Goals, Goals, Goals!

I love goals. I also love Bruno Mars. Did anyone see his fabulous Halftime show yesterday? Mmm!

But back to the goals. For me to accomplish something big, I need a specific goal so that I can shape a plan to ensure that I do what needs to be done to reach said goal. I’ve been putting off posting my 2014 goals here for no big reason (at first it was to avoid the myriad of New Year’s Resolutions posts, after that I’ve just been pushing it back). So it happens today!

Personal

1. Run my very first marathon. I signed up for one last year but jumped into training too quickly, hurt my knee and couldn’t get over the injury. I did PT and am fine now, but I still really want to run a marathon (just one, I actually really dislike running).
2. Knit a pair of socks. I’ve been knitting since the 11th grade but have stuck mainly to scarves. I’ve tried socks several time previously but have not been able to master them. This year!
3. Be intentional (family, friends and work).
4. Complete 2 Whole30s.
5. Read 15 books.

Financial

1. Average $3,700 a month in student loan payments.
2. Put $250 a month in savings.
3. Set up and make $500 from my Etsy shop.

Blog:

1. Reach 100,000 Alexa World Ranking.
2. Reach 1,500 unique visitors monthly.

Anddd brand new to the blog this month: Monthly Goals. To get to the big goal, you’ve got to have a solid action plan!

Personal:

1. Increase running to run a 5k comfortably.
2. 26 days of VERY clean eating (I typically eat Paleo but have been slacking a little bit lately and have been feeling lousy because of it).
3. Go to CrossFit 2x a week.
4. Sell at least one item on Etsy.

Financial:

1. Pay $3,500 to student loans.
2. Save $100 for best friend’s destination wedding.
3. Save $50 for upcoming Mexico City trip (post on this to come).

Blog:

1. Reach 500,000 in Alexa World Ranking.
2. Reach 500 unique visitors monthly.
3. Feature 2 guest posts. If you’re interested, please email me!

Glad to have these typed up and out there for the world to help keep me accountable. Please feel free to hold me to these goals throughout as we progress through the year.

Lastly, to help you start your Tuesday off right, please enjoy the following. It is 150% worth a minute of your time. Really, really worth your time

What are your February goals?

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The Tejana Diaries – Part 1

Okay readers, I have been in this new mindset of living paycheck to paycheck for almost two weeks now and I have realized something that makes me a little disappointed in myself: I can’t curb my spending!

Not yet anyway.

In the past two weeks, I’ve made $506.13 in side hustle between tip money and the paycheck I get at the restaurant. This is a pretty sizable amount and over half of what I “need” to live paycheck to paycheck so that I can put my entire take home teaching salary to my loans. I must admit though, it’s been tougher than I thought it would be. Since starting my professional career and earning a salary, I’m so used to spending money pretty much whenever I feel like it (within reason) without worry that I won’t have enough because, of course there will be enough, why wouldn’t there be? Previously, I was putting the bulk of my salary and all side hustle money to loans, but was spending a little extra on fun money (eating out, going out with friends, etc).

With living paycheck to paycheck, it’s been harder to justify spending money, but I’ve still spent some. I’ve been keeping the cash so that I physically see the money I have to work with (so I’ll be inclined to hold on to it longer) and so that that my checking account stays low so I won’t use it on a splurge.

Even with with all the psychology going into how I “see” my money, I still managed to spend $46.41 on eating out these past two weeks. That’s crazy. $11 of that was spent with a friend who is moving out of town, so I don’t mind that at all, but the other $35.41? I’ve allocated $50 to “Misc” expenses in my budget, but still, this money could have gone to much better use.

As for other expenses, here is the two week break down:

Line Item Spent Left to Go Notes
Savings 100 250 This “Left to Go” is money to be deposited. This will happen in the next two weeks.
TollTag 0 40 My account was charged last month, which should last me for the next two months.
Gas 80 80 With my commute, this $80 will definitely be spent.
Groceries 37.35 62.65 I’ve really worked hard to stretch my money at the grocery store these past two weeks and it has worked!
CrossFit 72.25 0 This is an automatic draft each month
Arbonne 98.70 1.30 Yay rollover to next month!
Misc. 133.41 (83.41) $80 was spent on a BHB class which was paid for with “extra” money I already had in checking. So technically, this is really only $3.41 over.

Knowing how to save money and get out of debt and doing it are two different things. I know I’m on the right track, but to make this work I need to really keep my eye on the end goal.

To help make this happen, I’m going to try setting up weekly goals. For the week of February 2-February 8, my goals are:

  1. Spend ZERO dollars on eating out
  2. Put $100 in savings (then I’ll only have $50 more to go)
  3. Make a plan to maximize my credit card points to earn travel credit for the trips I’ll be taking this year (more to come on this)

Darn straight.

Let’s see how this goes!

Dealing with Unexpected Expenses

Fridays are pretty long days. I’m at school from about 8:30-4:10, then drive straight to work a dinner theater shift at the restaurant and am there until about 10:30pm. This past Friday, I ended up spending some time with a very dear friend (and spent $11, whoops) who is moving to Louisiana next week, so I didn’t get home until about 1am. No complaints, just a long day.

I walk into my bedroom to find my mail on my bed with a little post it note from my Dad attached. I turned on my bedroom light and picked up the note which read “please pay this soon, it’s in my name”.

Oh boy.

I proceeded to open the envelope and it was a $75 charge for running a red light. Dang it red light camera! 

Life’s unexpected expenses like this one seem to always get us at the wrong time, too. Now that I am an adult and am working toward financial freedom, I need to have solid back up plans for little “oops” moments like this one and for serious emergencies. As of this year, here are the two ways that I currently deal with unexpected expenses.

Side Hustle Money

In the case of the red light ticket, it’s not that I don’t have the $75, but it is definitely an expense that puts a wrench in my financial plans. I would much prefer to put that $75 towards a loan or to my wedding travel savings account (for all those destination weddings this year). However, I don’t like straying off budget too much, so instead of taking this out of money I attribute to gas, groceries, crossfit, etc, it means that I need to make an extra $75 this  month to cover it. If we’re going to be really realistic here, this means that I’ll need to pick up two expo shifts (running food to tables, not actually waiting tables) at the restaurant  or get this tutoring gig really up and running and complete 4 hours of tutoring sessions. Or, I could just win the lottery and pay off the red light ticket and all my student loans (just kidding, who wastes money on that?).

Thankfully, it’s a small enough amount that even though it will be more work, I will be able to cover the expense. At this point in my life, if the emergency or the “oops” is reasonable enough, I’ll just work harder to make the money to cover it instead of spending money from any budget category to cover it. That way, I’m not “out” any money, just time.

The Emergency Fund

This past summer I had to get my brakes replaced and buy new tires within about two weeks of each other. Then a week later, the AC in my car went out. I was willing to endure the 100+ degree weather for a 45 minute commute to work, but it was not so easy. The AC broke in such a way that pieces of metal were actually getting into the engine and if left alone, it would do some serious damage to the car. When it was all said and done the tires, brakes and AC cost just over $2,000. In that particular month, I had already spent my salary on loan payments and there was no way I could have waited enough tables to come up with the  money in time, so I had to use about $500 from my checking and $1,500 from savings. Not fun.

How I felt when the dealership told me how much it would cost to fix my car.

Let me add in here that my emergency fund is by no means large. I am following Dave Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps” and have not yet  made it to the “Save 3-6 months expenses”. After this month, my current savings will be $2,750. This would cover all my minimum loan payments for three months, but leave very little for gas, groceries and everything else. It’s a work in progress. If this is where you are at too, don’t fret too much, as long as you have a plan and are working towards that goal. I put $250 a month towards savings and at the end of the year, that will be an additional $2,750. It’s nothing fancy, but it works for me.

How do you cover life’s unexpected expenses?

2014: The Year of the Weddings.

Recently, I watched the movie Love Actually. It’s this great Christmas movie that I try to watch it every year. In the beginning of the movie, Hugh Grant’s character narrates as families and loved ones embrace at the airport. Yes, we are about to get super cheesy for a second, but Grant’s character says: “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

Well dear readers, in my friend circle, love is really every where this year. After getting another Save the Date yesterday, I will now be attending a grand total of six weddings this year. Yes, six weddings. I will be in three of those weddings and two of those three are destination weddings. Oh. boy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings. It is so special to watch to friends exchange vows (not to mention the reception is a blast, too), but after the whole kit-n-caboodle, weddings are expensive.

I’m not talking just for the bride and groom, but for the guests, too. Market Watch recently stated that the average american will spend $539 in attending one wedding this year.  I’m not sure about you, but that is a TON of money. Reading these stats and getting the initial totals for the destination wedding scared me a bit, so I decided it be best to get a rough budget outlined now so that I can plan ahead, instead of waiting to add up my receipts after the fact.

Without further adieu, here is a preliminary budget for each wedding and travel expense.

January– N’s wedding. It’s local and I’ll be carpooling with another friend. Estimated total for gift and gas: $50.

April– B’s wedding. It’s 2.5 hours away and I’ll be carpooling.  We’ll crash with friends for the night. Estimated total for gift and gas: $100.

April– S’s wedding. It’s local and I’m going with my family (she is a family friend). Estimated total for gift and gas: $0 (gracias to my parents).

July– M’s wedding. The location has not been set but it will be a destination wedding. So far she’s mentioned France,  Spain or New York. Estimated total for attending: $2,000 (I’m guessing high so I can budget accordingly. This will include, flight, lodging, dress, etc).

August– B’s wedding. Location: The Dominican Republic. She’ll be using a travel agent so the package is all inclusive and I’ll be able to make payments on the price.  Estimated price: $1,500-$2,000.

September– C’s wedding. It will be local. Estimated cost for dress, bachelorette party, bridal shower and gift: $400.

Added up, the initial budget for attending six weddings this year will be around $4,050-4,550. Yikes. I’m wondering if the best way to go about saving for this is taking $20 out of each shift of tip money to put in a “wedding savings account” (Is it sad I’ll have a wedding savings account when it’s not even my own wedding? ). Even then, after working 25 shifts, I’ll only have $500 which is just a fraction of the amount. The rest will have to come out of my teaching salary, which will cut down on my loan payments. I’ll still be able to make all the minimums, but I’m a little bummed knowing the my debt repayment will be a little light after having paid so much these last few months. I guess, asi es la vida.

Have you ever attended so many weddings in one year? What was your strategy for saving money while still going and supporting the couple?

Do these shoes match my free table and blog ignorance?

Alright folks, I come to you today with two exciting pieces of news and something to admit.

The school that I teach at has something that we call “Ryan Ebay”. Ryan Ebay works like this: when one teacher (or teacher’s family member) has something to sell or get rid of, said staff member will send an all-staff email with the item, price and pictures. As I was lesson planning on Friday, I just happened to check my work email and see that one teacher’s daughter was getting rid of her dining room table and wanted to give it away for FREE. That’s right dear readers, for the price of absolutely ZERO! Over the course of living with roommates in college and graduate school, I have managed to pay $0 to furnish my room and house. Thankfully, my mother has fabulous friends who would always save me their old furniture and then donate it to me whenever they decided to get rid of it. To fill my kitchen, my Mom saved “stamps” from incentive programs from the local grocery store over several years time to redeem and give me a full set up dishes and pots and pans.

So, I opened the attached picture and saw that this was a really, really nice table. I immediately emailed her back and asked if I could have it. Luckily it was still available and today a friend and I picked it up. In the picture it looks nice, but in person, it is gorgeous (plus being FREE only adds to its beauty)!

The new table at its old home.

There is just one thing: I live with my parents. Right now, anything I need is in my bedroom (mattress, dresser, desk, bookshelf, etc) and the rest of the items (kitchen stuff, vacuum, etc) are taking up space in my parent’s garage. When I moved back in, I did sell my couch and love seat, but decided to save the rest. My parents are more than fine with storing my stuff in the garage (they love the fact that I live with them), but I do feel slightly guilty for holding on to it when I know I will probably be living her for at least one more year while I pay off my loans. My reasoning behind it is that 1) it was all free. I didn’t have to pay anything to get the furniture and kitchen items, so I don’t feel like I need to “make money” off of them by selling them; and 2) I’d rather hold on to it all and not worry about having to find free furniture or pay for furniture when I move out. Call me a hoarder, but I really do feel like it will be cheaper in the long run to hold on to it all now (please feel free to comment below if you disagree, I’d love to get some different opinions on this).  But as of now, the table is sitting on top of a patio table (that was also free) waiting to for its new home.

Along with the fun new table, a gift card from my Aunt and a free Amazon Prime trial membership afforded me to get a new pair of work out shoes for only $60. I’ve been holding off for about a year and a half on buying new work out shoes. My previous pair is three years old and has zero support left to them, but a new pair of the same model (or for that matter, anything similar) was around $100, an amount I really just couldn’t justify spending.

For Christmas my Aunt gave me an Amazon gift card. After looking on Amazon, I found a pair similar to the ones I have now for $80, only $50 with my gift card, a much more reasonable amount. With tax and shipping, the total price would have gone back up to $80, but Amazon does one month free trials of Prime, in which you receive free two-day shipping. So, I signed up for the trial membership and only had to pay $66.31. I’ll take it!

New kicks!

New kicks!

Lastly dear readers, I need to admit one big thing. I started this blog about two months ago with the purpose of helping to keep me accountable to decreasing my spending and increasing my revenue. I have to say, it has worked. Since starting the blog,   the idea of “oh, I’ll have to write about this” or “I’d be embarrassed to say I wasted my money on X” run through my mind when making purchases or paying on my loans and help to keep me a bit more accountable to my end missing of killing $80k of student loan debt.

With that dear readers, I need to tell you that I really have no idea what I’m doing here. I hope that this is serving as a source of encouragement for people who are in similar situations. The Personal Finance blog community has been so supportive and the emails and comments are so very appreciated. If there is something that you would like to see me post about here or have any kind of suggestions (about the blog or debt repayment wise), I would love to hear them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! Any suggestions for my blog? What are you thoughts on holding on to all my furniture? I’d love to hear, post below!

Abrazos,

La Tejana