Friday, August 23, 2013


A few months back I had an interesting experience happen to me. I walked out of my office building and left my phone behind. I was halfway across the busy street before I realized what I had done. And I couldn't go back and get it! I was rushing to a doctors' appointment and I hated the idea of being late. I had to take a train, a bus, and walk a few blocks so any false moves would have put me off schedule! What to do?! I didn't suspect anyone would steal my phone. I was certain it would be safe at the office overnight. So I kept walking. And I was right, the next morning it was right by the coat rack, where I had set it as I put on my coat.

But that evening was almost torture. I felt like a fish in a puddle;  not really gasping for air but definitely tense. I was bored on the train and had only a newspaper for entertainment. Gone was my music, the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, puzzles and games, the internet. All gone!

As I exited the train station, I decided to make a phone call to my husband so he wouldn't worry if he had been trying to contact me. I had enough change, but lo and behold! The price was double what I recall it being just a few short years ago. I wasn't about to pay 50 cents to make a phone call and I ended up asking the receptionist at the doctors' office to allow me to use the phone.

The next day when I went to work and found my phone, I hadn't missed any calls, and there were no text messages.

There are people in America who live without cell phones. In fact I am acquainted with two or three of them. But it isn't something I thought I could do. I'm sure it takes some careful planning when everyone around you is accustomed to nearly constant contact. But it must also be somewhat freeing not to always be reachable.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Do it Yourself!

One of the great money-saving principles in personal finance is DIY, i.e. do it yourself. This isn’t just a way of saving money, it also expands your horizons and can lead you to an interesting hobby. Depending on what we do for ourselves, we may even improve our health, increase our net worth, make new friends, and learn marketable skills.

A forum I occasionally read lurk on asked what we do for ourselves. It was asked in the form of a sentence you could complete. I am my own. . . .

Some people completed the statement with what they were. Others found it easier to saw what they weren’t and those included tasks that one might be better off paying someone else to do such as legal representation (not much cramps your style worse than losing out in a court of law).

So I got myself thinking as to what it is that I do for myself that I could easily pay others or buy a machine to do.

1.      Stylist/hair dresser

2.      Cook (most days)

3.      Dishwasher (when hubby isn’t washing up)

4.      Pet groomer

5.      Pet food supplier (we make it from scratch with ingredients we buy)

6.      House cleaner

7.      Accountant (we do our own taxes with the help of software)

8.      Personal trainer (though not much is happening recently in this arena)

9.      Manicurist (I notice some of the wealthiest people just have neat, unpainted nails so I rarely do mine anyway).

10.  Eyebrow shaper (They don’t have to be model-thin, just neat).

That being said, Dave Ramsey Dave Ramsey’s FB team recently posted the following, “When your budget is tight, don’t spend money on things you could easily do yourself”.

Now that word “Easily” is a tricky one. Suppose I’m a wimp and I think that washing dishes myself will ruin my gel manicure that I had to pay someone to do because I don’t have the equipment at home? Or suppose I am an excuse-maker. Suppose I say that pet nutrition is too complicated and I should trust a large company that can claim that vets trust their brand for the best pet health? [Side note: National brands made my cats seriously overweight to the point one was unable to clean himself. The whole point of cat ownership is the low maintenance, right? So I feed my cats chopped meat mixed with this and they lost the weight and no longer have to ask me to wipe their butts].

I think a dose of ¡Si se puede! is necessary for some people, including myself. One of the forum participants mentioned some work she did in her bathroom after a strong pep talk and a few youtube videos. So far, success! Another blogger recently renovated her kitchen cabinets and with a little help from family reinstalled them. Neither of those tasks were easy (though I admit the mental part of the game was likely tougher than the skill part) but they weren't all that hard either.

Soooo what is there I’m not doing that I could be doing for myself to get mad skillz, save money, and have interesting stories to tell about how I got that scar? A few ideas come to mind:

·         Car repair

·         Baking

·         Investing

·         . . .

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pricey habit

At my workplace we have a couple of coffee makers. One is a fancy brand named monstrosity with a hopper on top that makes freshly ground and brewed coffee while you wait (it's only half bad). The other is a regular old coffee pot that we use for average cups of decaf. The decaf is my choice of drink, but sometimes I make the mistake of stopping at a store on my way to work for iced coffee.

First off, I've got to stop that because nobody sells decaf iced coffee so I get weird feelings and thoughts of paranoia.
Second off, iced coffee is easy enough to make.

I simply take the last bit of coffee from the pot that nobody wants to drink. Pour it into my cup, let it cool, covered on my desk. Then place it in the freezer in the break-room. Later on when it is half frozen, add milk (I keep soy in the fridge and nobody touches it), sugar, stir. It's icy, but when the ice melts, it won't water down my coffee. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad.

Now I just have to start bringing my own lidded cup with a straw to work so I can stop throwing plastic cups into the landfill (in my city they don't recycle number 5 plastic and I'm too lazy to collect them and take them to the one place that does).

I'm partway through a book that has reminded me of David Bach's "latte factor" so pardon me while I do a little math.

If I avoid buying iced or hot coffee for $2.99 at New York's more affordable donut chain a couple times a week, I'm saving myself over $300 per year, and as much as $3,000 over the next 10 years. I can already think of what I'd rather spend that money on.

1. a cruise for hubby and myself to the Caribbean with all the fixins
2. 3 trips with hubby to the local men's suit shop for 3 suits on sale. Yes, that is 9 suits over the next 10 years.
3. 2 LV handbags and 1 clutch at retail (I would never buy luxury bags brand new. . . they are just like cars with depreciation so I could probably get 6 LV bags secondhand never mind how many C0ach).
4. Stocks that could appreciate to $14,000 over an additional 20 years.
5. Or if I just start investing about $25/month I could have $52,000 after 35 years. 

Some of those alternatives for the money I could be spending on coffee are not that motivating. The ones that require even more saving are not that attractive. I guess because the tangible, the status symbols, and the just plain fun are still somewhat my focus.