Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hesitations in paying for certain things

Attending a recent club party made me realize that at the 'advanced' age of 26, the idea of going to a (dance) club doesn't make me cringe yet, but the idea of paying a lot for one does. I honestly love (almost) any occasion that causes for me to dress up, but paying a lot to 'party' sucks all of the fun out of it for me. My behavior is very different from what I exhibited during and immediately after I graduated from college. Washington, DC, the city I've lived in since graduating is a 'college' town and several of the notable dance clubs here throw huge parties that some celebrities and notable sports athletes attend when they are in town. But attending these parties comes at a steep (to me) price unless you are 'connected' with someone affiliated with the club, are on someone's guest list or take advantage of the incentive many clubs offer of ladies to enter for free or cheaper before a certain time (usually 11:00 p.m.). I think guys get usually get a cheaper price as well, but I'm not sure if it's free.

During my college years I remember spending as much as $40 to enter a club during a special occasions like homecoming season amongst local colleges or graduation season. That entrance fee doesn't even cover your drinks. The fact that I always drink minimal alcohol when I socialize probably meant that I spent less than most but that's still alot! I enjoyed that time in my life, and don't really regret spending that money, because it came with the experience of being that age. But now that I am my mid-twenties and not my early twenties, my priorities have changed and I'm not interested in paying that much money for a club. I'd rather save it or if I spend it, I'd rather have a nice meal, go to a concert or even get a manicure/pedicure than pay for a club. I think most of my friends that went to my university would agree but you couldn't tell us going into whatever parties we paid all of that money to attend wasn't 'important' back then.

Is there anything you hesitant (or unwilling) to pay for as you get older?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Travel Plans

I don't plan to do much traveling this summer. I'm planning to take two classes this summer for grad school and am considering taking another non-grad school related class that I think might give me a few useful skills I can use on my job. Because I intend to be pretty busy, my traveling will be relegated to weekends. Here are my tentative travel plans:
  1. Visit family members. I've already purchased airfare to visit my Dad who lives in another state and may also go to at least one family reunion in a near-by city.
  2. Go to a (relatively) near-by beach. I'm hoping to take at least one trip to a near-by beach either in Delaware, Virginia or New Jersey.
  3. Day trip to NYC to visit some musuems or other sightseeing. I've already been to NYC a few times this year to see an excellent show and do some shopping/thrifting, but I'd like to take at least one day-trip via Megabus to see some cultural sights and museums that I have never seen before like The Met and MOMA.
  4. 'Staycation'. I'd like to take advantage of some of the great things going on in my city this summer as well and deviate from my usual routine. I still have to do some research on what I'd do on this staycation.

I still have to set an exact amount I plan to spend on travel this summer, but I don't plan to spend as much as I have during past summers because they included more air travel and hotel stays.

What are your summer travel plans?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Summer Barbeque Options for Vegetarians

Though the weather has been finicky recently, summer is right around the corner and I am looking forward to attending barbeques once the weather warms up for good in the Mid-Atlantic region. But I don’t want my recent commitment to vegetarianism to put a crimp on my summer barbeque food options. I also don’t want to rely too heavily on bread to fill up which wouldn’t be friendly to my waistline in excess. Here are a few recipe items I’ve found that are also relatively inexpensive:

Other good vegetarian friendly options I plan to try include:
  • Roasted or Grilled Vegetables
  • Fruit Salad
  • Mixed Green Salad
  • Grilled Corn
  • Gazpacho Soup (with Mango or Watermelon)

Do you have any vegetarian-friendly summer dishes you’d like to try this year?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interesting Personal Finance Articles

Here are few recent news articles that I found interesting:

Networth Obsession - I like to see progress in the positive direction on my networth like anyone else, but I don't see the point in getting too 'caught' up in the numbers.

Thinking Outside Rails and Runways, and Taking the Bus - As a frequent Megabus rider, I'm not surprised that bus-riding is catching on among younger (and older) adults. The lower cost of bus travel vs. Amtrak makes traveling along the East coast much easier for me personally.

Credit or Debit? Which Card You Should Use, and When - This is a question I often ask myself when making larger purchases or booking hotel rooms.

Generation Y's Steep Financial Hurdles: Huge Debt, No Savings - Yet another 'downer' article about my generation. This article was even more motivation for me to get my financial act together. There are many Generation Y'ers out there that are fiscally responsible. I chat with quite a few of them on the internet and have met some of them at the two blogger happy hours I've gone to in DC. I hope to meet more like-minded people my age in the future.

Exploiting the New Student-Loan Rules - I don't think I need to take advantage of this option at this time, but it's good to know it exists.

Have any recent news stories or (blog posts) caught your eye recently

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cutting out little splurges to reach financial goals

I have never been the type of person to spend a large amount of money on any item at one time. I usually have little splurges that (psychologically) make me feel less guilty about spending money. But as most people realize that track their money, those little splurges can add up to a lot of money over time. I’ve spent most of 2010 so far burying my head in the sand about my little splurges. I'm sure many people have heard of David Bach's Latte Factor. But lately, I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to cut out those little splurges and only spend money on planned expenses but I have to admit it’s hard for me. Small treats like a latte from Starbucks or a new lip gloss from CVS or an album I’ve been contemplating downloading off of iTunes will have to stay in their respective stores where they belong. I also need to stay out of my favorite big box retailers altogether for a while to avoid temptation. After looking at my calendar in dismay and seeing that the year is half way over motivated me to be a little more cautious in my spending so I can really see some progress at the end of the year with my financial goals. I’m not on a spending fast, but am doing the diet equivalent of ‘stepping away from the table before over-indulging.’ I'm going to put any 'leftover' money I have after my expenses into debt repayment, because that is my focus right now. Though I don’t plan on taking up antisocial behavior to save money, I will try to spend as little money as possible while partaking in any activities. I think that summer approaching actually works in my favor of my efforts to spend less. I do live in DC after-all, there are plenty of low-cost things to do here, if I look hard enough.

Why I (rarely) wear pants

It was brought to my attention by a coworker recently that I rarely wear pants to work. Yep, I'm that girl that was wearing skirts and dresses in the dead of winter with doubled up tights and knee boots. I don't personally have anything against wearing pants for religious or political reasons. So, why don't I wear pants on most days?

Cheaper. I don't wear pants all that often because it's cheaper for me not to wear them. As a vertically challenged lady (aka short), I can rarely go into a store and purchase pants without getting them shortened. Because I lack sewing skills, those alteration costs can add up. I mentally tack on $15+ to a pair of pants when I try them on in the store. Unless I have a specific occasion to dress up for, that extra cost is just usually not worth it for me. I have bought skirts in recent months, but I believe the last pair of pants I purchased was when I had a part time job at a retail store in 2008. I've made denim purchases fairly recently. I've bought two pairs of jeans in the last two years, one pair of which were purchased in the late winter.

My personal style is less casual as I get older. I do have to admit that as I get older, my style has changed a a bit; in college I felt way more comfortable in jeans, I now feel more comfortable in a skirt or a dress. I don't feel as much social pressure to dress a certain way, and I really wear what I like and what suits my style aesthetic. During the week, I like to dress up and don't usually have to worry about being under dressed when I go to any functions I attend after work because I've never been a fan of really short, tight skirts or dresses. I do wear jeans on the weekends and that really is enough for me.

Pants styles change frequently. Pants styles change in minor ways from season to season, but most of the skirts and dresses I wear are at least a season or two old. Hemlines rise and fall on pants. Wide legged styles go in and out of style and I usually see slight moderations when styles 'come back around' such as less pockets on cargo pants or cropped pants in jeans instead of regular lengths. Skirt styles like a black pencil skirt or A-line skirt depending on your figure type are closet staples that won't look out of place from year to year. I have a penchant for prints and florals and they have been in style for the last few seasons as well. My skirts rarely need any alterations that simply putting on a belt can't fix. Dresses are a bit trickier, but they still usually require no alteration unless they were purchased from thrift or vintage stores. I have purchased dresses that were larger than my normal size in the past from thrift stores and got them altered to fit me because I saw the potential in the dress and felt I'd wear it for several years and for different types of occasions. My petite girl trick when I do have to purchase clothing that I want to fit my smaller proportions, is to shop in the junior's and even the kids section of my favorite stores.

I know taller folk face a whole other set of clothing (and maybe shoe) shopping problems, and overall, I like being a small lady. Making minor adjustments in how I choose my clothing isn't really a big deal. But in the future, I will take the time to learn some basic sewing skills and maybe even take a class, but for now, I'll stick to skirts and dresses and just wear the pants I already own.

Anyone else face pants shopping woes? What other factors affect your clothing preferences?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Money (and life) lessons from my Grandma

My Grandma does know how to use the Internet to check her email, but I’m pretty sure she doesn't read personal finance blogs. I’m dedicating this post to her anyway. I’ve learned a lot over the years from my dear Grandmother including a few money (and life) lessons, here are a few:

Save your money and spend it wisely. My Grandmother has always been a saver according to my Mother. She spent less than she earned and learned how to spend her money wisely. This allowed her to raise five children and put them through college. My Grandmother faithfully socked money away money for years and because of this, she is able to live comfortably in retirement.

The importance of pursuing a higher education. My Grandmother never gave up on her dream of completing her college degree and went back to complete her Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in education while taking care of her family when she was in her forties. Because of my Grandmother (and my mother as well!), college was not thought of as a privilege, but a right of passage. The younger generation of my family is now continuing the tradition and now many of us are college graduates or still matriculating. Pursuing a higher education significantly increases your income over your lifetime and my Grandmother was aware of this.

Some things are not worth skimping on. From appliances to reliable cars, my Grandmother knows what to skimp on and what quality items to pay top dollar for. She is the original Small Budget, Big Style Chick :- )

Eating at home is cheaper than eating out. My Grandmother (and Mother) can turn a few items in the pantry into a whole meal for a family and I hope to one day have that skill (not quite there yet with the cooking skills). My Grandmother realizes that eating in is healthier and often cheaper than eating out.

Volunteering and giving back is not something you can do, but something you should do. My Grandmother to this day is still active in her community in several different types of volunteer capacities. From tutoring students, to being active in her church and the many other activities she is involved in. I’ve heard her joke before that she doesn’t know how she found the time to work because she is so busy in her retirement. I try to follow my Grandmother’s example and donate my time to opportunities that help youth in my community.

I hope to live a long fulfilling life, as my maternal Grandparents have; they are currently in their 80's and 90's, so I better start (aggressively) saving now so I can live well in my older age like them.

I wish my Mother (and most loyal reader) and all of the mothers out there a Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Frugality among consumers is outliving recession

According to a recent Washington Post article:

Even as the economic recovery plods ahead, many American consumers are
refusing to come along.

They're not spending freely - and they have no plans to. Many of them have steady income. They aren't saddled by high debts.
They don't fear losing their jobs. Yet despite recent gains, they've lost so much household wealth that they're far more cautious about spending than before the recession.

Their behavior suggests that the Great Recession may have bred a new
frugality that will endure well into the recovery. And because consumers fuel
about 70 percent of the economy, their tightfisted habits means the rebound
could stay unusually sluggish.

That's the picture that emerges from an Associated Press survey of leading economists and interviews with more than two dozen ordinary Americans. The new AP Economy Survey asked 44 leading economists whether the recession created a "new frugality" among consumers that will outlive the recession. Two-thirds said yes.

I don't really consider myself to be a frugal person. I'm willing to spend money on things others may consider 'splurges' if they fit in my budget. I am making a concerted effort to cut out mindless spending, but I do like to travel (after saving for it) and plan to make travel a life-long hobby.

There are things I have no problem living without like a car, fancy kitchen appliances, air conditioning (except in very high temperatures). But because I don't really miss those things, they don't really count as sacrifices in favor of frugality. For me, balancing spending and saving is more realistic than trying to be frugal. But I so admire frugal-minded people like personal finance personality Michelle Singletary and some of the more frugal-minded personal finance bloggers out there. Whether people choose to be frugal or not, I hope being more fiscally conscious in general is a habit that is here to stay.

Do you consider yourself to be frugal and if so, is your frugality permanent or temporary based on the economy?