DIY and the Fear of Sucking

Control your caveman brain! Dare to suck!

My creative writing teacher in high school once lectured us all on the fear of sucking. “If you sit there, staring at a blank page, so afraid you’re going to screw up whatever you write that you can’t eek out a single word, you will never get anything done,” she told us. “You have to let go, and tell yourself that even if what you produce does indeed suck, it’s okay.”

Overcoming the fear of sucking is a difficult thing. It is normal and human thing to want to avoid mistakes. Something in our caveman brain stirs and says, “Nuh-uh, if I don’t do this right the first time, I get eaten.” But as instinctual as human beings can be, we are also rational creatures! So tell yourself to relax, that it’s okay if the first iteration of whatever you’re doing will suck. You’ll find that you’ll get a lot more out of life AND save money (bet you were wondering when this would become an actual personal finance post).

DIY is scary for a lot of people. You don’t want to screw it up and leave your house in shambles, or mess up your new gaming rig by installing one of the parts wrong. As a woman, I’ve found it exceptionally hard, because unlike my fiance my parents didn’t show me how to do a lot of “handyman” things. However, the rewards of DIY are too hard to ignore. For example, just last night I saved myself $100 by installing a ceiling fan myself instead of having someone else do it. Instead of calling a plumber, my fiance and I fixed our toilet with a few Google searches and a $4 rubber flapper from Lowes. And aside from saving money, being able to do things yourself allows you to customize things exactly to your liking. Here are my tips for getting over yourself and doing things on your own.

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Frugal Appliance Adventures

A lovely little dent saved us $200
A lovely little dent saved us $200

Now that my fiance and I have bought a house, we are on the market for all kinds of weird products we’ve never had to think about before. Chief among these new purchases are appliances. Costing several hundred dollars a piece, these are some of the biggest items we’ll buy this year aside from the house itself. In our case, we needed a fridge, an oven, and a microwave.

The more something costs, the more important every percentage point you can shave off the price is. 10% off an $800 fridge is $80. Not chump change! Through some clever purchases on eBay, shopping smart, and knowing what mattered to us and what didn’t, we saved hundreds of dollars.

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Financial Update: May 2015

I know it’s been a while since I gave everyone an update on my own finances. The reason for this is that shortly after getting engaged, my fiance and I combined finances, and my Mint account was therefore a huge mess of “Is that mine or yours? What category is this Amazon transaction on your account from two months ago?” We then proceeded to move on buying a house, which means a lot of uneven spending on things like inspections. Now that things are a little more settled, here are the highlights of the last three months of my finances:

  • We spent $800 on home inspections. Man, did that hurt. We initially had one house picked out that was a bit of a fixer upper. Spent $400 to get it evaluated and learned it had serious foundation problems, decided we couldn’t deal with that (which meant we also lost our $200 in option money, booo). Moved on to the house we’re now planning to buy, spent another $400 to get it inspected. The $400 we spent lead to negotiations which got us $1,000 back in closing costs from our sellers, so that was money well spent! If you ever buy a house, spending some money on a trusted, thorough inspector is definitely something I recommend. I don’t regret it.
  • Spent $1917 on food including eating out and groceries for two people. That’s about $640 per month for the last three months. I know, it’s pretty high… cut us a break, we went out for a really nice dinner to celebrate our engagement!
  • Spent $1215 each month for rent. Luckily, we found our house just in the nick of time so we don’t have to go month-to-month on our lease while we continue to search! If we’d needed to do that, rent would have been almost $1400 for those months.
  • Got an “A” in our grad school class! Hello, several-thousand-dollar tuition reimbursement!
  • Spent $313 on car stuff–soon to be much less! No university parking fees over the summer, and we sold our second car since we figured out we get almost no use out of it!
  • Spent $550 or so on utilities. Yeah, we could maybe stomach leaving the AC off a little more frequently, but for the most part this was an OK expense for us.

In general, we’re continuing to spend at a rate amenable to high levels of saving. We’re both maxing our Roth IRAs and Roth 401ks and beginning to build quite the nest egg! Things will continue to be messy next month due to closing on and moving into the house. Lots of random expenses like buying refrigerators and necessary furniture and etc. On the bright side, we’re doing the low-cost option of “bribe your friends with pizza” to get all our stuff moved from our apartment to our new house! I’ll keep you all posted as my situation continues to shift.

How Minimizing Your Paycheck Can Maximize Your Savings

As beautiful as Ben’s smile may be, whisk him away into savings and you’ll be happier than ever. The old man himself agrees with me: “A penny saved is a penny earned!”

You just got that big promotion, or that new job, or that solid yearly raise. “Score!” you exclaim. “Now I can buy all the junk I ever wanted!” But taking a step back, you realize that while a small amount of that money can be used to buy that fancy new video game or purse, most of it should probably be saved toward the bigger things in life. But it’s so tempting seeing those extra couple Benjamins hanging out in your checking account…

In this post, I’ll show you how to shrink your paycheck so you’re never tempted to spend money you should be saving. Make yourself feel poor so you can get rich!

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My Reflections on House Buying

I know my posts have been a bit few and far between lately, but real life (getting engaged, and now looking at buying a house) has gotten in the way of my online ventures. In this post, I’d like to tell you my thoughts on the house-buying process from a frugal person’s perspective.

When Should I Buy a House?

The answer is: when it makes sense for your lifestyle, and you have enough money to support it. You shouldn’t buy a house unless you plan to stay in it long-term (meaning at least 7 years, generally) because of the money you lose in the initial house-buying transaction. “Lose money?” you ask. “I thought one of the main reasons to buy a house was to build capital, instead of throwing it away on rent!” While that’s partially true, you still incur closing costs (this is stuff like origination fees to your mortgage lender, inspection fees for the property, and so on) which can be substantial, often 2-5% of the purchase price of the home. If you know you’ll be moving in the next couple years, a house is likely not for you. However, if you think the details of your situation might still justify homebuying, check out this awesome rent vs buy calculator. Children are another major lifestyle factor that can push people to buy a house–but did you realize you can also rent a house? If you have kids, and won’t be staying in one area for very long, use the aforementioned calculator to figure out if buying or renting is better for you financially. The answer may surprise you!

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Building Credit from the Ground Up

Turned down for credit cards in the past, or scared that you will be? This post is for you.
Turned down for credit cards in the past, or scared that you will be? This post is for you.

A friend of mine asked me for some advice the other day. She admitted to me that she hadn’t ever had a credit card, but was starting to think it might be a good idea to start building her score. She is certainly not alone! A whopping 63% of millenials have never had a credit card (read more). She, like many others, has always felt she gets along just fine without one. She also mentioned to me concerns that using credit cards would make her more cavalier with her spending, citing recent studies like this one. While these were very valid considerations, equally valid are the advantages of building a good credit score. My friend decided that at this point in her life, it might be good to start building her score to prepare for her future. However, having been rejected for the first card she applied for through her banker, she wasn’t sure how to proceed. Read more to find out the strategy I laid out to help my friend get started in the world of credit, despite her lack of previous cards and existing student loan debt. Continue reading

Acorns: Investing Your Spare Change

Acorns: put your spare change to work in the stock market!

Note: I don’t get paid for making these recommendations, these are actually just stuff I’ve found that I think is cool and want to share with you!

Those of you who have been with my blog for a little while might remember when I talked about Digit, a cool little application that squirrels away your extra money, a few dollars and cents at a time, into a savings account. In that same vein, I recently discovered an application called Acorns. In the same spirit as Digit, Acorns (currently a mobile app, with a web application on its way very soon) pulls small amounts of money from your accounts over time. However, instead of depositing it in a plain-old savings account, Acorns invests it.

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