Tag Archives: spending

Frugal Substitutes: Less Tongue In Cheek Version

A few months ago, I created a fun chart about possible frugal substitutes.  The idea was that you can replace pricey wants like vacations and massages with cheaper options that fulfill the same need.  Looking back, the intent was good but I’ve totally ignored my own advice for the past few weeks!

I went on a short trip.  I bought a new computer. I got a massage. I went shopping. I bought some clothes and a new purse.  AND I keep browsing online shopping sites.  In short, I have been choosing expensive wants instead of examining the reason behind my sudden desire to buy, buy, buy.  The only possible exception is eating out but my husband and I did some of that, too.  It just hasn’t been a budget buster because we still eat home most days or tend to choose inexpensive places when we do go out.

I cannot justify my choices but I really needed a vacation!


Story Of A Purse

I’ve never thought of myself as a purse lover.  When I look through magazines, I don’t really get excited about the new “it” purses.  I never aspired to own designer purses.  I have exactly 3 purses for work — 2 in black, and 1 fabric/brown for summer and spring, plus a few smaller ones for weekends but my “collection” would certainly not peg me as a purse aficionado.

Now for the confession which you probably could guess was coming… I splurged on a beautiful black leather bag. This is now one of my 2 black work bags.  I bought it partly because my other black bag had seen better days and I thought I needed another option.  I also loved the design and quality of this $400 bag*.  And it was on sale. And I had gotten a small bonus which I promised to use for a splurge rather than saving it as usual.

I had been eyeing this purse for weeks (months) and it was not going on sale.  It had gotten excellent reviews online regarding its quality and versatility.  I had small hopes that it would go on sale or if it did, my color would be sold out.  Of course I think that the purse may become a permanent part of the designer’s line-up as it seems quite popular. 

I’m glad I bought it.

The reason for my lack of expensive purses is not that I can’t afford one or that I don’t sometimes admire nice-quality purses.  It’s just that other than the workplace, I can usually be found running errands at decidedly normal places like Walmart, Costco, Target, CVS, and the occasional fast food joint.  I have seen women carrying expensive purses into McDonalds, for example, but it seems like an odd juxtaposition to me.  I feel like I should be dining at a nice restaurant, not throwing my beautiful leather bag on a vinyl dining booth seat.

In other words, my beautiful bag doesn’t seem utilitarian enough for my simple lifestyle (and one that involves messy toddlers, too!)  I’m wondering if others have this same thought as I do.  Do expensive purses fit your lifestyle, or do you not even consider this?

* After a 20% discount and some credit card rewards, the total was about $330 including taxes.  Shipping was free. Still high for me!

Frugal Opposites?

I’m beginning to think that my husband and I are frugal opposites, not in the classic saver vs. spender situation, but we’re frugal in such opposite ways that we still somehow disagree on spending (and saving) priorities to some extent.

First off, we are both fairly frugal.  However, I am more willing to spend money when I think it saves time, like on like housecleaning, moving or computer tech help and the like.  My husband is more of a DIY-er especially related to household things like dishwasher installation, property fixes, etc..  even if it can take him a lot of time and it’s not always easy to figure out. And I guess since he’s more of a DIY-er in aspects that he’s good at, he’s also hesitant to spend money in areas just to save time (since in theory we could tackle housecleaning, for example, on our own).  After having kids, he did come around to hiring housecleaning help and I guess he was never completely against it; he just saw less reason for it than I did/do.

If any spending is remotely related to career or career-advancement, he will spend the money (or want to), while I still like to weigh the return on investment.  This is a tough one because there are countless job-related spending opportunities from books to classes to conferences.   As for measuring ROI, how do you know if that networking event or conference will result in leads and work? I tend to give it one-shot and that’s it.  Say, I attend one conference but if I don’t get much out of it, I won’t go to ANY ever again. My husband wouldn’t rule out all conferences that way; he would look into another conference or would still be open to returning to the same conference after some time has passed.  Since work-related events are often costly, this can become  a sore point.  I think I usually “win out” but I wonder if I’m holding him or myself back from true career opportunities.   He’s been creative at networking on the cheap (with real results) and I do try to be open-minded about pricier opportunities but I still have a hard time justifying that spending.

I have a harder time pulling the trigger on purchases in general.  My husband doesn’t really pay attention to small-item purchases but hesitates on big item purchases (like furniture or appliances).  I guess I believe that little things add up and this is why I still use coupons, look for  sales to stock up on household items, send in rebates, and pay attention to recurring expenses/bills.  I know that my husband doesn’t really understand why I call our internet/cable/phone provider every year.  However, one year, I knocked down $40+ per bill ($480 annually) and I’m pretty proud of that!  

Our different spending habits haven’t been a contentious issue, however, because we do always talk about big purchases.  Even if we don’t always agree, both of us have a say.  I also think that it’s been a fairly even split in terms of who “wins” in the final decisions.  In many cases, we reach a compromise by setting a budget that we both feel comfortable with, delaying the purchase a bit, or not spending at all, without the other one holding a grudge.

Are you and your significant other opposites in terms of spending/saving?  Are you both frugal yet still have different spending habits?

Things I Let Go When Low On Cash

With a newborn in the household, Grumpy Rumblings (#1) asked “What do/have you let go when something new takes a lot of your time?  Answers varied from socializing with friends to exercising to reading/writing blogs.   For me, lack of time often equals spending money as an attempt to gain back time, or just keep sane!

Here are some ways I spend more money during time crunches:

1) Hire house cleaning help!

2) Hire gardening help

3) Get car washed

4) Eat out more often (since I’m too tired/busy to make lunch or go grocery shopping

5) Shop online for convenience (although I still check prices)

6) Stop comparison shopping, counting on Target/Walmart to have fairly decent prices

7) We have also hired a nanny to help us during busy or transition times.

Although I would argue time is always scarce, there are times when saving money becomes more important.  It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition of course.  However, I think many of the things I let go are the direct opposite of my earlier list.  Here are things I give up when low on cash:

1) Eating out at work

2) Snacking at vending machine (bring my own snacks instead)

3) Online Shopping for clothing, shoes, purses etc..

4) Hair cuts (this gets delayed until I can’t stand it any longer)

5) Car washes (Dusty brown is the new black)

6) Netflix (or some kind of media/cable)

7) Expensive gifts (I really stick to my budget at times like this)

8) Going out with friends/family (I decline get-togethers or suggest cheaper options)

9) Less organic foods

10) Expensive fun like international travel, massages or amusement parks (truth be told, I haven’t had facials or massage or travel in years…but these are things that I gave up in my 20s/30s when necessary.)

11) Tech upgrades (computers, phones, etc..)

12) Gym membership (home DVDs are good enough…)

13) Mindless spending (like walking out of Target with excess stuff not on my list)

I do still stock up if I catch a really good sale on household goods or needs.  So far, I’ve never been at the point where I didn’t have a big enough cushion for stocking up but I’m sure that can happen.

What do/have you let go when you’re low on cash?

The Real Balancing Act

Funny about money’s post about delayed gratification got me thinking about the real balance in life and it’s not the difficulty of balancing family and work during the early childhood years; it’s the delicate balance between wants and needs as you get older!

When you’re young, you can delay gratification more easily because you have time on your side.  It’s really hard to do for many people but you can tell yourself that you have time to buy that expensive purse or take that dream vacation.   However, as you get older and start seeing friends and family get sick or pass away, I imagine it would be much harder to deny yourself life’s little pleasures.  At the same time, you may be reaching your peak earnings, which isn’t as high as you expected, or playing catch-up on retirement savings.  Or you may even be at retirement age and while you want to spend freely, it’s harder when you don’t see money coming in.

Right now, in my 40s, I am balancing my spending and saving needs in an okay fashion.  I have young kids so a lot of spending is on their needs/wants.  At the same time, I think it’s important that I buy clothes or shoes or purses that I really like, once in a while, so that I don’t reach old age and flip out (spend like crazy) when I can least afford to.

Do you think it gets harder to delay gratification when you get older?

Wardrobe Revamp..Or Choosing Material Things Over Experiences

Right after I “saved” money on my summer vacation, I spent money on a wool sweater that I won’t be wearing til fall or winter.  I can run through all the justifications…big sale, good brand, free shipping, merino wool, polka dots…but it really makes no sense.  If it fits as well as it looks online, I’ll be happy.  However, it did make me set a clothing budget budget.  I’ve held off replacing many items over the past year and it’s been getting hard to find work-appropriate summer clothes. It’s also time that I replaced some worn-out shoes.  For what it’s worth, I haven’t bought anything for myself since January 2012 and have gone up a size.*

Despite my desire to revamp my wardrobe, I did imposed some guidelines to keep my spending in check:

1) Keep A List: I assessed my clothing needs and decided to keep a list (with budget next to each item) in my wallet at all times.

2) Really Assess Your Closet: As I mentioned in #1, I actually looked inside my closet to see what I needed/wanted.  After my first assessment, I came up with a fairly long list plus a target spending amount in each category. For example, I am willing to spend more on shoes than blouses.   However, I quickly busted my budget on one pair of shoes!  I re-examined my closet and realized that I didn’t need to buy everything on my list.  I could boost my summer work/play wardrobe just by using what I got.  1) I have two summer-y items hanging in my closet for months because they need ironing; and 2) I should finally wear a summer dress that I bought last year!

2) Work/Play: In the past, I had a clear division between casual and work clothes, which definitely increased my spending. Since my workplace is fairly casual, I’m spending on clothes and shoes that are good for both work and play.

3) Frugal Substitutes: Rather than replacing every item that is now too small or past its prime, I’m trying to figure out if one item can do 2 jobs.  Example:  Three of my work skirts were no longer presentable — a dark denim skirt,  black pencil skirt and gray A-line skirt.  I replaced all items with a more basic straight gray/navy skirt.  It’s very versatile and something I can wear to work or for a night out.

4) Remember that higher price doesn’t always equal higher quality! While I do think some designer brands look and feel better, it doesn’t always mean that their items will last longer.  Pricing also reflects brand perception and higher store mark-ups. Plus, I’ve found that many items I have from Target and Old Navy have hold up for years when taken care of.  Update: I do have to give kudos to my one pair of high-end designer shoes, a brand I never heard of but just looked up and realized that these cost on average $400-500.  I got it for close to $100 and you can definitely find them on sale or online for the $200 range.  Anyway, it’s an Italian brand, great-quality leather, comfortable, well-made and beautifully designed and has held up extremely well over 8+ years. My only concern is that this has become my go-to heels now that others have come and gone. I need to get a second pair just to give these a break and get another 8+ years out of them.  Or try to find the same pair on Ebay.

5) Buy What You Love: I spent a day mulling over the purchase of those cute shoes.  It went on sale so I took it as a sign to buy even though it was still above my original price point.  I made adjustments to my budget by cutting out other wants.   At the end of the day, if you don’t love it, it’s not a bargain.  Tip: Some retailers offer price protection so if you’re not sure you got the best price, go to the www.priceprotectr.com and sign up for a notification if the price drops within 7 days on the item you just bought.

* It’s strange to be a bigger size  on pants and skirts only, while still being smaller for blouses and tops.

How do you manage your clothing budget?  Do you set a budget or just buy what you want/need?

Old Happy Purchases

A lot of popular blogs and magazines  frequently feature things to buy. Spring is in the air! Time for new stuff in the latest colors! Everything you bought in previous seasons is out-dated!  I admit that I’ve been tempted so many times and if you are, too, you might need to do this little exercise, too.

Go through your house or closet and remind yourself of past purchases that still make you happy. You might be surprised that many things you thought of as “investment” pieces did not bring about as much happiness or return-on-investment as expected.  You might also get a small dose of happiness from old purchases and not feel the need to buy new things.  At least that’s what I was hoping when I wrote this post (inspired by my new spending mentality due to “Your Money or Your Life” Regular readers will be tired of my constant reference to this book by now).

So here goes my list of old purchases that still make me happy:

  1. Peacoat: A classic in blue that I got a good deal on
  2. Leather boots from Italy: Pretty and classic; needs a little shine!
  3. Party dress:  Looks like new because I only wore it once! I wish I had occasion to wear it again.
  4. Bathroom Cabinet: A small change that greatly updated our bathroom.
  5. Sweater Dress: Still pretty new. An excellent deal and so comfortable!
  6. Selected DVDs of classic TV shows: I can watch some shows over and over again.  Which reminds me of #7…
  7. Old books that I can re-read and that I never get bored of.
  8. Black fake leather purse: Maybe I’m too old for fake leather but I love it and don’t care. It’s sporty but still OK for work environments.
  9. Shiny black leather flats: I think I love it more because it’s from a designer brand.  The cobbler was doubtful about adding shoe taps on it until he turned it around and saw that it was made in Italy.
  10. Red Land’s End sweater: Work appropriate yet so comfortable. 
  11. Gray cardigan: I wear this all the time.  Hides the butt which makes it very practical, too.
  12. Dark jeans: It’s on the skinny jean side and I’m sure that trend is over but I do love it.

Just by doing this quick exercise, I realized that love for stuff can wear off pretty quickly.  For example, a pretty blouse from one of my favorite designers would have definitely made this list just two years ago.  It’s still in good shape but I don’t wear it as often anymore for some reason so I can’t say that I love it.

Ironically, in some cases, the more I’ve worn something, the more likely it will fall off the list because it doesn’t look shiny and new anymore.  Since I’m a complicated person (haha), I can also say that if an item does not get that much use, I love it less because it did not meet my expectations in some way.

Furnishings did not make the cut because my kids destroy furniture.  My favorite pillow is stashed in a closet out of reach and I’m tempted to sell or give it to someone who can really appreciate it.

Technology wasn’t included but I admit that I love the use I get out of various tech stuff.  I would give up many things before cutting internet access!

What old things are making you happy right now?  Please include clothing items, shoes, and purses so that I don’t feel shallow.