Monday, September 17, 2012

Grad Student Life: I got overwhelmed.

One thing that has happened to me with increasing regularity while in graduate school is that for certain chunks of time I've just had to buckle down and work hard and long hours for several weeks.  This results in serious slacking in other areas of life...(like cleaning, and cooking, and socializing, and exercising, and everything healthy.)  Or maybe this is just me and I haven't figured out how to balance life yet.

However, there have been a few things on my mind besides research:
  • Coursera ( is an incredible idea; it allows people to take classes (given by several respected universities) for free.  As someone who thinks educations is important, I've been curious about this new technology and they offered an Intro to Finance class so I enrolled.  I'm really enjoying the experience!
  • I'm in charge of bringing in speakers for a seminar course this year.  While this is an incredible opportunity, it has also been time consuming to get started.
  • I think I could defend by the end of 2013.  (There.  I said it.  Now I have to make it happen.)  This is earlier than I had planned/expected, but it would also give me the best chance to travel for several months before starting my next position (from what I've seen, hiring often happens along the academic year so I could be starting a real position in fall of 2014).
  • I bought tickets to see family over the winter holidays.  I will not be buying anymore tickets to travel anywhere for the foreseeable future.  Hopefully that means I can actually save some more money.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Actual Expenses: July 2012

The last month has been rough (even by typical grad student standards) and I've been feeling more than a little behind.  One of the things that helped clear my head was taking a look at where I am now in comparison to where I was a year ago and I must say, things are certainly much much better!  I've officially been tracking my spending for the last 18 months, which gives me a bit of data to look back on.  Instead of just looking at the past month's expenses, today I'm going to do a little bit of a comparison.  First, a look at where I was a year ago.
What's that? Where is the savings?  To tell the truth, the above was actually more than I earned in a given month.  I had to take out about $100 from savings a year ago to cover my expenses.  PF bloggers all like to say that the first step is to stop spending more than you earn.  While I agree that is a very important first step, I think tracking what you earn versus what you spend is a realistic action that can help you get to the point where you are spending less than you earn.  If you don't know you are spending more, or how much you are spending, or how much you are making, it's going to be very difficult to come up with any concrete plans to rein in said spending.

Bills(Apartment, Utilities, Phone):  I've reduced my expenses from 49% of my budget to 28% of my budget.  I can certainly be happy about freeing up 21% of my money! 

Food:  In the last year I've gotten way more consistent about bringing a lunch and not eating out as often and it shows. Saving an extra 5%! AND I'm even within my budget on this.

Health, Random & Transportation:  Nothing exciting.  I had a medical bill I wasn't anticipating (really? It takes the lab until now to bill me for tests done in February??)

Airline Tickets:  Apparently July is the time I plan out the rest of my years travel plans.  I'm visiting family much further away this time around and it shows.  At least, I've managed to cover the cost within a normal paycheck!

Emergency Fund:  Automatic savings is a good idea for me.

How was your month?  Have you compared your current spending and your past spending to see if your finances are improving?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August 2012 Budget

Ouch.  July has been an expensive I'm really hoping that August will put me back on track with my goals.  If all goes well it should!
Bills (Apartment, Utilities, Cell Phone): 31% on the basics.  This shouldn't change much for the next 6 months...and then we get to reexamine the living situation.  Is it weird that I'm excited by the concept of living in the same apartment for 6 whole months!  I'm sick of moving.  I've moved 16 times in the last 8 years (I just counted, I'm even surprised the number is that high...).
Health: Why did I think it was a good idea to schedule my doctor and dentist appointments in the same week?  Oh? What? AND it's the same week I'll have family in town (or was that not the most recent change in plan? Wait, I'm three plans behind?! Oh... )

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You will give me $200? Yes please!

At this point I'm sure that almost everyone has received some sort of promotion from a bank offering you money to open an account (savings, checking, credit card etc.)  I've mostly been ignoring these offers but the offer I'm looking at right now will give me $200 for opening an account.  By depositing $1500 in the account and leaving the account open (and ignoring it for 6 months) I fulfill all the requirements to get the $200.  Those are fairly easy requirements for me at the moment.  The only question left is how does this compare to the interest I would be earning if I left that $1500 in my high interest savings account?

First, let's look at a simple version illustrating how much interest I would get each month on $1000 using 1% APY.
Here is an example of what a 1% APY interest rate would earn in the month of June (with 30 days) on $1000.
Now, to do the calculation with my real numbers for a 6 month period (roughly 180 days, I'm clearly doing some rounding...but the exercise still proves the point.)
Full Disclosure: This is what it would be if they only gave me interest once every six months.  I've found that banks usually do this on a monthly basis, meaning you should get a bit more because of interest accumulating on the interest you've already made.  I've chosen to use back-of-the-envelope math to illustrate my point.
Wow.  If I left that $1500 where it was I would earn $194 LESS.  Clearly it's a smart move to take advantage of this $200 offer!  Just out of curiosity I wanted to figure out what the equivalent interest would be.
Wow again!  After writing out those numbers I finally took my own advice and got around to opening the account.  It took about 30 minutes so we're looking at $400 per hour.  Too bad these opportunities aren't more common!

I have not been asked or compensated for writing this article about Chase bank (other than perhaps through ads thanks to adsense).  I'm simply stating my experience. Please seek the advice of a professional for your own personal situations.