Tag Archives: 2014

How I Saved $70 a Month on My Cell Phone Bill (And You Can Too)!

rwOne day this past Fall I woke and realized at age 26 I needed to get my life together financially if I wanted to pursue both my passion of travel and also return back to graduate school for my PhD studies. I’ve never been bad with budgeting and finance, but I’ve never been extremely good either. Back in October I sat down and created my Mint account to establish my first real budget that I was going to stick to while I worked to reduce my debt and increase my assets.

One of the first things I did was to scrutinize all my expenses and examine where I could cut costs. One stood out from the rest – my cell phone bill (okay, maybe Starbuck trips were up top there too). My plan with Verizon, which included about 500 minutes of talk, unlimited text, and 2GB of data on my iPhone 4 cost me a whopping $96.98 (including taxes). I was paying close to $1200 a year for something that wasn’t used much. That $1200 could easily go to paying off my student loans!

My Verizon contract expired in September of last year so I was free to change plans to whom ever I decided would meet my needs. I looked into AT&T, US Cellular, T-Mobile, and Sprint. The cheapest plan I could find at the time was Sprint at about $70-$80 a month. That would give me about $10 a month or $120 a year in savings, but I knew I could do better.

So I did what every normal person would do and “googled” cheap/budget phone plans. At first I was convinced that I would do a Straight Talk Wireless plan. Straight Talk offers no contract and unlimited talk, text, and data for $30 a month plus taxes. Not a bad deal I thought! And then I found out that you had to pay full-price for a new phone! My Verizon iPhone would not work on their system so I would definitely have to purchase a new phone. For a new (or used) iPhone I was looking at a price tag of $400-$650 for a new phone depending if I purchased a used iPhone 4s or a brand new iPhone 5.

I kept Straight Talk as a strong contender, but I really hated the idea of dropping over $500 for a new phone. At first during my new cell phone plan search, I was set on getting an iPhone. I wasn’t until I found Republic Wireless that I was open to switching to an Android phone. I found Republic Wireless through Mr. Money Mustache’s website. He is one of my favorite personal finance/frugal living bloggers. He spent a lot of time researching and trying new cell phones that fit his frugal lifestyle. Republic Wireless was his winner and continues to be so today. If it was good for him (and many other frugal bloggers) then it would be good for me.

Republic Wireless is a special wireless company. You can now choose from two phones: the Moto G ($149) or the Moto X ($299). When I made the switch in January I only had the option of the Moto X. You only have these two options because these phones are made especially for Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless had extremely low cell phone plan pricess because the company builds in a wireless transceiver into each phone. If you’re in an area with wifi your call will be made over the wifi connection. However, if you’re in an area with no wifi, the call will be made over the Sprint and/or Verizon cellular networks. The phone will automately switch from wifi to cellular if you walk outside the wifi zone (it’s worked great for me).

I’ve been using Republic Wireless since January and I love it! I purchased the Moto X for $299 plus taxes. I love the phone! It does everything I need it to do and the camera is about 1000 times better than the camera on my iPhone 4! You can google reviews of the Moto X for more details and comparison to other phones. I’m not a techie and I’m even going to pretend to be one either! 🙂

Republic Wireless has 4 plan options:

For the first four months I used Republic Wireless I used the $10 a month plan because about 90% of the time I was surrounded by wifi spots. It worked great for me and allowed me to recoup some of the costs I spent when I purchased the phone. In May I switched to the $25 a month plan because I would be riding my bicycle outside and wanted the ability to use Google Maps to find out where I am if I got lost. Thus far, my reception has been great. Of course, if you are considering changing to Republic Wireless, make sure you check their coverage maps HERE.

One of the best things about Republic Wireless is the ability to switch between the plans twice a month. When I travel out of the country (like my trip to Belize and Guatemala in May), I switched to the $5 a month plan for that week and as soon as I hit tarmac in Atlanta, I switched back to my normal monthly plan.

Another major benefit, which I haven’t used yet because I wasn’t aware of it until after my trip, is the ability to make calls out of the country back to the US if you’re on a wifi network. For example, when I was using the wifi on my phone at the hostel in Belize, I could have called my father in Maine. As noted above, I have not used this feature yet so I’m not 100% sure of the quality.

Let’s look at a comparison of the three cell phone plan options I narrowed down on:

Wireless Company

Monthly Payment

Cost of Phone

Yearly Cost of Plan (including cost of phone)

Verizon

$97 (w/ tax)

$200 (upgrade to iPhone 5)

$1364 (+ 2-yr contract)

Straight Talk Wireless

$33 (w/ estimated tax)

$550 (for iPhone 5)

$946 (no contract)

Republic Wireless $29 (w/ tax) $300 (for Moto X)

$648 (no contract)

It seemed like a no brainer when looking at the above table. Because I chose the $10 a month plan for 4 months, I should only pay about $605 for my total 2014 cell bill. If I had stayed on Verizon without upgrading my phone, I would have paid roughly $1164. I just found an extra $500 a year just by changing cell phone plans!

If you’re looking to change cell phones and save a boat load of money, I highly suggest checking out Republic Wireless! As a loyal Republic Wireless customer, if you use my referral link you can get a $20 credit (and I will also get a $20 credit). Win, win for everyone! Here is my referral link: Try Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless also offers a 30-day money back guarantee so if you don’t like it, you’ll get your money back! 🙂

** The above link is a referral link. As I mentioned above, I will earn a $20 credit if you decide to switch to Republic Wireless using my link. Republic Wireless did not pay me for this post and all my opinions are my own. Obviously, I really love this plan and phone or else I would not be using it and promoting it! 🙂

 

Personal, Professional, and Financial Goals: 6 Month Check-in

Where has the time gone?! 2014 is now officially half over and it’s time to do a 6-month check-in. I never posted my 2014 goals on this site, but you can click over to my coaching and training site and see them there.

Here are my professional and personal goals for 2014:

Professional:

  • Grow in my job – I have been in my current job for just over 3 months now and I really love it thus far. Throughout my public health graduate studies, I would have never thought that I would find a job in healthcare technology. It was a topic that never really interested me; however, now that I work in the field, I love it. Not only is healthcare technology important in the United States, but globally, where my heart lies in global health and international development. My job is challenging and rewarding. Each week I am learning new skills that will only improve my work quality and also aid in my future career development. In 2014 I look forward to working hard, learning new skills, and furthering my future career path. I’m still loving my job and I have expanded my skill and knowledge set that is not only valuable in my current job, but in my future career. I’ve been given some more responsible recently, which makes me happy and hopefully that will continue. I hope that I’ll be given some writing assignments by the end of the year that I can dive into since writing is one of my passions.
  • Grow my business – If you have read my blog for a while you have probably noticed the changes over the past couple of months. I plan to officially launch my new business in a couple of weeks. I started my own coaching and personal training business because it is my passion and I find great satisfaction in helping people achieve their goals. I don’t plan to make a million dollars in my business, but a few extra dollars to help pay my student loans would be nice. I have some interesting plans and opportunities in the future so stay tuned for future developments! My business is doing well. It’s still very small, which I prefer. I only take on about 4-6 clients total between both my personal training and coaching clients. I’m not out there to make a ton of money and I prefer to give each client individualized attention. I am currently in the process of becoming a certified RRCA run coach (I just need to complete a first aid course). I’ve also taught a lot of spin classes over the past few months at Zone 3 Fitness and the Bay Club and really love teaching.
  • Learn French – This has been one of my goals from early fall 2013. I want a future career in global public health and international development, thus I need to become bilingual, or at least competent at a second language. I’ve been slowly practicing my language skills via software programs, but I will continue in 2014 with french lessons at The Language Exchange in Portland. I don’t naturally pick up language quickly, so this is going to be a tough goal, but it is necessary and important for my future career goals. After traveling in Central America in May, I’ve discovered that I love the Latin American culture and have decided to switch from French to Spanish. I took a year of Spanish in college, but I don’t remember a whole lot. I begin my first class on Monday! 🙂

Personal:

  • Become more financially stable – The last couple of years have been a bit tough financially. Last year I took a risk with my career and it did not pan out as well as I hoped. The last couple of years were also riddled with unexpected purchases, i.e. lots of car repairs and health bills. My graduate student loans also kicked in and I quickly realized that about a third of my monthly income goes directly to SallieMae and Nelnet. Awesome. With my new job I received an increase in pay from my old one. I need to buy a new car some point this coming year and thus I have begun to put some cash away for that big-ticket item. I’m still driving my little car until it dies for good (or is going to cost me a zillion dollars to fix). I also plan to stash some money away again into my emergency fund since it became low due to said expensive car repairs. For the past few months I have created budgets and reviewed my spending habits to determine where I can cut back. Going into 2014 I feel pretty comfortable with my monthly budget and I have been researching ways to live more frugally. Stay tuned for that journey. Well, my little black car died in March. It was a sad day, but I am very happy with my new car! My father was very generous and gave me a down payment for my car, but I still have a $13,000 car loan plus about $32,000 in student loans. See below for more of my financial goals.
  • Travel – It’s ironic that one of my main goals is to save more money and live frugally, but I also seek adventure outside the US. I haven’t been to a new country in a couple of years and thus, 2014 is the year I discover a new part of the world. My mind has gone crazy with ideas, but I yet to commit to anything yet. I may travel to South America with a friend, go on a medical mission to a developing country, or take a solo trip to Southeast Asia or Europe. I love daydreaming about traveling the world and I know this year will be the year of an adventure. Anyone looking for a travel buddy? I traveled to Belize and Guatemala with one of my best friends in May for a week and will be going to the Azores Islands in November. All were new countries for me and definitely reignited the travel bug in me. I’ve been resisting the urge to impulse buy a plane ticket to Columbia! I traveled to New Orleans for work in June and absolutely fell in love with the city that I hope to pursue my PhD studies in. Montreal and Newport, RI are also in the planning stages as well as a couple big trips in 2015.
  • Volunteer more – This past fall I joined the Junior League of Portland, Maine and have met some pretty fabulous and inspiring women. The organization is built on giving back to the community, which is one of the main reasons I joined. I look forward to volunteering around the community with the JLP, but I also hope to give back to my community in other ways. I have been researching various organizations related to my career interests and will be making contact soon so hopefully I can help in any way needed. Junior League is awesome and I think all women should join! 🙂 I’m still seeking out more opportunities to volunteer as well. Since I have more time on my hands due to my hip injury, I am reaching out to a couple of organizations after the holiday.
  • Read a book once a month (or more) – I love to read and you periodically will have book reviews on my blog. For a collection of old book reviews click HERE. I’m an avid reader and I usually read daily, whether job related papers or pleasure reading. My goal in 2014 is to finish a book at least once a month; however, I would like to read more than just 12 books a month. Heck, in the past 5 days I have almost finished all three Hunger Games books. I have a stack of half-finished books so I will start my reading list there. I fell off the bandwagon on this one, but began back up again in May. I’m doing a summer book challenge which has inspired me to read about a book a week over the past two months. You can find out more information about the book challenge here.

Financial Update:

  • My Emergency fund is now up to also $1200! My goal is to have about $2000 in it by the end of the year. Right now, I’m a head of my schedule. Currently I put in $100 each month automatically from my checking account, but will increase the monthly payments to $150 in October. I keep my E-fund in an online bank. You can read more about why I use an online bank and how you can earn a free $76 by opening a savings account with Capital One 360. I just learned today that if you open a checking account and make the 5 purchases within 45 days, you’ll also earn an additional $100! Their checking account is fee-free and no foreign transaction fees!
  • Since March I’ve paid $1512.04 towards my student loans! Since April I’ve been paying an extra $150 towards my SallieMae loans. One of my $778 loans will be paid off this month (YAY!) and the second one will be paid off by hopefully October. I’m planning on selling my tri bike this fall and will use that money to pay off another bigger SallieMae loan. My goal is to pay off my SallieMae loans by the end of December 2015.
  • My net worth is getting closer to zero! My total net worth was about -$31,223 at the end of December 2013 and over the past six months is now sitting about -$17,896. The main reason that it shifted towards positive by nearly $15,000 is the purchase of my new car. Yes, my car loan currently sits at about $12,500, but my car is worth, according to Kelly Blue Book, $17,000. My investments are doing well. I currently put in 7% of my yearly income into my company’s 403(b) with a company match of almost 7%. I rolled my old 401(k) into a Roth IRA in March and have finally reached over the $6000 mark in April. I am planning to start contributing to my IRA this fall.
  • I haven’t been very good about sticking to my budget over the past few months. May was expensive because of my vacation. I had planned a head so I knew they were coming. June had some unpredicted extra expenses, such as $300 dentist bill, a few business-related expenses, and a $330 plane ticket to Portugal in November. My goal for the remaining summer months is to reign in my spending and stick to my budget better. I know I will have some extra expenses coming up such as another $90 dentist bill and an eye exam. I just need to stay out of the J. Crew outlet store!

Not to wish away the remaining six months of 2014, but I’m really excited about the prospective of nailing all my goals this year. I feel that I’m in a solid place both personally, financially, and professionally. I know 2016 is going to be a big transition year for me with my future goals of going back to school so I’m happy that I’m well on my way to be able to pursue my dream of attaining my PhD. And hopefully reach a net worth of $0 within the next year! 🙂

Day 4: Welcome to San Pedro, Belize

The Sea Beeze Guesthouse in Belize City - ready for anything!
The Sea Beeze Guesthouse in Belize City – ready for anything!

Lindsay and I woke up in our Belize City Hostel, the Sea Breeze Guesthouse, after a solid night of sleep. I actually woke up about an hour earlier than Linds and wrote in my travel journal on our balcony. Our balcony shared a door with our next door neighbor. He came out and we chatted a bit. He’s from Los Angeles and comes to Belize for a week or two every year in May. The sky was a cloudy and looked like impending rain. Other than that it was a decent day, aka less humidity!

Once Lindsay got up we packed up our things and we walked the couple of minutes to the San Pedro Water Taxi station to catch the 9am San Pedro Belize Water Taxi to San Pedro. When we crossed back over the Belize border from Guatemala the day before, one of the water taxi representations gave us a discount coupon for our tickets. I purchased a one-way ticket to San Pedro since I was planning on taking the Tropic Air flight from the islands to the international airport, but Lindsay purchased a round trip ticket since she was in Belize for another week and was planning on heading south after I left. We each saved a few bucks! A normal one way ticket to San Pedro costs $17.50 USD, but I paid about $15 USD with the coupon.

We hopped on the boat and enjoyed the 1.5 hour ride to San Pedro. The boat was nice and basic. There was plenty of room for everyone, but I can imagine that it is more crowded during the high season. We arrived on the San Pedro dock around 10:30 and hit the first cafe we found for breakfast. Right across the water taxi dock is a little cafe called Licks. It was a great little breakfast place and we both had the traditional Belizean breakfast of fried jack, eggs, beans, and cheese. It was yummy!

Fried jack breakfast at Lick's Beachfront Cafe
Fried jack breakfast at Lick’s Beachfront Cafe

After breakfast we began our walk to the Pedro’s Inn Backpackers Hostel. As we were searching for the hostel it started to downpour. We got half way to the hostel and asked a local warehouse worker if we were heading in the right direction. He pointed in the opposite direction and of course we headed in that direction because we didn’t know any better. Once we figured out we were heading in the wrong direction, we headed back the original we walked and eventually found the hostel. We checked in quickly and chose the cheapest option, the dorm room.

Pedro's Inn - a budget friendly option on San Pedro
Pedro’s Inn – a budget friendly option on San Pedro

The room had two beds with a window. The beds were comfortable and we had access to the shared bathrooms, which were very clean as well. The accommodations were simple but comfortable for the $13 USD a night we paid. The downfall of the location of Pedro’s Inn is right next to the airport so it can be loud when planes take off throughout the day. It’s relatively quiet at night though. Pedro’s does have a reputation of a party hostel so it can be loud from drunk people, but it wasn’t bad when we were there for two nights.

It continued to rain for a while so we both read awhile in bed. In the early afternoon the rain started to turn to a drizzle and we both decided to head into town to check out the massage place we saw on the beach for $25. After a few days of nonstop travel, hiking Mayan ruins, and cave tubing, we both could use a little relaxing and massage. My right IT-band and hip were quite tight (I have a chronic right hip issue) so a massage was just what the doctor order. We found out that a half-hour massage cost $25 USD and an hour-long massage cost $50 USD. This a bargain compared to the $75-$100 I pay in Maine (which doesn’t happen often these days)! We decided we would do a half-hour.

The massage hut on the beach
The massage hut on the beach

The cool thing about this massage place was that it was a tiki hut right on the beach! It wasn’t extremely private, but we lucked out that because it was the beginning of the low season and the weather was rainy, the beach was quiet. As soon as Lindsay and I hit the massage table, we both decided a full hour would be better! That massage was amazing! One of the best I’ve ever had. I was way more relaxed and carefree after that hour. The massage was definitely a splurge, but well worth the $50 plus a $5 USD tip! 🙂

After the massage, Lindsay and I set out to find a snorkel tour for the next day. We talked to the people at both Seaduced by Belize and Searious Adventures. Both tours cost about the same price and offered the same level of snorkeling. We decided to go with Searious Adventures because they were a couple of dollars cheaper. Both tour companies have excellent reviews along with Grumpy & Happy Belize, so you can’t go wrong with any of those choices!

Chocolate from the Belize Chocolate Company
Chocolate from the Belize Chocolate Company

As we were walking along the beach we saw a little chocolate shop and who can’t resist chocolate?! Belize grows cacao in the Toledo district in southern Belize. About 10 years ago  Jo and Chris Beaumont, a UK couple, quit their London jobs and moved to a little island in Belize. They went to the annual chocolate festival in Toledo and came back to San Pedro with the idea of starting a chocolate company. Kakaw Chocolate was born and is now sold in a cute little shop on the beach in San Pedro called the Belize Chocolate Company. Lindsay and I spent some time looking at all the boutique chocolates. I picked out 3 of them to try – a chocolate peanut butter cup, a mint pattie, and a chocolate-covered marshmallow. All were delicious! I also purchased some chocolate bars and chocolate tea to bring home.

After an afternoon snack of chocolate we walked back to Pedro’s Inn to shower and get ready for our “fancy” dinner. Lindsay and I decided that we would splurge on one really nice dinner. Lindsay had her mind-set on another restaurant called The Tackle Box (not to be confused with the bar in San Pedro), but we discovered it was on the other end of Ambergris Caye and would have required a taxi ride. The Blue Water Grill at the Sunbreeze Hotel was our second choice and it was worth it! The restaurant is right on the beach and we were able to score a small table right on the railing to enjoy the sunset and cool evening breeze.

Lindsay had one of the local beers and I had a nice glass of Malbec. We enjoyed an appetizer of conch ceviche. Conch is a traditional island food and the South American ceviche dish is popular in Belize. Mixed together it was quite yummy. One thing I love about travel is being adventurous and trying the local foods. I drawn my line at insects, but generally I will try anything at least once. Being in the Caribbean I couldn’t resist eating seafood every chance I could and this dinner was definitely not the exception either. I ordered the breaded-pan seared grouper with chilled papaya-red onion salsa, plantain cakes, and grilled vegetables. Lindsay had the black bean crusted snook with steamed rice, wok vegetables and a caramelized-banana curry sauce. Both plates were amazing! I still dream about that dinner…

Yum.
Yum.

After dinner Lindsay wanted to get another dinner so we walked down the beach to find a bar. Since May is the transition month from the high season to the low season (aka rainy season), the party scene was pretty dead. We decided on Fido’s Courtyard. The place had about 10-15 people at most. We were able to sit right at the bar with a few locals and tourists. We both ordered fruity drinks. They were okay. We chatted with the bartender a bit and then we headed back to Pedro’s. I was exhausted and we had to get up early for our snorkeling adventure in the morning!

Daily Expenses

  • Water Taxi Ticket – $15 USD
  • Breakfast @ Lick’s – $13 USD
  • Pedro’s Inn (2 nights) – $27.50 USD
  • Searious Adventures (snorkeling tour) – $38.75 USD
  • Massage – $55 USD
  • Chocolate – $26.00 USD
  • Blue Water Grill – $35.20 USD
  • Total = $210.45

In case you missed it, check out:

Day 1: Belize City to Flores, Guatemala

Day 2: Flores to Tikal

Los Amigos Hostel – Flores, Guatemala

A Quick Guide to Tikal National Park

Day 3: Tikal, Guatemala to Belize City

Cave Tubing in Belize

 

Weekend in Photos

I took 3rd place in my age Group at the PolarBear Sprint Tri on Saturday
I took 3rd place in my age Group at the PolarBear Sprint Tri on Saturday – read the RACE REPORT HERE
Kentucky Derby party at Brian Boru
Kentucky Derby party at Brian Boru
Derby pony!
Derby pony!
Spring Railroad Tracks on Sunday morning
Spring Railroad Tracks on Sunday morning
Stream off the trail
Stream off the trail
Spring yellow flowers
Spring yellow flowers
Gambo Powder Mill trails between the rain showers
Gambo Powder Mill trails between the rain showers
Mushrooms growing on a tree
Mushrooms growing on a tree
Daisey's in the sun
Daises in the sun

2014 Summer Book Challenge

I’m excited! Through some of the other blogs I read I came across the 2014 Summer Book Challenge sponsored by Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I’ve always been an avid reader, even from a young age. When I was in elementary school and just starting to ride horses, my mother signed me up for The Saddle Club book club. Each month I received 4 books from the series. And every month, I would devour the books in a matter of hours.

I went to an all-girls Catholic high school where we were expected to read between 15-20 books each school year in our English courses. That does not include any other book we have to read in our other classes. Some books I loved, other books I hated. I will forever hate Jane Austen. I just can’t stand to read any of her books. #sorrynotsorry

I read a fair about of books now. Most of the books are on work-related topics, such as health policy and global health. I’ve had a stack of books next to my bed that has been growing for years. Someday I will finish each and every one of them. I’m hoping this challenge might help me tackle that pile.

The Challenge Categories:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long. – Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is Worng with my Numbers? by Jimmy Moore
10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born. – 1984 by George Orwell (first published in 1949)
10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn’t finish the first time around. – Chi Running by Danny Dreyer
10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore. – Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (both French and English verisons)
15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times‘ Best Sellers List when you begin reading it. – TBD
15 points:
 Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe. – TBD
15 points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge. TBD
20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title. – TBD
20 points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014. – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
25 points: Read a book written by a blogger. – How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes (Nomadicmatt.com)
25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir. – TBD
30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles. – TBD

I’m hoping to get through a few books on my vacation to Belize and Guatemala in a few weeks. Any book recommendations?

March Budget Check

My March budget is full of red! So much for sticking to the budget I worked so hard to create in January…

I was way over budget due to this kind of large purchase….

The new whip!
The new whip!

It was a sad day when my old car died last week. I knew the day from coming, but was hoping that it would occur closer to December. My father was generous and gave me money for the down-payment, but I now have a $13,104.20 car loan with a monthly payment of $232 starting in April. However, before I even took the car off the lot and to finalize the car loan through my credit union I had to buy car insurance. My 6-month payment was $588. And, of course, it will probably cost me another $500 in April to register it and pay the excise tax. Woof! I’ll be using the save I have saved thus far as a car down-payment to pay for the registration and taxes.

I also went way over my normal food budget as well because of my birthday. I went out for lunch and drinks with some friends, which I normally don’t do very often. I also spent $44 on the night I test drove my car to bribe my father to come to the dealership with me to negotiate the price of the car. Although he really do anything. I spent way more at coffee shops too. Bad, bad!

Eeek Lots of red!
Eeek Lots of red!

I went over my student loan payments, which I consider to be a good thing because I’ve paid off more debt. During the month of March I paid off a $368 grad school loan that was just annoying me plus my normal monthly payments.

Let’s see. I had a lot of extra predicted spending in March, like my dog’s $200 vet bill for her annual exam. I picked up a couple of new shirts at Old Navy on my birthday. They were on sale! Yay! Plus, I had some small business fees as well.

March expenses by categories
March expenses by categories

I think the highlight of my March personal finances was rolling over my old 401k account to a new Roth IRA account with Vanguard and making some $$! I’ve finally been making money with my 403b account with Nationwide as well. I love watching my retirement accounts make money! Let’s hope that pattern continues for the next 40+ years. 🙂

Total Debt as of 4/3/14: $50,121.13 (thank you car loan!) <- includes this month’s credit card bill as well (I pay everything using my CC to earn airline miles)

Total Student Loan Debt as of 4/1/14: $32,842.63 (Goal: Bring total loan debt under $30,000 by end of 2014)

Emergency Fund as of 4/3/14: $850.68 (Goal: $1500 by end of 2014)

Total Savings + Investments as of 4/3/14: $12,866.13

Net Worth as of 4/3/14: $21,255.00 (does not include the value of my new car)

The Time My Car Died and I Had to Buy a New One…

I’ve mentioned several times in my previous blog posts that my big purchase this year was going to be a new car. I purchased a 2000 Hyundai Elantra during the summer of 2006. I worked two jobs the entire summer (without a semblance of a life) to pay for the car. I think I paid about $5000 for the car.

As you can imagine, the older a car gets, the more repairs and money you have to put into them. The past three years have yielded expensive repairs, i.e. a new timing belt, a new clutch, a new alternator, etc. In January I put $400 into my car to get her to past inspection and to hopefully last till December, which was my target purchase date.

Saying goodbye... and taking my plates off
Saying goodbye… and taking my plates off

Well, my poor little car couldn’t make it till December. Last Monday night she died on my way home from work. I was within 3 miles from my house when I stopped at a stop sign before making a righthand turn towards home. My poor little car decided that the stop sign would be her final resting stop. She actually wouldn’t start the friday night before in our driveway, but succeed to start the next morning. I knew something was up, but I was hoping that it was just a fluke.

I called AAA for a tow truck and a nice man pushed my car around the corner so I wasn’t blocking the intersection. Talk about embarrassing! Our trusted family mechanic looked at my car and thought it was the fuel pump. It could have been fixed for about $250, but at this point in my car’s life, I feel like I’m throwing dollar bills down the drain. I decided my money is best spent on purchasing a new car.

I did a lot of research online. I was between the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, and VW Jetta. My budget was about $15,000 (and I was secretly hoping that I could purchase a car plus pay all the tax and fees with the $15,000). I was leaning towards a new car because I couldn’t find too many low mileage used cars. Most used cards I found were priced about the same as a new car.

I checked one of the local car dealer’s website on Thursday morning and found a web special for a left-over 2013 Hyundai Elantra. It was a standard hatchback model. I was hoping to purchase another standard because they tend to be a bit cheaper and not many people want a standard and thus I could probably get a better deal than an automatic. I test drove the car Thursday night. I drove home picked up my Father and had him test drive it as well. We drove back to the dealer and talked pricing with the sales lady. I wasn’t pleased with the presented price and left giving them my bottom line. She said she had to talk to her manager and would call me in the morning.

I got a call at 9am on Friday when the dealership was open. She was willing to bring the price down to my budget. I told her I wanted the offer in writing and would call her back later once she faxed the offer to me. I called my Father to discuss the offer and he suggested that I fill out the car loan application at the credit union and get an insurance quote. I did both and then accepted the offer.

This morning I went back to the dealer with my loan check and my down payment check. The whole process of buying a car is stressful. I’ve been sick with a cold all week and adding on the job of buying a new car has left me feeling still like crap. But, I learned a few lessons about buying a car and hopefully I won’t be using them anytime soon! The dealership tried to quote the price of the car to me in monthly payments. Sure, I could afford their offer, but I wanted to know the true cost of the car! Watch out for this. If you extend a car loan to 72 months then of course your monthly payments will be smaller!

Also, make sure you get everything in writing. I would also suggest getting insurance quotes before purchase as well. You don’t want any expensive surprises later on when you realize that the fancy car you just purchased is going to cost a lot more than the more reliable and plain car.

I lucked out and got a good price on my new car. I probably could have negotiated another $500 off the price, but I just wanted the process to be over. I had a few things working in my favor as well. The car was a 2013 leftover. It was standard. It was the end of March, which means the end of a month, the end of a quarter, and then end of the fiscal year for most car manufacturers and dealers! I couldn’t quite get them to agree to everything including tax and fees under $15,000, but I’m happy with my total price.

The final goodbye (and time to buy a new Ironman sticker)
The final goodbye (and time to buy a new Ironman sticker)

My mechanic has offered to fix and sell my old for me with a cut of the sale. Totally fine by me! I’ll be lucky to get a couple hundred bucks, but it’s better than nothing! I was a bit sad to say my final goodbye to my old friend. We had a good almost 8 years and 100,000+ miles. I think I got my moneys worth from that car. Now, onto better and more adult-like things, like a monthly car payment….

27 Goals for my 27th Year

Reagan has nothing to do with this post, but who doesn't like cute pictures of dogs?
Reagan has nothing to do with this post, but who doesn’t like cute pictures of dogs?

I have officially entered my late 20s as of this past Saturday. I will admit; I’m still in denial that I’m now 27 years old. Where has the time gone?

Looking back a decade ago, when I was just a wee 17 year old high school girl, I never predicted I’d be where I’m at now in my life. I pictured my life so much different than it is today. But is that a bad thing? I have a Masters in Public Health. I have completed my first Ironman. I have experienced losing a parent at a young age. I have had many ups and downs on the roller coaster of life.

My life may not be the so-called dream that I thought it would be when I was 17. But that’s life. I am content and happy where I am in my life. Could things be better? Sure. Could things be far worst? Of course!

Within the past year I finally feel like I found myself and what path I really want to pursue in life. Totally cliché I know! It amazes me that as the older I get, the more I grow as a human being. What I wanted at 17 is different than what I wanted at 21. What I wanted at 21 was different than what I wanted at 25 and so forth. I’m sure when I hit 30 than I will want other things in life as well. I believe that we evolve as we age and become wiser and better people. I finally feel that I have outgrown my immature ways and view the world differently. I don’t expect the world to cater to my needs; instead, I must work hard and consistently to meet my own needs.

I’ve decided that each year on my birthday I am going to set goals based on my age number to accomplish by my next birthday. I’m a very goal-oriented person so setting goals makes me happy; but I think it will also help me in my pursuit for my ultimate career and life goals.

So, without ado… here are my 27 goals for my 27th year:
  1. Travel to a new country
  2. Learn French (or begin the process)
  3. Take a class for fun on something new that interest me
  4. Help write a grant proposal at work
  5. Land my first paying freelance job
  6. Learn to take quality pictures with my new DSLR
  7. Volunteer more
  8. Learn to deal with stress better
  9. Pay off at least $5000 of my student loans
  10. Learn the basics of investing
  11. Stick to my budget
  12. Reconnect with some old friends
  13. Grow a small vegetable garden
  14. Experience a new city
  15. Try an adult rowing class
  16. Write more often
  17. Help write an article for publication at work
  18. Grow my personal training and endurance sport coaching business
  19. Enjoy our family camp at the lake more
  20. Start studying for the GREs
  21. Hike Mt. Washington
  22. Spend more time reading
  23. Find something good in everyday
  24. Learn to cook a new recipe each month
  25. Become better at meal prepping on the weekends
  26. To have a Fall running season
  27. To enjoy the year as I’ll be another year older next year

Frugal Fridays: My Obsession with Budgeting

 

Originally posted on February 14, 2014 on Big Sky Multisport Coaching & Personal Training.

frugalfridays

The first step that I took to gain financial stability was to make a budget. Well, I actually made about 500 different budgets. I’m a wee bit obsessed with making budgets now. I’m beginning to think that I should have been an accountant.

My main budgeting method is Mint.com. If you don’t use Mint then I highly recommend that you hop on that train. It’s completely free and you can upload all your banking data plus investments, car and house loans, and student loans. It’s a great way to keep track of your money and debt and also your overall net worth. I find that Mint is a helpful tool in determining where your money is going and ways to cut your budget.

Along with my Mint account, I also created about 100 different types of budgets through Excel. I tried out a bunch of different budgeting temples offered through Microsoft Excel, but none of them really met my needs. Thus, I created my own from scratch. From there, it involved into about a 10-sheet spreadsheet containing my yearly budget, monthly bills, student loan details, and three-year finance goals.

A glimpse at my budgeting spreadsheet

A glimpse at my budgeting spreadsheet

A few of my three-year financial goals include: purchasing and paying off a new car by 12/31/15, paying off my SallieMae student loans (currently about $9200) by 12/31/16, and a volunteer trip to Africa in November 2015. I’ve calculated the amount I need to transfer to each of my corresponding savings accounts each pay check in order to meet my goals by my deadline.

By creating my own budgeting spreadsheet I was able to add everything I needed into one spreadsheet that was easy for me to edit, read, and keep track of my income and expenses. I also color-code everything because, well, I’m a bit obsessed at the moment.

A lot of people get overwhelmed with budgeting. Hence, why so many people are in debt and/or spend money on useless or unneeded things. Here is how I went about creating my budgets:

  1. Determine your monthly take-home pay
  2. Determine your monthly “hard expenses,” i.e. rent, student loans, health insurance, etc. (basically anything that you must pay each month and the amount doesn’t usually change)
  3. Determine your monthly “soft expenses,” i.e. groceries, gas, gym memberships, coffee shops, etc. (soft expenses include items that have more fluid costs each month and ones that you could probably cut back on if needed)
  4. At this point, decided if you prefer software/website programs such as Mint, or if you would rather create your own budgets through Excel
  5. Subtract all your expenses from your monthly income
  6. Hopefully you have money left over! If you don’t, then you need to readjust your expenses. Start with your soft expenses first. Trust me, there are ways to cut back on things.
  7. Stash your extra money into a savings account. You should always pay yourself first! If you have goals, such as a vacation, open a second savings account to put money away for this expense.
  8. If you have a lot of debt, especially credit card debt, put extra money towards paying those debts off! You can probably cut back on going out to eat or going to the movies to put extra money towards those extra payments.
  9. Stay on budget throughout the month! And check back throughout the month to see how you’re doing.

Budgeting shouldn’t be hard. Yes, it may not be fun because for most people, it acts as a wake-up call for where your money is going. You work hard for your money so why put it down the drain on stupid purchases or wasteful spending!

Welcome Lobsters!

Hello World!

In an effort to better brand my personal training and endurance sport coaching business (Big Sky Multisport Coaching & Personal Training), I have decided to create a personal blog to separate out the more personal stuff from my triathlon and fitness interests. Thus, welcome to Diaries of a Wandering Lobster.

Apparently branding is important in this new technological world. Not just within the blog world, but also in marketing, business, and career. I love triathlons and fitness and I will continue to write about my adventures as a multiport coach and athlete, but over the past six months I have really begun to realize who I am as a person. I have a vast amount of interests outside of sport that I want to share. I’ll be honest, as much as I love writing about triathlons, I secretly want to be a travel blogger. Of course, that requires the ability to be able to travel.

I have some big plans in the next few years. I’ve begun to put my ducks in a line to get where I ultimately want to be in my life in the next 5-10 years. I’ve discovered that I want to write about things that affect me personally, such as paying off student debt, living frugally, traveling the world, and my home state of Maine.

I have my first real career job in the healthcare technology industry that I love. I never thought it was an area of interest while I was working on my MPH degree, but I know my future career path will involve HIT at some capacity. Over the next few years in my job I hope to grow career wise and personally, to develop new skills, and be a part of something bigger – health reform in the United States.

I’ve set some pretty aggressive personal finance goals over the next three years. I’ve discovered that I love budgeting and I have become completely obsessed with it. Who knew budgeting could be so fun? I graduated grad school in December 2012 with just over $40,000 of combined undergrad and grad student loan debt. I plan to go back for my PhD in the next 5 years and hope to have a large majority of those loans paid off by my return to school.

I love to travel. I’m not one of those people that go on a tropical vacation and stay at an all-inclusive resort drinking fruity umbrella drinks by the pool. I want to see and experience new cultures, new foods, and new places through the eyes of the locals. My international travel experiences are not anything to write home about yet – I’ve been to Canada, Italy, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. I’ll be backpacking Belize and Guatemala in May with one of my best friends and planning on a volunteer mission to Africa in 2015.

Over the next few weeks you’ll see a mix of new posts with some old posts originally posted on Big Sky Multisport Coaching & Personal Training as I transition them over to the Diaries of a Wandering Lobster. I hope you stick around and enjoy the ride as much as I will. Welcome to my crazy, hectic life.

~ Katelyn