Personal finance reflections for March and April

There is so much stuff happening around my world of personal finance. I don’t know where to start because there are too many to list. I am currently:

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“You’re a travel deals wizard, Julie” (Personal finance journey)

Disclaimer: I am not a financial adviser. This blog post is strictly for entertainment purposes.

When one of our couple friends was getting married, they were trying to put together plans for a honeymoon in Europe. My husband said something like, “You should ask Julie. I don’t know how she comes across these flight deals. One time, she booked a roundtrip flight from LAX to Rome for $250 per person.”

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The Problem with some fin-fluencers (Personal finance journey)

Disclaimer: I am not a financial adviser. This blog post is strictly for entertainment purposes.

I enjoy reading finance tips on Instagram because their advice is easy to digest because it comes in a form of a photo or a short video. Plus it keeps me motivated…but the thing that annoys me about some financial influencers (aka fin-fluencers) is that they try to make personal finance fun, easy, fast, and sexy. I like to think I am the antidote to the fin-fluencer because I am here to tell you personal finance requires diligence, patience, confrontation, and math

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You don’t buy anything! — A Personal finance journey

Disclaimer: I am not a financial adviser. This blog post is strictly for entertainment purposes.

Why I want to write more personal finance?

  • Because I like to talk about money, and I think writing about it on my blog is a safe place where I am not fighting with people on how I handle my money like why am I not buying a bigger fridge or why did I not invite all these people to their wedding or…
  • Because people think I don’t like to spend money, but the truth is, I do spend money and I spend a lot of it.
  • Because it makes me motivated to get me closer to my goals, and…
  • It’s long overdue

Anyways, I don’t have any structure in mind for this series — will it be a monthly reflection on my money moves? Or will it center around a money-related topic(s)? I’m not sure but let’s give it ago! The frequency is TBD.

“You don’t buy anything!”

I titled it “You don’t buy anything!” because I get this complaint a lot, as does my husband. I know it’s not true because I do spend money. Here’s my spending diary for today: I bought breakfast this morning. I just booked a hotel for a trip to Seattle next month (this was after researching and comparing for days). After work, I am going to go grocery shopping. And later today, I am going to meet up with friends for dinner (first free night from the baby in a while!). You see, I do spend money. Maybe it’s not how they would spend money… I get questions about why we don’t buy a bigger fridge or a bigger TV. I don’t get sucked into buying something because it’s on sale or there is a coupon.

Personal finance wins for the month:

  • Paid off Koda’s vet bill — My pomeranian had to see a cardiologist and I did not prepare how much that was going to cost. My pet insurance did not give me a break! I did not want to touch any savings accounts so I decided to pay vet bill through a short-term loan provider called Scratch Pay. It took me three months to pay it off.
  • Increased my savings rate an additional 1% on all accounts. I got a raise along with retro-pay from a few months back. It can be tempting to spend all of the extra money, but I used it to pay off Koda’s vet bill and left the rest alone. I am in no hurry to spend my entire windfall.
  • Reviewed my assets and I am now 66% towards my goal. It went up by 6.5% from the past month. I’ll write more about this later because this was a result of many years of financial rehab.  Also, this is my own money, not a shared thing with my husband.
  • Set up a savings account for charities and donations. I put a little bit of savings aside for charities and donations.
  • Booked a hotel for next month’s Seattle trip where I get points on my card, points on the hotel loyalty program, also my credit card offered 15% cashback if I booked that hotel. But I have to say, I was looking at hotels in Seattle for several weeks. I usually don’t go for hotels or other merchants because of a cashback offer. In fact, I was about to go with a hotel that was going to offer one night free if we booked their hotel for two nights which I thought was perfect because we were going to be in Seattle for three nights. But then when I looked at the breakdown, there were all these surprise fees but I did see the third free night. Before I finalized the booking, I decided to review my other options again. Surprisingly the hotel I just booked turned out to be cheaper than my first choice, I just happen to get earn cashback. I changed my mind in the last minute!

Self-Care is hard

So far my 25 minutes per day of writing has been going well. I’ve been writing during my lunch breaks. Since we are about done for the term at work, I don’t find myself working through my lunch breaks playing catch-up.

Created another savings account

I started creating a savings account for charities and donations. I decided to do an auto-save where I set aside some money to help contribute to causes. This past week I bought some toys for my friend’s homeless project. She’s been doing this for years where she makes gift baskets of comfort items and hygiene products for the homeless. I would like contribute to other causes more often. Ideally I would like volunteer my time, but I think for now contributing through donations is within my bandwidth. Having some money set aside for charities and donations won’t catch me off-guard when a relative is asking me buy something from their kid’s fundraising catalog for marching band because I’ll always have something to give.

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How are you dealing with this heatwave?

The past weekend we spent Labor Day weekend in San Diego. Believe it or not, the weather in San Diego was much hotter and more uncomfortable than the Los Angeles heat. Due to the high humidity in San Diego, it did not matter what time we left the house — it could be 6 am or 8 pm — it was still hot. In LA as long as the sun wasn’t high… the weather was more bearable. That is why I enjoy my 6 am walks with my dogs and my 9pm pre-bedtime ritual of sitting in the backyard reading a book.

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These short work weeks feel accelerated

Where should I begin with this week’s Coffee Share?

This week at work has been a whirlwind. This week was Employee Appreciation Week. Everyday this week during lunch hour we had to set our department booth doing giveaways, outreach, etc. I’ve been on my feet all week at work. Though I had Monday off, these short work weeks feel accelerated. I know I need a vacation — even this vacation staying at home sleeping in and going to a local café for lunch.

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Little free library

I’m happy to say that my work has a Little Free Library to serve the community. My department launched a mobile LFL where everyday from 11:30am-1:30pm we would bring up the library cart for our patients, visitors, and staff members to enjoy free books. We are major hub for receiving donations in the community where clothes is the most requested — we have patients who come with no spare clothes when they’re discharged. But we’ve had books sitting in our office for a long, long time. They’re hardly requested so we decided to do an LFL. And yes, we definitely do take book donations. Of course they’re be disinfected before they circulate in the LFL. The books we have to replenish the most are the children’s books because people are always looking for new books for their kids (or niece, nephew, grandchild, godchild, etc.).

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20 for (20)20

I was listening to my favorite podcast, “Happier.” by Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft going over their 19 for (20)19. I usually love making lists of things to do, but for the last few years my head was in a fog, and I never got around to writing them. I am sure my list that exists in my head is infinite, but yet I want to get around doing it now. Listening to this episode reinvigorated me to write my 20 in (20)20 list to make my new year fun.

Since I did not create a 19 for 20(19) list, I think I’ll create a reverse 19 for 20(19)  to reflect on the 19 things I did.

Anyways, here is my 20 in 20(20) list.

  1. Visit 20 different museums, landmarks, or national parks. 
  2. Try 20 different restaurants. This includes dessert places, food stands, and food trucks. Since I am going to be out of the country in February, for the sake of fairness, I’ll keep it local — within Los Angeles County.
  3. Try 30 new recipes. Since I finished school, I’ve got more time to be creative.
  4. Do a 1-second video every day and stitch it into a short video. I heard about the 1 Second Everyday App on the podcast. It reminds me of the one photo a day challenge. We will see how I keep up
  5. Read and complete 20 different books. I’ve got plenty of books I’ve started and have not yet completed.
  6. Take 750 classes Pure Barre classes. Stretch goal: Reach to 1000 classes. When we had to stay elsewhere during the home remodel, my barre attendance plummeted. Now since we moved back, I am slowly building back to a regular schedule.
  7. Add a chalkboard to the pantry door. I am not sure if we should paint the door with chalkboard paint and put a frame on it ala “Friends” or make an actual chalkboard.
  8. Create an artistic display of our postcards. We get postcards from friends, family, and Postcrossing. I collect postcards too. They are stored in a box, and they deserve to be out.
  9. Get up to 6 months of living expenses in our emergency fund. Self-explanatory. A lot of our savings went to our home remodel. It is better to have a definitive emergency fund goal, rather than just save for the sake of savings. There were times where I felt tethered. We exceeded our savings goal, and we never bit the bullet for almost anything. People have a funny interaction with money. Which leads me to my next point, we need to have a definition of what constitutes an “emergency.”
  10. To not buy any clothes and accessories for the year. The only clothing items I would buy are underwear, socks, shoes, and workout clothes. I have a small shoe collection which consists of walking shoes, one pair of fashion boots, two professional shoes which I keep in the office, one pair of sandals, and two pairs of hiking boots. I walk on average 10,000-12,000 steps a day. I have a fair wardrobe of workout wear, and I wear them until they’re worn out.
  11. Complete a perfect push-up.
  12. Plant a tree for the front yard. Don’t forget, keep it alive too.
  13. Clean and dress up the parking strip.
  14. Plant three herbs for the entryway.
  15. Make a wreath for the front door.
  16. Do a power hour once per week. I am obsessed with the idea of power hour. It’s an hour where I tackle all the non-routine things I’ve been meaning to do such as organizing the cabinets, doing our finances, cleaning the inside of the refrigerator, etc. I had a hard time doing a power hour in my previous job because I was working all the time. On my days off, my power hour was more like a power nap.
  17. Bite the bullet and buy a domain for my blog.
  18. Get a new FitBit — My Charge 2 is at the end of its life. The heart rate monitor feature no longer works. I can’t believe I’ve had it for four years!
  19. Host three get-togethers with friends. Maybe we will even get to host Friendsgiving this year.
  20. Send postcards to friends when I travel. Bonus: Send holiday greeting cards in December.

What is your 20 in (20)20?

Back to budgeting

At 22, I was a young professional working in an entry-level job at a biotech company in San Diego. The pay was not that great. My expenses were rent, student loan debt, other debt, paying for groceries, and utilities. I did not have a car at the time. I lived in San Diego, a very car-dependent city. For convenience sake, I lived walking distance from work but the rent in my neighborhood was fairly high.

I had a blog and in it, I had a blog series around my $20/week grocery budget. When I first brought it up to people, some were intrigued. Others said it was impossible or that I don’t eat much anyways. Then some told me about 99 cent TV microwaveable TV dinners. Ugh.  All thanks to a supportive blogging community, spending $20/week on groceries is possible. It did not involve TV dinners at all, instead, it involved creativity. I knew a bag of spinach could feed me through breakfast (green smoothies) to dinner (salad). A tub of Greek yogurt could be a filling breakfast or a healthy dessert. 

With that being said, we are launching our $40/week grocery budget. Why $40 this time? I’m married now which means $20 for me and $20 for my husband. Plus we’ve got a lot of financial things we need to take care of such as remodeling the house and paying our student loans (my husband’s bachelor’s, my Master’s degree). Let’s give it a go… I’ll try my best to journal this personal finance journey if time permits…

#weeklendcoffeeshare: A rant on personal finances

If we were having coffee, I would pair our coffee with these matcha butter mochi cakes from Cooking with a Wallflower. These look so good!

Friday I was planning to go to Washington D.C. for a conference, but then something came up. I can’t talk too much about it yet on the blog. So instead of going to a conference, I instead spent my Friday off getting my dog’s hair cut, having lunch with my husband, got someone to work on the front yard, and made a few phone calls about home equity line of credit (HELOC). It was a productive day off. Instead of spending my money to go to a conference, I needed to spend the money to go towards cleaning up my front yard.

My husband is not too thrilled with the fact I prefer to pay someone to remove the overgrown weeds. But let’s be realistic here. I would do home improvement stuff every weekend if I could but that requires us to almost never leave the house each weekend. To get to our home improvement goals, we would need to turn down weekend excursions and hiking trips. When my father-in-law passed away, we had to come down to San Diego for seven weekends in a row for mourning. Plus when he passed away, we spent an entire week there to help with the end-of-life details. After the seven weeks of mourning, we went on our vacation to Peru. The vacation was planned for months. When we finally came back home the yard reverted from a bare canvas to weeds, weeds, weeds. It was turn off. I almost wanted to not go spend the President’s Day weekend in Tuscon so I could focus my weekends on cleaning up the yard.

People interact with money in weird ways. I recalled there was this meme where a person does not want to spend $2/month on an app to help manage their finances but they perfectly justify spending an expensive outfit, an expensive handbag, a car, technology, and the list goes on. People do not want to spend money on healthier, fresher food because it is too expensive, but justify spending money on procedures and medical care. I hate it when people spend shame me — it is absolutely infuriating. Through my years as a project manager, I always look into the ROI rather than the price tag. In the end, I ask myself two simple questions. One is if the gratification is long-term or short-term. The second question is if it brings me peace of mind.