Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

On Money, Stuff, And Frustration

February 21, 2008

I don’t know what’s more alarming about this year so far: The amount of money I’ve spent, or that I’m poised to spend more.

Why have I spent so much? Photo supplies, for one, which was unavoidable. A wacom tablet, secondly, which hopefully will equal more cash in the future (through design work). If that were all, I’d be okay with myself. I’m down a lot of money but doing okay, and the investments make sense. Now my current frustration.

I want to buy a guitar.

This isn’t surprising. My friends and family are no doubt thinking, “Again?” I’ve wanted a guitar many times before, and come very close to actually buying one. However, I never have, for two reasons: I’m not musically inclined at all, and I’m not sure I’ll have the determination to learn. However, I can’t get past the feeling of wanting one, and I have never tried to learn an instrument before, so who knows, maybe I will love it.

I’m starting to feel like it’s something I just need to buy and then only notice when it’s time to move to a new house. There are lots of things like that when you’re trying to be a little frugal: things that you need to buy to teach yourself a lesson. Maybe a guitar is one of those for me (but an expensive one at that). Or maybe not. Maybe it’s a good thing waiting to happen.

Currently, the force most compelling me towards it is the memory of the first (and only) time I held a guitar. Without even knowing what I was doing, I picked it up, strummed it, and it was generous enough to make a beautiful note, perhaps the first one I’ve ever been responsible. That was a good feeling.

So does anyone have thoughts?

-The art student desperately seeking a guitar.

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Wacom (And Printers)

February 13, 2008

So, I’ve been feeling a temptation to buy a Wacom tablet lately. I think it would be a great investment in a lot of ways: it would give me lots of new artistic avenues to pursue, could benefit my graphic design work, and maybe even serve as an aid in learning to draw.

The downside is, it will cost at least $300, maybe more, depending on the model I buy. That’s a substantial chunk of change, and I’m, not surprisingly, cautious about it.

Any thoughts?

(Also, anyone have any idea my my printer, which is relatively good, would have trouble with a thicker [but still quite thin] paper stock? It seems to start printing fine, and then it starts bunching up the text more and more until it has printed over the same spot a bunch of times and jams with the paper about 4/5 of the way through the machine. Thanks)

Personal Victories

January 20, 2008

I wanted to take a minute to congratulate my mom, who I’ve been really impressed by lately. if ever you need proof that it’s possible to get a hold on personal finances, here it is. For about a year she has been making an effort to be more money conscious, tracking her bills more closely and avoiding temptations to splurge on herself. Instead, she’s been saving.

Today, we went to find a new car for her. The old one has been on it’s last legs for a long time. At the dealership, we found a good car and got a good price for the trade in only to find that the projected monthly payment was going to be way too high. Luckily, she’s been saving all year, just in case. She was able to put down a large down payment and drop the car payments into the range she was expecting, and we drove home in a new, reliable car. The best news is, she’s been working so hard on her buffer that even after the down payment she has something like three months’ salary in savings.

I want to wish her the best of luck in her continued work, and to enjoy the new car!

Wachovia Is Trying To Lose A Customer

November 28, 2007

I’ve been a Wachovia customer for a long time, and during that time they have done a lot that was less then stellar. Their overdraft fees, for example, are huge, and often it takes so long for the overdraft to show up that I’ve made more then one overdraft. I’ll concede, though, that I bear a lot of blame for that too.

Lately, though, these $2 miscellaneous fees were popping up everywhere. I assumed, being miscellaneous, it would happen once or maybe twice, but its happened many times. I wrote them to inquire about it, and was informed that they have begun charging an extra fee for using another bank’s ATM. Yes, on top of the usual $2 charged by that other bank, my bank is charging me the same amount. Not to mention the fact that it used to be $1 from the other bank. I digress.

Tamala, my customer service rep, received this e-mail:

 Is there any way this fee could be waived? I have long been a customer of Wachovia and am generally happy with your service, but have only two Wachovia ATMs near me, and both locations are about 45 minutes from my residence. If there is no way around these new charges, I will probably have to move my account to another provider. In this age of online banks and the Co-Op Network of ATMs  (a nationwide set of credit union ATMs) I am disappointed that Wachovia saw fit to start charging their customers an addition fee.

-Zack Wussow

Now, I know a few of my friends will say I’m taking this a bit too hard, but Wachovia has added more and more unfriendly fees and restrictions (they recently limited me to six, non-on-site transactions between my accounts [i.e., through their web service] a month). If she can offer me some sort of reasonable arrangement (dropping the fees alone would work for me) I will probably stay with them. A sign that they listen to or care about their customers would be impressive. However, when that doesn’t happen, I’ll be looking around. That $2 is 5% of my usual ATM withdrawal, so, yeah. Feel free to drop some hints! I will be visiting local credit unions and asking why they rock. I expect to hear good things.

By the way, I was not bluffing about the nationwide system of free (and many deposit accepting) credit union ATMs. Another reason it pays (literally) to be well informed. (Actually, that might be the first reason I’ve given here for it paying to be well informed, but you get the idea.)

Future Expenses

November 5, 2007

As nice as it is to foresee major expenses before they show up, it can be a pain too. True, you can save up for them, hit the sales, etc. However, it also means you have to sit and know you already owe someone money.

In my case, the upcoming expense is clothes, and I’ll probably have to go shopping next weekend. The unfortunate thing, to my (I know) somewhat backwards way of thinking, is that of the $80-$100 I will probably have to spend, $60 of it is for garments no one but me ever sees. Well, such is life. A new pair of jeans will do me good, anyway.

Hmm, now the question, who to go shopping with? Wow, hadn’t realized that since Moi and I broke up… Well, I’ll sort it out.

By the way, and apropos of nothing, I apparently pulled off my pillowcase last night as I slept. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, “Why is my pillow different?” and my second was, “Where is my pillow case!?” I found it, but I still don’t know why.

The Baur Fund

November 2, 2007

While I’ve mentioned the idea a few times on the site, I’ve never taken the time to explain the idea of a Baur Fund. it’s a pretty simple idea to save some money which I lifted from a friend.

I should start out by saying that this works best for people who daily come across small temptations to spend money. You know the expression, being nickel and dimed to death? You probably already drop your spare change in a jar at home to avoid that sort of temptation (not to mention all that extra weight in your pocket). Well, if you also tend to spend dollars here and there, this is for you, and it’s really simple.

Toss your dollars in with the change at the end of the day. Don’t keep anything worth less then $5 on your person. Thats it.

The idea here is that spending five dollars (or even breaking a five) is harder then a few ones. No vending machines, no homeless people, and probably no charity boxes. I’m sure you can imagine a million other places it is tempting to spend those dollars just to get them out of your wallet.

I did that all summer, and saved a lot of money (something like $60). I will admit that I have done a lot worse at school (In my defense, vending machines are often breakfast for this college student), but I think the idea can be of benefit to a lot of people. Not to mention, it’s easy!

Thanks to Timm for the idea!

Resolutions Update

October 17, 2007

Remember how, originally, this blog was about a set of New Years/Birthday-to-Birthday Resolutions (My birthday is close enough to New Years for them to be the same)? Otherwise known as the “List of Things I Should Do Before I Turn Twenty.” I thought, since I’ve hardly thought about them, let alone write, for a while, I should catch you all up.

Here is the list:

1. Complete a working portfolio (photography, probably, but perhaps other graphic arts work too)
2. Organize writing collection (old fiction, etc)
3. Save at least an additional $1000
4. Get into Columbia University
5. Keep an up-to-date resume
6. Revive City of Shalom
7. Have at least one salad per week (hey, it’s a start)
8. Prepare a public art project expressing positive messages about the environmentto begin on my birthday (added to the list here.)

Numbers 1, 4, and 5 are done (or as done as they get). Numbers 2 and 6 are well under way. 7 is, well, never mind that one. I had honestly forgotten about number 8 until I wrote this post, but I have been working on a number of interesting public art projects, so I am doing okay.

So, that leaves for us number 3, the money goal! My bank account total should be around $2,075. I’ve mentioned before that, when one includes the money I have invested in Prosper.com, I’ve already far usurped this goal. In terms of just my savings, though, I am not quite there. However, I am happy to say that not visiting New York nearly every weekend has it’s financial advantages. My total is up to $1948. $52 and I am good.

It’s an exciting moment. Good luck to you in all your goals!

Now get some sleep.

Low Tolerances

October 3, 2007

I’ve found – and if you’ve gone though something similar, please feel free to share – that since breaking up with Moi, a lot of things have changed, but none of them have been what I’ve expected. Or, I should say, which changes are significant has been surprising. The whole bit about helping her with man troubles, wherein the man is not me, is new, but not at all unexpected with our bizarre and rarely well understood relationship. It comes with the territory.

Rather, the things which have been really grating on my nerves are related to the breakup by, at best, two or three degrees of separation. For the most part, though, they follow an understandable pattern.

One is how often I am ahead on my homework. I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain, least of all while in the middle of a weeks worth of difficult assignments and big exams. Still, there is something strange about the sitting in my room on a Saturday night and having no work to do. I know I will have work by the same time Monday night, but for the moment, I am up to speed. Surprisingly, while this should inspire relaxation or pride, it just inspires boredom. I think I need a looming deadline for me to really be able to relax (read: forget about work for a while), whereas simply not having work feels like, well, waiting.

Moving on.

I find it frustrating talking to people for very long, because inevitably Moi, or girlfriends at large, or something with some distant relationship to Moi comes up, and I have to explain the situation. Even if that explanation is no longer then amending “My girlfriend always…” to make it “My ex-girlfriend always,” it interrupts my thoughts.That, though, is just a function of time. As time goes on, I’ll have more news to share with people that doesn’t involve her. So, onward.

A peculiar and very strong feeling I’ve had lately is being completely sick of pleasantries. I naturally have a lonerish slant, so I suppose I am disposed to resent those anyway, but goodness! I never realized how many people I was polite to. I’ll say this: I have no taste for families. Mine, yes, but anyone else’s, not with a ten foot pole. What pressure there is, to be wonderfully acceptable! I suppose that is always an issue.

I notice it a lot with friends, too, though. I haven’t lost my affinity for listening to my friends problems and given advice where I can, but I’ve noticed that I am more direct with them. Most often, I think, we subconsciously temper our speech to make them feel better. Instead, I feel like I have lately been quick to tell them the truth as I see it and if it hurts them… Well, I don’t know. Maybe they need to hear it. Maybe I just don’t have the patience to let them down slow. I do wonder, though, if they’ve noticed at all.

If other people’s relationships are frustrating, imagine how mine go. (Dangerous topic, I know. My loved ones will pry. Love you all!) For some reason the phrase girl drama has been prominent in my mind lately. I know, I know, I am asking for trouble writing that, but please believe me, I am not proposing any direct correlation. I only mean it in the sense of all the complicated things a heterosexual man such as myself must consider while in any sort of relationship with one of the fairer sex (yeah, that phrase is probably off limits too). There are a few people I’d really like to talk to, lay some things out, and ask some big questions. Fortunately, I have been able to have exactly these discussions with some of them. With others, well… I am not such a loner that I don’t know asking some questions at the wrong time can dictate the answer. For now, I’m doing my best to put those concerns out of mind.

Finally, I have a very low tolerance for myself right now. Why? Because I’m not tracking my spending this year! I’m not spending any time in New York, so it should be a piece of cake to save money. Yet I’m not. Where is it going? Not a clue! So I need to get back to that. Muy pronto.

I think that’s enough for now. More tomorrow!

Back In CT

September 3, 2007

I have good news! While in New York, I spent only about fifty dollars, including my train ticket. I am excited about this because it seems like a good sign for my financial situation this year. Fifty dollars is less then half of my weekly income. I am hopeful that this means in the near future my bank balance should be on the upswing again.

I am excited to be on the right track to meet my resolutions.

A Little Sophomoric Financial Hardship

August 30, 2007

Well, I can’t say I’m in really bad straits, but my finances have taken a beating lately. Lots of art supplies, plus some necessities (like chips and pizza, of course),  have made a big dent in my savings account. The good news is, some help is on the way. Two checks are coming in soon, and I am once again working at the library, adding about fifty dollars a week to my funds.

The real problem, though, is not so much the things I need, like art supplies, or even the little things like snacks, but the silly things I just plain old want. The newest (which is still old, but also expensive) Sim City expansion pack almost suckered me in. Lucky for me I avoided that, as I’ve since lost interest in the game again. Something silly which is still begging for my attention is this fun little torture device from Think Geek. I can’t say why I want it, but I do.

However, I’m refraining, at least until I get my savings balance moving further into the green.  I don’t think that will be a problem though. I seem to have gotten some good habits in place this summer.