Category Archives: Shopping

Why Do You Work?

I saw this car today and had to snap a photo.  Do you see the license plate? 

 

CYIWORK = See Why I Work

It’s a pretty amusing vanity tag. 

Myself, I work because I like food and air conditioning.  Why do you work?

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The iPad: Meh…

Obviously, it’s been a looooong time since I last posted here.  There’s no real reason why I stopped writing on HotFrugal…  Life just kinda happened and I got busy with a new house, new job, new involvement with several local organizations, etc.  Things have calmed down a bit, and I really miss writing, so I’m going to start up again.  I’ll just go ahead and dive right in…

 

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

For a long time, I have been absolutely green with iPad envy.  Two of my coworkers have iPads with fancy keyboard cases, and they (my coworkers) always make me jealous by showing off all the fun things they can do.  Even my mother has an iPad, and she’s not exactly someone I would consider to be an early adopter of new technologies.

So, a few months ago, I started an iPad savings account in true HotFrugal fashion.  I have an online checking account with ING Direct, and I also have several targeted savings accounts with ING.  My emergency fund is kept totally separate with another online bank.  I love ING because it literally takes about 30 seconds to open a new savings account, and you can have dozens of accounts at any one time.  With a few clicks, I had a savings account named “iPad” with the goal to save $800 for the mid-range model and the keyboard case.

But then a funny thing happened… Over the past five months since I opened the account, I’ve only put $40 in it.  Whenever I have extra money to save, I never seem to want to put it in the iPad account.  Instead, I find myself wanting to put the money toward my general savings fund or toward one of my other “just for fun” funds.  Today, it finally occurred to me that maybe I don’t really want an iPad all that badly, or rather, there are other things that I want more. 

There’s a good lesson in this experience that I hope I will remember in the future.  If I had just gone ahead and bought an iPad without deliberately saving for it, I never would have realized that I didn’t even want it that much in the first place.  Fortunately, ING makes it easy to change the nicknames for savings accounts, so the iPad account is now called “Roth IRA Starter Fund.” 

Viva la frugal!

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Extreme Couponing: A Big Ol’ Hot Mess

The dumpster diving Extreme Couponers. Photo from press.discovery.com

A lot of folks on the interwebs have been writing about TLC’s new show, Extreme Couponing, so I’ll keep this short…  If you haven’t seen the show already and you have a fondness for watching train wrecks, it’s a must see.  These people are nuts. 

The extreme couponers featured on the show spend up to 40 hours per week clipping coupons and planning their shopping trips.  Many of them order coupons from special clipping services.  Others wander all over town rounding up unwanted newspapers in order to amass their coupon collections.  One woman even goes dumpster diving (along with her children), to recover coupons discarded by others.

These nutjobs achieve pretty spectacular savings of 90% or more for their efforts.  They shop at grocery stores that will double or triple the value of the coupons, and they take advantage of items that are already on sale.  Often, they end up getting items for free.  This all sounds good, right?  Why am I calling them nutjobs?

If you’ve seen the show, you get it.  If not, trust me… They are NUTJOBS!  First of all, this little hobby of theirs consumes their lives.  Virtually all of their free time is spent figuring out how to get 600 toothbrushes for a penny a piece or how to get 90 cans of lima beans for free.  Secondly, extreme couponers have ridiculous stockpiles of crap that they keep in their houses.  Basically, these people are highly organized hoarders.  Their garages are filled with row after row of shelves stocked with lifetime supplies of canned food and toiletries.

The strangest part of the whole thing is how protective these nutjobs are of their “stockpiles.”  One would think that a person in possession of 2,000 sticks of deodorant might be willing to donate some to a local homeless shelter, but not so.  Instead, they pay for supplemental insurance to protect their stockpiles.  If they move across country, they spend thousands to relocate everything.  When they take the cameraman through their stockpiles, the extreme couponers always have a weird look in their eyes… I’m just waiting for one of them to start running through their rows of shelving yelling “my precious!” in a super-creepy Gollum sort of way.

On the bright side, this show has made me feel slightly less bad about being lazy when it comes to couponing.  It’s nice not to feel associated with these people in any way.  Viva la sanity!

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An Obligatory Tax Season Post

I am the Queen of Procrastination, so it’s quite surprising that I have already completed and filed my taxes.  This is the first year I’ve ever finished my taxes before the very late hours of April 14th (seriously!).  But I know a lot of folks probably aren’t done with theirs yet, so I wanted to share a great article from one of my favorite personal finance blogs, Get Rich Slowly.

The article is called “The Truth About Tax Deductions” and it’s a guest post submitted by a CPA.  The author, Greg Braun, does a great job of explaining how our drive to finagle every possible tax deduction can actually be counterproductive.  Braun sums it up nicely by stating, “The problem is that saving on taxes usually amounts to spending cash, or worse, signing up for debt.”

Even if you’ve already filed your taxes, the article is worth a read for next year.  It really makes you think about tax management and spending in a new way.

And just in case you’re wondering… I’m getting a tax refund of just under $1000 combined from my federal and state returns.  If anyone else told me they were getting a tax refund, I would encourage them to save or invest the money.  But I’m going to be a bit of a hypocrite and not follow my own advice.  I have an empty bedroom in my house that I would really like to turn into a fully functioning home office, so I’m going to use my refund to buy a desk, bookcase, filing cabinet, and wall shelves.

Should I be saving the money instead?  Yeah, there’s really no way to deny that my emergency savings fund is pretty meager at the moment.  But I’m desperate for a quiet, dedicated workspace in my home.  I know I will be more productive (and hopefully my HotFrugal posts will be much more frequent!) if I can sit down with my laptop somewhere other than on the couch in front of the TV.

I guess I should mention that I also tend to be the Queen of Rationalization, though usually it’s in the area of dessert.  (Most people don’t understand that chocolate is a vegetable because it comes from a bean, so I have to explain that to them.)  Anyway, it’s pretty difficult to live a HotFrugal lifestyle if you rationalize and make excuses for your spending.  I’m going to go ahead and buy my office furniture, but I’m going to do it fully acknowledging that it is probably not the best financial move I could make.

C’est la vie.

(Hopefully the next post will end with the usual “viva la frugal!”)

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Hobo Chic, Without the Chic

In the days before HotFrugal, I spent a LOT of money on clothes and shoes.  In fact, I put a much higher priority on shopping than I did on saving for my future.  That’s certainly not the case any longer.  Now I save one third of my income and live on a pretty strict budget.  If I manage to live below my budget in any given month, I take the extra money and put it in a second savings account for vacations, gifts, and shopping.  (This isn’t really a savings account since it’s where I keep money I intend to spend, so I’ve borrowed a term from my mom and I call it my “mad money” account.)

When I first began my efforts to live frugally, I really missed going shopping whenever I felt like it.  I would anxiously await the time when I had accumulated enough mad money to buy a few things.  Then I would gleefully hit up my favorite shopping websites.  This was actually a pretty responsible approach to shopping… I spent money I actually had, and I accumulated that money by being disciplined in other areas and coming in under budget.  It was truly guilt-free shopping. 

But a few months ago, I noticed a change in how I felt about buying new things.  Suddenly, I didn’t want to part with my money.  I no longer looked forward to shopping with giddy anticipation.  Instead, I dreaded having to buy new clothes to replace the ones that were becoming worn and out of date.

It’s good that I’ve become less materialistic.  However, I may have taken things too far.  When trying to get dressed for work the other morning, I spent ten minutes staring at my closet and I realized that I have very few nice clothes anymore.  By “nice” I mean decent quality and in good shape, with a flattering fit, and at least somewhat in keeping with current trends.  Much of what I saw in my closet was faded, boring, worn out, and outdated. 

It appears that I’m in danger of becoming a bit of a hot mess.  HotFrugal: Good.  Hot mess: Bad!

There is a balance one must achieve between being frugal and being stylish.  Like it or not, clothing does have a major impact on how we look, how we are perceived, and how we feel about ourselves.  This is especially true for women.  A guy may be able to get away with dressing somewhat sloppily and with little concern for how he looks, but a woman who takes the same approach is going to look like a hobo.  I know, I know… It’s not very liberated of me to accept society’s double standards and the importance it places on a woman’s appearance.  But damn it, I don’t want to look like a hobo!

So it’s time to go shopping, and it’s time to go shopping in a pretty big way.  In an effort to not get completely carried away, I’ve gone through my closet and made a list of all the things I need to get.  I need some basic pieces (black blazer, grey pants, denim pencil skirt, etc.) and some more fun and trendy things to make my wardrobe interesting.  I’ll spend decent money on the basics since good quality clothes should last two or three years.  For the trendy stuff, I’ll hit up sales and discount stores. 

I’m excited about looking more put together and less like a hobo, but I’m not looking forward to breaking into my mad money.  I’m still a little emotionally traumatized by the realization I had in my last post about the money I wasted in my twenties.  That realization will definitely keep me on track in achieving my big picture goals, but it shouldn’t make me feel guilty for spending money on things I can actually afford. 

With that little pep talk to myself, I’m off to shop…

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