Saturday, December 29, 2007

Frivolous Purchases

Trent at The Simple Dollar has a great post today about how he talks himself out of frivolous purchases. I am always inspired by the different things he is able to do since I haven't been able to put tactics in place to improve my self control. I admit that I often set myself up for frivolous purchases. This past December has been a huge spending month for my husband and I. Some of the purchases were sorely needed (e.g. some sweaters for me to replace the ones that I wore out over the summer). Others were more frivolous purchases that I will use, but that I don't need (e.g. the new suit I bought).

I am planning on doing a tally on how much my husband and I spend on clothes for me in the month of December. Since I don't track our finances that closely, I won't know how that compares with other months, but I'm thinking the amount spent in the month of December is probably similar to the amount spent the rest of the year.

I need to work better at resisting the $2 chocolate chip cookies at Mrs. Fields while I'm out shopping. I need to think, "Do I want a house, or do I want this cookie?" And when I do resist these items, I need to save them elsewhere so the savings don't get frittered away on other items.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Didn't Mean to Stop Blogging

. . .it just sort of happened. Once you get out of a habit, it's a lot harder to get back on track.

Recently I've been struggling a lot with how my husband and I spend our money. There are so many things that we want to do, that we can afford to do. But each of these little things that we do gets in the way of my larger goal of early retirement (it should be noted that my husband does not share the same goal of early retirement and is afraid that I'll bug him all day at work if I retire early).

One of the main issues is that our goals are so murky and undefined. Yes, we're saving a lot of money (we make almost the same amount of money and we save the equivalent of one after tax salary) and the money goes to retirement, emergency fund, and our down payment fund. However, we've never calculated how much we would need for me to retire early (and become the primary caretaker of our future kids). We've only done rough calculations on a home purchase (we know the max we could pay for a house and the max we want to pay for a house).

For 2008, I hope to get more defined goals, especially around how I'm going to progress towards early retirement (for me, early retirement means that I will be able to work at something I love, not just something I like, with the flexibility to quit whenever I want).

C and I are off for a vacation for this upcoming weekend, but expect to see more posts in early January, including a post where I define some goals and talk about how I did on my goals from 2007.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Carnival Time

The latest Carnival of Personal Finance is up at

My Favorite Post is from My Wealth Builder who managed to retire in his forties. Congrats!

Busy Weeks & Job Review

These past few weeks have been incredibly busy with many 12+ hour work weeks. I've been seriously thinking about when it's going to be time to look for a new job. Right now laziness about updating my resume are keeping me from moving forward on that. I also want to try and stay in my job as long as possible since there is still a lot of upward income potential. I estimate that I will be making six figures within two years if I stay at my current position. Of course, I could be making six figures once I switch jobs as well. But once I switch jobs I don't think I'll be in a career with as much salary growth potential. Seeing as I'm quite interested in our financial well being, I'm not sure if I'm willing to transition into a lower growth position just yet.

As a consultant, each new client is like getting a new job. I'm eagerly anticipating what my next project will bring.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Madame X at My Open Wallet has an interesting post entitled "Okay, I'm Asking" where she posted her approximate salary and asks readers to do the same.

I told my husband about the post and he immediately thought that there was probably a selection bias of those who decided to respond. We determined that those who are doing better are probably the ones who posted.

She's gotten a lot of responses and it's interesting to see a more personal view of how people around the world make a living. I could go to and get the similar information, but then it would be missing the personal aspect of it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Timeshare Presentation Experience

I saw this posted by Dawn from at Frugal for Life about whether timeshare presentations are a waste of time. I went to the link and tried to listen, but it wasn't available.

Anyway, this reminded me of the recent timeshare presentation my husband and I went to. We were in a resort town for 2 days. We had just gotten to town and we were on our way to lunch. Someone stopped us outside of this old Western looking movie museum. I don't really know how to describe the place - it photos up from old Westerns. Later I realized that it was run by the timeshare place. Anyway, this guy (let's call him Joe) there convinced us to come in and get a map.

Then Joe shared his timeshare pitch with us. He was only a representative to get us in the door. My husband was reluctant to go to the presentation, but I was sold on the free helicopter ride. I had never been on a helicopter before and it seemed like a good way to see the sights. My husband and I decided to go to the 90 minute presentation. We had to give the Joe $20 to hold our spot.

After lunch, we went to the resort. Our $20 was promptly returned to us. We were told that we could get there anytime before they closed, but the Joe put us down at 3:30. We arrived about 15 minutes earlier, but we didn't get to start our tour until our assigned time.

We were assigned a sale representative (let's call him Gary). Gary was a great representative for the company. I can easily see how someone could be swayed to purchase a timeshare. I don't remember all the nuances of the presentation since it was a few months ago. A few things stick out in my mind.

Gary kept on talking about the "points" we would receive by owning the time share and he referred to it as monopoly money. I thought this was an important psychological trick to make it seem like you weren't really spending money.

Another thing Gary did was he took our annual vacation spending (which was quite low) and convinced us that we wanted to spend more money annually. I can understand that. But then he used that base to calculate how much we would be spending on our vacations for the next twenty years and talked about how much we would be saving by getting the timeshare. But he never really talked about the cost of airfare, which would not be negated by "owning" a timeshare.

My husband and I declined. Then it was time to get our gift. This is where our negative experience happened. We received a "voucher" for the ride. Joe told us that someone would help us book the ride and that we could do it whenever we wanted to. These were both false statements. We ended up calling the helicopter place, but they would not take us out on a ride without another paying customer. And we were unable to book a ride for later that night (which we had wanted to do) and we couldn't even book it for the next day (which was the day we were leaving). Instead we got $100.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Becoming the Bread Winner

Madame X and Meg posted great commentary about the affect of disparate salaries in dating relationships article in the NY Times here and here. This caused me to think about the earning history of my husband and me.

In my relationship with my husband, we have flip flopped several times in who was the bread winner. When we first began dating, we were both students. I was impressed by his economic resources with his part-time research job and his upcoming (& lucrative) summer internship. Soon thereafter I graduated and began working in my first "real" job. That allowed me to be the breadwinner for about 3 years. In that time we got married. My husband then became the breadwinner again once he began working full-time.

Due to our career paths, we had a feeling that I would surpass my husband's income. He works for a non-profit. I work in a fairly lucrative industry. He gets really good benefits. I get sub-par benefits. Recently with my raise, I surpassed my husband's income.

Before this happened, I thought about how it would change the dynamics of our relationship. My husband is similar to the author of this post. He would rather spend the extra money to get more of his time while I am always looking for ways to save money. I wondered if my husband would be more willing to listen to my money saving schemes. I wondered if he would feel uncomfortable or threatened. Money is a form of power and I wondered if it would have an effect on how we relate to each other.

Well, aside from some light hearted teasing, the income change has not affected our relationship. My husband is not likely to spend of any more of his time machinating with me on how to increase our net worth through savings. Nor does he seem to feel insecure about my earnings. However, now when he tells me not to waste money on things like doing surveys or cutting coupons, I can tell him that I am focusing on both the offense and defense part of our net worth strategy

Should I Upgrade My Cell Phone?

I have owned my cell phone for a little more than 4 years. In that time it has served me faithfully, but now I am finally beginning to think that I might want some more functionality in my phone. My phone also is starting to show its wear. It's had cracks in its screen for the past 3 years (luckily the crack is near the top so it's hard to see) and now it seems to drop more calls then it used to. You know your phone is old when no one sells it anymore.

I've been thinking about getting a Blackberry. My company pays for most of my cell phone so the cost of the plan is not an issue. I have heard that once you get a Blackberry or other smart phone, it's hard to go back to having a regular phone. I'm not sure I want to make the leap. I am guessing the monthly plan would be about $80 (vs. the $40 I currently pay). It wouldn't matter while I'm working, but I am hoping that I will eventually have the freedom to work part-time once my husband and I have kids (probably in 2-3 years).

Is it worth the risk of potentially becoming addicted to a Blackberry and being unable to give it up?

I can already think of all the great functionality I'm longing for.

  • Hands free bluetooth
  • Web surfing
  • Email checking
  • Maybe even Pocket Quicken
I probably need to get a new phone within the next month as my current one continues to deteriorate. I'll post on my decision when it's made!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The $100 Laptop

I heard about the $100 laptop now costing $399 on my way to work this morning. When I got home I was looking around MSN money and I found this link about the promotion. Basically you buy one for yourself and then one is given to a needy child.

I am going to look into it since I need a new computer. Half of the price will be tax deductible, so as long as the laptop meets my computing needs I don't see why I shouldn't get one.

Carnival of Personal Finance #119

Thanks to Blunt Money for hosting the 119th Carnival of Personal Finance. I remember when I first started reading personal finance blogs I didn't understand what I carnival was. I remember I would skip all of the carnival articles on Bostongal's Open Wallet. At that time I didn't realize that carnivals were a good chance to read posts by different writers and to discover new blogs. This was the first carnival I participated in since I began blogging again. I submitted my post detailed what I did with my 18% raise.

Other posts I enjoyed:
My Two Dollars on Do You Ever Spend Money on Anything?
The Financial Blogger on 6 Things to Do Before You Quit Your Job
One Frugal Girl on Can You Resist a Bargain?
Moolanomy on The True Earning Power and the Real Cost of Luxuries

I'll be honest, I didn't read all of the articles, but these are just a handful that I enjoyed. I hope you enjoy the carnival as much as I did!

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Was Mistaken to Trust Bank of America

Right now I am extremely frustrated with Bank of America. I decided to open their Defenders of Wildlife savings account as detailed at Hustler Money Blog last week. On last Friday I called and got the details. I was told that in order to open a joint account, my husband would need to be on the phone with me.

So on Saturday we called in. It took about 30 minutes. We closed our other Bank of America savings account and we were assured that our account would be opened shortly.

I log into online banking quite frequently and I saw that my other savings account was closed (probably on Tuesday), but the new one was not open. I happened to go into the branch yesterday, on Thursday since I had a check to deposit. While I was there, I decided to check on my new account. A personal banker agreed to call me back once she checked on it. I just got the call and found out:

1. the Defenders of Wildlife savings account was never opened
2. the Defenders of Wildlife savings rate declined (not a big surprise, but it declined much more than the fed rate)
3. the personal banker couldn’t even open up the account for me with the interest rate listed online (she told me this was because the rates online were national averages, I think better rates are available online than in the branches)
I had switched $10K from my ING Direct savings account to my linked Bank of America checking account in anticipation of this move. That’s about $10 in lost interest for me. On $10,000 with 4.3% interest, I make $8.26. Since this debacle is going to cost me a little more than a week’s interest, I’m rounding to about $10 of lost interest.

Here’s my calculation of how much interest I would be making:
($10,000*4.3%)/52 weeks = $8.26
These troubles with Bank of America’s customer service have led me to decide to take most of my business elsewhere. I am going to open ING Direct’s Electric Orange Checking Account (email me if you’re not a customer of theirs and want a referral) and move 95% of my checking account to ING Direct. I'm going to keep a $50 direct deposit going into my Bank of America account in order to keep on using their ATMS and avoid the $3 outside ATM fee.

I am also shopping around for a new savings account. For now I’ve moved my money back to ING Direct. As BostonGal noted, they are no longer the leader in the rates, but they do have signup bonuses, an easy interface, and great customer experience.

Blogrush - New Way to Make Money?

Recently I've been trying harder to maintain my blog. This includes posting more frequently and looking for interesting things to add (some that might make money, some which are just interesting). I'm also thinking about doing a complete redesign of my blog since I think my current scheme is a little bit boring.

I found Blogrush while doing my daily check at It seems similiar to Adsense but more focused on driving people to your blog. Since I'm not that profilic of a blogger, I have yet to received a payout from Adsense (that's ok, if I were blogging for the money, I would have quit long ago). Blogrush is brand new, so it's going through some growing pains. I've put referral links in this post since you do get some sort of credit for referring new members. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Far Would You Go to Save Some Money?

Literally, how far would you go? My husband and I often go to a grocery store that's about 60 miles away in order to get a good deal on groceries and stock up. I sense that we are saving a lot of money, but I never bothered to do the calculations.

How much would we need to save to make it worthwhile?

If I assume that it costs us $.50/mile (I'm using this as a proxy since I am reimbursed $.485/mile for work related mileage), I would need to save $60 (60 miles *2 *$.50) in order to make the trip worthwhile financially. Of course, there are also the non-financial benefits of going.

1. Shopping at that faraway store allows us to spend time with some of our dear friends.
2. Shopping at this faraway store along with shopping at Costco allows me to shop less often since I have most of the food I need for a month or more

Ok now I think I'm looking for justifications for taking the trip out there! When we go, we do spend close to $200 or more. Next time we go, I'll try to come up with an estimate for how much we are saving to see if I can justify our trips based on financial reasons alone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I did with my 18% raise

I recently received an raise that was higher than expected. I knew that I was being promoted. I had been expecting approximately an 11% raise based on what I knew of the pay scale at the higher level. I also had it in my mind that if I didn't receive a promotion and a raise similar to my expectations, I would be looking for a new job.

Lucky for me, my boss came through for me and was able to deliver the promotion as expected with even more money than I was expecting. How often does that happen?

Anyways, in order to celebrate my promotion and higher salary, I decided to re-allocate my automatic savings. The end result? I now get about $100 less per paycheck into my checking account to cover our living expenses. I have ALL of my raise and an additional $100 per paycheck going to my 401K, our emergency fund, and our house saving fund. I get a thrill as I see our house saving fund increase. I can't wait until we have enough saved to be homeowners!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Biking to Church

I love it when my husband and I are able to bike to destinations we normally would drive to. We've been biking around our neighborhood for the past several months. Finally we decided to bike to church rather than drive. Yesterday was our second time doing the 3.5 mile ride. The ride is fairly pleasant, but the San Francisco hills make it quite tiring.

In order to bike to church, this is what we we did:
1. Wake up early enough to have time for the ride
2. Make sure we eat breakfast (my husband, C, always does, no matter what. Sometimes I skip it)
3. Stretch for 5 minutes before hand
4. Begin biking
5. Stop at the gas station (on the way) to fill C's tires with air
6. Keep on biking until we get to church
7. Lock up our bikes
8. Attend church
9. Ride back home

I enjoy getting exercise with a purpose. While C and I also go to the gym, I really appreciate it when we're able to get exercise doing something we would have done anyways - it also allows us to be more environmentally conscious. I would say that it allows us to save some money, however, this time I was so tired from the biking, I convinced C to stop at our favorite SF restaurant for lunch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Women vs. Men

Kay from Don't Mess with Taxes has a great post on post about the men, women & money. SVB and Nina have also been a part of the conversation

My husband and I have frequent financial discussions that show the stereotypical differences between how men and women view money. In managing our money, there is both the offense and defense point of views. Offense is related to generating more money. Defense is related to saving the money that you have/earn. Men tend to focus on offense. Women tend to focus on defense. Of course this is a complete generalization.

It's much easier to focus on defense and to see small immediate results, whereas focusing on offense requires more work & risk, but there's a much greater payoff. In my own personal experience, the best teams (or the best personal money managers) focus on both offense and defense.

In the experience of my husband and I, I am sure that my focus on defense has helped us increase our savings & net worth. However, since neither of us were big spenders to start, this hasn't has as much of an impact on our savings & net worth as our salary increases. Making more money doesn't matter if you don't keep more of it, but making more money makes it easier to keep more of it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ethical De-Cluttering

Lately I've been thinking a lot about simplifying my life and reducing my possessions. I even want to move to a smaller place to encourage my husband, C, and I to accumulate less stuff, but that's not economically sensible right now (we have a really good deal on our rent - so much that we might even pay more if we moved to a smaller place).

One question I've been thinking about is whether or not it's ethical to return something that I've used but decided that I don't like to a store with a good return policy such as Bed Bath & Beyond or Costco.

I know that both stores will accept returns of used goods with a receipt or proof of purchase. Am I just taking advantage of these stores' generous policies or am I abusing the system? I've used these items on a handful of occasions, but probably less than 5 times in the year or so that I've owned them.

I'm still thinking about this. Of course, I still have some unopened items from these stores that I'm planning on returning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Making it a Habit

I am a big believer that the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Sadly blogging has not made it into my habits, thus I find it hard to find time and motivation to blog. I have a lot to write about, what I am lacking is the motivation to put my thoughts together in a coherent fashion. Once I start writing I find that I start diverging. While stream of consciousness writing might have worked for Virginia Woolf in To The Lighthouse, I think today's readers are looking for quick and concise posts with a clear purpose.

Managing your life and managing your finances becomes much easier when it's a habit. Financial management can become even easier if you subscribe to the "auto-pilot" method with automated 401K savings, automated other savings, automated bill pay, etc. I have almost everything in my financial life automated except:
-credit card payment (I don't auto pay this since I want to make sure I review it every month, but I do get email reminders and pay it online)
- tithing (I tried asking my church for auto-debit, but it hasn't happened yet)
- Roth IRA investment (I wasn't sure if DH and I would exceed or get to the income limits this year)
- Some investment (We have some automated monthly investment into the S&P 500 and our retirement accounts, but sometimes we buy other stock/bond/mutual fund/ETF investments)

I love living in a clean house, but I hate organizing and cleaning. So I'm going to try and make it a habit to clean something small everyday, work on getting used to doing that one or two task(s), and build upon that.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Minimal Posting

When I started blogging again, I was hoping that I would be able to post on a consistent basis. Unfortunately this past month has been extremely busy with work obligations, weddings, and a small 4 day vacation.

I will try to post something more substantial tomorrow or Sunday.

I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sustainability and Frguality

I love it when I find ways to combine my interest is sustainability with my desire to be more frugal. I saw a great article in the Chicago Tribune about a recent law school grad who finds her clothes on the street.

I will admit that this might be a bit extreme for me, but I am a big proponent of doing similar things such as finding housewares on the street. My husband would kill me if I took home street finds now since he's has a cleanliness complex (he doesn't even want me to buy things from thrift shops). I have tried explaining how new clothes have been tried on, but he is unwilling to buy that line of thinking.

When I was living in NYC, I did find a pair of Calvin Klein jeans in a paper bag next to the garbage in my apartment building. I took them home, washed them (even though they already seemed clean) and tried them on. They fit, but unfortunately the previous owner was skinnier than me. I think I still have them around somewhere since I was planning on selling them on eBay.

I think New York in the mecca for street finds. There are a lot of busy, wealthy individuals who are unwilling to find a place to donate their perfectly usable, but undesirable to them items.

Walking around my old neighborhood, I found a really cute wooden table with stars painted on it, a dish rack (which I used since my store bought one broke), books and many other things.

There are many things that I want to do, but have not yet incorporated into my life. Decreasing my consumer consumption is one of my goals. This is pretty difficult for me since I love to shop, but I'm hoping that it will get easier with time.

Friday, August 10, 2007

One Area Where I Splurge

One area in my life where I always splurge is when hosting parties, especially parties in honor of others. I come up with a list of food items that I like (or I think the guests would like) and head over to Costco, Trader Joe's, and/or Safeway to get all the necessary sustenance.

I never budget for the parties and I also end up spending more than I think I will. The bill at Costco itself is always at least $100, sometimes closer to $200. I love taking the time to plan out the food, go shopping, and prepare everything!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Experience With Family Loans

When I graduated from college with stars in my eyes (I was on my way to NYC!) I knew that I was in the most precarious financial position of my life since my parental financial support was about to be reduced from full support to minimal, if any, support. Fortunately for me, many members of my family are in a better financial position than I am. I asked my older sister, with her well paying Silicon Valley tech job, if she would be willing to provide me with a loan for my graduate studies. She thought about it and graciously agreed to loan me up to the annual gift tax amount ($10K at that time) interest free.

At that time, I never thought about how the loan might alter our relationship or put a strain on my finances. I was only in grad school for one year and I assumed that I would easily find a job post-graduation that would allow me to pay off all my debts (family and education). I did not realize how difficult it would be to find a job or what my living expenses really added up to be. I was lucky that I had some money saved up, so when that educational loan became due (when my sister needed the cash to finance her home purchase), I was able to return the money to her. Had I not been able to pony up the cash, it could have caused a serious strain in our relationship. From this, I realized that in borrowing money from someone close to you, it's important to think about how it might alter the dynamics your relationship, when you will need to return the loan, and whether it's worth the potential pitfalls.

Wearing Out Clothes

It's unfortunate that I have worn out two of my favorite sweaters this summer. I know it's summer and I shouldn't need to wear sweaters, but I'm one of those people who always gets cold at work. The first time I wore out a sweater, I was lucky since my sister had the same exact sweater and she didn't wear it since it didn't fit her correctly.

This time I'm not so lucky. It so happens that I have three duplicates of the same sweater from Ann Taylor. I happened to purchase all of them on sale, in prices ranging from $75 - $40 for 2 ply cashmere sweaters. I would wear one of these sweaters at least once a week to work for 3 or 4 years. Now I only have one left!

Due to this recent turn of events, I feel the need to purchase some more sweaters. I really loved those sweaters. I didn't really like the styles available last winter at Ann Taylor so I didn't purchase any. I'm thinking about using eBay to fulfill my need. No one is selling sweaters (except the light weight ones) this time of the year yet. Even in a month or two when warmer sweaters are available, they'll be full price. Still thinking about how to replenish my work wardrobe.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wealth is a Matter of Perspective

I was reading Boston Gal's blog and I saw this link to an article in the NY Times about Silicon Valley millionaires that don't feel rich. Wealth is all a matter of perspective. When everyone around you is poor, you feel rich in comparison. For these people, everyone around them is rich, so they feel poor, despite being among the richest people in America.

A while ago I read a study about two types of jobs about two job offers.

Job A pays $90K while all of your other co-workers are paid $80K.
Job B pays $100K while all of your other co-workers are paid $120K.

Which job would you rather have? This assumes that the work for both jobs is completely the same for you and for your co-workers. The study I read about said that most people would be happier with Job A, even though the net pay is less. I would have to agree that I would be happier with Job A. Looking at it from a broad view, Job B would be better for your bottom line. But psychologically, I would be upset at being paid less than my colleagues for doing the same work.

I think this is how the rich Silicon Valley millionaires feel - even though they're not doing exactly the same job. A lot of the wealth is based on timing and luck. Of course the Silicon Valley millionaires also feel the need to keep up with the rich Joneses which does not help their situation.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Am I Obligated to Give a Gift?

I recently received a wedding invitation from an old friend that I see sometimes, but no longer talk to. I had known that they were getting married for some time (we still have a lot of common friends), but I had assumed that we were not invited to the wedding.

I am sure that C, my husband, and I are on the "B list" or maybe the "C list" since we didn't get a save the date (the couple sent out an electronic save the date) and we just got the invitation (most of my friends received invitations much earlier) with a reply request of only one week.

C and I are definitely not going to the wedding since we will be attending another wedding the same weekend in a different geographical location. What I'm struggling with is whether we should get the couple a gift.

I wrote this post a few days ago. Since then, I've decided to buy them a gift.

Drink Tap Water

I saw this editorial on the NYTimes about drinking tap water. I'm really trying to cut down on my consumption of bottled water. Since I started making a concentrated effort (starting about 2 weeks ago), I have only consumed one bottle while on a bike ride. I need to get some of those free water bottles that I can bring with me

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Things I Do to Save Money

Inspired by Mapgirl's post, I decided to think about some things I do to save money or live frugally. I was a bit disappointed that I could not think of more conscious choices I make.

1. I try to carpool with my co-worker as much as possible (1-3 times per week)
2. I buy classic clothes from Ann Taylor. Looking at the price per wear shows the payoff
3. I pack lunches for my husband and I to take to work

Personal Care & Shopping
4. I only cut my hair about once every 1-2 years. When I cut it, I try to donate to Locks of Love
5. I like to use pre-moistened cleansing towelettes from Costco to clean my face, but before using each towelette, I cut it into 4
6. When using items such as shampoo or soap, I try to only use the amount I need
7. I always buy clothes on sale

See #3 under Work
8. I clip coupons for the grocery store
9. My husband and I try to limit the number of times we eat out, especially the number of times we eat out with just the two of us

10. We switched most of our light bulbs to CFLs
11. We turn off lights if not in the room

That's all I can think of that we do consciously. There are other things we do that contributes to frugal living, but it's not always something we think about.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Husband's Paycheck vs. Mine

My husband, C, took our conversation about adjusting our withholdings to heart and printed a copy of his most recent check for me yesterday. After I took a look at it, I realized that we both get exactly the same salary each paycheck, however, one of us gets paid twice a month and the other gets paid once every two weeks. This means one person makes 8% more than the other.

Now I want to compare his paycheck to mine to examine our deductions and find out how close we are to getting the same "take-home" pay after all of our deductions. I suspect that our tax withholdings will be a large part of any difference in our take home amounts.

C and I are both expecting pay raises fairly soon (September/October). After this next salary adjustment, we will see how the salary dynamic changes. I will probably get a larger increase since I am also expecting a promotion, but we you never know. C and I work in different industries for different types of companies and we're at different points in our career.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Greatest Financial Desire

Currently, my greatest financial desire is to become a homeowner. Ever since I read The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, I have wanted to own my own place. At that time the goal seemed unfeasible. I was barely getting by in NYC with plans to move to the other side of the country in less than 2 years.

Since then I have gotten married (I can see why being married typically improves your finances) and we been able to save up a sizable down payment, but maybe not sizable enough for the bay area.

Things I have been thinking about recently:

How much can we adjust our tax witholdings in order to get more of our money back now?
It's harder to figure out the right withholding number when you're married without ready access to your partner's paychecks. I am going to try to get my husband to hand over the most recent copy of his paycheck this weekend so we can adjust our withholdings.

Should my husband and I ratchet down our 401k contributions in order to save more for our future home?
The answer here is probably yes. I am reluctant to not contribute the max to my retirement since I think I may exit the workforce or work part-time once we start a family. I didn't want to ask my husband to contribute less than the maximum while I still contributed the max. I talked with my husband about contributing less to our retirement accounts and he suggested contributing less to his account, while I could still contribute the full amount without me saying anything.

Should I try doing extreme budgeting by The Force?
We already budget by the force. I have my paycheck going into 5 different accounts. However, I allow myself a fairly large "cushion" in my checking account to cover my monthly expenses, allowing myself to never worry about not being able to pay the bills out of my checking account. When I was living in NYC with a much lower income to expense ratio, I had to really watch my spending since there wasn't a lot of money in my checking account. I could change the dynamics of our checking account so that we barely have the money to pay our bills, forcing me to be more mindful of the things I card to my credit card.

Somehow I want to substantially increase our home savings rate.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Five Things I Want to Do to Save Money or Improve My Life

Reading posts from others inspires me to make changes to my own life. Here are some strategies I want to implement.

1. Stop drinking bottled water

2. Start shopping at thrift stores for specific items like maternity clothes

3. Buy a side of beef

4. Install a clothesline

5. Plant some tomatoes

Yikes! This is silly, sad, and a lesson on why paying taxes is important

I just saw this snippet about a couple who is in a fight to keep their mortgage free home over a $1.67 tax bill.

No, that's not a typo, it's not even $2.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Did More Money Make Me Happier?

This morning I woke up and saw this article
on MSN. I've read the article before in the past, but this time I decided to think more about the article in the context of my own career.

Since I started my first full time job in 2004, I've changed jobs once and my salary has increased over 50% from my initial starting salary. I hope to be making over six figures before I turn 30 - this is an aggressive goal, but hopefully attainable given my current salary history (I'm currently 27).

More money has definitely allowed me to invest more in my future. Back when I started my first job, I had no emergency fund and was barely saving anything in my 401K or Roth IRA. Now I put the maximum in my 401K, can fully fund my Roth IRA, and have a healthy emergency fund. Getting married also increased my financial resources.

When I was making less, I was probably happier than I am now. Back then I was focused on saving anything I could and things seemed simpler. Now I'm focused on saving enough for a house down payment and maxing out my 401K. My financial concerns have changed, but they still exist despite the fact that I'm making more money.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Who are the Jones?

Being an avid personal finance blog reader, I feel like a member of the PF blogging community. Frugality is emphasized by many blogs and one area that I find to be extremely important.

On the other hand, I am a college educated twenty-something married gal. My husband works for a nonprofit, but I work in the well paying financial services industry. To make things worse, I work in consulting where consumption seems to be even more prevalent.

Another group I identify with are my college friends. Many of my friends from college are still getting started with their careers, often due to the desire to pursue even more education. Other good friends have chosen less lucrative careers such as teaching.

I don't feel like I quite fit in with my co-workers since I'm not used to their consumptive lifestyle. When they invite me to get a coffee with them (and oftentimes I know that they'll pay since it can be expensed), I pass up the offer - mostly due to health reasons. I don't dress as well as I should since i don't want to invest in the wardrobe. I try to make sure I don't wear the same shirt/sweater more than once a week. :)

My frugality is very simple compared to others who blog. Yes, I buy compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs), but part of that is because I've gotten them really cheaply at Costco (last time I got 8 bulbs equal to 60 watts for $3). However many of the more time consuming acts of frugality are beyond my patience.

Between these two extremes, I can't even determine who I should be trying to keep up with.

I probably fit in best with my old college friends, whom I spend the least amount of time with. They don't seem to be too concerned with consumption, but they don't go to the extremes to be frugal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm Back

After almost an 11 month hiatus, I decided to get back in the swing of things.

The real reason I'm back is I finally decided to tell my husband, C, about the blog. He was surprised, but he encouraged me to continue writing in it.

Since I've been gone from my blog, a lot has changed in the PF Blog world.

A lot has also changed in my life - the biggest change is that I'm now married. Being married brings a lot of blessings and challenges to one's life. That's a post for another day.

Financially I am chugging along. C is not as into personal finance as I am. As a result, it's a bit challenging to get him on board with planning everything I want to do. At the time of our marriage, C was unemployed. However he received two job offers 2 weeks after we returned from our honeymoon.

This post is a bit disjointed since there are so many things to update. Maybe my mind will be more clear tomorrow morning.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How I Became Frugal

My experience with frugality began when I was living in NYC. I was a poor graduate student with family loans, educational loans, and sky high rent. In my prior life, I was a pampered college student that could meet all of my needs and most of my wants, courtesy of my parents.

Living on my own with no income was an eye opening experience. I remember passing up the jazz club with friends since the cover was $15. I wanted to go, but I remember thinking that I needed to make my money last as long as possible. With rent at $1,000 a month and less than $10,000 in the bank, I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the year.

This was an important time in my life. Had I transitioned from parental supported college immediately to the working world, I may not have gained as much appreciation for the difficulty of managing money and making money. At this time, I found the dollar stretcher, a website that has been an invaluable resource in helping me find ways to save and stretch my money.

Of course, I can't say I'm the epitome of frugality. I think it's all about the choices and tradeoffs that we make. My husband and I are planning on spending an extravagant amount of money on a vacation later this year. We are doing out best to minimize waste in our everyday lives - both for our wallets and the environment. We want to consciously spend our money on items that will bring us happiness rather than let it slip away.