Liebster Award!

liebster-awardGuys, I was recently nominated for the Liebster Award!!! The Liebster Award is passed around the blogging world so that we can all get to know each other a little better. Woohoo!

I was nominated by Budget Loving Military Wife, who is a great role model in reaching her goal to pay down her mortgage quickly and live frugally, all while dealing with the ins and outs of the military system. Kudos to her, and thank you so much for nominating me!

If you are nominated for a Liebster award this is what you should do:
1. Post the award on your blog
2. Thank the blogger who presented the award to you and link back to their blog
3. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator
4. Nominate 5 to 10 bloggers with less than 200 followers
5. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer
6. Notify your nominees by posting on their blog

The questions I received:

What is your greatest fear?
Death or severe illness within my family. Secondary fears include: not being able to move near my parents (or them not being able to move near us) in the next 10 years, a financial emergency, or being miserable in my job forever.

What is your greatest dream or “purpose” in life?
I would love to travel, but I think my greatest “purpose” would probably be a desire to become the best person I can be.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
That’s a really tough question! I’m very proud of earning two Masters degrees, and I’m proud that I’ve made a difference in some students’ lives, but I think that perhaps my greatest accomplishment is just generally being a positive person.

Do you have a must-see television show? If so, what is it?
We don’t have cable, but the latest show we’re hooked on is Orphan Black. I also love Sherlock and House of Cards. Shows that are no longer in production that I love are Battlestar Galactica, Seinfeld, Veronica Mars (but, yes, that movie is coming out soon!), Star Trek (TNG), Chuck, and, of course, Arrested Development.

What is your favorite and least favorite part about having your own blog?
I love that it’s a way to keep me from bugging my husband from talking about finances all the time. Rehashing it over and over again isn’t really healthy or productive, and he is sweet to listen to me talk about it, but having this blog allows me to dump out all that’s swirling around in my brain concerning money. We talk enough about money (and our plans about paying off debt, saving, etc.), but I was getting a little intense for a few months, and I feel that the blog has helped me back off of that conversation a bit with him.

My least favorite is probably the fact that I’m using the absolute cheapest version of a blog (free site), and that means I don’t have much flexibility in changing the look of my site. At this point, I’m not overly concerned with that (because I could imagine my draining an entire afternoon on reformatting the site), but some day I might decide to take the plunge and pay the piddly amount it would take to be able to change it around.

Where is the best place you have traveled?
I believe that the place doesn’t always matter as much as the person you’re with. My favorite place was Greece, where my husband and I went on our honeymoon. I loved the history, the beauty, and the time we spent together exploring something new. My second favorite place, though, was England, where I went with my best friend from college – it was fantastic to live there for a couple of months, but having my best friend there was what made it amazing. (Best friend, if you’re reading, I love you!)

Favorite book? and why?
So hard to pick just one, but I’ll pick the one that pops into my head most rapidly: The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (the famed author of the more recent book, The Goldfinch). I read both, of course, but there’s something so haunting and amazing about The Secret History that I can’t help but read it over and over again. I’ve read it at least once a year ever since I was in college (which, um, was a while ago).

If you won $1,000,000 but couldn’t spend a dime on yourself, how would you spend it?
I would pay off all of my family’s debt for them. Then I would pay off my close friends’ debt for them. Then I would put money aside into my nieces’ and nephews’ and friends’ kids’ college funds (am I allowed to put money into my own kid’s fund, or does that count as spending it on myself?!).

What do you think is the greatest financial challenge facing Americans today (ex: low incomes, too much debt, poor financial  management, lack of retirement savings, lack of any type of savings, etc.)?
I think that our culture here glorifies a lifestyle that is unattainable without acquiring debt. Taking on debt is considered a normal part of life – mortgages and student loans are usually touted as “good debt” (I’ve been seeing a lot of posts regarding this recently) and it’s just a matter of course that we take those on. I still believe that student debt is an investment in oneself, but I am starting to understand that my husband and I could have worked a lot harder to find additional ways to pay for grad school. Even besides this “good debt,” we’re taught that we “deserve” treats (the much-abhored “latte,” — okay, I don’t abhor them, but other PF bloggers do — a new article of clothing, a new car) so taking out a car loan or accruing credit card debt is just a way of life. If one can learn to save a certain percentage of income yearly by changing one’s mindset (not an easy feat, we all know), then some of the other financial problems we face can be at least somewhat alleviated.

What has been your greatest financial “splurge” to date?
We bought a fridge to replace our broken one – but we didn’t buy the most financially prudent model – we got one (on sale) that is stainless steel, has French doors, a separate drawer, and a pull-out bottom freezer. We didn’t need to. But we considered it an investment in our home – one that we could at least enjoy before we have to sell it someday. But….. we really didn’t need to splurge on that.

And now for my nominations! Honestly, guys, I’m not sure how many followers you have, so I just looked for blogs I enjoy! I know some of you have more than 200 followers…. I hope that’s okay….

Blogging for Balance

Fit is the New Poor

Four for Cheap

Well-Heeled Blog

Drawing During Naptime

And here are my 10 questions (some pilfered from above):

1. What do you hope a typical day in your life will look like in 10 years?

2. What does your dream house look like? Where is it?

3. What is currently your main goal or purpose in life?

4. What one thing in your daily life consistently makes you happy?

5. What one thing in your daily life consistently frustrates you?

6. What is the first book that pops into your mind when I say, “What’s your favorite book?” Why?

7. If you received $1,000,000, what would you do with it?

8. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

9. Why did you start blogging?

10. What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

I hope my nominated bloggers will have time to respond to this. Thank you again to Budget Loving Military Wife for nominating me!

Thanks for reading!

– M.

Am Ex Blue Cash Preferred Card: Taking the Plunge



Remember when I was talking about maybe getting the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card? (Not an affiliate link.)


On Friday, I had an extra half hour on my hands, and I was skimming some PF blog posts, and I saw yet another “Best Credit Cards for Blah Blah Blah” post, and of course the American Express Preferred Blue card was listed. This is because it’s probably one of the best cards for cash back on groceries and gas. When you spend more than $400 on groceries and between $300 and $400 a month on gas (yay, hour-long commute one-way for H every week day), this seems like a win-win.

The only downside is that there’s a $75 annual fee, and I think I missed the way to sign up for it and get the first year’s fee waived. On the other hand, if you purchase a $79 Amazon Prime membership, supposedly they reimburse it, and if you spend $1000 in the first three months they reward you with 100 extra points. Or something.

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and just go for it. I didn’t expect that it would be so painless – we were approved very quickly and the cards are on their way! I was able to also register the cards online so I should be able to add them to our account today or tomorrow (have to wait 24 hours for the online account to be available). I was also excited that our limit will supposedly be $14,000 – that’s higher than any other limit we’ve been given!

One other benefit that most people don’t mention in their online reviews is Roadside Assistance. We’ve been without AAA or any roadside assistance for a while, mostly because we had decided we didn’t want to support AAA anymore. The other option is another company that seems like it’s more in line with our principles, but then we were too lazy to act on it (and, let’s face it, I hate spending money). However, when H has two hours in the car every day and I spend 40 minutes in the car, it’s very likely that at some point we may find ourselves in need of some kind of roadside service. So, I’m feeling pretty excited about this perk.

I’m excited to go ahead and start using the card – then we can retire one of our two Chase cards as the card we use for some bills. By “retire,” I really just mean that we’ll keep the account open, but take the card out of our wallets and only use it every once in a while. Our Chase Freedom card will probably still stay in rotation, as the quarterly 5% cash back promotions could still be useful. That will require a little bit of planning (“Use this card, not that card!”).

While we had hesitated signing up for yet another credit card, we are four months away from paying off our Citibank card (and we don’t put any charges on that card – it’s just a holding place for our debt that isn’t accruing interest), so I’m really hoping this pays off the way I think it will!

Next step: changing our automated bills that go onto one of our Chase cards to the AmEx card and start racking up points! Of course, it’s important to pay off those charges every month… but you knew that already, right?

Side Hustle Update

-Good things happen to those whoI thought perhaps it might be time to give you a Side Hustle Update! I’ve been working away steadily and I have submitted two weekly timesheets already. Though I won’t be paid until the end of March (so I won’t see the check until April!), I enjoy looking at the amount of money on the bottom of the time sheet!

The Money Part:

I track my hours using the institution’s spreadsheet they sent me, and it does all the math for me. Sadly, it can’t, of course, calculate how much will come out for taxes and even retirement. Someone at work said that state employees who work part time still get money pulled out for retirement. I’m not upset about that (anything added to my retirement account helps!), but I feel a little anxious, trying to estimate how much we might actually see in that check when it finally does arrive.

I think I’ll probably average around $450 dollars a week (before anything comes out), so in an average month, that would be around $1800. (This first paycheck will include a week that only will earn me $100, as I didn’t get a full week’s worth in.) So, I want to estimate on the low side so I won’t be horribly disappointed. Maybe $1000?

I’ve determined that at least $1000 will go directly to our car loan to get it off our backs as soon as possible, or maybe the entire paycheck will go towards that. However, I’m still toying with the idea of putting even just $25 more into my Roth IRA each month (uh, that would be double what I’m currently putting in, for a substantial – ha ha – $50). I don’t want to super-agonize about this income, but I really like having a plan. Fortunately, I still have a whole month to figure it out. (Sigh.)

I’m trying to consider this income as completely bonus; this way, if they run out of work to send me, I won’t be as incredibly disappointed. I’d love for this job to continue into the 2014-2015 school year, but I certainly don’t want to rely on it. From what I’ve read from other personal finance bloggers, side hustle income should not be used for regular living expenses. The big reason for that is that side hustles can be unreliable, so if one doesn’t have to rely on them for regular bill-paying, then one should not!

The Work Part:

I’m finally getting into the swing of these reviews. Some courses are awesome already (though I haven’t yet found a course that didn’t need at least some minor tweaking) and some are in dire need of fixing.

At first most of my time seemed to get sucked up by finding the best way to review the courses and perform the duties in the most efficient way possible. Once I streamlined some of that process (I do think I probably have a little ways to go on this still), I seem to spend my time now trying to find nice, professional ways to say, “What were you thinking when you did that?!?!?!” At any rate, the job is getting easier, and I’ve now got stock responses to problems I keep encountering in different courses. I did try to estimate how many courses I must review by the end of the school year, and it looks like I need to do about 15 per week? I feel like maybe my math is wrong on that, but I fear perhaps not. I’m at about half of that right now, but I do feel it picking up speed, especially over this past week (my third week doing this job).

I thought perhaps I would find this job to be draining (after all, it’s 20-25 hours I could spend on other things), but honestly it’s time I was already spending on grad school stuff (for the past two years, finished last December), and this requires way less thinking, as I’m not trying to divide my attention between projects, group members, emails, and papers. I have one job to do, I do one review at a time, and I have a system. It’s organized and I have settled into a comfortable routine. Plus, I’m able to do most of the work when L is in bed, so I’m following through with not allowing it to affect our family time too much. My supervisors have been awesome so far, as well. I’m so grateful that this transition has gone smoothly.

A Question for You:

If I need internet for my side hustle (and I do), can I write off a portion of my internet cost on my taxes next year? I’m working between 20-25 hours a week, but I don’t know how to use that information to calculate whether I can write it off. H says that since we use the internet at the same time I’m doing work, maybe we can’t write some of it off. Any insights?!

Thanks for reading!

– M.