Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My first paycheck

I'm still looking for a better job (or second jobs) but I got my first paycheck from my fast food job a week ago. After tax (including the employment tax for the township and all that mumbo jumbo) I ended up with about $130. I really wasn't able to budget anything for savings, and I'm already penniless again. I'm kind of disappointed in myself, but I also knew this was going to happen, and here's why:

1) I started working halfway through the pay period. As such, I had not even 20 hours on my pay check. When you only make $7.50/hour, that makes it difficult to do much of anything.

2) I had to buy a bunch of stuff for my son. I had to get him a "potty seat" as he's become communicative about going to the bathroom finally (side note, my son is 26 months old and can't really talk, he starts speech therapy in a week), as well as pajamas (here's where I wasn't smart, I should have gone to a thrift store but I was already at Walmart so I bought him clothing there) and dishes. These things accounted for about half of my paycheck immediately after getting it.

3) My parents were out of town for the week, so I had to take my son to his father's house every day so I could go to work. That's easily triple, almost quadruple the amount of driving I have to do when my parents are here to watch him, so about another quarter of my paycheck went to gas, far more than my usual expenditure.

4) Finally, and here's where it's all my own fault, I had the ability to spend more time with my boyfriend over the course of time my parents were gone, and I bought things I normally wouldn't have (i.e. wine, fast food, etc) that left me broke. Not a wise financial investment, but we got to do things we never get to do otherwise, and it was nice.

My next paycheck should be a bit more (closer to $200). $50 is already accounted for as the first payment in my loan rehabilitation program. That is obviously non-negotiable, as I've gone too long without paying my loans, and rehabilitating them is the only way for me to go back to school and get the type of job that will actually allow me the income to truly become financially independent.

I still have another loan company I need to work with to hopefully establish a similar plan, but if I manage to do so, both loans will be out of default and removed from my credit score, virtually being "reset" and I can then negotiate income-based repayment while also qualifying for financial aid to go back to school. A tedious process, but I've come to the conclusion that my current "degree" in cosmetology is virtually useless. It's not something I want to do for the rest of my life, and while I enjoyed going to school, it was basically a waste of my time.

I blew it this check, but I'll do better next time around. I'm starting from rock bottom, so there's really no where to go but up!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ready, set, get out of debt!

Here is the budget I came up with. I used a tool to help me with the figures because I have poor math skills. You can use the one I used here, or find dozens just like it through Google or your favorite search engine. I just searched for "budget calculator" and this is the first one that came up.

I would also like to throw it out there that I did not include child support in any of this, nor did I budget out the "extra" money. This is simply calculating my necessary expenses and showing the amount of money left over from my wages after those expenses have been accounted for.

As you can see, I could pay rent and utilities on a 2 bedroom apartment (the places I'm looking to move are relatively inexpensive, $350-400/month+gas and electric), feed myself and my son, pay my school loans, car insurance and gas, have my son looked after while I'm working, put away a respectable amount in savings, and still have almost $50/week "left over" for he and I to do something fun. Add in the child support (which would basically just cover the cost of child care) and that would be an addition $200-300 each month that would mostly go into a separate savings for his "extra" needs (clothes, school supplies, birthday, christmas) or for he and I to do something special, like take a weekend vacation to the aquarium and zoo.

Some people would look at this and say "why are you putting $300 into savings each month, you could be spending that on things that make you and your son happy."

Who's to say I won't? The purpose of saving money is to have money set aside for a time when it's needed. $300/month works out to $3600/year. After 12 months of saving, I would have 2 full months' worth of bills saved up. Open a new savings account and start again, put $100 into the existing account, and $200 into the new one. At the end of the second year, my first account (which we'll call Emergency Fund) now has $4800, not counting interest gained. The new account (Special Savings) has $2400. So what does all of that mean?

To me, that means that in 24 months, I've saved $7200 dollars. 2/3rds of that is for emergencies, such as car problems, lost job, sick leave, etc. The $2400 in my Special Savings account could be for any number of things.

Maybe my car is getting old, and I really had my eye on that Jeep I saw advertised. Well now, with my trade-in and the $2400 I could probably afford a newer, quality vehicle. Maybe my car is fine, but I want to replace this old crummy mattress I've been sleeping on the last two years. No problem! I could definitely afford a nice bed for far less than $2400. Or a new couch, or a tv, or any number of other things.

Or maybe everything is absolutely fine, and nothing needs replaced. Maybe, just maybe, I really want a new tattoo or a couple new outfits. Still not a problem. That's what Special Savings is for. When I have done a good job with my money for a long time, not going without necessities or being more poor than was necessary, it will be ok to dip into that Special money to treat myself, or my son, to something we really WANT but don't necessarily need.

Now, let's back track a bit. Remember that this is the budget for when I move out. If I get this job, I don't plan to move out for several months. Probably 4-5 months. Let's take a look at what my budget would be in the meantime, with the same income.

Let's address the differences. First of all, I live here for free. I'm only responsible for my son's diapers, wipes, etc, and I get government assistance currently to help with the additional costs to my parents of having 2 extra mouths in the house (it's a modified Food Stamps program based on my income and the idea that I'm contributing to an existing household, rather than maintaining a separate one).

The $150 in groceries is an overly high estimate of my son's needs, our hygiene products (which don't cost me $150 in 3 months let alone 1), and the thought that I will occasionally forget to take food to work with me, and will have to find something inexpensive to put in my stomach and keep me going.

My transportation costs are minimal, since I'm only expected to replace the gas I use. Though I live in the country, I'm actually quite close to wear I work, and I rarely drive anywhere else, so I only need about $10-15 each week to get around.

Savings - $1000. Not hard when you make a lot of money and live free. This will help me get my own car fast.

Student loans, $750. Why not? True, I could save more of that, but I'm in debt way over my head, and I should take advantage of my low cost of living by putting as much towards getting OUT of debt as possible.

I'm still left with almost $25 a week in "pocket" money. More than enough! If I want to grab a drink with friends, or go glow bowling with my siblings for a night out, that's easily accomplished with that budget. As for fun with my son, it's summer time! There are LOADS of things to do with a 2 year old for free in summer. Honestly, spending money to do anything seems kind of ridiculous. He's two, he won't remember where we went, or what we did. He WILL remember, overall, how much fun he had playing with his mommy when he was little though.

I want to touch a little more on the student loans quickly. As I've mentioned, I'm over $13,000 in debt. The two budgets I've stated above would theoretically take me to December 31st, 2015. Let's take a look at how much I will have paid.
$750 X 4 months = $3000
$250 X 24 months = $6000

I'll have paid off $9000 in about 2.5 years. I've had this $13,000 in debt for about 3 years already so I'd say that's not too shabby. Not to mention, things like tax returns, extra tips, etc, could easily be used to pay off the remaining $4000 and I could, in theory, be OUT of debt starting in 2016.

What is it going to take? A LOT of dedication, hard work, and getting me a higher paying job RIGHT NOW. I'm ready! Let's do it!

Education and Employment

I have a technical degree in cosmetology. I am not without education. However, where I live, I actually make more money working in retail or food than I would make in a salon. With the economy the way it is, and the amount of time it takes to establish a clientele, it's rather difficult for me to make a name for myself as a stylist while being able to support my son and pay my bills. My education is, essentially, worthless.

Unfortunately, that "worthless" education came with a hefty price tag. I'm currently about $13,000 in debt, and I have no way to pay any of it off. Finding the right employment is the first step to solving all my problems.

I currently work 20 hours a week at Taco Bell. I just started there on June 15, 2013 (my 23rd birthday), and I'm hoping that by sticking it out, I'll eventually get more hours. However, at 7.50/hour, even full-time just won't cut it. I need a second job or a higher-paying replacement job. This is where it gets tricky though.

See, I live in the country. I also don't currently have my own vehicle or access to public transportation, and both of my parents work normal business hours. They get home at 5. It then takes me about 20 minutes to take their car and get back to a town or city where any job would be. This means I'm not able to work any shift starting before 5:30pm, and since my parents leave for work at 7:30, and my son wakes up at 9am, I need to be home by 5am to get some sleep.

My availability is 5:30pm - 5:00am. Not a lot of jobs have shifts within this time frame, let alone jobs that pay highly.

My parents are going out of town soon, for about 4 days. I'll be left with one of their vehicles. My son is going to be going to his father's house during the day for at least 2 of the days. I will be baby-free with a vehicle during normal business hours. If you've EVER been in a situation even remotely like mine, you know what this means.

Full scale job hunt.

I have a few leads on jobs, including a place that would pay me at least twice as much per-hour, with more hours and the possibility of full-time employment. There are a number of job openings for which I am qualified, and most of those jobs are also tipped positions. Let me break this down for you:

I currently make $7.50/hour and work 20/hours a week. That means I make $150 per week, BEFORE taxes are taken out. My actual paychecks are about $132/week.

This job I'm applying for, I'm not certain of the exact pay rate, but I know it's over $14/hour. We'll just use $14 for this illustration.

$14/hour, 8 hours/day, 5 days/week. That's $560/week before taxes. Take home would be between $400 and $450. Plus tips, which would be a few hundred a week at least. Let's say $150/week in tips.

If I get this new job, I'd go from making $7800/ year gross income to approximately $36920/year gross income.

I'm going to fight like hell for this job, and I'm also going to be looking for entry-level positions within a same pay grade. But this job, I want this job.

I've set up an example budget for if I were making this kind of money. It shows how I'd pay my bills, pay off my debt quickly, save, and still be able to do fun things for my son and myself. I'll post it in a separate post.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A little bit of background

Hey there! I'm Erica. I just wanted to give a proper introduction and background, so that there's something here while I set up and format the rest of this page.

First of all, I'm a 23 year old single mother. I currently live at home with my parents. I have full custody of my 2 year old son, and I'm currently working part-time at a fast food restaurant.

Sounds like I'm a free loader, right?

Wrong. I've never really learned how to manage money though. I'm realizing more and more how uneducated I am when it comes to financial matters. So I'm taking matters into my own hands.

This is going to be a personal finance and single parenting blog. These are two things that are important to me, and that I'm learning more about every day. I'm going to be writing about how to establish, balance, and follow a budget for a family on a single income, as well as stories about all the crazy things that happen with me and my son at any given time.

I'm new to money management, so I'll probably make a lot of bad decisions at first, but hopefully I'll learn from them, and also be able to help others to learn from them.

Here are some of my personal goals:

1) Increase income to minimum $20,000/yr (currently less than half of that)
2) Save enough money to purchase my own vehicle without financing
3) Begin paying off all my defaulted loans and debt
4) Move out with enough money in savings for at least 2 months of bills.
5) Finish paying off all my defaulted loans and debt

My first two goals have a "due date" of December 31st, 2013. Obviously I cannot actually make 20,000 between now and then as I lack a bachelor's degree, but I can find a job that gives me the ability to make that much in a 12 month period. If I find that job, since I live with my parents, I can very easily save enough money to buy my own vehicle, which would open up my work availability so that I can make MORE money and start paying off my debt and saving money.