Sunday, August 02, 2009

Random Thoughts

-Since I started using Twitter, it's been hard finding motivation to blog.
-I really want to buy a house now, but prices are still pretty high. I hope that C and I buy a place where we can cover the mortgage with only 1 of our incomes.
-Mortgage prices still seem to be very low. I used Zillow to get some mortgage quotes, and I can get around 4.5% (with some partial points, but we plan to keep whatever place we buy for a long time).
-New job is going well. I got my first paycheck last week. There is something to be said for getting paychecks, rather than direct deposit. I think that was the largest check in my name that I've ever received.
-I've held checks for $1+ million in relation to past jobs.
-Somehow I decided that I really like Pottery Barn. Not good for the wallet. Luckily I haven't completely lost my frugality and I'm searching craigslist for cheaper Pottery Barn stuff.
-I also bought a Pottery Barn gift card for about 75% of the value. I used it to purchase an floor model rug.
-I've been preparing a networth statement less and less frequently. The tanking of the markets gave me a good excuse to not prep one for a long long. I finally did one in mid-July and another one yesterday. In about 2 weeks, our retirement accounts went up 5% with no contribution from us. Go market!
-After preparing these recent net worth views, we realized that we are close to a pretty major milestone (cash savings of X amount, with X being a nice round number). If we save really aggressively, we could get to it, but I don't think we have the inclination to save that hard anymore.
-I believe in a 10% tithe, but I have been undertithing for the past 2 years or so. I didn't change my tithe to keep up with my income. Now an I over-tithing (only a little over) to make up for it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

My Salary History (%)

Inspired by FMF

Year 1: I got my first job out of school. I made several mistakes. I first suggested a salary range and then I didn't negotiate above what was offered. Later I found out that I could have easily made 6% more starting.

Year 2: 8.5% increase, but since I made a mistake starting out, others in my job may have started here.

Year 3: Job change. 7% increase. Didn't negotiate this amount.

Year 4: Promotion, 13% increase. Year end raise, 8%.

Year 5: Market adjustment, 7%. Promotion, 15%. Year end raise, 5%.

Year 6: Promotion, 6%.

Year 6.5: Job change, 20%.

Year 5 was a big year for me. By this time, I had learned that I was paid much much less that I was worth. I asked my boss for more money and he said he would see what he could do. I would ask for the status of the request every so often. Finally about 6 months after my initial request, I got a 7% raise (during that time period I actually got my year end raise, but I was still below market even with that 8% increase).

This year, I was promoted, but I got a very small pay increase, once again putting my below market range for my position. I believe that is the major reason I was able to negotiate such a large salary increase in this tough economic times. There was also one extenuating circumstance that caused the company to give me a bonus, worth about 5%.

What I've learned from this - do good work, ensure you have a strong reputation, research what the market is paying, and don't be afraid to ask. If you don't ask, no one is going to hand things over to you.

I was promoted several times which contributed greatly to my salary growth. Without those promotions, there is no way I'd be making what I am today.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I Accepted a New Job

I am excited to say that I accepted a new job, starting later this month. I'm taking a bit of time off before getting started. I am excited to be working with really smart people, in more of a startup like environment, but doing similar work to what I'm doing now.

The best part . . I was able to negotiate a fairly large pay increase. I am finally going to be over the 6 figure mark!

The way I was able to get this offer was by continuously doing good work and over-delivering! Just the things that FMF is always blogging about.

I'll post information about my salary growth in my next post. This is something I'm really proud of since I think I made some mistakes early in my career in not negotiating what I'm worth, but I've since made up for that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Things Are Changing

I know that I shortly will have a new employer, I'm just not sure which one yet. I'm 95% leaning towards one company. I will post some more details soon. If I do go with this company, I expect to get a 10-15% pay increase (already discussed informally with my potential new manager). I'm pretty excited about that in this economy and with what's going on around me. Things have been pretty stressful on the work front for the past few weeks, but I have a couple of great opportunities in front of me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Decided to Get on the Twitter Bandwagon

After I saw that even Madame X is on twitter, I decided to join. Follow me there @calgirlfinance for quick updates. I hope to post things more frequently there.

On another note, my job situation is going to be changing quite soon. I am not sure exactly what is going to happen, but suffice it to say that I believe in about a month I will be working at a new employer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thoughts on Spending Money

C and I have always been pretty good with our money. We’re not the best and I actually even stopped doing our budgeting by using the Force method since I realized that I could get a higher interest rate in our ING Checking account (referral link) with a balance over $50K. A lot of our savings are as liquid as can be since we’re looking to purchase a house soon. I’ve been busy (read: lazy) over the past few months in tracking how we’re doing.

One thing I did see: my company 401K says that it’s up 10% for the past 30 days and only done 30% for the past 12 months. That’s what the website provided analytics stated, but I’m not sure if that’s looking at the actual investments or just the balance. I hope that’s the actual investments since I’ve been contributing a lot to it over the past year.

So back to the point I was trying to get to: I think we are spending more in this economy than we were before. It might be lifestyle inflation, as we’re increasing our incomes. But I think it’s really because of the great deals that are out there. Travel is our major splurge. I’m a big believe in conscious spending (link). We normally pack our lunches and don’t spend a lot going out, compared to our demographic group (young twenties/thirties couple living in an exciting city). Once I get on a traveling project, I’m traveling every week and it’s easy to take a weekend trip somewhere rather than go back home. C takes probably 5-10 business trips a year. So we try to combine a lot of our business trips into weekend vacations. In 2009 alone, we’ve already taken 4 trips that have been somewhat subsidized by one of our companies.

What’s the point of this? When you life a modest lifestyle compared to your income, you can take advantage of deals when everyone else is hunkered down, trying to avoid all discretionary spending.

P.S. This posting has been brought to you by This is a good site for all your credit card application needs.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Overhead at my Favorite Clothing Store in the Mall

Salesclerk: “Would you like to open a credit card and save 40% on your purchase price?” (Aside - I’m pretty sure the clerk said 40% - I think it was some sort of promo deal since 40% is a lot!)

Customer buying one shirt: “No thanks. If you can’t pay cash, why buy it?”

I guess Americans really are changing and starting to think about what they are spending. I view this as a positive!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Upping my 401K Contributions

I just decided to up my 401K contributions. The reason I’m doing this is because: I’m going to be ending employment with my company shortly. My division is being purchased by another company. I’m not sure if I’m going to be going to the new company, but either way I will have a new employer since if I don't go to the new company, I'll be laid off.

I hate participating in multiple 401K plans. Also I’m not even sure who my new employer is going to be and they might not have a 401K plan (then again, I might be giving up a great employee match with my future, yet-to-be-determined, employer.

So I just decided to up my contributions to 50% of my salary per paycheck, which is the max my plan allows. If I stay with my company until the mid July, I will put the full $16,500 maximum in for this year. If I get to the end of June. Which is when the sale is supposed to go through, I’ll have put in about $500 less than the max for this year. Not sure what to hope for, but more savings for retirement has to be good!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The House

Ok, so here’s the house that we went and saw. Both C and I love the location and the fact that it’s a single family home. There are not a lot of houses in the areas of SF we would prefer to live in. The areas where we would love to live have a lot of condos and TICs (which seem to be a SF only phenomenon) I still do think prices are going down a bit, but not as significantly as before. Also, there are only so many single family houses in SF. Maybe I'm just trying to justify something that wouldn't be a wise financial decision, but I don't think it'll be a bad one since it will provide shelter and we would get a cash flow positive place if we rented it out. I'm pretty sure that it would be cashflow positive since we would put down a significant amount.

However, both C and I were under whelmed by the house. It is listed as a 4 bedroom with 1 bedroom on the bottom floor. That was fine, but then that room was used as a dining room because the dining table in the kitchen can only fit a small 2 person table. That left 3 bedrooms upstairs. The master bedroom was a good sized one, but the other 2 bedrooms were pretty small.

Originally when I saw the listing, I thought we could rent out the room on the bottom floor to a friend to make the cash flow even better (and affordable if I were to lose my job or want to go on an extended unpaid maternity leave). But the fact that renting out the bottom room would prevent us from having a place to consume meals and 2 of the 3 bedrooms upstairs were small made it not so attractive for us.

Anyways, there was no way we were going to pay anywhere close to the list price. We wanted about a 20% discount, but it’s not worth the effort since we’re ho-hum about house.

It’s very rare for a house to come on the market in this area. It’s even more rare for it to be somewhat in our price range. Here's hoping for a better house next time!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thinking About Buying a House

C and I have been casually looking at buying a house ever since we've been married for the past two and a half years. I think now is the time to get serious with the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers.

I'm glad that we've waited this long to make a large purchase. We could have purchased a place earlier, but since we live in SF, housing here is expensive. We've been squirreling our money in liquid accounts since I never knew when we were going to get serious. We could have made a lot more money in CDs or bonds, but I've been lazy. We have enough for a down payment, now we just need to find a place we like that we can afford. We've waited so long to buy a place since we have not been able to find a place we like that we can afford. In the past I told C that I think there are non-monetary benefits to owning a home, but we just couldn't find a place that was right for us.

The upper limit of what we're willing to pay is probably $800K. I saw a great house that I liked listed for $1.08M. That is way out of our price range, but I was wondering . . .how low can an offer be without offending the sellers? There was just a price reduction and the place has been on the market for 6-8 weeks. C and I are planning on seeing it this weekend and then we'll know if we want to make an offer. There's still a lot more we need to do if we're going to be serious about buying a place, like getting pre-approved. I've been hesitant to do that so far since I don't think we'll start to seriously look until this summer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Got the Promotion!

Back in February, I blogged about how to get a raise in a bad economy. I am happy to report that not only did I get a raise, I also got a promotion! Ok, so I actually found out about almost 2 months ago, but I've been super buys with work. While I was very happy to receive both, the raise was substantially less than what I was expecting. My raise was only 6%. While this wouldn't be bad in normal circumstances, this now puts me in the very middle of the pay grade for the position I had before my promotion. Dollar-wise, this is less than what I've received for all of my other promotions (I've moved up pretty quickly at my organization due to my hard work).

Well I'm taking it in stride since my company is going through a lot of organizational issues right now. Most likely we will be bought out within the next few months. In light of the different organizational announcements, I'm not sure if my promotion is a good thing, but I am sure that my lower than normal salary at my position will help me retain my job.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Work Like No One Else . . .

I haven't been posting much lately since I've been so busy at work. This past weekend, I could barely get out of my pajamas. I did manage to leave the house everyday, not in my PJs. I've been on the road, waking up early (even earlier for me since I'm in an earlier time zone), getting back to the hotel late, and feeling ill from poor eating habits.*

There's quite a few reasons that I'm working so hard, but I'm reminded by that Dave Ramsey quote, "Live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else."

Now I'm working a lot more than others so that I can be successful in my career. I am able to build on the foundation of success for the future when I don't have as much free time, such as when I have a family. Most of my friends cannot believe the travels that I must endure on certain projects (wake up Monday at 4 am, work full day, back home on Thursday at 10 pm) or how I always feel like I need to be "on call" for work.

It's the same premise that a lot of doctors go through. They work insane hours in residency in order to have a much more lucrative and stable occupation in the future. I think the skills, experiences, and relationships I'm gaining now will serve me well in the future. For that I am grateful.

"*One good thing about being on the road is that I eat out so much, the thought of eating out on the weekends disgusts me. I never thought that would happen to me, but when there's little choice but to eat out 16 times / week, it's no longer something to be savored. Four of the meals are Starbucks or other similar coffee shops. Four of the meals are gross cafeteria meals (even the salad is wilted and tired looking). The other four meals are dinners, often eaten late, without a lot of healthy choices.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting a Raise in a Bad Economy

I truly believe that I will be getting a year end raise shortly based on my performance in 2008, despite the fact that I work in an industry that's facing economic issues. Luckily I don't work in the auto industry. This is how I think you should position yourself for a raise.

1. Ensure that you work hard all year and deserve one. If you're so-so or no one ever compliments your work or you're new to the position, you probably don't deserve one at this time. On the other hand, if you're a star performer, people constantly ask you for help, and many people recognize your performance, then you probably do deserve one.

2. Provide measurable results, either revenue or cost reduction. I've worked in both areas and it's much better to be bringing in revenue. It's best if you can provide tangible numbers about how you're improving the company's bottom line.

3. Do research about industry standards. If you find that you're paid more than industry standards, don't expect any extra money to come your way when the economy is troubled.

4. Talk to your manager about your expectations. I've been positioning myself hard for promotion for about 6 months. At first my boss wasn't sure that I was ready. Last time we talked, he said he would support the promotion, but it's not guaranteed. Even if I don't get the promotion, both my boss and I know that I'm performing at that level and that I expect my salary to be bumped up to reflect that.

5. Look for alternatives. Either alternative perks at your current job such as tuition reimbursement or extra time off or an alternative job that will make you happier.

Good luck

Monday, February 09, 2009


My company is terrible about providing news about what's going on, but there have been some company layoffs.

One of my colleagues heard someone in an office next to him calling people to let them know they had been let go. Then a couple of people I had worked with in the past sent the good bye email.

In a bad economy, sometimes it's good to be performing well and underpaid. It means I'll be one of the last ones to be let go in my group.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I'm Planning a Somewhat Expensive Weekend Trip

Over Presidents Day, C and I are going to take a trip to Lake Tahoe. I think this is going to be pretty expensive. We're hoping to be able to do everything for $400 This is what we're budgeting:

Accommodations: $164
Lift Tickets/Rentals: $175
Gas: $39
Food: $22
Total: $400

Accommodations: We are going to go up for 2 nights, sharing a condo with another couple. This is the only price set in stone.

Lift tickets/Rentals: This is the major unknown. We need to do some more research on how to ski without breaking the bank. None of us have gone up to Tahoe to go skiing in a long time. If anyone has any suggestions, please provide. I also will probably need to buy some clothes. I'm new to winter sports, so at the minimal I think I need to get some pants. I already have a jacket I can wear and I can probably borrow goggle and gloves.

Gas: This is how much it cost last time we filled up

Food: This probably means we won't be eating out. If we can get the cost of lift tickets and rentals down, maybe we'll have dinner out one night.

In the grand scheme of things, $400 is a lot, but it's not that much. We will often treat family to dinner without thinking about it too much and spend $100. But this does mean we need to watch our other expenses in February.

We'll see if we can do it!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thinking About Grad School Because of the Economy?

I loved this post from Penelope Trunk about why grad school might not be the right option. Although I don't agree with everything here, it's fun to read her thoughts.

4. Law school is a factory for depressives.
It used to be that if you had a law degree it was a ticket to a high salary and a safe career. Today many people go to law school and cannot find a job. This is, in a large part, because law school selects for people who are good with details and pass tests and law firms select for people who are good at marketing themselves and can drum up business. Law firms are in a transition phase, and they have many unfair labor practices leftover from older generations, for example, hourly billing and making young lawyers pay dues for what is, today, a largely uncertain future. Which might explain why the American Bar Association reports that the majority of lawyers would recommend that people not to go into law.

I have quite a few friends who are lawyers. Most of them love it, but there are a few who have had a hard time finding the right job after grad school. The ones who are doing well typically went to really good schools and work insane hours in corporate law, but make a ton of money. I'm not sure how sustainable it will be in the long run, but they love it for now.

If I were a freshman in college, I would seriously consider becoming a pharmacist or optometrist. Both are high paying with good hours and the ability to have a flexible schedule. I think both would be excellent careers for working mothers, but that's just my opinion.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Almost No Spending for Feb 1 & Feb 2

On Sunday, we came back from a road trip. It was a family road trip, so finances were not discussed. We didn't chip in for gas since it wasn't our car we were driving. We had been planning on driving our car, but it looked like there was a problem with one of our tires, so someone else drove. With family, we are pretty loose with money. Someone, usually the parents, will pay for a lot of stuff and not ask for money back from anyone else (but note, these are very frugal family vacations - we hardly ever even go out to eat, instead we rent a place with a kitchen and cook meals). Once back we caught the end of the super bowl and ordered pizza. The parents paid for pizza. Oh wait, my husband bought some snacks at the gas station $0.89 and we picked up milk on our way home $6.50 for a gallon (yes it's expensive since we get organic). Total: $7.49.

Today I worked from home. I spent no money. I actually think I have a lot of "No Spend" days. I did mail out some books that I sold, but I had already purchased the stamps. My husband went to work, had lunch with his dad, and came home for dinner. If he didn't have lunch with his dad, he would have brown bagged it.

Basically we spent almost no money these past 2 days, but part of it was because we spent so much time with family. Luckily I didn't have to track spending on Saturday since we spent a lot more on that day (off the top of my head, $20 for lunch out, $2 for a drink, and $140 for skiing - total $162).

I think this is going to be a pretty light week in terms of spending. We don't normally go out during the weekdays, except to our church small group and the gym. For small group, everyone takes turns bring dinner and we brought dinner last week. The gym doesn't cost us anything out of pocket since we pre-paid for a 3 year membership back in 2006. Since I'm working from home, I'll pack my husband lunches and we'll have most dinners at home together. This weekend, we're going to visit my mom, who just moved to a new place. We'll probably take her out for dinner and take her shopping since she'll probably need new stuff for her place.

I might start on a traveling project later this month. In that case, I'll track what's everything I spend, mark the items that will be directly reimbursed, and just total my overall costs excluding the reimbursable expenses.

Also I just realized that I'm participating in Mrs. Micah's Where’s My Money Going? Month

Friday, January 30, 2009

Yesterday Was a Wonderful Day

I just say this post up at the White House Blog. This is great news for everyone!

Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job -- and she did it well -- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits -- losses that she still feels today.

Basically, Lily found out she was underpaid after working at Goodyear for about 20 years. She sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but she lost since the court said that the act of discrimination occurred during her first promotion, not in each subsequent paycheck. Since she didn't find out until after she had been working there for about 20 years, the statue of limitation had passed. I'm really happy that Obama and Pelosi are doing something about this!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily Spending Report Thursday 1/29

I've been thinking a lot about creating a daily spending report on this blog. I end up with a lot of "no spend days" when I'm working from home, excluding than rent, utility bills, etc. which are automatically paid.

So for today:
Lunch out: $8.63
2 sodas: $0.75
Dinner: Paid for by colleague
Public Transit: $1.50

Total $10.88

I don't normally eat out this much, but I've been working from home a lot, so it was a nice change to eat food not prepared by me.

I will be going out of town for the weekend. I'm going to try and post about all of my spending in the month of Feb. I might not get to post on Sunday, depending on what time I get back from my trip.

Still Figuring Out Goals for 2009

Ok, so I know that it's almost February, but I'm still thinking about my goals for 2009.

For 2008, I pretty much failed all of my goals.

I'm trying to decide if I should have a bunch of small goals or one or two larger ones. I'm thinking that a bunch of small goals might be easier.

Here are some smaller goals that I'm thinking about:

-Read 12 books
-Earn $100K in annual salary income (I'm pretty close)
-Earn $10K in bonus/other source income
-Exercise 15 minutes each day
-Sell at least $500 worth of stuff on craigslist/Amazon (does not include airline vouchers)
-Post at least 3 times per week
-Track expenses for at least 2 whole months
-Try to really live on a budget. What I mean by this is to pay all of my bill out of one checking account and actually manage to that amount. Right now I pay bills out of my ING checking account and I don't manage it that closely since we have a lot of cash savings in there to take advantage of the checking account rates that are higher than the savings account rates (when you have a higher balance)

I've given myself until Feb 1 to finalize my goals. Any thoughts or comments on other things that I should be thinking about?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Woman Quit $80K Job for Law School

I read this article on CNN about a woman who quit her $80K job to go to law school. After a year, she realized that it wasn't working out and now can't find a job making more than $20K a year.

This is why I think it's really important for high earners to really think and question about whether they should return to school.

A lot of my friends ask me if I'm going to go to business school. At this point, it doesn't make financial sense. I'm in at the level at my company that people leaving business school start at. Plus there's the huge opportunity cost of attending school.

Now if I were with a company that offered to pay for further education, I would take it, as long as it doesn't restrict me too much in my career. The benefits needs to be fair to both the employee and employer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Finally Took Down My Christmas Tree

I love Christmas, so I wanted to keep the tree up for as long as possible. But I finally decided that it was time to take it down.

I have this huge clear box that I use to store all of my Christmas related stuff. I hope we don't ever get more stuff that doesn't fit into the box! I like to put our ornaments back into the original boxes they came in. It takes up a lot more room, but it just seems nicer that way.

Of course, we have a lot of ornaments without boxes. Those all just go into one miscellaneous small box or ornaments. Most of those are not breakable, but a couple are. I try to put the soft ones around the fragile ones.

One thing that C and I have decided to do is to try and get one Christmas ornament from each foreign country we visit. If we can't find a Christmas ornament, a key chain is a good substitute; that's often pretty cheap. C laughs at my key chain Christmas ornaments, but I love them! We might start getting Christmas ornaments/key chains for each new place we visit too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Don't Forget to List Your Textbooks for Sale Now

There are two times which I seem to sell the most books - in January and in August/September. I missed the last good book selling time, but I'm hoping to see more this time. The problem is most of the books we have that others would be interested in belong to my husband. Since he still looks at his textbooks, I can't sell any of those. He likes to keep on "learning" despite the fact that he's not in school. Can you believe the guy!?!

Well I'm also trying to post some miscellaneous stuff on craigslist, like some no longer used kitchen items.

I have a big problem with decluttering in that I hate throwing stuff away. Yes, I don't need my teddy bear from when I was 7 and no one else probably wants that ratty old thing, but can't I at least donate it? Of course I know that I can donate my stuff that's in good condition, but some of the other stuff I just don't know what to do with.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm Thinking About Giving Up Blogging

I still love to read blogs, but it's hard for me to find the time, passion, and desire to post consistently. For the rest of this month, I should have more free time. I'm going to try to post more frequent, short posts and see if that helps me get back into blogging.

Friday, January 09, 2009

How Do You Decide When Something is a Need?

Recently I have been struggling with how to determine whether something is a need or not. One thing that I've recently been browsing is new furniture. When C and I got married, we grabbed some extraneous furniture from our parents' homes (we both lived at home before getting married). We bought very minimal new furniture, such as a microwave and microwave cart. We do have pretty nice towels, sheets, and other kitchen stuff since we received those as wedding gifts. Along the way, we picked up a few items from friends and a item or two from craigslist.

For the past 2 years, we have been using as plastic folding table as our dining table. Is it time to go and get a new one? We already have a pretty nice wooden dining table, but it's too small for C and I. We both like to spread out our stuff while we work at the dining room table.

I can't really seem to find anything on craigslist that I like. And I'm not sure it's worth the hassle since we would probably need to rent a truck to bring the table home. I've been looking at Pottery Barn (BTW, I don't think I have ever purchased anything there), Ikea, and Crate and Barrel. I want to get a rectangular table that easily seats 6 (or maybe 8) with a built in leaf. In the future C and I plan to have some kids running around and I want to be able to seat guests as well as family for small dinner gatherings.

So is this a need? Should I go ahead and try to buy a table that I think will last us for the next 10-20 years? Or should I just try to find something on Craigslist?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Watch Your Change!

Over the weekend, I was out with some friends in what I would term a “ghetto” neighborhood outside of San Francisco. My definition of a ghetto neighborhood is one where there are Bail Bonds businesses around. We stopped at a convenience store where we purchased a small item. One of my friends handed the cashier a $10 bill for the $3 goods. The cashier tried to shortchange him by only giving him $2 back. My friend immediately told him that he had given him a $10. I was nearby, not paying too much attention. My friend said the cashier purposely tried to shortchange him since the cashier immediately provided the correct amount, without even thinking about what bill he had received.

Afterward, my friends and I were talking. The cashier probably often has people stop by who are picking up alcohol on their way home. I bet he tries this trick with a lot of people, especially those who are not sober.

So the lesson is be aware when paying with cash (and credit)!