I can´t believe I spent money on that!

Over at the Well Heeled Blog, she wrote about which expenses are deemed wrong by others. My last blog post was about this exact topic and I thought it is only fair to out my own outrageous expenses in the process. So these are the things I spend money on that cause general frowning.

  1.  Gasoline: I drive a very old car. It is one year younger than me, so you do the math. Its mileage is not good so I spend loads of money just leaving my house as, at the moment, I am living far away from any sort of public transportation system. But until I have the cash for a new one, and this one goes to car heaven, it is economically worthwhile to drive him (yes, my car is a dude. I call him Big Blue, even though his white, because of the Stephany Plum novels).
  2. Shoes: I buy high quality almost always leather shoes that are quite expensive. However, these shoes not only take the shape of my foot and last for years but are also classy and elegant and can be worn at work and at play. Because of this, I don´t have that very many shoes in the closet.
  3. Presents: I love giving presents and lots of them so Christmas, my family´s and Grasshopper´s birthdays are a big part of that month´s budget. Sometimes a ridiculous part of the budget but it just makes me happy.
  4. Education: I´m usually taking some sort of course or a class. What else could I do in the evenings? What would become of me?
  5. Charitable giving: I contribute to a charity called Women for women. I have done so even when my only source of income was my parents´ allowance. Now I´m unemployed, most people tell me I should stop, but I have made a commitment to my sponsored sister and it is not something I can just give up. I also give money to some street people I know, whenever I can.
  6. Travel.

What so you think about my spending? Should I cut back on some of these categories?

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Other people´s crazy spending week

I don´t know if this has always happened and I´m just taking more notice or if the people around me have suddendly had a mass random spending spree. A few people I know have been having a rough time: many of my friends form college have yet to find a decent non-internship job that pays a reasonable wage for reasonablee hours, many of my friends parents have been laid off or had to close their business and some of the people I know who moved out of their parents´ house are having to go back.

And yet, instead of buckling up and tightening their belts, and spending habits, I am hearing complaints that they don´t have money for a bus pass/ medical treatment / other necessity because they have spent it, and I kid you not on:

  • a vaccum operated ironing board and an ironing station.
  • an evening gown.
  • a professional car clean up.
  • once and twice a week hairdressing apppointment.
  • salmon/steak for dinner several times a week.
  • garden furniture, because it´s on sale.

And even more unsettling are some purchases charged on their credit card when the actual money run out.

  • psychic consultations.
  • infomertial purchases (a spider pan, anyone?).
  • dinners out.
  • a new plasma TV to replace the outdated one.

Now I know I should not be looking at sawdust in other people´s eye instead of at the log in my own, but what if I´m the neighnour with the dust and some of the people around me are walking around with logs in their eyes? What do I do about that?

Five questions to ask when buying a used car

This is the first time Grasshopper and I have bought a used car. Our parents have never bought a used car either so, to know what we needed to ask about a used car, I asked my uncle, who has bought several, often with good results. The first thing he recommended was that we go with some one with car knowledge. It turns out we don´t actually know anyone like that well enough to ask him to come along on such a tedious errand. So it was all up to us.

Buying a used car makes me a little nervous because we are spending a considerable amount of our   savings on it, and will spend more if it turns out to be a bad buy. But, as my uncle (or Forrest Gump) said, a used car is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get until you bite.

These are the five basic questions you need to ask a particular when buying a car. Where we live, when you buy from a car dealership, you get two years warranty, but you should still ask these questions.

  1. Why are you selling the car? Most people will sell their car because they are buying a new one, or have gotten too old to drive. However, others will have had an accident and are just trying to recoup some of their losses.
  2. How many miles does de odometer read? I will not consider any car with 100,000 miles on it, because, even though it may be well kept, most parts will be old or run down, causing not only mechanical problems but safety ones too.
  3. Can I see the car´s records? People who take good car of their cars will most likely keep good records of checkups, insurance claims and the like. Check on the internet if the car has been stolen, in a serious car crash or if it is about to be repossessed.
  4. Have you changed the timing belt? The timing belt is a key part of a car´s engine. It should be changed every 60,000 miles or so. You need to ask if it has been changed. If they say it has, ask for the ticket or to see the car´s record. If they can´t prove it has been changed or they say it hasn´t, bear in mind that it will cost over $1,000 to change the existing one and that, if it breaks, you can say goodbye to the entire engine, as it will cause serious damage and a dangerous situation.
  5. Would you mind if I took it to my mechanic for a checkup? If the car is in as good a condition as they say, they´ll have no problem proving it, as long as you pay for said check up. It they decline, it is a clear red/lemon flag.

As with anything else, you should also trust your gut instinct. If the seller seems dodgy, or the car/price is too good to be true, it probably is. As my grandma always said “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

So, have I missed any important questions? What is the best used car advice you have gotten?

Car troubles and are we the crazy ones here?

Grasshopper´s car died. It doesn´t even make that wheezy sound you get when your battery still has some juice left. And the hood got stuck so we can´t change the batery or try to fix it, like we have done in the past. The car is now officially dead.

Grasshopper now works at a 6 minute walk from work so it´s not really pressing, but he lives somewhere with bad public transport and he hates having to ask me or his friends for lifts all the time. He has had two interviews for a job in his field, and is waiting for the third and final one. That job would be much better paid, permanent and with long term prospects, but he would need a car. So, even though he wants it now, though I think we could probably wait a few weeks or until he has the other job.

We are now looking for a replacement we can pay for in cash. We planned to build our joint emergency fund before moving in together, and we were halfway through when this happened. So we are planning on spending half of that on a new-to-us car, which, in the current market will get us something not too shabby.

We first asked everyone we knew if they had a car to sell in our price range, or if they knew of anyone who did. And, though they tried to be helpful, almost all of them suggested we buy a new car. Now, in our current situation, I´m a full-time student and Grasshopper has 6 months left on his current contract, that is not a good suggestion. But when we try to point that out, they all give us excuses why we totally should.

Now are we the crazy ones here? We know we can´t put off credit forever, we will have to get a mortgage eventually, but burdening ourselves with debt at this point in our lives doesn´t make sense to us and not doing, apparently doesn´t make sense to them. Grasshopper´s dad even offered to pay for a few payments, but he won´t just give us the money to get a better used car. I don´t think that makes sense, do you?

What do you do when your friends and family insist you make certain decisions you know are not good for you?

Treating yourself like a child to get things done

Lately I have been working hard to finish my end-of-course proyect. I am finally finishing my engineering degree, and, after all the hard work I have put in through the years of studying and working very very hard, all I had to do was finish that proyect. But I felt I could do no more.

That´s right, just as I was reaching the goal I set myself after high school, I was looking for ways out, watching too much TV, surking the net for hours, and, generally, not doing ANY  work.

However, this mini-break from school work wasn´t happy or relaxing. It was right down depressing. I felt like a failure, like I hadn´t learnt anything at all at university, like I had just wasted my time and energy. And then I was asked to look after my nephew and niece while their parents went to a wedding and my whole point of view was suddenly and irreversibly changed.

If you have been around young kids for any amount of time, you know how hard learning is for them, and how much you want to celebrate their every little success. Learning to walk takes years, as does learing how to talk in a way others can understand you. Putting the right shaped piece in the right shaped hole, peeing and pooping where they should, singing a song. All their achievements are a source of happiness and, yes, much clapping.

It got me thinking, that maybe the way I was treating myself was all wrong. I was all work, no play and no celebration of my acomplishments. I hadn´t clapped, I hadn´t cheered, I just plowed on through sheer will power. I needed to treat myself like I treat my nephew and my niece and here is what I did:

  • Be kind to yourself when you don´t get it right: learning takes time and practice. Failing the fisrt few times you do things is not failure unless you quit.
  • Quitting is not an option: if you keep at it, you will be able to accomplish most of the things you have set you mind to.
  • Make change in small slow steps: little kids can´t walk too fast but they do get to where they´re going in the end. Just never lose sight of whatever you are trying to achieve.
  • Make things fun: children don´t like to do boring things and neither do adults. Doing things out of a sense of responsibility is all fine and good, but  if you don´t make the effort to make them fun, you will inevitably quit. An then you will feel like a quitter.
  • Cut down television hours: your parents didn´t let you lounge in front of the dumb box for hours for a good reason. Go outside and play, paint, sing or do whatever you feel will make you happy.
  • Reward yourself: keep the promises you make yourself and give yourself a break. Give yourself an applause, do a happy dance.
  • Tell yourself you are smart: over and over until it sinks in. Because you really are.

P.S. These tips work for getting kids to do things as well!

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