Friday, August 28, 2009

Personal Finance?

I haven’t been writing much about this lately – I’ve been more into exploring intuitive eating. The latter is much more new to me so I guess there’s just more on my mind to talk about. As for personal finance, it’s honestly been on autopilot for awhile. I did a lot of work to get things sorted out and put some great systems in place. As a result, it requires far less attention and headspace from me most of the time.

My 401k contributions are automated and my ING savings transfers happen like clockwork on their own, too. I love this! Cute Man and I are gearing up to go into our house-hunting phase so saving is a big part of this. We need to demonstrate that we can save the difference between our current rent and anticipated mortgage for at least 3 months per our NACA program requirements. I’ve been doing this for awhile now, but CM is beginning this in earnest this month. Previously, his focus was credit card repayment, which he has rocked!

Another thing we’ve got sort of automated, is our vacationing! Say what you will about timeshares, but they cannot be beat for encouraging us to take a full week off. I had serious concerns about the wisdom of that purchase (mostly due to the poor reputations they have), but it has turned out really well. We just got back from our lovely vacation in Orlando, which did not break the bank. Having your own kitchen at a resort is a money saver for sure. Most of our cash went to transportation – we didn’t rent a car, but took shuttles and cabs instead. It probably cost us a bit more this way. I think next time a car would be good. Live and learn!

I’ve also streamlined my spending strategy. For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with a new system. I put everything onto my Amazon Chase Visa. I only use cash or my debit card when I have no choice. I wanted to see if I could smooth out my spending and not be hyper-conscious of what I have to spend paycheck to paycheck, constantly checking balances. I just use my “good judgment” that I have cultivated and buy what I want when I choose to. With the safety of a buffer of savings in the bank, I wanted to see if it would even out. So far, it has! I have not had to dip into saving to cover over-spending even once. This is a victory, for sure.

As long as I can live below my means (automated savings comes out first anyway), I am thrilled with this method. It takes out the stress of constant balance checking and I earn mad points that I can turn into $ to spend at Amazon. As a Kindle owner, this is golden. I have also redeemed them for a gas card that works at the station near my house, too. Very handy. Now that I don’t’ drive as much, I could feasibly not have to pay for my own gas again. Really. I can’t believe they’re basically giving me free money just for using the card for all my purchases. As someone who pays off my balance every month, it is a huge benefit because I’m not paying any interest charges.

In short, things are pretty smooth on the financial front. As I learned the painfully hard way, it’s not how much I earn that matters. It’s setting up my life so that it functions within the parameters of what’s coming in. As two people working at non-profits, CM and I do not make a whole lot, especially for living in an expensive city. We’ve just learned a thing or two about prioritizing what’s important to us and making hard choices. It’s good to know that we can have pretty much anything that we truly need or want – we just can’t have everything that we want. So, the former gets priority and the latter gets indulged within reason.

So now we’re looking into buying a house or condo. This is a whole new world to explore so I will probably be talking a lot about that and soliciting advice as we get into the thick of it. The rest will hopefully continue to take care of itself.

4 comments:

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

I agree with you about timeshares. They get a bad rep, but a good timeshare can be such a blessing and yes absolutely force you to take time to rest, recover and just be! Glad you had a good time!

HEALTHY AMELIA said...

Thanks, FT. I totally felt embarrassed about it for the longest time. But after really taking advantage of it, I realize that like anything else, it’s what you make of it. I had a great time relaxing and it was amazing to take a whole week off for “vacation”. What a concept!

Anonymous said...

Hi Amelia - I just started reading your blog and was wondering what non profit credit counselor you used to consolidate your cc debt? I've started on the path of paying down mine (with the help of a lot of PF blogs), but have considered using a nonprofit debt consolidation service in the DC area. Did you recommend this process of paying down the debt? Thanks!

HEALTHY AMELIA said...

Hi! I used a nonprofit called MMI (http://www.moneymanagement.org). For where I was at the time (overwhelmed and not too financially savvy), it was a great choice. It gave my efforts a structure and helped me keep on track. If I knew then what I know now, I’d do it more myself – call each creditor and let them know you’re considering credit counseling but would prefer to work something out with them directly. Request lower interest rates.

But if you’re feeling like I did and just want it all done at once, credit counseling can help. I did have to pay them $20 a month for the service, but for me, it was worth it because I just couldn’t manage it all myself. Also, they got my rates reduced significantly so it worked out fine for me.

It’s mostly about your comfort level. Try calling your creditor yourself first and if it gets to overwhelming try an agency. I hope this helps!!!