Monthly Archives: August 2012

Great August Posts!

August went by really fast. I did lots of babysitting, but now that the kids are back in school, I won’t be babysitting much. I started my fall classes on August 27, and I haven’t really figured out how I am going to fit in all the hw and assignments. I need to spend some time adding deadlines to my calendar. Work has been pretty crazy. I am no longer bored, more like running around like a chicken without head. That’s the expression, right?

I am going to visit my parents this Labor Day weekend. They are super excited to see me. I’m hoping to leave early Saturday morning and come back Sunday afternoon. I need to spend Monday doing homework for MBA classes, catching up on work, writing guest blog posts, and maybe catching up with friends? Sigh…not enough time even on a three day weekend. C’est la vie.

I hope everybody enjoys their Labor Day holiday!!! :) Spend some time relaxing and having fun!

Here are some great August posts:

Savings money with your house @ Making Sense of Cents
Warning: First Time Home Buyers are in For Financial Shock @ Making Sense of Cents
Say No to Debt @ Retire by Forty
Retirement Advice for Young Folks @ Retire by Forty
I Only Save When I Have To @ Dinks Finance
Students Stressing Over Finances @Give Me Back My Five Bucks
Education Tax Credits @20 Something Finance
Inside Look: Samantha’s Money @Budgets Are Sexy
Gen Y in The Work Place @ Give Me Back My Five Bucks

2012 Goals Progress: August

It seems like just yesterday, I was just writing my goals for August! I honestly can’t believe August is over. The Olympics are over, too!!! I miss the summer already!

Let’s see how well I did during August:

    • Spend no more than $2500 FAIL
    • Save $3000 ( We saved $2500! A little short of the $3000, but still pretty good. Trying to build up that EF)
    • Pay $500 to car loan (We only paid $400.)
    • Set up contribution to ESPP (Contribution set!)
    • Workout 4-5x a week ( Let’s just say I made it to the gym 3X a week. I fell a little short. But still…progress)
    • Write 3-5X blog posts a week I consistently wrote a minimum of 3x a week! :)
    • Make some side hustle $$$ I babysat a lot! :)
    • Sell 3 pairs of shoes on Ebay FAIL
    • Sell books on Amazon FAIL

I started classes again….I don’t want to go back to school! But I gotta finish this MBA. I’m honestly tired of studying MBA subjects. I wouldn’t mind learning about something else, but international business, economics, and information technology is all getting a little boring. I gotta hold out…4 more classes…I can make it….

I already feel the stress building up. I start thinking about everything I have to do, and I start freaking out! I gotta remember to take it one day at a time, make a plan, and cross out items from my to do list.

As much as we wanted to spend no more than $2500, it was actually a little more. I haven’t added it up, but we bought contacts and some other stuff. Plus, the tires for my car. I’m still extremely proud of us for being able to save $2500. It took a lot of hard work and determination. We are getting better with eating out too! I am brown bagging it to work M-F and so is the Mr.!

We, also, have to pay a toll tag bill from our vacation in SC. I forgot to pay it in early Aug. and now it’s more. $1.25 toll turned into $26 (so called administrative fee…really a paper and a stamp costs this much???) + $18 (that’s how much Enterprise charges us for transferring the toll violation).

Other than that, just trying to enjoy life. :)

How did you do on your August 2012 goals?

Decisions: Choosing an Orthodontist

I have a huge dilemma….

I want to get braces to straighten my teeth and align my bite. I went to two consultations. Here is the feedback:

  1. Orthodontist A: He has almost two decades of experience. Seemed very knowledgeable during consultation, put me at ease immediately, and I felt really comfortable with him. He told me invasalign was not a good option, and he recommended traditional braces. His treatment plan is a total cost of $5516. Insurance covers $2000. My out of pocket cost will be $3516 over a two year period. This covers treatment, retainers, and a 2 year follow-up.
  2. Orthodontist B: He was really nice and they took x-rays and pictures during my first consultation. He went into detail as to how he would align my teeth, and explained any questions I had. He, also, said I was a candidate for invasalign. Although, I was comfortable, I didn’t feel as ease as with the other doctor. His treatment plan costs $5100. Insurance covers $2000, and due to an insurance association, I get an additional discount of $500. My out of pocket cost will be about $2200 over a two year period. this covers treatment, retainers, and a 1 year follow up.

The difference is $1500! Crazy, I didn’t think there would be such a price difference in braces.

Orthodontist B is an in network provider but they do a lot of marketing on TV. Seriously, I see at least one commercial a day. I don’t really want to go with an orthodontist that does flashy marketing.

Sigh…I’m leaning towards Ortho A, but I don’t know if the $1500 is worth it. My hubby says it’s my teeth and I should go with who I’m comfortable regardless of price.

Does anybody have any advice or questions I can ask so I can make a decision?

Grown Up Life is Expensive

A lot of my friends, including myself, are finding out how expensive life truly is. Once we all moved out of our parents’ umbrella of protection, we realized expenses quickly add up.

I have been managing my budget for a long time (since I went off to college), and I had to start paying for all my bills etc. My parents gave me monthly allowance, but that’s it. I had to figure out how to allocate it towards rent, food, going out, books, etc. But being completely on our own comes with realizations of how expensive life can be.

For example, I went to the dermatologist on Saturday. My doctor prescribed three different medicines. I pick it up at my pharmacy and later checked how much the prescriptions cost. The money is automatically withdrawn from my FSA. I balked at how much the prescription was. A grand total of $190. Yikes!!! It would have been cheaper if I had refilled it through my insurance online pharmacy, but I didn’t know how to process worked. Plus, so far, my prescriptions would total to no more than $10, so I hadn’t bothered to really check. Well, I checked online and found out I need to give a fax number to my doctor and ask him to fax the prescriptions to my insurance provider. Savings? Through my insurance prescriptions will only be $70. Huge difference. Research is so important and I totally failed at this one. No more mistakes though!!! I have the fax number in my phone. $$$$$$ Cha-Ching

Tiresss??? We have to buy 4 tires this week. Right now we have received quotes for up to $750….I’m shopping around…

I spent some time with a friend on Saturday, and money came up. Money is tight for everybody. We were talking about how quickly gas adds up, and the balking cost of insurance. In retrospect, it sounded like we were both complaining about adult life. Were we actually complaining? Probably…were we being negative? No. We were happy with the fact we are adults now and have freedom. The cost of freedom though is bills and more bills….

I think we are all still in shock. It seems like we are working just to pay the bills. We save because we budget and work more. Sometimes life is slightly better than college when we were all super broke. Do we make more money now? Yes, but do we have higher expenses? Yes. Lifestyle Inflation at its greatest.

I’m not complaining here. More like expressing how I feel every time I have to pay a bill. In my mind, I often wonder if I really have to pay the bill.

Do you talk to your friends about how expensive grown up life is? 

Conflict Management

“The world as we know it is a construction, a finished product, almost – one might say – a manufactured article, to which the mind contributes as much by its moulding forms as the thing contributes by its stimuli.” – Will Durant

Last week, I took a 3 day training in managing conflict and negotiation solutions. It was really beneficial and really brought up some themes I had forgotten about. I think the majority of the population go on with their lives negotiating and dealing with conflict without really realizing or taking into account their systematic approach to these situations. Do you remember the last time you had an argument with your husband? Or you family? Was it rational? I know that in my conflict with family, situations get extremely irrational and emotional, and I end up arguing things from years ago. In most situations, opinions and perceptions are brought up as facts. I have no systematic method in negotiation and conflict.

“Self awareness facilitates both empathy and self management, and these two in combination allow effective relationship management” – Daniel Goleman

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “conflict?” I think of a fight, argument, tears, grudges. Do you have negative connotations, as well? Destructive Conflict is certainly characterized by personal attacks, over competitiveness, issue proliferation, and faulty communication skills. Sound familiar? Think about when you are arguing with your spouse or family member. Do you bring up issues from ten years ago? Do you compete to talk, and essence start yelling? Criticizing, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt are all barriers to communication. This doesn’t just happen in our personal life. A lot of the characteristics prevalent in your personal life will in some shape or form transfer to your workplace. Today’s workplace seems even more prone to excessive conflict: bad performance review, unstable people, dysfunctional teams, absenteeism, high stress conditions, unresolved conflicts, and change management.

Is conflict bad though? We think of conflict as bad due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. We get nervous about a conflict we’re experiencing, we avoid it as long as possible, the conflict gets out of control and it must be confronted, and we handle it poorly. It’s a never ending cycle that usually ends in decreased level of communication, proximity, and commitment, and it could turn into the death of a relationship.

Conflict can be productive if handled correctly. Productive conflict is characterized by focused issues, parties having flexibility in how they achieve goals, listening skills, dialog, and recognizing other parties’ needs and concerns. Productive conflict leads to a higher probability of conflict being resolved, and improvement of the relationship.

How do you deal with conflict? Any examples? 

I’m Already Thinking About a New Master’s

I’m already thinking about a new master’s and I haven’t even finished my MBA! LOL Yup, you read it right. So, I have four more classes to go until I finish my MBA (May 2013). I am taking two classes this semester, and two classes next semester for those of you that didn’t know.

This week I had Negotiation and Conflict Resolution training at my work. I had taken a negotiation class before in my graduate program, so all the terms like BATNA or WATNA, I already knew the definition. Let’s just say knowing the theory and applying it are two different things! Of course, I knew this, but still…It was a 3 day class that really reminded me of my shortcomings in negotiation skills. I actually made the mistake/brilliant move to volunteer to do a negotiation for my group. Thankfully, my other counterpart was one of the youngin’ fresh MBA faces, not the seasoned negotiators (older coworkers). Let’s just say we got a C- and the instructor told us nicely that we crashed and burned. We were the example of what not to do for the rest of the class. Seriously, he used us every other minute as an example!

One of the instructors is the director of the dispute resolution program at a local university. I actually had already heard about this program already before and it had been in the back of my mind.

Negotiation and conflict resolution is something that has always peaked my interest. WHY? Because I want to be an awesome negotiator. My job, also, requires negotiation skills every day, and to some extent conflict resolution. I think taking a couple of classes to hone in my negotiation skills would be a huge benefit for which I would reap the rewards until my death! It would definitely help my career! :)

I’m actually considering starting out with the Certificate Program in Dispute Resolution after finishing my MBA, and if I find it beneficial (which knowing me, I will), transition into the M.A. in Dispute Resolution. Dispute resolution refers to methods used by trained neutrals to help people communicate more clearly, negotiate effectively, develop and evaluate solutions. My company will pay for it, so I would consider it extra value added compensation on top of my salary and benefits :) Plus, the university has a professional center right around the street from my office where they would hold most of the classes (I need to figure out more details, but I believe this is true). I know this is a year away, but I’m going to ask the instructor to coffee and talk to him about my aspirations.

I do realize he is going to sell this program to me, after all it’s money towards the university. My current university does not have a similar program. I know the program is credible though. One of my close friend’s mom completed this program years ago, and is very happy with what she learned. The university is very reputable (more famous actually than the one I currently attend and am an alumni), so it would pretty cool to add it to my educational resume :) I already printed the admission and course requirements! I’m a tad excited :) Something to look forward to after my MBA.

P.S. Look for my posts relating to what I learned in training! Some of the info might help you refine your negotiation skills!

Does Your Company Provide Training?

This week is going by so fast. I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday!

Guess who’s in training this week? Me. My company requires a minimum of 40 hours of training per year. I did 17 hours of online training in July, and I am completing the rest of my hours this week. I am taking a class called Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Solutions. It’s so interesting! Granted I have taken negotiation classes before during my graduate program, but it’s interesting to see what my coworkers think about negotiating.

For example,we did an exercise where we discovered what our negotiation styles were. I had already done this, and already knew my style, but I found out my coworkers styles this time! Why is this important? I’m constantly dealing with my coworkers on a daily basis, and it’s important to know what makes them tick. It’s also important to realize why they are acting a certain way. I have a coworker who is at my same level (analyst) and can be very direct and commanding. Since I’m commanding and direct, I push back and resist. At first, I though he was trying to undermine me, hell maybe he is, but it is most likely due to his style.

I will go into more detail in following posts. I want to share what I find out because I think it’s super useful! But before I share, I want to know whether your company provides training and whether you see it as beneficial? What kind of training have you received?

LunchBox Conversations: Babies and Marriage Equal Tax Shelter

Hello again! Seems like I was late to publish my post today. This weekend was extremely exhausting. I ended up working on work Saturday night, babysitting Sunday, and working on work again on Sunday. Let’s just say I was so tired I passed out at 8 pm, and didn’t wake up until 7 am when my work alarm went off. Friday afternoon I went to an orthodontics consultation. I have always wanted to get braces – my parents couldn’t afford it when I was growing up- and now that I have insurance and a paying job, I finally can! The perks of being employed :) I will have to write another post about the breakdown of the braces plan.

So, today it’s another installment to the LunchBox Conversations series!

I find that my coworkers always talk about the most serious things. I feel like a little kid listening to them talk – remember I am the youngest by at least 5 years-. During one of our lunch conversations, we started talking about taxes. Taxes…yuck right…the money we have to give up to the government to live in such a great country, but hate  to see it go.

One of my coworkers mentioned how her now husband jokingly mentioned at the beginning of their dating journey how his CPA advised him he should either get married or buy a house to stay in his current tax bracket. They ended up getting married and buying a house later, double tax deduction! Now they are having a baby – child credit -, and she went to school this year – education credit-. We joked how they were going to benefit greatly from marriage and babies….

Do you ever think about your spouse or kids as a tax shelter? Yes, there can be no money $$ assigned to a human being. I know my hubby is priceless, but it’s pretty interesting to think about the benefits of being married :) Standard deduction is $11,900 for us! :)  Come on spill it! :)

$500 of Not Planned Expenses

Hello peeps! Happy Friday! I’m so glad it’s the end of the week. I only have to get through today and then I’m free for the weekend. Although I have a lot of work to do and  I have to prep for several meetings on Monday, I’m probably going to have to take some work home.

This week has been pretty crazy busy. I don’t even remember where it went and I definitely haven’t had enough time to get everything done. I babysat on Tuesday and Wednesday we went to an event to support a friend of my hubby’s.The good news for the side hustle is that my client needs me to babysit the kids on a weekly basis on Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 to 10 pm. That’s extra moolah (cash) a week!

I, also, worked out 3X this week (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday)! On Monday I did Tabala (30 min.) and PiYo (60 min.), on Tuesday I did Total Burn (40 min.), and Thursday I did PiYo again (60 min.). Finally, getting in the groove again. I need to start running again so I can burn even more calories!

How has your week been?

Unfortunately, as much as I have been trying to normalize our spending, it just has not been happening! :/ So far, we have about $500 of not planned expenses. My hubby had to buy contacts from Target ($381). The contacts will last for an entire year. We will get a reimbursement from our vision plan and FSA, but it’s probably going to take 4-6 weeks. Until then, it has to come out of our pockets. We, also, bought a couple of special event packages ($112). My company had an event where you buy a package of services. For example, I bought a package of 3 free oil changes at NTB for $31. I, also, bought a Texas Rangers package for $40 for 4 tickets. I bought bowling passes for $11. And paint balling passes for $30. We are planning to sell some of these to our friends. Not only do our friends get discounted prices because it’s way cheaper than to buy it at whole price, but we will be able to recoup the costs and go have some fun, as well. However, until friends pay for it, we have to eat the cost.

We still have some more expenses coming up.

  • Need to get new tires for my car
  • Buy books for my 2 graduate classes

I’m not going to lie. It feels a little tight right now. And I’m playing the timing game as to when the credit card bill is due. We have enough money to cover the bills, but it also means we won’t save as much.

It’s going to be interesting how August ends up in terms of expenses and savings. I have a target goal of $3000 to save, but I really hope we can save more. A robust target is $3500 and a stretch target is $4000.

Have a great weekend!!! What are you up to???

$17620 in Student Loans

I was offered $17620 in unsubsidized Stafford student loans. I did not have to accept the loans because 1) my tuition will only be $9000 this school year  2)I’m working, so I don’t need loans for living expenses. However, if I did not have scholarships or help from Mr. Paycheck, I would be forced to take a part of these student loans.

Then, I started thinking of what $17620 would get me:

  • Down payment on a $100K house or condo. Hmm…not sure I can get that type of house in nice Dallas. More like $200K-$250K.
  • A nice brand new car! :) Mini cooper anyone? LOL
  • A nice vacation to Europe and Latin America. Yup, both!
  • Lots of shoes and clothes….my closet wouldn’t be big enough!!!!
  • An Iphone? A new watch? Or maybe an IPAD???

And that’s how people quickly spend loans. We get caught up in the money that’s in our checking account once it’s disbursed, that we forget the bank owns our lives until then, and we will be paying for them to take their clients to expensive dinners and golf outings.

If you are planning to borrow money for education, car, or a house; make sure you pay the minimum amount of interest to the bank. A lot of people get excited over the 200K house they bought with 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 living room areas; they forget that house will probably end up costing 400K after interest payments. Or that nice brand new car that was only $17000, will end up being $22000 after interest payments. Who kept the extra money? The bank.

I’m not saying banks are evil. I believe they are needed financial institutions. But they gotta make money. Just make sure it’s not off you! Cause you’re not getting any filet mignon!

You are probably thinking, oh I would never do that with my student loans, but you would be surprised at what you spend the money once you get it. I had classmates who I knew were broke because we talked about, and as soon as they got their student loans would buy a fancy new smartphone or go on vacation.

If you are a student, my advice is to calculate how much you need to scrape by. And take out just that amount. Find a job, or eat ramen noodles, but don’t take out the max. amount of loans. If you can start paying them off just a little before you graduate, start paying them off. Don’t wait until the grace period is over to start making payments, by then you will be too used to having money in your pocket and you will only want to pay the minimum.

Just trying to change some mindsets over debt :) I know a lot of people don’t mind debt, but I’m just not one of those people.

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