Link Love and Updates

Hi everyone!  Since I hosted the Carnival of Money Stories last week, I’ll keep today’s link list on the short side.  If you didn’t get a chance, be sure to read a few submissions.  There were lots of great entries!

I also participated in three carnivals last week.  First up, I threw my hat into the ring on the mammoth Carnival of Personal Finance at The Personal Financier.  (Nice symmetry on the titles, eh?)  I’ve been relying on NPR and the New York Times to understand last week’s crazy economic news.  However, the Unreal Blog has another take on it all, complete with impressive graphics!

I love the Festival of Frugality for all the great tips, and this week’s edition at Living Almost Large was no exception.  Thanks to Donna Freedman’s submission from the Smart Spending blog, I even found this great post on DIY cat litter. Hooray for  Allie’s Answers!  Yesterday, as I was changing the expensive stuff I buy, I was thinking there must be a better way. . .now I’ve got a couple of options!

Finally, I was in the Money Hacks Carnival at On a Quest to Be Debt Free.  I like Miss Thrifty‘s tip to clean the oven.  Pretty soon, I won’t be buying a single cleaning product!

During my shopping bug this week, I also really appreciated Get Rich Slowly‘s post on advertising.  If you haven’t subscribed before, be sure to check out this blog.  This week, his wife posted a cool recipe for canned salsa.  I prefer to just can the tomatoes and make the salsa from those when I want, but this looks mighty tasty!  

Finally, I liked Simple Mom‘s frugal tips and the reminder that frugal tips are often eco-friendly tips.  I think for most of us, frugal choices are important not just for the money they save but also for the impact they have on our environment!

Update:  Yesterday, I posted about my sneaky shopping trigger.  Well, last night, we went to Macy’s with a gift card.  The husband found some great clothes, all on sale, for work meetings, but I came up empty-handed.  It was a very disappointing trip, but I’m proud of myself for not buying something just to use up the card!  I’m sticking by my plan to just buy quality items at good prices.

Sneaky Shopping Triggers

Back in my super-shopping days, the fall wardrobe was a prominent highlight of the year.  Fall shopping involved reading lots of glossy magazines, finding inspiration at Anthropologie and Neiman Marcus, scouring Loehman’s, DSW, and the mall for deals, and then splurging back at Anthropologie and Neiman Marcus.  The shopping cycle also involved an original list, purchases, returns, and new lists for things to match what I bought on earlier trips.  All this happened with good friends, so it was loads of fun.  I wouldn’t trade the memories, but I am a little relieved to have stepped off the shopping treadmill.

 

by pjinomaha

by pjinomaha

 

Here in Ohio, I haven’t given up shopping completely.  In fact, I am truly one of the luckiest girls in the world because I have a husband who LIKES to shop for clothes.  On our honeymoon, we had a total blast shopping, and he sweetly splurged on the most darling trench coat ever for me to wear this fall.  Still, it’s nothing like the old days.  I don’t read glossy magazines anymore.  I have a very small list of quality items to buy (new leather boots, a cream silk shirt, and a black cashmere turtleneck).  We have a set budget and are waiting until October to spend it.

Suddenly, though, this week, I have had serious, serious urges to shop.  They’ve been so serious that I DREAMED about shopping last night.  I’ve had to consciously remind myself what new-ish clothes I have in my closet because I’ve just felt generally disgruntled that I have nothing to wear.  What could be the trigger?  I watch the Daily Show online, but that’s it for TV.  Like I said, I haven’t bought one fall magazine.  At work, I’ve even been too busy to catch up on my celebrity gossip fix at lunch.  So, what gives?

This morning, I finally figured out the sneaky shopping trigger: “chick lit.”  I got Love the One You’re Withby Emily Giffin from my library “queue” this week and have been devouring it after work and before bed.  Now, by day, I am a literature professor, but by night, I shamelessly indulge my passion for “fun reading.”  I was an avid reader as a kid, not only of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, but also of the teen series like Sweet Valley High and The Girls of Canaby Hall (about three unlikely roommates at boarding school; oh how I wanted to go to boarding school reading those!).  So, as an adult, when Bridget Jones’s Diary ushered in a new craze of copycats, I became quite a connoisseur. 

I now realize that, while they are technically ad-free, these books also let me shop vicariously.  Almost every one has a shopping scene or two.  Sophie Kinsella’s series, of course, takes the shopping motif to dizzying heights.  Even if there is no direct shopping, there are usually descriptions of adorable outfits and random allusions to trendy brands.  Griffin’s latest contribution was no exception.  Throughout the novel, we get one darling ensemble after another, and I realize I’ve been imagining wearing each one as I read.

So, sneaky shopping trigger: discovered!  Fortunately, my budget allows for some shopping soon, but until then, I’m pleased that I’ve identified where the urge is coming from.  Knowing is half the battle!

My Big Bulk-Shopping Trip

by aka Kath

by aka Kath

Monday, school closed due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike, which did some damage all the way up here in Ohio.  After doing a little happy dance at the unexpected holiday, I decided to head out to the grocery store for my first attempt at buying for three months.  Last week, I posted the rules for my new approach to groceriesBasically, I want to buy non-perishiables to last three months.  Then, I’ll supplement with trips to the farmer’s market, and bi-weekly trips for meat and cheese.

Thanks to some tips from readers, I decided NOT to join a bulk warehouse or go crazy buying things online.  Instead, I went to Meijer and aimed to buy the store brand as much as possible.  The trip itself was actually pretty fun.  They have nuts and granola in bulk bins and lots of large quantities of other supplies.  By limiting my shopping to the middle aisles, it didn’t wear me out the way buying everything does.  With my big bags of nuts and spices, I got a few odd comments at the check-out line, but also struck up an interesting conversation about grocery shopping as newlyweds.  Here’s what I bought:

  • 6 packs of butter and some canola oil to make our own spreadable butter
  • $40 worth of mixed nuts, sliced almonds, raw almonds, and walnuts
  • 12 cans of beans and 6 cans of salmon
  • 10 lbs of rice, 2 lbs of couscous, 10 lbs of sugar, 35 lbs of flour, 8 lbs of oatmeal
  • the largest containers of olive oil, honey, whole pepper, red pepper, and 6 italian spice grinders
  • choclate chips, nutella, peanut butter, raisins, bread crumbs
  • minced garlic, boullion cubes, lemon and lime juice, yeast, vanilla, taco seasoning, salt
  • 10 lbs of coffee
  • vinegar and rubbing alcohol to make our own cleaning supplies
  • 25 lbs of cat food and 12 cans of tuna (for the cat)

I also bought a few odds and ends for the week, but all told, I only spent $300!  I feel that this is much cheaper than the weekly deals I’ve been trying to get at Kroger’s.  Partly, I think this is because Meijer has lower prices, but I could also see the savings in buying the largest packages.  For example, the largest jar of minced garlic was about $3 cheaper than the equivalent in the smaller size I usually buy. 

I subtracted $50 from this month’s budget.  Then, I’ll pay back the other $250 out of each month’s budget over October, November, and December.  I’m hopeful to hold my bi-weekly budget to $70 and the farmer’s market to $20 a week.  If I do this and my supplies last, I’ll be able save about $1,200 over the course of the year.   That would be significant!

More than just the savings, I like the feeling of having all that food stockpiled.  Just with the moderate wind damage we had, several friends lost power for 4 or 5 days.  I like knowing that I’d have plenty to eat if that happened to us. 

Realistically, I know we won’t face a three-month disaster.  However, I also like that this approach is cutting down the mental clutter.  Getting together a big grocery list, scouring for deals, and doing a big shop every week took a lot of energy.  Now that the basics are all in place, I can free up some of that energy for more interesting things.  I’ll keep you updated on how my supplies last, and how well I do baking more items from scratch.  For now though, I’m quite excited about my “new thing.”

Carnival of Money Stories #77

Welcome to the 77th Carnival of Money Stories!  If you haven’t visited here before, I blog about my journey to financial balance.  Finally on the tenure track after years floating by on student loans, I share my money stories while reading some of the greatest American stories about money.  Today, along with all this week’s outstanding posts, I’ve included my favorite American “classics” about work and money.  Take a look around and subscribe!

Editor’s PicksThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the work that starts Americans’ obsession with the self-made man.  Once you read it, you’ll never forget Ben’s jaunty walk down the Philadelphia pier with a loaf of bread tucked under each arm.  It seems to be all he needs to take on the world!

NtJS presents What Is The Dumbest Thing You’ve Ever Spent Money On? posted at not the jet set.

Kelly from Almost Frugal presents Setting Goals in the Face of Uncertainty posted at Almost Frugal.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Basic Business Advice from an Accidental Entrepreneur posted at The Digerati Life.

MoneyNing presents Living on $34.01 a Week posted at Personal Finance Blog by Money Ning.

The Happy Rock presents Helping Friends Save Money Can Be Bad For Your Back posted at The Happy Rock.
 

The Wide, Wide World

One of my favorite sentimental novels, this work by Susan Warner charts a young girl’s journey to adulthood.  With shaky financial resources and few friends, how will she manage to find happiness and security?  In the nineteenth century, this novel was almost as popular as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and tells us much about America’s middle-class ideals.

KCLau presents How not to Spend that Money posted at KCLau’s Money Tips.

The Financial Blogger presents I Failed…For Now posted at The Financial Blogger.

Dividends4Life presents Progress Update – August 2008 posted at Dividends4Life.

Chris presents Being Laid Off – 4 Steps to go From a Layoff to an Amazing Job. posted at ProsperingServant.com.

Laura presents What’s a Better Deal, Rebates or a Lower Price? posted at Green Panda Treehouse.

Jim presents Comcast Triple Play Deals Are Getting More Aggressive on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Unlike Benjamin Franklin’s, Frederick Douglass’s life story emphasizes the inequality of antebellum America.  Born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, Douglass finds his way to freedom and activism. His life’s work is a sobering reminder of the rotten foundation on which American capitalism was based.

fwp presents a (small) sign of financial maturity » the financial wellness project » because money doesn’t own you — YOU own money! posted at the financial wellness project.

Mr. ToughMoneyLove presents How to be a Money Strategist to Achieve Financial Goals | Tough Money Love posted at Tough Money Love » Hard Truth about Money and Personal Finance.

Todd presents Hurricane Ike and Fear posted at HarvestingDollars.

Ryan Suenaga presents Ask the Readers: What Do You Do with an Unreliable Employer? posted at Uncommon Cents.

Tanesha Morgan presents Bad Health Insurance, No Insurance? How to Manage Anyway. posted at Personal Finance Analyst.

Sun presents Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Timeline posted at The Sun’s Financial Diary.

The Great Gatsby

If you’ve never had a chance to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, take the time now.  In this slender novel, Fitzgerald captures all the longing and emptiness of an emerging consumer culture.  I’ll never forget the scene where Gatsby flings shirt after shirt out of his closet to prove to Daisy that he’s finally made it.

 J. Money presents I won the mega millions lottery!!! Well, a piece of it anyways ;) posted at Budgets are Sexy..

Grace presents Grace and the Green-Eyed Monster posted at GRACEful Retirement.

Kevin presents My 300th Post and It?s Really Important posted at No Debt Plan.

Upside Trader presents Lehman, AIG, Merrill Lynch and the Catastrophic Ripple Effect posted at upsidetrader.

FIRE Finance presents Save Your Wallet With These Penny Hacks posted at FIRE Finance.
 

Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison’s critique of the American Dream is one of the most powerful of the twentieth century.  His journey to understanding the racial dynamic of pre-Civil Rights America questions mainstream beliefs about the ability of anyone to get ahead.

FMF presents My One Tip to Being Productive Wherever I Am posted at Free Money Finance.

The Smarter Wallet presents Ways To Save on Seasonal Purchases: Time To Shop For Halloween! posted at The Smarter Wallet.

Ella Moss presents IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID! « Zodiac Times posted at Zodiac Times.

Will presents Making Money Online, Ten Things I Wish I Knew As A Beginner | Your Finish Rich Plan – A Personal Finance Blog posted at Your Finish Rich Plan.

GBlogger presents Success Stories: Couple Hits $515K Net Worth by Age 27 — and Seeks to Retire by Age 40 posted at CAN I GET RICH ON A SALARY.

Great stories everyone!  Hope you enjoyed the carnival and see you next week wherever the Money Stories go!

Money and Marriage

Last Wednesday, an article in The New York Times reported that many successful marriages work because both partners are on the same page when it comes to finances.  The author, Tara Siegel Bernard, points out that marriage throughout the centuries has typically been a financial arrangement.  It’s only in the past couple of centuries that the notion of love was wedded to marriage.  Now though, we seem to have come full circle.  Instead of marrying for money, it’s best to marry your fiscal soul mate.

 

foundphotoslj

credit: foundphotoslj

 

The article got me thinking, especially when Bernard asserted: “So much of what we want — or don’t want — out of life boils down to dollars and cents, whether it’s how hard we choose to work, how much we consume or how much we save.”  One of the things that makes writing about personal finance fun is that you’re really writing about your core values and the choices you make in life.  Beneath all the discussion about retirement, debt, savings, and frugality, we’re really analyzing what we want in life.  Do we want the big house, the big car, or the big bank account?  If we’re lucky enough to have a little money left over after the necessities are taken care of, how will we use it?

This article sparked some discussion between my husband and me about what our next financial goal should be.  Now that we’ve knocked out my debt, where to go next?  Bernard emphasizes the importance of long-term planning.  It makes a lot of sense because day-to-day temptations can overwhelm us if we let them.  There’s always a new toy to have or a little treat to buy.  However, with clear long-term plans and a budget, we’ll be able to resist the money drains a little bit better.

For us, the big long-term plan is to bring about a better work/life balance.  Now, we’ve got to figure out the steps that will get us there.  I’m going to start reviewing our income from the last five years to build a household budget and see how much we can realistically save.  All this falls in line with the article’s next piece of advice: run your home like a business.  By tracking income, expenses, and a budget, we’ll do a better job managing our resources for what we really want: time to enjoy life, resources to travel, and the security of having a financial cushion.

Fortunately, we are pretty much on the same page when it comes to finances and what we want out of life.  Now, I just need to get serious about creating the plan to get us there!  How about you?  How do you and your partner manage money?

Friday Roundup

Hooray!  Friday’s here.  We’ve got a full line-up of soccer games tomorrow, so I wanted to do a link round-up today.  I participated in three wonderful carnivals this week.  Let’s get right to them!

Money Hacks Carnival #29

This yummy edition (click over and you’ll see why I say yummy!) was hosted by Living Almost Large.  I liked FIRE Finance‘s very vivid explanation of how to easily save $6,000 a year.  The little things really do add up!  Thnk Your Way to Wealth had some good advice on how to group tasks for better efficency.  Uncommon Cents reminds us that sometimes the more you spend doesn’t lead to saving more.   Finally, I chimed in with advice on how to break the getting-into-debt habit.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

The Carnival of Debt Reduction made it through the recent round of hurricanes and showcased a whirlwind of good articles.  Debt Smackdown had good advice about when not to cancel a credit card.  Budgets are Sexy asked if you ever signed up for a credit card just for a tee-shirt.  Of course, mine ended up being one expensive “freebie”!  Gather Little by Little had an interesting discussion about people who pay their credit cards before their mortgages

Finance Fiesta

Finally, I was in the Finance Fiesta, a newer mid-week carnival, hosted this week by On a Quest to Be Debt FreeFiancial Learn has a thorough 23-point checklist for your financesMaster Your Card has an interesting overview on when couples should merge their finances.  Fianlly, I contribluted my discussion about balancing cash vs. “inventory” when it comes to personal finances.

Check out all three carnivals and have a great weekend!  I’ll be back next week after all the soccer fun.

Carpool Your Way to Hapiness

Ok, maybe “happiness” is a little strong.  However, my new carpool certainly makes my budget a little happier!  My commute is 40-45 minutes each way, and that 1 1/2 hours a day at $4-a-gallon gas prices added up to $10 a trip and $200 a month.  Fortunately, another colleague lives in my little town, so now we carpool.  I thought I might not like carpooling because I had used that down time in the car to catch up on NPR, but after a month, I’m thoroughly pleased

Our Arrangement

One of the great perks of being a professor is that you can set your own schedule.  I’ve decided to work from home Friday mornings, so my friend and I only carpool Monday — Thursday.  We each drive twice and then drive ourselves on Fridays.  All in all, I only have to drive 12 times a month rather than 20, so that saves me $80 a month in gas!

The Perks

  • See above. . .the biggest perk is that $80 a month.
  • Not having to drive every day.
  • One less car on the road four days a week.
  • Getting to know an interesting colleague in a completely different discipline.
  • Small-town gossip.
  • Cutting down the mileage on my high-mileage vehicle.
  • Having a carpool keeps me more accountable to get out of bed on time.
  • Working regular hours on campus is good for my career.

The Drawbacks

  • I can’t just decide to stay late or leave early.
  • I don’t have that “alone time” in the car.

As you can see, the perks certainly outweigh the drawbacks, including some unexpected ones!  I seem to be less inclined to hit the “snooze” button on the alarm when I know that someone else is depending on me getting to work on time.  I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know my colleague and her perspective on things.  Since she’s an accounting professor, I hear about issues that my fellow literature profs never raise.

by Mike Licht

by Mike Licht

If you have the chance to carpool, I’d highly recommend it.  Of course, we’re out in rural Ohio, so there’s no HOV lane.  However, if you’re in a major city, that’s another great reason to carpool.  Carpooling is a nice frugal move in these high-price times!  Anyone else starting to carpool?