Tag Archives: cheap

Getting Ready for Our “Frugal” Vacation

12 Aug

My husband and I have been looking at co-ops for quite some time and have gone back and forth in terms of what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. This meant that although we are dying to travel somewhere awesome, we aren’t ready to spend the money for a trip with that kind of price tag. This also means that we will be embarking on our budget-friendly vacation pretty soon—an incredible camping trip throughout an area of our state that we rarely venture to. I have already discussed a few things about making a trip affordable by:

  • Discussing a variety of ways to make your overall trip cheaper here
  • General campsite costs and how to make them cheaper here and here

Now with a few weeks left to go, we are going to start putting our general itinerary together and have a lot of different things to consider. Again, as I’ve discussed previously, you can definitely make camping trips even cheaper than we’re making ours, but these tips are still applicable to you.

Start off with a Budget

We love the outdoors. One might think the outdoors is frugal friendly but the cost of everything you may or may not need adds up really fast! If you’ve never spent any time outdoors before, you might not have any of the equipment that is necessary and that can cost a pretty penny. Budgets will vary quite a bit depending on a a number of factors such as:

  • Cost to travel (i.e. gas, tolls)
  • Cost of food (i.e. eating out and on the road vs. cooking)
  • Cost of campsite rentals (depends upon where you stay, when, for how long, with how many people, etc)
  • Activities you will participate in that cost money (i.e. rowing)
  • Purchases that may be required (i.e. tent(s), supplies)

Unfortunately, my cheaper vacation is adding up very quickly! This actually has to do with a major activity I want to participate in that is very costly but it is what it is. Remember, our trip is nine nights so it’s quite long and involves two people.

Budget: $1300.00

Take Care of Big Ticket Items First

Of course, my budget of $1300 might seem outrageous for a camping trip but remember:

  • There are only two of us splitting various campsite rentals over a period of nine nights. I discussed how to keep this cost down in my other posts. Cost: $209.00 ($23.22/night—extremely cheap if you look at it that way!)
  • Since we are driving quite a bit, we will be using quite a bit of money in terms of gas and tolls. Cost allotted: $300.00 (Though I sure hope it’s less than that!)
  • I have decided to do this because I really want to and I do not want my miserly ways to get in the way of an awesome thing—the hot air balloon ride for $235.00 a person or $470.00

As you can see, there isn’t much money leftover for anything else. This already totals $979.00, meaning I only have $321.00 left to spend!

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

There are still tons of things to think about when you’re camping such as:

Food: We eat a lot and I am a picky eater. Ideally, I would love to cook every day and night but I think there will be days when we want breaks from that. Budgeted: $150.00-$200.00

Additional Purchases and Activities: $121.00-$171.00.

We are extremely lucky that we either have or can borrow most of the things that we need for our trip. Remember: If you plan on going camping regularly, many of the items you may need or plan to use will probably end up being purchases that will last you for many years.  Keep in mind the following items that you may or may not take with you:

  • Tent(s) — make sure it has a rain shield and that you have a tarp for the ground
  • Sleeping bag(s) and pad(s) — you might want something softer to sleep on if you plan on staying long
  • Cooking supplies, food and something to store it in to prevent animals from getting to it
  • First aid and personal hygiene supplies

You can find a simple list here.

If you know you are going camping, it is easier to buy things over time than have to buy them all at once. If you do this, you can also look for sales, especially during the off seasons or holidays, that might allow you to pick-up some great deals. More importantly, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t be afraid to ask around! You may be able to borrow almost everything you need for your camping trip from friends and family.

It’ll Be Here Soon

Our camping trip will be here soon and I am so excited to go on vacation since I haven’t had off in nearly a year!

Have you undertaken a huge camping trip before? What are some ways you saved money on your trip?

Thankful—Because We Didn’t Purchase Something

29 Jul

My husband and I have been looking for our “dream home” for a few months now. To be honest, I have been scouting homes for over a year but we have been seriously looking at homes for the past two months.

I put dream home in quotes because my dream home is not here. Nope. I cannot afford a house here so our “dream home” has really been limited to co-ops and, if we were lucky, a cheap condo. We were pre-approved and one of the first co-ops we saw—well, we loved it. It was a two-bedroom co-op that needed some work here or there but overall, it was nice. It had a terrace, which I was practically dying for and the only catch was that there was no washer/dryer unit on-site. It was at the top of our price range and we both really liked it. But after consulting with a plumber, we decided it was not worth it at all and we sadly let go of our “dream home.”

I would say that a few weeks after that, my perception completely changed. And I am glad we did not pursue that co-op!

Our current rent is probably right on average for what we would pay in our neighborhood. I started thinking to myself, “If I don’t plan on living here forever and these are not places that I absolutely love, why do I intend on paying more every month to live there?” Our rent is somewhere between 26-27% of our net income, which is actually a pretty good number considering a recent article I read talked about how much rent eats up the budget of those who live in my city.

So I thought up a new plan which is as follows:

  1. We began looking at one bedroom places instead of more expensive, two-bedroom places. We also stopped looking at expensive one-bedroom units. This not only saves us money on the down payment and mortgage but it also saves us money on the maintenance.
  2. I decided that our cut-off was now going to be $220,000 instead of the $350,000 we had started at and had been pre-approved for, since we can, in actuality, make those payments every month. I also decided to focus on places where the maintenance was on the lower-end of the scale, which for us is $600 or less.

I am incredibly interested in a place we looked at the other day. It’s listed for $199,000 and the maintenance is $473.55. I am hoping to get that price down by at least $10,000, though I’m not sure yet how negotiable the seller is since he is also willing to rent it out at the same price that I pay for rent now, which is $1,300/month. Doing a little big of math, I figured:

  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 25% or $47,500. The mortgage would be $670.09 at a rate of 3.875% (co-ops do not get rates as good as houses.) With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1143.64, saving me more than $200 every month in rent. At least 50% of the maintenance every month is tax deductible, as well as the mortgage interest.
  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 30% or $57,000. The mortgage would be $625.42 at a rate of 3.875%. With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1098.97, and everything else mentioned above also applies here obviously.

My thinking, for now, is that inevitably, I will get the money back that I used as a down payment when I sell the property in the future. In the meanwhile, I can pay for a mortgage and maintenance that is not only less than my rent but that will provide me with $2500-$3000 per year in tax deductions. In the meanwhile, I can save more money toward something else. Most housing did not experience any depreciation in my neighborhood so that is not of any concern to me.

So overall, this house hunting experience, which has left me largely frustrated, has also allowed me to reevaluate what I really want and what I am willing to settle for at this time. I think that going with a smarter decision, even if we don’t like it as much, will work out better for us in the end.

And really, I should thank the realtor from the first property—she was so obnoxious that she completely turned us off from the property all together!

It’s Time to Lighten Up

16 Jul

Toward the end of last year, I had this whole idea that I needed to make a budget because we didn’t really keep track of where our money was going. We had always saved money but I didn’t actually know how much we were spending on random things here or there. This resulted in the creation of a budget that could be flexible here or there. We have been pretty good at sticking to the budget with the occasional exception here or there.

I became focused. The goal? Purchase a home. We need to put down twenty percent. We have had the twenty percent for months. But I hadn’t been able to let go. Keep saving, I thought. So we have been saving. And saving. All of my paychecks go directly into the savings account, untouched. I kept telling myself I would start an IRA only to find myself putting it off so I could get to the next big number in my savings account.

But what have we been doing?

Basically, nothing.

I realized I started to detest spending money, even on things we needed or that we would enjoy. We needed a new couch for quite some time but I was very reluctant to actually purchase one. I didn’t want to use the state pass I purchased in order to visit the parks because I didn’t want to spend the money on gas to get there. Essentially, we would put off having fun or doing something that might be fun for us because I didn’t want to spend the money.

I decided that I need to stop being so tightfisted because it was having an impact on my life. I don’t really spend much on activities—so why can’t I let go once in awhile? What’s the point in having a little extra money in the bank if I’m a lot less happy for it. We aren’t anywhere near struggling financially so why am I keeping myself from taking a day trip to the lake? It seems so ridiculous.

I think every once in awhile you need to take a step back and reevaluate your goals in life. Once your needs have been covered, it’s time to establish your wants. What do you want?

I want to enjoy my time doing things with the people I love.

And that is what I plan to do this day forward.

Creating & Assessing a Budget

6 Jun

Toward the end of last year, I decided to make a budget for our tiny household.

You see, my husband and I were always decent with money. We have both worked since we have graduated from college and managed to somehow save money even when we weren’t paying attention to our finances. However, once we had to pay for our wedding in its entirety, I started to think we should draw-up a budget.

Budget

My budget, for the most part, is somewhat flexible and somewhat rigid. I am going to share my budget here with you and include the analysis I did via my six-month mark:

Regular Expenses – Regular expenses are those that are generally a fixed amount every month.

  • Rent: $1300.00
  • Phone Bill: $130.50 (+/- $1.00)
  • Auto Insurance: $91.42 (This has occasionally gone up or down but seems set for now.)
  • Internet: $39.95
  • Student Loan Deduction: $50.00
  • Netflix: $8.00
  • Gym: $10.00

Variable Expenses – These are expenses I have budgeted for every month but are in no way fixed.

  • Home Care: $50.00 – Current six-month analysis says my average spending in this category is between $20-$25/month, including some months in which the amount is zero.
  • Groceries: $300.00 – Only had one month where we went over budget; otherwise, a six-month analysis puts our average spending at approximately $222/month.
  • Dining Out: $250.00 – I am the first one to admit that eating out is a money pit and this is the only place I lack restraint. The thing is, I rarely spend my money on things I enjoy and this just happens to be something I love. This includes any fast food, coffee stops, etc. I have gone over budget three out of the six months and my average spending is approximately $238/month. Ouch.
  • Car Gas: $125.00 – I actually had this at $100/month but I changed my budget around because I realized I hadn’t budgeted enough for gasoline. This especially holds true if we are taking day trips and considering the constant increases in gas prices. Six-month analysis has us spending a little over $100.00/month but I know that will increase.
  • Haircuts: $20.00 – In actuality, my husband only gets his hair cut about once every two months and I almost never get my haircut because I grow it out and donate it. Thus our average spending has us at slightly under $5/month. I also do not do anything to my hair—no dyes, no treatments—and I’m lucky to have nice hair.
  • Electric+Gas: $125.00 – This is actually an overstatement for most months. Considering we use very little in terms of electricity when it is not summer, our current average is around $71.00. When we are running the air conditioner, however, it is incredibly easy to go over the $125.00 mark so that is why I budgeted for so much.
  • Misc: $200.00 – This is for anything we want to buy that is extraneous, such as a new video game, a park pass, etc. I cannot really analyze this area except to say it can be easy for us to stay under it; however, we have made some very large purchases that I put into here (such as a $3500.00 couch) which completely throw off the numbers.
  • Transit Card: $25.00 – I actually had this at around $50.00 for when I was trying to take a class but then I took over $25.00 and moved it to the gasoline. I actually haven’t purchased anything for mass transit in months because I no longer take the class and I am lucky enough to walk to work most days.
  • Clothes: $50.00 – We actually don’t shop very often so we have averaged out at around $30.91 per month for clothing purchases. This may change in the future though because my husband has recently ripped a ton of clothing.

Irregular Expenses – These are expenses I have listed in my budget but vary so much that I have them in a separate category. I do have a budget set-up for them and hope not to exceed it.

  • Car Maintenance: So far I have really only had to buy new brakes this year. Note: I am incredibly lucky in this category because my dad is a mechanic so I don’t pay for labor or oil changes.
  • Medical Costs: This year I have obtained incredible insurance which allows me office visits, generic prescriptions, etc at no cost. My husband has not-so-great insurance and pays $25 for PCP visits and $40 for specialty visits.
  • Medicine: Generics cost him $15 and he has two-ongoing prescriptions for things. I used to pay $15/month for my prescription but not anymore!
  • Gifts: This one gets pretty crazy depending on the month. December is a hot mess because of Christmas and we end up spending well-over $500 for gifts because there are so many people we have to buy gifts for so I’m not a fan of December. Certain months are also killers for us — May included three birthdays and Mother’s Day!

Overall, I think the budget has been all right. Considering that we made a large purchase this year (the couch), we have saved a good amount of money. I think if I could change one thing it would be the eating out portion of it but I love food too much. 🙂 Does anyone else have a budget? Do you think mine is crazy in some areas?

When a Cheap Person Wants to Exercise…

25 May

When I was a kid, I used to be fairly active. I would play outside all summer long. Gym, like many kids, was my favorite period of the day. I would spend my entire summer playing tennis multiple times a week for hours a day. Sometimes I found myself on softball teams. Summation: Good stuff.

Then…

I got older. Why does this happen? There was no one left to play tennis with and I couldn’t get enough people interested in playing a game of softball. I found myself sitting in front of the TV more and more. I was always studying for an exam. There were no more athletic activities for this old soul.

Years go by and I am still lazy. I am thankful for the genes that have allowed me to stay on the thinner side while I continue to stuff my face. To be fair I am not as thin or toned as I was in high school but I am no where near being overweight either. Go me?

Every once in awhile I get this crazy idea in my head that I want to exercise. Yeah! I want to be in shape. I want to get rid of these love handles. I want to tone up. Of course, then you remember that you’re too cheap to join a gym and want to partake in free exercise. Maybe I need some more inspiration or maybe I want to try to figure out what I should do because I currently do nothing. Maybe that’s why I am documenting everything for you guys.

For kicks, here are my attempts (and subsequent failures) for my exercise on-the-cheap:

Jogging

One day at an old job of mine I made an astute observation—everyone who was a “runner” was a type A personality. I am not so I should have known that I would have immediately failed at this venture. Every once in a while I decide that I am, once again, going to take up running. I get the sneakers on. I get the sweatpants or other related gear on. I put the headphones in my ears. I’m off! I have an absolutely gorgeous spot to run that is right next to the water. The views are spectacular. You would think this would be nothing but inspirational.

But then again, you don’t know me.

For whatever reason, I am the queen of side stitches. No matter what I do, no matter what I try to do beforehand, I end up with side stitches. Sometimes I try to jog through them. Other times the pain is so bad that I have to stop. In fact, the last time I jogged my side stitch was so bad I think I ended up tearing something behind my rib cage! (I know they can’t do anything for rib injuries but allow them to heal so I just found myself to be in pain for two weeks.) I also have a lot of trouble breathing whilst taking a jog, so much so I need to stop at times.

Thus I have failed at one of the cheapest forms of exercise—but I am sure it will make its triumphant return one day! I mean, triumphant attempt. Yeah.

Biking

I have to say I always liked being on a bike. I used to ride a bike when I was a kid. Bikes are fun.

Except I find that I have a general hatred for people on bikes.

People on bikes seem to think they can do whatever they want. Something in their way? Sure, just dart right in front of your car. They’re coming from behind? Get out of their way. There are some seriously angry people on bikes and as a result, there are some seriously angry people in cars (read: me) who find themselves behind these bikers.

Now I have had bad knees since I was about thirteen. I did ride a bike on occasion after the age of thirteen but not very often. One day a couple of years ago I got a bike from my grandma’s basement and brought it to my apartment. “I don’t want to jog. I want to ride the bike. Much easier!”

Words of infamy, my friends.

I started off well. I biked down to that same beautiful landscape that I can run on—it has a bike path as well. At first, all seems to be going well. And then I realize it’s happening—the knee pain. I think that I can bike through it. I keep going. I get to a point not too terribly far that I realize the knee pain is overwhelming.

I can only describe this pain as someone is violently stabbing me in the knees. Repeatedly.

You see, I have found that biking must bother my knees far more than anything else because they are essentially completely bent when I am biking. Something about this really hurts the old joints. I took a breather. I sat down for a few minutes. “I’m ready to bike back,” I thought. This thought process was so successful that I ended up walking my bike halfway home.

The Result of Failed Ventures

I don’t know about you, but I foresee myself attempting to jog or bike in the near future.

Why I Don’t Pay for Magazines (Anymore)

21 May

I used to subscribe to various magazines throughout my lifetime.

When I was a teenager, I probably subscribed to something like Seventeen or one of its relatives. When I was in my early twenties, which sounds awful considering I’m going to enter my late twenties this year, I subscribed to science magazines, such as Discover and Science News. I had entered a stage in my life, however, where I seemed to have completely stopped reading anything beyond a few hundred words. Thus, I didn’t want to find myself purchasing magazines.

Approximately a year ago I started to read blogs and decided to mostly stick to one in terms of freebies and deals called Money Saving Mom. I chose this one because it was easy to remember and because she seemed to list tons of deals via other bloggers as well. I began to notice that she even posted ways to get free magazine subscriptions as well.

If you’re looking to score some free subscriptions, keep the following in mind:

1. Beggars can’t be choosers: You will find that you cannot get every magazine for free. Some magazines will never offer free subscriptions while others only offer heavily discounted deals. Generally, I have found that very well-known magazines are more likely to offer free issues as opposed to very specific, smaller magazines. I have noticed that certain bloggers like Crystal at Money Saving Mom will post deals for these niche magazines that make a subscription substantially cheaper. Do not always expect to receive a subscription forever either—I have found that many of the issues I have received have been anywhere from 3-6 months, though they can be for up to 12 months.

2. Check on your deals regularly: If you’re following a blog or partaking in a forum, make sure to check on the deals you’re interested in regularly. Many of these free subscriptions are only available for a certain period of time or for a certain number of people.

3. Always check for terms: Generally, I have found that the frugal bloggers are pretty good about avoiding scams or things with specific terms and agreements. That being said, you should always double-check and see what you are signing up for when you find a free magazine subscription. Never provide a site with your credit card number or bank information. Generally, when a company has you do that, they will send you some issues for free and then bill you for an additional six months to a year. For all of the subscriptions I have received for free, I have never once provided anything other than my name and address.

What magazines have I received for free over the past six months?

  • Woman’s Day
  • Newsweek
  • Forbes
  • Bloomberg Business Week
  • Smart Money
  • Outdoor Life

You can easily ascertain that I’ve received quite the variety in terms of magazines!

Frugal Adventures in Camping – Making the Reservations

17 May

I am bubbling over with excitement because I have officially booked all of the days for our camping trip. Our trip will be rather long; in fact, it spans over the course of nine nights. Yes, I will be sleeping on the ground for nine nights straight and I seem to be okay with that—you know, until I reach that point where I cannot move my neck. We are actually heading to the opposite side of the state and then creeping back two hours closer but this trip will still entail a lot of driving. We will be staying at state parks for the entirety of our trip.

This is how things are looking right now:

  • Park One: 2 Nights @ $43.00
  • Park Two: 3 Nights @ $72.00
  • Park Three: 2 Nights @ $51.00
  • Park Four: 2 Nights @ $43.00

Thus, nine nights for two people will cost $209.00 or $23.22 per night. I think that’s pretty cost-effective in terms of sleeping arrangements.

Making Things Even Cheaper

If you are thinking about taking your family camping or if you plan on taking a trip with friends, you can have an even cheaper camping trip in terms of making reservations by doing the following:

1. Plan for weekdays and non-holidays: Generally, most campsites will have cheaper rates during the week and they bump up their prices for holidays and the rest of the holiday weekend. If you’re looking to save a few more dollars, this might be a good thing for you to look into.

2. The more the merrier: In my experience, campsites will allow up to six people per site. Just imagine for a second you took a trip with five of your friends—each of you would only be paying $34.83 for nine nights of rest or each person would be paying $3.87 a night to sleep. Now compare that to the cost of staying in a hotel and just be amazed at the price difference. If you’re a family staying at a hotel, you usually have to pay an extra amount for either an additional room, a bigger room, a bed with a roll-away or merely for having extra bodies. This might be a great way to save money.

3. Less park hopping means more savings: I have mentioned previously that we are making our way to four different parks. Even when making reservations at the same time, I was required to pay a transaction fee of $9.00 for every park. If I had just chosen to stay at one park I would have saved $27 dollars.

4. Location matters—sometimes: In my state, out-of-state residents are charged more than in-state residents. Thus, staying within your home state might be a cheaper option for you if it’s available. Also, do some research—is a state campsite more or less than a private campsite nearby? Evaluate the cost-benefit of the amenities that are available for your friends and/or family.

Do you have any additional tips in terms of making reservations even cheaper for your camping trip? I’d love to hear them!

The Hopefully Obtainable Goals

24 Apr

I was never a very goal-oriented person, which retrospectively irks me regularly.

Now in my twenties, I find that I have become somewhat goal-oriented but not really.

Early On

I guess I was smart but by the time I high middle school, I became pretty lazy. Didn’t want to take a test? I went home sick. Was I behind in homework? I guess I’ll stay home and make as much of it as I can up in a day. Am I going to college or am I getting a job? I guess I’ll go to college because all of my other friends are going so what else am I going to do?

I managed to spend six years in college, including three college transfers, to finally obtain a B.S. in something in the sciences.  Even when I graduated, I didn’t want to use my B.S. for its purpose. Haphazardly, I applied to doctoral programs and a program very similar to Teaching Fellows that would allow me to obtain my M.S. in education practically for free. I finished that (on time, surprisingly) and then left the field.

Funnily enough, nearly a year after that, I studied for (and passed) my state licensing exam—the original purpose of my B.S. Sadly, I don’t think I am done with my educational pursuits, as I sit here not knowing what to do in my life.

The Past Few Years

Growing up without any money has certainly made saving money easier. Maybe it’s growing up with a frugal parent or maybe it’s in the genes but I have a decent amount of self-control with money.

I would say this is one of the few places where I am goal-oriented.

Although I really want to do something else with my life, I do have the goal of owning a home. But it’s such a slow process when it comes to saving money. The other thing I want to do is open an IRA through Vanguard.

So what’s stopping me?

We had a lot of expenses after the wedding. We probably made back what we spent on the wedding, so I was happy to break even. But between random expenses popping up, problems with my eyes and a variety of other things, we could not get past a certain point. The past few months have been better. In fact, we saved a decent amount of money in the past few months. But…

…we are going to decide on our October vacation. I really wanted to go on a cruise but did not want to spend the money.

…we are going to spend 3K+tax on a new couch. (See a previous entry about the cost of being cheap.)

So really, the 4K or so that we have saved in a short period of time is out of the window.

And Now…

I will continue saving for that down payment. But hopefully the month of May or June allows for me to open my Vanguard IRA. (My original goal was March or April.) Regardless, I will get there and that’s what matters.

The Cost of Being Cheap

10 Apr

My husband and I have been painstakingly saving money for a couple of years for a down payment on some type of home. The only thing we could even remotely afford is a co-op in this area. Condos are too pricey for us. And, as you could easily ascertain, a house is way, way too pricey for us.

When we first moved in together, I had this idea that I would buy “nice” furniture because I thought that we would be able to move out with the future and already have the “nice” furniture for our eventual home. I would look at furniture online and my friends, looking over my shoulder, would make comments, wondering how we were able to buy “nice” furniture at that point in our lives. Now, you might have noticed that I have annoyingly been putting the word nice in quotes and that’s because I have come to realize something in hindsight: the furniture I thought was nice was, in fact, not.

Maybe some people have better luck than I do but anything that I have purchased in terms of furniture that was “cheap” or that I thought I was getting a good price on was actually quite a piece of shit. I know there are other people who have 349-year old couches that get passed down through their families and they are still in great condition or people who buy a cheap futon that decays at the rate of a diamond but this does not happen with me. Let us review my examples of what I have deemed my lessons regarding the cost of being cheap.

The Couch

We moved into our apartment without a couch and spent approximately one month sitting on the floor. We searched. We didn’t have a lot of money because my guy had only been earning a somewhat decent salary for a short period of time and I just started working my first full-time real job a month or two before that. Jennifer Convertibles? Nice but it would take too long to get to us. Raymour & Flanigan? Ouch—too expensive for us at the time. Random furniture store on a major avenue? Okay, I guess so. We happened upon a really gorgeous sectional that was a leather blend. For $1,000, I was happy with the price. Eventually we got the couch. For two years, I was enamored. The couch was super comfortable. I could nap on it at any time. As far as I was concerned, my couch was better than yours.

And then one day I noticed pieces of my couch coming off.

Since then, the entire couch has completely been peeling off. If you lay on the couch, you will end up with 695 pieces of the material on you. You know where someone walked because you will find trails of the couch from the living room to wherever they end up. And because of the way the couch is built, you cannot put something on it to cover it—the only thing we could really try to do was staple a sheet onto the back and it never stays in place. To further fuel my ire, the couch is built in such a way that a baby could fall through and be trapped. There is a Nintendo DS case stuck in the couch and we have no idea where it is—we have even cut a piece of the couch open only to not be able to find it. Why do I own the Bermuda Triangle of couches?

The Bed & Dresser

I guess I should know better than to depend on the prices of Ikea but really, they know how to suck you in—they appeal to small spaces, city living and your first time being out there on your own. When you can’t afford much, you end up at Ikea, finding yourself walking into their model rooms, picturing the furniture in your own home. This bed was actually purchased way before we moved into the apartment but it traveled with us; the matching dresser was a later addition.

So imagine my “shock” when one day, a day where I am actually cleaning no less, I am leaning on the end of the bed and BOOM, I fall straight down with the end of the bed. I take a look at the bed—we had been sleeping for who knows how long with my side of the bed barely being held together. Great. I am all set on purchasing a new bed when, after looking around and getting annoyed, we decide that my dad can, for the time being, reinforce the bed and shove additional screws in there.

The dresser? I don’t know what the bottom drawer has against me but this thing is always misaligned, doesn’t like to close and randomly drops down. My husband has better luck than I do so his dresser, also a matching dresser but slightly bigger, has no problem with him. Again, it’s all me.

Back to Bad Living Room Choices

We purchased an entertainment center. It’s a decent size. I think my favorite parts about it is that we could never get the top on quite right, pieces came off as we screwed parts of it in and that the entire top shelf dips down in the center. I love having a shelf I can barely use because I am terrified that it will break and fall onto my flat screen television.

I also eventually purchased a coffee table and matching end tables. I think the thing I like best about the coffee table is how it wobbles from the slightest touch. I honestly don’t want to even bother attempting to fix it because I kind of want to see when it just all falls down.

I Will Not Leave Out the Kitchen

I have to say I think I learned my lesson in terms of purchasing Ikea products for the kitchen as well. Salad bowl I barely used? The entire bottom fell off. Wok? Fell apart. Other frying pans? Gone. Why do you hate me Ikea?

Result?

We are currently looking for a new couch. We almost purchased one last week but then took a step back. I wasn’t quite ready to put the $3,000+ on a new sectional. We plan on only buying real leather because I hate microfiber and do not want any fabric since my husband has some intense allergies. There is also enough cat hair around and don’t need another surface to which cat hair has an extreme affinity to. I am trying to buy  a nice couch that we can take with us, such that I want the sectional to have each of its own individual pieces so we can change the orientation if need be.

I will wait on the other furniture…

My Love-Hate Relationship: Online Deals

6 Apr

I started using Groupon & LivingSocial around the time they pretty much launched themselves.

Now, I love a good deal. Since I live in a large city, there are multiple deals every single day. Tempting? Yes. But I have found that with a little self-control, making use of these sites can be quite advantageous.

The Good

(1) Since there are multiple deals throughout the city, and there are a lot, I have pretty much decided to have these deals e-mailed to one of my junk e-mail accounts. Do I end up with a lot of e-mails? Yes. But I would rather do that than be annoyed that I missed something I actually wanted, as opposed to one of the five hundred spa treatments offered through the website.

(2) Once I actually find a deal I want, I make sure that I go through it in my mind a bit. Do I really want this? Can I afford this right now? Will I actually use it? If the answers are yes, I will generally buy it. For example, I rarely ever go to the movies—usually I only go once a year. At ten or more dollars per ticket, it’s just not worth it to me. But if I know there is a movie coming out I want to see and one of these sites comes out with a deal, I will probably purchase it. For $12, I just purchased a Groupon for a movie theater near me that includes two tickets and bottomless popcorn. I also keep an eye out for places I enjoy eating at or want to try since I really do love eating out—it’s like a hobby to me. For $15, I purchased a deal for $35 of food from a healthy food place that we really enjoy. These will be used for a “date night.”

(3) Of course I realized thisafter my last purchase, but my credit card, which offers pretty decent cash back rewards, has 15% cash back on purchases for Groupon if you go through their website. All you need to do is log into your credit card website, for example, and click through the links on their site. Once you do that, you’ll get the cash back—you won’t get the 15% just buying it without going through the credit card’s site.

(4) Sometimes you will end up with free stuff—I got a credit of $10 once because someone apparently used a referral link to LivingSocial that I had put out there. If all of your friends want to go in on a deal, many times they have it set-up so that if you refer three friends you get your deal for free. If it’s something big, you might be able to all go in on a deal, such as a vacation, and then split it up so that four people are paying the price for three people—making the savings even greater.

(5) I find that the sites have pretty good return policies. My sister bought something she could not use once and they refunded her money relatively quickly.

The Bad

(1) Having your credit card linked to your account makes it all too easy to make a fast purchase. If I am waffling on a deal, within a few seconds and a couple of clicks, I might have purchased it. Whoops.

(2) Constantly being bombarded with deals makes me want more things in the moment. For example, I had been talking about going zip lining and literally the next day I had an offer for zip lining in my mail box. I was so excited I wanted to purchase it right away. I gave myself a little time and instead I decided that it wasn’t the time to do it. Also, I stated that I am always on the lookout for restaurant deals. I find that often times it is the case that there will be nothing I want for months and then all of a sudden there are a bunch of restaurants I want to purchase deals for in a row. Sometimes I really, really have to resist the temptation.

What I Try to Do

I decided, after purchasing two deals within the same day after not purchasing any deals for awhile, that I will just make it part of my budget. One of the descriptors in my budget is a “miscellaneous” category. If I don’t have the money for it, then I am not going to buy it. Of course, if it’s for some big purchase that I have decided I am going to make, such as a purchase for a trip, I will have a little more leeway.

How do you feel about these sites? Are they forces of good or evil?