Why I´m a frugal jerk

Something Grasshopper said the other day rubbed me the wrong way. He is one of those people who love to have the perfect clothes, hat, shoes, travel bag, etc. for every occasion. Apparently he´d been looking for a cool overnight bag for some time and last week he found a very nice leather bag with 75% off at 35€.

While I think this is a great price for such a bag, he justified the purchase by saying he wouldn´t get any snacks during his shift for a week, to make up for the money. That is what ticked me off. He doesn´t have a latte factor, he has a sandwich factor at 5€ per day! That´s 120€ per month! On sandwiches!!

frugalzilla

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

There I was am not buying things I really really need kinda want and he is spending a fortune on eating out by himself. So I tried to let it go but actually let it simmer for a couple of days before I told him that it bothered me. And even though I thought it was nicely phrased and non passive-aggressive (I´ve a tendency to do that), I was actually being a jerk and here is why:

  1. Grasshopper gets 200€ per month in food checks that can only be cashed at certain restaurants near to where he works. He uses those for his snacks, even though he gives me half to spend with my friends. None of his coworkers do that.
  2. He has constantly talks about all the things he wished he had, but last time he bought something for himself was, um, November.
  3. We have a fully funded emergency fund, that I imposed, saved his entire Christmas bonus, and save a minimum of 10% of our combined income a month.
  4. I´m not really the buying kind, so it´s not like I´m missing out on buying experiences, I just choose not to buy.
  5. I sometimes am an irrational Frugalzilla. Oh yes, and a jerk.

(Sigh), maybe this is something I should add to my list of things I need to improve.

Have you ever blown a little expense out of proportion? Did you feel silly too?

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Unemployed budget madness

By the time I started working, I had been reading personal finance blogs for a while, opened a IngDirect account from my allowance savings and sponsored a woman in conflict through Women for Women. Because I knew how hard it had been for these bloggers to track their pennies and keep their spending under control, I wrote every single purchase on a sheet of paper with the month and year as heading and attached the receipts with a clip.

Aproximately a year after I had a regular income, I started dating Grasshopper and realized that I no longer needed to keep such close tabs on my money. I was in control, and knew what I could indulge in and what I couldn´t. At the beginning of each month, I´d put about half my salary in savings and just didn´t worry about how I spent the rest. Whatever money was left at the end of the month, I´d just roll over to the savings account. On top of that, I started tutoring a lovely ADD kid, and made an extra $100-200 a month. This money, paid in cash, I kept as an emergency stash/Christmas fund/random trips fund.

I know I´m a money nerd because watching my savings, and the interest grow, makes me feel a little fuzzy inside. Grasshopper calls it my serious problem with saving. I call it my Ant personality.

Anyways, even though I worked part-time for near minimum wage, because I´d been so dilligent in my savings, I could afford to take an 8 month break from work to concentrate on getting my degree, and make a big deposit to Grasshopper´s and my Living together emergency fund. And I still had a big personal cushion to lean on when I finished my internship in August. However, when I paid my Master´s last week, I spent all that money, apart from $300, which is my new much leaner cushion. The stash had long ago left the building.

And now I´m getting worried about my spending again. I tutor 3 people at the moment, earning roughly $300 a month. About $150 goes towards petrol and publc transportation, with the rest I need to save for my new, much more expensive insurance, get Christmas presents, give to my sponsored sister, and start a car fund to save for repairs, which will most likely be much more expensive that my old old car´s. So I´m trying to find a way to make more money and keep the money I have. It seems like I´ll go back to the list until I can figure out a better way to manage my irregular lifestyle.

Thanks to Stuart Miles for the pic.

All dressed up and no job to go to (or how I can´t just do nothing)

I have done exactly what I said I would not do. I finished my degree in the middle of October and have been job searching since then. I am just applying for jobs in my field but most of them require at least 2 years experience or they offer no pay at all. I wasn´t too worried because I had some money saved up and am working a few hours a week tutoring a kid and a couple who want to learn English.

It has been great not having a fixed schedule, because Grasshopper´s work hours are random, so we have been spending some much needed together-time. However, the rest of my day is just frustrating. I keep filling out the same “Work with us” web page, watching TV, re-reading books, and knitting. And suddenly, I have gone from being a college grad, to being a grandmother. Actually, both my grannies are way cooler and much more busy than me. Oh, the shame.

It doesn´t help that people keep telling me that the only answer is to move to Germany, where apparently all the jobs have gone. Seriously?? What did people work in before the Crisis? Have all the jobs just gone north for the winter?

Anyways, my original plan was to job search until January/February and then just get whatever job I could find because, if I want to move in with Grasshopper next year, the emergency fund needs to be full and I need some kind of stable job to sign the lease for the flat.

But I couldn´t handle the not doing anything at all part of the job search. So I looked for other options. I always thought that I think Master´s degrees are for people who are already established in a career and want to further their knowledge or advance at work. Someone with no experience can´t possibly benefit as much from what is taught in such degrees. I still believe that, but I also think that, if it takes me 6 months (hopefully not much more) to get a job and they ask me what I have been doing since I finished University, I have a much better chance of proving I´m productive like my CV says if I have actually done something I can prove, rather than just tell the truth.

The subject of degree I´m doing is broad enough to be understandable by a non-specialist but in-depth enough to be quite useful to a company. And it´s a distance course by a reputed university so I could still finish it should I manage to land a job. As you see I´m quite excited about all the things I´ll learn.

So I am officially a student again. Sigh. Wish me luck and willpower.

I would like to thank Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net for the great picture.

How to determine your REAL bare-bones budget

I stopped working in July when my internship ended so I could focus on my final exam and end-of-course project. Both of which I needed to do in order to (finally) get my degree. Yet even though I have a big enough cushion saved up, the job search certainly isn´t going as well as I had hoped. Apparently, no-one needs fresh out of college kids, they need experienced adults who are willing to get paid like they´re interns.

Cinism aside, my sinking funds are making me reconsider some of the things that I thought were essential when I was earning money and a recent chat with my best friends confirmed it. Sometimes, when it comes to our own finances, we are very short-sighted and can´t see the whole picture clearly. At those times is when you should ask the people you confide in. That´s it, let the people who know you best, your BFF, your boy/girlfriend, whoever, help you in determining your bare-bones budget.

The key part of this method is accepting they are trying to help you and not take their advice as critism. Just listen to those who know you almost as well as you know yourself, and sometimes better.

Here´s the two conversations I´ve had that have led me to believe in this.

Best friend number 1: While finishing uni and interning without getting paid, she is thinking she should get a part time job to cover her dancing lessons since her mom will no longer pay for them.

Best friend number 2: She has finally finished her masters degree and now has a job until February. She has begun paying off some of the debt and saving for a much needed car when two emergencies happened: her laptop broke down and she had to go to Florence with her boyfriend.

When I asked them, they told me that I spend way too much money on eating out and going to the cinema. And you know what, they are right.

Whhat about you? Did you have an unexpected money pit in your life?

 

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?

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?

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