Tag Archives: Frugal

I Am the 1%

Don’t worry; this isn’t a political article. 

I recently discovered a thought-provoking website called the Global Rich List.  This website allows you to enter your income to see where it falls in relation to others globally.  As it turns out, if you are an American earning at least $47,500 per year, you are among the top 1% of the world’s earners.  

There is a link at the bottom of the site explaining how the calculations are made.  The data is derived from the World Bank Development Research Group, so I believe the information to be reasonably accurate.

The site’s creators state that their goal is to help people recognize that they are richer than they think and to feel more wealthy.  In turn, they hope that people will contribute more to charitable causes once they gain perspective about their place among the world’s earners. 

I love it.  One point that the Global Rich List site drives home with subtlety is that those of us who are “rich” but feeling poor are likely living beyond our means.  Yes, the United States has a much, much higher cost of living than most parts of the world.  We also have many more product choices and shopping opportunities that tempt us to spend.  If we can avoid being sucked into the consumer lifestyle, it is very possible to build wealth on a salary that is considered modest by American standards (and rich by the world’s standards).  We will even have some money left over to help those who are less fortunate.

How lucky I am to have been born in a prosperous country and to parents who had the resources to provide me with a healthy and stable childhood and educational opportunities.  Sometimes it’s so easy to forget how good I have it.

Viva la frugal!

P.S.  The currency default on the homepage for the Global Rich List is the British Pound, so be sure to change it to U.S. Dollars (unless of course, you’re British).

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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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Kickin’ Worry to the Curb

When I began living frugally and writing this blog, I really had only one goal: to live comfortably and never worry about money.  Anything more specific than that – building an emergency fund, paying off my HELOC, saving for retirement, etc. – was really just a tactic to achieve the overall goal of financial freedom and comfort. 

I thought that I would achieve this goal sometime in the very distant future.  I imagined that there would be some tangible measure or trigger that would let me know that I could finally stop worrying about money.  Maybe it would be paying off a mortgage and owning a home outright, or maybe it would be reaching a $1 million balance in my retirement accounts.  Whatever “it” was, I mentally prepared myself to wait a good 20+ years before I felt confident enough to say, “I no longer worry about money.”

In actuality, it took only 12 months to reach that point.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I certainly did not achieve any exceptional financial milestones in that time.  I didn’t generate an impressive investment portfolio, and I didn’t pay off my mortgage.  But after 12 months, I did have a focused goal, discipline, and enough progress to feel confident and excited about my financial future.  As it turns out, that’s all I really needed to stop worrying about money.

It’s probably important to clarify what I mean when I speak of worrying about money.  To me, worry is what I feel when I’m scared or insecure.  I worried about money when I asked myself these types of questions:  Am I going to be able to pay my full credit card balance this month?  If my house needs a major unexpected repair, how am I going to pay for it?  If I become really miserable in my job, can I afford to look for another one?  Am I going to have enough money to retire at a reasonable age?

When I worried about money, I didn’t have answers to these questions.  All it took to rid myself of worry was to have good, solid answers:

Q:  Am I going to be able to pay my full credit card balance this month?
A:  Of course.  My spending has been within budget so I’ll have the cash to pay the bill.

 

Q:  If my house needs a major unexpected repair, how am I going to pay for it?
A:  From my emergency savings fund. 

 

Q:  If I become really miserable in my job, can I afford to look for another one?
A:  If I ever feel miserable because I’m being put in a position that violates my personal or professional ethics, I can afford to resign and live off of emergency savings while I look for another job.  (Note: This is obviously an extreme situation, and not one I have ever been in or expect to be in.  But it’s very good for my peace of mind to know that I can afford to get out of a seriously bad situation.  If I simply didn’t like my job, I would probably never quit unless I already had another one in the bag.)

 

Q:  Am I going to have enough money to retire at a reasonable age?
A:  Yes.  I am contributing to my 401(k) aggressively and when I calculate my compounded return over the next 30 years, I can see that I’ll be in great shape. 

 

It was really important to realize that I could stop worrying about money simply by having a plan and sticking to it.  I’ve definitely lacked discipline in my spending over the last couple of months since I bought my new house, but I know I can get back on track.  In a way, getting off track has been good for me…  I absolutely love my new house and the things I’ve bought for it, but I hate feeling the financial worry creep back into my life.  This has been a good reminder that I love independence and financial freedom more than I’ll ever love things, even beautiful things that make my house look amazing.

The past couple of months have been a financial hiccup for me, but I’m going to take it in stride.  I’m going to use the worry that I feel to reinforce the importance of my long term goals.  There’s no reason why I can’t be worry-free again in a few months, and that’s something I will work toward with focus and confidence.

Viva la Frugal!

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HotFrugal, Hot Date

The New York Times just told me that I’m not sexy.  Ouch. 

There is a certain “f-word” that people quite enjoy in the context of dating, but there is another f-word, “frugal”, that is apparently less appealing.  According to the NYT article, a survey conducted by ING Direct (an online bank specializing in savings accounts) found that less than 4% of respondents thought someone described as frugal was likely to be sexy.  Meanwhile, 15% thought such a person would be boring, and 27% thought a frugal person would be stingy.

The article goes on to offer advice about subtle ways to convey one’s frugality to potential mates without actually using the dreaded f-word.  Describing oneself as “frugal” is apparently a direct path to spinsterhood.  I find this fascinating, amusing, and slightly disturbing since I am both single and frugal.  I’m in no rush to settle down, but I do enjoy going on dates with the fellas.  I don’t like the idea that my responsible relationship with money could be seen as equally appealing to men as high necked sweaters and granny panties.

After all, there’s a reason why I named this blog HotFrugal.  I may be in the minority, but I really do think frugality is hot.  In fact, I can’t imagine being in a serious relationship with any man who isn’t at least somewhat responsible with his money.  Living paycheck-to-paycheck puts a tremendous amount of stress on a couple’s relationship.  What on earth is sexy about that? 

Perhaps the people responding to ING’s survey just aren’t aware of all the ways in which frugal is sexy.  So I’m going to help them out:

The HotFrugal Top 10 Reasons Why a Frugal Woman is a Hot Woman

  1. Women who are financially secure aren’t needy.  A man dating a frugal woman will never have to wonder if she’s really interested in him or his money.
  2. Frugal women are independent and self confident, so we don’t need to play games.
  3. Frugal women don’t waste money on silly lingerie.  They just show up in bed naked.  Men don’t seem to have a problem with this.
  4. We know that we get the best value from experiences, so we’re pretty fun to hang out with.  We like to play sports, go camping, travel, and learn new things.
  5. Dealing with money issues head-on makes it easy for women to address other issues directly.  We can say what’s on our minds without dropping passive aggressive hints or expecting men to be telepathic. 
  6. When we go on vacations, we can afford them.  A relaxing, romantic getaway isn’t undone by the stress of figuring out how to pay off the credit card months later.
  7. Frugal women aren’t materialistic, so it’s easy to make us happy with small, thoughtful gestures. 
  8. Not being materialistic, we have no appreciation for the metrosexual look.  We will not expect a man to spend hours shopping and grooming like he’s, well, a woman.
  9. Even if there’s room for improvement, frugal women tend to be healthier and in better shape.  We know that poor health is expensive, so we take pretty good care of ourselves.
  10. Frugal women know how to work toward a goal and we know how and when to compromise.  We can be supportive, and we can accept support as well.

Most of the items on this list are just as sexy if they are applied to men instead of women.  But I would be curious to know what my male readers think… What makes a frugal man a hot man?  Leave a comment, or if you prefer anonymity, email me at hotfrugal at gmail dot com.  If I get enough feedback, I’ll post The HotFrugal Top 10 Reasons Why a Frugal Man is a Hot Man.

Viva la Frugal!

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Gettin’ My Tan On

Those of you who know me are aware that I’m super white.  I don’t mean that I’m super white in a cultural or behavioral sense, although I guess I actually am based on the list of Stuff White People Like.  What I really mean is that I am literally very white, as in pale.  Like glow-in-the-dark pale.  Like might-be-a-vampire pale.  This doesn’t usually bother me, but it’s summer so my paleness is extra noticeable right now.  Also, I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding next weekend, which means I’ll be in lots of photos next to tan, normal-hued people. 

In an effort to overcome my paleness, I started going to a tanning bed two months ago.  I bought an unlimited monthly package at $55 per month and tanned every other day like clockwork.  Two months and $110 later, I was only slightly less white than when I started.  Not once did anyone tell me that I was looking tan.  Okay, some people did tell me that I was starting to look tan, but only after I shoved an arm in their faces and yelled, “Don’t I look like I’m getting tan?  DON’T I???  Tell me I look tan, dammit!!”  Harumph.

In an act of desperation, I bought a bottle of Jurgens self tanner last weekend.  I’ve always been wary of self tanners.  The bottles say that they are designed for “fair skin,” but I worry that the chemists and marketers behind the self-tanning brands don’t really understand the level of paleness I’m dealing with.  My fear of looking like an Oompa-Loompa, or worse, a streaky, blotchy Oompa-Loompa has always prevented me from giving self tanners a real try.  Does anyone remember when Charlize Theron showed up at the Oscars a few years ago looking stunningly beautiful except for the fact that she had mysteriously turned orange?  That was the first and only time women have ever said to themselves, “My goodness.  I would not want to look like Charlize Theron.”  Poor Charlize was the very picture of faux tanning gone horribly awry. 

Anyway, I bought my self tanning lotion last Sunday and I have applied it once a day, every day since then.  And guess what?  I’m not orange!  And someone told me yesterday that I’m looking nice and tan!  I didn’t even have to force them in to telling me that!  In five days, my $8 bottle of Jurgens has accomplished more than two months of laying in a tanning bed did.  And I get to have a nice tan without pesky side effects like skin cancer and wrinkles.

So ladies (and metrosexual men), I encourage you to give self tanners a shot in lieu of tanning beds.  It is a far more frugal choice and at least in my case, it produces great results.  Viva la frugal!

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Monthly Update: August 2010

I’m a few days late getting my monthly update posted, but that’s because July was a crazy busy month.  I got a new job, am moving, and might be buying a new house.  All of which should make for some good HotFrugal topics over the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is the update as of yesterday, August 3rd.  The great news is that I have more than reached my emergency savings fund goal.  Of course, I may be eating into this soon if I do decide to buy a house.  I’m not sure if it’s actually wise to use part of my emergency fund to buy a house, so I need to do some serious number crunching in a rent vs. buy analysis.  Naturally, all of you HotFrugal readers will see how this plays out. 

For now, let’s move on to the update…

Net Worth

I made a good recovery on my net worth this month, bringing it up to $70,508 from $64,888 the month before.  This increase is completely attributable to saving aggressively.  The refunds I got on home insurance and my escrow account following the sale of my house went straight into savings. 

The cool thing about this is that I didn’t feel the least bit tempted to spend that money.  This is a huge mental shift from where I was a year ago.  You know how you occasionally get some unexpected cash (a larger than expected tax refund, a bonus at work, etc.)?  I always thought of this as “free money” that I could spend guilt-free on anything I wanted.  I actually still think that this is a legitimate option and that there’s no need to feel guilty about spending money like that, especially if you have your financial basics in order.  But if there isn’t anything that you truly, genuinely, deeply want or need, why spend it? 

Assets Liabilities
Emergency Savings $25,680 Nada!!
Mad Money Savings $2,366  
Checking Account $841  
Health Savings Account $1,557  
401(k) (Vested Balance) $34,939  
Car Value (per KBB) $5,125  
TOTAL Assets $70,508  
   
Net Worth (Assets – Liabilities):  $70,508

 

Spending

Spending over the past six months has averaged $2,498 per month, which is right on target with my goal of $2,500. 

My always challenging grocery and dining out budgets were really wonky in July.  I think the spending in these categories is a good reflection of how busy July was.  It was a very fun and social month with lots of going out and meeting up with friends.  As such, my dining out expenses were quite over budget.  On the other hand, my grocery expenses were WAY under budget.  As a combined total, I was under budget but it’s probably not too healthy to eat out as much as I did in July.

  Budgeted Amount Actual Spend (July) Variance
Dining Out $160 $211 $51 over budget
Groceries $238 $110 $128 under budget

 

Summary

Another good month, which has brought me to an interesting new place in my financial life.  I’m currently debt free and I have my emergency savings established.  So what’s next?  I’ve never before been in a position where I have “extra” money for investing.  I’m not quite sure what to do!  It’s a confusing (but completely fantastic!) position to be in.  Stick with me while I figure it out…  I’ll be needing the support and advice of all my fabulous HotFrugal readers!

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Frugal Fun, or How to Avoid Boredom on a Budget

In my very first HotFrugal post, I calculated that I earn only $6.45 per hour in true discretionary income.  That’s not a lot, so I want to be sure I stretch my entertainment dollar as far as possible.  There are quite a few frugal activities I enjoy that keep me entertained and on budget. 

Frugal doesn’t necessarily mean cheap; an activity may be expensive, but if it provides a high level of enjoyment over a long period of time relative to its cost, it gets the HotFrugal seal of approval.  Naturally, everyone’s lists of high value experiences will be different.  For example, someone else might gain a lot of satisfaction and value from $200 tickets to a World Cup soccer game.  I, on the other hand, would probably fall asleep immediately due to the sheer boredom that is soccer, and $200 seems like a high price to pay for a nap.  You know a sport is boring when a field full of hot guys can’t hold my interest. 

 Anyway, here is a list of my favorite frugal activities.  Are there any others that I should add to my list?  What are some things you enjoy doing that provide a good bang for your buck?

Playing tennis:  I absolutely love playing tennis.  Getting started in the sport wasn’t cheap.  New shoes, two good rackets (on sale), and new clothes ran about $500.  I also spent about $300 on lessons.  But after this initial expense, the sport has been very affordable.  There are free public courts in the towns where I live and work.  I’m planning to join a league and to take more lessons, but these costs will be worth it.  I mean, I’m not quite ready for my Wimbledon debut, but another lesson or two should do it. 

Unsolicited interior design:  If I had it to do all over again, I would have studied interior design in college.  Instead, I have to settle for being an HGTV addict who gives people unsolicited interior design advice.  For example, my mom recently made the mistake of telling me that she would like to update the look of her guest bedroom.  I don’t think that this is something she plans to tackle anytime soon as she and my dad already have a number of home improvement projects in the works.  But I wasted no time in creating a totally new design for the bedroom, complete with a shopping list of all the items I had picked out.  I scoured the internet for new furniture, bed linens, artwork, etc.  I put pictures of all of the items I selected into a spreadsheet and printed it out for my mom. 

This little project took about five hours to complete and it was totally free for me, although it will not be so free for my mom if she decides to move forward with the design.  I enjoyed working on this so much that I may start designing rooms for other hapless friends and family members.  So don’t tell me if you have any impending redecorating plans, or I might just show up at your door with a shopping list.  Shopping by proxy is frugal fun for me, but it could be hazardous to your wallet!

Watching movies & TV shows from Netflix:  As an avid reader of other personal finance blogs, I have seen many writers advise people to cancel their Netflix memberships as a way to save money.  I totally disagree!  At $14.95 per month, I definitely feel that I get my money’s worth.  In my current living situation, I don’t have to pay for cable.  But if I did, I wouldn’t.  Netflix gives me access to all the TV and movies I need at a fraction of the cost of cable.  Sure, I’m always a season behind on my favorite shows, which does have some disadvantages.  A friend who watches Showtime in real time accidentally blurted out a major spoiler for my very, very, very, most favorite show, Dexter.  That sucks, but the savings I get from watching through Netflix and not having to pay for cable makes it well worth it.  The only real downside of Netflix in lieu of cable: Netflix can’t feed my HGTV addiction.  But maybe that’s a good thing.

Reading blogs and online articles:  Another free activity!  I recently discovered Google Reader, which allows you to subscribe to blogs and online editions of newspapers and magazines in one place (including HotFrugal).  Anytime there is a new post on one of the sites you subscribe to, it will show up on your Reader homepage.  This is a great way to stay current on topics you care about.  It’s also a great way to stay current on delightfully snarky and shallow topics like celebrity fashion disasters

Managing my money:  Yes, I do consider this a hobby.  And yes, I really do enjoy it.  Tracking expenses and paying bills are not particularly fun activities, but tracking the progress I’m making toward a major financial goal is fun.  Imagining a financially secure future in which I’m free to pursue my interests is fun.  Heck, even budgeting is fun.  There’s something very satisfying about taking control of your financial life and seeing how it contributes to a better all-around life. 

Weekend getaways:  I love a mini-vaca!  Going away for the weekend provides a much needed break from reality.  If you have a great time, being away for two days can have the restorative effects of a much longer vacation at a fraction of the cost.  I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve always wanted to pick a weekend and leave the destination open so that I can take advantage of last minute deals.  Maybe this will be the topic of a future post…  Yes!  I will do this for my dear readers!  I will take a mini vacation because I care so much about all of you!  I shall do it for research!  (Rationalizing is really not supposed to be part of the HotFrugal philosophy, but we all slip occasionally…)

Dancing:  Going out dancing is a great time, although it can be expensive.  But turning up the speakers and dancing around the house in your pajamas is free.  It’s also private, which means you can dance like a COMPLETE fool.  It’s even more fun when you sing along into your microphone/hairbrush (and how frugal to have a hairbrush that doubles as a microphone!).

Viva la frugal!

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