Month 2 Made it Through...


I am so discouraged!

Month 2 was a total fail.  I feel like the fact that I forgot to factor in Tuition and other school expenses into this month's projected budget set me up for disaster.  When I planned my August budget with tuition and books factored in I wasn't expecting to "save" any money at all.  To make ends meat, I cut everything out of my budget this month except for my necessary bills and retirement savings (yep, even groceries were gone, and I've been eating a lot of pantry goods and frozen meals).

I wasn't sure if I was going to qualify for financial aid from my school because as of last year, I had exceeded the allowed number of credits for any student.  Basically they said I have been in school too long, and they're not helping me pay anymore.  Although I appealed it, and was given back my financial aid, every semester since then has been a game of Russian Roulette, and I'm usually on the loosing end.  Last year I didn't find out my financial aid didn't go through until classes had started.  Imagine my excitement when I received a letter telling me that I had one week to come up with $3,000 or else I would be purged from my classes.  That's why I had to take out that ridiculous Signature Loan. 

While I originally saved quite a lot after the first pay period this month.  ($516.00), I was feeling so discouraged by the 2nd half of the month that I went into crazy.bad.habit mode and overspent most of my potential savings/tuition!  What I had left ($100.00) was not enough to make a dent in tuition, so I put it towards the Signature loan.  I'm hoping my financial aid comes through.  I feel so disappointed and anxious and stressed out, and I'm kicking myself as I review where I went over budget:
  • Food ($197):  Cutting out groceries was a huge mistake, because there are only so many Cup'o Noodles I can eat in a month before I go crazy.  I ended up eating out this month more than I ever have in my life!  Normally I budget $100 a month for groceries, and $0 for eating out.  Of the amount I went over budget in the food category, $156.00 was from eating out!  Seriously? It would have been so much better if I had just budgeted even $50 for groceries.  Since I don't eat fast food, eating out cost me a fortune because I had to get food from "nicer, healthier" places.  Thomas' birthday was also this month, so I decided to take him out.  We didn't do anything super expensive, but I paid for dinner and dessert.   
  • Taxes ($23):  Taxes get me every month!  I never know how much to budget, and my estimations are always wrong.  Maybe next month I'll just highball the figure!
  • Entertainment ($127):  While I try to do as many free activities as possible, sometimes spending money is inevitable.  It's times like this that I wish I had purchased a $100 emergency gift card.  I know a girl who is new in town and doesn't have many friends.  She asked me to go to the movies, and while I had told her about my Spending Fast, she wasn't really getting that "movies isn't something I consider a necessity."  So I ponied up, and went... twice.  I also purchased a portable DVD player for an upcoming road trip (I justified it because I had a gift card, and bought it refurbished so it was like half off).  I also bought a few songs on iTunes and two books.
  • Personal Care ($123):  I own two pairs of jeans, which I wear literally every day.  One of them ripped, and while I tried to sew them (make do & mend), the only way to save them was to turn them into Capri pants or shorts...  I needed jeans.  I bought two pairs at Forever 21 for just about $11, and bought some shoes too.  I'm still trying to force myself to return them.  I also purchased a gift for Thomas' birthday, as well as some fabric.  Since I started going back to church I realize I don't own any skirts or dresses.  Trying to be thrifty, I decided that making these items is much less expensive than buying them, and I'm right.  Fabric for a pencil skirt costs $12, an actual pencil skirt costs at least $20.  Bargain right?  Sure, just as long as you don't run out of fabric and have to spend $50 to "Special Order" more!  D'oh!
  • School expenses ($119):  I had to purchase textbooks and pay for a campus parking pass.  Most of my leftover money went for this this month.  Ugh, if my financial aid doesn't work out I'm going to have to pay my tuition out of pocket.  That means no money towards my house down payment for the next four months!
So there you have it, I went over budget $589.00!!  Wait what?!  Where did that money even come from?!  I feel nauseous.

Luckily, I did have some extra income this month.  We had a problem at work a few months ago, and because of it, everyone is required to work 4-8 hours of overtime every week until further notice (probably through the end of the year).  I have been maxing out my hours, and I'm so glad because without them, I probably wouldn't have finished this month with my head above water. 

Everything I made on overtime pay went directly to my MMA account, either for my house, or in case I end up needing it to pay tuition, and all of my regular leftover Spending Fast Savings went towards my Signature Loan.  I know it sounds counter productive, but I'm trying to pay off the Signature Loan I used for tuition last year, so that if my financial aid doesn't go through, I can take out another one.  I am willing to empty my current Spending Fast savings, but I still have only saved about ⅓ of what I need.

My total savings for the month of August is $1158.00!  I am so excited by this number, especially considering I wasn't planning on saving anything.  I am kicking myself for going over budget as much as I did (A monthly tuition payment!)!  To think, I could have saved a whopping $1747.00!  I'm also a little nervous that my online bank statement, and my excel money tracker aren't matching up...  My tracker says I should have about $150 more leftover than I actually do.  Where is the missing money?!

On the bright side, this month I was able to reach 6% of my total savings goal of $20,000; so despite everything else, that was at least exciting!  This, my friends is totally depressing!  I am sick to my stomach at how easy it was to fall into old habits.  I've decided I'm going to stick with it though.  I said one year, and I'm going to do one year, and maybe more. 

Next month my goals are to get better about creating a more realistic budget, planning ahead (for things like school) and I am also instituting the Envelope budget.  As much as I love how easy it is to track my spending with my debit card, clearly I am not responsible enough to be doing that yet.  I need cash.  That way, when I'm out, I'm out!
Where Did the Savings Go:
$546 to Money Market Savings Account
$294 to my Roth 401K
$0 to Emergency Savings Account (This all went towards my Signature Loan)
$318 to Signature Loan (Student Loan for last year's tuition)

The Itch to Ditch


Happy Back to School!  Today, I just wanted to share a quick little message for all of you college aged "kids."

Sometimes it's hard to get up and go to class.  Especially to an 8:00 am college class.  Especially when you don't live on campus and have to drive across town to get there.  Especially when you also work full time and were up late studying the night before...

To be honest, I used to ditch class all the time.  I would just study the material on my own rather than sit through lecture.  One of my Ecology professors actually conducts a study every semester about how class attendance effects test scores.

Before every test, we would have to write down how many classes we had missed since the previous exam.  That number was then compared against test scores and the rest of the class' attendance/scores.  It turns out its true.  When you miss class, grades suffer.  But did you know that missing class can also cost a fortune?

What if you went out to dinner and ordered two entrees but only received one? What if you were charged for both of the meals?  I think a fuss would be made and you would demand the second entree be brought to you, or demand that it's charge be removed from your bill..  You didn't eat it so you're not paying for it, right?  Unfortunately, this does not work with college tuition, and yet people still don't realize the impact that missing a class can have on their wallet.

For example, at my school tuition for a single three credit class costs $531.75 each semester, not counting all of the added technology, library, health facility fees, etc.  With those fees, that number jumps to a whopping $927.98 just for one class!  In an average semester, each class meets between 22 to 25 times.  That means that each lecture or exam costs about $37.12.  Every time you ditch, you're basically throwing away almost $40!  That's a tank of gas, or a date night, or even groceries for a week!

Next time you get the urge to sleep in, remember, you've already paid for class, you may as well show up!

Weekly Money Check-up 8.29.11


1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on:  The most I spent was on textbooks!  I spent about $120.  It's a lot, but I rented them instead of buying, so I saved myself close to $600!

2. Today I am thankful:
For the chance to sleep in!  I took the day off of work so that I could go to my first day of classes.  Waking up at 8:30 was so wonderful!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was:
  Played a lot with my new puppy, Chael!

4. I will consider this week a success if I: 
Get everything on my to-do list done!

5. The thing I will miss most when summer is over:
Freedom!  I'm back to school full time today.  I'm a little nervous since this will be the first time I am a full time student and working full time.  I know I can do it though.



Have you heard of FAFSA?  If you're a college aged student I hope you have...  I didn't learn about it until I was a Junior in college and had already put 2.5 years of tuition and other college expenses on credit cards!  Yea, that's right.  I was applying for scholarships left and right through websites like Fast Web, but I was seeing little to no results.  Although I graduated high school with all AP classes, and a 4.1 GPA, I wasn't getting anything!  The only other avenue I knew of for financial aid was whatever my school awarded me... nothing. 

If you're new to college, or, like so many of my friends, have been in school for awhile but didn't know that financial aid was actually available to you, keep reading!

What is FAFSA?

The FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step in the financial aid process.  You use it to apply for federal student financial aid, such as grants, loans and work-study. In addition, most states and schools use information from the FAFSA to award non-federal aid.

Your FAFSA form contains a bunch of questions relating to your finances as well as those of your parents.  This form must be filled annually, preferably at the beginning of the year, right after filing your taxes.  FAFSA uses your tax information (if filing independently) and/or your parent's tax information (if filing as a dependent) to determine your family's financial strength, and thus your eligibility for financial Aid.

What is an EFC?

Your EFC is your Expected Family Contribution.  This is the number that through a series of calculations, the government estimates what you and/or family should be able to contribute to your college expenses.  Using your EFC, another series of calculations is done based on what the average cost of secondary education.  The number found is typically what you will be awarded in financial aid whether it be grants, scholarships, student loans or work-study.

What is a SAR?

A few days after submitting your FAFSA information, you will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report) via mail or via the Internet.  This report will show you all of the information you submitted on your FAFSA as well as tell you your EFC.  When you receive your SAR, it is important to review your information and make any corrections.  Even a small mistake can drastically change your EFC, and therefore change what aid your are eligible for.

How Much Do I Get and When Do I Get it?

Your EFC, along with the rest of your FAFSA information, is made available to all the schools you list in on your FAFSA form. The schools use your EFC to prepare a financial aid package to help you meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between your EFC and your school’s cost of attendance (which can include living expenses), as determined by the school.

Any financial aid you are eligible to receive will be paid to you through your school. You can check your school's financial aid website to see what money you were awarded, and accept any awards you wish.  If you were given both grants and loans, but only wish to accept the grants, you can do so.  Typically, about 10 days before the start of the semester, your school will disperse your money.  They will first put your aid towards tuition, fees, and room and board (if provided by the school). Any remaining aid you accepted is then distributed to you - either by check or direct deposit -for your other expenses (textbooks, parking, etc.).  If you do not accept aid, it will not be dispersed to you once your expenses are paid, you are denying that money, and can not get it at a later semester in the school year.

Helpful Tips:

1.  Do your Taxes:
Filling out your tax return first will make completing the FAFSA easier. However, you do not need to submit your tax return to the IRS before you submit your FAFSA. But, once you (and/or your parents if you are a dependent student) file your tax return, you must correct any income or tax information that changed since you filed your FAFSA. Inaccurate information on your FAFSA may delay your receipt of federal student aid. Also, you will be required to return federal aid you improperly received based upon incorrect information.
2.  Apply Early
Deadlines for aid from your state, from your school, and from private sources tend to be much earlier than deadlines for federal aid. To make sure that any financial aid package your school offers you will contain aid from as many sources as possible, apply as soon as you can after January 1, 2006.
The U.S. Department of Education will process your 2006-2007 FAFSA if received on or before July 2, 2007. However, to actually receive aid, your school must have your correct, complete information before your last day of enrollment in the 2006-2007 school year. So it is important to apply early to make sure you leave enough time for your school to receive your information and to make any necessary corrections.
3.  File Electronically
You can fill out and submit your application through FAFSA on the Web at Electronic filing is the fastest, easiest and most accurate way to apply for financial aid. The information you enter in FAFSA on the Web will be checked on the spot, and we will call your attention to any errors or missing information. This reduces the chance that you will need to correct your information later. Preventing errors means your school will receive your application results sooner. By filing online, you may also be able to skip some questions based on your answers to earlier questions.
If you have a U.S. Department of Education PIN (Personal Identification Number), you can even sign FAFSA on the Web electronically. To request a PIN, visit Your parents can also request and use their own PINs to sign your FAFSA online. We encourage you to apply for a PIN prior to submitting your FAFSA, but if you don’t we’ll automatically send you one once we have processed your application.
Free Money!  What's the Catch?

I love FAFSA, it has allowed me to get a college education, however, I do think they could do somethings differently when it comes to calculating EFC.  The forms essentially use information from your taxes to determine how much aid each student should receive.  This amount, however is determined almost entirely from taxes.

When I started school, it was not taken into account that my parents had a mortgage, and 4 car payments.  It did not take into account credit card debts, student loans, or other debts that we had.  It did not take into account regular expenses that we paid every month, and it did not take into account the fact that my parents had 3 kids entering college in the same year.  They really just looked my income, as well as my parents' incomes, and said, OK, here's what you can afford to pay!  The number they gave shocked us all.  There was no way in a hundred years that we had that much money just laying around.

I strongly recommend that if the student is under 23 years old, has a job, and will be filling out their own tax information, that they claim themselves independent.  Be sure to get your parent's permission to do this - they get a big tax break and more money back for having you as a dependent.  If the student files as independent, they will be awarded more financial aid that if they file jointly with their parent's information.  For any students older than 23 years old, you will have to file independently, even if you still live at home.  Once you reach 23 years old, your parents can no longer claim you as "dependent."

I hope this information is helpful and has given you another resource to receive money to help pay for school!  I know every semester, I am awarded almost 5x more than my actual expenses, so it really is a lifesaver.  Good luck!

Wanting Stuff


Before I started the Spending Fast, I had some pretty bad spending habits.  I've mentioned it before, but I'll quickly recap.  As soon as I would get paid, I would first pay my bills.  As soon as the bills were paid, I would check my account balance.  Immediately, everything that was leftover would have to be spent.  All of it.  The money practically burned a hole in my pocket and my mind raced with the goodies I could purchase. 

Notice that nowhere in the above story did I mention paying 10% to my church or even taking care of Number 1.  Being young, I am still fairly selfish, and it amazes me that I never ever paid myself!  Sure, I had my savings account, and contributed to it, but it really acted as more of a back.up.checking.account.

Since I began the Spending Fast, as soon as I get paid, I first write my tithing check to my church for 10% of my pay.  One hundred dollars is automatically deposited into my Emergency Savings account and I then pay my bills.  Until the next pay period, I oogle at the amount of money left over, and the bigger it is, the more excited I get.  I might spend a little on my necessities such as gas, or groceries, but overall, I just let it brew.  At the end of the pay period, I transfer everything that's left in my checking account to my Money Market account (hopefully to be used on a down payment on a house).

Today, however, I am really feeling the urge to slip back into my old pattern of spending.  I'm looking at my bank account, and while I know that money should be saved, or might even have to go to pay my Fall tuition, but my head is crawling with other things, sparkly things, I could buy instead.  Things I don't need, but things I want:  white skinny jeans, chiffon blouses, feminine skirts, pretty school supplies; you know?  Stuff.

Stuff that I don't have room for.  Stuff that won't make me happy, but will more likely create great feelings of guilt and buyer's remorse.  Just stuff.   I still have eight days until I make my MMA transfer for this pay period, and I'm beginning to worry that the urge is too strong.  I need to find something to focus on, or maybe just make my transfer early, and leave myself completely broke for a week. 

I look back on my blog posts so far, and up until now, the Spending Fast has been somewhat easy.  Now, however, I feel the glitz of saving is wearing off and I'm starting to feel how hard this really is.  It is hard.  It sucks.  But I know I can do it.

Potential Spending Fast Hold


I have encountered a large bump in the Spending Fast road...

That bump is more commonly known as tuition.  Every semester, it seems as though I have "issues" (to put it nicely) with my financial aid.  I qualify for it, the government awards me money, and then my University thinks of a reason not to give it to me... I often wonder if they are just pocketing it for themselves.  This semester is no different.

After applying for financial aid, the government awarded me $6,2500 for both the Fall 2011 and the Spring 2012 semesters.  Insert sigh of relief because I will finally be able to finish school and not have to take out another loan...  I was so excited.  Not only would I able to finish school and graduate, but I would be able to continue saving money for my house down payment!

Holy crooked criminals Batman, the greedy University monsters are at it again!

Shortly after being awarded my government money, I received a letter from my university stating that I was not eligible for financial aid.  The reason?  I have exceeded the maximum credit allowance for my university, which is 186.  What?!  That seems like an awful lot of credits to have earned without a degree...  I met with my financial advisor, and she assured me that in fact I only had 125 attempted credits, but typically, "students who reach 100 credits are flagged," and thus forced to appeal the revocation of financial aid.

Of course I submitted an appeal, but found out that the process will take about 30 days to complete.  Meanwhile, my tuition is due in 2 days.  If it is not paid in full by Friday at 5:00 pm. I will be purged from my classes, with very little chance of getting back in due to wait listed students.  So what do I do?

I tried signing up for the school's offered payment plan which would allow me to make payments for the next three months, and because I would be paying, I would not be purged from my classes.  I am so upset, why should I have to pay, when I was awarded financial aid?!

At least until my financial aid is appealed and the money goes through, the payments on the plan are something I can afford.  So, with much lament, I decided to sign up.  At the very least, at least I could be reimbursed later when my aid goes through.

Not so fast!

Because I have "Pending Financial Aid" I am not eligible for the payment plan.  I was to told I would have to pay my bill up front.

"If I had the money up front, I wouldn't have applied for financial aid, or tried to sign up for a payment plan," I complained to the undergrad freshman who was manning the Financial Aid office and being very unhelpful about finding a solution to my problem.

So, it looks like I am stuck paying a bill I had not counted on paying.  The only money I have is the money I have saved so far from my Spending Fast, and even still, I am still about 2/3 short.  I have emptied my money market account and am in the process of taking out a signature loan through my credit union to pay the rest.  I am determined to pay the loan back in the same amount of time that the school's payment plan would have allowed, 4 months, so that I can continue saving again as soon as possible.  As sad as I am about my diminishing house fund, I have to pay for school, so all of my Spending Fast savings for the next four months will not be going into my money market account, but now will be going to pay back my tuition.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that my financial aid appeal goes through, and I will be reimbursed so that I am not completely deterred from my saving.


With School beginning next week, I had the ever so glorious task of buying Textbooks today. While most students groan and mumble about this inevitable errand, Science students downright dread it. The average Science book costs $300.00. Given that most scientific subjects are ever changing, most text books need to be purchased in their NEW condition every semester, even for a class like Biology I and Biology II.

I got on my University Bookstore’s website and compiled my textbook list for this semester. I’m taking 14 credits of upper division Biology classes along with a Spanish class, so apart from mi libro de espaƱol, I needed all new, all expensive texts.

The Grand Total at check out for a Statistics text, 2 Biochemistry texts, and an oh-so-fascinating text on Ecology?

*GASP!* I think my heart stopped. After I cried a little, I realized that it was worse than I was expecting {around $400.00 or so}, but I also realized “I can do better!”

I headed over to Have you heard of it? I’m almost certain I mentioned it on my other blog a time or two. In case you missed it, just type in the text book name or ISBN and it will search for every copy of that book that is being sold, and listed in order of its condition. Sometimes the site may find a result for $50.00 but upon further investigation it is $50.00 for a "poor condition" text with "major highlighting" and "coffee stains on the cover."

Typically, I try to buy all of my books “Brand New,” “Never Used,” and “Still in Shrink Wrap,” or as close to it as possible for the cheapest price possible.  I usually save a fortune!  This year however, has added a new feature enabling students to RENT their textbooks!  Luckily for me, all of the textbooks I needed this semester are available for rent.  Even the science books.  Do you know how much I paid for all 4 of my books?

Attention all college students! If you haven’t already, head over to for some serious savings. If you’ve already purchased your books for this semester, return them! Seriously, there is still time, and then go to and rent them.

Weekly Money Checkup 8.22.11


1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on:  $119.00 on my textbooks.  I actually saved close to $400 because I chose to rent them over purchasing!

2. Today I am thankful:  that I was finally able to get a hold of someone with half a brain at my University's Financial Aid office.  For the past month I've only been able to speak with student.employees.who.don't.know.anything.about.anything!  Now my financial aid is all figured out!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was:  I was able to spend some time in my garden.  It's been so hot that mostly everything was fried by the sun, and because I felt like a farming failure, I haven't tended to it in over a month.  I pulled all of the old crops and planted my winter garden.

4. I will consider this week a success if I:  Get all of the work I need on my car done, as well as get my school supplies ready for Monday!

5. The best prank ever pulled on me was:  The time my roommate put Saran wrap all around my car.  It looked like a giant leftover, and it took forever to take off!

Net Worth


Do you know your net worth?  Do you know what net worth is?  Do you know why it's important? 

A person's net worth is essentially their wealth.  Knowing your net worth can be helpful in understanding where you assets and liabilities lie so that you better understand your financial position.  Aside from that, "net-worth" is essentially an over rated financial term that isn't good for much else.   

Many people consider their net-worth to be a key factor in determining their ability to retire, this is a big mistake.  The problem with most net worth calculators is that they take an unrealistic approach to "assets."  For example, your car, jewelry, art work, life insurance and furniture may all be counted as assets.  However, owning a couch doesn't mean someone has more money than someone who doesn't own a couch, it just means they have a couch.  Unless all of those "non-liquid assets" are sold, I personally don't feel like they should be considered in determining someones net worth.  On that note, what good is considering life insurance as an asset?  You dont' see the money ever, and no one else will see it unless you die.  See what I mean about being "over rated?"

With that being said, if you're still curious bout your net worth, here's how you calculate it:

Take the total value of your assets (liquid cash) and divide that number by your total liabilities (debts). 


Easy enough, right?  I think I'm going to start doing this, just to see where I stand.  I am using a modified excel template I found online (you can see how I modified it below).

Holy smokes!  It is crazy to think that I don't have any consumer debt (my only debt is student loans), and a good credit score, and yet my worth is that much in the red! -$23,182! 

You can see, though, how much I altered this calculator.  If I had used the original one, my net worth was closer to $33,000.  Why?  I currently have a $50,000 life insurance policy and I own my car outright for another $6,000.  On paper, those things look pretty good, but I need my car to get around, and I don't ever get to see money from my life insurance policy.  Only my beneficiary's wealth will increase.  Make sense why I didn't include those non-liquid assets in my determination of net worth?

If your net worth isn't good (saaammmmeeee!), don't freak out, it really doesn't mean anything.  It's just a nice easy way to see where your money is and where your debts are!



I am currently wanting, wishing, dreaming about MAC Lipstick in Lovelorn.

Keep Reading...

Weekly Money Check-up 8.15.11


1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on:  I spent $57 and change on gas!  While riding the bus was a fun experience, I ditched it.  I was still using my car to get everywhere that didn't involve going to and from work.   Again, I live in a part of town where the bus is not a common means of transportation, and there are only a few bus stops in my community.  While the bus was saving me about 50% of my transportation cost budget, planning a four hour trip to the grocery store just wasn't worth it.  Also, now that I have to drive to school three days a week (across town), the trip would take too long on the bus.  Luckily, however, I heard on the news this week that gas prices should go down by $0.50 per gallon in the next few months!

2. Today I am thankful:  for sunshine and warm weather.  I'm sad that it's already starting to fade.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was:  I attended another Free Concert in the Park on Friday.  I went with a bunch of friends from church, and we had such a good time!  I love that my community is willing to spend money to give back to us and provide free, family-friendly entertainment.

4. I will consider this week a success if I:  Don't spend any money.  My bills are paid, my gas tank is full, and I have my groceries for the week; so there shouldn't be any reason to spend a single penny.  I also want to work out at least three times this week.

5. If I had today off:  I would be at the lake, or at least a pool playing in the water and working on my tan!

Buy a Mountain


For anyone who was alive in the 90's and old enough to remember Mad TV, there was a skit that I always thought was funny.  It was a sketch making fun of Oprah and her millions of dollars, and her encouragement of people to accomplish lofty goals.

In one skit, "Oprah" had a guest on the show who's life's dream was to buy a mountain.  While the guest made a measly income, and let's face it, purchasing natural land masses isn't necessarily allowed, it was not a deterrent.  While speaking in her powerful from.the.stomach.voice and nodding her head in exaggerated encouragement, Oprah gave the following advice:

"Buy a mountain!  Do it today, buy a mountain!"

This sketch has always stayed with me.  Mostly because it was so rediculous but also because sometimes in life we set lofty goals for ourselves.  Goals that many people wouldn't think are feasible.  Whether out of boredom, the need for a challenge, or just to keep afloat, it is good to have goals.  Many readers of this blog have started spending fast, or are in the process of getting out of tons of debt or they are simply trying to start saving.  It stinks.  It's hard, but the good things in life are never easy.  So, whatever your goal, to you I say:

"Do it.  Do it today.  Buy your mountain!"

Happy weekend

Mustard Please

I am so in love with mustard colored tights!



A few years ago, I went in for an interview with my Bishop.  No, it wasn't that kind of interview, I wasn't "in trouble," it was the how' kind of interview.  After talking for about 30 minutes, he basically told me that my "life balance sucks."

"Morgan, imagine you're a waitress holding a tray.  Now picture the different aspects of your life like glasses on that tray.  Part of having life balance means you can put all of the glasses on your tray, and organize them in such a way that you won't drop anything.... In your life right now, you dont' even have all the glasses...  You've got school, you go to church and have good family relationships, but what about dating? Or career? Or friends? Or finances?  Or your own home? Or personal improvement and hobbies?"


I said I'd work on it, but I never really did.  I'm really good at substituting one aspect of life for another, but I've never actually tried to achieve "life balance," and I often wonder how in the world people do.

Lately, I've been really stressing about school.  This coming semester I am enrolled as a full time student (14 credits);  it will be the first time I've tried going to school full time while being employed full time.  I know it will be tough and I'll be tired all the time, but I think I can do it, even with everyone else telling me I can't.

I know I can do school and work, but what about everything else?  Where am I supposed to find time to date?  Or play with friends?  Or exercise?  Or garden?  Or keep up with my budget? Or anything else I normally like to do? 

Any tips on achieving life balance?

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Book Review: Debt Free U


Last week, I mentioned I heard of a book called Debt Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships or Mooching Off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette.  The title alone sparked my interest so I went to the library and checked it out.

It almost sounded too good to be true and I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting.  Maybe a way to cheat the system, stick it to the man, or just get some realistic advice on how to pay for school.  This book was written by a 21 year old college graduate.  He did not come from money, in fact, while writing the book his father's home was in foreclosure and his mom lived in a condo with her parents!  Zac, a financial wonder kid, was still able to go to a well known college without accruing any debt, at one point in the book he mentioned that at graduation he had one million dollars saved in his stock portfolio!  Currently he writes for AOL's Daily Finance blog, and contributor to many national financial newspaper columns.

 I dove right in to this book and read it in two days, but overall, I have to say I was disappointed. At this point in the game, for me, all of his advice was old news.  Here are just a few pieces of advice from the book, and how they relate to my college financial woes:

1.  How much can you afford and where will you get the money? 

Rather than actually answering this question, Zac spends a lot of time talking about how scholarships are few and far between - and really only pay about 1/20 of a student's overall college expenses.  He says student loans are dangerous and advises against them at all costs - citing that within 5 years of graduating 1 in 5 students default on their student loans.  He discusses that tuition & fees rise close to 18% every three years, and gives rough estimate costs of a 5 year education.  He also briefly touches on the downfalls of applying for financial aid and ways parents make mistakes trying to finance their children's education.
  • I couldn't agree more about scholarships.  I graduated high school with a 4.17 GPA, I was involved in three Varsity Sports, and a myriad of clubs and other activities.  It did not pay off.  I received one scholarship from Target for $1,000, as well as a small in-state scholarhip that quickly ran out - and that's the only free money I've ever seen. 
  • I never qualified for grants, because my dad made "too much money," however FAFSA didn't take into account that my parents had three kids going into college the same year, their own student loan debt, mortgage, car loans, etc.  FAFSA is great, but because it looks soely at income and not debts, it's not always realistic.
  • Many parents save early for their kid's college, some borrow money or take loans from their retirement to finance their kid's education.  Bissonnette says this shouldn't be an option, which is good, because for me, it wasn't.  My parent's told us up front they couldn't/wouldn't give us money, but we could live at home while we went to school.
So where does is the money supposed to come from?  Bissonette says that all teens planning on going to college should start working summer jobs as early as possible.  This money should then be invested in high interest accounts and used to pay for college.  It makes sense, and would be a great way to teach kids about money, right?
When I was in high school, getting an education was my job.  My parents were completely against us working during the school year, but during summer break, we were allowed to work to earn some "fun money."  They were getting sick of forking over money so that we could go out with friends, and our allowance wasn't doing the job.  Every summer in high school, I worked as a Swim Teacher and Lifeguard, and I loved it!  I made about $200/week, which to me, at that time, was really good money!  However, with a job comes the need for transportation and therefore car payment, insurance and fuel costs. 
Contrary to Bissonnette's advice, I wasn't saving every penny earned, I was spending most of it on fun summer activities- you know, the whole reason for having the job in the first place.  By the end of my four years in high school, if I had saved all of my summer money, I could have saved close to $9,600!  That's half of my current student loan debt!  If I had invested it, and earned interest on it, I would have been much better off than I am today.  Instead, I started college with no savings and took out loans to pay for my education.
2.  Does It Really Matter Where You Go to College?

I found it amusing that most of the book dealt with the "dilemma" of where to go to college.  Is getting into an Ivy League school really that important?  Bissonnette points out that an education is an education.  What big name schools offer is prestige and networking opportunities and an empty wallet.  Many people think it's just fine to pay up to 40% more for a name!  Let's be honest, networking can be done at any school.  Like every other life experience, college is what you make it.  Success is not determined by a school, but by the person.  Anyone can turn an average Uuniversity into an Ivy League university if they want to.  He also recommends community colleges for general education requirements.  Tuition is often only 1/3 of what universities cost, and all credits are easily transferable.
  •  I've never thought big name schools were worth the price, especially since I was the one paying for it.  Growing up, I always knew I'd go a religious private school, but when I didn't get accepted, I "settled" for my state's university.  I wish I would have taken advantage of getting my core requirements at the local Community College because I could have saved myself a fortune.  While Bissonnette stated earlier that every three years, the average costs for a college education raises 18%, my university is averaging 19% increases every school year!
3.  Make Money and Save Money

Did you know that most college age students spend 10.5 hours every week consuming alcohol?  How about 12 hours watching TV or playing video games?  There have been all sorts of studies done to show how much time college students waste "gaining a college experience."  Most of that free time could be used constructively in one of two ways: 
  1. It could be used towards studying, and therefore getting through school faster.  Bissonnette points out that by channeling most of that wasted time towards school, students could easily graduate in three years, rather than the average of five it's taking most.   
  2. The total amount of the average student's wasted time comes to about 35 hours each week - that is almost a full time job!  Bissonnette suggests that all students could successfully work a part time job (20-25) hours each week, have adequate time for study, and socializing.  It's about finding balance.  The money earned from a part time job at say $8.00/hour comes to about $3,200 each semester and would help pay for the next semester's tuition, fees, books, etc. 
Saving money is also relatively easy.  Bissonnette suggests not only working part time during a school semseter, but full time during summer and winter breaks.  Money earned should be applied to school and the rest should be saved or invested.  This is how Bissonette was able to become a millionaire by the time he was 21!  He also advises to stay away from using credit cards, creating a budget and sticking to it, and using wise finance practices- even taking a personal finance class.
Again, this would have been good to know when I first started college.  My parents didn't want me to work while in school, so I lived off of loans for my first two years of college.  Once I started working, I had credit card debt, and other bills that needed to be paid, so saving didn't happen, let alone funding my education.  And so the vicious loan cycle continued.

Is it worth reading?

I would say yes to those who are soon going to start college, or to parents of college age kids.  There is a lot of helpful information about the college planning process, that you may not know.  Most financial information provided by college financial aid departments and counselors is not very helpful, so any other resources are always good.  However, because this is such a large expense, this book should be coupled with other research and study

If you're just wanting an answer on how to get a cheap education, this is not the book for you.

Weekly Money Check-up


1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on:  Lunch on Saturday.  I went to an activity with some friends from church.  Lunch was involved so I went for a small $4.00 salad bar.  However the girl behind me, loaded up with a salad bar, a hot lunch, a drink and a few side items...  She actually assumed it would be free because when we both go to the register she was surprised she had to pay, and confessed she didn't have her wallet.  I got stuck paying the bill... $15.00 total.
2. Today I am thankful:  For opportunities to work overtime at work.  It's tough, and I've only been putting in an extra 4 hours a week (but could be doing 8).  It's to have the option to make a little extra money.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was:  Grabbed free frozen yogurt with a friend!  I had a gift card I received from work, and we put it to good use!

4. I will consider this week a success if I:  Once again, don't spend any money and figure out how to pay my tuition for Fall Semester.  I have a feeling this month's savings totals are going to be rather embarrassing.

5. This time last year:  I just started my current job.  I was also spending every cent of my paychecks because I was so excited to have money.  I was nervous and a little worried about how I would finish school while working full time... and to be honest I still am.  But I'm going to try to get it done this year!

Credit Karma


I discovered a website the other day that I wanted to tell all of my readers about.  It's called Credit Karma.  This website offers free credit scores to all consumers! 

In the past, I have gone to websites like Free Credit Report in an attempt to pull my credit report and score for free (as it states in their name).  Ultimately, after I enter my personal information, I can't see my score/report until I give up a credit card number.  Then I am charged close to $15 for the information they give me and they even enroll me in a $20/month membership plan without me even askingHow nice of them. 

It's Free

This San Francisco based website is actually 100% free.  They are able to provide credit information for free (no credit card number required), they make their money through advertising ventures (similar to  Not only does this web site show you your credit score, but they give you a Credit Report Card where they will give you an actual grade based on your credit rating compared with national averages!


They also provide other free services such as the Credit Simulator.  Essentially the stimulator shows you your current credit score, and then gives a bevvy of options, such as "Paying off all credit cards" and "Taking out another Loan" or "Opening a new credit card."  Once you play around with the options you can see what moves will either hurt or improve your credit score!  Finally!  A hands on visual tool I can use, not just advice from stuffy financial advisers telling me that in order to raise my credit score I just need to "pay off my debt!"

Other features include a blog, money articles, and even tools and calculators, and again, it's all free!

Three Scores

Not only are you given a credit score, but you're given two other scores as well. 
  1. Auto Insurance Risk Score:  “Your Trans Union Auto Insurance Risk Score represents whether you are more or less likely to file a claim that will result in losses for the insurance company. This score is calculated using information found in your Trans Union credit report and ranges from 150 (minimum) to 950 (maximum)."
  2. Vantage Score:  "Vantage Score is a new credit scoring model created by America’s three major credit reporting agencies to support a truly consistent and accurate approach to credit scoring. This new score provides lenders with nearly identical risk assessment across all three credit reporting companies. Your Vantage Score on Credit Karma was calculated based on information in your Trans Union credit report and follows a familiar academic scale for ease of understanding: A (901-990), B (801-900), C (701-800), D (601-700), F (501-600)."
I signed up for the site today and I'm interested in seeing how it can help me improve my credit score.  How about you? 

August Goals


I know I have a list of financial goals already, but those are more "long term goals."  I have a lot coming up in this next month and I feel like my mental checklist just isn't going to cut it.  So, to get them out of my head and onto "paper," here they are.
  1. Pay off Signature Loan for last semester's tuition.
  2. Take out another Signature Loan for upcoming semester's tuition.
  3. Adjust budget to cut out unnecessary groceries, hair and transportation costs - put towards tuition
  4. Don't contribute to Emergency Savings this month - put that money towards tuition
  5. Decrease retirement contribution amount - put that money towards tuition
  6. Cancel dental appointment until next month
  7. Pay my tithing in full, and pray a lot that the Lord will provide!
School was something I completely forgot to factor into the Spending Fast equation!  I don't know how I could have forgotten about it, it is my largest expense by far!  I know it doesn't make sense to get into more debt when I'm trying to save as much as I can.  But as the saying goes, "such is life."  It's not that I can't afford school right now, I can easily factor the costs into my budget, but unfortunately my school only allows students to pay tuition for 3 weeks after the beginning of the semester and then they are kicked out of their classes.  Because registration only lasts a week after the start of the semester, those that are kicked out can consider themselves "Royally Screwed."  I can't come up with that kind money in 6 weeks, so a loan will help me spread out the payments in increments I can afford. 

I'm starting to think that my goal of a house down payment may be a little too lofty...  Ugh, I hate discouragement.

The Envelope Budget


I was really frustrated at my July Spending Fast savings...  After the first pay period, I was able to contribute $500 towards my goal of a down payment on a house.  That amount is about how much I had anticipated saving every pay period.  However, the second pay period of July didn't go as well.  I was only able to contribute $75!  Where did the rest of my money go?

I went over budget in almost every category, because my debit was just easy to get to!  I lent people money, and I am still just in the habit of swiping away, without considering what it's costing me in the long run.  After watching one of my new favorite TV shows, Til Debt Do Us Part, I was inspired by the allowance jars.  Essentially, each couple gets put on a cash budget,  the cash is separated into different categories of jars (mortgage, groceries, etc.) that has to last for the month.  Once the cash is gone, there is no more.

I've thought about using this method before, but honestly I prefer my debit-card.  The debit card is much more convenient when it comes to tracking expenses.  Unlike my brain, the bank doesn't forget about or miss any debit transactions, so everything is recorded on my monthly statement.  However, I am still having issues with my "trigger finger" when it comes to using the card without thinking.  So I'm deciding to try using cash envelopes this month. 

I figured envelopes are much more convenient to carry around than mason jars... Once I have paid all of my bills online, I will go to the ATM and take out only enough money for the rest of my month's "necessities."  The cash will then be separated into each labeled envelope (with the monthly budget clearly stated), and once its gone, its gone.

Not spending money is difficult.  Very difficult.  Especially when I'm so used to spending it.  I know that when budgeting, they say its always best to go on a cash budget.  This way, I will feel the money leaving my hands, and I will be able to open any given envelope and see how I'm doing.

Weekly Money Check-up

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on: $8.00 for lunch with co-workers at Rubio's.  Dining out is not on my Spending Fast budget, but after a crummy month, I figured I deserved to treat myself to time out of the office.

2. Today I am thankful:  For clear skin.  I've always struggled with my skin, and had to wear gobs of make up.  Because of that my makeup collecting turned into a rather expensive hobby.  I've been on a medication for almost two months now and my skin is GORGEOUS {I hate to brag, but after years of having bad skin, I'm going to!}!  I love that I don't have to wear makeup... Well, actually, I'm not trying to frighten anyone, so I do wear some... but concealer, mascara and lip gloss is it!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was:  Went to a movie with a bunch of friends! I have movie passes left from my stocking last Christmas.  I can't say much about Cowboys and Aliens, but it was a good time!

4. I will consider this week a success if I:  Don't spend any money.  Zero!  Bills are paid, groceries are bought and there's no reason to buy anything!

5. I dream about: Almost every morning, when I wake up, I wonder what kind of drugs I took the night before, because my dreams are crazy!  I bought a dream dictionary to help me decipher them, and it turns out, the stranger your dreams are, the more in balance your life is.  My most common dream is that my teeth are rotten and break/ fall out when I close my mouth or talk; this dream means I'll get money.. and usually it's right!
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