Buying Contacts & Paint like A Pro

It’s Thursday and it’s been a pretty exhausting week at work. I remember thinking when I was in school about how much I would enjoy working because of the different challenges. Well, I guess I got what I wanted? I’m constantly getting pulled in 20 directions at once. It’s different.

When shopping for big purchases, I’m always on the lookout for deals. We price compare most options. I even look at Discover’s merchant list to see if I can get an additional percentage on my cashback rewards. Shopping around means I spend less upfront. Just imagine me singing “more money in my pocket, more money in my pocket.”

This week we made two purchases outside of our “regular food, utilities, and gas categories.” First, I decided, a bit on a whim, to paint the master bedroom and kitchen for months. It took me eight months to decide on a color. I took advantage of Lowe’s Labor Day Sale on their paint. You get a $10 mail in rebate when you purchase one gallon of select paint brands. This is a 30% discount at least; depending on the paint you choose. So there I went to buy three gallons of Valspar paint. I, also, went to the U.S. Postal office to pick up the “mover’s package.” Inside the mover’s package is a 10% off Lowe’s coupon. Hurray!!! Unfortunately, Lowe’s is no longer in Discover’s merchant network, so I could not get the 5% cashback if I ordered it online. Here are some words of advice when painting: prep takes more work than you think, having a paint party with your friends reduces the stress of painting, and popcorn ceilings soak up a lot of paint!

Buying contacts is expensive. I have a learned a lot since purchasing the first contacts for my husband. Today, I logged into 1-800-Contacts to buy contacts for my husband. 1-800-Contacts is having a back to school sale. Use their coupon code, 20OFF175, to get 20% off your order. If you have a Discover card, just login to your online account and click the 1-800-Contacts link offer. It’s 10% cashback! In addition, 1-800-Contacts has a $100 mail-in-rebate with certain brands. The brand he is using, Acuvue, qualifies for the $100 mail-in-rebate. In conclusion, use your Discover for 10% cashback, take advantage of the back to school sale by saving 20%, and send in your $100 mail-in-rebate. By now, you should be getting the contacts at 50% of the original cost. I will, also, be asking for a reimbursement from my Vision Care Plan. I think its $100. Although I don’t count that as additional discounts, since we pay for Vision insurance.

If you are planning to buying contacts or paint, there are some great deals out there. Take advantage of them.

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How to Succeed in Corporate America

This past June, I completed my second year in Corporate America. It has been thrilling roller coaster ride! I have learned a lot about myself and I have even picked up a couple things on how to succeed in this type of environment.

First, I don’t know if Corporate America will be the rest of my life. Sigh sometimes I kick myself in the foot for not considering other opportunities. Looking back I had a couple of chances to go a different direction, but I didn’t believe in myself or thought I wasn’t cut out for that kind of work. I’m trying to be more confident and asking about any and every opportunity. For example, I have asked about a job opportunity when came up in my department. I even asked about a global opportunity. I figure the more I ask, the more comfortable I get asking, even I face rejection, which I often do. Which leads me to the first lesson learned that will help you succeed in Corporate America

  1. Don’t be shy, talk to everyone, and ask about everything. One of the biggest challenges I had at the beginning of my job assignment as my serious lack of confidence. Don’t know why, but I was so intimated about approaching people. It took me a few months to get over this fear. My boss even pointed it out in my review. He thought it was strange because our previous interactions had not been like this. So, I got over my fear, and as I have become more comfortable in my area, my confidence as grown. I smile at everyone! Talk to everyone! And ask questions! Remember ask questions. Get to know people. Most of the time people are super nice and are willing to help. I know I am more than willing to help, sort of like returning the favor. When you hear about an opportunity to gain deeper breath, ask. This is harder than it seems, but now my boss sort of knows I will ask about any opportunity I hear about, no offense to him. I am at a point in my career where I need to grow, after all.
  2. Become a Subject Matter Expert in Your Area. Most likely you will come into your first job in Corporate America with absolutely no knowledge in your area. Holy crap, I still don’t know what I’m doing it, but the first couple of months were the craziest. I was getting asked to do things and about things that I had no clue how to answer. Even though I’m in sourcing, since I work for a tech company, my job includes a lot of tech lingo. So, I find myself reading a lot of technical material. I listen to the engineers. I listen to the suppliers. I listen to everybody. Some people have noted I am very well versed, and are surprised to find out I have only been in my position for 2 years. This makes me gush with happiness to know all my hard work is paying off.  You can become a subject matter expert by doing your research. It will pay off.
  3. Create an internal network. I have to admit I am not the most social person ever. And I’m part of a very hard working team that may or may not believe that socializing is acceptable as part of your work duties. But you can’t advance without creating a strong network. I have worked really hard to create a network within my company. I have joined Toastmasters, I am volunteering at special events, and I am trying to eat lunch away from my desk. Has it paid off? I’m not sure. BUT. One of the directors called me up on Friday to see if I was interested in another volunteer opportunity. She said she thought of me and thought I would be a perfect person for the opportunity. Hey! I’ll take it. I’m on people’s minds!

My primary responsibility is to rock at my job since it’s my primary and biggest source of income. It’s challenging starting out because there’s no secret recipe. Everyone has different circumstances and experiences. Do you have any additional ideas to succeed? Please share!

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Controlling the Budget- Castle Edition

I mentioned in my previous post I’m scrutinizing all our expenses and even opportunities to maximize any returns. I was a bit lazy the past few months since we moved into our new house. Once we bought a house and had no immediate savings goal where we would get something tangible, we were a bit NOT motivated to continue saving at the previous aggressive rate. Sure, I set goals to max out retirement accounts and start a brokerage account, and we kept saving a long. But we started spending a bit more here and there.

EXCEPT A BIT MORE HERE AND THERE REALLY STARTS ADDING UP!!!

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I would try to rein in the wheels, but then we would see shiny things like food. It’s embarrassing how much money we have spent food in the past six months, well in general forever! Food is always our week point. We may not necessarily go out to bars, but we do love take out.

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DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO REIN IN FOOD SPENDING???

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We would just postpone the budget talk. I would hope every month our Discover credit card bill would be lower than the next. Since we had other house expenses on top of the crazy food spending, we would go over budget. Sigh. What’s the point of a budget if you break every single time?

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We’re buckling down and going in a budget again. Check it out below:

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Our biggest challenge is keeping our food and gas bill in check. We have a weekly allotment of $62 for gas. This amounts to about two tanks of gas, one for each of us. Doable. The food is the challenge. We are basically cutting $500 off our budget. This is hard! $150 a week on all food is a challenge. Considering we go on a grocery run and spend $80 bucks on food that is easily gone in 3-4 days, and probably eat out a couple times ($20 each time for the both of us).

Now, I will have to more creative. I will have to look at ads and we will have to make meal plans. It’s going to be challenging.

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Have You Checked Your Investment Fund Fees?

In my effort to look for every easy penny in our finances, I went to Personal Capital to check out my investment fund expense ratios. Let’s be honest it’s easier for me to control fixed expenses than it is the variable expenses.

For example, we cut the cable chord in 2013! Savings? $50. Work for employers that pay for cell phone? Yes! $100 savings?

Controlling variable expenses are a lot harder for me. So, onward to look at fixed expenses. I read an article on the Wall Street Journal that most people don’t know how much money in fees they are paying for over the years!

Have you checked out your investment fund fees lately?

I have!

I pay a total of .09% each year in fund fees! In 20 years, this will cost me a grand total of $3,300.

To see a detailed table of the investments and their fees, see below:

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I have made a conscious decision to choose funds with low expense ratios. I’m so glad my company has given me the option to choose low cost Vanguard funds in my 401K.

The less fees I pay, the bigger return I get to keep!

In conclusion, take ten minutes to look up the expense ratios of your investments.

This has been a message from Savvy Financial Latina!!!

Peace.

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My Body is Breaking Apart at 24

I’m only 24 but it feels as if my body is falling apart.

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I have been dealing with a lot of pulled muscles lately. Last year I pulled a muscle on my right shoulder blade. It took me 6 months to get back to full speed.

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I was working out this afternoon, squatting actually, when I pulled a back muscle. It hurt. I tried stretching out, to see if I could continue working out. No, very bad. I couldn’t. I made it to the car to drive home and grimaced the entire ride home. Here’s the worst part! I undressed – apologize for the gory details -. Except I couldn’t pull my pants off.

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My husband was playing basketball and his phone is always in his locker. I was stuck. Barely made it to bed, and I couldn’t get undressed or move. I decided to hunt him down. I needed those pants off so I could shower people!

I called his gym and asked for the receptionist to go the basketball court and tell him to call me. The pain was that extreme. I have never done this before, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

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My hubby came and rescued me. I love him! Thank god because being stuck with spandex pants halfway off you is no fun!

I’m officially old.

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Dilemma: Helping a Friend Out

A have a big dilemma and I’m conflicted as to what to do in such a situation.

One of my really close friends is back in town with her 6 month baby and jerk boyfriend. She is in a dire situation. She is back in town to finish her last semester in college – psychology. She dropped out because she me her current boyfriend, they got in some trouble that led to jail time, and then, she got pregnant. Crazy because we were all going to school at the time and generally trying to be responsible adults.

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All my friends, including myself, have begged her to consider other options. Her boyfriend doesn’t work, he has “mental” problems (I’m not sure what this means), and doesn’t even help out with the baby. I’m pretty sure all he does is play video games. So I have made comments saying why don’t you leave him.

She’s currently in a situation where she doesn’t have enough money. However, I’m not considering lending money. We have all been through that path before and it just doesn’t work out well. She’s working a minimum wage job, going back to school, and trying to support the trio. I don’t know what’s going on other than she can’t get an apartment until another couple of weeks due to the jail problems on her record. I have offered before for her to stay with us for a short time, but we will not allow the boyfriend to stay with us. He has a record, a couple of felonies for theft, and overall don’t want someone hanging around the house all day doing god know what while we work. Other friends have put the same conditions. She can stay with them but without him. She won’t leave him.

So, there’s that. She has asked me to babysit her daughter. This is even harder because I have to rearrange my schedule and most of the time my schedule does not fit her hours. But it’s also really, really hard to watch her kid while she’s working and know the baby daddy is playing video games wherever they are staying. I don’t think he has ever changed a diaper.

I feel guilty for not helping more, but I don’t want to enable her. But she is a close friend. We had a really great friendship before she started going down this path. She is so kind and great. If only she would just leave this guy. It makes no sense to me.

What about karma? Is this one of those situations?

What do you do in this situation as a friend?

Back from the Funk

I’m back from my period of silence. It seems quite a long time since I sat down to write. During this time I have moderately kept up with reading and commenting on fellow personal finance blogger’s posts, but refrain from writing myself. I have gone through a period of introspection that lasted quite a few months.

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It started this past spring, when I somehow entered into a huge disagreement with my mother. I couldn’t write during this time because everything revolved around my feelings toward my mother. I was going through a very dark period and couldn’t find a way out of it. I spent many days alone, pondering, looking back, and analyzing feelings I had long ago buried deep in my subconscious. These struggles are not new. The relationship between my parents, especially my mother, and I has always been tumultuous. I am constantly walking a tight rope. And the rope took a dive for the concrete this past spring. I will not go into details. Suffice to say most of the disagreement had to do with cultural differences, personality challenges, and miscommunication. The relationship is better now with more effort and communication on both sides.

I read a lot. So many books, two books a week at least. What did I read about? I read dystopias, people coming of age, and historical biographies. What did I learn?

I’m a lost 24 year-old. I turned 24 in May and realized I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Which is crazy for me because I have been so focused my entire life. I have considered working on a master’s degree before and I have written about my thoughts on the subject. Now, I’m thinking of pursuing a five year part-time master’s degree in computer science. My company would pay for my education. This decision would diversify my skill set and hopefully, help me land a better job in five years.

Other than that I don’t really know where I’m heading. All I know is I want us to be financially independent. So we will continue to save money and invest. While I continue to figure out my journey, I will continue to write here and plan on starting a new outlet. I did not forget about my blog, but just needed a break to refresh.

I’m excited to pick up and start working on new projects to keep the momentum going!

4 Ways Mortgages Can Change Throughout Terms

A while back, Zillow contacted me to see if they could write a guest article for Savvy Financial Latina. I thought it was perfect timing, just recently purchasing a home. I asked Tali to write an article about 4 ways mortgages can change throughout terms to inform and educate soon to be homeowners about their future expenses.

WRiting the Check

The process of searching for and purchasing homes can take several months for most buyers. House hunters calculate their budgets, search for homes within their price ranges, visit open houses and assess properties – all before making offers. The lengthy process is both exciting and often emotional since homes are typically long-term investments, dictating buyers’ communities and lifestyles for potentially the next 30 years.

Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchases in buyers’ lives. Therefore, they’re apt to pay close attention to each detail and all of the fine print during purchase agreements and loan acquisitions. They build close business relationships with their lenders, and learn to trust the guidance of their agents. After documents are signed and keys are transferred, the agreements are final – but changes still can occur.

Purchase terms remain the same, but unsuspecting mortgage changes occasionally cause new homeowners to feel concerned, confused or deceived. Here are four mortgage changes that may occur throughout fixed-rate loan terms.

1. New Loan Servicers

After weeks or months of working with lenders prior to purchasing homes, buyers tend to form trusting bonds with them. Shortly after sales are finalized, it’s common for lenders to sell loans to other lenders or investors. Rather than carrying loans, lenders sell them to free up capital to make new investments, or for profit. These deals do not reflect on the relationships between lenders and borrowers. In fact, loan originators often stay in touch with their clients to foster loyal relationships for future investments.

When a loan is sold by an originating lender to a servicing lender, the borrower’s loan terms remain the same. The original terms agreed upon at closing stay intact. The only noteworthy change for borrowers is the new addresses they send their monthly checks to. Some servicing lenders accept online payments, biweekly payments or multiple monthly checks; others do not. Simply clarify the new payment options and any associated fees.

2. Revised Monthly Payment Breakdowns

After loans are finalized, borrowers are committed to paying their monthly mortgage payments. Although the price remains the same each month, the first few years of payments primarily reduce borrowers’ interest balances and slowly pay off principal balances throughout the later years of loans. This ratio of principal and interest is known as a mortgage amortization schedule. Homeowners should not be surprised to have lofty principal balances after 10 full years of loan payments.

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For instance, a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage payment of $1,500 would breakdown to $1,050 of interest and $450 of principal on the first payment, level out in the 12th year and the final payment would consist of $5 of interest and $1,495 of principal. Even though monthly payment totals do not change, principal and interest breakdowns vary throughout loan terms.

3. Homeowner Insurance Premium Increases 

In addition to principal and interest, monthly mortgage payments typically include one-twelfth of annual homeowners insurance and property tax fees. These partial payments accumulate in borrowers’ escrow accounts until they’re due in full. As with most bills, insurance companies often adjust their premiums for profit. Throughout 30-year terms, homeowners receive letters every few years detailing adjusted payments for increased homeowners insurance fees.

Proactive homeowners shop for insurance annually to find the best prices and avoid premium hikes. Some borrowers prefer higher deductibles to decrease monthly fees (emergency funds cushion steep deductibles), where others bundle homeowner and auto insurance with one provider for reduced prices. Other discounts are often available for highly-secure homes upon request. It is possible for insurance premiums to decrease in price, reducing borrowers’ mortgage payments, but increases are more common.

4. Property Tax Changes

Borrowers typically experience increased property taxes throughout ownership. Like insurance, annual taxes are portioned into monthly mortgage payments. In some areas of the country, property owners receive annual assessed value statements itemizing their property valuation details. In others, homeowners collect property cards at their city or county assessor’s office to determine valuation details such as property square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, residential or commercial and other zoning information. Homeowners can file appeals on their property valuations.

Alternatively, homeowners can hire valuation professionals to assess their property values. However, appraisals aren’t free and outcomes may not reduce taxes – generous appraisals can raise property taxes. Before jumping into an appraisal, review local comparable sales to evaluate similar home values. If three or more comparable sales are significantly cheaper (8 percent or more), then the homeowner has substantiation for further research, an appraisal and/or an appeal.

Without fighting property tax increases, borrowers pay an additional lump sum to their lenders to correct deficits of annual taxes, with only slight mortgage increases moving forward. Otherwise, they might assume monthly mortgage payment spikes of a few hundred dollars for the remainder of the tax year to make up for the shortage in their tax escrow account.

These four scenarios demonstrate instances where a fixed-rate mortgage contract can change throughout the life of the loan. Keep in mind that adjusted-rate mortgages have changing interest rates throughout their terms, as agreed at closing. As long as homeowners are prepared for such circumstances, they’ll avoid internal panic, unexpected financial stressors and disappointment related to severed business relationships.

Save, Save, Save

When I first started university, I wanted to major in both finance and history. I had recently changed my mind and switched from software engineering to business school. I’m still not sure if it was a wise decision. Maybe if I had heard from more software engineers who had later turned to sales or business development, it would have been different. But at the time, I thought if you majored in software engineering, you had to be a software engineer for the rest of your life. It may seem illogical to you, but our education system teaches us to see in a straight line. Why did I switch to finance? I wanted to see how to make money. Coming from a low income family, money had always been a predominant issue in my childhood. Money was stressful. It caused arguments and distress. I wanted to avoid this in my life.

I switched to finance to learn more about how to invest and save money. Looking back, I’ve learned much more about personal finance reading on my own than I did from those college classes. Personal finance reading is free compared to the huge college investment.

Andy Clarke, a Vanguard blog contributor, shared his one piece of investment advice in a recent blog entry. Saving is more important than fancy investing. If you start saving at 25, your money will have more time to compound. You will end up with more money in your retirement account than the person who started saving at 35. 10 years is a huge difference in terms of letting your money grow.

So with this I leave you with save, save, and save. I know it’s hard. I myself struggle with our savings all the time. Living costs money. We don’t live a very luxurious life, yet sometimes I wonder where is all our money going? So, try to save as much money as possible. Put it in another savings account or transfer it directly to Vanguard; out of sight, out of mind.

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6 Steps to Establish A Post College Budget

As part of contribution to H&R Block Talk, I discussed the 6 steps to establish a post college budget.

Congratulations on receiving your diploma and landing a job offer! This is a very exciting time in your life.

As you start figuring out your next steps, it’s extremely important to set a budget. How do you establish your budget? Here are a few things I learned after I graduated from school and landed my big, adult job.

To read more, read 6 Steps to Establish A Post College Budget

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