Frugal Beautiful

Posts Tagged ‘Priorities

The famous line “People first, then money, then things,” comes from financial guru Suze Orman.  I adore Suze- I am watching her show right now on Itunes.  Fabulous stuff!  While her other advice is great- “people first,” is really something I’ve been focusing on.  I’m currently on the 30-Day-No-Shopping Challenge and I realized that time not spent shopping needs to be filled with something else in order to succeed.

Filling your life with people, not things is a way to free up your money for greater opportunity: retirement, starting a business, going on vacation, cutting your work hours and living comfortably…or how about this:  not bursting into tears when the credit bill comes each month?  That sounds pretty darn good.

 

Shopping keeps us busy.  It also gives us a sense that we’re building something- a more beautiful home, a more savvy wardrobe to spur more confidence,  a repertoire of things to make life better, faster, more efficient.  But what it all boils down to is people.  We want a nicer home to invite friends over and gadgets to entertain them with, a wardrobe that inspires awe and praise from people at work,  a birthday gift that shows our appreciation.  While things can be useful- it’s a distraction from the sometimes intimidating work of making personal connections with people and building community based on our own personalities and effort.

I recently had some friends over for drinks after hitting up a discount pizza place for their Monday night specials.  Honestly, I was embarrassed to have them over- my new apartment was sparsely furnished- we didn’t even have enough chairs for everyone.  I found myself fretting over the appearance of my apartment, but of course- as you can imagine, nobody cared.  Everyone was just happy I opened my home and we had cheap beer and wine and sat around and talked.  They were happy to get together, and in the end, I was happy to have done it.  Relying on personal connections and not things can be scary-  but often the experience is more genuine.

To ensure the success of my No-Shopping Challenge, I’m filling my life with EVENTS and not stuff.  I’m going to knitting meetups and attending health workshops.  I walk my dog each day and finally tackle projects that have been nagging at me.

 

Shopping has been a distraction for far too long.  It makes you feel accomplished, productive and successful when you can buy something new- especially when you’ve hunted down a good deal, but the activity of shopping usually distracts from other activity.

What are you using shopping to hide from? How are “things” holding you back from genuine experiences and connections with people?  Does debt keep you in a constant state of stress or does shopping hide the fact that you haven’t explored what really makes you happy?  Do you feel you don’t have the right “things” to start your goals?  (Trust me, having a cute pair of Nikes will not really encourage you to go to the gym).

People first– the money will sort itself out and the the things will matter less and less.  You will have exactly what you need.

 

 

I asked the question, perhaps too late, “What can I do with a graduate degree in sociology,”  and the timing was such that I really had to ask, “What can I do with half a graduate degree in sociology.”  Truth be told- nothing.

I spoke to two of my professors last week, and neither really knew what to tell me.  For the reasons I had to stay, I had equally compelling reasons to quit- namely my cost-to-benefit comparison based on passion vs. affordability.  If you are passionate, it’s hard to argue something is “too expensive,” in most situations- but what if you are confused like me?

My professors asked some hard questions:  Did I have something else in mind?  I did not.  Sure- I love to write- but am I confident enough in my skills as they stand to walk away from a possible degree?  I am not sure that starting over at this point and trying to stay afloat based on my entreprenurial skills alone would be wise.  I love to blog and explore different markets and niches- but I feel my inexperience would kill my passion if I were to step out at this point. Having a graduate degree could be beneficial for someone like myself who is at this point in the process.  For those who still have time to choose- take that time and ask lots of really hard questions before you commit.  But of course, sometimes all we can do is to assess the “known unknowns,” and take a step forward.

I also voiced my concerns about the cost of grad school.  They sympathized that costs are high and post-graduation prospects for employment are low- and at least are not up to expectations for newly minted degree holders.  What they did say though, is you can do nothing with half a master’s degree, not even get some kudos for “some graduate level courses” on a resume.  The sad truth is- there is no way to to know if the amount of debt I’m taking on is going to impede my chances to succeed in other areas, nor is a graduate degree an automatic key to success.

The debt itself will not prevent me from affording a wedding, car or hell, a piece of Tiffany, just as the degree itself will not ensure my immediate success- but my efforts outside the classroom will.  The only thing preventing me from being able to afford the life of my dreams is simply my inability to make them happen- and I can work on that.  My time in the classroom (or out of it) will not find me a man to love  or a dream job, nor will my debt stand in the way of buying a house or starting a family or starting my own company if that’s what I choose to do.  What will stand in the way of those things is my fear:  Fear that debt will ruin my future, fear that I’m not on the right path, fear that I’m not making the right choices.  Fear needs to be taken into consideration- it can be a very smart survival tool, but being too cautious blocks progress.

There is no way to gauge your prospects based on having debt or having a degree alone–  you just have to ask questions, evaluate, and take a risk.   The  the best decisions you can and forgive yourself for mistakes of inexperience.  Get your hands dirty- at least you can say it was YOUR mess and have something interesting to say at the high school reunion.

I meticulously planned my path to grad school and based my decision on the person I was at the time.  I had no way of anticipating the process itself would change me in the way it did.  While the reasons I had in coming to graduate school are no longer the reasons I am staying- I am still confident in those decisions.  I am not the person I was a year and a half ago, and I no longer harbor the same motives or goals I did before, and perhaps, that was the point?

 

 

 

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!

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.


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