Archive for August, 2008

I want to be groovy

Last Night I spent $30 on a show and $12 on a shirt.

It was 99% worth it, for the experience of the show and to have a shirt that I like, looks nice on me, is comfy, supports a band I like a lot, and can be worn to work as an undershirt.

But, ouch.

This morning I got an email that Threadles is having its fall sale. For those of you who don’t know, Threadless is really awesome really comfy t-shirts with user submitted and approved designs. One of my favorite shirts is on sale, and so are a few I’ve been wanting, includingthis one which reminds me of my kitten, both for the orange coloring and for the adorable disaster aspect.

I can’t get any of them.

Well, I could. But I need to consider if owning more t-shirts is really more important than having, for example, rent money. What good will it do me if I lose my home but I can say, “oh, I have awesome t-shirts!” Well, some. But I already have awesome t-shirts. And I just spent $42, so this time I’ll have to pass. Here’s where having the blog comes in handy-It helps motivate me and keep me on track. I can also complain about these things without having to go around bitching about money all the time, which I hate, or making people think I don’t have enough money for rent. Really I do. I’m just trying to have enough for rent and to keep savign a little.

(Full disclosure-the first link to Threadless is my street team link. If you use it and go buy shirts, I get points.)

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August 29, 2008 at 2:05 pm 1 comment

The Other Side of Free

I was partially inspired by this post, but I feel like there are some aspects not covered.

Obviously, just because something is free doesn’t mean you should take it. As a city dweller, my biggest expense, far and away, is rent. Since I live alone now, I obviously don’t need as much space. One of my goals right now is to declutter and get rid of as much as possible. For this, free can be really bad. When you have 17 free t-shirts, 32 free cleaning samples, etc etc then all of a sudden you need a closet just for your free samples. And that will cost you.

On the other hand, free can be good for clutter. If you only use a very small amount of cleaning wipes, a free sample packet will save space over a large box. And swaps are the best of both worlds. I mentioned the clothing swap before. Right now I am looking forward to a book swap. It has also reminded me that I need to go through the 20 or so books I haven’t read, and decide which ones to keep. I am trying to only keep books that I really feel a need to have around, like the books I re-read all the time or that I need to make everyone I know read. Also, and this is sad, sometimes I keep them because they are pretty, but only if I also really like them. I get way too many books to keep every book I like.

Free is also bad when you are sacrificing to get it. I personality cannot deal with getting a mattress from a stranger on craigslist, even though I know I could have gotten one for free. It’s too gross for me. Sometimes if you go with the free option you are picking something that will make you dissatisfied.

And with some things, like free animals, you pay a whole lot for something free. But they are worth it.

For example:
Kitty!
Shea. My cat, who has cost my a couple hundred dollars since May. And well worth every penny.

On the other hand, now that I have learned she will use the cheap brand of litter & it won’t be bad for her, no more expensive stuff.

August 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm 4 comments

Free is Better Than Cheap

I love free things.

Yesterday I got a free haircut at a training school. And because they couldn’t seat me when I came for my last appointment, I also had a $20 product credit that I used to buy a very expensive ($20) bottle of shampoo. I was almost out of my regular shampoo so that was perfect =)

Until I got the shampoo I had planned to make do with a free sample of shampoo I had gotten in the mail. I know some people get almost all toiletries free through samples and playing the coupon game/CVSing. I am so not there yet, and maybe ever. I have been getting great samples through absurdlycool.com. It’s a site a friend from college made that is pretty popular as a freebie site-it goes through a bunch of other freebies sites and listings and pulls what seem to be legitimate offers, not contests or scams. Then people give feedback and it continues to gather freebies with knowledge from the feedback. So far I’ve learned that Walmart has the best free samples most of the time. I’ve gotten free shampoo, makeup samples, cereal, tampons, pledge wipes, toothpaste samples, and a razor. The razor was my favorite; it’s really nice.

Back on the haircut. The haircut itself I am not so happy with, It’s a perfectly cute haircut, but it is not me at all. I’m going to see if Ali can fix it by trimming the back a bit. It’s kind of hit or miss with these free haircuts, but since I am pretty flexible about my hair and don’t mind going super short, I never worry about it. I can also get free hair coloring there, and I am completely in love with the color I got last time.

I think if I had paid for the haircut, or taken more than half an hour off work to get it I’d be upset right now. But because it was free I don’t mind chopping it up and I can just be amused by it until it is fixed.

August 20, 2008 at 9:05 pm 1 comment

Caring About Money – Part 3

Here are the four things I did, based on my reading and conversations with people, to work towards my goal of owning an apartment.

1. I started a savings account. I used ING Direct (and have referral links if you want to start an account and get the bonus.) Other places have higher interest rates now, but there’s has been pretty consistent, they are reliable, and most importantly it was really easy to do. I just sat at my computer and within a few minutes I had set up a savings account that automatically deducted from my bank account. For the first two months I only took out $25 a month-I wasn’t sure how it would go. When I saw how easy it was on my spending, I upped the amount a lot, so that I was depositing ten, then twenty percent of my paychecks each month. I have it deduct right when I get my paycheck (twice a month) and my paycheck is also direct deposited, so I never have to worry about it. Since money is going to be a lot tighter for me as of September when I start paying twice as much rent, I am going to have to cut back on this for now.

Having the savings account at all made a huge difference in how I thought about money. Just knowing the extra was headed somewhere made it so much easer for me to not make small random purchases. Some people make different accounts for different goals, which supposedly makes this even easier. I haven’t done this yet, because I like seeing the big number in there. Big to me, anyways.

2. I got a real credit card. When I turned 18 and went away to college my mom took me to Citibank, where she had an account, and we started an account for me with a credit debit card. It was accepted everywhere like a Mastercard but it worked like a debit card. Since I wanted to build a good credit rating, I decided to get a credit card to pay off every month. I went with an American Express, as I have heard good things about their customer service and know they are ranked highly b credit reporting agencies.

I have been using it and paying it off as soon as the statement arrives (via email, notch) and as a bonus, it’s a cash rewards card, so I am actually saving a few dollars here and there by having a credit card. Since a lot of the blogs out there are about getting out of debt, they will tell you not to have a credit card. Obviously, that is not the route for me. And since I am paying it off each month I was able top choose a card with higher rewards and not worry about the interest rate-if it ever gets to the point where I am paying even a penny of interest then I have messed up my plans.

3. I started tracking my expenses. I’ve mentioned this before. Basically, I made an excel spreadsheet and put everything in it.

4. I created a rough budget and started trying to stick to it by cutting back places. Because I started tracking and cutting back at the same time, I have no good comparison to how I was doing before aside from the amount I have in savings. I kind of regret that.

Ali asked before about 3 things you really should do. I would say start a savings account, track expenses, and look for areas to cut back, and do it in that order. I wish I had a good record of my expenses before I cut back, so I could feel proud-stupid motivational tricks totally work. Oh, and the number one thing you should do-if you have a job that offers employer match on 401ks, contribute at least enough to get that match. I don’t care how young or poor you are-if you aren’t doing that you are basically turning down higher pay.

If anyone else has suggestions of the 3 things you really should do, I’d love to hear them. Also, let me know if you actually do them or not 😉

August 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm 1 comment

Caring About Money – Part 2

I started paying attention and I had a goal. I wanted to be able to buy an apartment. So I started reading up.

First, I started by reading the LiveJournal community poor_skills. The community tends to have a lot of the same points over and over, but it is great if you are just getting started. The people there also tend to post alerts about different deals, so it is good to watch if only for that. The major things I learned from that community were:
1) Build good credit. A good way to do this is to have no debt (obviously) or work on reducing the debt you have as much as possible. The main thing that was helpful to me was reading about having a credit card that you use and pay off the balance of every month.
2) You can always cut more expenses. Things you can’t live without, you can find a way to do cheaper.
3) I am lucky. The major thing I came away with was that I am really fortunate to be in the position I am in-there are a lot of people in the community a lot worse off than I am.

Next, largely on recommendations or links from poor_skills, I started reading various money & finance blogs. My favorite was Get Rich Slowly, which was the first one I read regularly and is one of the most popular with good reason. From Get Rich Slowly I learned:

1) Pay yourself first. Put money into your savings account as soon as you get your paycheck, or better yet, have it withdrawn automatically. You can’t miss money you never had, and you can’t accidentally run out or go over budget and decide not to save.
2) Build an emergency savings. I am working towards about 3 months of expenses. This also ties into point 3 above-I may be lucky now, but anything could happen in the future. An emergency fund means that the next time I lose my job or become ill or some other unexpected expense comes up, I can have some time to deal with it and won’t end up in debt.
3) There are a few different simple rough budget plans. The one I went with is 60% regular expenses (food, shelter, transportation, health, pets, regular bills), 10% long term savings, 10% short term savings, 10% retirement, 10% entertainment/free/whatever. Just having this idea in my head changed things for me a lot.
4) Track what you spend.

I then started reading more money blogs and articles and talking to people and finally have recently started figuring things out for myself. I started reading some negative examples that showed me what I didn’t want to do. Amongst these was the book Confessions of a Shopaholic. It’s an excellent negative example. It shows:

1) It doesn’t matter how much you earn if you spend too much.
2) Pay attention to what you spend.
3) Deal with the reality of your situation. (Just ignore the very ending.)

I haven’t read any actual financial advice books. Get Rich Slowly summarizes them fairly frequently and I read those summaries but that’s it. I’ve learned a lot from those summaries, from other blogs, and from articles but I think these are the main ideas that got me started.

August 7, 2008 at 6:07 pm 2 comments

$50000 (Haven’t You Always Wanted a Monkey)

So My Investing Blog Is having a contest:

If you were given $50,000USD (tax free) today, what would you spend it on?

If you go enter you could win up to $150.

I know what I would do with the $50000, and it’s pretty much the same thing I’d do with the $150. I would add it to my savings.

Well, with that much I would use part (about $2000) to fund my emergency account. And come to think of it, would probably use $5000 for a Roth IRA. The rest I would save for two years. I think in two years with that plus what I have now and the interest, I would be ready to buy an apartment.

Even if I magically had enough money before two years were up I don’t think I’d be ready to buy an apartment. I need to know things like if I am likely to get married anytime in the next 5 years, if I am likely to have kids (not very), and if I’ll be working from home and therefore want a home office.

I believe in not buying a bigger apartment than I need. Even if I could afford it, I don’t want to spend more on a place I’ll theoretically grow into if I have no plans to grow that way. I’d rather use that money to be in a nicer area, have nicer appliances, etc. I could use the money to pay off the mortgage faster. So until some big questions about life and career are a little more answered for me, I am not buying an apartment.

In a way it’s good. My goal to buy my own place isn’t just about saving. It is also a goal to have my life figured out. The way I am going I won’t be ready on either front in two years even, but I believe if one changes and I am ready, that will help me get my act together on the other.

What would you do with that money?

August 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm 5 comments

Starting to Care About Money

n college, I really never really thought about money. I only worried about having enough money to buy the things I wanted, and never thought beyond that. I spent years working without tracking my expenses, saving, or even making sure I had any money left at the end of the month.

Continue Reading August 4, 2008 at 1:34 pm 1 comment


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