A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Giving Myself an Allowance

I use an outdated copy of Microsoft Money to track my finances. It generates a lot of reports for me including a cashflow projector (which I use instead of a typical budget) and some really great spending reports. Month-end is almost here again so I've been poring over my reports. Out of curiosity I filtered out all unnecessary spending categories, just to see how much money I'd have saved over the course of three months if I could manage to radically cut my spending.


In THREE months. Mind you, that's after rent, bills, food, and gas. AFTER. I've known for a while now that if I could just figure out how to cut out frivolous spending and impulse buys, I'd be quite well off. I spend less than most of my peers, and I definitely save more than a lot of them, but I could be doing a lot better. I need to be doing a lot better.

More than once I've been told that I shouldn't fuss over every penny, and I do try not to get lost in the minutiae of every other little 3 cents. But I make about $1400 in a good month, so a certain amount of spending vigilance goes a long way for me.

Until I was about 16, I got an allowance of $7.50 every other week, which was enough to buy lunch at school. I could either pack a lunch, or pocket the money. I seem to recall having a fairly active social life and still having fun with my pocket change, so I'm going to attempt a grown-up version of the same.

Every paycheck, I'll get $20. I'm paid bi-weekly, so that $20 is my pocket money. If I blow it on beers at the bar, that's it until the next check. It will not roll over. If I have cash left over when my next paycheck comes, I'll only get enough cash to get the total back to $20. Except on days when I need to buy gas, I'll leave my debit and credit cards at home.

I already put away $125 or more a month, and if giving myself an allowance cuts my impulse spending the way I hope it will, I could potentially double, triple, or even quadruple that amount over the summer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dipping into My Savings

Over the past few months I've gotten really good at socking money away. Next week, it's time to pay Fiance back for my half of our airfare to the east coast this summer and my half of the deposit on our wedding venue. The total is about $450. "Oh no!" I thought, going into a mild panic, "I'm going to have to dip into my savings!"

Until I remembered that the whole reason I began saving so aggressively in the first place was so that I'd be able to pull my weight with the wedding costs, and for us to visit my family on the east coast before the wedding.*

I'm fairly positive that this is the first time in my adult life that I've saved up for major purchases before making them. Before, it was my habit to just buy Whatever and figure out how to cover the costs later which resulted in a lot of nailbiting, overtime, and overdraft fees - not to mention unpaid bills, late rent, and searching the couch cushions for gas money.

Starting at age 18 and continuing (I imagine) until just before you die, there are a lot of "I'm a real grown-up now!" moments; buying a car, paying a bill, moving out, cooking your own dinner, getting married, buying a house, having kids - they run the gamut from seemingly mundane to obviously life-changing. I think putting a deposit down on a wedding venue with money I saved up for the cause is a pretty notable "I'm a grown-up!" moment.

To balance it out, I think I'm going to watch Star Wars while playing with Legos and gorging myself on sweets.

*and the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Collegiate Level Dumpster Diving

In Southern California, you don't have to physically dive into a dumpster to dumpster dive. People are constantly leaving furniture and appliances at the end of their driveways or just outside of dumpster areas in apartment complexes. People love to throw perfectly serviceable items away.

Last week Fiance and I went to a buddy's graduation at a small private university, and we discovered on accident that dorm dumpsters on move out day are pretty much treasure chests. There were 6+ couches, 2 or three futons, computers, monitors, televisions, printers, speakers, stereo systems, a keyboard (as in casio), fancy calculators, cds, dvds, clothes, laundry baskets, and probably a lot more. Had I not been in heels, I might have dug a little deeper into the pile of electronics. As it was, we came away with a TI-84 calculator (he's going to sell it on ebay), a printer-scanner combo (though we have 6 printers in this house, not one of them is my printer/scanner, which disappeared two apartments ago), a card for free frozen yogurt at Golden Spoon, a nice document organizer, a hole puncher, season one of the UK Version of The Office, and twenty four cents.

There were a few funny looks from the kids moving out, but really - if these kids are dumb enough to be throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, they're too stupid for me to care what they think of me. As usual, I'm somewhat mind-boggled by what people will just throw away. Even more disturbing was that a lot of this stuff had clearly been broken as it was discarded. Another printer/scanner combo had obviously just been chucked onto the concrete and shattered. Same thing with a television. The glass shards from both were all over the area (another reason I didn't dig too deep.) I can understand not wanting to schlep a television, or even just a printer, back to mom & dad's, but why destroy the thing when you throw it out?

Either way, I'm going to be making a point of swinging through the local universities at the beginning of summer from now on. I might never have to pay to replace a printer again. And maybe next year I'll nab season two of The Office.

Carnival of Personal Finance #154

This week's Carnival of Personal Finance is up at The Canadian Dream: Free at 45!

My two favorite articles were:

Budgets are Sexy on the Four Stages You’ll Encounter during a “No Spending” Challenge.
Five Cent Nickel on The Social Acceptability of Frugality.

There are many more great posts though, so go check out the Carnival.