Finance Friday: True Cost of ‘Healthy’

I have been very sick the past few weeks. While I fortunately have not had to be hospitalized or anything like that I have had to miss a lot of work (due to illness or doctors appointments) and yesterday I had to have a minor outpatient procedure. Unfortunately, the diagnosis remains unknown.

However, I almost suffered a major heart attack when I got word of my insurance deductible: $500!!! I was literally brought to tears. They couldn’t proceed with my scheduled procedure until my heart stopped racing so fast. They were so concerned about my heartbeat that they had to perform a few unplanned tests before they could even proceed with what I was there for. The only consolation was that I didn’t have to pay the full amount then, I could be billed for the remaining balance.

Was this suppose to ease my anxiety? I’m already in the process of paying down my credit card debt, repaying student loans, and maintaining a roof over my head. Now this.

How many times have you heard people say that they cannot afford to get sick.

But it isn’t your wallets that should be at the forefront of your concern. Your health should always come first. Right?

Now I have an account for just about everything but health related expenses. And my job does not offer anything like a Health Savings Account, where I would be able to set aside money for just this purpose. I’m seriously considering whether it would be beneficial for me to open some sort of savings account OR to roll healthcare into my emergency fund.

Does this situation constitute dipping into savings?

Congratulations to Miss Gaga! Her new album, Born this Way, is projected to sell 1 million copies in its first week. So money!

AND, do not forget to honor this Memorial Day Weekend for its original purpose: Thank You to all of those that have served and continue to serve our country.

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I was good. Super good.

I was super good on a budget this past month. Super good.  My budget and calculations must have been off BUT (here comes the bright side) I was able to save an extra …….drum roll please…..$700 this month! Check me out! I did this all without willingly wanting to do this!

After my tough Christmas battle with the C3’s and the defeat of being C3 debt free , I must have went into shock. It’s all a blur now but I’ll do my best to remember. How does one go from a zero balance to a positive $1,890.32?? Santa and his stupid little reindeer’s, my beautiful niece and her cuteness (damn you), my desire to please, Oscar de la Renta for Mom (“who’s that?”), custom framed picture of the same beautiful niece (two times) and the list continues a Wii bit.

Being offered a full time position at the top of the month didn’t help either. Once I saw that card balance I had to kick myself and buckle down. It turned out to be a few simple techniques that combined to a whopping $700 bucks!

I stopped visiting my favorite boutique websites every day at 11:00AM (now I can make those meetings), catalogues were immediately thrown in the trash (that one wasn’t actually too hard seeing as how they send four at a time), I even started cooking.

I loved to eat out simply because it was convenient. But seeing as how my boyfriend and I started visiting really good restaurants (and watching the cooking network) we began to appreciate the taste of “true cuisine”. Anything else would be unsatisfying. So with the maturity of our taste buds (“we’re so proud of you”) came a decrease in eating outside of the home.

That meant that the food inside the house had to be bangin’! So I began cooking and let me tell you— I may have food a new passion.

So how does all of this add up to saving 700 bucks?

Well:

$ I began bringing left over dinners to work as lunch

$ And I started making food that was good enough to bring to work

$ Before I needed to go food shopping I would make a list of all the meals I wanted to have over the next few days and then write down what I needed

$ I already decided how much I wanted to spend before hand in my payday budgeting

$ I also came up with the idea of adding up the items placed into the cart.

I know, it may sound boring and yes you may look sort of grandma-ish but hey Nana was on to something.

Compared to most  end of the months, I have so much excess that I’m trying to remember if I agreed to let some guy in Nigeria deposit checks into my account (“let me think…“).

The true test is whether I can do it again this month. Oh! I haven’t told you about my crazy idea for this month. More on Friday but let’s just say that this miracle occurring in January gave me hope that I can pull of something bigger in February.

Do you think these techniques would help you and your financial situation?

A Bank for Fashion? Sorry PNC…

In an article titled, France backs fashion bank for crisis-hit designers, the new idea of a fashion bank (you heard me right) has emerged. “The fashion industry, which the government sees as part of France’s cultural heritage”, begins the article, “has been hit hard by the global spending slump…”. Some of our favorites (Christian Lacroix, Dior and Hermes) have been affected by the current economic order. In order for France to remain the top dog in the fashion world, the idea being proposed here is that France’s government backs or guarantees loans made to fashion houses and companies to sustain the fashion power the country continues to hold.

Top 100 Looks from Paris: Spring 2010 photo credit: Dan and Corina Lecca

A stimulus plan for fashion? Well not exactly. Parisians won’t be able to secure a mini – loan to purchase Jean Paul Gaultier 2010.  And if successful a local industry that employs  125,000 fashionably good looking people won’t have to suffer anymore. The ideal outcome is that we see a rise in Frances luxury/designer industry, something it wrote the book on.

A bank for fashion! Who would’ve thunk it!!?!?

What if there really was a lending institution where people could get mini-skirt loans? I think we call those C3’s. Or Credit Card Companies (such dirty words).

Sounds a little foolish, asking a bank for a loan so you can buy a skirt. But you don’t hesitate to ask Visa (oh snaps!). If you were to categorize how much debt you’ve accumulated into trends, out of all of the charges how much is for clothing? Food? Bills? Unexpected Surprises? Some financial money management software programs (I don’t know what to call them) do this for you but it’s not complicated and doesn’t require much more than a rough estimate.

I like to take a look when I am using my card because it gives me a sense of what I am unable to afford and reminds me that I need to find a better way. My last statement from the C3 (I only have one) reflected quite the poor person. I couldn’t  afford many of the Christmas gifts I purchased last month but I went ahead and bought charged them anyway. Bringing my C3 debt free victory right back to the beginning, and I’m starting “behind” b.k.a. “in debt“.

Open a few statements from the C3’s you owe (or owed). What kinds of stores appear often? Grocery Stores or Fast Food? Department Stores or Boutiques? When do you use your credit card the most?

Define it as you wish. Value it as you see fit.

Comments are Welcomed!

Luxury Layaway

Oh the pleasures of living within a microwave society. You know, one where everything is accessible within seconds.  Especially temptation; that which comes prepackaged and on sale. Skimming through the daily messages from my tweeties, I came across this headline:

Luxury Layaway?

Luxury Layaway?

bagbanco: Want real designer handbags but can spend all that $$$$ at once? Try the Luxury Layaway plan at http://www.bagbanco.com

Retailers seem to understand our fashion/finance alter egos. We like the fashionable things in life but need financially smart ways to pay for them that are just as cute, and won’t leaving us feeling B.R.O.K.E (what she say?) .

Luxuries layaway plan includes three equal monthly payments “and your dream accessory will be delivered to you upon your final payment.”

Is this making fashion affordable? Or finding an easier way for you to buy things you are told you need? Clever sales tactics versus fashionable responsibility? Ya know, the duty of every designer to work with wholesalers to make fashion affordable (that’s not right is it?).

There is the potential to make some extra dollars with this site (so money!). They promise up to “80% or more of the original price when you sell your handbag” to them.

I haven’t tried this site. I appreciate the fact that it was started by a woman whose had a pretty successful designer handbag site previously. The idea of capitalizing off of the “hidden equity” in handbags is simply genius.

–Finanshionistas, I think we may have discovered a new kind of asset.

Update your balance sheets!

Share with other Finanshionistas: Tell a Friend

Podcasts, and newletters, oh my!

 Photograph by Colleen AF Venable [via Flickr Creative Commons] GradMoneyMatters, a down to earth blog about the realization that “in the real world, money matters”, posted a great article titled, “20 Free Personal Finance Podcasts and News Sites“. Podcasts are great convenient ways to hear some of your desired materials. Think book on tape but cooler.

I decided to listen to one podcast every morning as I write my daily posts. Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life, hosted by personal finance author, entrepreneur, real estate investor, business consultant, and former corporate trainer, Laura Adams (who by the way is everything I want to be when I grow up) offers insightful info on topics like improving your credit score and Good Vs Bad Debt:

one quick and dirty rule of thumb for identifying whether a particular debt is good or bad is to ask yourself whether the debt is financing something that’s appreciating or depreciating in a value.

There’s even a free podcast from financial powerhouse Vanguard, entitled “Plain Talk Investing“. Feed the Pig speaks from a Piggy Bank reminiscing about when “we used to be friend”. I like the humor.

These are So Money sites so check them out and I’ll continue to post my recommendations as I listen and read.

Miss New Money OUT

It Has Begun

It is time.

This morning I opened my inbox and saw this (WARNING: The images you are about to see are disturbing)

Hate Mail

AES BILL REMINDER
WHY WE ARE CONTACTING YOU

To remind you that your account is due for a payment on 08/15/2009

For years they warned me this day would come. It was inevitable. The five years of student loan debt has accumulated and it’s time to pay what I owe.

Honestly, never have I been faced with what seems to be such a daunting task. Paying for an education for thirty years sounds like the most suffocating  and shackling task since putting on my first pair of skinny jeans (not pretty). Looking at the bill + the total interest and repayment schedule, has me questioning my career path (Maybe teaching really is for me ).  It also leaves me with feelings of remorse. Maybe I should have looked even harder into scholarshps pr other creative ways to pay for college.

Student loans were in my case a necessary evil. Taking on such good debt afforded my the chance to study and grow without the looming pressures of payment solutions that left many of my friends choice-less and having to withdraw from school.

But wouldn’t that be the ultimate tragedy? Going from studying a passion of yours to taking a mediocre job just to qualify for loan forgiveness. I would never do that. Plus, I don’t think I have the chutzpah of Michelle Pfeifer’s character in Dangerous Minds.

Student Debt? Not me!

Student Debt? Not me!

Loan consolidation, combining all outstanding loans at an average interest rate, is probably going to be the way to go for me. The Income Contingent plan adjusts has my income does. Under this plan I am saving anywhere from $50K to $70K in total payments and instead of having to make 360 payments, I only make 300. Boy, does the math add up.

I am still researching my options. Obviously, it’s getting down to the wire. Tough choices need to be made before mid-August. In hindsight, choosing between:

a) Brand New Lexus (any model)

b) A three bedroom home (or duplex) in Philly to be rented or lived in

or,

c) An MBA

is a hard pill to swallow. A Lexus would have been a silly choice. At least there is the potential to make New Money with option ‘b’ and ‘c’. If I had purchased real estate, I’d be looking at some appreciation and equity buildup as well as five years of mailbox money.

I’m still happy with choice ‘c’, but ask me the same question on payment 200; you might get a different answer.

To help ease the pain, check out these helpful articles:

Lifelines in the Student Loan Sea

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Do I Qualify for Income Based Repayment?

The College Cost Reduction & Access Act

Federal Direct Consolidation Loans


Cease and Desist

While I would like to say that I filled my absence researching and scouring the Internet for the latest applicable solutions, but instead, loyal Finanshionistas,  I spent it studying, working and graduating with my Masters. For that I cannot apologize. However, also in my time outside of the blogosphere ™, I started a new business, created a great professional blog site for my youth internship (www.wesgoldfellows.com), made an expensive business investment without comprehensive research, watched that purchase go on sale and the revealing of a new model the very next day (hint, hint) and was scammed (oh, they were good)! But worst of all I made a not so smart financial decision during my time outside the country.

Needless to say, I made some unwise and un-fashionable financial choices that I must apologize for. One day soon, I’ll muster up the courage to reveal my ultimate mistake but for the time being, would you help me get back on track?

First things first, I organized all of my debt, for those balances simply fell by the waste side. What is it with vacations that make people feel they have to buy new stuff? Whatever it is, my urge to splurge completely took over and I am still working to turn off the spicket. I brought my balances back down to zero and removed my “so-not for emergency” credit card from my wallet. I also will be returning purchases this weekend; taking the dreaded walk to the “Returns” counter.

I also have put things into perspective now. I’m back to work full time, but I’m also looking for an apartment that my BF and I can comfortably but cheaply move into; I’m getting a new biz off the ground; student loans are gonna start to come knocking; and I want to buy a triplex that can generate some money (more on everything to come).

For now, though, I wanted to reconnect with my readers. There’s a lot coming my way. It’s promised to be a great transitional period, so stay tapped in and fabulous. Miss New Money is now a daily blog-site!

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