Monday, December 26, 2005

Hope everyone had/is having a Happy Holidays.

My grades for the past semester came out this week. I ended up with a 3.17 GPA for the term. I'm satisfied with that, but I need to improve it. This semester I took 17 credit hours, worked 20-25 hours/week, and was involved in a couple social work projects. Next semester I'm only taking 15 hours, and I plan to work the same amount. I have no extracurriculars lined up, so hopefully I can do better next term.

I still have about another week before I have to go back to school.

I've been continuing my system to try to maximize my rewards points from my mtvU card. I'm set to get another 1000+ points this month.

I also made a trip to the local bank to check on my CD. It's set to mature in 2007 with a 3.50% APY. Currently the balance is $4793.29. I probably won't include that number in my updates, since it will distort my progress reports so far.

I also plan on moving most of my money from ING to HSBC. I'll keep the ING account open, just in case their rates become attractive again.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I received the second letter (containing my password) from HSBC today, after receiving the first letter containing my user ID # on Monday. I opened the account early morning Wednesday, December 14. Funds from my checking account were transferred Dec 19, and my $25 account bonus was deposited Dec 20. Eight days from account opening to $25 bonus. A little quicker than other people have reported.

Although it does take a little longer to open than ING, I'm very pleased with the account opening process and HSBC in general thus far.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Today I cleaned up the room (at home) a little bit. Emphasis on a little bit. But I did manage to sort through the last few months of mail and get all my paper bank and CC statements in order. I also rounded up all my pay stubs and filed them away. I had about a large box full of mail that had built up over the course of just 4 months. 90% of it was "pre-approved" credit offers.

While cleaning, I also found some pieces of paper I had scribbled on while at work over the summer. Looks like I formulated two plans for saving on the back of receipts. One plan had me saving $50/month; the other plan was a bit more ambitious with me saving $75/month. It's nice to look back on those now, when I'm saving $200+ every month.

I almost forgot- I found the old passbook for my CD at a local savings & loan. I found out the CD was opened for a 2-year term in 1993 with an initial deposit of $2500 at 5.65% (a much higher amount than I originally thought.) Nice. My parents took the initiative to take the $2500 out of my regular savings and put it in a CD while the rates were high. Thanks Mom & Dad. :) It's been renewed every year or two years since then, with obvious fluctuations in the rate. I'm sure now I could get a higher rate with more liquidity with an online savings account. There's now some doubt that this CD will actually mature in February 2006. I might have to wait until 2007. There is some good news, however:
  1. I believe I can meet my $3000 savings goal without the money from this CD
  2. I found out my bank now has online account access. I registered and they're sending me my login info in the mail. Hopefully I can verify how much is in there and when it matures.
So if/when I find out more info, I'll update everything.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Back at home for Winter Break now. I'll probably be writing more up until Christmas since classes are over and I'm not working this week.

I started planning out my 2006 goals today. Sort of a New Year's Resolution type thing. So far I've come up with 5 goals, not all of them finance-related. In order of importance:

2006 Goals:
  1. Go to Australia.
  • I have the opportunity to study abroad in Australia for about 4 weeks May-June. The program includes travelling all over the country, from Sydney, to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest, to the Outback. I only have to take 2 classes while I'm there too, so I'll have plenty of time to enjoy my stay. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one that I need to make happen.
2. Maintain a 3.5 GPA for all semester of 2006.
  • Currently my overall GPA is a 3.416. I think I managed a B average this semester, so that should drop a little :(. I'd like to maintain a 3.5 for all of 2006. That includes next semester (Jan-May 2006,) the Australia semester (May-June 2006) and the fall semester (Aug-Dec 2006.) If I can achieve an overall 3.5 in each of these semesters, I will consider my goal met.
3. $3000 in liquid savings by May 1, 2006.
  • I'd like to have $3000 in my liquid savings accounts (ING, HSBC) by May 1. I'm sure some of this money will be spent in Australia, but I'm not sweating it-Australia is a worthy expense to me. At least HSBC has low (0?) currency exhange fees for their ATM and debit cards.
4. Open a Fidelity account by Dec 31, 2006.
  • I'd like to open an account at Fidelity. Mainly for the ability to consolidate my finances, since they offer checking with ATM access, credit cards through MBNA, and investment accounts. I plan to start investing larger amounts of money once I raise up enough in my liquid savings accounts to feel comfortable with long-term investing. I believe Fidelity offers free dividend reimbursement, which is right up my alley. I'm also considering opening a Roth IRA either in 2006 or 2007. Even just socking $1000/year into a Roth IRA would make a huge difference 45 years from now. Plus, if I ever absolutely needed the money, my understanding is I could withdraw my contributions with no penalty.
5. Work out more.
  • I use to run pretty regularly, just 2-4 miles every couple days. But now between school work and the cold weather, I haven't run in months. My school is opening a new recreational facility with all kinds of new equipment and indoor tracks, so now I have no excuse not to exercise. Best of all, membership is free to students.
That's all I can think of for now. I'll update this as I think of new goals.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sold the last of my books back to the bookstore today. I paid about $430 total for my books, (most of them purchased new thanks to course requirements for updated editions,) and received a whopping $109. Figured I'd post that in case anyone is curious about how much of a ripoff the textbook resale industry is for most students.

Fortunately for me, my employer reimburses me for my textbook expenses. So basically, that was $109 of pure profit this week. I actually make money by buying (and reselling) my text books. If only my mtvU card gave me 5 pts/dollar spent at my campus bookstore... :)

I've also paid off 2 of my credit cards for the month. The statement for the third card will post tomorrow, and it's only $21.27, so I'm almost liability-free for a month or so.

I scheduled an extra $50 to be sent to ING tomorrow, in addition to the $50 that is automatically transferred every Thursday. Because of HSBC's relatively strict (but secure) account opening procedures, I may not have access to my online account for a couple of weeks while I wait for my information to arrive in the mail. In the mean time, I'll continue to throw money into the ING account. This puts me at about $1750 in ING, and $100 in HSBC. Hopefully I'll make some money over Christmas break and receive some nice cash gifts and get my savings above the coveted $2000 mark.

Sadly, $2000 is a big deal to me. We all have to start somewhere I suppose.

Looks like HSBC upped their rate to 4.25%. Good timing on my behalf since I just opened an account there. Here's a locked FatWallet thread about the rate increase and a new $25 promo code.

I opened my account with $100, and hopefully I'll get the $25 bonus I signed up for. I also signed up for the ATM card. Not a bad deal. If I like it enough I may consider moving my money there from ING.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Opened an HSBC Direct account tonight. I found a thread on FatWallet with a link for a $25 sign up bonus. It currently pays 4.00% compared to ING's 3.75%. Should be interesting to see how both banks react to the Fed's interest hike today.

I mainly opened the account for the $25, but if I like it, I'll put more money into it. I plan on keeping ING just because I like them and I still have referals left. (If anyone wants one, email me at StartingMoney [at] Gmail [dot] com. Must have $250 opening deposit.) My initial HSBC deposit is just $100.

I haven't gotten the email to confirm my application yet... hopefully they don't "deny" me ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This week is exam week, so throughout the week I'll be trying to sell back my textbooks at the campus bookstore like every other college student this time of year. Since I'm reimbursed for my textbook purchases by my employer, I actually make a profit by selling my books back to the bookstore.

Today I sold back three books for a total of $65. Not too bad.

Quick update before I pay off my CCs this week:

Assets:
  • Checking: $1008.73
  • ING Direct: $1695.12
  • Investments: $331.14
  • Tuition reimbursement: ~$3000
Liabilities:
  • Credit cards: $576.27
Net worth: $5458.72

Monday, December 12, 2005

Two posts in one day? I'm starting to like this blogging thing.

Today I began considering transferring an extra $50 to my ING account this week. Usually, I have $50 each week automatically transfered from my checking to my savings account. The goal is to effortlessly save $200/month with this system.

Up until now I wanted to keep about $300 in my checking account - "just in case" - and have the rest transferred into savings at the end of each month. Realistically, I think I could get away with just $200 in my checking account. The benefit of being a college student is I have very few large expenses and there aren't any realistic emergencies that would come up that I couldn't put on a CC. With a 25 day grace period, I'd have plenty of time to transfer money from ING and pay off the CC.

So I feel I could be pretty comfortable with $200 in my checking account and transferring the rest over to ING. Every little bit of saving helps, especially since my checking account effectively pays 0%.

Well, back to studying. Wish me luck (I'll need it.)

It's late, and I should be studying for my exams tomorrow, but instead I'm looking over my bank accounts and credit card statements. This week two of my CCs posted statements, so I'll take the time to give a brief progress update here.

Last month, I began a new strategy to maximize any rebate points and cashback bonuses I can earn with my credit cards. One of my goals was to use my Citi mtvU card solely for purchases that earn 5 pts for every dollar spent (restaurants, movie theaters, bookstores, video rental stores.) I spent $411.56 this month on my mtvU card, and all but $63.13 qualified for 5 point/$1 purhcases. The $63.13 only earned me 1pt/dollar because the campus bookstore is coded as an organization, not a bookstore. Overall I consider the method successful. In 30 days of relatively "normal" spending, I racked up 1800 ThankYou points on one card. I could get a $10 giftcard for just one month of spending, but I'm holding out for a $50 giftcard.

In about 2 weeks of using the Dividend card, I've racked up 6.14 Dividend Dollars. I've been surprised how fast the rebates have added up for this card.

Next month, all my purchases on the mtvU card will be 5pts/dollar. One purchase per month will go to my Driver's Edge card, earning 1% back, just to keep the card current and reporting. Every other purchase will go on the Dividend card, earning 5%/1% cashback.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just a quick update. My birthday is this week, so I've received some money as gifts. So far I've collected about $75 in cash gifts, and some alcohol and a free dinner on top of that. Not too shabby. ;)

Quick net worth update as of Dec 8 2005:


Assets:
  • Checking: $850.67
  • ING: $1645.12
  • Sharebuilder: $325.40
  • Tuition reimbursement: ~$3000
Liabilities: (measured by current amounts on my CC, PIF each month)

  • $576.27
Total net worth: $5244.92

More updates later

Friday, December 02, 2005

For the last week or two I've been getting into the habit of paying for everything I can on my credit cards to take advantage of my rewards programs. For example, I put the entire bill at a restaurant on my credit card, and have my friends reimburse me for their share in cash. I don't spend anymore than I would otherwise, but I get the ThankYou points for the whole amount. So far this billing period I think I've earned somewhere close to 1000 ThankYou Points just through Citi mtvU card. The 5 pts for every $1 spent at restaurants and movie theaters is responsible for most of these points. I now have three credit cards, which I use strategically to maximize rewards programs.

Here's my system:

  • Citi Platinum Select mtvU card for all purchases at movie theaters, restaurants, bookstores, and video rental stores. (5 pts for every dollar spent)
  • Citi Platinum Select Dividend card for all gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases (5% cashback)
  • Citi Driver's Edge card for all other purchases (1% back on non-gas/grocery/drugstore purchases)
I'll redeem my ThankYou Points for a $50 giftcard, probably to Shell, but possibly BestBuy if there's a particular gadget I want to buy when I redeem my points. My Driver's Edge points actually go to a rebate on the purchase of a car or a rebate for repairs made to my car. Currently I have about $12.00 in Driver's Edge points, which I may end up converting to ThankYou Points. I believe they're offering 100 ThankYou Points for every $1 in Driver's Edge points. By redeeming my points I could gain an additional 1200 ThankYou Points. Still have to think about that though.

That's all for now. I'll update my account holdings either this weekend or next week.

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