Personal Finance Addict

Personal Finance Addict: May 2015

May 27, 2015

I Earned My First Nickel Today!

This is an exciting day for me!  I finally made it to 5 cents in my Adsense account.  I wrote my first post 10 months ago and just now made it to a nickel.  To be fair, I didn't really start promoting my blog until recently.  I'm certainly not expecting to get rich with this blog, especially considering the little amount of time I have to work on it, but I am thankful for every penny it makes.  Thank you to whoever helped me earn my first nickel!

 photo credit: image e via photopin (license)


May 25, 2015

Clothes Shopping for the Plus Size Girl

My daughter starts her summer job in a few days working in an office setting and needed business casual attire to wear to work.  She had virtually nothing in her closet that would be appropriate and fit.  Since she does not yet have her own money and I want her to succeed in making her own money this summer, I took her to buy her some clothes.  Since she wears a plus size, this makes it difficult to find a good selection of clothing anywhere.

We of course started with the thrift store.  We were able to find her a few shirts and a dress there, but no pants.  Our thrift store is huge, but does not have dressing rooms and does not allow returns so we didn't want to waste money on pants that we weren't even sure would fit right and they didn't have anything appealing in her size anyway.  We spent $32 total at the thrift store.

We then went to Plato's Closet (a junior size consignment shop), which just recently started selling plus sizes.  Unfortunately, the dress pants & khaki's section in her size consisted of about 5 pairs of pants total.  All but one were hideous.  The one she tried on did not fit well.  She was able to find two dresses here and a shirt.  Total spent at Plato's Closet was $26.

We had to find her some pants because she doesn't want to wear dresses every day and we had already bought her some shirts.  I decided to take her to Lane Bryant since it was nearby and I thought they would have a large selection of dress pants since the whole store is for plus sized women.  We were highly disappointed to only find a few options, all of which were $60.  They were buy one get one free, so we could have got two pairs for $60, but it was still more than we wanted to spend.  So we walked out of there empty handed and off to Kohl's we went.

We ended up getting her two pairs of pants and skirt for $58 out of pocket at Kohl's after using $15 from a gift card I still had from Christmas and applying for a Kohl's card to get a 30% discount.  That alone saved me $29.  I knew I wouldn't be approved anyway and wasn't worried about the inquiry affecting my credit score right now so why not spend a few minutes answering questions on the computer screen and save $29?

Then we had to get her shoes.  I refuse to buy second hand shoes unless they are ones that I know I will always wear socks with.  Since I knew she needed dress shoes and would probably want flats, she obviously isn't going to wear socks with those during the summer, so we hit up Payless.  Two pairs of shoes there cost us $45.

So the total spent to get her started on some work clothes was $161.  I was hoping to get away with only spending $100, but unfortunately that didn't work out.  I don't think we did too awful though considering everything she got.

Do you have any tips for shopping for clothes to save more money?  Please feel free to share in the comments below!


May 20, 2015

Getting Back on Track

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my husband was out of work for over a year after losing his job early last year.  He was able to collect unemployment for six months, which helped us to at least pay the necessities, After that ran out, we really struggled to keep up with the rent, electric bill, cell phone bill, internet, and food on just my income and two growing teenagers in the house.  We did luck out when we won a trip to the super bowl and were able to sell the tickets to the game.  That helped us catch up on our rent and other bills that had fallen behind, but didn't last as long as we had hoped.

My husband finally started a new job about a month ago, but are still trying to catch up on our electric bill and get back to being able to pay our rent on time since he has only received two paychecks so far.  His job is commission only so it's driving me crazy not being able to plan ahead and figure out how long it will take us to get back on track and start paying down our debt again.  In his line of work, he has always been paid commission and not a regular salary so that is not new to me, but at a time like this it makes me crazy because I love to plan for the future!  To make matters worse, my paycheck is now being garnished for an old debt since I have not been able to pay it during this past year.  This eats up about 20% of my paycheck.  On the bright side, that debt should be done after three more checks and that is one less debt and $1800 to remove from our total debt.

During this difficult time, we have really cut back on a lot of things!  Most of these things I tried to do before, but my husband wouldn't have it.  His philosophy on money was always "I can't take it with me".  Money is one of few things we disagree on.  It took me a while to convince my husband these changes were necessary, even after he lost his job.  But he eventually came to his senses and realized he was being selfish and unrealistic.

We have cut expenses on many things during this last year.  We never eat out, with the exception of my husband eating fast food for lunch on occasion (I'm still working on that one).  We completely cancelled cable.  We use my mother-in-law's Netflix account and we pay for Hulu Premium for $7.99 per month.  Cancelling cable really took some convincing for my husband.  I had to tell him we had no other options and it was a luxury that if we continued to keep, would cause us to become homeless.  The funny part about it is after we cancelled it and subscribed to Hulu premium he said he doesn't even miss it anymore.  The only thing he misses out on is some sports, but he is able to catch most things online somewhere or on basic channels.  But then, as soon as he found out he got his job, the first thing he mentioned was getting cable back!  No!!!!  I told him "why would we add another $150 monthly bill for something you didn't even miss and won't get to enjoy much of now that you're working anyway?"  He hasn't brought it up since.

I've been rolling my own cigarettes for quite a while now, which saves me $124 a month.  We very rarely drink alcohol anymore, not that we drank a lot before, but we did used to go out probably at least once a month and that no longer happens at all.  If we do drink, it's something we make at home and is so rare that it costs us virtually nothing.  I've been making our own bread in our bread machine and we bought a Soda Stream, which saves us a little.  I'm working on putting together some numbers for future posts on those although I fear we aren't saving as much as I thought we would when we bought the Soda Stream because now my son has an endless supply of soda.  We never buy clothes unless absolutely necessary.  If it is necessary, we try the thrift stores.  My daughter starts a summer job next week that requires business casual attire and she really has nothing to wear so we will have to hit up some thrift shops this weekend to at least get her a few outfits for work.

The next thing I'm working on is switching our cell phone carrier from AT&T to Cricket.  My husband is really against this too.  I'm still trying to figure out his reasoning on this one.  It makes zero sense to me to stay with AT&T when we can switch to Cricket and lower our bill from $255 per month to $100 per month (4 phones).  He actually got AT&T on the phone and talked to them for over an hour trying to convince them to lower our bill to keep us with them and the best they would do is shave off $20 a month.  I'll take it for now, but we're still switching!  He did, however, convince them to send a new phone for my daughter without insurance and without putting it under a contract (hers broke).  So right now we have two of the four phones completely out of contract so the plan is to switch those over to Cricket within the next week.  That leaves us with two phones under contract with AT&T and since we don't have the extra money right now to pay the early termination fees, we will have to wait until we can come up with it.  This will be first priority once our rent and electric and caught up.  I've done all the research and math and we can bring all of our current phones over to Cricket and will only need to pay $25 activation fees for each one plus 1 penny for each new sim card.  To start with, switching just the two of them over to Cricket will only save us about $8.44 a month.  This is because of the way AT&T prices two phones verses four and Cricket offers additional discounts for each additional phone.  But it's still savings.  If we were able to switch all four phones now it would be worth it even with paying the early cancellation fees.  If we could switch them all now, we would save $1000 in our first year with Cricket, including the early termination fees and activation fees.  Every year after that, we will save $1,860.

I have to say the only things we have splurged on at all is the soda and cigarettes.  I know we could save more money by cutting those out altogether, but I'm just not ready to quit smoking.  I do, however, want to start drinking less soda and more water.  This time of year I tend to drink more water anyway so my goal is to quit soda completely and stick to water, not only for the cost savings, but for my health too.

Does anyone else have any great saving techniques, ideas, or want to share what your weaknesses are when it comes to splurging?

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May 17, 2015

Careless Spending at the Grocery Store

If you read yesterday’s post about me trying to teach my kids a lesson, I did break down and go to the store today, mainly because we were out of meat and fresh fruits and vegetables and I’m not mean enough to deprive them of those items.  So while I was at my local grocery store today I noticed the lady in line ahead of me had a gallon of milk on the belt.  This shocked me because the half gallons of milk were on sale for $1.00 each, while the gallons of milk were on sale for $2.69 each.  Why in the world would she want to spend an extra $0.69 on the same exact quantity of milk?  My guess is she just didn’t pay attention to the prices, which makes me wonder how much more money she was wasting on other things. 

She then asked the cashier for some cigarettes.  Now I’m not going to knock her for smoking since I am a smoker myself, but she is really spending way more money buying these at the grocery store than if she were to roll her own or even buy them somewhere else.  As I stated in my post “How to Save 65% on Cigarettes”, I roll my own cigarettes at a local smoke shop using their machine that does all the work for you for only $22.18 per carton.  This same smoke shop is located almost directly across the street from the grocery store she was buying these cigarettes at.  On top of that, even before I discovered rolling my own cigarettes, I would never purchase my cigarettes at the grocery store because they are always more expensive at grocery stores than they are at gas stations or convenience stores.  This is one of the few items that are cheaper at gas stations, but it is cheaper nonetheless. 

I had to wonder what kind of person is so careless with their money.  I have a few theories.
  1. She is one of those people, like my husband was before I proved him otherwise, who thinks “oh it’s only 69 cents” or “what’s a little bit more for convenience” and doesn't realize how much all of those add up. 
  2. Her husband handles all the finances and she has no clue what her spending habits are doing to their finances. 
  3. She just doesn't care enough to pay attention to prices when buying anything at the grocery store.  She just buys what she wants and doesn't care what it costs, at least to an extent. 
  4. She has an endless supply of money, which is highly doubtful, but good for her if that is the case.
Her case could be any combination of those above, but unless she falls into that 4th scenario, she is hurting her family’s finances by not buying more responsibly.

So what did I buy at the grocery store today?  Four half gallons of milk at $1.00 each, eggs on sale for $0.99, sugar, bananas, five pounds of ground beef, deli meat and cheese for lunches, deli potato salad on sale for $1.25, pickles, Soda Stream cola for our Soda Stream (more on this to come in a future post), two boxes of cereal on sale for $1.88 each, hamburger buns, two packages of bacon on sale for $2.69 each (great deal!), some Cheez-It crackers, and chips and dip because I splurged a little.  Since my wonderful stepson works at this grocery store, we do get a small discount and I only spent $61.87 total.  The total discount was $4.39.  I then came home like I always do and opened my Ibotta app on my phone and got $1.10 back for some of the items I purchased (bananas, bacon, and cereal).  If you do not have this app already, you need to download it.  It is free and takes a few minutes of work, but you get free money just for buying things you already buy.  The best part about Ibotta is that not all items are brand-specific.  They give you money back on any brands of milk, bread, produce, etc.  

photo credit: Day 3/365 - Ride in the Shopping Cart.. (Explored) via photopin (license)


May 16, 2015

Why I Chose to Starve My Children

Ok, ok.  I’m not really starving my children, but they tried to tell me I am.  I’m sure most parents have been there.  I just decided I was going to quit feeding into their guilt trips when it comes to food.  Food is a necessity, but does not have to be a luxury.  We are having a rough month financially and I was tired of my teenagers wanting me to buy so much fast food, frozen premade food and snacks, and soda.  I had had enough and it was costing us a fortune.  They have also become extremely lazy and I’m trying to make them more responsible young adults. 

So what did I do?  When they said they were hungry, I told them to find something in the house to eat.  “But mom, we don’t have any food”.  “Really?” I said.  I knew we had food.  They just didn’t feel like cooking and there wasn't anything they wanted that was quick and easy.  At that moment, I could have come up with at least 4 meals they could have made themselves.  I just ignored them.  I knew if they were hungry enough they would find something.  They were old enough to cook for themselves at the ages of 14 and 18.  I work long days and I’m not coming home after working 10-11 hours to cook for them anymore. 

A few days later, I get home from work one evening.  I look at my daughter sitting on the couch with a goofy look on her face.  I asked her what was wrong.  She said “I’m hungry”.  “You are?” I replied.  She says “we have officially run out of food”.  Hmmm.  I knew this was still not the case.  She then says “please send me somewhere to pick up dinner.  I’m so hungry I just ate a bowl of cream of wheat and I hate cream of wheat!”.  “Well if you just ate cream of wheat you shouldn't be hungry then” I replied.  Nope.  I’m still not giving in. 

It’s about three days later and the only thing I have purchased from the grocery store is paper towels (my son has sent me 3 text messages within the last week reminding me we need paper towels, like that is something we can’t live without) and cheese and pizza sauce to make our own pizza. 
But I’m not just doing this to save myself money.  I’m also trying to prove a point.  The point being they are old enough and capable enough to start cooking for themselves and that there are people out there much worse off than we are.  I’m also trying to force all of us (myself included) to get more creative in the kitchen and use what we have rather than run out to buy food that we want when we already have plenty of food that can be prepared in the house. 

I take full blame for them becoming this way since I have usually given in to the guilt trips in the past.  Unfortunately, this is the only way to break this bad habit of eating out and buying them food when it isn't needed.  The kids went to their dad’s house for the weekend and I’m wondering if I will receive a text or call from him any minute now asking why I’m starving his children.  If I do, I will gladly ask him to come on over and have a look in our cabinets to see that they are not bare. 

I would love to hear if anyone else has “starved” their children.  Please share in the comments below!

photo credit: Dinner for One via photopin (license)


May 10, 2015

How Spending Less Money Can Make Your Life More Enjoyable

Most people (whether they admit it or not) spend money on needless things  It’s just become habit to buy the things you are used to buying, whether it’s food, beverages, or household items that you don’t realize there are other less expensive options for.  I had a habit for many years of stopping at a local fast food restaurant for a bagel and cream cheese every morning on my way to work.  When I first started this habit, it only cost $1.25 a day.  At the time of this writing, that same bagel and cream cheese costs $2.79.  This may not seem like much, but back in the day that $1.25 bagel cost me about $25/month.  At the current price, it would cost me $55.80/month.  If I buy my own bagels and cream cheese from the store and make my own, it would cost me roughly $26/month.  That is more than half the cost of what I would be spending at the drive thru. 

And that is just one example.  Just changing this one habit alone would save me $29.80/month.  Some of you might be thinking “that’s only $30.  What’s the big deal?”  Well first of all, that is just one item.  We have saved a lot more by making other changes.  We have dropped our cable altogether and use Hulu and Netflix instead.  We don’t even miss our cable.  We have cut out nearly all eating out and enjoy more time together at home being creative in the kitchen and saving money while we are at it.  We don’t buy many disposable items and instead use reusable replacements, such as cloth napkins or washcloths instead of napkins, rags instead of paper towels, real plates and silverware instead of paper and plastic.  I’ve even heard of people using rags instead of toilet paper.  We won’t be going that extreme, but hey if it works for you….  All of these changes add up to a lot of money saved.

Now let’s take this a step further and add up all of the savings we have made and see how much we could make in interest by investing this money we have saved.  Let’s use the $29.80/month I am saving by not buying that bagel and cream cheese every morning.  If I invest that into my 401k averaging a modest 6% interest rate, we would invest $16,272 in 20 years and earn $15,452.47 in interest for a total savings of $31,724.47.  That’s pretty incredible if you ask me!  I certainly don’t want to lose out on almost $32,000 just for a bagel.  If we manage to cut out $100/month in spending and invest that into a 401k averaging the same modest 6% interest rate, we would have invested $33,120 in 20 years and would have racked up $31,451.94 in interest for a total of $64,571.94. 

Here is a table of more examples: 

Monthly Savings
20 Years @ 6% Interest
25 Years @ 6% Interest
30 Years @ 6% Interest

The more and longer you can save, the more you can invest into your future.  Ask yourself these questions every time you are about to spend any money:

1. Is this a necessary purchase or do I have alternative options?
2. Is this a purchase that can wait?
3. Can I find a better price (either through another retailer, coupons, thrift shop, garage sale, or Craigslist)? 

Most of the time, I don’t make it past that first question. The grocery store is no exception. There are too many overpriced premade foods sold at grocery stores that you can easily spend a fortune on.  I am not a creative person at all and I have surprised myself how many times I have gotten creative and found other uses for things I already have to avoid buying something else.  My husband recently forgot to buy tartar sauce for the fish he made for dinner one night.  Instead of going back out to get some, he made his own using mayonnaise and horse radish.  This saved us the cost of the tartar sauce and the gas used to get to the store. Plus it was quicker to make it than to go back to the store anyway.  I have also been known to make my own laundry detergent, glass cleaner, and dish detergent.  Sometimes making your own cleaners does cost more up front, but saves you money in the long run.  Sometimes the cheaper option isn’t always the best option either.  For instance, I will buy Dawn dish detergent before buying the cheaper stuff because I can use much less of it to get the job done so it lasts longer. 

Being creative and weighing all of your options is key to making the best financial decisions.  Remember too that everyone’s priorities are different.  Keep what is most important to you in mind when making decisions regarding your time and money.  Saving money doesn’t have to make you miserable.  If you cut out spending in areas that truly aren’t that important to you, this leaves you more money to spend on the things that are important to you.  I love to travel so I would be willing to live a very simplistic lifestyle at home to have the money to travel and see the world.  Not everyone has the time to apply all money saving tactics out there either.  I know the power of couponing, but to save the most can be a full time job.  I did have fun during my couponing phase and learned a lot from it, but I choose now not to spend that much time on couponing because that was pretty much all I did outside of work and I didn’t have time to enjoy with my family and relax.  I still use some coupons, digital coupons, and stock up on items when the price is good.  I just don’t put nearly as much time into it as I used to because it didn’t seem that I was saving enough to be worth the time I was spending and we ended up with a  lot of stuff we wouldn’t normally buy or use just because it was really cheap.

If you need motivation, check out my post all about how I stay motivated.  

photo credit: About Stuff via photopin (license)


May 3, 2015

Review of the Eventual Millionaire; How Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur and Successfully Grow Their Startup by Jaime Tardy

This book is not a get rich quick book.  It is more of a step-by-step guide to walk you through starting your own successful business no matter what business you choose.  The author has interviewed over 100 self-made millionaires and used their stories and her own to create these tips for others.  She walks through how to get out of debt, face your fears, choosing the business that is right for you, setting goals, selecting a mentor, networking, and achieving your goals.  While I will admit, I skimmed through some sections of the book, I found other parts to be very helpful and useful.  Here are the biggest things I took away from this book.

Setting Goals

Goals are extremely important in achieving anything in life that takes time.  Set big picture goals and then break those down into smaller step-by-step goals so that you can see the progress you are making.  Put your goals in a place where you will see them every day as a daily reminder to keep you on track.  I put mine on an app on my phone and try to look at it daily.  I also try to do at least one thing every day that will help accomplish one of these goals. 

Networking, Mentors, and Mastermind Groups

Everyone wanting to start their own business should find a mentor that is willing to help you along the way.  I have learned that I need to find one for myself and maybe someday I can do the same for someone else.  It is also very important to network and start a mastermind group of about 5-10 people at multiple stages of their businesses, preferably similar businesses, but not necessarily competitors.  This can be a group that meets regularly to give each other advice.  I’m considering trying to put one together either online or locally for bloggers. 

Keep Learning

It is very important to constantly read up on any subject that can help you with your business whether it is books or just reading blogs and forums.  Since I am starting this blog, I should probably focus on the subjects of personal finance, writing, and all aspects of blogging.
Face Your Fears

As a kid, I was extremely shy.  When I became a teenager and wanted to earn my own spending money and get my own car, I really opened up a lot because I was determined to get a job and accomplish these goals and I did accomplish them rather quickly.  Since then, I am not really shy, but I do tend to worry about what others think of me and I have never been good about speaking in front of a large audience.  I just don’t like being the center of attention.  I have had to do some public speaking a few times in the last couple of years and it has gotten a little easier and I notice as I get older that I tend to not worry as much about what others think of me.  From my past experience, I know that if I want something bad enough, I am willing to face my fears to get it.  I just need to remember that and move forward knowing that it is never as bad as I think it will be and it will all be a thing of the past when it is over. 

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to start any kind of a business.  Even if you don’t want to start a business, there are a lot of areas of this book that will help you achieve your goals in your personal life.