Tag Archives: money

It’s Taxes Time (or Seeing My Hard Work Pay Off)

I don’t think that anyone is excited to do their taxes and owe money. Because of my jobs, I know I will owe money each year. None of my jobs take my taxes out for me, and even though I do my estimated payments like I need to they are usually not enough to cover what I owe. I know this is the situation I’m in so I am as prepared as possible for tax time. I save all my work related receipts (and there are a ton of them) and I save money out of every paycheck to use at tax time. But even with that, I’m always nervous that the news is going to be bad when I get my taxes done.

I went to Daphne at Chuck Sloan and Associates again and I’m so glad I did! First of all, everyone at Chuck Sloan understands actor and creative type taxes and the unique situations we are all in. They aren’t scared by dozens of jobs and the forms and all the weird deductions we need to do. And they understand how stressful tax time can be for us all. But I’m so happy that I have Daphne doing my taxes because she’s extra awesome! We bonded the last time she did my taxes over Disneyland and since I was going to Disneyland after doing my taxes with her I knew we’d talk about that.

Last year, Daphne showed me the worst case scenario with my taxes before she put in all my deductions so that I would feel better about how much I had saved up. I had asked her to do that for me again and once again it was less than what I had saved for my taxes. That’s always a huge relief because I know that no matter what I will have enough money to pay what I owe. But since now I’m feeling more comfortable with that, it was all about how well I tracked my work spending and tracked my deductions.

I like to think that I’m a pretty organized person and that I did a good job tracking expenses in 2016. Since I had my taxes done by Daphne once already, I knew what I should be aware of and what can be deducted. There are so many accountants that let you deduct things that aren’t totally on the up and up, so I’m glad Daphne is very careful in her work and tells me when things look weird (like how I accidentally tracked buying my new computer twice). I’m sure that there is more that I can deduct, but I’m still learning how to do the best that I can.

And even though I thought I had done all my tracking without missing things, there were a few things that I totally forgot about and I’m so glad we went over any other expenses I might have had in the year. I forgot that I got a new phone (which I do have to use for acting and my research job) and for some reason I never tracked the money that I spent to produce “Single Parent Date Night”. This is another reason I love having Daphne do my taxes. She knew to ask about these sort of things just in case I didn’t remember to track them on my paperwork (I’m sure anyone at Chuck Sloan would do the same since they know to look for these things).

In the end, I owed less than half of what I had saved for my taxes. This is so much better than I ever could have imagined! The money left over is going to be saved for another trip to New York that my sister-in-law and I are hoping to take next year. I still have more time to save more money, but I think what I have left over from my taxes savings should be able to cover pretty much the entire trip! I was only hoping that I would have about half of what I needed for that trip leftover so having this much is a big surprise to me and it making me relax a bit about how I will be able to afford that trip.

I’ve already written my checks to the IRS and sent them off so I’m now totally done with doing my 2016 taxes. It’s nice to get them done early enough so there isn’t a huge rush to do them at the last minute. And I’ve already started planning on what I can do this year to make the taxes easier next year. I will be paying more in estimated taxes, so that will help how much I owe. But I also now will be tracking my expenses even better because I learned where I was slacking last year that caused me to miss out on some potential deductions.

While it was nice in the past to be very uninvolved in my taxes, that’s not a luxury I can afford anymore. I know that with my current jobs that I will always owe money at the end of the year and I like being able to sit down with Daphne and go over everything so I understand why I owe what I do. I can see what deductions took off what and where I could have done better. I guess being more involved with all of this is just something that is required when you want to be more responsible and acting more like an adult.

Unexpected Car Shopping (or New Year New Car)

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Eve post, my car died as I was leaving the party I went to. It was a really weird situation with what happened. I was driving home and I started to hear a ticking or clicking noise coming from the front of my car. Maybe 10 or 15 seconds later my car completely shut down and died. All the warning things were flashing in the front of my car and alarms were going off and then everything shut down. White smoke started to come out of my engine and I could smell something that smelled like it was burning. I had no power, no electricity, no lights. It was so scary but fortunately the freeway hadn’t gotten too crowded yet so I was able to drift over to the side of the freeway.

I got my car as far to the side as I could (there wasn’t a full shoulder for me to pull over into) and immediately called AAA. I told them I wasn’t in a safe situation because I couldn’t get the lights on in my car and I was still a bit into the slow lane and they promised to get a tow truck out to me as soon as possible. After being in a dead car for about 20 minutes, I could finally get my emergency flashers on and my lights would occasionally turn on. I just sat in my car with my seatbelt on (I was worried someone would hit me and I wanted to try to stay safe) and tried to stay warm as it was cold out and the heater in my car was dead too.

The tow truck got to me and I was towed home. The next day, even though my mechanic is open on Sundays, the mechanic was closed for New Year’s Day. I took Ubers to and from Orangetheory and limited my errands to stuff I could walk to and stuff I could carry home. I told my parents what happened and they were feeling hopeful that maybe this would just be another repair and it would be ok. But because I was in the car when it happened, I felt pretty certain that this was a bad sign and that there was no way we could repair my car for a reasonable cost. I started looking at used cars online and seeing what types of car I would consider. When I told my parents about that, they told me to look at Subaru Crosstreks because they are a good car, not too expensive, and while they are smaller and shorter than my Escape they still have a decent amount of room.

On Monday, I took an Uber to and from the gym again and once I was home and showered I called for another tow truck so I could get my car towed to my mechanic. I had warned my mechanic I’d be coming by and he warned me that this might be the end of my car. But I still wanted him to see it just in case I was overreacting and there was some hope left.

And as I expected, the car was done. In order to get it to work again, I would need to buy a new engine for it. And even doing that doesn’t mean I won’t have more problems in the next year or so. I called my parents to run things by them and they agreed that I needed to just get a different car. I’m so lucky that they were able to help me with buying a car so I didn’t have to get something that was super cheap and might not last that long.

I had called the Subaru dealership and they were able to meet with me that day. And even though my Escape wasn’t working anymore, they could give me a little bit of money as a trade in (it was more of a courtesy so I could get the car off of my hands). While I was waiting for a tow truck to bring me and my car to the dealership, I texted a couple of friends to see if anyone could meet me at the dealership to help me with car buying. I’m not great at making huge decisions like that and I wanted a friend with me. Fortunately, my friend Dani was free and was happy to help me out.

I had looked at the dealership’s used cars online the day before, so I knew what options I really had. I wanted to look at a few different cars and try a couple of types of cars as well, but Dani was willing to make sure I asked all the right questions and didn’t get taken advantage of by the salespeople. The first car I drove was a 2014 Crosstrek that was a really cool bright blue color. It was a nice car to drive and had some really nice features. It had about 40,000 miles on it so it was a used car but not super used. There was another 2014 Crosstrek on the lot, but I didn’t drive it because I didn’t realize that the technology in the car was the lowest end and was pretty outdated by then.

There was one 2016 Crosstrek on the lot and that was the next car I drove. It was much sportier than I’m used to, but it was really fun to drive. It didn’t have all the features I was looking for, but that was ok. Dani helped me to realize that having a GPS built into the car isn’t that important when I can just use my phone. And Dani (who rode in the backseat during the test drives), told me that the 2016 was a much nicer ride for her back there. And while this car was used, it was pretty close to new. It only had 5,000 miles on it and was only owned for a few months by the previous owner (they got into a situation where they didn’t need a car anymore which is why they sold it back to the dealership).

The last car I checked out was a Forester, which is closer in size to what my Escape was like. I love being able to sit up high, but the Forester was just too much car for me. I don’t need that huge of a car right now. And if I do end up needing a huge car later down the line, then I’ll look at them then. But for now, I needed a car that worked and wanted something that was fun to drive and perfect for me getting around town.

After some conversation with my parents (since they were funding the purchase I wanted their opinion and approval) and debating back and forth with Dani who was a great voice of reason for me, I ended up going with the 2016 Crosstrek. It is the better deal considering that it is basically a new car. I got a really great deal on it because there are some scratches on the car. But I don’t mind the damage because as my dad put it, I’d probably get scratches on it eventually. It’s a city car and it’s not meant to look perfect.

After deciding on the car, Dani had to leave and I was there for another few hours doing all the paperwork involved with a car purchase. We had to do the release of liability for the Escape and there were dozens of pages for me to sign for the Crosstrek. But about 8 hours after calling for the tow truck to bring my Escape to the mechanic to find out if it’s dead, I was leaving the Subaru dealership with my new used car!

This was not at all how I thought the beginning of my year would go. Even a week later, I’m still a little overwhelmed by the entire situation and what happened. I don’t believe it at times. My Escape was a great car for me for so long and I’m still sad that it died. But I’m so happy with my Crosstrek and how nice it is! I have personalized plates that have been on every car I’ve had and I did get them off of my Escape when I left it as a trade-in. I can’t put them on my Crosstrek yet, but once I do I think the car will feel more like mine and that I will finally be able to wrap my head around the entire situation.

My 2017 Goals (or I Know This Year Will Be Amazing!)

It’s the beginning of 2017 and I’m ready to make this year so amazing! I have a lot of things happening this year and while they are not all great things I know that I can do incredible things even with the struggles I know the year will bring. As always, I don’t set resolutions because I don’t feel like those have a long-term feeling. I like to set goals for what I can get done in the year and I’m ready to share my 2017 goals with you all.

My first goal is a fitness related one. I didn’t quite make my fitness goal for 2016, but I’m still trying to do better than that goal. This year, I want to do 181 workouts at Orangetheory. This is going to be a huge challenge for me. First, I only did 177 workouts last year so this is 4 more than what I did before. But also, with my liver surgery, I may need to take several weeks off of working out. Because of that, I will have to do more 4 workout weeks before surgery and after I recover. But I’d love to make 4 workout weeks more of the norm so setting a goal of 181 workouts is a great way to push myself to do that.

My next goal is to get through my liver surgery as easily as possible. I know that this will be hard to do since I have no clue how my body will react to surgery and recovery. But I am a big believer in the power of positive thought and that’s what I’ll be doing. When I had my hip surgery, I was in the gym the next day on the recumbent bike working out because I was told that moving would be good for me. So my plan is to think that I will be able to get through surgery with few problems. I will have to spend some time at the hospital after surgery, but with positive thinking I’m hoping the time will be as limited as it can be. I know this will be a painful process, but I still want to focus on the positives and hoping that the pain will be manageable and that I will have a fast recovery.

The next goal is to continue on my journey through recovery and to reduce my binge episodes even more. I know that setting a goal to eliminate binges is setting myself up for failure, but to even reduce the average to be one fewer a week would be awesome! I want to continue to reading my recovery books to be inspired and get my brain in a place where recovery is possible. This isn’t an easy goal, but I’m excited to see what progress I can make this year.

Next are money related goals. I have a number that I want to get my debt below this year. I’m not sharing that publicly because that won’t mean much to everyone else, but it will be a reduction of about 25% of the debt I currently have. I would love it to be lower, but because I am not making a ton of money right now I know that I must have slightly realistic goals. And along with that, I would not only like to pay down my debt but I would also like to have some savings as well. I don’t want to have to use my credit card for unexpected expenses like car problems or wanting to buy things like my Disneyland pass. If I had savings, I could use that for those expenses while still being able to pay down debt.

I also have a goal of hopefully setting a PR again in my 5K race time. I have 2 races planned for this year so hopefully I can PR at one or both of them! I plan on increasing how long my running intervals are so that should hopefully help to make getting a PR easier for me. I’m not as focused on increasing my speed right now, but maybe that will be something I work on toward the end of the year for future PRs.

And my last goal (which I seem to set each year) is to have more fun. I’m even trying to make my liver surgery fun by telling my friends that they will have to come and visit me in the hospital so I can have a good time there. I plan on continuing my adventures to Disneyland and Universal Studios and hopefully having more fun random outings. There is so much stuff in LA that I haven’t done yet even though I’ve lived here for almost 16 years and I want to have more fun in the city I call home.

So that’s it for my goals for 2017. I think I’ve set some really good ones and I’m excited to do my best to accomplish them all! And I hope that at the end of December, I look back at this post and am proud of what I got done. But for now, I’m just happy to start working on all of these and checking things off throughout the year!

Adventures In Banking (or More Customer Service Stories)

Since I work in customer service, I know that sometimes someone is having a good day and sometimes someone is having a bad day. As a customer service rep,  I can’t make every customer happy (I just got in trouble yesterday by a customer who called me rude to the owner of the company I work for because I refused to do things that I either have no authority or legal right to do). I’m aware that because of my job in customer service, I can be a tough customer from time to time. I do expect a lot out of customer service reps since that’s the standard that I have for myself, and I really hate when I have a bad experience.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of customer service people from banks lately. After setting up my DBA for work, I’ve had to do a couple of things and one of those things was getting a business bank account set up. My first stop was my current bank since it would be easiest to have everything in one place. Unfortunately, I would have to pay $15 a month to have a business bank account until I had a minimum balance in the account which was higher than I’m comfortable with.

Even though I couldn’t do the account at my bank, they were so nice to me there. They looked into some possible loopholes that might be able to get the fee waived for me, they tried to find other options, and they really did everything they could to try to find a solution that would make me happy. I’m sure that they also want to keep my business, but any bank should want my business whether or not I’m already a customer.

I ended up doing some searching online for business bank accounts with no monthly fee and found a bank that happens to be one block away from my current bank. My first attempt to go there to talk to someone was not a success because I forgot it was Columbus Day and the bank was closed (totally my fault for not looking into bank holidays). But I was able to go back the next day and that’s exactly what I did.

When I arrived nobody greeted me or asked me what I was at the bank to do (they do that at my current bank), so I waited in line to talk to a teller to find out what to do. They directed me over to some chairs and said there was one person ahead of me needing to discuss business accounts. I took a seat and got my book out to read.

The person ahead of me went back and before they did, a bank employee came to look to see if I had the paperwork I needed to open a business account. They quickly glanced at everything, said it was fine, and said they’d be back soon to help me. I ended up waiting almost 2 hours to be helped. By the time they got to me, the bank was closed. But since I had been waiting since before they closed, they weren’t going to send me away.

They started to look at my paperwork and process things and then told me that I needed $100 to open an account. I’m aware that this is my fault, but nobody told me how much I needed to open an account and I didn’t have $100 in cash (or a blank check) with me. I asked if there was any way I could run over to my bank and get cash from the ATM, but they said that since they were already closed that if I left to get money they couldn’t let me back in.

I left that bank feeling pretty annoyed. In the 2 hours I was sitting and waiting, I easily could have gone to my bank and had the cash that I needed. When they came to check my paperwork to see if I had what I needed, they could have told me that I needed $100 or they couldn’t open the account. But instead I wasted 2 hours sitting on my butt in a bank with nothing accomplished.

I put a bit of a rant up on Facebook that evening because I decided that even though they seemed to be the best option for a free business account, I didn’t want to give them my business. I deserved to be treated better than how they treated me. I never should have waited as long as I did because my time is valuable. And I wasn’t going to be devalued again.

A few of my friends recommended a credit union that they believed had free business accounts. So yesterday, I headed over to the credit union to talk to them. First, I have to say that doing business in a credit union that is housed in a building owned by a major studio is pretty fun. In the entryway there were a bunch of props and other things from movies the studio has done before. And in the credit union, they’ve got a lot of movie themed stuff (sorry that I didn’t get any pictures of it!).

I wasn’t able to get my account set up while I was there because I actually need some more paperwork that I will be getting from the LA County courts in the next few weeks. But once I can do that, I can set up the account (and while it’s not always free, there’s a low enough balance requirement that I can handle it).

Even though I couldn’t do the bank account at the moment and that was discovered within minutes of sitting down, I couldn’t have asked for a better customer service experience. The woman helping me was more than willing to answer all my questions that I’ve been coming up with. I’ve never opened a business bank account so this is all new and sometimes overwhelming to me. But she was patient and took her time making sure that when I left there that I had all the answers I needed and that I knew exactly what I needed to bring with me the next time I come in.

Hopefully my paperwork from the court will come soon so I can set everything up, but there is no question that I am going to go with the credit union (as long as everything works out for me) instead of the bank. I want my money to be a place where I feel comfortable going in to talk to a banker or where I know that they won’t waste my time. It’s important to feel good about where you are giving your business, and clearly the customer service experiences that I had influenced me.

Splurging On Technology (or I Guess I Had To Get A New Phone)

I’ve written recently about how my phone had been dying. When I wrote that post, my phone was lasting between 3-6 hours in a charge and I was finding tricks to make that ok with me. I had no plans on getting a new phone, mainly because I hate the new giant phones and I didn’t want something that wouldn’t be easy for me to use.

When I went to Tahoe, my phone got even worse. The battery was lasting maybe an hour if I was lucky. I was carrying 2 external batteries with me and I was charging my phone every chance I had (thankfully my mom has a charger in her car). Again, I was really not wanting to get a new phone, but I was starting to realize that I probably had to take some of my savings to invest in a new one.

I started to do some research on iPhones and discovered that there was a lower version of them called the SE. Basically, it is the same technical stuff as the 6S, but it is the small size like my 5S. It’s not the latest and greatest phone, but that was ok with me. Usually I only want to get the newest stuff since technology becomes outdated quickly, but I was willing to change it up for the phone. Plus, the lower version phone was half the cost of the new ones and that was worth it to me.

When I got home from Tahoe, I had a few more days before I had a free afternoon to get a new phone. My phone was getting worse and worse and by the time I was off to get my new phone, my old one could almost not hold a charge unless it was plugged in.

Getting the new phone was a bit of a bigger ordeal than I thought it would be. I really thought I would go to the Verizon store, get my phone, pay, and be done with it. But there were issues with my account that had to be figured out first. Then there was a lot of confusion about what I was paying for (they kept telling me the accessory bundle was included with my new phone, but to them included meant I pay for it with the phone). And after a few hours at the store, they finally said they didn’t have the phone I wanted there and sent me to another store to buy it (not sure why they didn’t do that sooner).

I drove over to the other store in rush hour traffic, but fortunately the other store had my new phone waiting for me. I stayed in the new store to make sure my backup from my old phone made it to my new phone and after several hours, I was finally on my way back home to play with my new phone.

Even though this was an expense I wasn’t really ready for, it ended up being worth it. I do a lot of day job work on my phone, so I need to have a working phone. And having a new phone is pretty nice. Things are working better and faster. And this new phone has significantly more storage on it so I’m not always deleting stuff to find room on my phone for what I need.

I’m still going to be waiting for the new MacBook Pro to be released before I make that splurge. My computer isn’t dying like how my phone was. If I had to make it another 6 months with my computer, I think it would be tough but doable. But at least now I know when I get the new computer that I have a phone that will be able to work very nicely with it.

Looking Forward To Some Big Spending (or Needing New Technology)

I’ve written before about how I really need a new computer soon. This realization hit me hard when the new iPhone came out. I discovered that the new iPhone (at least the most expensive one) has more storage on it than I do on my computer. The fact that a phone could have more room on in than my computer is sad and a sign that I’m getting desperate.

I’m still waiting on the announcement of the new MacBook Pro. I’m not going to buy an old computer which is my only option now. So I have to wait until whenever Apple decides to release a new one and I’m sure that there will be an insanely high demand for it so I will possibly have to wait before I can get my hands on one. I’m still hoping that a new computer will be released in the next few months because there are more and more projects I want to work on that will require a better and faster computer that has more storage than what I have now.

When the new iPhone came out, I thought that maybe I’d look into it since my phone has been acting a bit off lately. Nothing was too bad but I’ve had this phone for 3 years (sadly, that’s pretty long in iPhone life) and it was something I was thinking about. I was hoping the new iPhone would be a smaller size (like my 5s), but the new ones are still pretty big and I don’t really love them. Plus, since next year will be the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone, everyone is saying that one will be a huge overhaul compared to what we have now.

A few days after the new phone was released, my phone started acting up more. Now, I have an average battery life of 3-6 hours (that’s with only using it for maybe 1 hour total). The standby time on my phone should be much longer than that and it’s pretty bad. My phone battery will show that it is at 70% and a second later it goes down to 1% and shuts down. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is an inconvenience. I have one external battery that gets me a full charge on my phone, but I just bought another external battery that should get me 2 full charges. I’m also looking into battery replacement as a possible fix.

I also have an older iPad that has not been able to upgraded to a new operating system in a while (I think I’m using an iOS that is 2 or 3 versions ago). But I’m totally fine with my iPad for what I use it for right now so I’m not too worried about it.

I’m aware that I probably sound really spoiled and should be happy with the technology I have now since it is more than what many people have. And I am so grateful for everything I have and in no way am upset that I don’t have the latest and greatest. I don’t care for the best, I just want stuff that works.

If my phone was able to hold a charge for more than 6 hours on standby, I’d have no concerns and would probably keep the phone for another year or more. If my computer wasn’t flipping out on me on an almost daily basis, I would keep it because I love my computer. It’s just that technology doesn’t last forever and it seems like all of my stuff has decided to reach the end of its life at the same time. I’ve got the money saved up for a new computer and I’m ready to spend it the second I can on the new one when it is released.

I’m not sure I’m totally ready to spend money on a new phone (nor do I have that money really available to me right now), but I’m realizing that it is time to start saving for that and for possibly a new iPad. I don’t love the idea that I’ll potentially be spending a ton of money on new things when I know that any money I save for them should really be going toward paying down my debt. But I guess this is what I get for working from my phone and computer and needing everything to work in order to be paid.

Day Job News (or Things Are Getting Better)

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my day jobs. For the most part, things are the same as always. I’m still working my box office job plus my data entry/calendar management job from home. I’m also working for my old boss time to time with in person box office work and I still babysit on occasional weekends. My hours each week range from 43 to 68 hours in a week depending on how many hours I work my occasional jobs, but even at the lowest number a week I’m finally making a more livable income.

What I’m making isn’t making it easy to pay off my credit card debt. I was recently able to pay off about 5% of what my remaining debt is, but that’s less than I was hoping. I really felt like I’d have it paid off by now, but I think it’s going to be a bit more time before it’s gone. But each of the jobs I work adds to my income and adds to what I can pay off each month so I’m grateful for each work hour I get.

But while I’m not making as much money as I would love to make, I’ve gotten some pretty awesome news with all of my jobs in the past few weeks. It started with my occasional box office job. I’m going to have the opportunity to have more shifts in a month now. There needs to be some coverage for the box office at other shows than the ones I typically work, so I’ll get a couple of extra shifts. Each of the extra shifts will only be 2 hours, but I might be able to get 3 of those in a month. 6 extra hours isn’t a lot, but that money will pay off one or two utilities bills at a time so it adds up!

I also got some good news about my work from home box office job. A few weeks ago I got an email from the owner of the company asking me to call him. My first thought was that I was fired (even though there was no reason I should be fired) so I called him back immediately. The stuff he needed to talk to me about was only about how our pay system works (he needed some information from me that he didn’t have) so I didn’t have to worry about anything. And during that call, he asked me if I was having any issues with the job that he should know about.

I told him that while I love working this job, it’s not giving me all the flexibility I was expecting when I took the job. Since I don’t get scheduled for full shifts each day, I have the potential to work an extra 2 hours each weekday if I had to make up hours. I’ve made up hours in the past when I go out-of-town or have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day. It’s never been too big of a deal, but I’ve always had to go through both my boss and manager.

Fortunately, the owner agreed with me that flexibility should be fine since I do have those hours each week that I usually don’t work that can be used as make-up hours. I just have to go through my manager (which is easier since we are both on chat together every work day) and I can make up the hours based on when we feel it would be best. Now I have the flexibility for auditions that I’ve been needing and hopefully as I get more auditions this arrangement will continue to work for us all.

The last day job I got great news about was my data entry/calendar management one. When I was hired, it was just under a 2 year contract. The end of that contract is coming up at the end of this month and I’ve been stressing a bit about if that contract wasn’t going to be extended. That job is over half of my income each month, so I need that money. I just got the email this week that my contract is going to be extended for at least another year! The budget is still being worked out so the number of hours each week may change (I don’t know if that would go up or down), but as long as I’m still working that job at least I know I’ll have some more regular income coming in.

But since I was so worried about that job not getting an extension on the contract, I’ve been spending time over the past month looking for another job that I could do. I focused mainly on jobs that I could do along with the jobs I already have, but I was also open to finding a full-time job that had the flexibility I need. There really aren’t a ton of full-time jobs with flexibility (more people who have those either start as part-time or start with no flexibility), but then I was listening to a podcast that had an interview with a woman who owns a virtual assistant company.

In the past, I’ve tried to get jobs as a virtual assistant. But so many of those companies require you to use a PC and I have a Mac. I didn’t want to have to buy a different computer just to work a job with, so I never applied to them. But when I found out that the company that was interviewed loves people who have Macs, I applied immediately! Because of my schedule and when they could do Skype interviews it took a bit of time before I could interview for the company, but I finally had my interview this week and it went really well! The next step is to wait to see if they have a client that needs a virtual assistant that matches my skill set. And things tend to start at 5 hours a week, which I feel pretty confident that I could do.

Eventually, the virtual assistant job can be more hours (and you can take on more than one client), so over time it may become one of my main day jobs. I’m not thinking that far in advance right now, but it doesn’t hurt to have some potential plans in mind when I’m looking at new day jobs. Of course, I hope that sooner rather than later a day job won’t be necessary as I will hopefully make all my income with acting. But I also have to be realistic.

Considering that not long ago I was completely out of work and feeling hopeless with my day job situation, I’m pretty happy with how things are going right now. They can always be better, but I think the path I’m on is one of the better ones that I’ve had lately. I’m finally feeling some stability, I can make some plans for purchases I’d like to make, and I’m making steps on my debt reduction. I can’t ask for that much more than that.

Budgeting and Spending (or Sharing YNAB With A Cashier)

This week I did a bit of shopping to prepare for my trip next week. I got a couple of things I needed (travel toiletries) and a couple of things I wanted (a new purse and hat). While I did need some of the things I got, I still was very careful with what I was spending. I’m trying to do much better with my budgeting plan and starting over in YNAB so I could start fresh with a better budget idea has really helped me. I’m much more on top of my expenses and income and I’ve been able to make larger payments toward my credit card debt than I have in the past (although I’ve had a small setback in that because I had to put almost $1000 into fixing my car last month).

The current version of YNAB is a very different set-up than what I signed up with. I haven’t wanted to make the change yet (it costs more with the new version and I’m happy with what I have), but I’m still trying to be a very involved user and whenever possible I add my spending in the app as it happens. It’s pretty convenient to have the app on my phone and entering my expenses or income takes so little time. Compared to other budgeting apps I’ve tried to use, this one seems to make the most sense to me and doesn’t intimidate me especially with having income that can vary a lot.

One of my shopping trips to prepare for my trip was to Nordstrom Rack (they’ve always got some amazing things there!) and when it was my turn to pay I handed over my credit card and then asked again what the total was. The cashier told me and I immediately got out my phone to enter what I spent (it was within my budget so it’s all good).

The cashier asked me what I was doing and I mentioned that I was entering my purchase into YNAB so I could make sure I don’t overspend what I’ve budgeted for this month. She mentioned how smart that was and how she should do the same thing. I have a feeling that she probably downloaded the app that night because she seemed really excited about it.

Budgeting may never come easily to me (unless I have an unlimited amount of money and don’t actually have to budget), but I’m working on it. Being open about budgeting has helped because it takes away the shame I’ve felt in the past about the money issues I have. I’ve been told that I’m very irresponsible for having a credit card balance that isn’t paid off in full each month. I felt awful about that and didn’t want to tell anyone else about it. But when I opened up about it, I realized that a lot of people I know have debt of some sort and there’s nothing wrong with it. And a lot of those friends have been using various budgeting apps to help bring down their debt so I want to follow their example.

It actually felt really great for those brief moments I was talking with the Nordstrom Rack cashier about YNAB. I had no feelings of shame sharing that I needed help to track my money and to make sure I’m being responsible. I felt like even if I am not in a perfect financial set-up right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have advice I can share with others and hopefully help them get into the best financial shape possible. You don’t have to have everything figured out and settled to be able to share with others what may be able to help them.

I know that I’ve got a long way to go with my budgeting and debt payoff, but it’s the small steps that will add up and make a big difference in the end. And hopefully in the not so distant future I will know that my credit card debt will be paid off and then the budgeting will shift from debt payments to savings and I can hopefully do more fun things more often.

Staying Super Busy (or Another Job)

I’ve been super busy with work lately. I’ve got my regular box office job which hasn’t really changed since I started there almost 2 years ago. But because I will be out-of-town for a weekend in July, I’ve been working extra hours to make up what I will be missing (that way my pay doesn’t get docked). I’ve been so grateful for that job since I got it, even though it doesn’t have the most flexible hours. I’ve also been busy with my data entry job. I actually just got some more hours with that job and a new process that I’ve been helping with. It’s nice to have variety with that job since it can feel very repetitive researching events and entering them into the system.

Between those two jobs, I’m working 43 hours a week (not counting the extra hours I’m working now with the box office job to make up for July hours). I’ve also got my random box office job on occasional weekends and babysitting. So in a single week, I can easily be closer to 60 hours in a week. It’s great, because I do need the money and I know that I’m so lucky to have any work right now. But of course, I had to add another gig in as well.

I’m now working very part-time (4 hours a week) for a friend of mine doing some assistant/producer work. It’s not hard work, but since she is so busy she doesn’t have the time to do it. Again, the extra money is nice and I know that this can lead to more work so I’m super grateful for it. Plus, working for a friend is pretty fun and I know that we work well together. This job is only going to be for the next 6 weeks, but any extra work is helpful in getting my bills paid and saving up for my new computer (which sadly doesn’t look like it will be released until the winter). Since I know it can lead to more work, I’m totally fine with temporary work. Technically my data entry job was temporary since I was only going to be able to have a 2 year contract, but now I’ve got more hours than ever and it looks like I might get that 3rd year contract. So if I have to start at 4 hours a week to end up with a regular gig, I’m fine with that.

Only my box office jobs and babysitting have set hours. Everything else is on my own schedule and I don’t want to seem like I’m slacking because I set my own hours and there are no quotas I have to reach each day. With my data entry job, I think I’ve got a great line of communication with my boss and she’s been telling me how everyone has been happy with my work. And I doubt I’d be getting additional hours and possibly a contract extension if they didn’t think I was meeting or exceeding what they expected of me. And since the other job is with a friend, I know she’ll call me out if she isn’t happy with things and we have already had multiple texts back and forth just making sure we are on the same page with everything.

With all these jobs, I’m getting tougher on myself with my time management. I used to think that time management was one of my strong points, but as my time as gotten more crazy and less structured I’ve realized how much more work I’ve had to put into planning things out. I’m a little OCD with things (I’ve always been like that with organization) so my calendar is color-coded and I’m using the alerts and reminder apps a lot so I remember to send invoices or other work related tasks that are time sensitive. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to view my schedule because I love the monthly view on the calendar app on my computer, but some days I have so many things scheduled that I cannot view all my plans unless I go into weekly or daily view (I’d love any tips from other people with this issue on what works!).

Besides all my jobs, I also have my career (acting) and my writing (both on here and where I freelance) to schedule so I’ve been focusing on making sure I meet all my deadlines for those too. So far, I haven’t run into issues, but I’ve seen where issues could have happened so I’m working on setting myself up so those issues don’t ever become an issue.

I know that most people work just as crazy or crazier hours than I do. A lot of people work 60-70 hours a week every week. I’m lucky that when I have a 60 hour week or have to work 3 jobs in 1 day that those are rarities and not the norm. I probably keep taking on all of these jobs because I’m finally getting to a better place financially and I remember when I wasn’t working or working enough and how much of a struggle everything was. I don’t want to get to that place again and the best way to stay employed is to have as many jobs as I can. I know that jobs can go without warning and I really want to be as prepared for that possibility as possible.

A Fresh Budget (or Starting Over With YNAB)

I’ve been budgeting with YNAB for almost a year now. I’ve been pretty good about entering every expense and paycheck into the system (I’ve even had some fun laughs with friends when we are out to dinner and we both pull up our apps to enter our expense when we pay the bill). It’s been good for me to be accountable with every dollar that I spend and to have a more realistic view on how much money I’m making.

But even though I was doing all the work, there was a serious disconnect with me happening in my budgeting. I have no clue why I was so disconnected, but something wasn’t right and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I had been trying to figure out what was wrong, but I just kept feeling like something was wrong and I couldn’t fix it.

I started to download a bunch of other budgeting apps. There are dozens of free budgeting apps and some of them seemed ok, but none of them were fitting what I needed (the biggest issue was finding one that didn’t expect the income to be a steady amount). YNAB has actually changed a bit since I got it and the new version is more of an online system (instead of it connecting via Dropbox) and you pay a monthly or annual fee instead of paying for a 1 time purchase. I don’t want to get the new version yet because I want to feel comfortable with the version I have and I really don’t want to have another expense added to my life right now.

So after a few weeks of feeling lost and frustrated, I finally decided to get rid of my current budget in YNAB, delete everything, and start completely over. When I started over I also re-watched all of the videos online about setting things up and how to use them efficiently. I learned things that I missed the first time and I was setting up my budgeting categories into things that make sense to me.

YNAB Categories

I kept the debt, monthly bills, and everyday expense categories because those are pretty basic and they haven’t changed. I still have monthly bills, everyday expenses, and my debt to pay off. But the rest of my categories have gotten more specific. I’m breaking down my expenses by different aspects of my life and the priorities I have with them. Some of my acting expenses can be sacrificed for my day job expenses (classes aren’t as important as paying my estimated taxes). Splitting the expenses in the categories does help me see where I need to save and spend versus where I want to save and spend.

I know that some people have very limited categories in their budget, but I think for me the specifics are really going to help me. Sometimes, I forget about the annual expenses that I have that add up all the time. I only pay dues for WIF and one of the casting submissions sites once a year, and I don’t want that amount to shock me anymore. This way, I can save a little bit each month for those annual expenses and I will see exactly what I’m saving it for (compared to before where I listed it as annual acting expenses).

So far, this new budget is working out well for me. I’m feeling more connected to my money and I’m more aware of what’s happening. I’m trying to set up my monthly savings for my annual things, but I’m still working on how I want them to be organized. In the past, I probably would have just given up with things got hard for me to figure out. But now I really do want to make this work. I know that budgeting has helped so much this past year and that it can be doing so much more for me. And once I get that figured out, hopefully I can start paying down more debt and start saving so I can take another amazing vacation sometime soon.