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.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A MacBook Air Is Going to Cost Me Four and Half Months of Wages

I've touched on this before, in my article about spending $37 on a latte, and in my last post; my favorite way to control major impulse purchases is calculating just how many hours I'll have to work to pay for whatever it is I want.

I make $11.75 an hour, which after taxes and deductions is effectively $10.00 an hour. The luxury good that I currently covet the most is the new Star Trek: TNG entire series DVD set, which runs about $300 - $400. Now, I have a deep abiding fangirl love of Star Trek, but I don't love it enough to spend an entire week's wages on owning the entire series, especially since a year's worth of Netflix is $116.28 - a mere day or two of work.

Newly released CDs are about $10 (usually more), and there are very few artists that I love enough to spend an hour and half on. The same goes for DVDs, or video games. A tank of gas for my car is about $40 now. That's a half a day of work, and if that's not incentive to find ways to keep my gas mileage down, I don't know what is.

Even those of us with jobs we enjoy would probably rather have our days to ourselves than a timeclock to punch. When you consider purchases in terms of how many hours you've worked, many of your most coveted items lose their luster, and finding ways to cut down on your absolutely necessary expenses suddenly has a tangible trade off.

So the next time you're in Target/Best Buy/The Apple Store, hell, even Goodwill considering an impulse purchase, think to yourself two things: (1) Do I really need this? Or do I just want it? (2) If I just want it, is it really worth X hours of work?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ctrl-Alt-Delete! or: Undoing an Impulse Buy

My cell phone went completely haywire last night. The keypad was ignoring me, whenever the keypad would finally begin to respond - it would be interupted by an insistent prompt for me to speak a voicedial (I don't even use voice dial!). A creepy clickclickclickclick was coming from the speakers, punctuated by a prolonged beeeeeeeeeeeeep every minute or so.

I powered it on and off, removed the battery and replaced it, removed the SIM card and replaced it, left the phone alone for ten minutes, sang it a song, every quick fix I could think of. The phone remained posessed. Off to the the Cell Phone Provider Store I went.

Over the years, I've slowly upgraded my phones. The idea of downgrading is appalling to me, because I'm 23 and addicted to gadgets. I don't mine replacing my current model with another of the same, but I don't like to give up features I've become accustomed to. A weakness to be sure, but it's a weakness that only costs me every two years or so.

$121.62 later, I had one of those new-fangled music playin' phones. A Nokia whatever with red stripes and mp3 playing capability. Not all of my phone numbers were on my SIM card, so in what I thought was an exercise in futility, I put my SIM card back in my old phone, hoping the keypad would like me long enough for me to at least copy the numbers by hand. The keypad worked. It kept working. It's still working. Old Cell Phone is working just fine now.

Luckily I live in California and have thirty days to return the new phone. And to be honest, before I'd even attempted to use the seemingly broken Old Phone, it occurred to me that I'd really rather have $121.62, and that I should pop my SIM card into an Even Older Phone, and return the shiny new toy. Hopefully whatever technodemon posessed my old phone has been driven away for good- or at least until my contract's up and I qualify for a free phone. While I might try to rationalize the cool red stripey phone into a necessary purchase, it is NOT.


So how do I console myself, knowing that the shiny new toy is going back? Well:
$121.62 is enough to pay my cell phone bill. Twice.
$121.62 is about two and a half month's worth of car insurance.
Three tanks of gas.
About three guests at the wedding.
One month's energy bill.
Two month's groceries.

and the kicker?

Ten and a half hours of work. Before taxes.

Yeah, that thing is going back.