fresh fruits and vegetables, and prices on both have increased in recent weeks. I am hoping the return of my local farmer's market will help that. But if my grocery budget is gone for the month and I realize that there are three days left and I don't have the proper makings of a well rounded meal, well, I'm going to hit the store and buy what I need. My health and my diet are more important to me than keeping my budget. I think what I need to do is budget more for groceries every month, what with the rising cost of food. The goal will be to end the month with money leftover in the budget, but that's much better than busting the budget all together.

I'm not going to tag anyone for this meme either, but feel free to post your own budget busters! I'd love to see what others think!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Fourth Step Towards Financial Fitness

It’s been a few weeks, but I am still helping my friend get on the path to financial fitness. You can read the previous steps here, but in short, so far she has figured out how much debt she has, categorized her expenses to figure out where her money goes, and checked her bills for additional services.

Since I last talked to her about the subject, she had gathered all of her bills and cut back on some of her services. She realized that like me, she rarely uses text messages on her phone, but was paying $10 a month for an unlimited service. She switched over to paying per message – even at 15 cents a message, she would have to send and receive over 65 messages a month to make that worthwhile. Looking at her bill, she typically had less than 20. So she’s managed to shave what she thinks will be anywhere from $6-$8 off of her cell phone bill every month.

She also realized she was paying for a gym membership and not using it much at all. She looked into canceling her membership, but still has a few months left on her contract that she has to pay for. So while she can’t save any money, she’s decided she’s going to get the most of her money and go to the gym more often. Definitely not a bad decision.

I told her that in my opinion, the next step would be to create some sort of a budget for herself, be it either a categorized budget like YNAB, where she would set a specific amount to spend for each category, or a very general budget where she would allocate $X to savings, $Y to her debt, and $Z to her spending for the month.

I also explained debt snowflaking and the idea of throwing every extra cent she had at that debt to try to get it paid off faster. $3 check from Pinecone research? Put it towards the debt. $6 left in the grocery budget for the month? Put it towards the debt.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that her attitude has changed. When we started, she seemed a bit terrified by her debt, as if it just overwhelmed her and she had no idea what to do. Now she seemed to be almost angry at her debt, and determined to “beat it” as soon as she can.

I reminded her that it is important for her to be putting money into savings to build up her emergency fund, just in case something happens and she needs extra money one month. No need to put more money onto that credit card, after all.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visiting Washington, D.C. (Part 1)

This summer, I have a few friends and family members coming to visit me in Washington, D.C., so I’ve been excitedly thinking about the various “touristy” things that I think they should consider doing. I sometimes forget how much I love this city and all the cheap and free things there are to do. Now that the weather’s getting nice, I’m hoping to be able to get out more and spend more time at the various museums and exhibitions.

D.C. may not be the cheapest city to live in, but it can be a relatively inexpensive place to visit. The majority of the museums and exhibits are free, after all. Yes, you will have to pay for transportation, lodging, and food. But even that can be done on a budget.

If you’re planning a trip to D.C., my first suggestion would be to check out Washington.org, the Official Tourism Site of Washington, D.C. It’s a good way to get ideas and find out if there are any events or festivals going on while you’re here. In the summertime especially, it seems like there’s always something going on!

There is a lot to see in D.C. So much so that it would be hard to do it all in one trip. Therefore, I recommend really planning your trip and figuring out just want you want to see and what you absolutely don’t want to miss. To that end, I would recommend checking out a guide book. Yes, I realize those cost money. But a good guide book will not only have maps, but also detailed information on the various attractions, such as hours, hints and tips, and even the best way to get there. I personally like the Frommer’s Guide and for help packing the most into your trip, the Fodor’s Washington D.C.’s 25 Best. Both come with nice pull-out maps, which I think are almost a necessity if you want to make the most of your trip. Do you need to get the most recent guide? Probably not, and you'll be able to save money if you buy used. That said, while most things in D.C. don't change a whole lot, an older guidebook might have incorrect hours or might be missing information. Is that a huge problem? Probably not.

D.C. does try to make it easy for tourists, though. On a number of corners in the city, especially those around the tourist attractions, you will find blue signs pointing you to various sites, as well as to the closest metro stops. Even living here, I find those helpful when I’m wandering an area I’m not entirely familiar with.

If you are planning a trip to D.C., contact your Senators or Representative. They can get you on tours of the Capitol and if you’re lucky, a White House tour as well. The White House tour is a self-guided walk-through of certain rooms in the White House. It’s quick, and disappointing to some, but I think it’s a very cool experience, and worth trying to get tickets. The Capitol tour is definitely worth the trip, though. And again, all you have to do is ask for tickets. I’d recommend doing this as far in advance as you can, however. Capitol tours are pretty easy to get – the Senator or Representative usually has a staff member who is in charge of giving these tours. It’s very cool to get to stand at the spot where John Adams used to sit every day and to get to look down on the House or the Senate floor. Plus there’s a lot of beautiful architecture and statuary that you can’t see anywhere else.

In the coming weeks, I will continue this new series on great things to do in D.C. for the frugal traveler. Start planning your trips now!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Debt on four wheels

This weekend, a friend and I were discussing cars and how ridiculously expensive they are - not just to buy, but to maintain and most obviously right now, to fuel. I'm lucky in that I have a car that is paid off, but that I also rarely drive, thus saving me in gas costs. When I'm rehearsing for a concert with the Cathedral Choral Society, I drive once a week, to and from rehearsals (I'm not comfortable taking the bus in that area that late at night, plus it's SO much faster to drive). Other than that, though, I might take my car out once or twice a month, usually to make a trip to a friend's house or to the mall or to Trader Joe's. Everything else is either within walking distance or metro accessible.

That doesn't mean that keeping my car is cheap. I'm still paying to insure it in the D.C. Metro area, which is not inexpensive. I have a number of friends who have given up their cars, but that's not a step I'm ready to take, especially since I don't know where I'll be living in two years. Besides, for part of the year, I need my car every week. And well, I like it.

My friend was debating whether to buy the car she had been leasing or lease a new car, and I realized just how lucky I was to not have car payments. It's entirely due to my parents. They bought me a used Jeep when I was in college to get me back and forth for holidays and for my use while at school. When I graduated, they told me it was mine to keep. I lived at home for the year after graduation and worked prior to grad school. My parents refused to let me pay rent, so I helped out where I could, and I earned enough money that I was able to trade in my Jeep and buy a brand new car. I purposely bought a mid-size sedan, knowing full well that I could have this car for the next ten years. Sure, something cute and sporty was appealing to my 23-year-old self, but I knew that there was at least a chance I would someday be dealing with a car seat in that vehicle, and I wanted something spacious. Plus it's been nice during all my moves.

I don't plan to ever have a car loan. Ever. I hope to keep my car for a good long time, and when I buy a new car (be it "new" or "new-to-me"), I plan to pay for it entirely in cash. No financing. No monthly car payments.

I was raised to believe that there are only two things you should ever go into debt for - a house and an education. Any other debt just isn't worth it. (Of course, there is always the debt you can't prevent - medical bills, etc. Obviously, that's not the kind of debt I'm talking about.)

My parents have really lived a financially responsible life, and they've helped me out in more ways than I can count, both in being able to provide for me, and in showing me the importance of managing my money. Thanks to them, I've never had a car payment and thanks to them, I never will.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The simple things

Today, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in Washington, D.C. Definitely a worthwhile way to spend $30 and a few hundred calories. I'm not a fast runner by any means, and running in the cold rain was probably not the ideal setting, but it was so worthwhile. I can't explain how much fun the run was, and how great it was to see all the spectators cheering the runners on, especially those in the 11-12 minute mile pack. Thanks to all of them for staying out in the rain to cheer on their friends and family.

That said, I've been re-bitten by the racing bug and am scouring for an enjoyable, inexpensive half marathon in the area. Running is definitely not a cheap hobby. While you don't need a whole lot of special gear, for long runs, technical t-shirts are much more comfortable than cotton t-shirts, and I am happy to pay a premium for good running shoes that keep me from injury. Some people can run in whatever shoes they happen to pick up at a discount store, others of us are the types of runners who do better with shoes designed for specific running forms. My shoes are typically in the $80-$100 range, and I buy 3-4 pair a year. Still cheaper than doctor bills though!

And now I am going to sit on my couch and rest. And enjoy the fact that I don't have to do a training run tomorrow.

Friday, April 4, 2008

March Budget Review

My apologizes for the lack of regular posting this week. I've been in training most days at work and by the time I get home, my brain is so numb that I can't come up with anything intelligent to post.

March was not so good for my budget. The goal was to finish the month with enough money in my YNAB buffer that I could live off of that money for April and start the policy of living off of last month's income.

I'm just about there. I overspent in March, so April's going to be tight, and may have a few overages by the time it's all said and done, but I can make up for that in May.

During March, I was over budget by just over $153. Some of it was preventable, some of it less so. I forgot that my virus protection came up for renewal in March, for example. I also was not aware that I was on auto-renewal, so when I was prompted to renew, I did. And then I got auto-renewed. Meaning that I paid twice. Sure, I'm now covered until March 2010, but that was a chunk of money that I wasn't planning to spend quite that quickly. Additionally, I went overboard on groceries. Some of that has to do with products that I buy in bulk, some of it was just general grocery prices. Looking at April, I think I'll be over this month as well, without any extravagant purchases. Prices have gone up and I prefer to spend the extra money to buy healthy foods. Fresh fruits and veggies are expensive at the supermarket right now. I'm crossing my fingers that the farmer's market sellers will be a bit cheaper.

(Of course, even though I work to save money and live frugally, even if the farmer's market turns out to be more expensive, I will still buy my produce there. Not only is it better quality, but I like the idea of buying locally and supporting the smaller farms rather than paying money to the big conglomerates.)

I did travel for a wedding this past month, but those expenses weren't as bad as I thought. I'm pretty pleased with how well I managed to stick to my budget on that trip. I only purchased a bottle of water and some coffee in the airport, an unusual thing for me as I'm usually drawn in by the magazine racks and bookstores while I'm waiting for my flight.

I am not so hopeful for April's budget, as I'm working from less than I wanted to. I'm going to try to stay as tight to the budget as possible, and then make it up in May. I've got another wedding to travel to in May, as well as a family vacation. My family is actually paying for the vacation so I can attend, for which I am incredibly thankful. I know there is at least one night when it will just be me and my parents for dinner before the rest of the family flies in, so I'm going to try to pick up the tab that night. It's not much, but I think it's a nice gesture and a tiny way I can try to show how much I appreciate their paying for the trip so that I can attend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

March Net Worth Update (+0.06%)

As I put together my monthly assets and liabilities table on Tuesday, I thought I was April Fooling myself! I was hoping for a month where I didn't lose too much money.

I actually got very excited when I started entering numbers and realized that for the month of March, I was going to end up with a net worth increase!

Ok, so it's not much. My net worth went up 0.06%. The increase was due to my cash accounts, as my investments dropped a bit, but not as much as I had feared. I'm hoping this new trend continues.

One of my 2008 goals had to do with a percentage net worth increase. So far for 2008, my net worth is still down 2.58%. Not great, but it could be worse. It could be much worse.
Here's to April also moving in an upward direction!