Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There goes my plan for my emergency fund this month...

Saturday morning I was petting my cat when I noticed that one of her eyes was tearing a yellowish green liquid. Ugh. After a quick Google search, I decided to take her to the vet that day to make sure there wasn't anything seriously wrong. The closest vet (and the one where I've taken her a few times for serious issues) is extremely expensive. Last year, instead of taking her there, I brought her to a local walk-in vet service to get her vaccine updates because it was over $100 cheaper. However, when an issue like this pops up, I don't have many options.

The vet saw her that morning, and as I suspected, there wasn't anything majorly wrong. It turns out she has allergies (???) and a slight eye infection stemming from them, so she's now on antihistamines and eye ointment twice a day (today is the last day of that, thank god!). She seems to be doing much better, and now I have the necessary pills and ointment to use if this problem should pop up again.

All told, the vet visit set me back ~$150, between the cost of visiting the vet, the cab ride to the vet, and the eye ointment I had to buy at CVS. Because I hadn't yet made my mid-month emergency fund deposit (due to my company taking their sweet time reimbursing me for a flight to a conference next month, bah), I had the cash in my checking account and I was able to pay with my debit card instead of putting the cost on my credit card. Now, though, I have to wait until later this week when I get paid to make my emergency fund deposit. I think I'll still be able to max it out by the end of August (my goal), and things like this are what it's for, but it's still a frustrating setback. Thankfully we're all OK, and now I can cancel my annual July vet visit, so I guess that's a silver lining at least.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Making My Own Natural (and cheap!) Cleaning Supplies

A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning my apartment on a Saturday afternoon (as per usual) and the smell of the cleaning supplies started to overwhelm me to the point where I had to leave the apartment for a couple of hours just to let it air out. I was running out of Lysol all-purpose cleaner, and I decided to buy a new bottle, but to instead try making my own cleaning supplies. I figured it would be cheaper than buying another bottle of chemical cleaner, and a lot healthier for my (and my cat's) lungs. I went out and bought a cloth mop and a bucket, threw out my disgusting old Swiffer WetJet, and got to work.

I did some research online and discovered I could make a basic floor cleaner using ingredients I already had in my cupboard. It took a few weeks of experimenting with different ingredients and mixtures to get it right. The first week, I mixed a cup of white vinegar and a half cup of baking soda, along with 2 liters of water. That mixture turned out to be too watery, and the baking soda left a film on my wood floors. The following week, I tried a different approach, mixing a half cup of vegetable oil with a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water. That one turned out to be way too oily, and halfway through the week my floors started to feel sticky. Eugh. Finally, this week, I got it right: 1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. My floors shined, weren't sticky, and there was no flim left behind. If I change anything next time, I might bump up the vinegar a bit (perhaps go with a tablespoon of vinegar instead of a teaspoon), but that's it.

Making my own cleaning supplies has been great. My apartment no longer reeks of chemicals each week, and I feel good about not harming the environment with chemical cleaners. Plus, I'm saving loads of money on cleaning supplies, since they're not cheap. Environmentally-friendly cleaners are even more expensive than chemical cleaners, and you can easily spend upwards of $30 stocking up every few months.

I'm still using Clorox GreenWorks spray cleaner for now, but once I run out of that I'll be making my own spray cleaner, too. Perhaps I'll even follow Trent's lead and make my own laundry detergent once I run out of Purex.

Here are some links I found useful, in case anyone else is interested:

eartheasy's guide to non-toxic home care
how to make your own non-toxic cleaning kit
25 safe non-toxic homemade cleaning supplies

Happy cleaning!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sidebar updated, change in savings plan

I updated my sidebars yesterday. Man, did my budgets get creamed during April. I overspent on groceries (by $25) and my dining out budget (by $12). I also had to withdraw $1950 from my downpayment fund in order to pay for the last month's rent on my apartment for September and my half of the realtor's fee. Now I'm back down to 53% of my goal on my downpayment savings. Ouch.

On the plus side, I received my tax refunds (~$500) and a $500 bonus at work (which ended up being about $300 after taxes). I was able to contribute an $300 to my emergency fund, and an extra $250 to my downpayment fund. I also maxed out my fun fund.

Since I'm going to be back to paying rent as of September, I'm changing the way I save for the next four months. Instead of dividing my savings among my emergency, downpayment, and Roth 2010 funds, I'm going to put it all into my emergency fund until it's maxed out. If I do this, I'll have that maxed sometime in July. I think this is the best move, and will make me feel a lot more secure in September when my monthly expenses skyrocket with the additions of rent and utilities, and I'm not able to save as much money each month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Opening a Joint Checking Account

When we decided to move in together, I proposed that we open a joint checking account from which we'd pay our rent and utilities, and in which we could deposit the income we make from renting out our parking spot. The way C reacted, you'd think I'd just proposed we join the quiverfull movement and get populating or something. It was just too big of a step for him. But when we went in to sign our lease, there was a clause specificallly stating that we need to pay our rent with one check, and he started to rethink things.

I really think joint checking is the way to go here. We won't be combining our assets or anything crazy like that (even if we ever got married I wouldn't want to combine our money entirely.) We'll just be depositing the money for our rent and utilities each month so that when our bills become due, we can issue an electronic check (from both of us) from that account. Most importantly, it eliminates the need for us to write each other checks to cover paying from our own accounts, which is something I hate doing. In college, I was always the designated bill-payer and it really sucked. Having to ask people to pay you, constantly reminding everyone about bills, etc. is annoying. Having a joint checking account will make that role obsolete.

I've heard good things about ING's Electric Orange account. It's an interest-bearing checking account that has all of the features of your typical brick & mortar checking account; I already have a savings account with ING, and it couldn't have been easier to set up. We probably won't be using most of the features (like the MasterCard debit card, which I think we should just cut up), and we won't really benefit much from the interest-bearing aspect, since we'll only be depositing money for a brief period each month (the account pays 0.25% APY if you have a balance under $50k), but I think it'll take less time to set up. Plus, I've had nothing but good experience with my ING Savings account, so I wouldn't expect things to run any less smoothly here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Got an Apartment

Well, that was quick. Or at least it probably seems that way, since I just blogged about this last week, but after a lot of searching, C and I have found a place we both liked and we're going to sign a lease this week. We'll be renting a 1-bedroom apartment about a mile down the road from where I am now. It's right on the subway, around the block from a large grocery store, and has a park nearby, too. Our rent will be $1550/month, plus electric and possibly gas (I can't remember if there's a gas stove or not), and cable/internet if we go for that. We're also going to be renting a parking spot that comes with the apartment, which neither of us needs, in order to make an extra $25-50 a month by renting it out at a slight markup to another tenant. Many of the tenants apparently need more than one parking space, so this is common practice in the building. And since parking on the street overnight is illegal here (seriously!), it shouldn't be hard to find someone to take the spot off our hands and knock $25-50 off our rent per month.

We had hoped to find a place with a bit more space (ideally, a 2-bedroom), but after looking at many, many apartments we realized that we probably weren't going to get a (clean) 2-bedroom in our price range/rent cycle, so we settled on a larger 1-bedroom. The apartment has a ton of closet space and a much bigger kitchen than I've ever had, so I'm quite excited about that. :)

When we go in to sign our lease, I plan to ask about subletting. In the off chance that I find a place to purchase before our lease is up next September, I'd like to know what my options are. I had to break my lease to move into this rent-free apartment last year, and I definitely don't want to become a serial lease-breaker. I'll also need to completely re-work my budget, since I won't have as much money to put towards my student loans or save. I need to figure out whether savings or paying down my loans is a priority. It's a tough call. If I keep possible homeownership in mind, it's even tougher; do I want to put a larger downpayment down (of course), or do I want to have less debt to my name when I eventually make that purchase? I'll probably go with savings, and drastically reduce what I pay towards my loans each month. Or, I might alternate and make a large savings deposit one month, and then a large student loan payment the next. Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing a lot of thinking about this.