Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping Up With The JonesesDo you ever feel like you are trying to keep up with the Joneses? It seems like everywhere I turn, a big purchase is happening to someone I know. A massive 3 story house, nice cars, fancy vacations, a new iPad every other month and everything else.

When a friend goes out and buys the next greatest phone or buys a new car every couple of months, it kind of makes you wonder, and maybe it makes you jealous?

I’m not going to lie, the jealous monster takes over my life every now and then. This is something that I am working on and something that I need to change in my life. Am I the only one? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who is jealous and no one else has these crazy feelings. Since my extra income seems to be continually increasing, sometimes I feel the urge to spend it.

Maybe the jealous monster has taken over your life as well and you are trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We know someone who isn’t showy with his money, he is careful with how he spends his money. He doesn’t buy all the latest gadgets that don’t mean anything to him. Instead he spends money on his family, vacations, making his house into a home, family gatherings at his home, and other things that truly mean something to him.

He is the perfect example that just because you “might” have money to spend, it does not mean that you should. Buying all of the newest things all of the time doesn’t always mean everything in life.

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Life’s Little Splurges

There are a lot of things I spend my money on that I guess I could live without, but I really enjoy having them (and I don’t mind spending money on them). I’m sure we all have specific items or events that we don’t mind spending money on too. 

I honestly don’t think I have a lot of splurges. I don’t spend as much money on clothes as I used to, and I carefully watch what I spend on, and I still have fun.

I recently told some of you about a comment/e-mail I recently received. This person told me that I am frivolously wasting my money and that I should be eating cheaply (they said I should be eating Ramen for most of my meals) and not going out or hanging out with friends until my student loans and mortgage are gone.

This kind of shocked me, and while I do know that others think this way as well, this is not my way of thought. There will most likely be some sort of debt that we will have, which in the future hopefully will just be a mortgage, so I don’t think it’s completely avoidable. And yes I do agree, there are certain areas that I can cut out, and I’m working on that.

Yes, my student loans and mortgage would most likely be completely gone if I gave up my health by only eating Ramen all day long, but that’s not something I want to do. Maybe, I don’t have the willpower… 

We are currently spending around 50% of what our take home pay is. When I say “spending,” I mean the mortgage, bills, food, and debt payments. The other 50% is thrown towards savings, investing and extra debt payments. So I wouldn’t say we’re in a bad position at all.

I know I have debt, that obviously isn’t hidden anywhere. However, I can’t give up everything forever. I do have a plan to get rid of my student loan debt, and then I will eventually get rid of my mortgage as well.

I don’t view spending money as always bad. I love my life, and life entails spending money. I enjoy the things I “splurge” on. That’s why I work!  :)

What I don’t mind spending money on:

  • Eating out with friends. I enjoy going out with them. I save money though by not ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, and drinking the specials.
  • Going out for drinks. We will drink at home before we go out, look for specials, and so on. I definitely don’t like spending $10+ on one drink.
  • Dancing. I guess you could say this is free, but most places where I live charge a cover no matter what.
  • Cable. Yes I realize that cable is a ridiculous thing for me to rely on. However, I love my TV shows and they are a great source of entertainment and laughs for me. We have cut our bill down though. We don’t have the greatest package (but it’s enough for us).
  • My car. I wouldn’t be able to get to work fast enough without it. I have a 2008 car that gets good gas mileage though. It’s completely paid off and my full coverage insurance is less than $700 a year.
  • My dogs. I know there are those out there who think having a pet is a waste of money. But, I think you are nuts. I love my dogs.
  • My cell phone. We save money on this because Wes gets a discount through his work off the plan of 20%. This is a great way to save!
  • Internet. I like having the internet. I like to blog as well. Our plan isn’t too expensive either.
  • Travel. This gets expensive, and usually I get a little worried about money when I’m on vacation, but sometimes you just have to let loose. I save and pay for vacations with my “extra income” that I make every month.

Of course if anything went badly such as if we lost our jobs, I would get rid of some of these things (probably most if we really needed the money),

Life cannot be all about money, you have to have fun as well and enjoy the things in life.
What are some things that you don’t mind spending money on or that you can’t give up?

Spending, Life, Income and Food Updates… 1/3/2012

Here are some pictures that I took recently.  An awesome French Bulldog thing from Urban Outfitters, food, Christmas, some presents and more food. It’s not fun having a full five day work week this week. And the week is hardly even over, not used to this! Anyways, here are my updates:

Extra Monthly Income: It’s a little depressing that the holidays are over, because now the BF’s job will be slow again. So he won’t be making all of that overtime, but that’s ok! We will think of other ways to bring in extra money.

  • Due to all of the extra income, we were able to save around $7,000 in December. I threw a bigger payment towards my debt as well. I plan on doing an updated net worth update post soon, stay updated! I think I’ve only done one of those since I started this blog, the numbers just kind of scare me, so much debt!

Volunteer work: Volunteering starts on January 7th. I have training for 3 days in a row I think. This will be interesting and something new for me. I’m excited, but I’m a little nervous. I’ve only ever had two jobs (including the one that I have now) in my whole life, so I’m nervous for meeting new people and screwing things up.

Budget Cutting: We cut out budget by a little, but it’s the little things that add up :)

  • We got our car insurance renewal papers, insurance went down $11 per month! Not a ton, but our insurance is super low already.
  • We’ve kept the heat lower than what we usually do (around 72 degrees) and have saved a significant amount over last year. It also helps that it has been super nice out this past week (around 60 degrees). I can’t remember what our last heat bill was, but it was around $60 or $70 I think. Last year at this time, it was around $150, which is amazing!

Food: I actually cooked a decent amount last week. It was pretty nice! The food was good (of course, since I’m cooking it! ha). I want to start menu planning soon also. Not sure though, usually I’m not in the mood for something that I thought about earlier, I’m weird like that.

  • Be sure to check out Jenn @ Bliss to Bean’s giveaway! This will definitely help me with my cooking if I won.

Shopping: We definitely came in under our Christmas budget, and all of our other budgets for the month. Did some last minute shopping on New Years Eve, and found really great prices on a lot of things. We were very happy about this. Tons of toys were half off and of course all of the Christmas stuff was too, which was nice since one of our Christmas dinners was on New Years Day.

  • However, I’m a little ashamed to say how much we spent, as our Christmas budget is very high. If this gives you any idea, the BF got two pretty nice guns for his present (which is sorta mixed in with his birthday present as well, since his birthday is a month away). Anyways, we used the month of December as our excuse to splurge a little more, as we both tend to have way higher incomes in this month.

$100 Ticket: Still need to pay this. I think I have a couple more days to pay it. I plan on paying it today online.

Vacation planning: We haven’t really thought about this a ton. Hopefully soon. We’re thinking Puerto Rico again. We get really cheap plane tickets (as talked about here), so we can pretty much plan until the last very last second. Our budget is probably going to be around $1,000 for the vacation (food, hotel, airfare, miscellaneous). Since we usually book things so late, there are usually great deals everywhere, so it’s a win win.

  • We want passports though for our vacation after this first one. Hopefully soon we will get on that.

Buying my own Domain: This is a big question that I have right now. How much does this usually cost? Is there a preferred provider for this?

How’s everything going for you? 

What habits keep you in debt?

rp_job-market-debt-traps-students.jpgMost of us engage in habits that are keeping us in debt. I know this, because I do this. The little things (and of course the big things) add up very quickly, and if you don’t keep track, then that could be a debt payment right before your eyes.

Here’s a list of what might be keeping you in debt: 

1. Banking fees.We’re not Guilty.

  • Do you keep track of your daily balances? Going under by just a cent can drastically affect you. I read an article the other day about a teenager who was around $1 under (if any of this info is wrong, sorry I read the article and can’t seem to find it again). He was only under because his account was sitting at around $9 or $10, so the bank then charged him a $10 maintenance fee. He was then charged around $30 a day for being under and in less than 10 days, he owed around $230. He barely ever checked his account and didn’t notice. 
  • Interest and late payment charges can also add up very quickly.  We’re trying to pay off our debt so that we can get rid of all of this crazy interest that’s building up. It just builds up so fast.

2. Eating out. – Guilty. We’ve been bad with this lately and reverted to our old habits. I’m blaming it on the holidays and pure laziness.

  • Eating out can add up quickly. The other day we went to McDonalds for smoothies, the casino for dinner and McDonalds again for a snack. And we did something like this a lot of days this past week. Sometimes eating out can cost almost the same amount as a weeks worth of groceries. That’s where the savings of eating at home really come in.

3.  Being house poor.  – Not guilty. We bought a house that was much under what we were approved for. This has helped a lot, especially since when we bought the house, we made around half as much as we make now.

  • Definition of ‘House Poor‘ – A situation that describes a person who spends a large proportion of his or her total income on home ownership, including mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and utilities. House poor individuals are short of cash for discretionary items and tend to have trouble meeting other financial obligations like vehicle payments. via Investopedia
  • A lot of people are guilty of this. Just because you are pre-approved for a certain amount, definitely does not mean that you should buy a house at that amount.

4.  Impulse shopping. Mostly Not Guilty. I definitely research most of my purchases, just to make sure that I don’t have any second thoughts after I get something (which I usually do).

  • Groupon is a major for most people. You see something that you kind of like, and it seems like a good deal, so you buy it instantly. Lots of people don’t use these. I am guilty of this, I have some Groupons that are expired. I can use these for the face value still though, but haven’t. Most of these places are too far away for me to willingly use.

5. Spending to make you happier.  Mostly Not Guilty. I’m saying I’m mostly not guilty because usually shopping and spending money does not make me happier, but of course I have done this before.

  • Do you often go to the mall, Target, grocery store, wherever when you’re not feeling 100% yourself and buy stuff?
  • These things can add up quickly. And sometimes, maybe most of the time, you won’t even like these things after a couple of days. This adds up quickly, especially if you’re always not feeling 100%.

6. Spending because you say to yourself “I deserve it.” Guilty. I am busy a lot, so I always make myself feel better with my spending by telling myself that I deserve it for all of my hard work.

  • These purchases can add up very quickly. Just because I think I deserve it, doesn’t mean I should buy it. Don’t I deserve to pay off my debt as well?

What’s keeping you in debt? 

Holiday Spending

rp_winter-198447_640-300x2251.jpgI used a vacation day and took the day off. This would sound great, except the fact that I am really really really sick and I have to do nearly ALL of my Christmas shopping today. I tried shopping yesterday after work, but I couldn’t stand for more like 5 minutes without feeling like I was going to faint. I’ve been sick since Monday morning, and if I don’t feel better by tomorrow, then I am going to the doctor as soon as I can.

I tried going to Target to see if I could find any good gift cards or toys for the kids, but the shelves were pretty much cleared and there was nothing good besides the lame toys. I’ll probably try another Target, Toys R Us, Michael’s craft store, and maybe something else if I’m feeling up for it.

So today, I plan on buying lots of gift cards for people. A family friend, some of the kids probably, and my 3 coworkers will get gift cards as a part of their present. I just saw today that a survey found that 83% of respondents would rather receive cash instead of a gift. 42% of these people said they would use it just for their necessities and 26% said they would use it like an actual gift and splurge on themselves.

I like gift cards also, just because it makes everything easier and I can get what I truly want. However, I do like surprises and getting creative gifts. I am guilty of using gift cards for basics (such as when I get a Target gift card) and not using gift cards for things I just want. Do you have any problems with giving/getting gift cards?

I want to get good presents too. According to this article, between 11% to 20% of electronics are returned. Here are items that are most likely to be returned (and I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind):

  • Clothing and shoes, mentioned by 62% of respondents to the survey
  • Toys, games and hobbies, 16%
  • Consumer electronics, 14%
  • Kitchen and bath, 13%
  • Beauty and cosmetics, 10%
  • Jewelry and watches, 10%

Hopefully nothing I send our takes over a year to get there! That happened to this lady and her mom didn’t believe her!
Wish me luck on finding everything I need! I plan on making fudge tonight for a part of my present, so if I do, I’ll make sure that I post my pictures and steps either tonight or tomorrow.

What could you cut out so that you could save more?

rp_money.jpgThere are many things that I could cut out so that I could have more money, and then be able to pay off my debt faster and save fast. I wish I had enough willpower, but I don’t, and I believe life is about having fun also and not all about saving and money.

Here’s my list of things that I could possibly cut (but most likely won’t) or things I could’ve done:

  1. Car. I’ve talked about this before (so I won’t go into too much detail since you can read more about it right here), but if I didn’t have my car, then I would have $400 extra every month.
  2. Internet. I have a home phone for internet, so altogether I’m spending about $52 a month on this. I honestly don’t know if I could go without internet, but if I had to then I definitely would.
  3. Cell phone (haha that will never happen, I do wish I wasn’t so dependent though!). I would save around $110 if I cancelled me and the BF’s cell phones.
  4. Cable. Our cable bill is around $80 a month, since we added HBO back on.
  5. Unlimited dog treats.  We definitely splurge on our dogs, we act like they’re our kids. I buy them all kinds of things and I’m constantly stopping at the pet store to see if there are any treats or bones that they might like. Yes, I’m crazy. We probably spend around $30 a month just on treats for our dogs.
  6. Smaller house. Our house isn’t huge, but it’s definitely too big for us. Altogether, it’s around 2,500 square feet if you include our finished basement. There’s just the two of us and our 2 dogs, but we have 4 bedrooms. 2 of the bedrooms are completely empty. We are turning one of the extra bedrooms into a pretty closet for me though! If we had a smaller place, it would most likely be cheaper, and therefore cheaper utilities. We could possibly save around $300 or $400 a month on our mortgage/utilities by having something cheaper.
  7. Less clothes. Lately, I’ve been spending too much on clothes, it’s getting excessive. If I cut this out completely, then I could save a couple hundred.

What could you cut out?