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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

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!

Continue reading

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

A Nice Mint Mojito

Mint.com is not always as good as it could be, but there is hope on the horizon!

If you don’t already use the Intuit web software Mint.com, you should strongly consider it. Mint is the best tool I have found, by far, to keep good track of your spending in a relatively hands-off manner. The highlights are:

  • It automatically pulls data from all your accounts (credit cards, checking, savings, investments) and allows you to view their balances all on one page
  • It auto-categorizes all your transactions, and is pretty O.K. at it.
  • It offers beautiful visualizations of all your spending
  • It allows you to set budgets and goals that it helps you track

Mint, however, often leaves much to be desired. Sometimes the interface is a little clunky and doesn’t do quite what you want, and the developers don’t update it as often as the users wish. As an avid Mint user, I was excited to find the Google Chrome Extension, Mojito. It has several awesome features, like allowing you to sort your accounts from highest balance to lowest balance, hide credit cards that have a zero balance, and pulls your recent transactions onto the homepage. He also finds ways to make the ads on Mint less obstrusive, and combats Mint’s way-too-short page timeouts. It’s a really great extension and makes my frequent Mint-using experience much better!

The developer is just one guy, he even has a wordpress blog (though it’s a little stale), but he put his code up on github which means we might see even more active development. One can only hope. It seems from the comments on the extension that it is being actively updated. What he has done thus far makes Mint infinitely more usable and beautiful.

Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals

Sorry for the delay on this latest post, I had some exciting real-life stuff happen: I got engaged! My conversations with my fiance (still so weird using that term!) regarding how to save for wedding expenses are actually what spurred this post.

Balancing your goals is never easy

So often in life, and especially in finance, we are asked to put off our short-term desires in favor of long-term goals. It can take a lot of effort not to buy that fancy Starbucks latte and save your dollars toward that new car instead. Self-control when it comes to finances is something that many find extremely difficult, but without it, you can never achieve big goals. However, big goals can vary in their “bigness”–for example, you may want to save for a house, and also save for that sexy new gaming rig; or maybe you know your car’s going to kick the bucket, so you need to start saving for a newer model, but you also really want to upgrade that college wardrobe of bad T-shirts and that one hoodie you wore for a whole semester straight once.

Sometimes two desired spending goals present themselves at the same time. One might be bigger and longer-term (on the horizon of a year or few years), and the other may be shorter-term (a few months) and a little bit smaller in scope. How do you balance these goals?

Continue reading

Reducing Restaurant Spending (and February Update)

My February spending, visualized by Mint.com
My February spending, visualized by Mint.com

As you may have read in my orginial status report, I like keeping this blog updated with the amounts I spend on various things. Here’s my February check-up. Last month, I spent:

  • $600 on Rent
  • $160 on Groceries – pretty standard
  • $200 on Restaurants – Oops, this is a little high
  • $46 on Car-related expenses – Gas and parking for class
  • $78 on Shopping – needed a pair of jeans, some miscellaneous items
  • $29 on Bills – Didn’t pay electric or water yet for Feb. usage

=$1113 spent
For someone who claims to be frugal, $200 is a lot to spend on restaurants in just one month. My excuse is that I went back to my alma mater to visit friends, and being away from home really messed up my usual routine. This is definitely one area in which I need to do some damage control in March, and a challenging aspect of the budget for many people, especially young people. You want to be able to go out with your friends (or maybe you just don’t want to cook), but the costs add up pretty quick.

How do you get a handle on restaurant spending? Keep reading for my suggestions.

Continue reading