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.

 

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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 2015.

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.

Financial Goals: The Long, Short & Middle Of It

I’ve been inspired by this post to list out our/my financial goals. I like the idea of planning out savings the same way you would plan out paying off debts using the Dave Ramsey snowball method.

Hopefully I will remember to refer to this and update as the years go by.

Short Term Goals (anything that needs attention in the next year):
Name: Maintain Emergency Fund
Life Reason: To give us the freedom to undergo hardship without stress
Terminal Amount: $40K (Source: Savings)
When goal needs to be met: Already met

Name: Car Replacement
Life Reason: We have 2 old cars but one is likely to die soon or cost too much to repair.
Terminal Amount: $25K
When goal needs to be met: September 2016

Once a short term goal is funded, you can immediately spend the funds, or save that money toward mid-term goals

Worthy Midterm Goals (anything that needs attention in between one year from and when we retire):

Name: House Down Payment
Life Reason: I would like to own a house that can be left to kids. However I’m firmly believe that most houses are not investments.
Terminal Amount: $200K
When goal needs to be met: 2017

Name: Life Insurance
Life Reason: We have a special needs child who will need financial help after we’re gone.
Terminal Amount: $100K*
When goal needs to be met: 2037-ish
* Truthfully I don’t know how much we need in this account. Several people have told me that the government programs will suffice, yet these are the same people who tend to favor budget cuts in government programs (which would include any program helping the disabled).

Long Term Goals:
Name: Retire
Life Reason: We want a comfortable retirement with ability to leave enough to our kids.
Terminal Amount: $1.5M indexed to inflation
When goal needs to be met: 2037-ish

While we’re okay in terms of emergency savings and our car goal, it seems highly unlikely that we can meet the 2 biggest goals — house down payment and retirement.  I am assuming that the house value will have to be a part of retirement or inheritance for kids.

 

 

How To Save When Your Spouse Is Not Interested In Finance

It’s very common for couples to have different spending / saving styles. Read this if you want good suggestions on how to get your spouse to be more frugal. (I’m assuming you’re the frugal spouse since this is finance blog.) Keep reading this post if you’re tired of attempting money talks with a partner who would rather gouge out his/her own eyes than read money blogs.

Without further ado, here are my uncommon, alternative “solutions” on how to save when your spouse is not interested in money.

  1. Your spouse keeps spending on “extras” because he/she has no idea how much money is needed for life’s necessities or future goals like retirement.  You’ve tried doing monthly/quarterly money talks over a romantic dinner. You’ve tried posting a picture of your future house on the fridge. Nothing has worked.  My solution: It’s time to get pro-active and set aside an amount via direct deposit to a retirement account (or accounts) each month. With time, the spouse gets used to a lower, net income.  Once in a while, he/she will ask “where does all our money go?” but their lack of interest in financial things will prevent a true investigation.
  2. Your spouse hates the idea of budgets. My solution: Get a joint credit card and have you and your spouse put most of your spending on this. The financially-savvy spouse can keep track of this by reviewing monthly credit card as well as bank statements for cash withdrawals.  Your spouse doesn’t have to know details but you can casually mention whether you’re in the red or black that month.
  3. Your spouse does not shop sales and wouldn’t know if a markdown is good or not anyway. My solutions:  1) Share drugstore and supermarket loyalty cards.  Every few weeks, CVS emails special offers such as “Spend $15, Save $5” or “Save 15% off your entire purchase”.  These are printable but can also be sent directly to your loyalty card. My husband shops at CVS without regard to sales but he is more than happy to see extra savings at check-out. 2) Get your spouse to try generic brands. Over time, you’ll find many items that are just as good as brand names. This is an easy way to save on groceries/household goods without using coupons.  3) Finally, be your household’s shopping ninja. Stock up on necessities during sales. Even if only half the household is saving money, that’s better than none.

However, it’s important NOT to think of money as his and hers, i.e. separate. At the end of the day, your finances affect each other.  On a day to day level, if you both spend without regard to household income/savings, it will be extremely difficult to save money for “bigger” things such as vacations, cars or home renovations.  At retirement, you will both need to have enough money to live on. You can’t eat caviar while the other one eats tuna!

To summarize, if your spouse is not interested in fiances and you want to save, practice deceit, take on the saving ninja role, and let it go because trying to change someone is impossible.

Of course the dividing line between frugal and non-frugal isn’t really clear cut. In our case, we usually agree on big expenses (which is important). Also, with time, we’ve influenced each other in good ways. I’ve learned to spend more freely. My husband has learned to hate late fees with a passion. He also asks me to find coupon codes before making most online purchases. Baby steps, baby steps…