Frugal Beautiful

Posts Tagged ‘Budgeting

Victoria's Secret Black Friday at Westfield San Francisco Centre 2009While I am not in consumer debt- I seem to have a penchant for spending as much as I make- if not sometimes more (which is easy to do when you work part time and go to school).

I find that my spending habits are irregular- sometimes I’m very aware of my income level for the month and spend accordingly- other times I feel as if I make all of my purchases at once leaving for one month of an unusually high credit bill.

I just recently took in a foster pug named Ralph, and while some expenses are reimbursed, much is not- such as kibble, treats, grooming and a bed -$80.  I also a month ago signed up for a student gym which was -$96 ( if I go to yoga at least once a week it’s the cheapest rate around, even better when I go twice weekly!) +$6 for yoga gloves to help my grip on the mat.  I got a great rate to fly back to the west coast for a 5 year reunion with my friends from the non-profit, which was a round-trip ticket for -$305 with taxes.  I also purchased two books from Amazon for -$20.  Needless  to say, it’s gonna be a wee-bit tight for the next two months since I make a meager income and I’m going to challenge myself to BUY NOTHING for 30 days.

I tried to challenge myself and not shop for 30 days at the beginning of this year and failed around day 20.  I had to chip in conjunction with a gift card to buy a pair of boots I needed for winter so that was $25, and a few days later I gave in at Target and got a pillar candle and a picture frame.  Seriously, THAT is what mucked me up- $33 in 2 days.  I have to try again- both because I’m broke and because I’m prideful.

The Challenge Parameters:

-No purchases except food, medical care and necessities for the dog (if the dog needs a crate I will get him 0ne).

-Gift cards may be used, but not if the purchase exceeds the card amount.

-My grocery bill must be under $200 for the entire month.

-Purchases for the reunion dinner are applicable since I am in charge of the food/prep/setup.

What else am I forgetting?  Oh, ya, probably how challenging it’s going to be. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

 

I want to set up a reward for myself at the end of the 30 days, but what can I do as a treat for myself that wouldn’t defeat the purpose of saving money? Suggestions are appreciated.

See you on March 1st, 2011 for a challenging challenge!

Time is moneyThey say time is money, but have you given this any thought?  Everything you want in life, whether it be a good experience or a good product will cost you one of two things:  time or money, and they don’t have an equal exchange rate!

I wrote earlier of understanding your priorities in order to direct where your money should be spent, and where it should be cut back.  Part of directing your money most effectively is of knowing how to get what you want- to be frugal you must properly either budget your money or budget your time.

Many frugal people become die-hard D.I.Y.ers- learning new skills, fixing things themselves, buying things second hand, or simply identifying situations that paying someone else to do a task is a waste of money!  But how much is your time worth?  When does it become more cost effective to spend the money instead of spending your time?

Example:  Buying Secondhand

I love thrift store shopping- you can find some great items that are like new but are cheaper than buy it that way, and you can also find gorgeous jewelry, vintage clothes or antiques you cannot find elsewhere!  If you’re going into thrift stores for the joy of finding unique pieces, or know there’s an appliance or household item you don’t need new- this is a great tactic, but beware- if you’re trying to put together an entire household or really jazz up a wardrobe from scratch, this could be more of a time-zapper than it’s worth.  Of course, this is different for each person- if your time could be better spent bringing in some income or buying one really nice item you plan to wear till its threadbare instead of a used item that may be on it’s way out, you need to make that call!

The ease of finding a simple black pear of black pumps or a pyrex dish might be worth the price at a cheaper retail store instead of shopping at several thrift stores trying to find the same item in your size or color.

Example:  Housecleaning and Maintenance

When I lived in California, it was ineffective for my sanity and my calendar to try and clean the house I shared with my family.  I could make more money and accomplish more by having someone come once a month and tidy up in the time it would have taken me to clean the oversized house we shared.  It’s no longer necessary for me to do this, but during a rough patch with my family, this really made life easier.  Though it was pricey, it helped us get through a very difficult time for our family.

Example:  Give Away or Garage Sale?

I could have made a fortune off of the things I gave away to charity before moving to Chicago.  I knew though, that seeing my Gram’s things (who had passed away a year prior) would totally break my heart, and going through it twice- to decide what to sell, and then putting it out for display, would be a total emotional drain.  I was running low on time and decided to donate everything to Gram’s favorite charity instead so they could sell what they wanted in their thrift store.  Sure, I didn’t make any money- but it saved me time and a lot of emotional stress…time well spent.

Example:  Buy or Borrow?

Sometimes it is so tempting to just have something on hand at all times- a rarely used blender, a leaf blower, books you may rarely read but never want a late fee on!  While it can be a pain to have to find someone who can loan out an item, (or returning it on time!) -borrowing items can be a great way to cut back on excesses.  This semester, I got all of my books for school at the public and school libraries.   I have loaned out my knitting supplies to someone so they can test it out the hobby before buying expensive supplies.  If it’s feasible and you have the option to borrow instead of buying, try it out!  Just be sure you reward people that loan you their car or vaccumm cleaners so they don’t regret the kindness!

Example:  Making or Buying Gifts?

Crafting is fabulous- it’s fun for the crafter and great for the recipient, but sometimes it can get pricey. It can be misleading to think that crafting is a budget-friendly way to create gifts, but in fact- when you factor in the cost of supplies and the hours it takes to knit a scarf or put together a scrapbook, it could easily cost more than your anticipated “cost” of a gift!  Of course, if the point of the gift is to give from the heart or to create a keepsake, or even to provide yourself with hours of entertainment in its crafting- go for it!  If you’re trying to simply “save money,”  simply having something handmade won’t mean it’s affordable to make, sometimes a gift card in a modest amount or another venture would be a better choice for the giver and recipient.

As a crafter myself who has tackled an array of invitations, centerpieces and event programs- I have often made the mistake of underestimating the amount of time and money it would take to D.I.Y.  Simply having the invites printed with a good coupon could have saved me a lot of stress and frustration when a project takes longer and needs more glitter and ribbon than anticipated!

Example:  Off Brand or Name Brand?

I think there are some items you should buy for cheap-  socks, tights, undershirts, store-brand food items, rugs/towels (any items that take a lot of abuse and probably won’t look nice for long).  But there are other items that I think you shouldn’t skimp on- toilet paper and comfortable but stylish shoes are the two I have learned recently.  Also, I have bought cleaning products and paper products from the dollar store, only to find the products were watered down or ineffective!  Sometimes it’s easy to cut corners, other times- having to go back to the store and buy a cleaning product that works or a pair of shoes you can tolerate will cost you more time and money.

We have all bought something simply because it’s “cheap,” but sometimes buying a more expensive pair of shoes that you adore and know you’ll wear (without them killing your feet) might be your best bet!  I am currently saving my pennies for a Tiffany Necklace I have been wanting for over a year now- it’s terribly expensive, but I plan on wearing and loving it for years.  It goes with everything, and in this one instance, I’d rather have one nice piece that I treasure over other trendy/costume pieces…and if I still love it in 2 years when I finally have enough for it, we’ll be set!

We have all experienced projects where we run out of paint, didn’t buy the right supplies, didn’t anticipate how “broken” something is, or realized we weren’t as savvy as we thought- at times, it’s okay to throw in the towel and call in the professionals!

Here are some other blogs articles on this topic:

8 Ways Convenience Is Screwing Your Finances @WiseBread

Sometimes Budget Items Are Awful @BudgetSmartGirl

Rules To Grow Rich By:  Do It Yourself @TheSimpleDollar

The Case For Expensive Shoes @WiseBread

Oh-so-frugal-beautiful!
Part of being in control of your financial life is being aware of what really matters to you.

Many frugal-gurus advise you to cut down on your “latte factor”…small purchases that may only cost a few dollars but add up over time.

My advice stems from this-prioritize your spending based on what you can’t live without, or simply what brings you the most joy- even if it’s small purchases.

I used to love having my nails done. I would get a pedicure once a month and I had gorgeous acrylic nails. They were great for back scratching, looked great, and I totally loved them. They cost me $25 every three weeks, and $23 for a pedicure. For a flat fee of $25, I could buy my own supplies to do at-home mani/pedis. I calculated that I could roughly save $438 a year if I simply did my spa treatments at home. I can’t do my own acrylics, but I can choose from some gorgeous nail colors, and the security of knowing I’m able to pay my bills each month is totally freeing.  Now I love to do my nails, and have freed my money up for something that brings me greater fulfillment.

When I moved to Chicago, I had to rethink my priorities- number one being the security of having my bills paid in full without additional stress. I then had to categorize my spending based on what would make me the happiest. What did I decide? I decided for me, I didn’t need to get my nails done, pay for cable, purchase books and use the library instead, and I’d brew my own coffee and cook more at home. I also decided to sell any books, shoes or video games I didn’t need to earn some extra coin to pay for things I really wanted. I chose to get a cheaper apartment that with utilities, was under $400 a month (And note to my friends that tease me for being frugal in my living space? Well “friends,” my stuff is PAID FOR, now come over for some boxed wine!).

What did I decide to spend money on? Getting stylish clothing appropriate for midwest weather and to look hot in the cold Chicago winters, getting a dog (that will probably cost me $450), signing up for yoga, and starting this blog. I also decided that I was willing to spend more on purchases to support small businesses for groceries, clothes and yarn- that makes me happy. I was willing to cut back on my shopping in other arenas and look for savings to make this happen.

Plus, you can still have everything you want/need by looking for cheaper alternatives, searching for coupons/discounts, swapping with friends or negotiating cheaper rates on your monthly bills.  Everything is attainable!

Am I happier despite the sacrifices? You better believe it. Being financially efficient is different for everyone- cutting back on your lattes might be cost effective and motivating for one and yet depressing for someone else.  You know what is worth spending money on in terms of your own joy and security- if you can afford convenience in one area, but can D.I.Y. in another- you have the power to make that judgement call!

Take a few minutes to evaluate what matters to you, and allocate your money accordingly to maximize the happiness from each dollar.

Valentine Piggy  {09.365}

You need to be doing one of two things:  Either paying off your debt or saving for your future. RIGHT NOW.

If you have income, you need to either get out of debt or put a little money away for saving (or spending!)

I can not entice you with promises of how great it will be when your wrinkly-ass wants to be at the vacation home for your retirement years in Florida with the grandkids- but I hope I can help you realize that in 6 months, that microwave/wedding/vacation/new Coach Purse isn’t going to pay for itself and it sure as hell is not going on a high-interest credit card!

You will hear over and over again that you need to save for the “unforeseen problems” that are bound to happen as you age.  Well, screw that.  I’m here to tell you that you need to be saving for the problems you TOTALLY SEE coming in the next 6-12 months and will save you from the agony of paying 12-18% (plus late fees) on it.

In my previous finance article, I asked you to be aware of your present spending habits.  Now I’m asking to couple this awareness with thought about the not-so-far-off future, with purchases that are tangible.  Sure, you could get more excited about a new pair of Jimmy Choos, but I think you’ll get just as excited about replacing a crappy coffee maker if you know it’s paid for in cash and you don’t have to go on living without it.

You know you have purchases coming up, or perhaps you’re already sweating about what you already bought.  Stop fretting (or avoiding) retirement planning, and get your youth out of the sinkhole!

Resources on the Interwebs:

Mint.com–  Set goals and set budgets in a simple fashion that you can follow online or on your phone.

SuzeOrman.com– Her website is great, but check out the free podcast of her show or her fabulous gender and genre specific finance books.

Up next? This may sound counterintuitive, but I will soon be posting my FAVORITE links to finding designer duds for stupid-cheap.


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