Tag Archives: Bad Baby!

Very Un-glamorously Barely Resisting Temptation!

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I do a good job of basically saving money over the past few weeks, brag about myself in a post and then what happens?  My school’s student center installs a small sushi bar!

AAAHHHH!

What am I to do?  I went to the student center to eat lunch and grade things online.  I see this little outpost with people actually making the sushi in front of my eyeballs.  The smells and shapes were intoxicating.  I’m not sure how I picked out sushi smells from the domineering Burger King and Chic-fil-A smells, but I did.  (And no, it wasn’t because the fish was spoiled!)

I probably circled the little work station half a dozen times before they started eyeballing me warily.  As well they should have.  Then I scurried off and tried to forget about it.  Which obviously was so successful, since I’m now blogging about it…

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Little, Red…Honda!

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Way too subtle Prince reference above…    So, what’s red and goes vroom, vroom?  My guilty little pleasure:  my new Honda Night Hawk.

The Night Hawk is the bike many safety courses use in order to get your motorcycle endorsement on your license.  It’s actually not manufactured anymore.  They stopped putting them out a few years ago.  But for ease of handling and reliability, especially for a first timer, they’re considered one of the best go-to bikes.

Yes, I know, bad baby.  I could give plenty of half-true reasons for getting a bike.  They’re cheaper on gas, especially in the commute to work.  It costs less to park them.  It saves wear and tear on my car, which isn’t getting any younger.  It costs less to insure them.  Blah, blah, blah.

But the truth is, sometimes budgets have to be a little more flexible to include a few things one loves.  I’ve wanted a bike since I was a teenager.  But something always mattered more.  First there was a little baby as a young mother.  Gas vs. diapers is an easy choice to make.  Then there was the little, used car that cost the same as the bike.  Bikes don’t have baby seats, so the little car won out.  It’s still in use, by the way, great buy.  There was always something that required more money.  I was unable to save up for a bike because my spare change was going to pay doctor’s bills.  Heck, what I’m going to be in for it total in terms of bike cost, insurance and driver’s safety course equals my absolute bare bones fantasy trip to Costa Rica or Ireland.  So it did give me pause.

Now, even though there is always something to save and pay for, I found myself in a position to have a little spare change for a bike.  Again.  For the fifth time in nearly twenty years.  It was offered at 5% of my emergency fund goal.  Much cheaper than the 10 – 15% I thought it was going to take.  The gal even threw in the saddlebags and the helmet, saving me even more money.  Since I have a little bit of known money coming in incidentally, and my summer coverage is 2/3 of the way assured, I had a decision to make.  And I went against my budget for the first time.

I guess I could’ve put the money into my savings account and been 5% closer to my savings goal.  5% matters a lot to me.  I paid a little over two mortgage payments for this bike.  But the investment in it goes far beyond a dollars and cents valuation.  The ability to pick up and go on a sunny day just for a ride (especially at today’s gas prices!) is something I’ve always wanted.  Packing the bike for a fishing trip with a collapsible pole, bait and tackle, and vrooming off to enjoy the ride is something I would love to do.  Day trips to the local sights around here within an hour or so’s riding distance would be all the more enjoyed.

I guess the thing for me is the metaphor of the bike.  It’s not the destination that is the end goal.  It’s the journey itself.  It’s the being in the moment of where you are and what you’re doing.  A bike is a very different experience from a car.  You have no choice but to be hyperaware of what is going on around you.  As someone who is very steadily and stubbornly future focused (my 5 year plans would make Stalin gasp), the bike is the one thing that keeps me in the here and now.  My friend Roger likes to point to his heart attack as proof that one can work oneself nearly into the grave.  Sometimes it’s important to ease the death grip one has on one’s budget and allow some play.

The schoolmarm in me says, “Obviously not too much play!”  And to be clear, if I wasn’t already out of credit card debt, I wouldn’t be doing this.  If I had to finance the bike, I definitely wouldn’t be doing this.  If I didn’t already have a couple of months of emergency fund built up, I wouldn’t be doing this.  If I didn’t have a plan to pay for the summer and a good sense of what money is coming in and where for the next six months, I wouldn’t be doing this.  But I have good answers to all those questions.

So I’m doing this.  🙂

Budget Buster: Not Using Your Leftovers

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I confess this is one of the most difficult things for me to do.  I hate leftovers.  I associate them with a) failed cooking b) poor planning and c) being poor.  All of these associations are wrong, stupid and cost money.

Groceries are (to my mind) the biggest variable expense in one’s budget.  It’s the first place we tend to look when we want to cut down on costs because we can control whether we’re going to buy ramen or steak.  We can’t always control whether the energy company is going to raise their rates through the roof.  So not wasting the food you do buy is critical.

The key to reusing leftovers, at least for me, is to be creative with them.  I have a terrible time taking leftovers to work, and I’m not usually in a position to use the microwave.  If I just lop off a slab of the leftover meat and reheat the vegetables for dinner, I have an immediate rejection instinct (and so does the boy). However, if I reuse those things in a different way, I don’t do so badly.

Consider the pork roast I made in the crockpot a few days ago.  It was a delicious bargain that I got at the Shop & Slave as part of the 5/$20 meat purchase.  It was crocked with fresh garlic and ginger and then served with broccoli and rolls.  There was quite a bit of it left over, and I dreaded having to eat it the same way a second time.  The thought actually went through my mind:  It only cost $4, maybe it would be better to just throw it away.  No, no, no!!  Bad baby!  Such a path does not lead to financial security!  I’m a firm believer that while there are big financial roads to ruin, like buying more house than you can afford or being hit with a medical emergency you cannot cover, the majority of us who are in debt and complaining about our finances have nickel and dimed ourselves into such a position. And throwing out the leftovers is a great example.

So instead, I hauled out a couple of small packs of stir fry fixings — rice, sauce, veggies — that I’d also found on sale, diced up the leftover pork, and threw it all in a skillet and served it with a side salad.  It was delicious!  Didn’t taste like leftovers, didn’t waste the food.  The whole meal cost maybe $6.  Whoo hoo!  So the key, then, is to be creative until it’s used up.  If I’d had more leftover pork, I think I would’ve tried to make a pasta dish with it or thrown in some cheese, beans and fixings and wrapped them all up in flatbread.  Keep changing up the taste, and you’ll never notice.

Since leftovers are a big challenge for me, I’ll be regularly mentioning how I deal with them.    And I would *LOVE* your suggestions as well.

Budget Hypocrisy!

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I confess that there are several budget savvy moves that I have a terrible time complying with, even though the savings to me would be quite nice.  I am going to list my sins and the estimated savings to myself in hopes of shaming me into doing better!

  • Not taking the bus.  Do you know what it costs me to ride the bus?  NOTHING.  It’s free with my university ID.  Even if it did cost me money, it would be $0.50 a pop.  Or a $1 a day to get to and from work.  What it costs me instead is time management and planning.  Originally my excuse was the operating hours.  It used to run just a little too late for me to catch it in the morning and it ended far too early for me to make it home at night.  (Even though I could’ve walked home within 30 minutes).  That excuse is no more.  The bus has expanded operations and runs well into the night.  I just have to plan to catch it and be ready at a reasonable time in the morning and then catch it again in the evening by walking a few blocks to one of its stops.  **WHINE**  I like the freedom of my car and there are days when the bus is not feasible because I have places to go after work that are too complicated to work out by bus.  This is a college town, after all, not a big city — and the bus routes reflect that.  But seriously, for most days I could catch the bus and pay no parking fees.  Since I’m paying on average $6 a day to park in the garage, savings lost to me:  $18-30/week depending on what is going on.  Monthly:  $72 – $120.  What?!?!  That could be another credit card payment!  Or 9 months of that would give me between $600 – $1000 to go lay on a beach somewhere.  What is wrong with me?!  Bad baby!
  • Eating out too much.  I love to cook, I really do.  But because I’m pulled in so many directions right now, and because I also love food, I find I’m eating out way too often. This could be a pick up bag of McNasty or it could be a bigger sit-down dinner.  It feels like a reward after a hard day of hard.  Student fallout, divorce fallout, health scare, house refinance, boy dropping a pair of testicles and suddenly deciding he’s King of the Jungle, cat throwing up bloody hairballs, wearing an uber-pink dress in my sister’s wedding, you name it, it’s happened this fall pretty much all at once — pass the Asian-Fusion cuisine, please!  I’ve dealt with some of this by being a little kinder to myself.  Sometimes our budgets have to stretch to accommodate picking up a pizza for supper that night.  We can’t be all things all the time.  Sometimes negative life events need to be treated with a helping of sushi.  But it does need to stop now.  Savings lost to me:  I have no idea, as I haven’t bothered to keep track of it.  BAD BABY!  Bad baby on two fronts!  One thing I did do to stem the flow of blood, though, was spend $30 on a giant coupon book full of discounts for things all over this town.  My favorite places to eat are in there.  That way if I do spend money on eating out, at least I’ll be doing it at half the financial damage.
  • Emotional spending.  This one doesn’t happen very often to me unless you count food.  If you count food, I’m a very emotional spender.  I tend to think of it more as “stuff,” though, like clothes and furniture and doodads.  The worst thing in the world I can do is go to the mall if I’m feeling broody over the divorce, for example.  Guess what?  Even if it’s 99% off, it’s still wasted money if you don’t need it!  Savings lost to me:  Again, no idea…didn’t actually keep track of it.  BAD BABY!  Fortunately, when I do drop money, I rarely drop a lot of it.  I have a feeling of revulsion once the amount gets too high for my stomach to bear.  I’ve been incorporating two things that have helped significantly.  First, I head to the bathtub instead of the mall if I’m feeling sad or worried.  I run a bubble bath and pour a glass of wine.  And then I lay in it feeling very glamorous.  So I remove the temptation from myself, basically.  The second thing I have been doing is budgeting in a clothing/gifts jar.  (I use a jar method where I take out cash each week and put it into the jars accordingly — I work much better visually that way for some reason.)  I also have a jar for “entertainment”, and I’m trying to get better at reserving that jar for the occasional sushi binge.  When you know there is a bit built into your budget to spend on such things, it takes a bit of the allure out of random shopping and shopping becomes a planned event.  For a few months I got so good at it that I was actually rolling the entertainment and the clothing/gift money into another envelope to then use for Christmas gifts, which were all paid for in cash this year and on budget.  So woot, there.  Of course this was pre-health scare, pre-final divorce, and pre-ball dropping.  So back to the mall I went.  Time to revisit my coping methods.
  • Not prioritizing retirement.  Now, two things I actually do right are a)  having a retirement plan in the first place and b) putting in before taxes the amount that my university will match into the account.  That being said, my salary is bird feed, and even with the match, that won’t be enough to support my current lifestyle (which is budget glamorous as it is) in retirement.  My sin here is not prioritizing retirement.  Some of the reasons for this are unavoidable and some are stupid Gen-X reasons.  For one thing, I have debt. As an MSN article demonstrates, this is pretty common for my age group (article linked at bottom).   My personal preference is to clear the debt before I throw loads of money into retirement.  I have divorce debt, I have student loan debt, and I have credit card debt.  I have a mortgage I’d rather pay off first than slam any extra $$ into an IRA.  The Gen-X excuse is an essential distrust of the retirement system all the way from Social Security availability to there actually being any money in a retirement account left to me once I go to retire.  I sink into the paranoia that somehow, some way, the government will figure out how to take it all.  None of these things are an excuse to not fund more towards retirement.  I’m 34 years old.  I have time, but those returns will start to steeply diminish if I don’t get on it sooner rather than later.  Retirement calcs say I’ll need about $3000 to live on per month in retirement.  With a mortgage payment and a student loan payment out of the way, I could probably pull that off reasonably well, assuming no serious medical stuff ensues.  According to these same calculators, I am below my target by about half in contributions per month (bad baby).  By me not coming up with that measly $50 in additional Roth investing, calcs also say I’m costing myself $14000 over the next 20 years.  And that is at a very conservative 4% return.  If the return percentage increases, so does the folly of my decision not to cough up the $50.  And if I can pony up a cool $100 a month?  I’m costing myself around $27000 in retirement money.  Conservatively.  Bad baby!
  • Utterly failing at couponing.  This is one skill I simply do not have, nor do I have any idea how much I’m losing in savings by not having it.  I am trying to master the art of the pantry and stockpiling, but there is not yet a method to my madness.  I am starting to sit down with the Sunday sale papers and try to plan my grocery route in better fashion.  But it seems like a deep sea to navigate.  One thing I do right, however, is that I try to buy most of my food from Aldi, only going to the “better” groceries when Aldi doesn’t carry what I need.  Aldi is the poor folks’ version of Trader Joe’s.  Same people and same products, just different packaging.  I spend literally half of what I would at a different grocery store.  They’re even cheaper than Wal-Mart.  I’m going to have to stop being a bad baby and read up on how people make such great deals that they only need to go to the store once a month or so.  Hunting and Gathering is not an art I possess.
  • Not always packing coffee and lunch into work.  I mentioned this when I blogged about my handy-dandy new thermos.  I think it’s just that I don’t prioritize those things either the night before or in the morning.  I feel scattered and I’m rushing around thinking about everything but my own needs and my financial situation.  Last week, for example, the Bear made some mouthwatering salmon salad wraps — made with salmon from Chicken of the Sea’s foil pouches one can find near the soup aisle.  What an awesome pantry addition, by the way!  It’s cheap, it stores forever, it doesn’t have the problems that tuna poses.  It was made with pickles and green onions and spinach leaves, wrapped it in a flat bread, and took it to work with chips and a piece of fruit and a thermos of coffee.  WOW was it good!  But I managed to only do that one day.  Eating lunch at the university shops and not bringing my own coffee is costing me a minimum of $22.5 – $37 a week just in food and drink alone.  In a month’s time I’m losing $90 – $148 a month in wasted eating out.  It’s not like I even have to offset this figure by calculating what I have to buy at the store to prepare for this.  I have all these things at home anyway, for days when I’m not on campus!  BAD BABY!!  That’s another flipping credit card payment!  I’m going to have to start doing this the night before or something.  Sheer willpower will be what it takes, I think.
  • Not actually putting “saved” money into tangible savings.  Of course, none of this matters if you don’t actually physically take the saved money and move it into something else.  All too often, I don’t congratulate myself on the $6.75 I saved and throw it into the Get Rid of Evil Credit Card jar.  If it’s sitting there in the account, my mind doesn’t remember that $47.50 is extra happy money for paying down debt.  I just breathe a sigh of relief that my grocery bill has a little extra padding this month!  Or worse, get all excited and buy something I don’t need because I think I have the money for it.  Short term memory fail.  😦  I’m going to have to get better about shoving that money in a jar at the end of the day — or keeping track of it via sticky note that is paid out at the end of the week/month at the very least!  Bad baby!

You mean to be telling me that I could be putting at the bare minimum $162 toward credit cards (extra, even!!) and a max of $268, virtually without breaking a sweat?!  That plus the minimum payment means I could have that card paid off without digging for extra money in either a year and four months…or just at a year!  Once the card is gone, that same amount of money gives me an extra $3384 to $4656 a year!  You know, to do important stuff like FUND RETIREMENT and PAY DOWN OTHER DEBT!

Bad baby, bad baby, BAD BABY!!

http://money.msn.com/retirement-plan/your-30s-do-not-get-derailed-by-debt-weston.aspx