Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The End of March is Here...

Month end is here. I get to report the tragic financial report for March soon...just kidding. It won't be that bad.

I am feeling the Windy City Financial Blues but the Weather in Chicago is simply gorgeous today!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Keep the Change...

I was able to transfer $19.20 into my savings account by using my Bank of America debit card in March. My checking account automatically rounds each purchase to the nearest dollar and transfers the difference into savings. Pretty sweet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monthly Progress Report...

Below is my monthly progress report. I lost it this weekend.

My friend’s birthday was on Friday. I was originally going to skip the birthday dinner but felt bad since she’s been to my last two birthday dinners. OF COURSE it was at an expensive Chicago restaurant, OF COURSE I had to take a taxi to get there, OF COURSE we split the bill, OF COURSE it ended up costing me $60 and OF COURSE, 5 out of the 6 people at dinner were women attorneys working at firms so it was a drop in the bucket for them. I did bum a ride off one of my friends back to the parking garage so I saved myself another taxi ride there.

On a side note, my best friend knows I am strapped for cash so we just met up on Friday for a $27 Thai lunch instead of going to an expensive restaurant. That was her birthday gift. She even told me I should skip the dinner when we were out at lunch. I should have listened to her.

My other friend who wanted to go on vacation was at the birthday dinner on Friday. I finally told her the "real deal" and I think she finally gets that I am pretty strapped financially. She is also coincidentally the friend who gave me ride back to the garage. Her firm pays for her monthly parking downtown.

I get paid tomorrow. It’s been 33 days since my last paycheck. I tend to lose my focus in the last week before I get paid again because it seems like it’s never going to happen.

April should be a better month but it is going to be very tight. I have to pay my quarterly water bill ($107), a straggling medical bill ($45) and for parking passes ($190). I got another medical bill in the mail for $30. I am going to call them because I don’t think they accounted for my $30 co-payment. I can get a copy of the cancelled check for proof if needed.

  • The deficit is the reason for my low $100 checking account balance.
  • No additional debt and everything paid for with cash and debit.
  • I allotted more for transportation and Food & Dining in April.
  • I am going to talk to my family & friends about gifts and let them know I have to cut back.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rethinking 401k…

I am rethinking my 5% 401k contribution with the disappointing news about my raise and the upcoming increase in student loan payments. My checking account is pretty low and I am wondering if I should try to build it back up with the extra $250 over the next 2 months.

I have until next Tuesday to cancel.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I increased my Federal Withholdings from 2 to 3 but the change only amounted to a $76 increase in my paycheck.

Every little bit helps though right?

Disappointing Raise…

My raise was a disappointing 4% this year from $72,700 to $75,600. I don’t want anyone to get me wrong and think I am not grateful but I am grossly underpaid. My Boss knows it and has acknowledged it to my face. Additionally, I am paid at least $10,000 - $15,000 less than my peers who are doing the same work and have comparable portfolios. Add to that, I have the most education, I volunteer for special projects, I mentor and I have been with the Bank for going on 11 years. I don’t like to cry discrimination but I am also the only Black female working in the Department and there is only one other Black male working here and he makes at least $10,000 more (confirmed). Additionally, I am the ONLY attorney working in the group and people ask me for advice all the time.

I had this discussion with my Team Lead in August of last year and was told that it was difficult to make a mid cycle adjustment without creating a new position or adding additional responsibilities. My first reaction was…Why the hell do I have to do more to get paid equitably but I said forget and told him I would be willing to take on more responsibility. That never happened and they made a conscious choice (in my opinion) not to fix the disparity at the annual review period where increasing my salary would not have amounted to an out of cycle adjustment.

He said we could discuss further and I said I would like that and I proceeded to state my case. It doesn’t matter. I could tell he knew I was disappointed because I cut the meeting short. We just lost two other Portfolio Managers in our group and we were already in a hiring mode. They are going to have to pay at least $15,000 to the next person to replace me soon. I already started looking for a new job because the increase after taxes will not be sufficient to pay the increase in my student loan payment come June.

At the end of the meeting, I just said Thank You, gathered up my portfolio, got up and went to the bathroom and balled. I don’t like to cry but I just felt defeated and pissed off beyond measure.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Investments & Perkins Loan...

I am going to focus on long-term investments instead of long-term savings whenever I get the opportunity. In the past, I opened a ShareBuilder account (now ING) and took advantage of the opening bonus. Occasionally when I have an extra $25, I transfer the funds to my ING account and make a $21 investment (after the $4 fee) into the S&P 500 Index Fund.

I also used to contribute 1%-2% into my Employee Share Purchase Plan. It is a pretty sweet deal because I am able to pay for company stock with a 20% discount. Not bad at all. I currently hold about 22 shares valued today at $1,345 and I would like to go back to contributing at least 1% ($60). The combined investments total $1,600 or 8% to my new $20,000 goal. Not bad.

I decided to attack my Perkins Loan first out of all of my student loans. It has the smallest remaining balance at $2,500, originally $3,000. There is a fixed monthly payment of $31.86 per month so I am hoping to eliminate that loan sooner rather than later.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monthly Progress Report

Below is my monthly progress report. This is the first time I really tracked my expenses so closely. I have to say that it is helping out a lot. Seriously! I can really see where my money is going and I think I will be able to make some adjustments going forward.

  • I definitely need to allocate more for Food & Dining and Transportation.
  • Credit card buster is a one-time carry over from past credit card use.
  • No additional debt and everything paid for with cash and debit.
  • Overspent but doing much better.
  • Decided against vacation next month.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good News…

I am really excited for the weekend. I was supposed to take today off but I am still negotiating a deal. I am going to take Monday off instead. Yeah!!!

Some of you know, my Dad suffered a massive heart attack last Summer and he was also was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes a year before that in 2008. He went to the doctor yesterday for a follow-up appointment and he is doing really well. Thank God!!! We thought he might have to go on the pill form of insulin since his numbers haven’t been too good but he is still just borderline. He has to exercise more and go back to the doctor in 3 months.

I feel so happy. Such terrific news!!! =)

I Want Federal Help...

Call it what you want but I would love some help from the federal government with my student loans. I am not talking forgiveness here but I would absolutely love and appreciate the ability to refinance all of my student loan debt including my private loans into one loan at 3% for 30 years. I would even pay a reasonable origination fee.

Imagine…a new loan for say $235,000 at 3% for 30 years. Come June my student loan payments will be about $1,200 per month and some of those loans are just interest only. Under this scenario, my principal and interest payment would be about $1,000/month and I wouldn’t have to worry about variable interest rates ever again.

The total amount of interest paid to the government would be roughly $121,700. The loan is not able to be discharged in bankruptcy so the government would get their money and we all know the government will garnish your wages if you don’t pay on your loans and take any tax return you ever hope of receiving…

I know I am dreaming but...Stimulus for Chitown. =)

Student Loan Payment Increased…

I got notice this morning that my student loan payment with Access group is increasing from $768 to $781. I am not exactly sure why since three of my loans are still in forbearance until June.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I am swamped at work. Oh my....

I will be back this afternoon to post. Hang in there with me. =)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Upped My 401k Contributions...

So I went online and changed my federal witholdings from 2 to 3 and I upped my 401k contributions back to 5%. The changes won't show up until my paycheck at the end of April since I only get paid once a month. That will give me at least 2 months of 401k contributions before the rest of loans go into repayment. That's $1,400 in contributions to my 401k in 2 months!!!

I will find out about the raise by the end of the month. If I get a raise, I believe I will be able to keep my contributions at 5%.


Someone stole my yogurt at work from the fridge and it has been confirmed that somone else's yogurt was also recently stolen. Boo!!!

Giving Up Free Money...

I feel bad about scaling back my 401k contributions from 5% to 1%. My employer matches 100% up to 5% of my salary which means I could be contributing about $700/month to my 401k or $8,400/year based on my current salary. That monthly contribution could significantly help to improve my net worth in addition to the debt reduction.

One of my readers Aaren (thank you Aaren) suggested that I change my withholdings since I received such large tax refunds over the past few years…around $3k. Based on my spreadsheet, I believe that changing my withholdings from 2 to 3 would allow me to bump back up my 401k contribution to 5% and cause minimal impact to my current budget.

Hopefully, I will find out in the next few weeks if I will get a salary increase. It is my hope that the increase in my salary will cover the increase in my student loan payment come June. If all goes well, not only will I be contrubuting 5% to my 401k but I will also be repaying all of my student loans and credit card debt without minimal impact to my current budget.

Fingers Crossed!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Is one of my favorite hobbies but it is also an expensive hobby. Why oh why?

My boyfriend and I took my Dad to the indoor golf dome near my house on Sunday. We paid for my Dad and split the bill among the two of us to the tune of $24/each for just 30 minutes on the range. Thankfully, you could chip and put all day for free.

We are all outdoors people in my family and thankfully my bf enjoys to play golf. I picked up the sport right after taking the bar in 2007 and since I am a natural athlete, I did pretty good right off the bat and fell in love. It’s just really expensive. If we went out every week, it could easily cost $200/month just in green fees alone. My park district course is even $45 for residents….ridiculous.

I wonder how much I am going to be able to play this Summer.

Monthly Progress Report...

Below is my monthly progress report. The budget is officially blown.

  • Transportation will likely increase another $60. I will need to pay for parking at the concert on Thursday and I will also need to fill my gas tank at least once more this month.
  • I am right at budget on Food & Dining, Grocery and Personal Care.
  • I don't anticipate any further expenses under personal care. I think I have enough Proactiv to last me the rest of the month.
  • I may need another $100 for Food & Dining to last the rest of the month.
  • I don't anticipate that I will any groceries that will cost more than $25.
  • My best friend's birthday is on March 25th. I may see if I can push getting her a gift off until the following next week when I get paid again.

Getting paid once a month is tough for budgeting my money. Overall, I think I need another $200 to get through the month. I have the money in my checking account so I will not have to pull from Savings or use Debt. Despite blowing my budget, this is probably the best month that I have had in over 2 years. The iReconcile checkbook app on my iPhone really helps me track my expenses and keep me on track.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


In a perfect student loan paying world, I would have an extra $300/month.

Then I would save $100 in a vacation fund, $100 in a Christmas fund and $100 towards my long-term savings goal.

In a perfect world...

Friday, March 12, 2010


It’s hard for me to forecast my debt payoff to see how long it will take me to repay all of my debt. First, I am on a graduated repayment schedule on most of my loans which means that I am paying interest only for 2 years before I start principal and interest payments on some of my loans. Not all of them qualified because the loan balance was too low. So, I am paying principal and interest on those loans. Second, a lot of things in my life are up in the air. Will I finally land a higher paying law position, will my current employer finally pay me market (I am grossly underpaid…more on that later), will I ever get married and share expenses? If I got married, would I sell my condo and use the equity to pay down my loans. Will I, Would I, Will I….

Assuming things pretty much stay exactly the same, with minimal salary increases and the application of my annual bonus ($7k after taxes this year), it would take me about 12 years to pay off all of my debt.

If you look at the snowball calculator below….I used the custom method to determine my order of payoff. Now that I have a short-term emergency fund, my immediate concern is the payoff of my credit card debt. The promotional rate is set to expire at the end of January 2011. All of my private student loans pretty much carry the same interest rate so I placed those in the order of principal amount due. My federal loans may have a higher interest rate right now but those rates are fixed. A few years ago, the rate on my Private Loans were over 10% variable so paying off the variable rate loans take priority.

I am not at all concerned right now about the $64,000 in federal loans that I have consolidated at 3.5%. If it took me the entire 30 years to pay that off, I wouldn’t be too upset. The rate is so low as well as the payment. Push come to shove, once the other loans are paid off, I would rather focus on my retirement savings instead of the $300 payment on the consolidated loans. That’s neither here nor there because I have so many other loans to pay off first.

With Bonus - 12 Years

Without Bonus - 19 Years

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Forecasting 2010 Progress…

One my readers Kris gave me the idea to do a little forecasting.

Here is what I think the picture will look like by year end from January to December (rounded) if all things stay the same. We'll see how I do at the end of the year.

Savings – $9,300 to $13,300 (Change of $4,000)
Student Loans – $232,300 to $229,900 (Change of $2,400)
Credit Card Debt – $23,000 to $18,600 (Change of $4,400)
Net Worth – ($157,400) to ($143,500) (Change of $13,900)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I really want to go on vacation. Two of my friends have been talking about taking a small trip to Puerto Rico in April. The thought was that we would have some extra funds from our tax returns so we could afford to go. Now we all know my financial situation. My mental situation is not so good either. I would love to get away to just escape for a few days, get my head together and disconnect from it all responsibly. I did a little research today and the cost of the trip would be about $800/person and I would need to factor in my dining and entertainment costs as well.

I have $2k in emergency savings, $10k in short-term savings, $250 in long-term savings and $500 in my checking account. The $250 came from my state tax return and change from my piggy bank that I need to deposit this weekend.

The only irregular expense that I anticipate in April is my quarterly water bill which is usually about $100. There are no birthdays in April so I don't need my budget for gifts. I am going to run the numbers and see what I can come up with because I really want to get away for a few days and have some fun.

I Played the Lottery…

Yes I did and I want to win!!!

Depending on the amount....At a minimum, I would pay off all of my debt including my mortgage, pay off my sister and my parent's non-mortgage debt since that would put them back into solvency, stay in my condo and travel for a little while. Then I think I would come back and start a small law practice of my own.

I would live modestly and I would love to have a family of my own.

I Want a New Job….

I know the job market is tight but I want a new job and I want a new job today. I am ready to leave and move on to a new experience. I’ve been with my employer since I interned in 1999 and I’ve never really worked anywhere else. I am just ready to go. I am underpaid and overworked just like everyone else…except some of my colleagues who think they are above the rules, when administrative tasks of the job are beneath them and when they make $20,000+ more than I do and do the exact same thing. It's time to go.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Parental Support…

How many of you get help from your parents?

I wish my parents had deep pockets but that’s not the case. They’re retired and living on a fixed income. I know my Mom and Dad wish they could help but I don’t think I would ever ask them for help unless it was absolutely necessary. I certainly don’t think I could do it with good conscience while still having cable and eating out. I know my Mom has offered to help now that my Dad is getting social security. She said that if it gets too tough to let them know. I just shook my head okay but I felt bad that she even had it on the brain.

So do you get parental support? How do you feel about it?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Dental Claim Processed…

I paid $149 for ½ of my dental services last week. The claim has already been processed by Aetna and I am only responsible for $16. I should receive a reimbursement check from the Dentist office for $133.

Monthly Progress Report…

Below is where I am compared to my budget. It’s close. I don’t know if I am going to make it but I am going to try really hard. The chart does not include the $149 I paid at the Dentist last week because that I reimbursable. I expect to receive a check by the end of the month.

The extra $136 in credit card payment is a holdover from when I was using my credit cards. I use one credit card where AT&T charges my phone, cell phone, cable and internet and my home security gets charged on the card as well. I pay the card off in full each month as part of my utility payment. So there is no extra balance on that card now.

I am finding that my transportation costs are a lot higher these days with gas prices, the additional networking which requires parking downtown, taxi rides, etc. My boyfriend also lives in the City so if I stay with him on any given night, I have to drive in to work the next day which means I also have to use one of my $18 parking passes. I try not to do that more than once or twice a month.

I am over on gifts as well and my best friend’s birthday is on March 25th.

Friday, March 05, 2010

$160 Friday…

Today was an expensive day.

I bought my assistant at work a $20 gift card for her birthday tomorrow and my Mother a $50 gift card for her Birthday today. Once I added birthday cards and activation fees, I walked out of Walgreens $90 lighter.

Then my Sister called on my way home to ask me to pick up the pizza since it was on the way to my parents' house. That also totaled $50. She and I are going to split the cost but it hit my checking account pretty hard.

To round off the day, I needed to stop at Walgreens this evening to pick up my prescription and a few toiletries totaling another $20.

I am going to have to tighten my purse strings for the rest of the weekend. It’s only the 5th of March and when you only get paid once a month…payday is a long way from now.

WordPress or Blogger…

Is WordPress or Blogger better and why?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Come on Weekend…

I am really looking forward to the weekend. I went to the Alicia Keys concert last night and I didn’t get to bed until almost 1 o’clock this morning. Since I had a meeting at 7:30 am, I had to get up at 5 am and drive all the way downtown to work. It usually takes about an hour to get downtown from the suburbs with morning traffic. Thankfully the expressway was pretty open but now… I am just TIRED!!!

My Mom’s 61st Birthday is tomorrow. I am going to pick her up a gift card this evening and split the cost of a new pair of walking shoes with my sister. I will probably make dinner on Saturday night and go out to a movie with my boyfriend. What to see? What to see?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

My Dentist Office Sucks...

My dentist office which is affiliated with a Major Well Renown Hospital here in Chicago and my alma mater (hint…Go Cats!!!) has a policy where you must pay up front now for services. They changed the policy about a year or so ago. I've been putting off x-rays for a year because who the hell has $500 to pay up front for the teeth cleaning, the Dr. visit and the x-rays?

So I just called the office to see if I could pay for the Dr. visit and the cleaning up front and if they could bill the insurance company for the x-rays. The woman comes back and asks if I could pay at least ½. So, I asked how much would that be today and she said something to the tune of about $300!!! Umm….NO!!!!

Let’s not even mention that I have to take a taxi from the South Loop to the North Loop just to get to the office to the tune of another $20. I love my dental hygienist which is the only redeeming quality of this office but unfortunately I will have to say farewell. Today is my last visit and now I have to find another Dentist.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Goals for March 2010…

Here are my goals for March. Wish me luck. =)

  • No new debt other than accrued interest on my loans in forbearance.
  • Spend less than my monthly income of $4,340.
  • Improve my net worth for the third straight month.
  • Workout 2-3 times per week.
  • Blog 4-5 times per week.

Moved My Savings…

I am boycotting Chase after they closed my checking account last week due to inactivity. BOO!!!

I moved my $2,000 local savings account to Bank of America. Once I finally pay off my Chase credit card, I will probably just simplify things and stick to using Bank of America. Besides, I like their online banking and their mobile banking applications.

See ya Chase!!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

February 2010 Recap…

The word for the month is "Overspent". I did not do well with my spending.

Thanks to my State and Federal tax return, I was able to post an improvement in my net worth from ($157,379) to ($153,834). I cannot wait to get below the ($150,000) mark.

Here is my Budget vs. Actual expenses for February (rounded):

  1. I ran out of garage parking passes so I had to pay $188 for 10 passes this month. I usually have to do this every quarter for occasions where I have to work late or stay after work for an event. On those days which is usually 4 times per month, I drive in to work instead of take public transportation.
  2. I spent entirely too much on Food & Dining. My new goal is $50/week and I am going to try to bring my lunch 2-3 times a week. Wish me luck!!!
  3. Grocery/Household includes the new garbage disposal for $120.
  4. Other miscellaneous expenses primarily include the following:

    $150 - Tax preparation fee
    $50 – Charitable donation to the Special Olympics (tax deductible)
    $47 – Medical bill from December physical therapy
    $42 – Fundraising projects including a basket for the homeless shelter
    $24 – Auto repair/maintenance

My credit report for February is clean. My scores have always been in the 700’s and considered A credit. This new VantageScore credit scoring is blowing my mind. I went from A credit to C credit. Below is the reasoning behind my scores:

  1. Your average credit amount on open real estate accounts is too low. – Chitown is not getting any additional mortgage debt so they can forget about this one.
  2. The available credit on your open revolving credit accounts is too low. – They can forget about this one too because I am not going to incur any additional debt. All of my revolving credit card debt is on one card.
  3. The amount paid on your open real estate accounts is too low. – Once again, forget about it. =)
  4. The sum of your bank credit card account balances is too high. – They got me here. The credit limit on my Chase card is $24,800 and my current balance is $22,200. I am 90% to max and I need to get this under 30%. I am working on it!!!