About Me: Suzy

An East-Coaster bewildered that I ended up in the Midwest post-graduation. More bewildered that I've come to love it.
[This budget blog chronicles my valiant attempts to make a living off my writing and stay in the black...]
vegetables, CSPAN, high heels, travel writing, Anderson Cooper, rooftop bars, watching sports with strangers
Dislikes: monogrammed clothing, people who take pictures of food, my current travel budget, Wednesdays! ugh.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Final Post

Going into school, my net worth has dipped -4% to $42,305. Did not meet my goal, but not abysmal. I officially gave up $4,000 in unvested retirement savings and $80,000 in tuition credit to make what I feel confident is the right decision for my future to move out of the Midwest and follow a better career progression. I feel lucky I can be this financially foolish.

But at this point in my life, I have to cling to the adage for business school students everywhere: It’s about the time, not the money.

That is definitely how I feel and I’m ready to plunge headlong into this next two years of TIME. The money will come. I’ve decided that although I will keep up with my monthly budget and net worth check-in’s privately, I will not continue to publish them here on this blog. I’m officially going dormant – potentially for a full two years. I hope to resume after I’m done and reinstated into the real world – either here or at another name.

I have absolutely loved this experience and thanks to all of you who commented – publicly and privately. I have been so enriched by you.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Checking Back in on 2009 Annual Goals...

Wow, the end of July, really? We’re there. Thought it would be a good time to reflect upon the annual goals I set, way back when. Given the turn we’ve taken with the economy and the level of uncertainty, combined with my decision to walk away from business school sponsorship and take on debt to go back to grad school….. I haven’t made much progress.

1 – Get to three-months of expenses in my emergency fund. (ALMOST)
2 – Once we get a dog, transfer all automatic savings over to grad-school and wedding-funds, split evently – save $2000 in total towards these goals. (NOPE)
3 – Become a loan expert and secure a great loan package for grad school. (YES!)
4 – Stretch: Max out 2008 Roth by April deadline (KNEW THIS WOULDN’T HAPPEN EARLY ON)

It makes me feel like I haven’t gotten a lot done. And yet, different goals and items to manage come up, and there are lots of ways to stay productive. Overall my net worth is moving up – and not too much further to go to reach my goal, so I feel good about that!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gregg Easterbrook's: The Progress Paradox

Subtitle: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse

Highly Skimmable. The best four lines in the book that kind of say it all: “Portable carpeted dog steps” – These are the things that make us unhappy – the blur of needs and wants caused by rampant materialism.

The major causes of WHY people feel worse while life gets better:

1.The unsettled, nonlinear character of progress: while things do get better, there are stops and starts. While healthcare is improving, we still have the AIDS epidemics, etc.

2.Fundraising only happens at the extremes. Politicians couldn’t get very much money out of you if they represented inevitable progress. When right-wing personalities claim that Democrats are ruining the world, and vice versa, they’re doing so as a means to coax funding from your wallet.

3.Crises raise the self-importance of the elite (and boost ratings) - and thus, the elite generate their own crises.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the lack of solutions or constructive thinking about how to reverse the trend. The one theme that seems to recur in all of these happiness tomes (I’ve read quite a few) is referent anxiety (i.e. keeping up with the Jones’s). There’s a great deal of debate about referent anxiety and costs and benefits to society. For example, there is less referent anxiety in a stagnant economy – but one would argue this isn’t necessarily advantageous to a country’s citizens. Easterbrook’s main example was that of Scandinavian countries, whose “socialism-lite governments have moved everyone to middle class – something vaguely like a society in which everyone has a 3BR and a Honda accord”. Sign me up?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Health Care Costs Ex-Insurance

At the beginning of this year, I decided to keep a running list of what I would have to pay for all of my health-care-related expenses if I didn’t have insurance. That’s the retail sticker price. So far, the tally has been pretty enlightening, as itemized below... the biggest expense was actual my very generic Rx.

Retail for my Generic Rx $59.99 x 12 months = $719.88
OverTheCounter Meds = $42
Contacts = $114
Annual OB/GYN visit = $180
Dermatology Screening *EST* $175
Dermatology – Routine Removal *EST* $450
Dental Exam - *EST* $150
Dental Cleaning - *EST* $140
TOTAL Year To-Date: Closing in on ~ $2000

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blogging for the Sake of Learning (and/or Getting a Job?)

Thinking even more about giving up the blog, I realize that I do still LOVE and believe in the idea of devoting significant time to a public forum to house thoughts, reflections, and more than anything a slow climbing path towards being an expert on some discrete finite topic. It is very much in line with Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas in Outliers on effort – similar to the "10,000 hour rule" espoused by a lot of writers at the New Yorker and various publications.

You can only become truly knowledgeable… or, phrased more positively….. you can actually become an EXPERT with just really hard work and time in front of you. Which provokes me to ask myself, what do I really want to perfect within myself? What could I become an expert in, and where could I develop myself through practice and effort and time?

I’ve had so many side interests – while I love writing and want to maintain that with a certain level of ferocity, I find that too private to actually blog about. I started getting really interested in wine and really would love to take advantage of opportunities to learn more. I have a good start on a tracker of my tasting notes… but then, I would post on that more sporadically, and there are SO many wine blogs out there, that mine would be, once again, the least knowledgeable and interesting voice out there!

I COULD use it as a professional opportunity to start practicing for case interviews, since I've determined I may want to break into management consulting after grad school. A case interview a day! That actually has the potential to create a real following, based on the lack of real, free resources or forums out there. Another sort of more general business school blog could be lumped into that as well – which would actually be FUN to maintain.

I think we’ve got some changes afoot....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Collisions in Twittering and Blogging

True, Suze Orman is the only personal finance guru/resource I’ve been following on twitter, so I can’t say that I have an exhaustive perspective on this, but I am scrolling TweetDeck on my phone often enough to concur with much of the media that nothing much insightful or thought-provoking gets written about on twitter. Even Suze is reduced to chatting it up about Michael Jackson and Sarah Palin.

It is really difficult to find anything that is actually value-added in any of these 140 characters (times 140 updates per day).

(Full Disclosure: I do have a twitter account under my real name, and I strive to post things that are interesting and value-added and truly undiscoverable by any other forum or unknowable to my friends through any other way. But I mostly fail as evidenced by last 5 tweets:
1.A picture of cupcakes I baked for the 4th of July
2.My disappointment that I didn’t get the house I wanted in Palo Alto
3.Excitement over attending an Indian wedding
4.Disappointment at the ultimate winner of the last season of Biggest Loser couples
5.My mixed emotions over the yuppiedom of owning those little metallic spice racks)

Then again, when I scroll my Google Reader for the latest on personal finance blogs, I truly am – scrolling. I can get the gist of most posts and updates in a few lines, and then I’m on to the next thing.

Which leads me to conclude…. As I go back to school and have less and less relevant topics to post on related to personal finance, would twitter be a better forum for my pf thoughts and insights???

Lately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of muddling over the state of the blog and the worthiness of keeping this up. The background updates and tracking I’ve done as a result are hugely value-added to me, and I don’t want to lose that. But perhaps I can distill the minimal value I create for others into a 140 character update.

I think I’ll tweet about it….

Friday, July 10, 2009

24 Hour Trip to NY for $150

Heading to New York to see friends this weekend for literally, only 24 hours. And I’ve set a budget for myself of $150. How could I do that much damage in that little amount of time, right? My hotel was through a free night award, so I’m good there – and planning to pack plenty of breakfast-y snacks for my plane ride in. So the only things I am really talking about are:

2 cab rides into/out of the city, plus a metrocard refill: $50
Saturday drinks with Gals: $15
Saturday drinks with another friend: $20
Dinner/Drinks on our planned excursion out to the new Citi field (tickets comped by my friend): $65

I’ll report back later… probably, on where I went wrong!