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.