1 Million Dollars

Friday, April 5, 2013

Welcome Blog Partiers!!!!

I am the Frugal Student, and I live in Buffalo, NY getting my Master's in Neuroscience, with my husband who is getting his PhD in Neuroscience and our darling newborn daughter, Merry.  I post tricks and deals for college students, parents and the newly graduated.  The ideas range from how to set up your first retirement account to how to increase your financial aid package with some general frugal tips sprinkled in. 

I love to hear new ideas or requests for posts as well as learning new ideas from other blogger.  Stick around and let me know what you think.  Welcome again.

Ultimate Blog Party 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Millionaire update-March

The market is being great to us right now.  We now have $14,441 in retirement funds which is an increase of $262 from last month.  That is 1.8% increase which if it was annualized would be over a 20% APY.  I have no idea why the market is doing so well but it is nice to get free money.    All we need is another $559 to have six months worth of expenses ($15,000), including COBRA set aside in retirement but we still have a ways to go before we have reached our mini-goal of $25,000.  It looks like we will be able to start saving for retirement again come September since I should be graduating by the end of the summer.  Because of that, I do expect to surpass the $15,000 by the end of the year but it is unlikely that I will reach $25,000 unless something crazy happens. 

We are still using the Fidelity cash back credit card (https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/american-express-cards) to save for retirement and unless something changes we don't plan to stop using it.  I believe that I will have another $50 to deposit from it next month because of the cost of daycare, however, depending on when we pay, we may have the $50 by the end of this month.

Because of daycare and class expenses we are about $1000 in negative cash flow per month so until that changes, there will be no investing in the market.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Breaking the fast food habit

The only eating out spending we have done this month has been fast food breakfasts because we overslept.  But, you know what?  That is not fun and I want to have money for fun.  I like going to nice restaurants or out to a movie.  Wasting my money on fast food does not make me happy.  But what could I do?  I could not be late, and I needed to eat.  I made my grocery list before I went shopping on Friday and we had an extra $40 after buying all our needs ($10 had rolled over from the week before).  We do try to save up so we can buy meat and soda as a stockpile when  the deals are good so that was not that unexpected.  But it made me think that maybe I should buy the meat need for breakfast sandwiches and see how it goes.  So far we have needed to make breakfast on the go once this week.  It normally cost us about ten dollars, and the sausage cost us eleven and we still have about two and half pounds left.  I think this is looking like a good idea and we will keep it up. 

Has anyone else been struck by the amount they were spending and an easy fix they had not previously thought of?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saving money on food without being bored

Our biggest struggle in our budget is eating out.  I get bored with the food and home and badger my husband into going out.  He loves going out as well, but for some reason, has more self-control as long as I don't bring it up.  So how to solve this?  Well, while my mom was visiting, she cooked all week and I got to try new meals, and learn how to cook them.  I loved the new meals and each one was cheap.

Of the meals she made, my favorites were spaghetti sauce with ground beef, chicken stir-fry with rice, pho, and a chicken tortilla bake.  These all cost about $2 a serving and are delicious.  My mother also left me most of the ingredients for the pho is that makes it even cheaper right now. 

By her coming and cooking as well as teaching me new recipes, I have not even wanted to go out to eat except for once and I was able to avoid it.  With our new daughter, saving our fun money is a must.  Also, she has introduced me to a site I did not know about Campbell's Recipes and I have started looking there for new ideas, since we have a ton of tomato soup cans in our cupboard.

Does anyone else have easy, new, cheap recipes to share or sites which help them find new ideas?  I'd love to read them.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Millionaire Update February

I now have $14,179 in my invesments.  Because of the cost of school I have not been able to invest lately except for credit card rewards from FIA card services (https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/american-express-cards).  February we deposited $59.45 that we earned from the credit card into my husband's Roth IRA, however most of the increase was just from the market.  We still have a long way until I reach my next mini-goal of $25,000 but we are inching towards it.  We are also $821 short of having six months worth of expenses in our investment account, and given that Fidelity recommends having one year worth of your income at 35, I think we are doing alright for now. 

I should be done with my Master's in August so either I will continue on with my PhD which will mean a paycheck, giving us money to invest or we will be done with daycare, again, giving us more money to invest.  If I do not go on to my PhD, I am going to try to find a community college or two that will hire me to teach night classes. I prefer older students when tutoring so I assume I will prefer them while teaching as well and it will allow us not to pay for daycare which will save a ton. 
I have also thought about teaching online classes but I don't know much about them, maybe someone on here has an idea on where I can look. 

But for now, life is just staying busy with our new baby, classes and trying to get some writing done on my thesis, so I can graduate in August. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

401k FINALLY rolled over to Vanguard- And it will never be added to....

The Frugal Student now has money at Vanguard.  My 401k rolled my money (about $4200) into a IRA without my consent or knowledge so I responded by contacting Vanguard and initiated a rollover.  It took over a month and a three way call with Vanguard and my old 401k provider to finally get them to give my money up.  I am very happy to be at Vanguard, though and will be started back up with my millionaire updates starting this month.

I chose Vanguard because of their low fees (.18% for my current account), but had avoided them until now because of their high minimums ($3000/account) and because Fidelity has a credit card which deposits 2% of my spending into an IRA.  Right now those credit card rewards are going into my husband's Roth IRA, and is the only retirement savings we have.   Once we are saving again, my husband Roth IRA will be moved to Vanguard as well, and I will open a Roth IRA at Fidelity to take continue to take advantage of the rewards, for as long as they last.

However, none of the money in my new Vanguard IRA will get added to which may in the future limit me on my IRA contributions and I may later decide to move that money to Fidelity.  The money in my 401k, and now in the Vanguard IRA was money set aside prior to my marriage, and therefore is all mine.  Well, as long as I do not add one red cent during my marriage.  Therefore I plan to keep that money separate from any marital assets. Some people may say I am planning for my marriage to fail, but to that I say, I get life insurance and disability not because I expect to get disabled or to die in the ten years, but to cover me, in case it does.  I came into the marriage with assets, my husband with debt, why should I not protect myself.  I could have done a pre-nup, but since most of my assets were in retirement accounts, why not just use the little legal trick and not add to those accounts?  A pre-nup can be set aside by a judge, keeping assets apart can't later be joined by the judge.

For those who are frugal students, don't lose the benefits of your frugality when you get married.  Protect yourself, and if your future spouse loves you, he or she will want to protect you too.  I know my husband was willing to sign a pre-nup before we got married, he even brought it up.  He benefited from my frugalness, but he did not want to take advantage of it.  And, to me, that distinction is important.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Frugal student has added a new hat!

The frugal student is now a frugal mom of a precious newborn baby girl. So I have added another angle to my life and another "hat" as one of my favorite blogs, http://www.4hatsandfrugal.com/ calls it.  I now am a student, a landlord, a wife and a mother.  Let the craziness begin.
I do plan to take a page from another favorite blog, http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/, and track how much I spent and spend on the baby.  I do also plan to include some of the eating out during the pregnancy, since normally I just would have gone home.  Look for the first post of that series soon.

I've learned a lot over this pregnancy and my time in the hospital.  Prior to this I was like so many of financial blogger, planning down to the last penny.  Well, I have figured out that does not work when it is not just you,especially when you are in transition. When you are in transition, having flexibility as well as a budget seems to be key.    So is savings to be honest.  We did not have flexibility in our savings because I thought I had figured all that I needed and I found out I got into graduate school a few days before I found out I was pregnant so not much flexibility there either.  So how did we make it work?  Well, we got creative and we asked for help.

I let people know that we planned to shop at consignment stores, so they knew we would take used items.  A professor who had just finished having kids heard and gave us a lot.  Obviously I also did shop at the consignment shop as well as craigslist and got some great deals.  Also, we took help when it was offered.  One of my friends threw me a baby shower and my husband's family did the same when he went back to their area for a conference.  We received a bunch of things we had already budgeted to buy, as well as other useful items we would have never thought of.  This, thankfully, gave us some flexibility, which we definitely needed because we missed a lot of things, including not planning for an insurance miscommunication which cost us over $100.  Also, once I got into graduate school, I knew that we would get a federal tax break on my tuition costs.  I added it up and realized that I could add an additional exemption for 2012.  This gave us some higher cash flow during my pregnancy, instead of a large refund in April.  You might wonder why I don't expect to get my refund earlier than April.  I have classes, my daughter, sleep, lab work, a rental to list and show in March and April as well as this blog to do.  I have inputted some of our tax information but we do have a lot between both my job and my husband's, the rental, the interest payments (consider a high yield checking if you have an EF) and our tuition expenses.  I also have to keep up with regular bills.  Taxes will probably end up on the backburner for a little while.  If I have extra time, I'll do them early but I won't plan for it.

I have discovered that being a college student and then having a kid comes with a strange benefit.  College students are used to running on low sleep for short periods of time.  My husband and I have been catching cat naps of 3 hours at a time and are still coherent a week later.  Since he is back at work already, I kicked him out of the room last night so he could get a full night sleep, and he will spell me this weekend.  Hopefully between the two of us, we can keep in up for the six months it takes for little ones to get better at sleeping at night.

So that is what is up in the crazy life of the frugal student. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm anti-529, normally, but not right now! Now is the time to get one!

For background, a 529 is a college savings account where the money can be used for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees (medical school, dental school etc).  The money you deposit is not tax-deductible but the profit is tax-free, just like a Roth IRA.  In some states, though, the state gives you a tax deduction as well, for example my state, New York State.  However, if you use money from a 529, you cannot use the federal tax credit for the education expenses.  A way to get around this, is use money from your 529 for living in the dorms, if you are attending at least half-time.  There is a program that allows you to live off-campus, but not all schools are part of the program.  Check with your school.

The downsides to a 529, beside not having the federal credit, include higher fees than other brokerage accounts, few choices and the ability to change funds only once a year.  Also, similar to 401k, and IRAs, if you remove the money for non-approved expenses, you have to pay a penalty.  Personally, because of these downsides, I avoid would prefer to avoid a 529 in many cases.  So, what would I normally recommend?  Well, do remember that you can remove any money in Roth IRA for tuition and fees for higher education, as well as any deposits, as long as you have had the account for five tax years.  I know what you are thinking, but what about retirement savings?! That is where having a 401k comes in.  If you are saving 20%, to cap out of your 401k, you need to earn $87,500.  The average person does not make that.  So, the average person can use their 401k for retirement savings and a Roth IRA for their children's college education.  Obviously, the lower income group would want to take advantage of the Roth IRAs for their retirement as well, which is what I am doing but once your income goes up, start using the 401k as well.

So why now am I recommending EVERYONE to get a 529, since I am so opposed to them?  Because right now, there is free money associated with it.  Bank of America started a website called grad save, which is like a baby registry for college savings which you then transfer the money you were given to a 529.  I honestly think it is silly, but here is the free money part.  For the next four days, they partnered with living social to give you a $50 gift card for $26.  You can only buy one card per beneficiary or owner.  However, doing this only took me 20 minutes.  What college student/ grad student earns $96/hr, which is what this trick is worth when you compare the amount of time it takes to do this, and what you get for it. 

So I opened a Vanguard 529 account with the minimum required ($25) because that is what company holds my state's 529.  I, then, opened a grad saving account and then went to living social and bought the gift card.  I received the gift card code within hours of ordering it.  I added the cash into the grad save account, and once the 529 is finished being set up, I will transfer the $50.  Once this happens, I will turn around and remove the money for class expenses for this year and close the account.

If anyone is interested in getting this deal, please feel free to use the link below to do so.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Millionaire Update- Starting the New Year

We continue to grow our retirement savings and are now at $13,867.  Though we will be not be investing any money into retirement until at least September, I am pretty pleased.  Over this last year we have done very well, both because of our investing and because of the market.

We are, though, considering pulling a small amount our of my Roth IRA.  Last year I opened a Roth IRA with ING Direct and received $50 for leaving $200 in there for three months.  At that point we were only investing my husband's Roth, therefore my Roth has just sat in ING, earning very little.  I was planning on moving it to Fidelity and starting my own Roth IRA there (I have a traditional IRA only), however once I got into graduate school plans changed.

We will need about $8000 more to pay for classes than we have from cash flow.  We have the options of either using my husband's subsidized student loans from last year (we have a max available of $8500) or pulling a bit from retirement.  Part of me wants to remove the ING savings because we will have to start paying back the loan before I am done with school at it will be earning an interest rate of 6.55%.  Also, because I am not earning much in ING, I am less concerned about keeping the money in the Roth IRA. 

We also have moved my 401k from my old employer to Vanguard to lower the fees associated with it, so hopefully we will make some decent gains from that.  Even if you are a student and are going into debt, there is always something you can do, to improve your future.  I need to work on remembering that, and I bet others do too.  I read on blogs about people saying huge amounts, or paying down debt and I want to do so, but the money is just not there.  But every cent I save, is less that I will have to pay back in the future.  That counts too.