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.