Sabrina
So, I thought it would be useful to do a recap of my current academic, employment, and financial situation at the end of each month, so I can track my progress over time.

This month, I opened the door to many employment opportunities and more or less stayed on top of all of my academic responsibilities. As for my progress on the financial front, I'll let you be the judge!

This month, I:
  • applied for summering positions at 15 law firms in my hometown;
  • budgeted a year-end surplus of $3,680, which means that I will only owe $3,420 for my second year of law school (which cost a total of $25,000+);
  • applied for a PT law student position with the federal gov., and successfully wrote the exam (it turns out that the time commitment is actually only 15 hours/week instead of the 25 hours/week initially advertised); and
  • came up with a solution to my make-it-and-break-it New Year's resolutions pitfall: I will be challenging myself to reach one major objective each month, instead of one ginormous one all year.
So... Starting tomorrow, I am on the hunt to live on $80 of groceries all month. I'm a little frightened at what exactly this means I will have to eat... It will take some planning on my part, but it will be well worth it. Plus, a challenge is always fun! I am, after all, a student and would rather invest the money and watch it grow than to spend it away and watch my balance on my line of credit grow.

Also, if I end up being offered the PT job (following the interview, of course), I could potentially end up being completely debt free for the current year of law school with a little extra padding in my savings account, which is unheard of among my peers, as most are scraping approx. $10,000-15,000 in debt each and every year - even those from wealthy, financially supportive families.
Sabrina

I've decided that rather than have one overarching resolution for the whole year (which clearly I don't have), it might be better to split it into smaller goals or objectives, to be implemented on a month-to-month basis.

Next month, I'll be challenging myself to live on only $80 worth of food. No, this doesn't mean I'll be starving myself or stealing food. Rather, it means I'll be scouring the grocery store flyer to find the best deals (once I found a jar of kraft peanut butter for $0.99 that lasted me almost a month). I'll also be steering clear of prepackaged and premade food, since these tend to be rather expensive. Instead, I'll opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, canned corn and peas, whole wheat bread and pasta, and of course, I'll be buying less meat.

For those of you wondering if I'll be cheating by over-inflating my "eating out" budget, I will not be. That one is set at $25 for the month of February.

It's going to be tough, but I'm pretty excited about seeing how it all turns out!
Sabrina

In her post today, Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks blogged about the micro-lofts that are being built in the Vancouver downtown core. Apparently, these new 270 square-foot bachelor apartments are going to be rented out for about $600-750/month. While the price tag may seem expensive at first glance, the premium price comes with an underrated advantage: location.

Setting up tent in the downtown core of any big city can save you lots of money, even if the cost of housing is at a premium. First, if you live close to where you work, you can virtually eliminate expenses such as transportation (Car, insurance, gas, repairs, etc.). So while you may be paying $600 or so per month for the advantage of living close to work, play and a plethora of other amenities and activities, you can save almost the entire cost of transportation simply by being choosy about where you live. You know what they say - location, location, location.

I myself have chosen to live close to school. While my housemate and I pay $1200 per month for our apartment ($600 each), we save on the following:

  • utilities included - a $100/month value (based on what I paid last year)
  • free parking (we get one free parking spot) - an $80-100/month value based on the going rate in the neighbourhood.
  • transportation (we're a 7 minute walk from the law school) - a $100+/month value
  • cable and internet at half the price (as students living on campus, we qualify for the student rate from our local cable and internet service provider) - a $30/month value split in half - $15
  • food (the fact that we're a 7-min walk to campus means that we can score free food whenever the law school has visiting guest speakers for lunch or dinner) - $50/month savings
  • gym pass (again, since the school's gym has just been renovated, a $30-million project, we score access to brand new facilities that include a newly built Booster Juice store, all for the price of nil). - $50/month savings

Cost of housing: $600/month
Savings: $395-415/month

Clearly, there is more to be factored in than just the price tag when shopping for a new place. There is always room to negotiate extras if the landlord won't come down on the dollar price. All you need is the capacity to think outside the box a little. In our case, we asked for a rent-freeze in advance because we knew we'd be around for a full two years. We got the stability of knowing our rent wouldn't increase, and the landlord has reason to believe he won't have to go hunting for a new tenant at year's end. That's what I call mutually beneficial.
Sabrina

I got a call yesterday from the federal government about a part-time student employment opportunity (from February to May 2010). The job would entail reviewing and analyzing legislation relevant to the department's work as well as conducting comparative analyses using the legislation.

Although I'm extremely excited to be on the shortlist for further consideration for this position, there are many things that I realistically have to consider before I take the jump. I'm a little bit torn about whether I should even consider this position. For one, it's an incredible professional opportunity since I would get to develop my legislative analysis skills outside of the classroom and get paid to do it, not to mention I'd have the opportunity to develop my network of professional contacts. However, there are some downsides to it.

Below are the pros and cons of taking this job:

PROs:
  • it pays around $17/hour which is great for a student job.
  • it's in my hometown (about 2 hours away) which means it would be convenient on weekends when I plan to go home anyway.
  • it's in the fed government, which is great experience.
CONS:
  • it requires a 25 hour/week commitment, which is a great deal to commit to, especially for a law student.
  • the $5,000 or so I stand to earn over the next few months might affect my OSAP entitlement if that department were to find out and revise my financial aid application. This wouldn't usually be a problem but since any amount of OSAP entitlement over and above $7,000 limit is non-repayable, any earnings I make over the next few months would only be cutting into the grant or non-repayable portion of my loan, which means I would end up owing the same amount of OSAP at the end of the year. Essentially, I would be working but not making any money. But what are the chances that the OSAP people will find out anyway, right?
Sabrina
Let’s face it: Everyday purchases add up. And whether you don’t make a lot of money, or make a significant income and would simply rather save more of it, the following advice should apply to almost everyone, everywhere almost universally (but most definitely to U.S. and Canadian citizens).

From buying a car, to saving money on gasoline, laundry, and clothes, you should be able to find it all here.

House
1. Make monthly prepayments to your mortgage and save months or even years worth of interest off of your mortgage. For a calculation of the amount of money you will save on your house, check out the Mortgage payoff calculator at Dinkytown.
2. If possible, buy your home close to your work (preferably within walking distance). This will cause your insurance premiums to drop significantly, and your gas consumption will plummet as well.
3. Rent out any unused rooms (or the basement) to bring in more money to pay towards the mortgage. This will shave years of interest off the life of your mortgage.

Home Insurance
1. Ask your insurance agent about bundling your home insurance with your car insurance (and life insurance, if needed).
2. Ask your insurance agent if installing a security/alarm system in your home will decrease your premiums and by how much.

Furniture
1. Go to moving sales, rather than garage sales. Garage sales often sell belongings that people no longer want. In contrast, moving sales involve stuff people may still want, but may not be able to move. You can often find fabulous pieces of furniture for a steal at these events. One good way of locating moving sales is reading the newspaper classifieds.

Utilities
1. Unplug all unused appliances when they are not in use. Studies show that some electrical devices use up just as much energy when they are simply plugged into an electrical outlet as they would when turned on.
2. Wash your hair less often. Not only will it save you money, but it will also keep your hair fuller and less dried out.

Internet
1. If you only use the internet for an hour per day or less, consider buying a Starbucks card for a nominal amount (like $5); you’ll reap the benefits of free internet usage at any Starbucks for up to 2 hours per day just by using the PIN on the back of the card.

Phone
1. Download Skype. It’s a program that uses your internet to call any phone number in the world, at pennies per minute. What’s more, if the person you are “calling” also has Skype, simply call their computer and speak (and even see them on webcam) for absolutely FREE. Skype even has a new feature called your “skype-to-go” number, which allows you to call anyone in the world from your cell phone for the same rates offered by the computer version of the program.

Car
1. When negotiating the price of a car at a car dealership, beware of hidden sales costs. Be sure to ask for the “out-the-door” price of the car, meaning the price you will pay after all taxes, fees, and closing costs.

Car Insurance
1. Ask your insurance agent about bundling your home insurance with your car insurance (and life insurance, if needed).
2. As Suze Orman explains in her “Money Book for the Young, Broke, and Fabulous”, Consider increasing your deductible, to get a reduction in your monthly premiums. Chances are you’re not going to have an accident (unless you are a bad driver). Instead place the amount you save each month by increasing your deductible into a separate savings account, and you can use that if you end up having an accident.

Gasoline
1. Tire Pressure. Check that your tire pressure is the same as the number indicated on the inside panel of your car door.
2. Unload extra weight. If your car is carrying unnecessary baggage, unload it to increase Fuel efficiency by up to 20%.
3. Avoid stop-and-go traffic whenever possible.

Clothes
1. When shopping online, checkout the online coupon codes at Retailmenot.com. This site provides a list of user-submitted coupon codes (with expiry dates, and success rates) for stores like Chapters Indigo Bookstores and Victoria’s secret.

Laundry
1. Wash your clothes in cold water (even if they’re whites).
2. Wash your delicates by hand.
3. Use 1/2-cup of lemon juice instead of bleach in the wash. Not only is it gentler on your clothes and your wallet, but it’s better for the environment!
4. Hang your clothes to dry. Not only will it save on electricity, but it will have less wrinkles in the end!

Food (Groceries)
1. Plan your shopping lists in advance, making sure to examine supermarket flyers before going to the store.
2. Take turns with a friend, relative, or neighbour, cooking up large amounts of a favourite food (think stew). Then freeze the leftovers. Not only will it save you money, but a lot of planning and shopping as well.
3. If you have a garden, plant some vegetable seeds and grow (and perhaps even sell) your own vegetables. Not only will your veggies be cheaper than the supermarket variety, but they’ll also be fresher!
4. If you’re a student, go to all of the educational and networking events put on by your school. There will often be pizza, wraps and other free foods. Not the healthiest, but it will leave money in your pockets for other things!

Makeup and Personal Items
1. Make your own cosmetic products. For incredible recipes for cleansers, toners, and masks, check out Homemade Beauty Recipes.
2. If you live in Canada, take advantage of Shoppers’ Drug Mart’s 20x the points events. At these events, the points you accumulate add up to a monetary worth of about 40% of the total amount of money spent.

Gifts
1. Buy gift bags at the dollar store for as little as 3/$1. Some are really beautiful, and you’d never know they came from the dollar store.
2. Consider buying gift cards from Restaurant.com. You can save up to 60% on restaurant gift cards and certificates by doing so (must be a U.S. Resident).

Movies
1. Stream movies live at Project Free TV.

Music
1. Sign up at swagbucks.com and accumulate swagbucks (special points) that you can redeem towards free music (in the form of iTune tracks.

Eating In
1. If you order from Pizza Hut or Pizza Pizza, consider calling and complaining about the food. They will often send you a second free pizza at no charge.

Dining Out
1. Sign up on Restaurant.com to save up to 60% on gift cards and gift certificates at popular restaurants in your area (works only for U.S. Residents).

Credit Card Interest
1. Get your interest rate lowered. Do what you have to do to reduce your credit card balance to $0 (or near zero). Then call and tell them you want to close your account. This will inevitably lead them to ask why, and do whatever they can to make you stay. 2. At that point, request a rate decrease. You should be able to get it to near 10% if you are a good client, if not less.
3. If you never maintain a balance on your credit cards, request a card with rewards, such as cash back. Most cards offer 1 or 2% cash back.

Books
1. The most obvious is: GET YOUR BOOKS AT THE LIBRARY! The modern day library has all of the latest books, DVDs, CDs and magazines. My local library has several seasons of Entourage, and Sex in the City! Why pay when you can get it free?
2. Trade your books with a friend. If you’re on facebook, check out the Virtual Bookshelf application, which allows you to list books you’ve Read, You’re Currently Reading, and those you Want to Read. Your friends list can then view those and comment/contact you about trading and borrowing them!

Courseware
1. Whether you are simply interested in a certain field, or preparing educational materials for your children or clients, be sure to check out MIT’s open courseware page. With hundreds of courses worth of lecture notes and media, it should be everyone’s first stop shop. From aeronautics and astronautics to Writing and Humanistic Studies, their website has it all.
2. If you have an ipod or iPhone, you can download many free podcasts off of iTunes, including viewable lecture notes from schools such as Stanford and Harvard!

Vacations and Car Rentals
1. Check out Priceline.com to save up to 60%. It allows you to bid on vacation packages, flights, hotels and car rentals, by selecting a star rating for your search or a type of rental car, and a location. The downside is you can’t pick a specific hotel or a specific car. On my most recent trip to Hawai’i, I only paid $1700 for a 6 night stay in a 4-star hotel on the coast of Maui. The regular price was over $3500.
Sabrina

I opened up my MacBook yesterday to find a the little battery icon in the top right pane saying “Not Charging”. This was clearly a problem since the power cord was plugged in. I thought maybe it was an erroneous error message, so I unplugged the cord.

First Mistake.

Immediately, my laptop died.

I thought maybe the problem was the power cord. I plugged in H’s power cord to see if it would make a difference. Nope. It was clearly the battery.

I headed straight to Future Shop, which is where I bought my laptop. I explained to the salesperson that I had bought the laptop just a year ago, and had purchased an extended (3-year warranty). I told him about the battery. Right away, I could see this was not going to be an easy task.

He replied that laptop batteries, like car batteries, are considered consumable products, and as such, are not generally covered under warranties. This meant that I would have to pay for a new laptop battery myself ($159 regular price, $139 student price).

Clearly, I was not going to give in that easy. I explained to him that I had purchased a warranty thinking the battery would be covered, because that was the representation made by the salesperson at the time I had purchased my MacBook. He offered to sell me the battery for $80.

I insisted that this was still a higher price than what I should expect to pay, given the representation made to me at the time of purchase. He proceeded to get the manager.

I told her that I understood that the warranty did not cover batteries. “Unfortunately,” I said, “At the time I purchased this MacBook at this store last June, I was told by a salesperson named [xxxx] that I should purchase an extended warranty. When I asked what sorts of problems would not be covered under warranty, the salesperson stated that everything would be covered except for any damages directly caused by me. Nothing was said about the laptop battery. I would not have purchased the warranty if I had known it did not cover the battery. This was clearly a misrepresentation on the part of the salesperson - and would render the warranty contract void. So if you are not going to give me the battery for free, I would request that you nullify my warranty and return the money I paid for the warranty - to the tune of $300 or so. Then I will proceed to purchase the battery myself”.

Needless to say I walked out of there with a free MacBook battery ($139 + tax in savings).
Sabrina
So, although I am absolutely devoted to living a frugal life, I happen to believe that sometimes a higher price is justifiable if the product is of superior quality, more useful, or will simply last longer. Who wouldn't rather pay $150 for a cashmere sweater that will last years than a $30 sweater that will bunch up or thread after the first wash? Here is my list of 5 items (some cheap, some expensive) that I think are absolutely worth the cost. I'd love to hear what other people's 5 favourite items are.

1. Dare chocolate chip cookies, $1.09 + tax
Why it's so great: The cookies are tiny, which is great for anyone attempting to control their portions, and they are delicious. I calculated that each box comes with about 20 cookies, which puts each cookie at just over 5 cents! So cheap, and so good.
2. NARS sheer matte foundation, $55 CDN
Why it's so great: This is actually the only brand of foundation I have ever found my perfect shade in. What's more is that with my combination/oily/acne-prone skin, this foundation provides adequate yet natural coverage, and actually controls shine for a full 8-10 hours. In fact, it may last longer, but I usually wash it off in that time frame. It feels really comfortable too.
3. Lysol wipes, $3.99 for a container of 50
Why it's so great: it's convenient, disposable, and you can use it on any hard surface. It's perfect for me because as a law student, I don't have much time to do anything besides study, eat and sleep. It saves me a lot of cleaning time :)
4. The iPhone 3G, ranges from $99 with a contract to $800 without a contract
Why it's so great: It comes with so many downloadable applications, including so many useful applications already built in. It's my phone, my iPod, my digital tape recorder (for classes), calculator, internet browser, electronic cookbook (Allrecipes application), expense tracker, FedEx package tracker and nearest ATM finder. The best part is that once my contract is up, I will be able to still use my iPhone to access the internet anywhere where I can access wi-fi internet.
5. Proactiv Refining Face Mask, price depends on size and vendor
Why it's so great: Like the commercial says, it can be used as a face mask and/or to dab on pimples and it dries them up quickly overnight. It contains sulfur (6%) as its medicinal ingredient, which is a powerful antibacterial agent. Depending on the size of the pimple, one night may not suffice to get rid of it altogether, but it will drastically reduce the pimple in size.

There you are! My five favourite products (regardless of their price point). I'm looking forward to hearing what other people's fave five are.


Note: this post is not a paid endorsement or advertisement for any product; this is an unsolicited and uncompensated review of my personal favourite products.
Sabrina
So, I had initially budgeted about $450 for my textbooks. On my first trip to the campus bookstore, I bought 3 of the books I needed for just over $101. Then, on my second trip, I bought a couple of textbooks and a couple of the novels I need for my literary legal course, and I bought the novels used. They cost about 50-60% of the sticker price, and they were in really good shape.

My bill today came to $232 and some odd cents.

That brings my total expenditures on textbooks for this term to $333 or so, which is $117 under budget. That is going into my "AfterGrad" savings fund :)

It feels sooo good to save me some cash, especially since I don't have a summer job or any potential sub-letters lined up to take over my lease for the summer :$
Sabrina
I know that there are a thousand websites out there advocating hundreds of ways to spend substantially less money, but most of those require extremely radical means that are not so easy (such as moving to a smaller house, selling/buying a different car, or skipping meals). Here are some tips I've found useful in my quest to conquer debt and save more money that are actually easy.

Warning: you may find some of these habits to be beneficial to your health as well!


1. Don’t Overtip.
If you’re a poor, like most college students or recent graduates, you can bet that $5 tip took you a long time to earn (or if it’s coming out of your student loan, it will cost you a lot more than $5 by the time you finish paying it down). Tip in proportion to service (did the waiter or waitress really provide exceptional service?), but also in proportion to your budget. That $10 meal you just ate at a diner doesn’t warrant a 20% tip. If you spend about $100 eating out each month, following the 10% rule will save you about $120 per year.

2. Drink Tap Water. If you live in a metropolitan, well-populated area, your tap water is certainly properly regulated and it’s actually better for you. Plastic containers leach into foods and liquids and have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects. What’s more, tap water contains fluorine, which means you will actually have the added benefit of keeping your teeth healthy, strong and free of decay. At one bottle of water a day ($1.50), that is a savings of about $45 per month, or $540 per year.

3. Complain. Complain about anything and everything that annoys you about the businesses you frequent. Here is one method I find particularly useful: write a complaint letter. Be specific in your complaint, and use a template letter, and change those specifics as the situation changes for each store. I used this method and got about $300 in gift cards in the span of a few months for stores like American Eagle, Banana Republic, and a few restaurants. Potential savings in purchases: anywhere from $200-600 per year.

4. Make your cell phone your only phone. If you’re working during the day, you’ll be using daytime cell phone minutes to a minimum anyway (and daytime charges are where the cell phone companies get you!) If you’re single, there’s no reason for a home phone at all. After all, it’s much more convenient to have your address book, your phone, and your voicemail box always at your side. If you have roommates, you get the added benefit of privacy. Finally, you get a savings of about $240 per year.

5. Carpool to work or school. I did this one summer and it saved me so much money! If you figure you’re spending a modest $30 per week getting to work and back, even with these gas prices, taking turns driving to work, with say - a neighbour - could save you close to $60 per month on gas. Not to mention the added company and reduction in boredom levels. Over the course of a year, that’s about $720 in savings.

6. Ditch the gym membership. If you truly do go to the gym, take up running to replace the need for a treadmill, invest in some weights, and maybe an exercise ball, and some pilates or kickboxing DVDs. All of that should cost you about the same as 3-months at the gym. Total savings = 9 mths x $50 = $450 per year.

7. Use your reward points to reward others. You get on your store cards and credit cards to redeem for generic items such as gift cards/certificates. I tend to wait until the drugstore offers 20x the points storewide before I stock up on necessities (and food!) - this tends to be only once every 3 or 4 months. But in exchange I get about $75 in rewards per $200 spent - I’m not kidding. The trick is to keep yourself from shopping when there are no points being offered. If you figure a more modest rate of return on your shopping investment (say - $50 per $200 spent) and a spending of $1600 per year, that’s about $300 in your pocket after you put the items up on eBay.

8. Quit drinking (also works for smoking). In university, I spent almost every weekend drinking a fair bit. Overall, bar crawls (and the associated food binges) cost me about $30-40 per night out, or about $140 per month. I have since stopped drinking altogether, and find that I suddenly seem to have padding in my bank account all the time! This saves me $140 per month or approximately $1680 per year.

9. Participate in a Book Exchange or buy used. Facebook offers a “Virtual Library” application where you can view or search friends’ books and share or trade your own books with each other. This could cut down dramatically on the cost of buying books brand new. Do this once a month (at a cost of $20 per book), this would save you $240 per year.

10. Take a multivitamin, and other supplements as needed. Most multivitamins will run you about $15-25/month, but the savings in health care services, prescriptions, and unpaid days off work really add up. Plus, the better you are physically, the more mentally alert you'll generally be as well. This will put you in a better position, mentally, to stick to the types of decisions that will earn you, and save you, more money in the long term. Savings: incalculable.
Sabrina
If you're reading this and want a chance at winning lots of prizes, including cash prizes, head over to Money Crashers and enter to win. There are so many ways you can enter, and so many prizes to win!

Over $7,400 in prizes are up for grabs, and there will be over 100 winners announced on February 3, 2010!

Good luck to everyone!
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Sabrina
Here is my basic simple budget for January - April 2010.

Jan. - Apr. (2010) Estimated Actual
Monthly Expenses
Rent $597.50
Laundry $10.00
Cable and internet $30.00
Cell phone $85.00
Groceries $125.00
Personal Care, meds $20.00
Car Insurance $113.00
Car Maintenance/tire installation $25.00
clothes $25.00
Transpo - Gas $60.00
entertainment $40.00
bank fees $5.00
LOC payments $28.00
periodic ING & CIBC MF Investments $160.00
transcripts, postage, printing, etc. $15.00
miscellaneous $10.00
Total $1,348.50


As you can see, I spend very little on going out to eat, on clothing and entertainment. Having very little time to go shopping due to a heavy workload is helpful in this regard.

I wonder if anyone thinks this budget is too restrictive to be sustainable over the long term (i.e. after graduation)?
Sabrina

Yes, I'm in law school. No, it's not exactly what's depicted in Legally Blond (as true to life as that movie was). But if you're reading this post, you're either interested in law school yourself, or you're reading this to entertain yourself with accounts of my suffering. And that is perfectly alright with me.

What is law school like? It's a mix of intellectual stimulation and boredom. Oh, and it costs a lot of money (what did you expect me to say? This is, after all, a personal finance blog).

Law school is the right place to be if you're looking to be surrounded by masses of fellow students who are looking to start out in the world with a high level of education, in the hopes that it will lead them to financial stability and hopefully, a career rather than a job. But it's a *huge* sacrifice to make. Most of the law students I know cannot sustain a long-term relationship, their finances, law school, and their sanity, all at the same time. Since, as of right now, my finances are intact, as are all of the aforementioned aspects of my life, I am hoping to be the exception to the rule.

My boyfriend is a 3rd year medical student, and as such, my life is a little more complicated and constrained than that of most law students. But I have to say this, it is all worth it. I have a great boyfriend, and I go to a great school.

The sacrifices I've made are not ones I regret. And though the decision to go to law school is not right for everyone, they are the right thing (for me). At least, for now.

If you're interested in law school, or simply want to know more about how I manage to juggle so many different things, drop me a comment or e-mail me.
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Sabrina
Over at Budgets are Sexy, J Money's Million Dollar Club has inspired me to come up with a realistic plan (a list of goals) that will assist me on my way to becoming a millionaire.

Million Dollar Club

Here's what I pledge to do:

1. Finish law school, with no more than $50,000 in student debt (total).
2. Pay off 60% of that debt within the first year (doable if I live at home for the first year).
3. Put away at least 35% of my net pay into a savings, RRSPs or investment accounts each month thereafter.
4. Max out my RRSP contributions each and every year, and reinvest the tax savings.
5. Purchase my house as soon as I am able to do so, and never ever rent.
6. Never buy books, cars or music brand new.

Of course, there's no way of foreseeing how little (or how much) money I will end up making after graduation, as that will largely depend on the sector or industry I end up working in. Therefore, this list is subject to change at a later date.

If anyone has any advice or constructive criticism on my list, I would love to hear it.
Sabrina

During the past few days, I've been thinking about the direction my life is going to take post-graduation, and what specific goals I can set to get me where I want to be at the age of 30. Since my ultimate goal is to retire at the age of 45, I will need to amass quite a bit of wealth by that time in order to sustain me through a very, very long retirement (the specific numbers I will crunch later). But in order to get me on the path to early (and sustainable) retirement, I suspect I will have to have a certain level of professional achievement and financial independence under my belt by age 30.

The Top 10 professional and personal finance objectives I’d like to achieve before age 30:

1. Have all student debt and car debt paid off.
2. Have a brokerage account with $10,000 invested in at least 4 different stocks.
3. Have purchased my first investment home (in addition to my residential home).
4. Make at least $75,000 per year at my regular job.

5. Maintain a blog, with at least 1,000 readers.
6. Have a plan for starting my own business.
7. Have plan for a scholarship fund, to be implemented at age 35.
8. Speak 3 languages fluently.
9. Have taken a web publishing class and a cooking class.
10. Write and publish a book of poetry.

Sabrina
I've decided to take a page out of Krystal's book (over at Give Me Back My Five Bucks) and resolve to make a certain amount of money above and beyond my "regular" pay this year.

Before I decide on what an appropriate amount is, I think it would be a good idea to tabulate the amount of money I made this school year:

Summer Income (3 months) $7,700
Awards and Grants $11,144
Extra Miscellaneous Income $570

Total Income = $19,414.

I think that given the substantial amount of money I made in the form of awards, and that getting those awards required a lot of work on my part (not only in preparing the application forms/essays but also in terms of extracurricular commitment and keeping my grades up), I shouldn't overload myself too much with the idea of bringing in even more money.

I'm going to set the bar at $3,000 from now until next January.

Here is what I'm going to do to get to $3,000:

1. Instead of working 12 weeks this summer, I plan on working at least 14 weeks, and make at least $1.50 more per hour than I did last summer (this means I have to make $18/hour).

2. Maintain my blog and provide an accurate account of my finances as well as any sound advice I have gleaned from my experiences.

3. Sell off my old textbooks, my violin, my mini-fridge and any unused furniture at the end of the term.

4. Tutor PT during the summer, and put that money away for school.

5. Provide my ING Orange Key (17327197S1) for those who want to sign up for a high-interest savings account. We'll each be credited $25 just for the person signing up!

6. Start marketing my jewelry more aggressively on Etsy starting in May.
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Sabrina
Here are my expenses for the first week of school (January 1-8, 2010):

1. Textbooks $101.31
note: still have about 6 books left to buy with a budget of just under $350 remaining.

2. Gas $10 + 56 $66
This means I can't fill up again until a week into February.

3. groceries $190.69

4. Eating Out $7.64

5. Windshield $0
note: cost of labour covered by mom :)

Total: $365.64
Sabrina
Here is my budget for January 2010. I'll be updating it with actual expenditure figures at the end of the month, but my main goal is to keep my textbook costs below the budgeted amount by:

1) buying used; and
2) selling my books at the end of the term.


JANUARY 2010 Estimated Actual
Irregular Expenses

Books/Supplies $349.00
Windshield replacement $146.90
Tuition

Other

Braces (consultation/visits)

Monthly Expenses

Rent $597.50
Laundry $0.00
Cable and internet $35.00
Cell phone $100.00
Groceries $0.00
Personal Care, meds $50.00
Car Insurance $113.00
Car Maintenance $0.00
tire installation and rustproofing $0.00
Transpo - Gas $50.00
entertainment $50.00
bank fees $10.00
LOC payments $28.00
periodic ING & CIBC MF Investments $160.00
AfterGrad Savings account $1,280.00
postage, stamps, printing $22.70
miscellaneous $5.00
Total $2,997.10




I have some extra cash flow coming in over the next month in the form of awards, so I'm putting that into my 'After Grad' emergency fund, as previously mentioned. Laundry = $0 because I plan on doing the same thing I did last term, which was to take my clothes home with me every other weekend in a giant laundry basket so I can wash my clothes at mom's house. Also, postage, stamps and printing costs are expected to be slightly higher due to second year legal applications being due this month, each of which costs $1.50. I expect to be sending out 15 tops, so it comes out to $22.50. Finally, gas is only $50 this month because I already had a full gas tank at the beginning of the month :)

I've seen a couple of other bloggers' budgets online and the estimated vs. actual method seems to be quite common. Is there another way of doing this that's more efficient?
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Sabrina
First Day of Law School - Second Year, Term 2.

Well, I'm halfway through law school now... so that itself is pretty exciting! And I got three awards this year, totaling about $7,200.

This means that overall, my projected surplus/shortfall for the year is:

Overall additional debt for this year = $7,000 OSAP
Overall savings for this year = $2,000*

Shortfall = $7,000-2,000 = $5,000 debt

Not bad considering law school is costing me about $25,000 per year :)

----
*rather than paying down my Professional Student LOC or putting my savings towards OSAP, I've decided that, given the low interest rate on my PLOC (3.5%) and the no interest status on my OSAP, I should put the $2,000 in savings into a mutual fund account to use as an after-graduation emergency fund in case there is a delay in finding a job. I figure this is the best idea considering the recession and the fact that I don't want to default on my loans. If by chance I do find a job right after graduation, I will roll those savings and any additional savings towards my highest interest debt: the OSAP. Anyone think this is a bad idea?
Sabrina
My boyfriend H and I took a trip to Montreal last week, just for a couple of days. We got back on New Years Eve and then went out with another couple for New Years. The next morning as I'm driving home I suddenly hear a sudden crackling sound - lo and behold, there is a giant crack running across my windshield that wasn't there moments earlier.

Nothing hit my windshield, there were no stones flying on the road, no trauma to the glass. Obviously, I figured it was a defect in the glass itself, and hoped and prayed that come monday morning, the dealership would cover the cost of replacing the windshield, since they had just replaced the it 7 months ago as part of the sales contract.

This morning, I called a couple of places to get some quotes for the replacement.

First quote was at Apple Auto Glass - $475 or $600 for my car, depending on the model chosen.
Second quote was from Ontario Auto Glass - $405 + tax.

Then it occurred to me to try and persuade the dealership to cover the cost of the glass, thinking they may have scammed me and not replaced the windshield months ago when they were supposed to. It turns out they had replaced it, but they were nice enough to call a glass representative in from the manufacturer to take a look at my windshield. He agreed that he couldn't find a dent or ship or any injury to the glass suggesting that trauma had caused the crack, but mentioned that the warranty on my windshield was only 3 months, and had therefore run out. I insisted this was highly suggestive of a defect in the glass itself, since the crack was in the middle layer and could not be felt from either inside or outside the car. He called the manufacturer and told them what was up, and within a few minutes had gotten them to agree to cover the cost of the product.

The dealership asked me to pay for labour ($130), and I agreed. Clearly, the crack was the result of an unforeseeable defect, and the cheapest alternative estimates placed the cost of replacement at around $405+ tax = $465.

Cost to me (through dealership) = $130.

Total Savings =$335.

Better believe that's going in my savings account!

I wonder if it was my power of persuasion that did it, or if the defect was so obvious that the manufacturer couldn't help but admit it? I like to think it was all me :)
Sabrina
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Sabrina
Hi, my name is Sarah and I've created this blog to help me keep track of my successes and failures in the world of personal finance. After graduating from university with a bachelor of arts degree, the severity of my student debt load really hit me. I was $30,000+ in debt, some of which was consumer debt. I worked hard to reduce interest rates and make large payments to pay it down, but I then returned to school to pursue a law degree.

This blog is my attempt to track my spending, saving, and overall financial habits. You'll find that my posts are really about a variety of topics, because personal finance touches all aspects of life - shopping, cooking, going out with friends, taxes, basically whatever strikes me as important on any given day. I hope that those of you who decide to follow me on my journey will find this blog to be helpful in achieving your own financial goals, or at least, serves as a (cheap) form of entertainment.

As you can probably tell from the name of my blog, my ultimate goal is to retire by the age of 45. While it will be a difficult goal to achieve, I don't think it's impossible, though I will need all the help and encouragement I can get!

Help... and Enjoy! :)
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