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Hallelujah! TurboTax is Offering Free Federal AND State Returns This Year

If you’ve got a simple tax return, you are in for some serious good news my friend: TurboTax just announced a new product, TurboTax Absolute Zero, which will let you file a federal 1040A or 1040EZ and a state return, for precisely $0. FREE. And no additional costs for claiming your earned income tax credit or complying with new health care laws, either.

TurboTax Absolute Zero

So if your return is fairly straightforward (unlike mine, with all this self-employment yadda-yadda), rejoice! And get yourself over to TurboTax right now to start your return. You don’t even have to be ready to finish it today; you can just get it started right now and finish it up when you have all of your paperwork in hand.

Remember, if you’ve got a refund coming to you, you get it sooner by sending in your return sooner. And if you’ve got a tax bill due this year? Well, I find it’s better to know that sooner, too. You can hang onto the completed return and file it sometime before the April 15th deadline, so why not do your return ASAP?

Image Source: The TurboTax Blog

Net Worth Update: January 2015

New year, new job… but how’s it all shaping up? Let’s take a look!

Change: +$4,294 or +36.76%

January Net Worth: $15,975

Net Worth Graph January 2015

A nice (very nice!) change there. But, I don’t expect the trend to continue at quite such a speedy way. This month, there were a lot of boosts to my accounts from the start of the year (matching deposits into retirement accounts), whereas next month, I expect to be shelling out for at least one big expenditure: a new computer. And not just any old computer – I’m pimping out the best built-from-scratch computer I can afford in order to handle the livestream broadcast for my charity fundraising group, the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity.

Who wants to play video games?

Not that, you know, I won’t use the new computer for other things than charity fundraisers. It’ll replace my seriously aging laptop, and I will use it’s awesome power to handle new video games to… play lots of new video games. Or at least, work through the ridiculous backlog of Steam games I’ve picked up during Steam sales and Humble Bundles.

But anyway, my husband and I have been saving up for new computers for a while now. In December we bought him a new Chromebook with some of the money in the “New Computers” savings account, and this month, we’ll be spending the rest building our ridiculous gaming/streaming rig. Success!

What savings goal are you looking forward to reaching, so that you can finally buy, build, or make what you’ve been saving for? Let me know in the comments, below!

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

Net Worth Update: March – December 2014

Hello boys.... I'M BACK

The conflict of interest that put this site on hiatus is over. The future holds a lot of updates and changes to the blog, but before we get into any of that, let’s do a post just on what happened in my personal net worth while I wasn’t writing:

March: $842 (-$1,145 or -57.62%)
April: $133 (-$709 or –84.20%)
May: $2,818 (+$2,685 or +2018.80%)
June: $3,842 (+$1,024 or +36.34%)
July: $3,117 (-$725 or -18.87%)
August: $5,933 (+$2,816 or +90.34%)
September: $3,943 (-$1,990 or -33.54%)
October: $10,272 (+$6,329 or 160.51%)
November: $10,707 (+$435 or 4.23%)

And currently…
December: $11,681 (+$974 or 9.10%)

Total change, from the last update to now:  +$9,694 or +487.87%

December 2014 Net Worth Graph

A few goals hit their deadlines…

You may recall the main goal I was working toward: getting to a positive net worth by September 16th, 2014 (10 years from the date I took out my first student loan and my net worth slid into the negative). And I did tentatively call that goal “achieved” back in February, when my net worth rose into the positive numbers for the first time in my adult life.

Now that September 16th, 2014 has passed, we can look back and see that, yes, I did it! Though my net worth did wobble dangerously close to the negative line again, it stayed positive right through September and for all the months since then.

Achievement unlocked: Positive Net Worth

Just having achieved that goal will make me pretty unbearable to deal with for a while. But I also had another, lesser-discussed goal on the table. In November of 2013, I declared a new goal to see my retirement accounts hit a total of $30,000 within a year.

I managed to slide in right under the wire on that one: by the end of the month of November, my retirement funds totaled $30,689!

Achievement unlocked: $30,000 Retirement Savings

Two ‘cheevos unlocked? That calls for a celebratory “The West Wing” gif set:

Victory is mine, victory is mine! I drink from the keg of glory, Donna. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.
It's gonna be an unbearable day. *Josh celebrates*
gif set by kinneys on tumblr

What else happened?

The line graph for these months is awfully squiggley. Ups and downs were had, to be sure.

But that was expected. I started a new job, which paid less than my previous position, but had better benefits. My commute changed, and suddenly I was leaving my car at home for days at a time and reading the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series on bus and train rides.

I got married, and went on a honeymoon. My now-husband (!) and I saved up; paid for most of it ourselves, but also received generous help from friends and family for both events. We set up a “honeymoon registry” so that most of the wedding gifts we received were contributions to our honeymoon fund.

So we saved, and received some gifts. And all of that went right back out the door as we spent on the wedding and splurged on the honeymoon. It could have turned out to be a flat year – and I wouldn’t have been surprised, really. But the overall trend was, despite it all, upward.

And I still got my ‘cheevos.

To combine or not to combine…

While I was tabulating all of these net worth numbers, my husband walked up behind me to ask a question that had been rolling around in my own head as well:

Should we be including all of my husband’s information in these net worth updates?

The short answer: no.

I don’t keep an eye on my husband’s account balances day-to-day, so I’m not going to do it for the monthly net worth update, either. We have a few joint savings accounts (one for each common goal that we are both working toward), but have otherwise decided to maintain our separate accounts. He sends me a monthly Person2Person payment between our Capital One 360 checking accounts to cover his share of the monthly household expenses.

Besides, this blog is my financial journey. Though his help and income certainly play into that, his accounts (that I don’t touch) do not.

Dance party time!

Two ‘cheevos and a wedding this update? I’m feelin’ that it’s time for a dance party. Join me in the comments for some untz untz (animated dancing gifs, YouTube embeds – pick your poison).

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

Poorer Than You is on Hiatus

With a heavy, conflicted heart full of mixed feelings, I’m announcing that this blog is going on an indefinite hiatus. And no, it’s not an April Fools’ joke this time – even though it turned out to be true for a while last time!

Yes, I get that the timing is unfortunate and that some of you will still believe that this is an April Fools’ joke. But that’s the reason I’m publishing this post today (March 31st), to dispel most of the doubt regarding the legitimacy of this. And those of you who still believe this to be a prank, well, you’ll see when no new posts go up, unfortunately.

This is all happening because I am starting a new job, one where writing for Poorer Than You would be a conflict of interest. It was not an easy decision to take the job given this condition, but I did think long and hard about what I want and need in life, and made the decision to sacrifice PTY for my career. It’s somewhat funny and a little ironic – PTY is definitely the one thing I can point to and say “that is what launched my career,” and now, it isn’t allowed to help me any more. But sometimes, that is how life goes.

Thankfully, the archives of PTY will remain online – so you will be able to browse all of the old posts, articles, and net worth updates. There’s some really great stuff in there, so I hope while you’re here reading this, you’ll poke around (via the categories in the left sidebar).

As a part of the hiatus, comment posting will be turned off. This is because it would also be a conflict of interest for me to reply to comments on the blog and answer questions. And I would really hate for someone to post a question and wait forever for an answer that I’m not allowed to give, so I will simply be shutting comments off to prevent this. This, perhaps, is the saddest part for me – I will truly miss the great comments and discussions this community engages in.

Will this blog ever come back? I truly don’t know. Probably? I can’t say what the future holds, but I do know this about myself: if it’s ever not a conflict of interest any more, then I will post again. When or whether that will ever happen is what’s unknown, though. If you want to be here for the possible resurgence, I recommend signing up for the email subscription feature with an email address you plan to keep checking for years to come. That way, if/when PTY has new posts, they will be emailed to you, so you’ll know when I’m back.

Take care of yourselves, read lots of other personal finance blogs while I’m gone, and be good to each other.

With <3,
Stephanie

Net Worth Update: February 2014

Prepare yourself for a lot of exclamation points, bold text, italics, and maybe even some ALL CAPS… because this is the most exciting Net Worth update in Poorer Than You history, and I’m super stoked about it. So forget about this intro… LET’S GET TO IT!!!

Change: +$7,456 or +136.33%

February Net Worth: $1,987

Net Worth Graph February 2014

YOU GUYS. LOOK AT IT! There’s a new line! A line that indicates the difference between negative and positive! AND MY NET WORTH LINE CROSSED THAT LINE! What, what, WHAT is this, I don’t even?!?

Stephanie, WHERE DID ALL THIS MONEY COME FROM?!?

The obvious one: the cash increase of over $8,000. Unfortunately I can’t actually provide much insight into this, as all I really feel comfortable saying is that some checks that were owed to me came in. And I cashed them. This filled up my Emergency Fund, most of my Wedding Fund, and even my regular savings goals for the time I’m expecting to be unemployed/underemployed.

I won $500 in Capital One 360’s “What are you #SAVING4” contest, just by tweeting a picture of my fiancé and myself, telling them I was saving up for our wedding. Haven’t I said that Capital One 360 is my favorite bank? LOVE IT. And that $500 will certainly be helpful for our wedding, so I’m quite a happy camper.

My car increased in value again. This is just one of those fluke things – some times of year, a 2004 Toyota Camry is just worth more than other times. I get the value from Kelley Blue Book every month, not from any “depreciation” method or anything like that – so it’s helpful to think of my car’s value like stock values: it goes up and down with the market.

Speaking of the stock market: I had a pretty good month there, in my retirement accounts anyway. Also bolstering that value is some cash that I put aside in a savings account. Remember when I used to put all my retirement savings in a savings account? (Yeah, that’s a link to a Net Worth Update from 2008. Old school.)

For the time being, that practice is back. With the whole “unemployment/underemployment” thing I’ve got going on right now, it seems too risky to put money directly into my Roth IRA, where it’ll be locked up. Putting it in a savings account “holding pattern” means I can get at it if I completely drain my emergency fund, or I can move it to my Roth once I get a job.

So you might be wondering why I keep writing it as “unemployed/underemployed.” The truth is, I’m actually not completely unemployed at the moment – just “underemployed” (working less than full time). I picked up a freelance project just last week (one that I’m super excited about, by the by), and I’m hunting some leads on more freelance work. All while interviewing and job hunting for full-time work. Not really a surprise, as I’m just not a person that can sit still without a project to work on for more than, uh, 2 seconds.

So about that “Positive Net Worth by September 2014” goal…

Yeah, so, back in October of 2012, I set a goal for myself to have a positive net worth by September 16th, 2014. I guess this update means that I, technically, have achieved that goal. Woohoo! Dance party!

But, you know, it probably only really counts if I can keep it positive through September. Or, if it does dip back down in the negatives (I am underemployed, after all), get it back up into the positive numbers again by that day in September. But whatever – this is a really good milestone on my financial journey, and I intend to continue my dance party.

Feel free to dance with me in the comments!

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

How Much Should You Spend on Renting an Apartment?

Unfurnished Apt for Rent by turkeychik on flickr

True story: back in July, I got a notice that my rent was being raised. I’d lived in the apartment for almost two years, and they pulled this trick on me the previous year: raising my rent by $104/month.

The first time, I just accepted the rate increase. After all, I’d received a sign-on deal of “$50 off each month’s rent!” when I first moved in, so it only seemed like an additional $54/month rent increase (above the deal wearing off).

But after the second year, they wanted to raise it another $114/month! And actually, they offered an “alternative” as well: to install all new appliances in the apartment, and in doing so, raise the rent $141/month (thanks?).

Since the first rent increase, I’d taken some of the burden off myself by moving my boyfriend into the apartment and splitting the rent a bit. But with the additional rent increases, the question became:

Could we afford to spend an additional $1368-$1692 (total) on rent in 2014?

What about Buying?

In some cases, the adage that “you’re throwing money away when you rent” can actually be true. In other cases? Not so much. If you’ve got money saved up for a down payment, there’s only  one way to be sure whether buying or renting will save you money: run the numbers.

Don’t feel daunted by the idea of running the numbers, because The New York Times has a super handy-dandy Renting vs. Buying Calculator which can do most of the work for you!

Do a quick search on Zillow for a place that you would actually be interested in buying (be realistic), then enter the purchase price for that into the Times calculator, along with the rent on apartments you’re looking at (or your current rent, if you’re not shopping yet).

In my case? The calculator spit out a pretty clear answer:

“If you stay in your home for 5 years, renting is better. It will cost you $13,412 less than buying, an average savings of $2,682 each year.”

Ouch! $2,682 more per year – and that was based on a comparison to my raised-rent number for 2014! That means it would be an increase of $4,374 per year. Yeah… that’s not in the cards.

So if you’re like me, and you determine that renting is better than buying (for your situation), now how do you figure out how much you can afford to pay in rent?

Rules-of-Thumb for Calculating Rent Affordability

#1: The Rules Apartment Complexes Use: 33% of Gross Income, or Annual Income Divided by 40

If you’re just looking for a really quick calculation, something very general, these are the rules-of-thumb for you.

Method A: Just take the total you make in a month, before taxes or retirement contributions or anything is taken out of your paycheck, and multiply it by 0.33 to get the maximum rent you can afford. So if you make $50,000 a year:

($50,000 divided by 12 months) = $4,166.66 per month

$4,166.66 times 0.33 = $1375.00 per month in rent, maximum.

Method B: Take the total you make in a year and divide it by 40. In our $50,000/year salary example…

$50,000 divided by 40 = $1250.00 per month in rent, maximum.

I find that Method A tends to overestimate how much you can actually afford, for most people. So why use it? Because it’s the rule that some apartment complexes will use to check and see if you can afford the apartment (as far as they’re concerned). It’s what my last apartment used when I signed the lease, and there are plenty of other leasing companies that use this rule, as well.

So this rule is good for finding the very maximum amount of rent you can consider and hope to be approved for the apartment. But I can tell you that all things considered, $1375/month seems awfully high to me for someone making $50,000/year.

Method B is still a little high, but again, useful because you know an apartment complex might be using it as their formula for what you can afford. So if this is all the calculating you want to do, I recommend Method B. It’s easier math (fewer steps!) and it’s not as overly-optimistic as Method A.

#2: Debt-To-Income Front End Ratio: 28% of Gross Income

If you were buying a home instead of renting, this is one of the calculations that banks might use to come up with the mortgage payment you could afford. So it’s useful for our purposes – we’ll just substitute in “rent” where a mortgage would be!

But wait, there’s more! For this debt-to-income (DTI) “front end” calculation, that number would include homeowners insurance for anyone calculating it for a mortgage. So you should include renters insurance, instead. My own renters insurance costs me about $150/year, so feel free to steal that number as a baseline, if you don’t know what your renters insurance will cost you.

For our $50,000/year ($4,166.66/month) example:

$4,166.66/month times 0.28 = $1166.66 per month total rental costs

$1166.66/month minus $12.50/month renters insurance = $1145.16 per month in rent, maximum.

A pretty simple formula, and the resulting number seems much more appropriate for someone making $50,000/year. But can we find an even better formula?

#3: Debt-To-Income Back End Ratio: Total Debt Payments <36% of Gross Income

We touched on this calculation back when we had this same discussion about how much you should spend on a car. As I noted then, the problem with this calc is that if you apply Calc #2 (DTI Front End Ratio) as well, that leaves only 8% of your income for all debt payments other than housing. This still seems insane to me – are banks assuming no one ever has any student loans or a car payment that’s more than $100/month?

But let’s do the math with our $50,000/year earner example, just to see how it shakes out. To make things easy, we’ll use my exact numbers from my real life for the other debt payments:

$4,166.66/month times 0.36 =  $1500/month for all debt payments, including rent

$1500/month
– $194.02 (car payment for a used 2004 Camry)
– $284.52 (student loan payments)
– $12.50 (renters insurance)
– $6.61 (car property tax – yeah, that’s a thing I have to pay in Virginia)
——————–
$1002.35 per month in rent, maximum.

Does that sound reasonable to you? It might – depends completely on the region you’re living in. What it means is that where I’m living (northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.) you can’t get a studio or 1-bedroom apartment on $50,000/year (without a roommate, and using this calculation, of course).

It also means that a bank would probably not approve me for a mortgage around here, if I were making $50,000 or less, based on my other debts. But in another part of the country, that might be plenty for rent or mortgage payments.

If you’re using this formula, you’ll need to do a lot of adjusting for your own situation. For example, if you don’t have a car (and thus no car payment), but you rely on public transportation, you’ll want to include some or all of what you pay for public transit when you do the math.

And the winning formula is…

Personally, I like rule #2 (DTI Front End, 28% of gross income) the best. It’s a really simple calculation that gives you a realistic answer, fast. I think the formulas in #1 are too optimistic about how much a person can pay, which could leave you renting an apartment you can’t actually afford.

And while I like that #3 takes into account how much you are spending monthly on your other debts, I think that for most people it’ll end up being too restrictive. But, there’s hope for it still – if you adjust the percentage to something that give you a bit more leeway (40% of gross income for all debt repayments, maybe?), you might just find a number that suits you better.

(Photo credit: turkeychik on flickr)

I Sold My Hair on Ebay

Do you ever look around your home, at all the varied things you own, and think “There’s just so much stuff here… I bet I could pare it down and that at least some of it would be worth some cash.”

Or maybe someone (like one of us crazy personal finance bloggers) said that you can pick up some extra cash unloading some of your unused junk on eBay. It’s a nice thought, right? Get rid of something you’re not using, pocket the cash.

Well, something along those lines happened to me. Sort of.

Warning: If the title of this post grossed you out, you’re probably not going to like the rest of what follows. Especially the fact that there are pictures. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Huh? What? You Sold WHAT on eBay?

My hair. See, what originally happened is that I decided to take my hair from long (three-quarters of the way down my back) to shortish (just below my ears) – and to donate, instead of discarding, the cut-off hair. I kept the sawed-off ponytail, with the intention of donating it to Locks of Love.

When I did a Google search to find out how to send my hair in, however, I found that there is some controversy out there regarding Locks of Love. Unable to pin down exactly the right place to donate my hair to (at that time), I started researching the alternative: selling it.

At first, I was a little discouraged. Though long enough to meet most requirements, my hair has what some websites designated as a “fatal flaw:” it’s curly. Straight hair is, according to many online guides to hair selling, the most sought-after and highly-priced type of hair.

But still, my hair met all of the other requirements for a good sale, namely:

  • Clean
  • Undyed
  • Long enough (10 inches or more)
  • Chemical free (in my case, completely free of harsh chemical use, since I practice no-shampoo washing)
  • Free of heat damage (I do not use hair dryers, curling irons, or straightening irons)
  • From a non-smoker who doesn’t take any drugs

So with my ponytail in hand, I logged on to make my first-ever eBay listing.

Actually Selling My Hair on eBay

First, I considered the fact that there are sites dedicated solely to the listing of hair for sale – sort of eBay or Craigslist specifically for hair. But these sites charge you money to list your hair, and since this isn’t likely to be something I do very often, I felt that the no-cost initial listing of eBay was the best bet.

I found this guide called “Selling Hair Facts” written and posted by Karen Shelton on a message board on HairBoutique.com. It’s quite comprehensive, and she won my heart by starting the post off with an explanation of my favorite O’Henry short story, “The Gift of the Magi.”

One of the things Karen Shelton’s post addressed was the risk of not getting paid for your hair, with some services. This is the reason I decided to use eBay and take only PayPal as payment, since PayPal offers some protection for sellers that you would not get by accepting a personal check or money order.

Another thing Shelton’s article pointed out was that hair with a “natural wave” in it might actually garner some real attention and cash, so I went for it.

I took several pictures of the ponytail of hair itself, next to a ruler (to demonstrate the length), one in indirect sunlight and one with the camera flash, to give a good idea of the color.

One thing that I also had was a picture (that didn’t show my face) of how the hair had looked on my head, immediately before I cut it. It was a coincidence that I even had the photo, but it worked out well –  I think people buying hair want to see it in its natural environment.

With these pictures, I wrote up a detailed description of my hair, its length, its color, and all the attributes that I listed about (undyed, no chemicals, etc.) and put it up on eBay with the title “11″ Ponytail of Honey Blonde Curly/Wavy Human Hair” and an opening bid of just $0.99.

Why 99 cents? Because it was an experiment, first and foremost. More than making money off it, I wanted to see how high it might go. There were a few bids in the first few days – getting the price up into the teens. I was pretty pleased with that – it seemed like it was at least going to be worth my while to have listed it, considering the hair itself was something I “got for free.” That’s the nice thing about selling your hair – it’s almost 100% pure profit!

There were a few people who had put the listing on their “watch list,” and for the next few days, nothing happened. Then suddenly, as my listing neared its end, the bids began to shoot up dramatically (nothing out of the ordinary for an online auction!).

The winning bid when it closed was $166.50! From that, $5.13 went to PayPal fees, and $5.34 for shipping via eBay’s partnership with the US Postal Service. So for my trouble of keeping the ponytail, photographing it, listing it, and shipping it (maybe two hours of work, tops?), I got a cool $156.03.

Lessons Learned

All-in-all, I was pretty happy with the experience. The only downside was that a few people in my personal life were grossed out by the concept – my boyfriend/now-fiancé was especially not happy about having the disembodied ponytail in the apartment!

The “catch” is that I can really only grow my hair long enough for this every two years or so. It’s actually been almost two years since this particular incident happened (took me a while to write about it, obviously!), so I could do it again soon, if I wanted. But you have to really want to cut your hair and sell it for this to work. Since my wedding is coming up later this year, that’s not a position I’m in right now.

But who knows, maybe as soon as the wedding is done, I’ll chop my ponytail off once again and sell it to recoup some wedding costs!

Net Worth Update: January 2014

I’m officially declaring this “The Most Topsy-Turvy Month Ever.” Why? Because even though the worth of my assets went down in several key categories, the reasons those decreased were not bad; and even though my total net worth increased this month, the reason it did so is bad. Welcome to Bizarro World, folks!

Change: +$1,117 or +16.96%

January Net Worth: -$5,469

January 2014 Net Worth Graph

The Good-Bad (Where I Lost Money)

My cash reserves went down by a staggering $3150 dollars in January. That’s because I finally paid out money for two things I’ve been saving up for: my upcoming vacation in Ireland (now paid in full!) and some wedding expenses. So no big deal there – I saved up the money, then used the saved money to pay for these things. Awesome.

My retirement accounts also lost just north of $500 over the month, but that really doesn’t bother me. The markets are down as a whole, so it’s not surprising. I’m in it for the long-haul when it comes to retirement, anyway, so a one month swing is not really a problem.

The Bad-Good (Where I Made Money)

It makes me extremely nervous and anxious to even write about this. It’s not that I did anything wrong – it’s just because it’s a very uncomfortable situation.

The “Other” line of my assets on my net worth balance sheet is now sitting at $4,465. Some of it is my Lending Club account, which grew a little over the month. Some of it is my fiancé’s half of the rent money, which I forgot to collect from him in January.  Those things are fine – good, even.

But the rest of that money is an uncashed check for my accrued PTO (Paid Time Off) from my job, because I was laid off at the end of the day this past Friday.

It’s tough. Obviously, I can’t say much about what happened, but I can say that I am still very emotionally raw. And being unemployed affects everything in my financial world: the wedding, my upcoming trip to Ireland, my Emergency Fund, my retirement savings, my “positive net worth by September” goal, my ability to make payment on my debts (student loans and car payment), my ability to make rent… it’s all in varying amounts of jeopardy in the foreseeable future.

But I’m trying to stay positive and, most of all, proactive. Here’s my current Emergency “I’ve Been Laid Off” Money Plan:

  1. Halt all wedding plans that include an outlay of money. I have some DIY projects I can work on that we already own the materials for, but anything that involves spending money? That’ll have to wait. I was about one day away from ordering my dress, even. The only thing I will make an exception for is anything surrounding the “legal” parts of the wedding – the marriage license/officiant – because the marriage is happening no matter what our money situation is!
  2. Halt all retirement savings (outside of a savings account). I have a high-yield online savings account specifically to catch money before depositing it into my Roth IRA. But putting money into the IRA itself would freeze up that cash, which I can’t risk right now. Still, I can put some money aside in the savings account, where it’s still perfectly “liquid.” When I get a new job, then I can make the transfer from the savings account to the actual IRA, if I haven’t used up that savings.
  3. No eating out, unless it’s a networking meal. Gonna have to cancel some dinner plans this week, because I need to stretch the money I have for an indefinite amount of time. But I will absolutely make an exception to take someone out for lunch or coffee to discuss my job hunt.
  4. Apply for Unemployment Insurance payments. I’m actually half done with this step – I started the application the day after I was let go. Just need to update my résumé and upload it.
  5. Make job-hunting my new full-time job. Not only does the Commonwealth of Virginia require that I do this to qualify for unemployment; it’s just common sense. My job right now is to find a new job.

Needless to say, if you know of a company looking for a spunky, energetic spreadsheet wizard with strong merchandise planning, company culture, and customer service experience, contact me.

Net Worth Update: December 2013

HERPY DEW BEER! (Translation: Happy New Year!) It’s been a whirlwind December (as it usually is), so I can hardly believe that it’s time for this month end/year end update already! You might remember from November’s update that I was worried about December possibly (probably!) being a down month. Let’s check in and see if that’s what happened:

Change: +$2,142 or +24.54%

December Net Worth: -$6,586

Net Worth Graph - December 2013

That’s pretty far from a “down month,” wouldn’t you say? Woohoo! Much of that gain comes from a bump in the value of my retirement accounts, but I’ll take it!

Also in December, the video game fundraising group (yes, that’s a thing) that I founded and organize raised $4134 for the organization charity: water, to provide clean water to people who need it in Cambodia and Ethiopia. So I’m feeling pretty good about that! I spent all the money in my “Charity” savings account on the fundraiser (mostly on supplies and food for the volunteers), and I still came out with a positive increase to my net worth? WIN WIN WIN!

8.5 months to go to get to my “Positive Net Worth” goal, and now $6,586 is the amount I need (or, I suppose, $6,586 + $1!). That’s about $775/month that I need in net worth increases to get there. Not too bad, I’d say – so long as this pesky wedding thing doesn’t cost me too much along the way.

Speaking of the wedding, based on our total budget and what we’ve spent so far, and what’s in our Wedding saving account as of now, we need to put aside another $1452.99 at this point (yeah, the 99 cents is really how the numbers came out!), and the goal is to have that money all set aside by April, so that’s $363.25/month between the two of us – totally do-able, I think.

$775.00/month in general net worth increase + $363.25/month in wedding savings (at least until April) = $1138.25/month that I need to squirrel away. I only averaged $1021.42/month in net worth increases in the months of 2013, so it might be a little tough to do… but then again, the wedding savings is between two of us, and only until April. So I’m optimistic that I’ll get it done.

Stay tuned, because I’ll do a Savings Snowball update soon, as well!

Questions? Critiques? Words of encouragement? Leave them in the comments!

Net Worth Update: November 2013

Happy Holidays! I’m in full-on holiday-crazy mode at work, my Christmas tree is up and decorated at home, and I’ve got an 18-pound turkey in my freezer (hey, it was $0.59/pound!), so we’re definitely due for an update on how my Net Worth came out in November.

Change: +$2,288 or +20.77%

November Net Worth: -$8,728

November 2013 Net Worth GraphWell, well, well! Would you look at that? The number might still be negative, but it’s up to four digits! We’re in the home stretch of my goal to get my net worth in the positive numbers by September 2014. Which is good news, since that’s only 9 months away!

Still, there are some things going on here that will affect my net worth in the coming months:

Retirement Savings

I’m happy to report the value of my retirement accounts came within $25 of $20,000 in November! That’s obviously subject to the whims of the stock market, so I can only be proud of those gains up to a point.

Still, it means it took me a year and two months to get my retirement funds from $10,000 to $20,000 – so now the goal will be to get to $30,000 within one year from now. Totally do-able, I think. Though it does mean I’ll be working on two challenges at once: Positive Net Worth by September, and $30,000 in Retirement by November. Thankfully, those two goals go hand-in-hand!

Cash Savings

The other large gain I made this month was in my cash accounts – so, savings for goals that are less than five years away. The largest gains were in the Wedding fund and my Travel fund. This is both good and bad, in a way: The reason I’m focusing on these two is that each has a large expenditure planned for 2014.

By January I will have to hand over all of my Travel savings for my upcoming international trip in March (care to guess where I’m headed?) and the Wedding savings will be drained pretty consistently as we approach the big day in August.

So my net worth gains in these categories are only temporary – but that’s okay. The whole point of saving up for travel and the wedding is so that I can spend on these things. It’ll just be a little psychologically painful to see the numbers go down.

I’m also draining my Charity savings account entirely in the month of December, as I do most years. I run a video game marathon fundraiser at the end of December, so whatever’s left in the account will be donated to that and to other causes I support. I don’t do all this donating in December for tax reasons (I do not have enough deductions to itemize my taxes, you see) – I just do it because that’s how I roll.

Basically, between paying for my trip, wedding expenses, the charity drive, and Christmas, I expect December to be a down month, net-worth-wise. Still, it’s exciting to see that I did manage to get it up above negative $10,000 this year!

Questions? Critiques? Words of encouragement? Leave them in the comments!