Tracking Expenses Isn’t Easy

On my last net worth update, I declared that I would be tracking all of my expenses for the month of August.

Let me tell you right now - this is not easy. I almost want to throw in the towel already.

You see, every pay check, I withdraw a set amount of cash for “whatever I want”. Lunches that I bring back to my desk to eat, dinners with the BF after work, and any other little purchases here and there. Whenever I run out of cash, the idea is to stop spending until the next pay period. Simple, right?

However, I find myself spending much more than my allotted cash for the month. Once I run out of cash, and I see my credit card sitting in my  wallet, I let myself swipe a few times until my next pay day.

No wonder the battle with my credit card debt just never seems to end.

Even as I started blogging, I’ve always avoided really tracking expenses because 1) it’s time-consuming, and 2) I was really scared of what I would find. In general, as long as I was saving and as long as I’m making progress on some of my debt, I felt like I was already ahead of the pack. But that simply isn’t true. I never really broke down all the numbers, never truly examined where each dollar is really going. Yes, I’m saving and yes, I’m getting rid of debt – but every month I still feel like I’m drowning.

Last month, J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy asked a question I always avoided asking myself: Do You Have Money Left Over Each Month? I don’t really know the exact numbers yet, but I know that at the end of each month I’m holding my breath until my next paycheck. I know I have an emergency fund in place in case anything goes wrong, but if my spending habits don’t change, then how long will that emergency fund last me? Not too long, I’m afraid.

So, this is why I’m going to commit to tracking expenses for August – so I can see if I have any money left over to throw at my goals or even if I’m in the red for the month. I’m scared to see what I’ll find, but I know that I can only get better once I know the full picture.

You can’t get better unless you know all the problems, right?

Do you think tracking expenses every month is important? Has it helped you?


Giving to the Homeless

I’ve said it time and time again – giving is an important part of my finances.

However, giving to the homeless is where it gets tricky for me. I admit, I was a bit sheltered growing up. Growing up in the nicer part of town and attending private school my entire life meant that I rarely saw homeless people, and whenever I did I was told to avert my eyes and to not engage.

When I first started living in San Francisco, homeless people became a usual sight to see. They wander the streets, gather in public parks, sleep by the entrances of BART stations, you get the picture.

I guess you can say it was a culture shock. From growing up, learning to not engage and not even look at homeless people to seeing them pretty much on every street was quite the change.

I’ve had my fair share of homeless people/beggars approaching me, asking me for food/money. Some look well-dressed, others not so much. Some are sober and well-spoken, others are drunken and can barely hold themselves up.

One thing is for sure: not everyone who is homeless fits into the “homeless” stereotype.

A struggling young man

A few years ago, when I first started college, my friend and I were walking the streets of San Francisco at night (I honestly forgot why) when a guy approached us. He started off by asking us for a minute of our time. At first, I reverted to what I was told to do when I was younger – don’t look and don’t engage. However, what this guy had to say caught my attention.

After quick introductions, he got right into it – he was a struggling young man, trying to find a way home. He had lost everything, but he wasn’t asking us for money. He wasn’t even asking us for food. He was asking us to buy him some shampoo and soap so he can take a proper shower, which was something he hasn’t done in a long time. He said he was staying at a local shelter temporarily, but they never had enough shampoo/soap since the shelter was always full and crowded.

He went on, “I know how skeptic people can be when they’re being asked of their money. I know, I’ve been there. But this way, you know exactly where your money is going, you don’t have to worry if I’m just going to waste it on alcohol or anything like that. All I want is to feel clean for once, and to share with the other guys at the shelter.”

This guy was around our age, so he ended up being really easy to talk to – very relatable. Basically, he was trying to find his place in life. He wasn’t bitter about his situation. Instead, when we kept saying we were “sorry” for him, he told us not to be and simply stated that “everyone starts somewhere”.

A proper shower was something I took for granted. It was eye opening to see this man, who wasn’t too much older than me, begging on the street just for some shampoo. My friend and I went into the nearest Walgreens, grabbed him some soap and shampoo, and tossed a $20 bill into the bag before handing it to him and wishing him luck/our prayers.

When is it appropriate to give?

That situation completely changed my viewpoint on giving to the homeless. I was taught to not even look at the homeless, let alone think about giving anything. Yes, I was sheltered. However, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to give in all cases.

Personally, I don’t give if they’re clearly disrespectful. I lived a few blocks from Haight street in San Francisco, which is basically known for having a lot of drunk homeless people around. I’ve been approached by too many people who were drunk out of their minds and called me and my friends inappropriate names before having the nerve to ask for money or booze (mostly booze).

On the flip side, if you feel like the person who is asking for help is being sincere and respectful, it is safe to give. Like the situation I mentioned above, the guy who approached me and my friend was super respectful and humble.

Basically, follow your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable at all, then don’t give. Simply walk away and say “Sorry, I don’t have anything”.

What if you do feel comfortable giving? How can you help the homeless?

What you can give

From my experience, the number one thing I have been asked to give was money. If I’m walking out of a store, sometimes I’ll drop off my change to the nearest homeless guy on the block.

However, I personally prefer to give food. If I have leftovers that I probably won’t touch after, I’ll hand it to the next homeless person I see on the street. Sometimes, I grab an extra granola bar from work to hand to the guy who is always sitting right outside my BART station. Money is nice and all, but food sustains you.

But what if I don’t have any food or money? My friend used to work with a lot of homeless people in his line of work, and he told me that the best thing you can do is look at them and smile. Being homeless does a number on one’s self confidence, and being ignored by many people passing by has unfortunately become a usual part of their life. Offering someone a look and a smile shows that you acknowledge their presence, which can do wonders for someone’s day.

What do you think? Do you give to the homeless?


Lisa vs. the 2014 Goals – Checking In

On January 1st of this year, I posted Lisa vs. the 2014 Goals for all to see.

Part of goal setting is, well, achieving those goals. Although we aren’t quite at the end of the year yet, I decided to go back to these goals and provide a quick update. Constantly updating yourself on how your goals are doing is a great way to ensure that you’ll actually do it! Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Financial Goals

Rebuild emergency fund to $1,000 – Complete!

This was one of the first goals I knocked out this year! I sleep much better knowing that I have a little money saved in case something were to come up unexpectedly.

Stay out of credit card debt – In progress…

At the end of 2013, I paid off my credit cards for good… If “for good” meant “for now”. Currently, I’m still involved in this CC debt drama. But hopefully, I’ll be able to get rid of it by the end of this year – maybe sooner!

Begin saving for travel goals - Ongoing

This is more of an ongoing goal that I’m adopting into my monthly finance routine. Every month, I’ve been setting aside $100 into a separate “travel” account for spending money whenever I (you guessed it) travel. I’ve successfully saved for my birthday weekend in Las Vegas and a trip with friends to San Diego. My next biggest trip is coming up which is New Orleans next month for FinCon14!!!

Bulk up emergency fund to 3-6 months worth of expenses – Postpone

I don’t think this is the year I’ll be able to bulk up my emergency fund. Why? 1) I’m satisfied with the $1,000 I have in there right now, and 2) I’d rather get rid of my credit card debt first.

Start throwing extra money at student loans (again) – Ongoing

After being frustrated of seeing my student loan balances decrease by only $50 each month, I decided to throw more money at these bad boys. If you read my last net worth update, my student loans finally dipped by 3 figures. I’m not exactly going all out on this, since I’m still fighting that damned CC debt, but these are the next to go!

Blogging Goals

Go to FinCon14 – Upcoming
Enough said

Enough said

Expand content – Changing

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the direction of this blog. Originally, this goal meant that I would ask more guest bloggers to come on board. There were some great guests posts on here! For example Ben from The Wealth Gospel’s guest post is still one of my most popular posts on here! Also, my IRL friend Zherr-Anne’s Wedding Tip Wednesday series was a hit! But with the good came the bad. I’m thinking of deleting the couple of guest posts here that just isn’t in line with my blog.

Other than that, I’m still trying to come up with ways to make this blog right here stand out. Part of that is making it a more personal blog, and another part of that is perhaps starting a video series! I’m so indecisive, so I don’t really know how this is all going to happen, but just know that I’m working on it ;)

Get Social – Ongoing

As of today, I have 591 followers on Twitter (follow me if you haven’t yet)! My Facebook page isn’t quite ready to launch yet, but it should be up by the time I board the plane to FinCon! I’m also planning on sharing my personal Instagram on here soon!

Personal Goals

Land a new day job – Complete

After a stressful job hunt, I’m proud to say that in February, I landed a new day job! The past six months have flown by at this new company! We’re growing like cuh-ray-zee and I’ve been putting in a ton of hours, but I absolutely love it! I love my company’s mission, and I feel like everything I do is making an impact on people’s lives.

Complete Lean and Lovely Program – Complete

Lean and Lovely is a kettlebell training program written by the beautiful Neghar Fonooni. I finished the program earlier this year! I didn’t necessarily see a change on the scale, but I felt more flexible and limber after completing the program.

Unfortunately, my fitness routine just hasn’t been 100% lately. I’ve signed up for her other program, Super Heroine Fitness, but have stopped midway. I’ll either get back into SHF soon or redo L&L.

Wake Up Early – Failing so hard

Honestly, I totally forgot that this was a goal for this year! What a wake up call… (pun entirely intended). Currently, I get up around 7 and chill in bed until about 7:20. Then I rush to get ready for the day and head out to work. I don’t have time to pack a lunch, or make myself breakfast. This needs to change! I’m going to try and get up 15 minutes earlier this week, then 15 minutes earlier the following week, and so on until I get to a 5:30 wake up time.

I’ve completed some goals already, I’m making progress on others, and I’ve already declared some early fails. The year isn’t over, so I’m not giving up on the goals I’ve decided to keep pursuing!

How about you? How are your 2014 goals coming along?


July 2014 Net Worth Update

July had its fair share of ups and downs. Let’s get right to it…

July 2014

Net Worth as of July 31, 2014: $211,675

Overall, my net worth increased by $88,538 this month!

A terrific increase in net worth this past month, the largest increase by far, but I’m still disappointed with myself. Let’s head into the breakdown to see why.

Cash: $1,374 [MTM ($1,151)]

Every month, I say this category always fluctuates. This month is no exception. Unfortunately, it didn’t fluctuate in my favor this time around. A huge chunk of this decrease was due to the travelling I did as well as some travelling I booked for September.

Savings: $1,123 [MTM ($99)]

My emergency fund is still in tact at $1,000. My travel fund decreased by $99, which was completely expected since I just got back from San Diego and used that money as play money. That’s the whole point of having a travel fund in the first place, right? So I wasn’t too sad about this decrease.

401k: $413 [MTM $271]

Slow and steady is the motto for this account. I love that my employer immediately matches my contributions every pay period. My previous employer only matched my contributions once a year.

Traditional IRA: $8,785 [MTM ($113)]

A small loss this month for the Tradish. The markets aren’t performing too well, plus the fact that I am not contributing one penny to this account is the reason for this drop.

Roth IRA: $14,890 [MTM $283]

Yes, this account increased by $283. But considering I contribute about $460 to this account every month, I actually lost money this time around. Darn it, markets! When the market performs well, it’s amazing! When it doesn’t do so hot, it’s not fun at all :(

Est. Car Value: $17,821 [MTM $0]

No change this month. I’ve decided to update this quarterly. Next update to this value will be next month in August.

Est. Home Value: [MTM $89,000]

I’ve been looking forward to updating this amount for a few months now! This increase in value almost feels as if I’m cheating, though. In fact, if my home didn’t increase in value, I would be looking at a decrease for the month. It’s not like I did anything to cause this bump in value. I guess this is the good part about being a home owner!

Credit Cards: $2,165 [MTM $586]

After last month’s amazing progress in the category, it hurts to see this balance back up over the $2,000 mark. I paid about $1,500 towards my credit card debt this month, but I still ended up with an increase in balance.

Part of it is due to the fact that I put our Air Bnb on my card for our latest trip to SD. But most of my friends paid me back (except for one – if you’re reading this, I’ll be bugging you soon enough)! I guess another reason is due to the fact that I finally booked my flight to New Orleans in September for FinCon. Even though I got a pretty good deal, it is not cheap to fly to NOLA from SFO.

Still, these travel expenses may be hefty, but it simply doesn’t add up. I’m so frustrated at my backwards progress this month that I’m vowing to track all of my expenses for the month of August. As a pf blogger, I know this seems odd that I’m just now going to start tracking my expenses. I’ve been avoiding doing so simply because I’m scared of the findings.

But now – this credit card debt war that is currently underway depends on me being meticulous about what I’m doing with my money. So for August, I’ll be tracking my expenses so that in September I can review, adjust, and hopefully get back on the right track.

Student Loans: $15,654 [MTM ($125)]

I was tired of seeing little $50 decreases each month, so I finally decided to throw just a little more at these loans. A three-digit difference really makes me feel better than a two-digit decrease ever did!

Car Loan: $18,500 [MTM ($331)]

Nothing new here. Slow and steady progress for now until my credit card debt is gone for good!

Mortgage: $275,413 [MTM ($477)]

Same as my car loan – nothing new! I’ll be paying the absolute minimum each month until my situation changes.

This month was my greatest net worth increase yet! But my progress (or lack there of) with my credit card debt is completely overshadowing this feat. I’m trying to focus on the positive, and hopefully my credit card debt progress will be much better this month!

How did your July go? Did your credit card debt yo-yo like mine does?


Links Lisa Likes – GBR 1 Minute Money Tip

This week’s LLL is a little late. I’m still recovering from my weekend trip to San Diego with my friends.

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The Team via Instagram

I’m going to be putting together a trip recap as well as an expense breakdown of the entire thing.

In the meantime, when you get the chance, check out my video entry for GOBankingRates Summer Savings Video Challenge! The GBR 1 Minute Money Tip challenge: share your best money-saving tip in a creative, engaging video. Here’s my entry below (also, the most awkward screenshot ever):

Special thanks to The BF for the fancy-shmancy Paint skillz! #GBR1MinMoneyTip

Last Week on LvL

Read all about my tiny bit of heroism last weekend as well as last week’s links over at Links Lisa Likes – Super Hero Weekend.

Just a quick life update and random things about me over at Summer So Far & Liebster Part 2.

This Week’s LLL

Are You Buying Stuff to Feel Better? – [My Alternate Life]
I am a recovering shopaholic and I know that a lot of what I bought was just for the thrill of shopping. How do you think I keep getting back into credit card debt?

Charitable Donations That Don’t Require Your Checkbook – [Modest Money]
When most people think of donating, they don’t always think of giving their time and other resources. These are also great ways to donate!

Confessions From a Spoiled Rich Kid – [Financial Samurai]
A fascinating story from a stereotypical rich kid’s point of view.

Why $500-$1,000 Should be Your Individual Debt Repayment Minimum – [The Shop My Closet Project]
I’m all for small, manageable goals. But sometimes, you’ve got to go big or go home!

Why Set the Bar Low? – [Financially Blonde]
Speaking of small, manageable goals – they should all add up and work towards your one big reach goal!

Hope your week is going great so far!

Lisa E.
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