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?

Hard Choices, Part 6

The last time I wrote down my list of big expenses, it was relatively short. Of course it has gotten longer since. Plus, there seems to be no end to car care expenses.

1) Car #1 Repairs – $120 so far. The check engine light is still on and the car is showing signs of age. 

2) Car #2 $280 + $304.85 for brakes and rotor repair.= $584.85 this year so far. Both cars need some body work, too. I was quoted $700 for a paint job!

3) Airplane ticket (Spouse) – $600 –  Just purchased. Used 50,000 credit card bonus airline miles to offset this major expense. Otherwise this would have been around $1,200. Note: This is a kind of frugal fail, though the opposite of what most people make.  I sacrificed quality for price so my poor spouse has to endure a longer than average flight home. Next time I should just cough up the extra $400.

4) NEW! Replace Car #1- $25,000+ Spouse hates his car and is suddenly concerned about how others perceive our financial situation. The thought of buying a new “status symbol” car fills me with dread.

5) Foam mattress or topper (Both) – $1,000 – $2,200 – This may not move up in ranking until the mattress falls apart.

6) Car #2 hub caps –  Does a car look “ghetto” if it doesn’t have hub caps? I separated this from the other repairs because it’s mainly cosmetic.

7) Retainer replacement (Me) – $400+ – on hold..Big Time.

That’s it for now. I don’t include holiday spending on this list but my gift list is rather short.

Hard Choices Part 5

We have so many “little” expenses right now that it’s turned me/us off to big spending. Here’s our priorities right now in terms of the bigger expenses:

car repair1) Car #1 Repairs – $120 so far. The check engine light is still on and the car is showing signs of age. 

2) Car #2 Maintenance – $280 so far.

3) Private Speech Therapy (Kids) – Paying privately for 1 session per week. I’m not adding up the expenses. However, the therapist may give us a few free lessons in exchange for videotaping our kid for a presentation.

4)  Airplane ticket (Spouse) – $1,300+ – Spouse has not been home in 4 years. We’re hoping to get a cheaper ticker during low season.

5) Foam mattress or topper (Both) – $1,000 – $2,200 – This may not move up in ranking until the mattress falls apart.

6) Retainer replacement (Me) – $400+ – on hold

I can’t believe this list is relatively short.

Hard Choices, Through Different Financial Perspectives

Everyone has different answers to spending priorities. I thought it would be interesting to re-visit my own family’s wants and needs list through the eyes of three different financial “camps”: 1) Frugal At All Cost, 2) Early Retirement Financial Independence (FIRE), or 3) Make More Money

First, some definitions are in order:

couponFrugal At All Cost are personal finance bloggers who espouse the benefits of saving money as the means to financial security. Methods include deal-hunting, coupon clipping, DIY, and other means of saving money. Some bloggers who I consider in this camp are: Surviving and Thriving, Frugalwoods, and The Simple Dollar.

MMM_bikeEarly Retirement bloggers focus on saving as much as possible in order to retire as early/young as possible. They are willing to make bigger sacrifices and be more flexible in order to save a lot of their income toward early retirement. One of the earliest blogs for this movement was Early Retirement Extreme. That torch is being carried by Mad Fientist, Mr. Money Mustache, Retire By 40, and many more.

RichMake More Money bloggers are the ones who tend to push side-hustles, second jobs and increasing your earning potential in order to reach millionaire status. I consider I Will Teach You To Be Rich and Financial Samurai to be in this group.

I know that my definitions are over-simplifications and may contain errors since I’m new to the FIRE world. If you read most personal finance blogs long enough, you’ll realize that there’s a gray area, or wiggle room, within those core principles. As an example, FIRE-blogger Mad Fientist had a great post cautioning about Financial Independence tunnel vision. Many bloggers acknowledge that there isn’t one path to financial security.

For this exercise, however, I was hard-core about following the financial principle of choice. 

List3

This ended up being an interesting exercise for me.  Once I prioritize my spending list, it’s hard to re-think those decisions and realize that there are other ways to prioritize needs and wants.  


This is one of 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.

Hard Choices Part 4

It’s time to update my current list of our family’s wants and needs. As I’m learning, prioritizing among various needs and wants is a never-ending task.  Once you cross one item off the list, another major expense usually jumps up in its place.

I should update this more often so that big expenses are top of mind. I didn’t even realize that I had two pricey personal care items on the list until I wrote this post.

1) Car #1 Repairs (Spouse) – $1,500 – Have been putting this off for many, months. Check Engine light keeps coming on. This is the primary family car. 

2)  Airplane ticket to home country (Spouse) – $1,300+ – Spouse has not been home in 4 years. 

smile3) NEW! Retainer replacement (Me) – $400+ – It’s time to replace my old retainers. I have a feeling that this will move to the top of the list very soon. $400 is my estimate for retainers but I would probably have to pay out-of-pocket for the consultation. 

4) NEW! Private Speech Therapy (Kids) – $1,000+ – We’re figuring out how to get much-needed lessons through the tangled web of school district rules, regional center and private insurance. While we’re in this holding period, I’m desperate enough to pay out-of-pocket so that my kid can get a good therapist who doesn’t accept insurance. At $70 per session for at least two 1/2 hour lessons per week, it ain’t cheap! Even if my kid does well with this therapist, it will have to be a short-term solution since we can’t afford this indefinitely.

5) NEW! Spa Day (Me, Gift for Mom) – $300. I already spent $160 on a livingsocial spa deal. Tip would add about $60 to the total. I also have a $50 spa gift card that must be used before September 1st. I don’t know if I can find a spa service for exactly $50 and also need to include tip.

6) Car #2 Maintenance (Me) – $500+ – I need to get the brakes checked.

7) Dental Work (Spouse) – $500 to $2,000  – This is #6 mainly because I have little control over my spouse getting the work done. For my dental work, I want a second opinion.

8) Foam mattress or topper (Both) – $1,000 – $2,200 – This may not move up in ranking until the mattress falls apart.

Other Notes:

ipad-airYou may notice that a new iPad is no longer on the list. I had estimated $600 for this expense but we were able to get one through a generous foundation.

Even though we bought a semi-pro camera for my spouse, we left the airplane ticket on the list. We spent much less on the camera by buying used instead of new.

I just found out that it will cost $120 ($60 per adult) to volunteer at our kids’ school next year. This is for fingerprinting, background checks and office fees. Small items that don’t make the “Hard Choices” list can really add up.

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.

Family Finances

In my series of Hard Choices posts, I outlined several big-ticket items that were causing a lot of stress in our household.  Choices had to be made.  If only following advice from objective financially-savvy friends and readers was so simple.

What Really Happened

1) BOTH Airplane ticket to home country ($1,600) AND Semi-professional camera  $1,300 (Spouse).  Choosing between the two resulted in a huge argument. However, spouse agreed to buy a less expensive camera (about $400). We’re now both more aware of the household budget and have decided on monthly “fun” money for both of us. That should alleviate stress and reduce future arguments.

2) iPad or Tablet (Kids, Me) – $300 used/refurbished. We’re shopping around for #1 and #2 so this will likely be purchased first.

3) Dental Work (mine) – $900 – Done. Turned out to be $200 because the problem wasn’t as bad as originally thought. 

4) Car #1 Repairs (Spouse) – $1,000 TBD, still a priority

5) Car #2 Maintenance (Me) – $200 to $500, still a priority

6) Dental Work (Spouse) – $500 to $2,000  – TBD

7) Foam mattress or topper (Both, more me) – $1,000 – $2,200 – TBD, We’ll have aching backs for a little while longer.

As often happens, emotion wins out.  This might be more difficult for upper-class households to understand but when you’ve been in the lower middle SES for a long while and will probably never go higher, it’s much harder to put off emotional needs and make the practical choice.

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

Vacation All I Ever Wanted


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