Quantcast Finally Frugal: June 2009

The bumpy road to financial independence. . . .


Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer hiatus. . . .

Whoa! As you can see, it's been more than a week since I last posted! While summer is particularly difficult for me budget-wise (more fun, entertainment, and travel enters my life when the sun is shining), it's also been difficult to find the time to get to the blog. . . .

So with that in mind, I propose taking a summer hiatus from Finally Frugal---this doesn't mean I'm going to stop budgeting, tracking spending, and increasing savings; it just means that I'm going to try to spend every spare moment in my garden, at the park, and generally outdoors whenever possible!

That's not to say that I won't post from time to time when I come across interesting articles. . . . sometimes I just can't help myself!

Happy summer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home repair blues. . . .

I finally had my dryer repaired today, and found that some wires were faulty. I was actually glad to learn this, since I would have felt a little guilty if it had been the heating element (this might have been something I could have fixed myself, rather than paying someone to do it for me).

Although I'm all set up for line drying---whether indoors or out---I'm happy to have my dryer back online for rainy or cold days, and for items that really should have a tumble once in awhile (my duvet cover comes to mind. . .) for the purposes of pet hair removal, at the very least.

I'm looking forward to using my clothesline often this summer, and saving some additional money in electric bills by not using my dryer. Now the question is, how to pay for the roughly $170 bill to fix my dryer? Originally I thought I would just take it out of my emergency fund and pay down my credit card, but on second thought, I'm going to take it out of a separate savings account that is going to help fill the gap when my income decreases next year. That account is quite healthy---there's twice as much money in it as there is in the EF, and if my refinance ever goes through, I'll be able to "skip" a mortgage payment (I'm already a month ahead, even without it) and that money will go straight into that savings account as well.

So my home repair---while expensive---hasn't decimated my budget after all. I can't help thinking how that charge would have remained on my credit card for months or even years just a short time ago, because I wouldn't have had any savings to speak of. How times change!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Frugal change. . . .

Like most of us, I have a jar of change sitting in a dark cupboard, that I sometimes throw my spare nickels and dimes into----they just get in the way in my tiny little wallet! Every once in awhile if I need money for gas (just a few bucks to get me through the end of the month), I'll dive in and grab some quarters, but in general the money just sits there, unused and seemingly unloved! I've never actually cashed it in for "real money", and I'm not sure I ever planned to. . .

With this economy, though, it seems that more people are heading to their local Coinstar or bank to cash in the random change in their respective jars. The bank representative in this NBC video says that not only do they cash out to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 per week (total) just at her branch, this kind of business has increased by 13% this year! I guess when times are tough, every little bit counts, eh?

I think I may take a second look at my little jar of change! I know I don't have anywhere close to $50 in there, but it might be enough to fund a guilt-free night out with the girls sometime soon!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A frugal commute. . . .

Now that summer is almost here, it's almost time to begin my bus commute from the stop a couple of blocks from my house (rather than the car to train to bus commute that I usually do during colder or rainy weather). Each morning as I pass by the bus stop in my car, on the way to the MAX station, I consider the hour-long bus ride (including a transfer to another bus downtown) that is in my future.

Last year I did this bus commute day in and day out and while I didn't like it, gas prices were so high then (was gas really almost $4 a gallon last summer???) that taking the longer commute in a dirty, crowded bus seemed like a great deal. I was spending less than $20 on gas per month last summer, which was fabulous, considering how high gas was!

This year, I DREAD the thought of waiting at the bus stop (and exposing myself to car horns and cat calls, as it's on a major street) and then waiting again for a transfer to the university. Why is this? Maybe because gas is still less than $3 a gallon here in Portland, and I'm not going to save 'as much' money as I did last year?

Granted, I'm taking a class this summer that will preclude a late-night bus trip, so I'll only be commuting this way three times a week. I think next Tuesday will be my first day back on the bus, so I'll have to see how it goes then. I think my memories of the bus are clouded by the few hot, hot, hot days that I rode a bus without A/C and was simply miserable. For an hour.

I'm going to try to sell myself on the bus commute by reminding myself not only of the money I'll be saving but also by reminding myself that I'll get to listen to my digital books on a more frequent basis (which also helps tune out some of the rather unfortunate souls who also choose this particular bus line).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Frugal confidence. . . .

Apparently, Americans have a confidence rating in the economy of -47 (on a scale of 100 to -100)! That's pretty dismal, people! This confidence or 'comfort' rating is based on personal opinions about three separate variables:

  • National economy
  • Personal finances
  • Buying climate (meaning, is it a good time to make purchases. . .)
Interestingly, our opinions varied based on several factors. For example:
  • People with higher incomes reported more confidence (-17) than those with the lowest incomes (-72);
  • Those with a college degree felt better about the economy (-35) versus high school dropouts (-63);
  • Homeowners were slightly more confident (-44) than renters (-54).
Also interesting (though not surprising), less than half of us feel positively about our finances. In fact:
"Forty-five percent rate their personal finances positively, typically the best of the three measures. That’s down 7 points in the past month – the steepest such decline since May 2008 – to just 4 points from the record low in January, and 12 points below average."
Actually, the last half of last month and the beginning of this month have been quite difficult for me, financially. I still haven't published my zero-based budget from May, and had quite a difficult time getting my June budget to zero out. Meanwhile, I had my debit card declined last weekend after a day of grocery shopping (I had to transfer from money from savings to cover what I'd spent)! That is the first time this has ever, ever, EVER happened to me, in spite of all the years of spending---and I didn't like it one bit! I guess this isn't surprising, considering I rarely used my debit card in my non-frugal past and simply whipped out the credit card for every little thing.

Anyway, this rather rude awakening (it's embarassing!!!) helped me to get back to the basics, in checking my accounts more frequently BEFORE going shopping! I'm feeling a little less positive about my finances than I have in the past, though, in spite of being nearly credit-debt free. This might be because I'm sensing that times will get even tighter when my income decreases very soon!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Credit cards: avoid them. . . .

As my credit debt inched above $300 recently due to a plane ticket purchase (for a trip to see family later this summer), it appears that more Americans are falling behind in paying their credit card bills.

The percentage of Americans who are delinquent is now 1.3% (which seems low to me, to be entirely honest), but that is up 11% over the previous quarter. Analysts think this might be because people are using whatever tax refund/rebate they've received to pay for everyday costs, like food and gas. Meaning, I suppose, that there's no money left to pay the credit card bills!

I can't tell you how thankful I am that my credit debt is almost nil. Even at $300, I'm trying to find ways to pay it down quicker while not decreasing my savings much. Not having a huge bill hanging over my head when I know my income will decrease later in the summer is a huge incentive NOT to use my credit card except when necessary.

I can't imagine the desperation that some people must be feeling in this (still) horrible economy, with unemployment still rising in some places, and gas prices going up as well. I vow never to put myself in such a precarious financial situation again simply for my own sanity.

Friday, June 5, 2009

All about savers. . . .

Yet another article along the lines of the financial personality piece that I linked to on Wednesday. This one highlights research that pertains to 'Savers'. Here's a little recap:

  • 'Savers' start early: 73% indicate that their parents taught them the value of saving money, compared to average savers.
  • 'Savers' are less into the luxuries of life: meaning, they live well but they don't necessarily need a high-priced spa treatment or a Coach bag to feel good about themselves. This makes a ton of sense. When I began my frugal journey, I made a conscious effort to ask myself 'WHY' I was purchasing non-essential items---if I couldn't come up with a reasonable answer I didn't purchase it.
  • 'Savers' know their limits: budgets are already pretty lean for savers, so cutting additional expenses is sometimes not possible---and savers are aware of how far they can go in finding additional savings.
  • 'Savers' are happier with their finances: this makes sense as well. When you're not afraid to open your bills life is much less stressful. I know that having an emergency fund and additional savings accounts helps me sleep better at night!
I wish this article had contained a URL to the study itself, as I wanted to include the tables and graphs (I do love me some graphs!) and to look at the exact numbers and analysis a little further. I'll see if I can find it somewhere online. . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Your financial personality. . . .

Whew! I landed on my feet after a weekend at the beach; who knew that three days out of town could result in getting so far behind in everything else? In any case, my mini-holiday was fabulous, and I'm back to the 'grind', as they say, after a rejuvenating beach vacation.

In the midst of catching up on work stuff, I came across this very interesting article in a British paper (the Daily Mail), about a recent survey on people's financial personality. In essence, it appears that of the people surveyed, over 50% are considered 'Amblers', meaning they simply amble through their financial lives, paying little to no attention to bills, savings, and budgeting! I wonder if these numbers would be the same if Americans were surveyed?

Here's a table with the five financial personalities as defined by the researchers:

In reading this article, I kept wondering: where is The Frugaller? Where is the 'personality' for balanced people who pay attention to their finances, are able to live simply and save for the future without becoming neurotic or anxious (as The Hoarder appears to be)?

Doesn't it look as if financial personalities have been defined a little too narrowly by this study, and perhaps a bit negatively? I know in the past I've been The Ambler, The Evader, and The Splurger, and I know people who fit The Validator profile, but I feel as if I now fit into a sixth category---someone who opens her bills without anxiety or delay, who spends quite a bit of time thinking of her finances---without as much worry as a Hoarder---and who is motivated by optimism for the future, rather than fear.

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