October 31, 2008

Well, this is interesting.  Ramit Sethi, blogger of iwillteachyoutoberich.com, proposes a November challenge: Save $1000 in 30 days.  Here is his promise:

I promise: No stupid frugality tips

I’m not trying to save $1 or even $10 per week, because it’s not worth changing your behavior for that kind of money. Guys, we’re aiming to save $1,000 in 30 days. That’s why this series will not include retarded suggestions like “Start a garden” or “Buy day-old food from bakeries.” I certainly won’t tell you to cut your rent or move to a cheaper place, because NOBODY WILL DO IT! Does anyone ever follow those stupid tips? No, but it sure makes other personal-finance authors feel good about themselves for coming up with a suggestion that theoretically, maybe, somehow could save money for the moron who would do it. Not here.

Here is his plan.  And yes, in the knowingly precocious flavor of its namesake, it is called the “C.E.O. plan:”

Save $1000 in 30 days challenge

C = Cut one habit cold-turkey
for example: Reduce eating out. Stop drinking 4 nights/wk.

E = Earn more
for example: Sell at least one thing on ebay. Babysitting. Freelancing.

O = Optimize spending
for example: Negotiate insurance rates. Optimize cell phone and cable bill.

While I can’t say I’ll commit, I will definitely check in on the tips, because this guy talks like he knows it all.  He probably doesn’t, but he knows enough to make what little I know, zero.


First: the peppermint plant might not make it, due to directed indifference on both our parts. [D.Olivan]

Nudge: mint.com came up in conversation last night [J.Ge].  This makes me happy for a number of reasons (positive feedback!), but, aside from my self-justification as a savvy young pre-professional, I am glad to come back to this neglected little preaching post.  No promises on posting frequency, but know that I haven’t forgotten about this. [J.Shum]

Post: The past two months have been a free-for-all, buy this, get tickets for that, lunches out and elaborate dinners in.  As my balance drops and I await my numbered paychecks, I’ve hit that wall (or zero?) that I’m sure many young people do.  And my answer?  Budget, duh.  As with most major life changes, it’s a process.  Now to be fair, all my limits are only a shot in the dark until I am really, really employed.  Luckily, my favorite money tool mint has taken great strides in the past six months.

New and updated features:

  • Improved automatic categorization of your spending, along with the option to customize
  • The ability to split transactions, especially useful for cash withdrawals
  • New visualization tool to map your investment history against the Dow, S&P, NASDAQ
  • Blogblogblogblogblog: blog.mint.com

If you’re still not convinced, look into it yourself.  Here’s a re-posting of the three top free online personal finance services:

“Free Personal Finance Software, Online Money Manager, Budget Planner and Financial Planning”
Clean “web 2.0” user interface. mostly a visualization tool to let you consolidate your finances, create a budget, and see where you’re spending your money.

“Get to Know Your Money”
With social networking component, so you can see what others spend, recommended products, their saving tips (…superfluous.)

“Innovative Bill Pay, Personal Finance, and Online Account Opening Tools”
The Original Gangster, but far too complex for single young people without businesses, mortgages and families, IMO.

murakami meets jersey

September 5, 2008

weird: you were in my dream last night.

we went to a jersey diner with the usual late-night crowd of coffee-sippers and i had to pee but on the way to the bathroom there was a canteen scattered with drably dressed old chinese people, sleeping, (drugged?), and a chinese restaurant owner was cleaning a small toilet room that didn’t have a door, only a curtain. it was like an asian restaurant in asia, not a westernized one. in the back of a jersey diner. we had driven there to talk about something important. i’m baffled.

it’s a little like a murakami novel, now that i think about it. i hate murakami novels.

[To A.Tseng]

they overdrugged me

July 16, 2008

Who knew that a simple ear infection could turn into a month-long affair?  Here I detail my regrets for taking a short swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or for never getting my ears lavaged at McCosh [F. Wu].

First, it was the deafness.  Two weeks of,

“What? I can’t hear you,” and
“What? We can’t hear you!”

Yes, contrary to depictions of horn-bearing old men, my brand of deafness (plugged) actually made me speak too softly.  If I could hear myself, surely they could hear me!  Not so.

Secondly, the ringing.  I cannot express in words how thrilled I was to rock to a lullaby of the tinnitus of my own pulse every night.

Once it became clear that my little ear trouble would not fix itself, we sought out Dr. F, who promptly diagnosed it swimmer’s ear and sent me home with a bottle of neomycin.  Two drops in each ear, four times a day, until it’s over. At my annual checkup three days later, I now asked Dr. B whether she saw any improvement.  Right ear, all clear!  Keep going with the left. Ok.

The following week found me still deaf, ringing, and across a second ocean.  Aunt M took me to Dr. O who referred me to Dr. HNO who was on vacation (puh).  Mrs. K cut through some red tape and got Mr. K to take me to Dr. HNO2 who finally deigned to clean’er out and dose’er with an assortment of eardrops, nosedrops, anti-inflammatory pills, and The Antibiotic.

And in Week 3, I could hear again!

Now, the present trouble: I have not eaten an entire meal since Sunday morning. From Sunday evening until Wednesday afternoon I’ve had: 2.5 yogurts, 1.5 apples, 2 sips of congee, and 2 inches of baguette.  Plus fluids.  The beautiful navel orange I tried to have for lunch didn’t stay down so well.  All I do instead is sleep.

Some say, “it must be the stress of jet lag.” Pumpkin knuckles!! Taiwan never did me in like this!  Others say, “Oh you haven’t been sleeping enough.”  Sleep schmeep, my education dragged wakitude tolerance up to uncharted levels.  I did watch the sunrise on my walk home last Saturday, but it was relaxing, even, to stroll home after a long night out.

“Food poisoning,” says dad. “Or a virus.  Don’t eat off the streets, and don’t kiss anyone, even on the cheek!”

Dads will be dads.  Which leaves, it seems, The Antibiotic.  What had Dr. HNO2 subscribed for me?  Well, ok, I am a child of Now, I trust google and medicinenet.com as much as I do Dr. Mom.  So, much to my dismay, I find that Clavamox is most popularly prescribed for cats and dogs!!

Not. Poss.

The Culprit?

The Culprit?

Well, I dig a little further, into the microscopically inscribed mess included in every drug package, and find that it contains 875mg amoxicillin and 125mg clavulanic acid.  It’s a common mix that may cause my human nasties.  But for how long?  And when, oh when, can I eat again?!!

1. I hope I sound prissy, because I feel prissy.
2. I ate tonight! so instead of collapsed in bed by 6 or 8 I am here writing at 10.  Victory!!

On online savings accounts, and A battle between them.
Bottom line: ING Direct has best interface (good) but lowest rates (bad). No gimmicks (good). Neither requires fees or minimum deposit.

I feel a little overwhelmed by summer. Most of it’s just fine, galollying with the family and friends. But every few days during a lull it hits me that I still have no concrete plans for September, besides a trip to the ol’ dentist. Then I frantically locate seven or eight viable jobs, write maybe one cover letter, fiddle with my resume, and bookmark the rest. Forty minutes into it, I re-realize that I’ll be overseas for most of the next two and a half months, rendering my applications inert — the excuse I’ve used to ward worry off all along. With all the privileges I’ve been afforded, I don’t deserve to worry about my future, right? At least not yet. The procrastinator’s motto is reassuring: “Everything will work itself out. It always does.” All the same, my premature hullabaloo about personal finance will ring hollow until my person generates enough greens to deserve the activity.

Family’s going to Mexico the coming week, and I just found out two days ago I’ll need a visa to work in Austria. Mild panic; should work out though; kicking self anyway. This may be the bloggishest most touchy-feely entry I’ve ever written. To begin a post with “I feel” — For Shame!

I always forget to take pictures of home-time. Adventures on the home front deserve to be remembered too.

mail forwarding

June 16, 2008

what a practical little blog this is turning out to be:

When students change addresses during the academic year, and at the end of the academic year a Change of Address Form must be completed. At the end of the academic year, unless a change of address form is submitted, all eligible mail will be redirected to your listed permanent home address.

Federal law requires the forwarding of only first class mail. All third class mail (magazine, paper) are not forwarded as the US Postal Service will not carry this mail to a secondary location.

I am woefully unlearned in money matters. Blame it on my previous disinterest, my sheltering parents, or how preoccupied I’ve been with getting educated, whatever; it’s time to learn. This weekend’s project is to get started with managing what little greenery thrives under my name, namely, researching the basic tools I’ll need to spend and save. My method includes testy inquiries with Dad, link-exploring with Boof, and advice from the few finance blogs that don’t make my eyes glaze over.

(iwillteachyoutoberich.com), a smart advice blog by Ramit Sethi.

This blog is me ranting about a few things and trying to get the points across. Getting started is more important than being the smartest person in the room. Making mistakes is ok. Action is more important than reading 50 blogs.

(mint.com), free software that produces lovely graphs to reveal one’s inner wastefulness. Less user-friendly (read: ugly) options include Yodlee and Wesabe.

Spending graph

Today’s topic. Some basic vocabulary on savings.

1. Managing large chunks of salary: Here’s how I set up my financial accounts

a. Monthly expenses and spending money at your favorite local bank.
b. Savings for emergencies and big purchases in ING Direct or HSBC, which have a 3%+ interest rate/APY (annual percentage rate), compared to the 0.49% offered by your favorite local bank. From what I see, ING is the savvier DIY option, while HSBC offers more traditional support, like ATM withdrawals. ING transfers take 2-3 days to process.
c. Long-term savings and investments on E-Trade or Ameritrade, including a Roth IRA and stocks that should be tended monthly.

2. Basic retirement accounts: World’s easiest guide to understanding retirement accounts

a. A 401k (max $15,000/yr + match) lets your company invest pre-tax money and will give you cushy old age. Matching is great; set it up so that an amt is automatically withdrawn from every paycheck.
b. A Roth IRA (max $5,000) lets you invest post-tax money, meaning you pay taxes on the initial amount, but not the earnings. “Every person in their 20s should have a Roth IRA. It’s simply the best deal I’ve found for long-term investing.”
c. Using both: “Here’s how I think about it. First, I would max out any 401(k) match that my company provides. Second, I’d max out the $4,000 $5,000 for my Roth IRA. Third, I’d max out the rest of my 401(k), up to $15,000. Finally–if your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), you’re not employed yet, or you still have money left over–I’d open a regular, taxable investment account and put money there in stocks, index funds, etc.”

So, I’ve got a start. I’ve learned which bazillion accounts I should open (savings, retirement, online broker, investment) and found a tool to track my spending. Next steps for this project include opening those accounts and planning my summer budget.