Part time job search

Since I’m in school, a part time job is all I have time for.  My search is not going well, however.  I am feeling the lack of money.  My goals are progressing slowly and unless I get some regular income, I’m not going to be able to afford the professional conference I’d planned on attending this fall semester.

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Future Purchase: Laptop?

laptop

I may have to face the reality of a large purchase soon.  My laptop is over 5 and a half years old, and it overheats quite often.  I have been regularly backing up my important documents in case it decides to go kaput one day without warning because I learned the hard way about backing up  your hard drive.  The hard drive in my laptop is the second one I’ve had.  I’ve also upgraded the memory to its maximum (quite a while ago), so there’s really no improving it.

I’ve been eyeing several laptops to replace the one I have.  I don’t want one as large as the one I currently use.  When I bought it, I planned on watching movies and playing games on it in addition to school work.  Now, I would love to have a more portable laptop–possibly even a netbook.  I keep fantasizing about having a computer that would be easy to bring to class.  I would love to type my notes since I transfer them all to my computer anyways.  Also, I would have fewer excuses for not working on my thesis.  My most common current excuse is, “The house is too noisy so I have to shut the door to my workroom.  The room is too hot when I shut the door, so the computer overheats quickly.  When it overheats, it shuts down.  And transporting it to another location is annoying.”

Flimsy excuses aside, transporting my current laptop is more than a small pain in the neck.  It weighs 7.5 lbs and is 14″ x 10.5″ x 1.5″ big.  The touchpad no longer works, so I have to use a USB mouse.  The laptop has only one working USB port, so I have a 4-port hub hooked up to it so I can attach my mouse and use a USB drive.  In addition, since the darn thing overheats so easily, I have a cooling pad that sits underneath and blows fans on it constantly.  All of these extra accessories make it that much more cumbersome to transport, and the bag I carry everything in is bulky and heavy.  And as for using it on battery power?  Not possible.  I bought a backup battery when I bought the system, but they are both so old they drain quickly.

Wow, after outlining everything, I have almost convinced myself to buy a new laptop.  I know I will need one eventually, but do I really want to wait until this one dies unexpectedly?  It wouldn’t be the end of the world, because there are computers at school that I use all the time (thanks to my handy USB drive) and there is a slightly newer desktop computer at my house.

I hesitate because I know it will not be an inexpensive purchase.  I am not sure if I want a smaller regular laptop or a netbook.  I know that I will get extra memory and an extra battery if possible.  I am not sure what brand I want.  I do know that I do not want another 7.5-pounder!

Status report

Not much excitement in my financial world.  I am low on spending money.  I’ve borrowed from my emergency fund to pay for textbooks, and I’m waiting for my refund check.  I suppose it’s a good thing I had almost forgotten that I had an emergency fund, because it’s not to be used for just anything.  Normally, I wouldn’t have even spent the money on textbooks, but I knew I could refill it with my refund check.  I had already decided that the refund check would go to textbooks (since it’s my loans and my loans are for tuition and textbooks).

I’ve done a great job of not spending money on campus so far.  I haven’t gone to the vending machines but once.  I haven’t been running to the bookstore to buy candy.  I have been bringing my lunch consistently.  Hopefully, I can spend less on food than I did last semester!lunch

More about textbooks

Having already made this semester’s rant about the price of textbooks, I’m going to spare you the figures and get right to the point.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to pay for this semester’s books.  I need them sooner than I can afford them; my loan refund check doesn’t arrive until February.  Since I know I’ll need to read them before Valentine’s Day, I was going to borrow some money to pay for my textbooks, repaying using the refund check.  Then I realized something.  I was amazed at myself for forgetting my emergency fund!  I had enough money in that account to pay for my textbooks.

pigbank

The reason I didn’t think of using that money sooner was that I didn’t consider this financial need an emergency.  A need, yes, but not a real emergency, because I did have other options.  However, I realized it was ok to “borrow” the money from my emergency fund because I would be depositing the borrowed amount as soon as I get my refund check.  I know I’ll pay myself back, too.  I’m getting close to fully funding it, which is one of my goals for 2009.

That semiannual post about textbooks

Yes, it’s that time again.  Time for all college students to complain about how much textbooks cost.  (I seem to be making a habit of that on this blog!)  This year, I calculated that if I bought all my books at the campus bookstore, I’d be spending about $850!  For me, that’s one of the highest amounts for textbooks out of my entire college career!

Because of this, throughout all of grad school (and I think part of undergrad), I have purchased my books online.  This saves hundreds of dollars, even after shipping!  What I do is buy my textbooks online through a store’s website, first going through BigCrumbs or some other rewards/cashback site.  I highly recommend BigCrumbs, as I have gotten money back on my purchases before.  (They pay through PayPal.)  After this semester’s purchases, I will probably get about $30 back!

Anyways, I have included my referral link above, in case anyone wants to try BigCrumbs.  You can shop Half.com (my favorite site for buying AND selling textbooks), Books a Million, A1 Books, and Barnes & Noble through them!  I can personally vouch that this method will save significantly more than buying through the campus bookstore.  Good luck price-hunting!

Student loan frustrations!

My student loans still have not been disbursed.  That doesn’t mean that my tuition isn’t due!  To delay having to pay tuition until I get my loans, I signed up for the payment plan, a way to pay in monthly installments with no interest charge.  (On the other hand, if you pay your tuition late and haven’t signed up for the payment plan, you are charged a percentage in late fees.)

Well, this seemed like a brilliant idea in August.  The August due date came and went, and I knew the loans would be coming “some time in September”–the words of someone who works in our financial aid department.  I assumed my loans would be disbursed by the September due date or soon after.  However, when I was checking my balance online one day, I noticed that my balance was significantly in the hole.  That is, I had bounced my checking account by several thousand dollars.

Nicht gut! I realized that I had signed up for direct debit when I signed up for the tuition payment plan.  Whoops!  I was able to remedy the situation that day, but the incident definitely made me anxious for my loans to arrive!!  I am calling financial aid on MONDAY!  🙂

September goals update

It’s been a while!  I’ve started the new school year, so I have been busy with five classes and two jobs!  I have a history of trying to do too much, but I have hope that this year will be different as I am planning more and more.  For starters, I am keeping up with my paycheck distributions! These distributions are tied to my main financial goals, including getting organized and starting to save money.

My first goal is growing my emergency fund.  I am trying to reach $1,500.  Once I reach that goal, I will likely change my percentages around, including increasing my retirement from 5% to 10%.

Another goal is to open a retirement account.  Neither of my part-time jobs offers retirement benefits (at least not until 1 year w/the company), so I will open an account on my own.  The account I have my eye on has a $3,000 minimum, so until I have that amount set aside, I will hold the money in a high-interest savings account.  Eventually increasing my retirement savings to 10% of my income will help me reach this goal more quickly.

Finally, another goal I have mentioned is to educate myself in personal finance.  To help accomplish this, I am taking an online personal finance class through my local community college.  There is actually a lot of work involved (the prof seems very Type A!), and we were warned that the class will be harder than a traditional face-to-face class.  Still, so far so good.  Our first assignment was to keep a spending journal for a week, categorizing expenses into needs and wants.

I will not be able to update daily (I can barely get my readings for classes done, after all!), but hopefully I can post something one or two times a week–a reflection on a PF lesson, perhaps, or a progress update on my goals.  Posting less frequently, however, is better than the almost month-long posting drought I’ve had lately!