Monday, August 16, 2010

The Most-Used Card in My Wallet

This morning I grabbed my transit card and realized that I use my transit card way more than my credit card. In the past week, I've used my transit card at least five times--four days of commuting to work and one bus trip over the weekend. I've used my credit card twice, for Domino's and snacks at 7-11.

Ignoring my poor eating habits for a moment, it's a rare week lately when I use my credit or debit card more than my transit card. I use my credit card for almost all expenditures so I can get a few rewards dollars at the end of the year. Obviously, I pay it off every month--my typical credit card bill is about 1/500th of my net worth.

Examining how often you use the various cards in your wallet seems like an interesting exercise to me. If you're trying to drive less or spend less, see if you can use a bus pass or train pass more than your credit card. If you're trying to build your small business, maybe you could set a goal of using your business cards more than you use your credit card.

Personally, I think I also use my library card more than my credit card--especially if you count every time I log in online as a "use." The only other card in my wallet is my driver's license, which I use only as a form of ID. (I haven't driven in about five years...I do want to start driving again someday, but it's pretty far down on my list of priorities.)

Which card in your wallet do you use the most?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Keepin' On

It's been about two and a half years since I really started saving for an early retirement. I've made progress faster than I expected (I'm about 12,000 ahead of where I thought I would be at this point). However, I don't think I'll be able to retire in four and a half years, since my financial situation has changed.

Right now I'm spending about $1900-2300 a month. This covers our rent, utilities, all the food my boyfriend and I eat, and my personal expenses (which now that I think of it are pretty low lately--$52 at the salon every month or two, an occasional event with friends, clothes, except that all I've bought this year are a couple of bras. I haven't spent anything on travel since December and basically nothing on "stuff.").

We're pretty frugal on day to day expenses. Eating out about once a week is basically our one splurge--at about $20 to $25, or $80 to $100 a month. Most of our expenses are in rent--$1250 a month. Could we reduce that? Probably by a little. We *might* (boyfriend, if you're reading this, I stress might) be able to find a place we're 85% happy with for $850. But would it really be worth the PITA factor of looking? We really, really hated looking for apartments last time. It took us FOREVER.

We are finally in an apartment we like. It's top floor, a good size for us, decent neighborhood and right by the train, but an easy drive to suburbs for my boyfriend's job, with central air and heat and an included parking space. This is without a doubt the best of the four apartments we've lived in together.

If we had enough money that a move to a new, cheaper apartment would actually allow us to stop working, I could see us doing it. But right now it would be more like "if we move into a place we're not crazy about, we could retire in several years." I don't think we have the patience for that. So for now the ER date is further out than I originally hoped.

I do, though, still have a little slip of paper on my desk at work with a date written on it--the day I'm "allowed" to quit. Whether I actually quit on that day, or before, or after, will depend on a lot of things. Will my job still be here in 5 years? Will I have a lot more work because other people have been laid off? Will I still have free health insurance? Will I still get the company match on my 403(b)?

I still hope to never need to take another full-time job. I make some money from freelancing, and I think I could increase it. I haven't really experimented with this because the work I do get keeps me so busy. But with the amount I expect to have saved in 5 years, I think I could make up the difference with freelancing, supplemented with another business or a little office temping if I had to.

And in the meantime I save about 40-50% of my takehome every month, plus the 25% that goes straight into my 403(b). I keep doing my freelancing. I keep getting little checks from ehow every month, and socking away anything extra that I get. The nest egg keeps growing. The growth will accelerate as the next egg gets bigger. I keep getting rid of things I don't need. We keep looking for little ways to slash the grocery bill. We slowly reduce the amount we eat out, because our cooking is getting better and it's not as much of a treat anymore.

We keep on keepin' on.

EDIT: Google/Blogger knows me scarily well, because the ads that they put on my blog are ones I'm actually tempted to click on. I've never been tempted to click on online ads on any site, but local sources for Indian food? Yes, please. Alas, clicking on your own ads will quickly get you removed from Google ads for violation of terms of service.