Tag Archives: Spending

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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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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To the Class of 2012…

Graduation season is winding down, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the college graduates who are now entering the “real” world.  The transition from college student to independent adult is mostly awesome, though it does entail some new challenges.  All you new graduates out there now have the freedom (and responsibility) to manage many more areas of your own lives, including your finances.  Even if you are still searching for that first job that will launch your career, you can and should begin to develop a relationship with money that is healthy and positive.

In the ten years since my own college graduation, I’ve learned a few things about money.  I continue to be a student of personal finance, but I hope you will allow me to share with you the most important things I’ve learned so far:

The way you spend your money is a direct reflection of your values and priorities in life.  It’s very easy to mistake success for “stuff.”  Wearing a tee shirt with a designer logo does not mean that you are successful; it means you are susceptible to marketing.  If you looked at your spending as a snapshot of who you are, would you like what you see?

Experiences make you much happier than “stuff.”  Experiencing something is truly living.  You and your college friends will be separated in the future by time and distance.  Spend less of your money on “stuff” so that you can afford to meet old friends for dinner, or even vacation.  Remain connected with people you care about by experiencing things together.

You will never, ever regret starting to save sooner rather than later.  Albert Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.  He who understands it, earns it.  He who doesn’t, pays it.”  Personal finance can seem complicated, but the most important principal is easy enough for a child to understand: Save as much as you can as early as you can, and you will build wealth.  It really is that simple.

If you want to live a free and independent life, avoid debt.  You must give up your time and energy to earn money, so having debt means that someone else owns a piece of your life.  Sometimes debt is necessary, but be honest with yourself about the significance and gravity of obligating your time and energy to someone else.

You don’t need to have personal finance figured out all at once.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Small successes in managing your finances will make you feel incredibly proud.  Congratulate yourself on every small victory.  Use that positive momentum to learn more and to create new goals for yourself.  In a very short time, you will feel confident and in control of your finances and your future.

We all have our own definitions of success and our own ideas about what makes for a happy life.  Regardless of what your ambitions are, always remember that the lead role in your life should be played by YOU.  Money should never play anything other than a supporting role. 

Congratulations, 2012 Graduates, and best of luck.  Viva la frugal!

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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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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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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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Monthly Update: June 2010

Reality checks are an important part of measuring the progress made toward achieving a goal.  Discussing my finances publicly has been very helpful for me, so I’m going to start sharing my little reality checks with all of you, dear readers.  Around the first of each month, I’ll post a quick review of some of my key financial measurements.  June is the first month that I’m making these calculations, so it will be my baseline.  In future months, I’ll compare my stats to the previous month and explain any significant changes. 

I’ll also update the action items in my 30 Sense plan each month.  Click here to see the latest.

To be perfectly honest, I’m getting that uncomfortable feeling again because I’m about to put even more of my financial information out into the world.  But I know that this process will be good for me.  I’ve had such phenomenal support from friends, family, and strangers who have been reading HotFrugal regularly.  I can’t begin to explain how helpful all of the encouragement has been.  I’m a very lucky gal. 

So here goes… 

Net Worth

My net worth as of June 1, 2010 is $78,291.  My assets and liabilities are:

Assets Liabilities
Emergency Savings $9,819 Home Mortgage $110,461
Mad Money Savings $2,362 HELOC $19,309
Checking Account $477 Personal Loan $17,539
Health Savings Account $1,458 TOTAL Liabilities $147,309
401(k) (Vested Balance) $31,359  
Car Value (per KBB) $5,125  
House Value $175,000  
TOTAL Assets $225,600  
   
Net Worth (Assets – Liabilities):  $78,291

Spending

Over the past six months, my spending has averaged $2,449 per month (my goal is to keep this around $2,500 based on my current living situation).  This excludes savings, retirement contributions, health insurance, and healthcare costs.  All of these costs are deducted from my paycheck automatically, so my budget focuses on the spending I do with my take-home pay. 

There are two spending categories that I consistently struggle with in terms of staying on budget each month: Dining Out and Groceries.  I’m often appalled by how much money goes in my mouth each month, but that’s a subject for another post.  The following table shows my actual spending in these two categories for June vs. my budget.

  Budgeted Amount Actual Spend (June) Variance
Dining Out $160 $156 $4 under budget
Groceries $238 $272 $34 over budget

Summary

I’m feeling pretty good about the current state of my finances.  It will be interesting to see exactly how things shake out after my house is sold at the end of this month.  Everything seems to be going smoothly, but I won’t count that chicken until it hatches.  If all goes as planned, selling my house shouldn’t have much impact on my net worth, but it will affect the way my net worth is distributed.  July’s update should be interesting.  Stay tuned!

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