Chipping Away - Busting Debt in Boston

A personal finance weblog about my own journey to eliminating my debts and building net worth. Hopefully this will serve as a place for me to share and discuss my strategies and ideas, as well as keeping me on track and focused.


My Question of the Day!

Today's my day to post a question fo the day for the Question of the Day Marathon, and after a bit of a late start, and some thinking, here it is:

If tomorrow you were to suddenly find yourself unemployed, what would your action plan be and how much trouble do you feel you'd be in?

I'll publish my response after work today as a reply, so as not to influence anyone else's answers. Sorry I'm late on this, it's been pretty crazy at work!


Anotehr Question of the Day

My apologies for not keeping up with these as well as I should, works been pretty insane. In any case, today we are asked by mapGirl:

How much of a balance do you leave on your checking account(s)?



Gift Giving - An excersize in planning

This past weekend was my girlfriend's birthday, and being the kind of person I am, I was pretty excited to get her something that she'd consider an awesome gift. Like many others, I'm sure, I really enjoy giving people gifts. I'm fairly well off, all things considered, and love knowing that I can do nice things for the people that make my life better by being themselves and being involved in my life. Now, this isn't a whiny post about how giving people gifts affects my personal finances, because I love doing it. It's more a question of how you folks plan for it. Do you keep a separate account for gift giving and contribute to it like a vacation fund? is it just something factored into each month's budget? etc etc etc...

Considering that the major days are pretty predictable (Christmas, birthdays, Valentines, etc...) I usually just plan it out in that month's budget. But the more i think of it, it might eb simpler if i was stashing away a little extra on the months when there aren't any big occasions, to lessen the impact on the big months. Also then there is money sitting around for spontaneous gifts (like flying my mother and brother out for Thanksgiving this year...).

So? Anyone want to share how they consider this?

Question of the Day

For today's Question of the Day, ConsumerismCommentary asks us the following: While growing up, what were you taught about personal money management by your immediate family and surroundings (directly or by example, positive or negative), and how do these ideas factor into your life now?

Head on over to see what myself and lots of others have to say about this. Click it like it ain't no thang. :-)


Finally, My Amex Balance Transfers

After waiting two weeks for my American Express "convenience" checks to come in, I finally have paid off my car loan of over 13%, and the smaller of my two student loans (only $2,800 @ 5%) in full. My new balance on the American Express Blue Cash card is just under $14,000, at 2.99% interest for the life of the balance. I'm still waiting for the student loan payoff check to clear back to Amex and post to my account summary, so I will know what my minimum payment is for the new balance going forward. The plan is to take whatever the initial minimum is and just pay that amount each month going forward, regardless of what Amex decides my minimum payment should be.

Once that is squared away, I'll be able to budget out a monthly amount for aggressive paydown of my large student loan, starting in September. I was hoping to start hammering away at that loan this month, but with my upcoming moving costs, I feel I might be better off keeping some extra cash on hand and delaying my serious loan payments until I'm settled in the new place.


Question of the Day #8

First, my apologies to those who have posted questions of the day that I missed. I'll recap when I have a spare moment or two to breathe (arranging my upcoming move is sucking up the bulk of my time, and work's been crazy... but more on that later). Now, with that in mind, today's Question of teh day is brought to us by SavvySaver, who asks the following:

If you had to pinpoint the one financial decision (good or bad) that put you on the path to where you are now, what would it be? If you could do it over, would you change your decision?

Click that like it's goin out of style! :-)


Expensive Move: The Importance of Shopping Around

As with anything else, shopping around and/or haggling will almost always get you to a better spot than you would be at if you just took the original price offered at face value. At the end of this month I am moving from my current apartment to one just outside the city (less money, more space. hooray!), and since the 1st of the month falls on a Friday it's just about impossible for me to rally up a bunch of friends to help me move. So in the interest of saving myself a lot of headache, I'm shopping around for a moving company to get the job done for me. I'm paying for cnovenience, as is the style in these times.

This definately isn't something I feel badly about, however, since I consider my time and well being quite valuable. Having a moving company take care of relocating my possessions is going to take far less time overall, and save my back/arms/legs/knees/etc... a lot of grief. Is this worth a few hundred bucks? Sure it is. But teh process of selecting and subsequently hiring someone for the job has defniately reminded me about the power of shopping around and haggling. Long story short, the first estimate I received was in the order of $1500 to move my very small apartment a distance of about 10 miles. After some price shopping, comparison, and haggling, I'm likely only going to end up paying $500 or so for essentially the same thing. While I'm sure I could shave another hundred or possibly two off of this total, I only have so much time in a day and only so much time before my move, so I'm considering this a win and booking these movers.

This is just a reminder to all out there. As much as we might think it's the simplest piece of advice out there, don't forget to shop around. Whether it's a digital camera, engagement ring, your favorite chilli-chese dip, or a moving company, someone out there can probably beat your current price with almost the same service or better. Don't put off buying forever, but just make sure you've looked around sufficiently to be sure you're getting the best price you can. Sometimes it can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Likewise, with almost anything, the first price you're told is almost always somewhat negotiable. Give talking them down a shot. The worst thing that'll happen is you'll pay the original price. You were going to do that anyway, so what's the harm? As with shopping around, this can sometimes save you considerable amounts of money without sacrificing quality of service.


Question of the Day Marathon: Day 4

Today's question is brought to us by Experiments in Finance and asks How many credit cards do you have and what's their combined limit?

Enjoy! :-)

Raises, Bonuses, and Budgeting

When I got home from vacation one of the first things I did was jump online to check out my bank statement to see where I stood once all the dust settled. As I mentioned, I wasn't quite as careful with money when I was out on vacation. But again, I think that's sorta of the point of a vacation, right?

In any case, I was delighted to see that my first new paycheck had been deposited, as well as this half's profit sharing bonus! The new paycheck was nice to see, since I was promoted recently and got a nice hefty 16.7% raise along with the new title. As far as the bonus, it was considerably larger than I had expected. Long story short, I have a nice emergency stash sitting in my emigrant account now and boguht myself a present (new fuel management for my miata, yet another money-draining hobby of mine, but more on that later). So this month is looking very good, budget-wise.

Now, I SHOULD be up for anotehr pay increase in sepetmber according to the regular schedule of when our company reviews salary and does merit/cost of living increases. This brings me to the following question: When planning out your rough budgeting for a few months out, does anyone ever take this sort of thing into account? And more generally, how does raise/bonus potential affect your budgeting overall?

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?


Consolidating My Debts - Thanks American Express!

Whew, what a crazy couple fo days since I've returned from vacation! It's definately good to be back into the swing of regular life, but I certainly miss not having to worry about anything (especially money! yuck) for awhile while lounging in the Southern California sun. ;-)

In any case, I had taken an extra day off on Monday to sleep in and reduce the east-to-west-coast jetlag effect on the rest of my first week back at work (and, well, why not take just one mroe day off?), and decided that a good use of the time off was to continue my quest to consolidate my higher-interest debts into something at a significantly lower rate. As a bit of background, because I know I have only mentioned it in passing, I received an offer in the mail a few weeks ago from American Express for a Blue Cash card with an awesoem balance transfer offer: 2.99% for the life of the balance! I'd have to be braindead not to try and do a ton of consolidation onto that card, right?

So looking at the Debt Roundup post I made soem time back, I saw that of my four sources of debt, the one that needed to be dealt with immediately was my Citibank balance which was carrying an insane rate of 15.99 percent! This was my priority balance, so when I applied for the card online I included that balance's transfer information right up front. Long story short, I was approved for the card and the transfer, but my overall credit limit was only a few hundred dollars higher than the transfer. Having the card so close to maxed out didn't give me any room to attempt to move any other balances to my great new rate, though, so on my day off I spent some time on the phone with American Express's customer service folks.

On top of having very friendly and reachable customer service, I'm VERY happy to say that I was quickly awarded a large credit line increase and two more balance transfers that will cover my remaining car loan balance (13.25%) and the smaller of my two student loans (5.00%). My credit limit jumped to $15k and will have a grand total of approximately $13.5k moved over to it by the end of the month. Not only does this DRASTICALLY reduce the interest dollars I'll be charged every month, but it also means that I'll only have two debt balances to send payments to. While this second point doesn't necessarily make things better for me financially, it's a lot easier and has a nice mental effect since I'll be sending a much larger payment to my remaining student loan which carries a 7.25% inetrest rate.

What's the moral of this long winded story? By jumping all over a very nice balance transfer offer that I received in my "junk mail" and aggressively persuing a higher line of credit, I was able to save hundreds or thousands in interest over the payoff period of my debts. Next stop: Finding a way to get a better rate on my student loan while I'm atacking its paydown in earnest.

Question of the Day Marathon: Day 2

Today's Question of the Day is brought to us by Maggie over at Caustic Musings. Click Click Click! :-)


Question of the Day: Day 1

Today is the first of many Question of the Day posts that will be running throughout the month. Each weekday this month some volunteering blogger will post a question that we can all ponder and hopefully add our own ideas and feedback.

Today's question is posted over at AllFinancialMatters. I'll leave you in suspense as to what teh question actually is, though. Happy clicking!