BeyondtheWrap's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:22 am

Well, I thought now would be a good time to start my journal.
For those who don't know me, which is probably most of you since I mostly lurk and only post one-liners occasionally, I am BeyondtheWrap, an underemployed, male, recent college grad in NYC.
I have long hesitated to start a journal, since my income has been meager. Also, since I live at my mom's house, and she's been the one paying the bills, my expenses have also been artificially low, so savings rates seem kind of meaningless to talk about.
Recently, however, my mom decided to go on a year-long tropical vacation, leaving my brother and me at the house. So now we have to buy food. Since she left in early-to-mid July, I will start off my journal with July 2012.
Starting in September, my brother and I will have to start contributing to the household bills due to a drop in my mom's income. Until then, now is the time to figure out how much I can reasonably contribute.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:28 am

JULY 2012
Income: 1421
Food: 187

Transportation: 100

Entertainment: 158

Student Loan: 197

Unusual: 985
TOTAL: 1627
Pretty shitty, huh? Yeah, that unusual expense fucked things up, which was that I had to go to the dentist to get a root canal, and so I had to dip into my emergency fund a bit.
My income as tallied here is actually high for this month, due to the fact that I happened to deposit five pay checks this month and also received a gift of $100.
In addition to usual food, the "Food" category also includes pet food and necessary household supplies. It's still too early to decide if the food expenditures were too high or low. It may have been inflated a little because I had to stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, and rice and beans for the first time. I expect those expenses to be more occasional in future months. However, the food category may also be artificially low, since my mom left thirdway through the month and I have a friend who likes to bring food over and cook for us. The "Food" category does not include meals out.
"Transportation" is pretty straightforward; that $100 comes from refilling my MetroCard with $20 five times.
The "Entertainment" category includes all indulgences. In this case, those are meals out (mostly for lunch while at work), candy, alcohol, and my monthly subscription to eMusic (Yes, I do actually pay for music, despite my passionate defense of piracy in this thread: viewtopic.php?t=1765#post-24183 ). Socializing does not contribute much to expenses, since my job requires me to work most weekends. This month had a lot of meals out for lunch, which I decided to seriously cut down in August.
And we have my regular student loan payment. Switching to IBR eliminates that, so I decided to do that in August. I still plan on putting extra money towards my student loan, but at least this way it will be optional.
My current financial goal is to pay off my $20,000 of student loan debt, and then I will shoot for financial independence.

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Post by Christopherjart » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:02 am

"Unusual: 985"

Why not make a category for medical and health spending?

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Post by zazz » Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:12 am

Thanks for posting. I also live at home with my family. My income will be similar to your level once I start temping. What kind of work are you doing? Any long term plans for a new profession?

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Post by m741 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:52 am

Glad to see you've started a journal!
I also think you'd benefit from breaking down your expenses further... I have about 10 categories that I put expenses in.
What work are you doing? $1000-1100/month, assuming that's an average month, is tough to live on. It's only 12-13k per year. I think you should be able to earn more, given that you're a college grad. Even 20-25k/year is double what you're currently earning.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:17 am

@Christopherjart: You know, I originally planned on putting that in a "Health" category, but changed my mind at the last minute because of the "unusual" nature of this one-time expense. Also, I don't plan on going to the doctor again anytime soon, and I prefer not to add categories that won't be recurring. I guess I will have to add it eventually though, so, you're right.
Then again, I did put the student loan payment in its own category even though it will be absent next month.
@zazz and m741: I work 30-40 hours/wk as a cashier at a wholesale store. Longer term, I'm interested in the actuarial field, and will be doing some serious studying for my second actuarial exam over the coming months.
@m741: I really don't like seeing long lists of categories in other people's journals. When I read them, I often see several different categories that I would just lump together as "Entertainment," for example. I much prefer to keep the list simple (kind of like whenever Jacob reluctantly posts his budget and only has ~5 categories). Having a small number of categories makes it easier to remember all of them and to mentally plan my desired total expenses.
So, next time I will try to please both of us by having kind of an outline, with my general categories broken down further into subcategories.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:52 am

All right, so now it's time for the August 2012 update.
INCOME: 1055
Housing: 219

- ID card: 10

- Plumbing: 209

Groceries: 196

- Food: 98

- Household supplies: 67

- Personal care: 9

- Pet food: 22

Transportation: 113

- MetroCard: 100

- E-ZPass: 12.5

Health: 275

Entertainment: 160

- Eating out: 50

- Candy: 10

- eMusic: 100
So the expenses listed under "Housing" were both one-offs. My co-op just decided that all residents are required to have ID cards, so I had to pay $10 for that, and the septic line in my yard was corroded and leaking, so we had to pay for a plumber and for some of the materials.
Since I stocked up on rice and beans last month, most of the food I bought this month was the stuff that I go through regularly, like milk and eggs. Most of the other grocery expense categories I listed were for stocking-up type items that will not be returning for a while.
I live with my brother, and he drives a car while I do not. While he does not make me pay for gas, we do split the costs for an E-ZPass, which is necessary for our shopping trips.
That health expense was again for the dentist, as I had to go back to have a filling put in once the root canal was complete.
I decided to reduce my eating out expenses partway through this month. In the past, I would buy lunch if I didn't have any leftovers to bring to work, but this month I decided that I don't have to admit defeat that much. I decided to take a more moderate approach by buying multi-packs of microwaveable lunch foods. While bringing in leftovers is both cheaper and healthier, this solution makes it possible to eat something at a low cost in the event that I have no leftovers to bring.
I also switched my eMusic subscription from the $11.99/mo plan to the identical plan that costs $99.99/yr, which is the better deal. Of course it made my Entertainment category higher than I would have liked, but at least this part of it will be absent in all other months of the year.
I was really hoping that my expenses wouldn't total so high this month, but even with the root canal already done and the student loan payment eliminated, I still didn't save much. On the positive side, there are about $600 of expenses I had this month that I know I won't have next month (mostly the dentist, the plumber, and the eMusic). Hopefully next month will be a bit easier. Unless I have to start paying the bills...

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:02 am

INCOME: 1514

- Five paychecks: 1414

- Found money: 100
Housing: 200

Transportation: 120

Groceries: 194

- Food: 92

- Personal Care: 13

- Household Supplies: 46

- Pets: 43

Health: 12

Student Loan: 184

- IBR payment: 64

- Non-IBR payment: 120

Entertainment: 51

- Socializing/Eating Out: 40

- Candy: 11
I felt really good about my finances this month. My income was a little high because I had five paychecks instead of four. Working on a holiday also helps. Also, I found a $100-bill on the ground, so yay. Definitely not something that happens every day.
My $200 housing expense is money that I voluntarily contributed towards the household bills paid by my mother. I decided to start small to see how it affects my finances. I will be steadily increasing this amount over the coming months.
This month I got my first credit card ever. It does not affect my spending numbers above. I intend to pay off the balance entirely each month to avoid getting charged interest. Although I guess I should wait until my 15-month introductory interest-free period is done before doing that, right? Since the interest rate is below inflation, I'm virtually getting free money.
Since I had a lot of surplus this month, I made extra payments towards my student loans (in addition to the mandatory ones listed above) and also left a bunch sitting in my checking account. Now that I'm looking at how much I saved this month, I realize I could pay down my loans even more, so I'll do that now.

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Post by pooablo » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:47 pm

Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading these journal entries and seeing how people progress with time.

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Post by pooablo » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:50 pm

If you are mathematically inclined and want to get a designation more quickly, you may want to look at the CFA Charter ( I recently got this designation.
There are only 3 exams versus the 8 exams for the Actuarial program and it only takes 3 years rather than 8 years to get. Of course, the CFA Charter is more helpful in the asset management and corporate finance industry rather than the actuarial industry.

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Post by anomie » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:36 am

Hi -
keep up the great work!
Hey, when your 'e-music subscription' comes up for renewal next year, maybe you will consider learning some new technology to p2p it? not wanting to spark a political debate, just want to mention that unnecessary expense.
best regards!

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:47 am

@pooablo: I do not have any particular attachment to the actuarial field, it was more that I was interested in something "mathematically inclined." I actually have mostly lost interest in the actuarial field since I wrote that, since I've realized that I kind of suck at self-study. I learned math much better in a school environment.
Also, I would have a much easier time increasing my income if I learned programming/software skills. Right now my plan is to go back to school for a master's; I am most excited about statistics right now. I will have to take on more debt, but I intend to attend the local cheap school and to take classes that are heavy on the technical side.
@anomie: You're right, it is an unnecessary expense, but it is one I am okay with.

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Post by anomie » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:51 pm

I am not sure how well I will fare in 5 years at self-study, but I longingly look forward to the idea of spending semi-retirement sharpening my once (25 years ago? jeez..) decent math skills from such sources as
Amazing topics there!

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:50 pm

Well, I haven't updated in a while, so I'll recap what has happened since then.
For most of October, I felt really good about my finances. Just going through my daily routine of going to work, I don't spend much. Buying groceries and refilling my MetroCard are not that much compared to my earnings, so I get to see the numbers in my bank account go up. I did, however, spend about $100 on a fun weekend with my friends; my finances could handle it.
Then Hurricane Sandy happened. Most of the rooms in my house were flooded with about a foot of water. My eating out expenses increased immediately for several days, since my stove and refrigerator no longer worked and needed replacement (along with my washing machine). On the bright side, replacing that refrigerator significantly decreased the household electric bill.
There is still much left to be done in the way of house repairs, which are being paid for with FEMA money.
I continued using my credit card. I paid my normal expenses with the card so I could put a larger portion of my income towards my student loans. I figured borrowing money at 0% to pay off a loan at 6.55% was a good trade. For a while, at least. I reached my credit limit in November and am back to paying with my own money, but I have continued to put an extra couple hundred dollars towards my loans. I plan to pay off my credit card before the 15-month no-interest period ends.
I continue to pitch in money to the household bills, which are paid by my mother. (She has decided not to move back home and is now in the Midwest.) I steadily increased the amount I pay, and now I contribute $400 a month, which is about 1/3 of the total monthly bills.
I now have health insurance from my job, which I hear is a good thing to have, though I have not used it yet.
With the aim of increasing my income in the long term, I am working on my grad school application. In the meantime I'm also playing Publishers Clearing House every day, because I figure my chances of winning money are just as bad as that of getting a good job at this point.

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Post by DebtSlaveNoMore » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:48 pm

A little trick that I use to get free music is to use Spotify and Pandora. Both music streaming sites are free and have decent songs. Pandora gives you music in a radio like fashion, while Spotify allows you to listen to entire sound tracks by a given artist.

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Post by m741 » Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:33 pm

Tough luck with Hurricane Sandy. Has that settled down yet, or are you still cleaning up?

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:57 pm

@m741: We are still a long ways from being done. Mostly, we have settled back into our normal routine, but once every few weeks we'll spend a few hours on hurricane cleanup.
We're on the last room that needs to be cleaned out, and after that (though we are waiting for the weather to get warm first) we need to rip up and replace all the floors as well as replace the insulation and the wiring.
I find all this to be a daunting task, since to replace a floor we need to crowd all the furniture and many loose items into the other rooms of the house.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Fri Mar 01, 2013 8:08 am

INCOME: 1187

- 4 Paychecks: 1005

- Gift card: 50

- Employer health insurance: 132
Housing: 400

Groceries: 83

- Food: 68

- Hygiene: 5

- Pets: 10

Clothing: 13

Transportation: 50

Health: 169

- Insurance: 132

- Supplements: 37

Student Loan: 84

Haircut: 17

Entertainment: 85

- Eating out: 53

- Candy: 32
It's kind of arbitrary, but I decided to go with the convention of including my employer-sponsored health insurance in the numbers even though I never see that money. If I exclude it, I then have income of 1055, expenses of 769, and a savings rate of 27.1%. However, the insurance actually costs 4-5 times the amount I paid, so either way it's not that realistic in terms of a retirement budget.
I'm surprised that my food expenditure was so low this month. I'm not sure why. It makes sense though, considering that a significant part of my eating was simply transferred to my Entertainment budget (which was all food, just more expensive and less healthy).
The Clothing category was for a belt that I bought. My old one was falling apart, so I figured I needed something a little more presentable for when I went to apply for a new job this month. However, I continue to wear the old one in casual situations, because I refuse to throw away items that are still functional (usually).
My transportation category was 50. I refill my MetroCard with $50 approximately every two weeks, so this is just timing. Normally I spend $100 a month on this.
I stocked up on some supplements that I take, one kind that was on sale and I had a coupon, and one that I simply had run out of.
My eating out expenses are all mostly paid with cash, so I simply track withdrawals. This month I mostly paid with the gift card listed in the income section, which I received from filling out a survey on the web site for my health insurance. Honestly I did spend more on eating out than I listed, but the cash was withdrawn before this month.
I really need to cut out that candy sometime. I know it's not healthy, but it helps me cope with unpleasant circumstances and tasks. I'm pretty sure I have the ability to give it up. As long as I don't have any in the house, it's not a problem. I don't buy it on impulse when grocery shopping. It's more that whenever my store releases coupons for a candy I like, I start planning to buy it.
In other news, my hot water heater broke this month, so I haven't had hot water in my house for the past 2 weeks. This really makes it impossible to function normally and execute basic life tasks. Not only can I not take showers in my house, I also can't wash dishes for the most part. The water is just too cold in the winter, my hands get numb pretty fast, so I've been mostly avoiding eating anything that will get dishes dirty (i.e., I've been using mostly disposable dishes). I would not do well if I had to live without modern comforts. How did pre-industrial people do it?
So I've been showering at a friend's house once a week. One advantage of this not-showering experience is that by necessity I've learned more about how to keep my hair looking nice.
Since we removed the old hot water heater, my brother decided it would be a good time to renovate the boiler room of the flood damage. (Honestly, he did most of the work.) To do this, we had to remove the boiler, so we also were without heat for about a week of that time. I found being without heating to be much less of an inconvenience than being without hot water (granted, I was at work most of the day where it was warm). I simply put on as many layers as I could to be warm at home and while sleeping.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:38 am

MARCH 2013
INCOME: 2162

5 Paychecks: 1382

Employer Health Insurance: 166

Tax Refund: 614

Housing: 400

Groceries: 14

- Food: 11

- Supplies: 4

Transportation: 130

Entertainment: 120

- Eating out: 56

- Socializing: 41

- Candy: 23

Health Insurance: 166

Student Loans: 204

Tax Preparation: 24
So I did my taxes this month and got a big refund from the federal government. However, I do owe a lesser amount of money to the state, which I will be paying next month. I actually would have liked to spend a large portion of my refund to take an improv class, but my schedule didn't fit. Maybe next month.
Another thing you'll notice is my severely low grocery bill. First I was just putting off grocery shopping. I usually go with my brother, and he hasn't been staying at home for the past month. Then I was halfway through the month and figured, might as well not go shopping at all this month. Instead of buying more canned food at Aldi, I decided to actually cook, slowly working through the stockpile of rice and beans. The few things I did buy were a box of granola bars at the beginning of the month (before I made the decision) and milk to put in my oatmeal at breakfast. (I do admit though that my candy got me through at least a few days.) This was largely an experiment to boast about here, though, so I will be going shopping in a few days to replenish some ingredients and to utilize some coupons.
If anybody's curious about the loose ends from last month, we got our hot water back on near the beginning of this month. We partially got our heat back (the house temperature has been in the 50s for most of this month); we probably need to bleed the system. And my old belt broke into two pieces, so I've started wearing the new one full-time.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap » Wed May 01, 2013 11:11 pm

I'm really afraid to see the numbers from April, but I have to do this, so here we go...
APRIL 2013

4 Paychecks: 1043

Employer Health Insurance: 132

State Income Tax: -277

Housing: 400

Groceries: 138

- Food: 111

- Pets: 28

Transportation: 123

Health: 144

- Insurance: 132

- Medicine/Supplements: 12

Entertainment: 547

- Hobbies: 400

- Eating out: 73

- Socializing: 29

- Travel: 14

- Live entertainment: 5

- Candy: 26

Student Loans: 84
So my income was down due to income tax that I somehow owed to the state, and my expenses were up.
My food expenditures were more than usual. I was restocking the food, most of which I used up last month. Additionally, I was the only one home for most of this month, so I did not split the household food expenses. I bought large containers at my store to try to save money over the long term; unfortunately, I later saw that I could have gotten an even better deal at Aldi for a lot of my food. Oh well.
I also ate out more this month. I had a cold for a substantial portion of it and dealt with it by buying sushi at work; the wasabi helps to clear my nasal passages.
My $400 expense listed as "Hobbies" is for the improv class I signed up for. This was a financially bad month to do that, but I had wanted to for a long time, the classes are hard to get into and hard to make time for, and I would have had to start over from the beginning if I waited too long to take the next class.
Hurricane cleanup had been moving along slowly, but now we have bigger problems to deal with. My house recently received a violation from the Department of Buildings, and now we have to do some repairs on the outside immediately or risk getting fined a huge amount of money. Honestly, I think those repairs are unnecessary right now and merely cosmetic, but we have to do it.
This is annoying, there's always something going wrong with this house. I never have time to really rest. By rest I don't mean simply to relax or go to sleep. I want to be able to settle into a nice daily routine and then enjoy my free time, but I can't because some problem comes up every month or two that consumes our lives. Being an adult sucks when you don't have a lot of money.
At least the weather is getting nice.

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