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Archive for the ‘Spending money’ Category

Gifts ect.

My in-laws just came back from vacation with a car full of gifts for us. T-shirts, key chains, souvenir postcards and photographs, you name it.

The problem is, we can’t really use any of this stuff. We have too many nick-knacks as it is, and we’re really trying to cut back on “stuff.” The t-shirts don’t fit.  We have our own photographs from the vacation site, having already visited it ourselves.

To make matters worse, they left the price tags on everything.  Now we know that they spent $14 on a pink vase (a vase from the beach?), $20 each per shirt that doesn’t fit, $7 each for two key chains, and $10 for the photographs. It really bothers me that they waste money on us.  I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but I would much rather have an hour of quality time with them, or one great gift that we can use, rather than $80 worth of stuff.  I’ve tried to explain this already, that we’re really minimalists, but they just don’t get it.  They like stuff, so we must like getting stuff, right?

They also buy food for us, and invite us out to eat 2-3 times per week. I’m a planner, and like to schedule meals for the week.  (They’ll bring over a rotisserie chicken, just as I’m finishing up supper.  Thanks, guys.) They think we can’t afford food, because they’ve seen me clipping coupons and writing out a grocery list. I COULD spend $100 per week on food…  but then we couldn’t contribute to our retirement funds, or prepay the mortgage, or set money aside for our “fun” expenses like vacation. We choose to make sacrifices in our daily expenses, in order to have a better lifestyle in the long run.

I’m really concerned about what will happen when we have children.  My family is very frugal and thoughtful – we will search for weeks to find the “right” gift, and give just one or two well thought-out gifts per person. His family prefers an all-out gluttony of gifts, most of which wind up back in our “re-gifting” closet for the next holiday, because we just can’t use them.

I can already see our children being spoiled by gifts…  and I don’t want that to happen.  I grew up learning to appreciate what we had, because it wasn’t much.  I don’t want our children to struggle or feel deprived, but I also don’t want them to think that money comes from credit cards and the ATM.  Please spoil our children with love, not money.

Does anyone else have this problem?  Do your family and friends respect your lifestyle?  Have you be able to come up with a compromise that makes both families happy?

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We’ll be leaving on vacation in a few days for our annual “antique tractor” exhibit.  It’s like a car cruise, only it lasts four days.

We always get a hotel room for this setup.  It’s hot, in the woods, with no running water. But hotel rooms are expensive – about $60 per night.  We usually bring a tent along and sleep in the tent the first nights. It’s the best of both worlds – camping is free, but we also have access to a shower at least once a day.

We’ve been doing really well with our finances lately. We spend our money thoughtfully and frugally, and set aside at least 10 percent for retirement, plus extra payments on the mortgage and student loan.  We’ve been scrimping for 10 months now, with lots to show for our efforts.

I’ll make it clear: I’m tired of being frugal on vacations, and I do not want to sleep in a tent again. So I did the next best thing to free camping – I called the hotel and asked for a discount.  I explained that we already had reservations, and were considering adding a night or two to our stay. Could he give us a reduced rate on those extra nights?

I’ve never done this before, and my heart was pounding the entire time. Would the manager think I was cheap?  (Well, I am.)  Would he be stingy? (They usually are.)  But we both knew what he was thinking: We had already locked into the room for Friday and Saturday night. If we don’t sleep there on Thursday, the room will stay empty. Nobody rents a hotel room on Thursday night in this area.

After a long pause, he asked if 20 percent off would work – 20 percent off the entire weekend.  That would be wonderful, I said; book us for the third night.  I got the third night for just $24!  I did a little victory dance after I hung up the phone.

It never hurts to ask!

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I’ve been trying to get a part time job with our local newspaper, copy editing the paper.  I do some freelance work for them, and they like my writing style.  I enjoy the atmosphere – it’s friendly and welcoming.

The managing editor is very eager to get a copy editor on board, even if it’s only part time.  (I’m not ready to give up my freelance gigs – the tax benefits are great, and I love the flexibility.)  But while he is in charge of hiring/firing, he needs the go-ahead from upper management to create a new position. Surprise – they’re not hiring right now due to economic conditions.

The local community college is offering an online editing class for $100. The managing editor is encouraging me to take this class, hoping that the extra background will be enough to talk his boss into hiring me. I have an editing background from college, but no formal education outside of a journalism degree.

$100 is a lot of money in our monthly budget.  We do have more than six months expenses in an emergency fund, though.  I’m thinking about borrowing from Peter, hoping that Paul whips out the checkbook and hires me after I finish the class.

It’s been over a year since I finished college, and I’m suddenly itching to take another college course.  At the very least, it’s a business write-off. What would you do in this situation?  Would you fund the class out of your efund?  Would you “find” the money in the budget, scrimping on retirement savings? 

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FiveCentNickel recently discussed his biggest financial vice (eating out), and encouraged other bloggers to examine their own spending habits.

By far, our biggest vice is beverages. While we prepare meals in our own kitchen most nights, we’re both rather hooked on flavored beverages – soda, juice, iced tea, milk, coffee, you name it.  We probably spend nearly $10 per week, or $500 per year, on beverages alone.  The ocassional bottle of wine doesn’t help much, either.

But that’s not too horrible, you might add.  It’s only $10 per week – that’s less than the cost of a night out. Consider this: Our food budget is only $45 per week. We spend 22% of our budget on drinks. Yikes!   

I really wish we could drink tap water, but we have a sulfur problem and filters don’t completely remove the smell. We can cover the smell with drink mixes, yes, but I just can’t take any icy glass of water and chug it.  Shudder…  it’s like drinking raw eggs.

I have been making some progress.  We’re focusing on sales, and try to drink what’s on sale for the week. The Husband loves Mountain Dew, but will drink the generic brand of soda on occasion. We also stock up on drink mixes, and try to focus on “healthier” mixes that don’t have sugar as their main ingredient.

Finally, I’m experimenting with new water filters. We haven’t hit one yet that works completely, but I’m highly motivated. Aside from financial concerns, I’d love to brush my teeth in sulfur-free water.

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We don’t have a lot of money right now.  We’re not struggling, but we certainly can’t afford to throw cash around like crazy people.

But the point is: We’re not struggling, while some people in our area really are struggling just to feed their families.

I made a conscious decision yesterday to start sharing our “wealth.”  I added a few boxes of pasta to our grocery cart with the intention of donating them to the local pantry.  When I drop off the pasta, I might ask what else they need. I know it isn’t much, but if we all share just a little bit of our time and money, the world would be a much better place.

We can all make a big difference in the world, with small gestures of kindness. Will you join me?

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Tricia at Blogging Away Debt made a great point today about letting kids learn from their own financial mistakes, while the stakes are still fairly low. I have my parents to thank for that, as well – they let me earn and spend my own money, and as a result I have a stronger feel for the “worth” of a dollar.

My strongest financial memory is of our local Wal-Mart’s grand opening. I was about five years old, and I was so excited – I finally had somewhere to spend my money! Up until then, I mainly put my birthday and holiday funds into a savings account, or saved up for our semi-annual trip to the “city.” Yes, we were that rural back then.

I can still picture myself running through Wal-Mart with cash in my pocket. I gathered an impressive amount of “stuff” and headed to the register. While standing in line, I had a realization – I didn’t have enough money for everything that day. I had to set priorities, and put a few neat but costly things back on the shelf.  My heart was broken, and I’m pretty sure I cried as a put back my most expensive item, a flexible snow sled.

The funny thing is, I only remember the sled. I don’t remember any of the things I actually bought. Did I treasure those items for a short while, and then toss them?  Would I have missed those items if I hadn’t bought them, as I did the sled?  Having recently cleaned out my childhood room, I’m almost positive that I traded that sled for an armful of junk.

The lesson learned: Don’t judge purchases by their dollar value – judge them by the inherent value and pleasure they can add to your life. Because money is a valuable and limited commodity, we must learn to balance our wants and needs with the amount of money available.  Sure, I got lots of cool stuff that day. But I was also broke, and I didn’t get to buy my favorite thing at the store. 

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting me buy that armful of junk. It really made me realize the value of the dollar, and the importance of wise spending decisions.

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I was reading through my auto insurance policy today, thanks to a thought-provoking post by Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.  The theory is that auto insurance prices take a dramatic plunge when you reach age 25, and I was estimating how much of a difference this 10-20% discount would make.  (It’s about $10-$20 per month – happy birthday to us!)

Then I read the line, “comprehensive coverage – $500 deductible.” I paused, thinking I must be confusing “comprehensive” with another term. But when I looked it up, I saw that comprehensive covers thinks such as broken windshields, or a deer running into your car. 

We have older model cars, each with a Kelly Blue Book value of less than $2,000.  WHY do we have comprehensive coverage?  I thought our insurance agent had simply mirrored my old auto plan from before we got married, but it appears that he helpfully added a few perks. Those perks are costing us a few hundred dollars a year…

I am feeling pretty foolish for having paid for the policy. I did read the forms before I signed them, but we bought our new insurance a week after the wedding and three weeks after buying our first home. I was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least.  But ignorance can be expensive!

We really like our insurance agent – he’s helped both of our families through auto claims, and we really trust him. I’m sure he was doing what he thought best for a young couple. Needless to say, I will be sitting down with him in two months, when our policy comes up for renewal, and examining our contract more closely.

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