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Load up the Pantry!

April 25th, 2008 at 03:33 pm

From the Wall Street Journal:

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

Read the full article
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Sidestream Income

March 10th, 2008 at 06:00 pm

Sidestream Income:
$1549.93 old total
$40.00 babysitting
TOTAL: $1589.93

Another $40 from babysitting on Friday night. I'm house/pet sitting this week, so I'll have another large addition to add by the beginning of next week.

Other than that, nothing new on he money side to report!

Free $100!

February 28th, 2008 at 03:56 am

Did you get your

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free Suze Orman book on Valentine's Day?

If not, there's another chance for a freebie advertised on page 85 of the book:

Get started on Suzeís Save Yourself Plan by opening a new account with TD AMERITRADE, featuring a special high-yield deposit account with a 2.78% Annual Percentage Yield (as of February 1, 2008). Your cash is held in an FDIC-insured Money Market Deposit Account (MMDA) at TD Bank USA, N.A.

There are no maintenance fees on the account, plus you receive the $100 offer for making 12 monthly automatic deposits of at least $50 each to help you build up your account balance. [Ö] Should you need to withdraw the money prior to the twelve-month commitment, you may withdraw all of your deposits, plus the interest earned. However, you will forfeit the $100 bonus.

I'm game! AMERITRADE's money-market interest rate isn't as good as others, but the $100 bonus makes up for it.

For more info, see
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A Message from Suze and
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Jonathan from MyMoneyBlog's post on this offer.

Frugal Valentine's Day

February 10th, 2008 at 03:30 pm

Even though we're currently living in different cities, I am going to be able to spend Valentine's Day with Mr. Bean this year. That's a special treat itself since Valentine's Day is on a Thursday and I usually can only visit on weekends.

Our Valentine's Day plans are pretty much the same as they are every year: a special home cooked meal and night in. We're both happy with this arrangement. We do have tickets to a performance on Friday night, so that's another something special to look forward to. I blogged about our

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Valentine's Day last year- it was fabulous, but again, it was the time together rather than any fancy event that made it so much fun.

Read Meredith from
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Like Merchant Ships post and comments on
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St. Valentine's Day Without Spending post for more ideas. I particularly liked the one idea in the comments to secretly spruce the guest room as a romantic Valentine's Day suite! What a fantastic idea! We don't have any spare rooms, but if someday we do, I'll definitely keep that idea in mind!

It's my lucky day!

January 24th, 2008 at 03:50 am

I have a CD at Emigrant Direct maturing in early February. I planned to re-invest the money in a CD, but was worried that interest rates would drop again after the Fed meeting next week (note: this thought process was BEFORE Monday's emergency meeting and rate drop).

So, over the weekend I filled out the necessary forms online to open a new CD at Emigrant Direct with money from my Savings account close in value to the CD that will mature in February. I figured once the CD matures, I'd cash it out to replete my savings account. Over the weekend, Emigrant's CD rate was 4.55% APY.

My confirmation said the transaction would b e complete on 1/23. When I checked out Emigrant web page today (1/23), I saw they had dropped their CD rates to 3.5% APY. I fully expected this was the rate I would receive, but to my pleasure, I still got the 4.55% APY.

Yea! Every little bit helps!

Side Stream Income

January 9th, 2008 at 05:34 pm

Iíve decided not to participate in the Challenge for 2008. I really like the idea of using the Challenge for finding new income streams, and frankly, I donít think I can come up with anything new after the last yearís romp! Plus, what I did last year (selling things, babysitting and housesittng) is still working for me, so Iíll continue to use my time and energy to pursue these endeavors. Hey, if it ainít brokeÖ..

Although Iím not going to participate in the Challenge, Iím going to continue to track my side streams of income here. Itís fun for me, and from what Iíve read in the comments, itís motivating to some readers.

So with that said, Iíve made some babysitting money and cash in the New Year. The babysitting jobs were both found in response to ad I posted on Craigís List for babysitting available on New Yearís Eve. Although no one took me up on NYE, people did you the ad to inquire about my availability on other dates. I babysat for 3 hours on New Yearís Day for one family, and for 3 dates for a total of 8 hours for another family. I also sold one of the

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textbooks I got for free on

Sidestream Income:
$110 babysitting
$51.93 profit*
TOTAL: $161.93

*sales fees, shipping and mailing supplies deducted

Over the weekend I hope to be able to reflect and post on the 2007 Challenge.

Thifty Idea: Place Card Holders

November 21st, 2007 at 03:51 am

I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year. My menu is set, but I haven't had as much time to plan the place setting and table decorations as I'd like. I did have a moment of inspiration this evening while I was eating dinner this evening I glanced up to the shelf and saw a bunch of wine corks:

These name cards were simple to make. I printed our names on piece of ivory paper, sliced into the cork and threaded through a leaf. To add a little splash of color, I tied a burgundy piece of ribbon (originally intended for Christmas packages). If time allows, I'll look for more vibrant colored leaves outside tomorrow.

A Few Minutes Surfed is a Few Dollars Saved

November 20th, 2007 at 04:52 pm

I've probably saved $100 over the course of the year with online coupons for local retail establishments and service providers like dry cleaning and auto repair.

A perfect example of this comes from an auto service center in my neighborhood. Their web page offers numerous 'Internet Special Coupons" for $4 off oil change, $10 off inspection, etc.

So, before your next purchase, check out the web page of your vendor. You might be surprised!

How I increased my net worth by 12K when I make only 21K

November 17th, 2007 at 04:15 pm

November 11 was my 1-year anniversary of writing a blog at Savings Advice. The date snuck up on me, so I decided to take a peak back in Quicken to see how my financial state had changed since joining this community.

Wait, is that for real?

Youíd think that because I keep track of things in Quicken I would be watching my progress over the past year- but I wasnít. I diligently added in everything spent and everything earned, but I wasnít watching the change in net worth. In part this was due to opening a Roth and high yield CDs causing the money to be spread across a number of accounts. Plus, my old (2004) version of Quicken no longer supports automatic downloads so I it had been some time since my ROTH and 401(k) were updated.

Drumroll, please: From 11/11/06 to 11/11/07 I increased my net worth by $12,346.85.

My take home pay from the University during this period was $20,760.19 (this includes by stipend plus the additional pay I received for teaching courses in the summer). Like most people, I pay rent, utilities, and a small car payment. When I started on this adventure, I never would have guessed I could increase my net worth by so much in a year. My objective was truly just to try to spend less and save some money.

So, how did I do it? Hereís my retrospective analysis:

1.) I looked for additional income streams (+ $3675.77)

For those of you that have been following my Challenge, youíll notice that Iíve earned just shy of $2700 in the challenge. My Challenge includes only new income streams since 1/1/07, but I have other income streams that were not new in the New Year that you'll see represented here. The bulk of the non-Challenge income came from my personal chef gig where I delivered homemade meals to a professional couple. That job ended in Spring when they had a baby and the woman stayed at home.

Personal Chef: $950.00
Ride Share: $90.00
Babysitting: $1731.00
eBay sales: $507.91
Half .com sales: $294.91
Garage Sale / Classified sales: $262.00
MINUS -160.05 for eBay fees and shipping for eBay and

Looking back at this makes me realize how lucrative the personal chef gig was. On the flip side, I feel like I baby sit all the time and the amount is still relatively small. Cooking was exhausting, babysitting is generally pretty relaxing and fun. I plan to keep on doing it. I was also able to earn a respectable amount by selling stuff I didn't use and didn't value through eBay, and a garage sale. When I move in 6 months, I'm sure I will appreciate the head start on de-cluttering.

2.) I re-balanced my 401(k) (+ $1,148.00)

I had a 401(K) from a job I worked at between 2000-2002. Shortly after leaving that employer, the employer switched wealth management companies. They moved all my investments into a money market account and told me I needed to re-balance. I did nothing for three years. This is something I kick myself for now. Anyway, around December of this year I re-balanced have seen $1,148 in growth. This was probably the single easiest thing I did that helped increase my net worth over the past year.

3.) I opened high yield savings accounts and CDs. ($495.82)

One of the first pieces of advice I acted on from the Savings Advice community was to open high yield savings account. In late November of last year, I opened accounts at both ING and Emigrant Direct. Although ING doesnít have the highest interest rate out there, its rates are competitive and the $25 new account bonus plus $10 referral bonus for new accounts more than made up the differential for me. In the past year, Iíve earned $360.82 in interest in all my accounts, $110 in referral bonuses at ING Direct, and $25 for a new account bonus. In other words, I earned $500 just for letting the right banks hold my money.

When I think back to my financial life prior to November 2006, I feel frustrated with myself for letting my money sitting in a checking account earning squat in interest. If youíre reading this and donít have a high interest checking, get one today! If you leave me your email, Iíll email you an ING referral and weíll both benefit: youíll get $25 if you open an account with $250 and Iíll get another $10 referral bonus.

After I opened my high yield checking accounts, I diligently transferred any odd job money I earned immediately from my checking account to my high yield account so I could earn as much interest as possible. As my savings accounts grew, I started moving the money into CDs. Currently, I have savings account at ING and Emigrant Direct (at 4.2% and 4.75% APR, respectively) and CDs at Emigrant Direct at 5.2% and 5.1% APR)

4.) I started a ROTH IRA (+$306.87)
In January 2007, I moved money from my high yield savings account to open and max out a Roth contribution for tax year 2006. I also started regularly contributing to a Roth for 2007. By July 2007, I had the 2007 Roth maxed out. I achieved this by contributing $150 monthly plus the income I earned over the University for teaching summer school. My Roth is currently in the Vanguard 2045 Target Retirement fund. Itís a topsy turvey market lately, but as of 11/11/07, I had earned 306.07 on my $8000 contribution.

5.) I embraced frugality and tracked my spending.
How many times have you been at the grocery store and looked at receipt afterward and thought, ĎHow did all those $1-$2 items add up to so much?Ē

I canít quantify how much I saved through watching the small purchases, but the little things do add up. Furthermore, if your income isnít very high to begin with, (like mine), the total percent of those little things can easily become overwhelming. By using Quicken, I was able to watch my monthly expenses and make sure a few dollars here and there wasnít usurping by paycheck. In addition, as I become more involved with my money, I found myself far less tempted by impulse purchases. I did a lot of

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couponing, and
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shopping for bargains while trying to resist the urge for a bargain if it wasnít really needed..

In sum, I feel happier and more empowered. Prior to joining Savings Advice I felt nervous anytime I saw an article in the newspaper about money and personal finance. Now, I know where I stand. I have more work to do before I can achieve some of my financial dreams like buying a house, but I do know I can have a rich life without a lot of money. This gives me freedom and confidence

Hi ho, Hi Ho, it's off to School I Go!

October 31st, 2007 at 02:52 am

I'm still here-- I just haven't had anything to add to the Challenge nor have I had anything interesting to post! I did have an interview for a post doc Fellowship-- it went well and I'm hopeful although I won't know the outcome for a few more weeks.

The other morning I was marveling at how over stuffed my backpack seemed! For better or worse, most of the contents were related to my lunch! They included: A thermos full of coffee (why spend time and money running to a coffee shop?), a 32-oz Nalgene filled with water filtered through my home PUR filter (the campus water is off-colored but I can't stand to buy botttled water, especially at the campus vending machine prices), and my sack lunch (comprised of dinner leftovers and fresh fruit). When I plopped all these items on the bathroom scale they weighed 9 lbs! Good thing I have a sturdy backpack and a strong back!

DC Do's and Don'ts

October 15th, 2007 at 02:21 am

Lots of traveling, not much time for posting.

I was recently in DC, so I'll list some frugal DC do's and dont's:

If you need to get into the District from Dulles airport, do check out the schedule for the

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Washington Metro 5A bus line. Getting to and from Dulles via public transportation used to be nearly impossible, but now for $3 each way you can ride the Express 5A bus to either Rosslyn or L'Enfant Plaza and take Metro to your final destination. If the 5A bus doesn't meet your needs, check out the
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Washington Flyer bus service and pay $9 for a one-way ($16 RT) ride to West Falls Church Metro.
Don't pay $50+ for a cab!

My second Don't isn't exclusive to DC, but don't go to
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Maggie Moo's if either your wallet or your waistline is a concern to you! I was in the mood for a little treat, so I strolled in 'ol Maggie's and ordered a small cup of ice cream. The price was $5.33 and the potion was much too large. A smaller portion for a smaller price would have made me much happier. Furthermore, the ice cream was decent, but nothing to moo home about.