1 Million Dollars

Friday, August 26, 2011

What Benefits Do You Have?

Often people have benefits that come with their jobs that they do not take advantage of, most commonly is 401k matching but there are many others. For example many employers now have contracts with cell phone companies to give their workers discounts on personal cell line. My husband now have 19% off his main cell phone line. That saved us quite a bit of money over the year. Students can sometime take advantage of these as well. Anyone with a buffalo.edu email is allowed to get the discount of cell service. But these discounts and benefits often do not get advertized, so how do you find them?

Human Resources or their website can be the most helpful but so can coworkers or classmates. For example at our university there is a gym open to both staff and students that is paid by student fees. Since we already pay for it, why should I pay for a gym outside the school? It may not be perfect but it has most of what I want so why pay more for another gym?

Employers also often have FSA (flexible spending accounts) for daycare and/or copays. You can put up to $5000 per year tax free, but be careful if you do not use it up, you loose it. For someone with a medical condition or someone who is on medication FSAs can save you a large amount of money because no only do you save on taxes, you don't have to pay FICA. Keep in mind, you cannot buy over the counter medicines using FSA money unless you have a prescription. A way to get around this, is to ask your doctor for a prescription for the over the counter items, most will give them to you.

There are so many benefits you can get from an employer or a school, if you know where to look and you actually look for them. What deals do you get from your employer, school or other organization?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I HATE Checks

This is silly but I am very spoiled with technology. I normally pay by credit card and pay those by ACH transfer so I am used to once I pay, the money comes out and I don't have to think about it again. So when I pay by check and the person does not deposit it for a while and I have to keep remembering that $X amount of money is not really there, it annoys me.

I know it is silly and really not a big complaint but still, I can't stop it from annoying me. Technology has affected how our generation does things and how we expect things to be done. My grandmother balanced her checkbook monthly and paid most things by check or cash, now I use a check on average every three month. I check my balances online and pay by credit card or ACH. I have never used a full checkbook up, in my life. I wonder how much more technology will change personal finance over our lifetimes?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

School is Starting!

What does this mean? It means getting all you need for classes and if you are moving (into dorms or an apartment), buying stuff for your new home. How can you do both of these cheap?

Well it starts of simple, make list. Make two lists if you are moving. Write down everything you need, or think you will need. Then go through the house and see what you can find on your list or will work as well. If you are moving into a dorm or apartment check craigslist, though make sure you know what the allowed items are in the dorms. For example most dorms do not allow pocket knives or candles. Don't waste your time or money by bring things you can't keep.

One thing I would recommend, if you have a lap top is a lap top lock. Lap tops are one of the most stolen pieces of property at a university. Lock it when ever you are away from it, even in your own dorm (others do have the key).

Once you have your list and have seen what you have, start pulling up the websites for staples, office depot and office max (depending on what is in your area), then pull up iheartcvs.com and iheartwags.com. Check the sales and match up what you have on your list with the sales. In a few weeks you will have most of what you need for cheap, at least for school supplies.
If you are moving, make sure to go on bedbathandbeyond.com and sign up for their 20% off coupons, then check out kohls.com and use their sales to buy most of what you need. If you cannot find a good deal at kohls, then use the 20% you will get for signing up to buy a few things from bed bath and beyond. It may take you a few weeks but by the time school is in full swing you should be fine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Say Goodbye to Subsidized Student Loans for Grad Students

The federal government is cutting their expenses and one of the things that is being cut, is subsidized student loans for graduate students. Unsubsidized student loans will still be around (unless they get cut too), as will subsidized student loans for undergraduates (again, unless they get cut).

This is going to have a major affect on many graduate students and is to have to going to change how people decide about graduate school. I am not sure if this means all $20,500 of available money will be unsubsidized or if now graduate student will only have access to $12,000 for the year. My husband and I are discussing taking out the full subsidized amount this year just in case but we already have pulled out one full year last year ($8500) and therefore may just use that. If we do not pull more out, we will have to not save for retirement. I do not like that choice but what can I do?

Hopefully, there will be a solution found where the government will again allow subsidized student loans for graduate students but I do not expect it to be any time soon. Does anyone disagree?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Sometimes students bring their car to school or if they are living at home use it to get to school. Most students, rightly, get a beater but some prefer to get a loan to get a car they like. Normally that is a very bad idea. Often students are living on a part-time job, student loans and/or scholarships. Adding another debt on top can send you over the edge. I'm twenty-six and my husband is twenty-nine and neither of us have had new cars and that has helped us financially.

This does mean we need to be careful when we get our cars and we need to have a repair fund. We put away about a $100 in a car fund every month, we have never used it all and we save the rest for large repairs/maintenance and our next car. I was lucky, my mom bought my first car from a friend of hers and my aunt let me inherit my current grandmother died and we were moving to buffalo. Both were extremely well taken care of and allowed me not to spend a lot of money on repairs/maintenance. My husband was not as lucky and went through quite a few cars and had to do quite bit of repairs over the years. Thankfully, his father taught him quite a bit about cars and he has done some of the work and that has kept his costs down.

When we moved to Buffalo we decided to just take one car. In San Jose our university gave us free bus passes and therefore I only drove to work and for going out. My husband and I did the math and we would have to rent a car for over thirty days to equal keeping a beater around. We decided it was not worth it, and over the last two years we have only needed to rented a car at home twice.

It is best to decide what works for you, renting a car, using zip car or owning a car. Nothing works best for everyone and you need to decide in your individual case. What works best will change over time so you have to always be thinking about your situation. At some point my husband and I may need a second car, or we will have enough extra money to buy a motorcycle and live in a place where they are practical, but that is not our current situation. My husband had to sell his bike to help him get out of debt and he did not like it but he did what he had to do, as we all need to do.

What choices have you made for good or bad? What has worked and not worked for you for transportation? Why did it work or not? What made you change your current situation?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saving Money on Food

I've worked hard on keeping our expenses down this year. We have so many places where we could be spending money it is sometimes hard to juggle. Our weakest point in our budget is our grocery spending and our spending for eating out. Over this last year my husband and I have worked hard on getting both under control and I think we have done pretty well.

We use our crockpot often to avoid the want to go out eat, because we "don't have anything to eat", we also keep a frozen pizza in the freezer for an easy night. My husband and I switch off cooking and that helps a lot. When we do go out we use often groupon or living social to find a good deal. We do have favorite restaurants that we do pay full price but it is rare. Honestly, the hardest part about not eating out was getting used to it. Now, I rarely really want to go out but it took over six months to get over the want to go out every week.

Grocery shopping and staying under budget took some time too. At first we were staying under budget but running out of food by the end of the week and not eating well. We started eating better and started spending more but we could not afford it in the long term. We found a great store for cheap meat, started finding the stores with the cheapest prices and the store that was best for cherry picking. Cherry picking means that most items were more expensive at this store but certain deal would be very cheap and worth it to stop by. We started using coupon match up blogs and planning our meals around what we had in the freezer, cabinets and what was on sale. We also planted a small garden, we are in our second year of it. Over time we got our spending down about $20 and we are eating extremely well. It does take some planning and some time but it is so worth it to me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Our credit union just lowered their APR for mortgages to 4.261% and our current APR is 4.75%. I would love to refinance and lower our payments by $20/month but the closing costs are huge. They expect $1,450 for the origination charge and even though I know we paid that to close it bugs me when many companies are giving out lender comps. The other thing that bothers me, is the title search, they want $1,185 for a service they did less than two years ago. I have heard that some companies will do a mini-search and charge less if they have previously done the search. I am going to ask about that. I understand the appraisal fee and the taxes, though, even if they cost about $1000. My credit union has no control over those so I am not going to bother complaining about it.

At this point, as much as I would like to refinance the closing costs are too high even with the great rate.
If anyone has a bank they know with a rate close to this one, with better closing costs let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Update on grocery savings plan July

I've reposting this post, it got deleted accidentally. I missed posting this at the beginning of last month (July). I spent $148.20 for the month of June which averaged out to $37.05 per week. That was an amazingly low amount and I'm still not sure how I achieved it. I bought using sales and coupon and ate out our garden but still, it is much lower than I expected. I still ate well, with vegetables and whole grains and even had some treats. I am very happy with this month. This has helped get my grocery spending down to under $50/week as an average over the last 30 weeks.

Let us so how low we can go together. Anyone else have great ideas on keeping grocery expenses low while still eating well?

Great Deal With Swagbucks

If you do not belong to swagbucks, now is the time to join! Swagbucks is a search engine that uses ask.com, and google to search and randomly, as you search, you get swagbucks. Swagbucks can be turned in for gift cards, the most popular being $5 Amazon gift card for 450 swagbucks. I normally get about $50-$70/year for doing nothing but normal searching. You can get more by doing their surveys or answering the daily poll. You get an extra swagbuck daily for keeping their toolbar on your web browser.

But why is now a great time to join? Swagbucks is offering a bonus 50 swagbucks from now thru Friday August 12th at 8:59pm pst when you use the promo code: AUGUSTBONUS. http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/Gin1984 Just clink the link and add the promo code and you will sign up with 80 swagbucks (50 from the promo and 30 for signing up through my link). You will be almost 20% of the way to a free gift card.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Update on grocery savings plan August

This update is sad. Last month I was so good, I actually got my spending below $50/week for the year and this month I spent $292.35 which added up to $58.47/week. That sadly has brought me back over my goal of $50 per week, up to $51.06/week for the 35 weeks we have so far this year. I only have 17 weeks left in this year and it would take me spending less than $47.82/week to get back under my goal. I'm not sure if I will be able to do this, honestly.

I guess I am going to have to continue to try and find out where I will be by the end of the year. If I average $50/week for the next 17 weeks I will be $36.95 over budget.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

7 Links project

I was tagged by both Sandy from First Gen American and SB at One Cent at a Time to participate in a meme called My 7 Links Project. According to Young and Thrifty, “this project got started by Katie from Trip Base. The purpose of it is to get the blogger to reflect upon some posts (aka dig up posts from the past) so they can see the light of day again. Then the blogger is to nominate 5 other bloggers to participate." I was surprised that I got nominated, especially twice over, but here it goes....

Your Most Beautiful Post
I do not see any of my posts as beautiful. They are all financial and facts. This post had made me think about writing more emotional posts, I mean this is personal finance.

Your Most Controversial Post
Sadly, I also do not have a controversial post. I kinda wonder what I'd have to write about to get everyone up in arms. I'm silly like that, I like causing reactions.

The Most Popular Post
By the numbers my most popular post was The Million Dollar Club http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2010/09/million-dollar-club.html but that is mostly because it is linked to J. Money's site. However, if you take in to account responses and people just coming on to read the post, because they liked it it would have to be Tax Credits for Education http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2011/06/tax-credits-for-education.html That does makes sense, because it is one of the most important thing for a student to learn about.

A Post Whose Success Surprised Me
Hot Days, Chillin' for Cheap has so many comments and views and I honestly would not have written it without being push to. http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2011/07/hot-days-chillin-for-cheap.html We had had some of the hottest day in Buffalo that we had ever had and my husband and I have no air conditioners because we are used to hotter temperatures from California. The heat and humidity that week though, I also went out and bought an air conditioner. That post is a compilation of ways we kept cool.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of
How to decide if you should buy or rent as a student allowed me to combine my love of real estate and being frugal as a student. http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-decide-if-you-should-buy-or-rent.html Honestly it is unlikely that many students could use this advice, it mostly works for richer families or graduate students but it is a viable option for some.

Your Most Helpful Post
I did a series in the beginning of this blog about student loans. Almost all students at some point end up using student loans and I think they are very important to know about and to know about what your options are. The article on federal loans was the most useful of the series. http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2010/01/federal-student-loans-overview-and.html

A Post You Feel Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved
Frugal Fun was an article that was suppose to be the beginning of a series of different was to have fun on the cheap but no one seemed to like it. http://frugalstudents.blogspot.com/2010/05/students-especially-if-they-work-dont.html I am thinking about doing another frugal fun post in future and see if it is better received.

I'd like to see this post on....
1. http://buylikebuffett.com
2. http://queercents.com (though I do not know if this wish will be seen by queercents)
3. http://4hatsandfrugal.blogspot.com- Great writer and she is the one who got me into blogging.
4. http://bakingbudget.blogspot.com
5. http://thesavedquarter.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Frustrations in Real Estate

Our tenant gave us a little over a month's notice that they would be moving out when their lease expired. I thought that was nice, and even though I did not like having to find new tenants and lose rent for a month or more, everything was ok. I posted on craigslist with a $50 increase in rent and got some immediate responses, one that looked very good. My husband went up to see about showing the apartment on saturday and we were informed that they were not planning to move till October, they still have not put the bid in on their new house.

I understand finding a place, buying it and moving in can take awhile but I am very annoyed that she did not let us know. The more into winter we are, the harder it will be for us to find good tenants. I feel like telling them that since they are going month-to-month the rent will be raised. I probably would not have done so, however, if she had talked to me. Am I wrong in doing so?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Update on the millionaire goal-July

We have finally crossed the $10,000 goal. We deposited $1000 in a Roth in ING Direct to get a $76 bonus. However, again the stock market was not nice to us and therefore we have $10,810. My next minigoal is $25,000 but it will take a long time for me to get there.

We deposited $1000 this month, yet only have $420.90 normally to deposit per month. I took the extra out of the EF and I did this because of the bonus. I will have to pay back the extra money. I took all the extra money from the 2% FICA deduction from my job as well as this months deposit. I still have $100.40 to pay back before I can start deposited money into our retirement accounts again.

Normally a hundred dollars would be paid back quickly but our current tenants have given their one month notice and it may be a few months before we get tenants again. Until then all I have is ten dollars per month from the FICA deduction from my DH's job and any extra from my job as well.

It is possible that we will still owe our EF by the end of the year, if we do not get tenants. I am not sure if I will remove the money from the Roth to give it back to the EF or not. Does anyone have an idea what I should do and why?