Friday, February 29, 2008

Being a Girl is Not Cheap

So, I spent some beauty money yesterday. I got a Bare Minerals starter kit at Sephora, and then added a Sephora brand longwear lipstick in a neutral color--I'm trying to convince myself that wearing makeup on a regular basis doesn't have to be an enormous pain in the ass and/or make me look like I'm trying too hard. That cost me my $75 gift certificate, plus about $8. Then I stopped at the drugstore in Grand Central for a box of hair color (a slightly darker, richer brown than my natural kinda-reddish, kinda-brownish color): $9.99 plus tax. The total out-of-pocket cost was just about $20.

Then, though, you consider what happens if I really like Bare Minerals--I use it daily, and I have to replace the products regularly! And they are certainly not cheap. It's like adding another regular bill.

On the other hand, though, I do think some makeup can make a 24-year-old look a lot more like a grownup, and thus add a little credibility in the world. Theoretically, I guess that credibility could boost my earning power. Still, can we really call makeup an "investment"?


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Got a Bite on My Resume!

I'd idly sent my resume out to a couple of publishing houses a couple of weeks ago; just submitting through websites, not really thinking too hard about it. Today, I got an email from someone at one of those houses asking me to submit a cover letter--apparently, I failed to properly attach one through their online application platform. Which is awesome, actually--it means they liked my resume enough to want to look at a cover letter! Though I'm prone to conducting personal business (like, uh, blogging) at work, I didn't think they'd appreciate an email on my current employer's time, so I'll be redoing my cover letter and sending it off when I get home tonight. It's a long way from an entry-level position, and it would be hard to pass up, if I could actually get an offer.

Perhaps related, perhaps not: I think I'm going to stop by Sephora this afternoon to spend some of the gift certificate my aunt gave me for Christmas, and I'm itching, for the first time in years and years, to dye my hair.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Break On Through To The Other Side

My lost medical claim, which my insurance had said they'd lost, and which I hadn't yet refiled, came through after all! The check will cover my last and next two unreimbursable medical frolics, and goes a long way towards easing my mind about the current state of my finances. Now all I need to do is submit my freelance invoice at work, and I should be able to file and pay my taxes. O frabjous day!

(And in the background stalks the GRE in Literature in English, all, and then you can study for meeeeee...--I wonder if I use financial worry as a procrastination device?)


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Winter Sucks

This is essentially unrelated to personal finance: but for serious, I am ready for spring. All I really want to do is sit outside and not be cold and wet and miserable--to sit outside and eat some fresh fruit and hang out with some people and maybe go see a free concert or something. I hate how in the winter you have to make plans that are inside (and thus, often, require shelling out for drinks or coffee or whatever), and how you can't just go buy tomatoes and corn for dinner at the last-est of last minutes.

Come back, warm weather! Shakespeare in the Park and sunshine, where are you?

I long for a picnic.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Take a Breather

We've come out of K's birthday weekend happy and not-broke, if somewhat sleep deprived. I did overbuy the cake (lesson learned: one "serving" as defined by a commercial bakery will feed two to three actual humans, especially if you, say, forgot to think ahead enough to bring forks), and had a pang of "oh, $75 flushed away" as we abandoned its remains, but, in the grand scheme, no matter.

So the charges are on my credit card and the cash to pay them is in my checking account and now I shift my focus: GRE studying and normal, everyday, lather-rinse-repeat money management.



Friday, February 22, 2008

Birthday Spend-o-Rama!

So, we're in the thick of the K's Thirtieth Birthday Extravaganza over here, and so far, it's going really well--we did the just-us incredibly-expensive-and-delicious-dinner-and-really-good-play part of the plan last night, and are heading into the weekend group-celebrating-with-lots-of-people-and-really-big-cake part.

All I can say is, really, that I don't regret spending the money. Not just because of the extraordinary sushi and the weirdly miraculous green tea--it smelled more than tasted like green tea--it tasted like, I don't know, ancient water from underground springs or something--but mostly because sometimes you just have to spoil other people. And a thirtieth birthday is one of those times, I think. One of the things that the spending of money does well, in and of itself, is announce the momentousness of something. And a thirtieth birthday is momentous, and K likes momentousness, and so the money is well spent.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

"I Can't; I Can't Afford It"

So, just last night, I was having some post-work coffee-and-bitching with a dear friend (and colleague! how lucky am I?), when K called to ask if I wanted to go to this event we'd discussed the night before. He'd been invited via Facebook by a friend. Organ music and silent films (concurrently) at St. Bart's. I like organ music and silent films okay, but I like churches a lot, and just the night before that, we'd been talking about how I'd like to relinquish some of my social-planning responsibilities (and he said something along the lines of "Well, sometimes I want to invite you to do something but I know you won't want to spend the money," which, eek!) so the whole thing seemed ideal.

We walked over there, and found ourselves facing a friendly woman who told us, "It's $10 a ticket." Whoa. Not in the plan. I figured Facebook+no mention of cost=free. I figured wrong! And I'd brought along my friend based on the figuring, too. K saw my face drop, and offered to treat me, which I accepted. I offered to split the cost of my friend's ticket with her, but she turned me down--I felt guilty (though granted, I had just bought her tea).

Now, Krystal was mulling over just these kinds of situations the other day. I agree that sometimes I feel like I'm hinting, "Pay for me, pay for me," which really, I'm not. If I'm not prepared to pay for something, I'm prepared to give up doing it--though obviously, as in this case, I'm willing to accept a gift if it's offered. And the fact that K views my budgetary tightness as a damper on our shared social life is disturbing to me, too--although in this particular case, it wasn't a question of having the money but wanting to go out on Saturday, but was a question of seriously, every penny I have is earmarked for his birthday this weekend.

I'm young and living in New York, and I want to enjoy that. But I also want to be able to have a savings that can be a real cushion for me, something that ultimately makes my life easier. I'm looking forward to loosening up a bit at the end of this year, when presumably I'll have my $10,000 Freedom Fund all saved up, but perhaps I should make some compromises before then, too. Or perhaps I just need to involve K more in my planning, so that I can take into consideration the stuff he'd like us to do. The problem there is that while I like to know what's going on two days in advance or more, he likes to fly by the seat of his pants. Maybe we can make some compromises.

In general, I don't feel like my finances put a big damper on my social life, mostly because most of my friends are in similar financial positions to mine. I didn't feel bad this weekend saying, "I can't; I can't afford it" when some friends (one visiting from out of town) said they were planning on going to a play that night. We'd been hanging out all day, and you don't talk during a play, anyway, so I didn't have a problem bowing out--and actually, they ended up not going, and not because of me, so we got to keep on hanging out. And these past couple of weeks are sort of a special case, because I've been so tight so as to be able to blow a big amount of money for the next few days: fancy dinners, theater tickets, birthday cakes from beloved local bakeries, etc.

Nevertheless, I think this issue needs a bit more thought and attention. I'm going to have my eye on this.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day: The Morning After

Valentine's Day chez English Major was a frugal success!

I stopped at Fairway on my way home and bought salad fixings (greens & grape tomatoes), some raw shrimp, half a dozen eggs, a baguette, a couple of lemons, and some groceries we needed for the house--some yogurt, some baby carrots, a couple of apples. I also bought some pasta in case our plan (make pasta from scratch!) was a failure. Total: $22.

Importantly, I resisted the impulse to embellish, to say, "Oh, what we're doing isn't enough--I'll get some strawberries to macerate and eat with the cheesecake! I'll get an avocado to add to the salad! I'll get a bottle of lambic to drink with dessert!" No. No. What we're doing is fine. Keep walking.

We already had the cheesecake I made on Sunday in the fridge (another plus of that recipe: reheats like a dream), and we also already had flour, parsley, olive oil, butter, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and a bottle of white wine. Making pasta from scratch is intimidating-sounding but actually easy, and very, very, very delicious, especially when accompanied by a sauce that consists of butter, oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, and shrimp. And butter. And oil. And butter. (A tip from me to you: there was some butter in the sauce.)

Simple salad with the vinaigrette recipe I learned in my cooking class in France (I am not sharing the recipe, no, because even though it is the easiest thing ever, everyone thinks I am God's gift to salad when I make it, and there are some things a girl has to keep to herself) was a great side dish, and cheesecake, and wine...mmm, gluttony.

(K's present to me was a glamorous black-and-gold cigarette holder and a matching cigarette case full of beautiful Nat Sherman cigarettes in bright colors--fueling my semi-secret belief that I really am Holly Golightly.)

So there were no yachts and no diamonds, but we did something cool (pasta from scratch!), made ourselves a pretty decadent dinner, and went to bed happy. And I didn't shoot my budget all to hell. And what more, really, can one really ask?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beans! Beans!

In my continuing quest for delicious, healthy, and cheap meals, I've been eating a lot more beans. Last night, I diced a couple of small onions, caramelized them in olive oil, added cumin, chili powder, and some minced garlic, and then dumped in a can of black beans (can juices and everything). I split the recipe between two small tupperwares, and K and I took it to work for an afternoon snack.

I got the recipe from Orangette, who also provided this awesome-looking doctored chickpea recipe, which I'm planning on making for lunch on Sunday. I appreciate how quick these recipes are--they're really "assembly" more than "cooking"--and how simple and healthy the results are. So in the interest of expanding my bean repertoire even further, I thought I'd ask my readers for further tips: what do you do with a can of beans?


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jiminy Crickets, Chase!

What made you raise my credit limit from $1,500 to $6,500? You more than tripled my line of credit overnight. Are you thinking this will make me pay you finance charges? I guarantee that it will not. I am not that kind of girl, Chase, so you can keep your extra five grand to yourself. And don't sit so close. I don't trust your intentions with me.

Your friend (but don't think I owe you anything!),
English Major


Family Money

Madame X's post about her family and social circle's levels of wealth made me want to elaborate on my earlier post about my aunt.

Let me start by saying that I do not understand how money works in my extended family. Each little family pocket seems to differ from all the others except for the fact that they share a general sense of confusion, of not really knowing what the deal is with their money, how it shapes their lives and their interactions with each other. Some of this stems from the difference between financial status and class. Some of it stems from family dynamics. I'm not sure where the rest of it comes from.

It's such a weird, knotty little problem. I was chatting with my mother recently, and she was mentioning how strange money is for her and her siblings--how differently they've ended up feeling about the money they have or don't have. Because of when they were born, who they married, what careers they pursued, they've ended up in very different socioeconomic places. Similarly, my dad's life is really different than his brothers' lives were, partially because he was born much later, by which time his family had a little more financial comfort.

It's been passed down to subsequent generations. My sister, my (mother's-side) cousins and I all started out at the same private school, but we've ended up in very different places, too--my sister and I know that our nuclear family "has more money" than our cousins', but they always seem to have more money to spend than we do, on cigarettes and drinks and taxis and spring break trips. (But we went to private colleges; they went to state schools.) My (father's-side) cousins, too, have diverged, from our family and from each other, and sometimes, like at my cousin's son's bar mitzvah, that divergence is starkly foregrounded. My mother says one cousin resents that her sister bought her a house. My mother says her brother's children feel that they were brought up with a false sense of how much money their family had, and it was a shock to find out it was less than they thought. My father says that since he's retired, the big shots from his old industry don't return his calls anymore. My father says his brother's children stopped talking to his other brother's children because of a sweatsuit and a will.

A couple of weeks ago, I was served legal papers pertaining to a lawsuit over the assets of my grandfather's estate. I have read them and failed to understand them in a really profound way, but I know that ultimately they signify that my mother and her brother and her sister feel that they have been cheated by the people whose job it was to look out for their interest in their father's artistic reputation. Perhaps because much of my family is involved in the arts, there is more aesthetics in our wrangling than there is in other families'; perhaps not.

I think sometimes that the reason we pretend that money is no issue in the face of family is because if we start thinking about how big an issue money is, it clouds everything over and makes us feel very much alone.

It works similarly with friends: most of my friends are in relatively similar situations to mine at present. We're mostly scrabbling for cheap apartments, for health insurance, for the money we need to start our adult lives. A few live substantially above that level: I ran into a friend on the subway recently--I had Trader Joe's bags and my hair in a sloppy ponytail; he was wearing a Paul Smith suit. And of course, some people's limited means are mitigated by their family's assistance (as mine are, to some extent). But aside from the few bankers and the many grad students of my acquaintance, my friends and I are living at about the same level--we haven't begun to differentiate ourselves yet, really. Yet. Yet.

My field of academic interest is reasonably closely related to this--I'm interested in canon formation, in aesthetic taste, in reading practices--in how class and money and economic history have shaped the more ethereal realms of our lives. Including how we relate to our families; including who our friends are. I may very well be thinking about these problems for the rest of my life, and I still don't know if I'll ever be satisfied with my conclusions.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Can't Buy Me Love

From PostSecret, of course.


Discretionary Spending Budget for This Week: $0

I went to see Sweeney Todd tonight with K and a friend. Afterwards, we strolled over to Veniero's for coffee and desserts. It was a nice night, and cost me $24. I don't have any more discretionary money to spend until next Saturday, when I will spend $20 or less on brunch with a friend who's coming on an impromptu visit from the West Coast. I have plenty of money for food, and money for my laundry, and money for my Netflix autodraft, but no money at all for anything else. I mean, I have money—it's not like my checking account balance is $48 or anything—but I don't have money to spend.

This is essentially fine. I have enough for the necessities, and I can certainly socialize—just, at home. I have a bottle of wine and lots of tea and some beer and some frozen gingersnap dough in my house; I could easily have a friend over for a nice afternoon of chatting and Scrabble. I should actually make a couple of dates to do just that over the next couple of weeks, so that I don't feel like my inability to spend money is isolating me. That's a very good plan, actually, and I can think of several people I don't see enough whom I could invite over for such an afternoon. Ah, planning, light of my life, fire of my loins, etc., etc. It may not quite trip off the tongue, but it does wonders for the sanity. And the budget.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Breathe, EM, Breathe

I'm in a state of high financial anxiety right now. There are a lot of expenses piling up, and a lot of balls in the air, and I feel like I'm about to let them all come crashing down in a heap. Here's the breakdown:

1) My taxes
Problem: I owe money, somewhere in the neighborhood of $175-$200
Solution: Don't file right now. This will give me some time to save up the money. I'll file in March or April.

2) My medical visits
Problem: I'll owe $300 at the end of the month for two medical visits my insurance may or may not cover. I was hoping that the check from a previous insurance claim would cover this, but when I called the insurance company today to check on its status, I got the old "We have no record of receiving that claim, Ma'am" business.
Solution: Unclear. I have two options: 1) dip into savings, or 2) ask my mom to cover the bill. She would, but I'm not sure I want to ask. Alternately, 3) I can work up a ton of hours on my office freelance project before I hand it over to someone else and hope that I can come out of that with $300. Then if the claim money comes in, I can use it to cover the tax bill. This is the best option, I think, especially since things are a little light at work this week, and I have some extra time.

3) My MetroCard reimbursements
Problem: I filed a claim for reimbursement a little late, and wasn't sure if it would get through in time. It didn't. At the end of this month, the grace period will start on those charges, and if they're not paid by the end of it, I'll pay finance charges. I've never paid finance charges. I don't want to start now.
Solution: Actually, I should be able to wait on this one. Because Chase applies payments to old charges first (even if in my head I'm paying for something specific), as long as I get the reimbursement check at the beginning of next month as I should, I'll just pay the two MetroCards off with that. I put in a call to the company about the claim status--just to make sure they received that claim--and was assured that it will be processed at the end of this month. They're a very reliable company, so, not too many worries there.

4) K's birthday
Problem: It's expensive to treat someone as well as I want to treat K for his 30th birthday. I'm not going into specifics, because baby, I know you read this.
Solution: Live very frugally for the next two or three weeks and splurge on the birthday weekend. Problematically, though, I have a dear friend flying into New York for an impromptu visit next weekend. I promised her brunch, but I think for the rest of the weekend we can do the old "walk around, go to cheap-or-free museums, have drinks at my apartment instead of at a bar" routine familiar to 24-year-olds the world over.

5) Valentine's day
Problem: We want to do something nice, but at the same time: K's birthday!
Solution: Cook a nice dinner in. My dad said he'd buy me the ingredients for my special ricotta cheesecake if I'd make him one, too. Which I'm happy to do. Then I think I'll do some kind of salad and shrimp scampi as an entree--delicious, and the ingredients aren't too expensive.

6) The GRE in Literature in English
Problem: With all the financial worrying I'm doing, I'm not in a good headspace for studying.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Boo, Dropping Interest Rates!

I had just gotten my savings in my various ING accounts to be big enough that each month I got a $25 interest payment. Because, as previously mentioned, I have something of a craze for round numbers (in this case, that means numbers ending in 00, 25, 50, or 75), I transfer the interest from each subaccount into my "Freedom Fund" account. Then I round it off--usually, that's been by adding the last couple of dollars to make it to a multiple-of-25 number. But of late, I'd been rounding it off by transferring a few cents of interest out, and into my grad school account (the one account that escapes my round-number mania). That was great. No waiting, and no money needed.

But with the recent interest rate drops, I'm definitely going to be back to having top it off from my checking account. And it looks like I'll be staying there for another $600 or so.



Monday, February 04, 2008

New York Magazine Chews Over the Recession

I generally disdain New York magazine exactly because it's such a craven sop to the hedge-fund trust-fund New York, but, perhaps because as an institution it is so obsessed with money, it treats money and class quite thoughtfully when it sets out to treat them explicitly instead of just laying out pages and pages of $400 v-neck sweaters.

This article is a particularly nice one, about the economic boom's effect on the character of the city. The thought is that perhaps the recession might bring back a bit of the New York we used to know.

This article comes at essentially the same subject in a more macro fashion--an economic & political analysis of what has happened in New York as the lid has blown off the top of the stock market, and then again what may happen as it corrects.

Both are worth reading (certainly for New Yorkers).


We're On the Move

So, it looks like K and I will be moving come June. We love our neighborhood (and indeed, our apartment), and the rent increase on our lease renewal packet was quite reasonable, but I think we're both in favor of finding a one-bedroom and bidding our roommate farewell.

I, naturally, look at this as an opportunity to lower our rent. We figure the very top of our range is $1,500/month ($750 each, a rent increase of about $130 over what we'd pay in our place next year), but after some time spent browsing Craigslist, I think we can find something for $1250 or below. We're going to start looking in our current neighborhood (East Harlem) and then expand our search to Central Harlem, Washington Heights/Inwood, Prospect Heights, Bushwick, and Bed/Stuy. We're looking for a one-bedroom with a good kitchen. Current dealbreakers include carpeting, walk-ups above four floors, the J/M/Z and G trains, and broker's fees. On the wishlist: hardwood floors, light, closeness to trains, a dishwasher, and renting directly from the owner.

Cheaper is better, not just because duh, but also because in the event that I move out to go to grad school far away, it would be great for K if he could keep the apartment (assuming he's making a little more money then than he is now).

We found our current apartment through a broker and while I was still on the West Coast, and many organizational and financial mistakes were made. Parceling out the security deposit and whatnot is going to be a bitch, but I'm fully prepared to pay a little "stupid tax" and move on with things. Because I was on the West Coast when K and our roommate found this apartment, I've never apartment-hunted in New York, and it's both an exciting challenge and a terrifying obstacle. We do have the benefit of some time, a free place to crash if the whole thing blows up in our faces (that would be my parents' place), and a high level of familiarity with the city, transportation, and neighborhoods we're interested in. So it's English Major And Her Boyfriend Versus the New York Rental Market. Let's see who comes out with fewer bruises.


Frugal Food: The Virtues of Batch Cooking

So, I know that I've told you guys about batch cooking on more than one occasion. But seriously, seriously, batch cooking is awesome. Why? Here's why.

Over the course of two grocery trips (Trader Joe's and our neighborhood Associated), K and I spent just over $50 on groceries. Most, but not all of that went to our batch-cooking frenzy tonight (we also bought some seltzer, baking soda, flour and hand soap, for about $8, and two bags of turkey meatballs for about $5, which are already gone, because they are God's gift to lazy people). So let's say $40 worth of relevant groceries here. For that, we bought:

Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
A pound and a quarter of ground turkey
A bag of baby greens
A loaf of rye bread
A box of instant cranberry oatmeal
A bag of frozen spinach
Four granny smith apples
Organic ketchup (I'm somewhat phobic about high-fructose corn syrup)

A bunch of parsley
Two bags of super-cheap but annoyingly tiny yellow onions
Four heads of garlic
A pack of 2% string cheeses (Trader Joe's has them cheaper, but...I like Polly-O. They string in that satisfactory way. So sue me.)
Two packages of cremini mushrooms
A bunch of carrots
A little cup of fat-free Greek yogurt

And we already had...
Whole wheat English muffins (I use them for sandwiches, K uses the rye--but notably, we certainly could get through the whole week on one loaf for the two of us)
Slivered almonds (they're optional in the chickpea dish, really, but we had them)
Milk, the dregs of a quart
Two 28-oz. cans of chickpeas
One 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
Two extra boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Olive oil
Dijon mustard
Half a block of smoked jack cheese

We put in about three hours of cooking tonight, and the fruits of our labor are:
Eight deliciously tender grilled chicken thighs for chicken sandwiches
One big double batch of a variation on this amazing Catalan chickpea recipe (we added spinach), to serve as a side dish with lunches and dinners
Four miniature turkey meatloaves, in my wonderful miniature loaf pans (Christmas present from K's parents), waiting to be cooked and split between the two of us.

So essentially, we've made lunch and dinner for the whole work week. In three hours. Three fun hours, during which we listened to podcasts of "This American Life" and hung out and liked each other.

Breakfasts will be the oatmeal and perhaps a hard-cooked egg, and for snacks there are string cheeses, leftover carrots, more hardboiled eggs, and apples. Further effort required is basically just assembly and packaging (the turkey meatloaves have the extra complication of "stick in oven for awhile").

There are two of us. For $40 and 3 hours we fed ourselves for nearly a work week. And, just as importantly, we removed a lot of the obstacles between us and cheap, healthy, delicious meals—I think that's a big problem for a lot of people, and certainly for me, the whole "Yes, but Pret a Manger is right next to my office and I don't have to wake up early to get a sandwich there" thing, but the "oh, actually, I can make a really yummy sandwich myself in five minutes and it doesn't cost me a dime" response is a very, very effective one.

Plus, I'm pretty stressed lately, and I always find knowing what I'm going to eat for the week takes a big load off my mind. What I'm really saying is, give batch-cooking a shot! It saves money, time, and stress. What's not to like?


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Crazy in Love...with a $300 shoe.

So, I fell in love with a shoe today. A pair of $259 shoes, in fact. K and I went down to Fluevog this afternoon to get him new shoes. He had a Christmas gift certificate from his parents and a rather serious need for new shoes. And then I met these:

I loooove them. They work for the office, but they're not staid, they can be casual, and they're super-comfortable (yes, I tried them on), even for my weirdo feet (wide toes, incredibly high instep). I have a pair of Fluevogs, cute mary janes that I wear to the office and for walking around (bought the last pair in the store, deep discount), and they've lasted some four years, which is longer than my shoes ever last, because, as previously discussed, I have a tendency to buy $24 shoes from Payless and similar. And I know that with shoes you really do get what you pay for...and have I mentioned that I love them?

Obviously, I can't afford them. Obviously.

They did make me rethink my shoe strategy, though. Maybe the thing to do is save up and spend liberally on a small wardrobe of great shoes. Comfortable, well-made, beautiful shoes. Just a few pairs. Ditch the many one-use Payless purchases and the many wore-constantly-worn-through-immediately Payless purchases, and go for quality over quantity.

Plus, maybe if we really do get stimulus-plan checks...maybe then my shoe love and I can be together.


Friday, February 01, 2008

2008 Goals Update: January

Instead of doing monthly goals this year, I thought it might be nice to do monthly updates on my progress towards my yearly goals. That way, I keep the ultimate priorities in mind while still dividing the long distance into more manageable chunks, is the idea. Maybe I'll finally learn some patience.

Earn the full match in my 401(k)
I earned $209.23 in 401(k) match this month--that's more than 10% of the full $2,000 match. A good start.

Save $4,000 in the Freedom Fund, for an end balance of $10,000.
I saved $400 of income this month, plus adding $100 from the last of my medical reimbursements. The $500 puts me 12.5% of the way to the $4,000 goal, which is nice, because there's the very real possibility of making no progress at all next month (taxes, medical, K's 30th birthday--eek!).

Give $1,200 to good causes
I have the $100 for this month earmarked for giving, but haven't decided where to give it yet. No Donors Choose project has jumped out at me. I'm still looking.

Earn $1,500 of non-salary income, earmarked for graduate school application expenses
I'm 14.4% of the way there.

Buy a friend a drink at least once a month
Yep. I bought a friend some coffee and a cookie over which she very kindly listened to my troubles. And I've already offered to take a different friend out for coffee this month. I'm really enjoying this one.

Achieve a $35,000 net worth
I made virtually no progress towards this goal this month, but that's down to the stock market more than my spending.


Non-Salary Income Update: $215.35

Seven of my fabulous readers signed up with ING, earning themselves $25 bonuses and me $10 bonuses, so I'm adding that $70 to the running tally of non-salary income. It's lucky, too: this month I had to pay the $130 registration fee for the GRE in Literature in English and buy some study supplies (i.e. a disturbingly large number of 4x6" index cards).

I also signed up with AdSense this month, and though I made some money, I haven't reached the $100 threshold necessary to get a check from Google. I'll add that income as I actually get it, not as it accrues in the hypothetical, because if I removed AdSense tomorrow, I'd never see a penny from Google, I don't think. I may also check out LinkWorth this month, on Tired But Happy's recommendation.

This puts me 14.4% of the way to earning $1,500 in non-salary income by the end of the year.


January Net Worth

I barely squeaked a flat net worth out of January. My retirement accounts lost 2.75% of their value even after this month's contributions, and I've lost all of 2007's gains on my investments, but particularly big 401(k) contributions (as I tinkered with my contribution levels) plus a few ING referral bonuses kept me in the black for the month. My net worth grew by a whopping $4, or 0.02%.

You can see the breakdown at NetWorthIQ.