The Money Diaries: The 20-something programmer who barters for personal training
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This is another post in the Money Diaries series, which is based off New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. We’ve collected stories from real people about their spending habits over seven days, anonymized them, and posted them here.
Today’s post is by a 27-year-old university employee who freelances on the side. In his entry, he writes about learning negotiation skills when he gets himself a lower rate for his Internet service.
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6:00 a.m.: Wake up, make oatmeal and have an orange for breakfast. Get ready for work.
6:30 a.m.: It’s been above freezing for a few days, which means most of the ice has melted, so I bike to work, avoiding the $2.25 I otherwise spend to take the bus each way.
12:00 p.m.: Lunch out with coworkers. We always go to the same place on Mondays because a decent meal (sandwich and soup) is about $7 with tip, and Monday is double stamp day. Get 6 stamps and it’s worth $10! This is the one time I usually go out for lunch.
1:00 p.m.: Get cable bill via email – Internet charges have gone up because I’ve been with them for a year and a promo ended! I’ll be calling them tonight.
4:15 p.m.: Bike home.
5:00 p.m.: Work out with a personal trainer who lives in my building. I’m doing a website for her in exchange for two trainings a week. We had our first real meeting on the site yesterday, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get several months of training in exchange for what she wants to accomplish.
6:30 p.m.: Cook dinner and call cable company. Get a $10 credit from a mischarge. Cancel HD service since I use Boxee on my AppleTV for almost all TV watching now, which saves $8 a month. I can’t get on another promo for Internet service for 6 months, so I make a note on the calendar to call back in August, and decide to take a look at DSL.
8:00 p.m.: Noticed a couple antennas for the new city-wide wireless just went up near my apartment, so I call to find out if I can get service here. If I pay for a year’s service up front, it’d be half the cost of what I’m looking at paying for cable, and I could get online with my laptop anywhere in the city. I don’t have enough to cover a year’s service in my checking account tonight (it’d be $288, and I have $180) but I get paid Wednesday, so I’ll call back then. This gives me time to do some research too.
8:15 p.m.: Feeling tired already, but commit to 60 minutes of work: itemizing time so far on my trainer’s site, and updating a site for my sister’s upcoming wedding.
5:30 a.m.: Wake up, make breakfast, get ready for the day. Check bank accounts on Mint to see if my tax refund has been deposited yet; it hasn’t. Watch The Daily Show on Hulu while I eat.
6:15 a.m.: Today’s forecast says it’ll be raining and snowing all day, so I decide to take the bus. $2.25 from my pass. When I recharge the card online I get $1 for every $10 I spend, which saves a little money compared to paying cash each time. I pack up food for the day – lunch and a couple things for snacking.
4:00 p.m.: Take the bus home. Stop at the grocery store and pick up a few things for work snacks and breakfast.
6:00 p.m.: Make dinner, get phone calls from a couple friends. One is at a bar nearby, so I tell him to come over on his way home, rather than meeting him out. I have beer here if he wants one.
6:15 a.m.: Wake up late, after having a dream that only half of my paycheck was deposited in to my bank account. I check my balance and there’s no deposit at all. I decide I should call the bank when they open. My oatmeal explodes all over the microwave while I’m worrying. I call work and let them know I’ll be a little late. I hope it isn’t going to be one of those days…
7:05 a.m.: Bank is open, but I check the website first – there’s my check! That’s another $1200 in checking, and a quick glance at my scheduled bills shows only $250 in payments (for my student loan and my electric bill) before my next check. Direct deposit is split between local checking account, which I use to pay most bills and for general spending, and ING account for savings. $1200 goes in to checking, whatever’s left goes to ING. This check, about $608 went to ING. On the 1st of the month automated transfers will move the money around to several sub-accounts.
7:15 a.m.: Bike to work. No bus today!
12:00 p.m.: Shop for desks and chairs online. I need new ones, as what I have now is uncomfortable and unstable. Find stuff I like, but it’d be about $800 for the desk and chair. Time to start another ING sub-account.
12:30p.m.: Spend a few minutes going through Mint and cleaning up mislabeled transactions, while getting a good idea of how my finances are looking.
4:45p.m.: Trainer canceled, so I go to the gym early. When I get back I notice I’m running low on protein powder, so I order some from Amazon and notice the Subscribe and Save option – I set it up to deliver every 3 months, and they knock 15% off the price!
6:00 p.m.: Dinner at home. A friend comes over, we chat and watch a few TV shows on Boxee.
5:30 a.m.: Wake up, cook breakfast, and put together a lunch from leftovers and make a salad. Put together two snacks as well. Hop on my bike and head to work.
8:30 a.m.: Get a call from the Minneapolis wifi provider. Set up an install on Sunday. $400 for the modem and 1 year of service, plus 30-day refund if it doesn’t work well in my apartment. Better than the $780 ($65 a month) I’d be looking at paying for cable.
9:15 a.m.: Post on Twitter about my plan to switch from Comcast, and minutes later a Comcast rep contacts me through Twitter, telling me to email them to see about a promo. I send a quick email.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch at my desk.
4:30 p.m.: Get home by bike. I get an email from Comcast asking for my account information. I send it off, and a little while later I get a phone call from a Comcast rep asking about my situation. I explain it, and she offers to put me on a 6 month promo for $19.99 instead of $42.99 for Internet service. The Internet speed will be faster than what I’d get on wireless, and the cost will end up being just a few dollars more after the modem rental and required basic cable — $34 a month. I ask if the plan can be extended longer than 6 months, but she says it can’t. I guess I’ll have to go through the process again in 6 months, but it’s worth 5 minutes of email and Twitter and 10 minutes on the phone to save $200 over 6 months.
6:30 p.m.: Make dinner, then some friends come pick me up (I don’t own a car) and we drive to a movie theater to see Coraline – the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since The Dark Knight came out about 8 months ago.
9:00 p.m.: Get home, have a snack since I didn’t get anything at the movie, answer a couple emails for freelance work, and watch a show on Boxee.
5:30 a.m.: Make breakfast, a snack, and lunch for today. I check Mint and see that my federal tax refund has come through, that’s $665! I log in to ING and transfer it to my emergency fund right away. It’s very cold out this morning, and I might go straight to a friend’s after work, so I decide to take the bus.
12:00 p.m.: Lunch at my desk. My two main pairs shoes are coming apart at the soles, so I look online for some replacements. Work is fairly casual dress, I can’t keep wearing hiking boots once the snow has melted. I find two pairs, one dress and one casual, that I like at DSW, and after getting coupon codes from RetailMeNot.com I place an order – 2 pairs for $73, with free shipping. Not too shabby.
4:00 p.m.: Stop by bank and deposit two checks – one from my grandparents for my birthday and one to cover my brother’s share of our hotel room when we go to my sister’s wedding next month — $235 deposited.
5:00 p.m.: Take light rail to the mall for $2.25 and meet a friend who works nearby. We get some sushi for dinner ($10 for me) and she helps me out with finding a shirt and tie for the wedding. Clothes are expensive, but it’s my sister’s wedding and I want to have something nice. $200 for shirt, shoes, tie, and cuff-links. I also find a sweater I like on sale for $20, and a pair of pants for $25. So I spent $255 at the mall, but I’m very happy with what I got and I think everything will be well used. These are the first shirts of any kind I’ve bought in about 6 months.
8:00 p.m.: My friend drops me off at another friend’s place. He and I usually meet up to watch a couple TV shows together Fridays and to catch up with each other. His fiancee shows up a little later as well.
12:00 a.m.: Take the light rail back in to the city for $1.75 and walk 10 blocks home.
12:00 p.m.: A friend recommends a book and sends a link to Amazon. Using Jon Udell’s bookmarklet, I check if my library has it – they do, so I request it. It should be available in a few weeks.
8:00 p.m.: A friend comes over to watch a movie. I spent the rest of the day cleaning and doing some programming.
7:00 p.m.: Some friends come over to watch a movie in the small theater room in my apartment building. I had reserved it to watch a movie with a friend and her 3-year-old daughter, but they had to cancel. It’s free to get the room, but I figured I might as well still use it. One of my friends brought dinner over for all of us, which we watched before the movie.
In Sum: About $400 spent, most of it on clothes for my sister’s wedding. No credit card debt acquired, over $1000 put in to savings thanks to my tax refund, and negotiated a better rate on my Internet service, saving me $200 over the next 6 months, plus the confidence to negotiate in the future.
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