I found my blog

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I don’t know what made me think of this blog today. I re-read old posts and realized not much has changed for us  “middle children” in the battle of the classes.

What has happened in these 3.5 years?

Trump is president.

I bought a new mattress, not Tuft and Needle but a similar online brand.

My kids got new mattresses, too.

I do NOT regret my 2016 trip to Europe.

We have new cars – 1 brand new, 1 used.

We own a house. Solid middle class neighborhood, 30 minutes (or less) from my job, so-so schools, safe, average in walkability.

We spend most of our money on home repairs and renovations. Travel is on the backburner.

I still don’t have a will.

I have done my research on living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and pooled trusts.

Very dear loved ones have passed away.

This is the first time in 3.5 years that  work has slowed down enough for me to feel bored. Not a good sign though.

I still like my field of work.

I don’t have any pets.

The middle class is still struggling.

We need universal healthcare more than ever.

Hard Choices – Midlife Crisis Edition

Remember my last list of hard choices? Well, due to an “unexpected” purchase, I’ve decided to take the new bedframe off the list. I’m also down-sizing smartphone expectations.

1)  Trip to Europe – $2,000 to 2,300? Mid-life crisis. I can justify this but at the same time, I know it’s a bit crazy to travel to Europe by myself.

2) Replace Car #1- $25,000+? This would replace Car #1 which needs some costly repairs. We’re not sure it’s worth it.

3) Swim Lessons – $300 to $500? We need private lessons for special needs kiddos. $39 per lesson — yikes — but I’m shopping around.

4) NEW! Smartphones – $650 (?) for two. UPDATE: I think I’d rather pay closer to $100 and no more than $150 for a phone. Smartphone prices are crazy!

5) NEW! Lawyer – $5,000 –  This is a wild guess. I assume a first-time  consultation is free but we would need time/expertise to create a special needs trust and wills.

6) Apple software program – I’m leaving this at #5 because I can’t ask my husband to stick to a budget now that my trip is pending.

7) Car #2  We spent $584.85 in 2015 for repairs.  More repairs anticipated.

8) Foam mattress  UPDATE: $600-700  – I looked into reader suggestions and have discovered a lot of quality mattresses that cost much less than the $2,000 I had anticipated.

9) NEW! Bed frame – $550 – DELETED

In terms of justification, it’s easy to mentally subtract the $550 from the $2,000 trip and convince myself that the trip is ‘only’ an extra $1,450 in terms of planned spending. BUT I think that’s a bit of a cheat.

I may post more information. Or I may take this post down at some point. I thought I was immune to mid-life crisis type purchases. Oh well….

Advice? Have you ever splurged due to a mid-life crisis (or quarter life crisis)? Do you know anyone who has? 

Mid-life crisis image from The Other Side of the Equation.

 

Hard Choices, Part 7

We’ve been pretty good about keeping big expenses low for a few months. Then, all of a sudden, new BIG needs/wants spring up.

1)  Replace Car #1- $25,000+? This would replace Car #1 which needs some costly repairs. We’re not sure it’s worth it.

2) Swim Lessons – $300 to $500? We need private lessons for special needs kiddos. $39 per lesson — yikes — but I’m shopping around.

3) NEW! Smartphones – $650 (?) for two. Our phones are crapping out. I am willing to go with something in the $200 range but I think my husband would prefer something higher-end like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or S6. The lowest price I’ve seen for the S5 is $400.

UPDATE: I think I’d rather pay closer to $100 and no more than $150 for a phone. Smartphone prices are crazy!

4) NEW! Lawyer – $5,000 –  This is a wild guess. I assume a first-time  consultation is free but we would need time/expertise to create a special needs trust and wills.

5) Apple software program – I know my husband wants to get a new program. No idea of cost. I’m including this at #5 because he’s been complaining about his current program for weeks.

6) Car #2  We spent $584.85 in 2015 for repairs.  More repairs are probably needed this year.

7) Foam mattress  – $2,000 –  This has been on the “hard choices” list for a long time. Now I want a new bed frame, too.  UPDATE: $600-700  – I looked into reader suggestions and have discovered a lot of quality mattresses that cost much less than the $2,000! It looks this might move up the list.

narrow-leg-upholstered-bed-frame-natural-c8) NEW! Bed frame – $551 –  We still haven’t upgraded our 10+ year old mattress but now I want a new bed frame, too. I like a simple, modern style like one in the photo (left). For the frame only, it’s $551. Headboard is sold separately. I’m happy with our headboard but not sure how it will look with a new bed frame. Lifestyle inflation at work!

Since my last report, I’ve gotten retainer replacement ($400) and hub caps on Car #2 ($70).

What big items are on your wish list? What would you prioritize if you were me?

This is how you do a Shopping Ban

At the risk of sounding like a frugal know-it-all, I think I figured out an excellent way to stick to a clothing/shoes/handbag shopping ban.

I’m in the third week of my clothing/shoes/handbag shopping ban and it’s both hard and easy. It’s hard because I am addicted to Pinterest. At the same time, it’s easy because i’ve set some ‘rules’ that make it more like a game. Since many people try to enact shopping bans, I thought I would share my tactic. It works best for clothing/shoes/handbag bans.

Before the ban, I donated/sold/trashed a lot of clothing that did not work for me or were beyond repair.

I did an inventory of my remaining work clothes and list it out on one sheet. I included work clothes only because that’s where I spend the most. I also don’t own a lot of clothing in other categories such as party, exercise, or casual. Note: However, I will not buy items in any clothing category until I finish the ban.

Then I made this one simple rule: I will not buy any new clothes until I wear every item listed at least 5 times.

printable-number-5-outlineWhy 5? I thought 3 times would be too easy and 5 would present enough of a challenge. I don’t have a lot of clothes but i figured it would still take me months to wear every item 5 times. After I started the ban, I read that the average women only wear their clothes seven times, so those who are more ambitious might want to wear all their clothes at least seven times.

The reason this works for me, and might work well for others, is that it does not feel like an arbitrary ban. You have it in your power to reduce the shopping ban time, depending on how quickly you wear every item you own (for your chosen number of times).

1) You’re never really done de-cluttering. After a few weeks, I realize that one dress could prevent me from ending the ban.  It was still in good condition and I had paid good money for it, making me reluctant to part with it. I made one halfhearted attempt to sell it. When it didn’t sell, I realized that I have to donate it. It’s sitting in a donation bag as of this writing.

2) There’s a “gray area” in clothing.. It should be easy to wear everything you own 5x or just get rid of it. However, I own many items that I like enough to keep but don’t get as much wear because they’re not as versatile/comfortable/stylish as my favorites.

3) You can stop wearing favorites for inexplicable reasons.  There are many reasons that you don’t wear certain clothes. Some make sense — Tastes change, sizes change. Some make no sense — like developing a sudden dislike for 3/4 sleeve shirts.

olivia-palermo-michael-dumler-pfw-ss14-valentino (1)4) My eye for style is more fashion-forward than I am. Do you know the saying “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? This refers to piling more food on your plate than you can actually eat. Well, this saying applies to my fashion sense. I tend to LOVE and buy slightly quirky pieces that I see on my fashion icons and then not be able to style it right. I’ve gotten better now at judging what I will actually wear, but I still own clothes that don’t get as much wear as they should.

5) I Love Sweater Weather. I have (had) too many sweaters for a mild climate. The good news is that this ban forced me to pare down my winter clothing. The bad news is that I doubt I will wear everything 5x until late Fall or Winter 2016.

As of this writing, I foresee my shopping ban ending in late 2016 or early 2017.

I Lost My 2016 Resolutions

I had a list of New Year’s Resolutions divided into categories: Work, Money, Personal and Relationships.  It was neatly typed up, with photos, printed out and pasted to the back of a daily planner.  A few days ago, I dumped the planner. I forgot that I hadn’t saved a copy of the NY Resolutions List.  Luckily, my finance and career-related resolutions were logged in an old blog post.

  1. Get my house in order with a will/special needs trust, life insurance, etc..
  2. Look into passive/side income. Research the rental market, perhaps increase funds in my peer-to-peer lending account.
  3. Focus at work.  I had 4 concrete actions to achieve this goal.
    1. Have only 2 tabs open on my computer at one time so that I’m not clicking between 5+ different websites.
    2. Read career-related books or articles during down time.
    3. Print out important information so that I really read it instead of scanning, as I tend to do with content on screen.
    4. Limit blog reading time to Grumpy Rumblings in the morning.

So far, I’ve been doing well with the “Focus at Work” goal.  I’m multi-tasking a lot less and absorbing more information. I also signed up for a conference in my field. I’m hoping that my employer will pay for it but it’s my personal goal to keep up with changes in my field and this conference was the most reasonably priced one I’ve seen in a while, and it’s local.  I’m extremely bad at networking but it’s important to keep your skills fresh and that’s my primary goal for going. I’m pretty excited because I haven’t invested any extra time or money into my career for years.

Even though I no longer have my resolutions list, I know that it included exercise (fail) and making time for friendships and spouse. I’ve been pretty good about planning outings with friends but that’s obviously an ongoing process. My spouse and I had an “accidental” date and it reminded me/us of our carefree pre-kids days. We’re planning another half-day lunch/outing soon.  We’re also going to a concert in a few weeks – my first in years! I can’t stress how important it is for us (and most couples) to find quality time together. Otherwise, most recent memories will be of family stuff, fights and chores. At least that’s the way it is for me.

I also added a shopping ban after a rather spendy January/February. I have some good tips on keeping to this ban which I’ll share at some later date.
Hope you’re doing well on your resolutions!

HTSMC: Compare Prices On Prescription Meds

A few months ago, I wrote about pharmaceutical assistance programs that help people who have trouble paying for their medications.  This was written before Martin Shkreli became the poster child of pharmaceutical profiteering and corporate greed. I hate that our system allows for astronomical price mark-ups and forces us to compare prices on medications (and medical care) the same way we compare cable and shoes, but for now it is what it is.

I neglected to mention another way to save money on medications: GoodRx.  On their website (and app), you type in the medication you’re looking for and it’ll show you prices, coupons and discounts for your prescription at pharmacies near you. You can also print out a discount card to present to the pharmacist.

There are times that convenience is more important than price. However, prescription meds can have HUGE differences in pricing so it pays to shop around, even if you have insurance coverage.  The biggest saving I’ve had was $15-18/ per month for pet meds.

The GoodRx blog is a surprisingly good source of information:

5 ways to get the most out of your prescription insurance

How the Target pharmacy switch to CVS will affect you.

In general, Walmart and Costco seems to have the lowest prices.  Target is/was relatively inexpensive if a medication was on their generic med program. Sadly, Target will no longer have a list of $4 generics (30-day supply) once CVS takes over their pharmacy program.


This is one in a series of tips/ideas to help you stay middle-class (HTSMC).  Whether you consider yourself on the lower- or higher-end of the spectrum, you can probably find some useful tips to help you stay there and find save more for retirement even as wages stay stagnant.