Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to Make Extra Payments

I'm remembering why I don't like checks. All of my bills either get charged on a credit card (and paid off that month) or auto debited/transferred to the bill collector. I love auto debits/transfers because they're easy, I don't have to find an envelope or a stamp, and most importantly there is near instant gratification. Usually by the second day the new, lower balance (or higher for savings) is there for me to look at.

This month we decided to make an extra payment on the car loan with our mid month surplus. I started to send it the usual way and then remembered another way lenders make it harder to pay off debt sooner. Generally you make a make a monthly payment. When you make an extra payment it can either be applied to future monthly payments or the account principal.

If you have a small windfall but are not sure about your ability to make monthly payments in the coming months having the money applied to future monthly payments makes sense. But when you're trying to pay down debts, you want the money to go towards the principal right now. This reduces that principal owed and the interest you are charged on said principal.

We had just over $1850* to play with. I called my loan folks and they said sending the money in to the normal place would just push my next due date to April. If I want the money applied to principal I have to send a check to a special processing center.

ING sent the check on Monday. It's Wednesday. And I want the difference to be reflected now. I know that it will be more like next Wednesday so that's why I don't like checks.

*Snowflakes I'd accumulated but saved before buying the house in case if emergency and Gameboy had great commission.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Week

For those of you who are sick of politicals ads and talk there is only 1 week left! I live in a swing state and am ready to go back to ads trying to make me spend my money on things I don't need.

I'd hoped to be writing about my early voting experience today, but that hasn't happened. Though I schlepped the ballot book to visit my mom, but didn't open it once. I spend most of my flights sleeping, talking to my neighbor, or reading socially responsible investing prospectuses. So I'll be voting tomorrow or Thursday instead. So far I've figured out candidates for President and Senate, and positions on half of the ballot initiatives/referendum.

In other voting/finance news I'm taking off election day to work with the campaign I support. This will either take my vacation time to 0 or will be time without pay. I'm still trying to work out a glitch from my last vacation so I'm not sure. In these final days I'm also going to try to make it to my local campaign office for an hour or two every night this week. I'll definitely loose potential income, but I also haven't given any campaign contributions.

I'll leave you with this- if you can early vote, go do it now!

P2P Quiet Periods

Prosper seems to be going through the same process Lending Club went through a few months back. Both are peer to peer lending sites where an individual can apply for a loan that is funded by other individuals, not banks. My understanding of the quiet periods is that both work(ed) to obtain the ability to give promissory notes. So instead of lending $25 to Joe, you're investing in a $25 note, applied to Joe's loan. Lending club went "quiet" on the lending/investing side in April and came back last week. I haven't gotten an email from Propser, but when I poked around my account today I fount the message.

I started investing with Lending Club (LC) early this year. I opened accounts with both, but the buy in for LC is only $25 where it's $50 at Prosper. In total I've lent $175 using both sites, from March to September. I've gotten back $20.24, which considering that the loan periods are 3 years, I'm happy with. None of my lenders have missed a payment (crossed fingers).

Now that LC is back, and Prosper is quiet, I'll shift any P2P investing back to LC. When Prosper is back I'll probably go back and forth between the the two.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Minor Heart Attack

So I got home today and instead of doing work (like I should be doing) I decided to do some money transfers and make a few extra payments. I usually handle all of our household finances (from our joint account) the last week of the month. I make sure that all of our auto transfers are set for the following month and that the money to back them up are there.

We had some money left over mid month so I happily logged into the car payment site and hit the payment key. And then there was red! Specifically $xxx due on October 15, in red. I started panicking, wondering how I could have missed a payment and otherwise berating myself.

I call the company and log into ING simultaneously. I hear that the payment has gone though and see that the money is gone. I could have hung up then, but I stayed on the line to let them know that there was a glitch, or if that's standard it needs to be fixed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I'm at my mom's enjoying her company, realtive warmth, and all the sweet tea I can get my hands on. In the process I'm trying not to spend too much of her money or my own.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

S word

Today is the second day that the S word is in the forecast. Really there are 2 S words, but they're equally icky- snow and sleet. I've always lived places with winter, but October is just too early.

As the season continues I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum, but if you think about it snow is really bad for the budget. Normally we get a lot of sun keeping the temperature moderate. Snow = clouds = colder = more heat. It also means treacherous driving which can = costly car repairs. Finally it makes me want to hide in bed, which = not enough financial snowflakes.

So I'm not really whining, I'm worried about my finances :) Here's hoping I wake up to wet grass and not much else.
One more word on voting- if she can do it, so can you.

More than just the president

A lot of people are excited about the presidential election. But they are just the beginning of the choices for election day. There are elections for positions in Congress, state houses (the local version of congress), city/town/township councils, and if you live in a state like mine, amendments to the constitution and referendums.

I've been slowly education myself on the amendments (14!) and referendums (4) that will be on my ballot this November. When combined with all of the other stuff I'm looking at more than 20 choices when I enter the booth. Our topics included reducing tax incentives for certain industries, to working on the challenges previous amendments laid out,* to changing our organized labor structures.

These issues aren't getting as much play in the media as the top of the ticket does, but the impacts are just as serious. Your local and state laws dictate much more of the day to day activities and services you are able to access. So as time winds down (14 (or fewer) days left!) take a few minutes to read over all of the down ticket items for an informed vote.

For those of you who can vote early- happy voting. I'll probably be voting next Tuesday. I'm going to take advantage of the flight time to read our state booklet on the issues and make my big decisions.

*We have 1 amendment that limits the amount of taxes the state is allowed to hold on to and another that mandates an increase of inflation+1% for one of the largest spenders in the state.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Second tank, mission accomplished.

Now that I've gotten here I think I'm going to change things up a bit. I've noticed that I'm significantly over 200 at the half tank mark and just make it to around 400. So for the rest of the month I'm going to try filling up at the 1/2 way mark and see if my miles per gallon go up any more. Right now I'm holding steady at around 34-36

Happy driving!

Low Earnings

Since starting the new job things have been going well. My monthly paychecks are up, but I'm not counting it because I haven't gotten my 403b stuff in yet. In the end my new job paychecks will be even with my old job paychecks.

This month I've also had a drop-off in the snowflakes coming in. This is largely because I haven't been focusing on increasing my earnings. I've decided that I'm ok with that through November 4th. This is largely so I can focus some extra time on my candidate and because the next two weekends are essentially spoken for. I'm headed to visit my mom on Thursday (first time in over a year!), headed from the airport to a concert on my return, and the following weekend is a surprise b-day party for a friend. Five friends are coming in from all over.

Since I'll be spending so much time focused on other things I'm going to do my best to reduce spending and enjoy all of the things going on around me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reducing Water

Every once in a while I participate in Thrifty Green Thursday, a great carnival where contributors share tips that combine saving money and helping the environment. A few weeks back someone* wrote about using a bucket to catch shower water and then using the water for plants.

My first reaction was ick. It seemed cumbersome and like more effort than I was willing to make. But over the following week I thought about it a few times. If your shower is like mine it takes a minute or two to heat up. After 2 weeks I decided to give it a try.

I use one of the buckets I got from the grocery store bakery, aim the shower head at the bucket, and wait for the water to warm up. When the water is almost warm I put the bucket just outside of the shower. Every 3-4 showers yields 2.5 gallons- which I think is a crazy amount. Instead of going down the drain the water goes to the veggies I’m growing in containers and keeping the worm bin moist.

So there’s my I tried it. Thanks to whoever wrote the original post for sharing a tip that is saving me gallons of water!

*If you wrote the original post please let me know so I can link to you. I just looked back but couldn’t find it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Voting Options

Now that you're registered you may have to decide how to vote. In my city there are 3 options on the table- vote by mail, early voting, and election day voting. The deadline for a mail in ballot in my state is this Friday, so I only have a few days to figure things out.

So far I've decided that I won't be voting on election day. The turnout is expected to be historic and though I had a fun knitting and chatting in line for 3.5 hours during the 2006 election I don't want to do it again. Instead I plan to either be a poll worker or volunteer with my candidate's campaign.

I'm left with early voting or voting by mail. My conspiracy theorist friends say voting by mail (with a copy before you drop it off is the safest). The party I'm affiliated with is also recommending mail in ballots, to help track voter turnout. On the other hand I'm really bad about misplacing important papers. And there is something special about going into the booth and getting the cheezy 'I Voted' sticker.

Do you have options outside of voting on election day? And what are your thoughts on early/mail in voting?

The final bit of election news is that tomorrow is the final debate.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

It's October. In my mind it's way to early for retailers to start putting up Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa decorations but time for me to get cracking on gift ideas. In some ways I have it easy. I really only have to worry about Gameboy, his dad, and a few good friends. That's also why it's such a stressful time of year for me.

Half of my mom's family doesn't celebrate Christmas. This includes my closest (proximity) aunt growing up and her daughter who is more like a younger sister to me. Over the holiday breaks we spent a lot of family time together, so gifts usually weren't a part of the equation. Things were pretty laid back and usually involved lots of favorite foods from my mom's country.

As a result I'm much more of a see it and give it gifter as an adult. I see something that I know a family member/friend would love and I give it to them so they can start enjoying it. If I'm gifting a craft I work on it at a steady pace and then hand it over.

This worked well until I got serious with Gameboy. My guy who loves Christmas and his birthday which are only a week apart. His family didn't have a lot growing up but his Christmas/birthday memories a)sound like things out of the movies b)had his living room resembling a toy store. He believes holidays should be celebrated on the holiday* and with big fanfare.

So to keep things frugal I have to start now. I've been ruminating for a few weeks about what to get him, if I want to knit/crocket anything, and what to get his dad. By the end of the month I want to have a list of possiblities for Christmas and Gameboy's b-day, leaving me two months to shop arround. I'm also going to do a test run on what I want to make for my girlfriends.

Is anyone else thinking about the holidays yet.

*no more discount fare flying on Xmas day for me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Human Error

This morning our parking lots were full so I had to park on the street. We've had to do this quite a bit lately so our boss got us parking cash keys, which is up there with the computer and IPOD for best inventions ever. It's essentially a debit card for the parking meter. The beauty is it keeps you from having to dig for change or come up with creative ways to get change, especially when you're in a rush.

I was all ready to write a post about how I'll never have a parking ticket again thanks to this little miracle. And then I forgot to move my car when the meter was up. While miraculous, the parking key won't magically make human error go away.

Losing $25 will hurt my personal budget, but it won't break the bank. I'm considering this an expensive lesson in remember to feed the meter (or at least setting a Outlook reminder) and moving on with what has otherwise been a good day.


That's how far I went on my last tank. So close to 400 I could taste it.

In my head I'm going to call it a victory. The gas light came on last night and using the following theory I could have gotten over 400- I just decided to play it safe. My car manual says the light comes on with 1 gallon left (though I think its a little higher). I can get 30+ miles to the gallon, so from the gas light turning on I theoretically could have gone 30 miles. I'd driven home 10, so my 17 mile drive to work could have worked. But who wants to play games with the gas tank when it's in the 40's, you're driving on the highway, and it's rush hour?

I could have gone to a different gas station that would have put me over the line, but I decided going out of my way to reach a goal was a little silly. Not to mention the extra 30 cents I would have spent filling up.

I'll probably go through 2-3 more tanks before the month is up, so I'm going to keep striving for 400.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Veggie Pot Pie

It's getting chilly and icky. Yesterday was drizzly and cold enough that our furnace got its first workout of the season. For me, this means it's time for warm yumminess coming from the kitchen. Currently I'm making some apple butter (and it smells GOOD). Once I've finished I'll post the info. In the mean time here is a cold weather favorite from our house- Veggie Pot Pie.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

12 oz of assorted frozen veggies

handful 'mixed veggies' (the peas/carrot stuff)
2 red potatos, diced

1 portobello mushroom or a handful of regular mushrooms (optional)

1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of anything soup

Herbs (thyme & savory mix), salt, pepper to taste

Biscuit Topping:

1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour (pastry if you have it)

½ tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons butter

¾ cup buttermilk

1 tbsp honey

2 quart pyrex dish

  1. Sautee onions over medium low heat. While the mushrooms soften chop potato and mushroom while it cooks.
  2. Add potato, and mushroom, stirring occasionally, approx 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1bag of frozen veggies and a handful of the carrots/peas mix. Cook until defrosted/ you’re at a stopping point with the dough.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Using a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
  5. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and honey. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork to form a stiff dough. Add more buttermilk if the dough is too dry.
  6. Add one can cream of mushroom soup, ½ cup of water to pot, and spices. Mix a little and let simmer.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Knead dough lightly in the bowl for 3 to 5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a shape to cover the casserole dish.
  10. Pour veggies into casserole dish. Lay dough over dish. Don’t push down, but make sure it fits within the dish. Use a sharp knife to cut some vents in the dough. Put on baking tray put in the oven.
  11. Bake 25-30 minutes. You know its done when the dough is lightly browned and the insides are bubbling. You can use a knife to see if the crust is done or eyeball it.
  12. Let it sit for a few minutes. Dig in.

The ingredients for the filling are very flexible. Gameboy has added a few different types of meat (if you do this reduce the veggies some). I use whatever bag of assorted frozen veggies strikes me at the moment. The only thing I'm picky about is the 'mixed veggies' to add peas and carrots to the mix.

I always have questions about recipes I read online, so feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ISP fun

Earlier this week we tried to do what should have been an easy task- connecting another laptop to our wireless network. All we needed was the network key that the repair (after install problems) put together. 5 hours on the phone that night and then 3 days later we had internet again.

On the plus side our next bill should be all canceled out with the monies we were promised when things went wrong along the way...

Monday, October 6, 2008

One tank, 400 miles

On Thursday Jadefly asked how I was going to reach my goal of 400 miles on one tank. Here are a few facts/details:
  • Usually 9.5-11 gallons = 330-360 miles.
  • I hypermile around 1/3-1/2 of the time I drive.
  • This time of year I rarely use AC/ need windows open.
  • Three fill ups ago I made it to 392.
  • My local highways and I are BFFs
  • I run late a LOT
My theory is if I can drive more mindfully (with hypermiling principles) I will be able to get more miles per gallon. This means leaving in a timely manner to get places, so I'm don't have to rush. When I'm running late I revert to what I refer to as NE urban driving :).

The commute from the new house to the new job (really the new house to anywhere) involves driving on the highway so I get to spend a lot of time between 45 and 60 mph. I just have to reduce the amount of time I spend over 65 mph- the speed limit half the way. The graph on the left shows fuel economy at various speeds. It can be found here with some more tips. What I'd love to know how many data points were used to make the graph.

The other thing that is still on the agenda is getting my car tuned up. I'm way overdue for an oil change and approaching one of the 15,000 mile checkups at the dealership. If I can hit 392 with the maintenance light on 400 once it's all cleared out should be a breeze right?

The final, and probably one of the harder things I'll have to do is keep my lead footed husband out of the drivers seat in my car. I swear he just likes hearing the car go vroom!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dressing for Success

Somehow this post from mid last week never made it out of draft form with a few updates...

The downside of the new job is new clothes. My last job could easily be put into three distinct areas- site visits, working from my couch, and occasional office meetings. I was in childcare centers, so even though the office dress was technically business casual, we interpreted this as a much more liberal 'just not jeans'.

My post undergrad attire pattern goes something like this- 2 yrs at upscale business casual, grad school, 8 months at just barely business casual. I still have some of my clothes from the 2 yr period, but since starting grad school I've gained enough weight that they don't really count. They're not nice enough to sell, so they hang out in the back of my closet, waiting for the day when I get around to loosing the weight.

After approximately 2.5 3 weeks I feel like I have a good handle on what I should be wearing and how to best supplement my somewhat meager wardrobe. Day to day the office is pretty (business) casual, but for meetings and events I need to take it up a notch. This is especially true for the times where I'm the youngest person in the room by at least 10 years. I can hold my own, but I look young* so 'grown up' clothes help.

I need a couple more pair of slacks, tights so some of my skirts can transition into fall/winter, and a few more nice tops. While I've had great success at thrift stores for tshirts and craft projects supplies I haven't been able to find work clothes. I don't want to spend a ton, so instead I'm going to try a few consignment shops and see what I can find.

This weekend I also hit a local outlet (and did a $30 survey!) and got 2 tops and 2 pairs of pants. I was exchanging pants from this spring** so I spent less than $20. I'll be taking a mini vaca to see my mom in a few weeks so I think I'm going to put off any more shopping until then.

*The last 3 times I've told strangers/new acquaintances I'm married they've started the 'you're too young' lecture. Then I say I'm 26 and they stammer all over themselves.
**thank you Eddie Bauer outlet for the loose return policy!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

September Wrap-up, October Goals

I hope that September was the last in a series of crazy and expensive months. We seem to be settling into the financials associated with the house (though unpacking is still going strong), adjusting to being a 3 person household, I’m getting used to the new job, and the wedding stuff is all taken care of.

My net worth continues to increase, though at a much slower rate. I’m hoping that by my next birthday (February) the hard work of 2008 will result in a positive net worth. All of the sidebars are also slowly making their way across- except for my student loan which is on auto-pilot. The last goal I wrote about was staying sane, which I like to think I’ve accomplished. :)

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about where I’d like to go financially during October. In no particular order:
  • Get my Roth funds above 60%. I’d hoped to have this funded by the end of the year and without some crazy action I’m not sure if it will happen.
  • Decide where I want to invest my 2008 Roth money. My last Roth is with Vanguard, who I like, but am not necessarily married to. I’m also trying to decide on what type of fund, specifically if I should go with a socially responsible fund.
  • Only eat lunch out 3 times (not including lunch meetings).
  • Keep grocery spending under $300.
  • Be mindful about house purchases- waiting until we can afford to buy outside of regular maintenance.
  • Go 400 miles on one tank of gas.