Stories That Rocked My Week #7

23 May

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I love a good three-day weekend and look forward to a little backyard barbecuing with the fam. I’d also like to send a much-needed shout-out to all U.S. active, retired, reservist and veteran military — you brave men and women have my sincerest gratitude today and everyday for your service and sacrifice. Thank you!

Photo by Timo Kohlenberg via Flickr

Photo by Timo Kohlenberg via Flickr

 

Now, onto the shameless plugs…

6 Tips for Navigating Memorial Day Deals. Just in time for the big shopping weekend, I wrote my first guest post for The Dime Colorado, an awesome personal finance site with a hometown twist.

Budget Gifts for Mom: A Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gift Guide. I love finding fun gifts for my mom, so writing this post picked up by GoGirl Finance was a total blast!

…and without further ado, these rockin’ posts!

Michelle at Making Sense of Cents gets a virtual fist-pump for “Las Vegas Recap: My Most Frugal Trip Ever.” She rocked Sin City for less than $300 and treated her friends to heavily discounted plane tickets. Props, Michelle!

I should dedicate a section of my roundups to Erin at Broke Millennial since I seem to read everything she pens. I stumbled upon “How Staying in Shape Directly Impacts Your Wallet” at TaxACT and couldn’t agree more with her savvy points (as always).

I respect Kathleen at Frugal Portland‘s shared addiction to quality coffee, which is why I enjoyed reading “Conscious Spending: Morning Coffee Ritual” while sipping on my morning cup of Sumatra. I also relate to liking/buying/owning pretty, tasty and otherwise expensive things while still practicing a frugal lifestyle.

I LOVED “It’s a Marathon, Not a Race. Namaste.” from Debt Free Guys the moment I read the headline. It combines my two fitness faves: yoga and running. The moral of the post is an important one that not only applies to finances and debt but also to other goals and aspirations in life. Well done, gents.

I’m a sucker for any article offering ways to eat healthy, so “Eating Healthy on a Slim Budget” from April at Get Rich Slowly was an obvious read. I appreciate that her tips go beyond “use coupons” and “shop in season,” and can relate to spending a good chunk of my money on good-for-you food.

I love me some Club Thrifty, and Holly’s post “How to Deal with Online Criticism” offers great perspective on the ugly side of blogging. Her “I am who I am, bring it” attitude really shines in this post and serves as an inspiration for the more squeamish writers like me, who recede into the darkness of shame when criticized.

Frugal Fail: Impulse Buy Edition

19 May

Photo by Hobvias Sudoneighm via Flickr

Photo by Hobvias Sudoneighm via Flickr

Sigh. Just when I thought I was making strides in my personal spending, I went and sabotaged myself with an impulse purchase this morning. I’ve been eyeing a couple clothing items online over the past week and received an offer that seemed too good to resist — 40% off plus an extra 20% off $100+ and free shipping. Dang.

All in all I purchased four items for $85 including tax. Three spring sweaters and a pair of silver stud earrings. My receipt tells me I saved $86 on my order, but I know better: those items are not worth their price tags so that savings estimate is arbitrary.

The cherry on top? I totally spaved. I was really only interested in the two sweaters, but that extra 20% off was too tempting and I spent several minutes combing through their inventory to find things I kind of liked. Kind of? Really, Kendal?

In a last-ditch effort to save myself, I emailed customer service to see if I could cancel the order prior to it shipping without penalty. I received a response in less than 20 minutes — the order is cancelled and any pre-authorization charges will be dropped within three to five days.

Phew. That was a close one.  While I appreciate their stellar customer service, it’s time I unsubscribe from their mailing, de-friend them from Facebook and cancel my store card. This may seem like an emotional response to a vulnerable moment, but honestly I haven’t ordered from them in a while and I won’t miss being tempted by their ongoing sales. Bottom line: I don’t need their stuff and I need to free myself from thinking I do!

So let’s have it…what’s your latest frugal fail?

What’s the Value of Your Time?

7 May

A little headstand action at the top of Gomez Peak in NM. Photo by awesome-sauce SIL Ida Holguin-Perez.

A little headstand action at the top of Gomez Peak in NM.

I’ve recently decided to make a switch in my yoga routine by attending a new studio. It’s much closer to my home and workplace and offers a fresh approach to my practice, which has honestly become a bit stale as of late. While it may seem like a no-brainer decision, the monthly cost difference for unlimited classes is significant: the new studio, we’ll call it Studio B, is $47 more per month than my old studio, Studio A. I can attend unlimited classes at Studio A for $60 per month, or pay $107 per month for unlimited classes at Studio B.

To help justify the switch, I calculated the cost of fuel to get to/from Studio A vs. Studio B. The average cost of fuel in my area is $3.79 per gallon, and my car gets around 25 miles per gallon. I attend class twice per week, or eight times per month. Given all that, it costs me about $39 to get to/from Studio A (33 miles RT) vs. $18.19 per month to get to/from Studio B (15 miles RT). While it costs twice as much in gas to get to Studio A, I’m still paying $25 per month to attend Studio B when you add membership costs.

Another factor in all this is the cost of my time. I’m on the road 25 minutes longer per class with Studio A, or two hours and 40 minutes longer per month. Putting a dollar amount to each hour of your free time is not an easy task, which is why I turned to a survey at ClearThinking.org to help me. It asks a series of questions to help you determine the unique value associated with an hour of your time. If you’ve ever wondered about the monetary value of your time, I highly recommend the survey (it’s free, but it will take you about 15 minutes).

After taking the survey, my results concluded that I value my time at $45 per hour. Since it takes about 50 minutes round trip to get from work to Studio A and back home again, it costs me an equivalent of $37.50 each class. Multiply that by twice a week for a whole month, and the added cost to Studio A’s monthly membership is $270. It takes me about 25 minutes round trip to get to Studio B from work and home again, amounting to $18.75 each time. My time adds $150 to Studio B’s monthly cost.

Adding the value of my time to the total monthly cost to attend each studio, including membership fees and gas charges, gave me a more accurate picture of just how much I’m spending on yoga between the two studios. It will cost $369.04 per month to continue classes at Studio A, while Studio B will cost me $275.19. That’s a savings of $93.85 per month.

While the monetary value of my time is subjective at best, this exercise does a good job illustrating the necessity of factoring in your time when making a decision. Even when I calculated all this using my hourly rate at work, I still come out on top by joining Studio B.

Do you consider the monetary value of your time when making a decision?  

Disclaimer: I suck at math, so if you notice any flaws in my calculations, please break it to me gently.

Stories That Rocked My Week #6

2 May

Happy Friday! After five straight days of relentless wind, it’s finally calm here. The weekend forecast is warm and sunny, and my BFF is flying in from Vegas and together we’re going to enjoy a not-so-frugal fine dining experience in the big city. As my friend of mine likes to say, life is grand!

The picture of calm. Photo by me.

The picture of calm. Photo by me.

I read a lot of amazing posts this week and it’s always a struggle to pick out my faves! Before I get to the stories that rocked my week, here are a couple shameless plugs for you to skip over:

5 Ways to Save Money Using Pinterest on HuffPost Financial Education — Karen Cordaway of MoneySavingEnthusiast fame helps me justify the hundreds of hours I’ve spent saving and organizing images by quoting me in this article. Pinterest shouldn’t be so entertaining, but it’s highly addictive and can also be a method for money savings.

10 Reasons Why You’re Still Living Paycheck to Paycheck on GO Banking Rates — Not only includes quotes from yours truly, but also from personal finance bloggers Stefanie at The Broke and Beautiful Life and Matt over at Mom and Dad Money.

Onto the good stuff…

Tackling Our Debt‘s travel tips are just in time for summer planning and helped inspire me to consider a separate savings account just for vacations.

Savvy with Saving explores why it’s so hard to split the bill at a restaurant and how to avoid paying for someone else’s dinner and drinks.

Color Me Frugal offers practical tips to prevent lifestyle inflation, an affliction I seem to have every pay day.

Clever Dude‘s wife gets a gold star for her persistence, and for inspiring Brock’s post about getting a discount just by asking.

Cash Cow Couple‘s frugal ways continue to amaze as they outline expenses from their first year of marriage.

L Bee and the Money Tree‘s Lauren celebrates her second blog birthday and deserves a shout-out: congrats chica!

Have a great weekend!

My Budding Obsession with 5Ks

28 Apr

Me and my 5K Running Budy, post-race.

Me and my 5K Running Buddy, post-race.

Stefanie at The Broke and Beautiful Life wrote a post earlier this year on how races are better investments than a gym membership. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m excited to find that I’m becoming slightly obsessed with 5Ks. Some races are cheaper than others, to be sure, but I don’t like running enough to throw down several hundred dollars for the big marathons. Community and cause-oriented 5Ks are just fine for me, with a few trendy runs sprinkled in for flavor.

On Saturday, I ran my second 5k of the year with my sister-in-law. Running a 5k is on my “30 before 30″ list and so far I’ve completed three, including the obstacle-laden Mud Run I blogged about last summer. Saturday’s run was the first time I jogged the entire route and I’m pretty pumped about it. I’m in better cardiovascular shape than I realize since I did zero formal training leading up to the run. (Disclaimer: This is not advised. My knees were tender during the last half mile and to avoid injury, I really should train for these events!)

So far, I’ve spent $115 on three events. The Survivor Mud Run was purchased at a daily deal rate of $35; the Sharin’ O’ the Green 5K cost $30 plus $15 for a long-sleeved race shirt (which I wear all the time so it’s totally worth it); and this last one was just $25. The last two events benefited important causes and has helped me become more active in my community.

I’ve also learned something about myself during these 5K events: I thrive in group settings. As an introvert, this is a pretty astounding realization, but when it comes to being active, I feed off of the group energy and tend to push myself harder and enjoy myself more. This is true not only for running but also for yoga, my go-to fitness activity. I’ve done at-home practices here and there, but nothing beats an instructor-led group setting.

My next 5K is at the end of May and I’ll likely do one or two more before the year is over. There are a ton of opportunities in my community to participate in these events, which is great because I can be choosey and opt for cheaper runs without feeling like I’m missing out. However, I tend to overbook myself in these situations and I need to make clear-headed decisions before throwing down the plastic for a 5K every weekend. My challenge will be restraining myself so my budding obsession doesn’t become an un-frugal addiction.

Spill: What’s your latest obsession?

Save Green by Going Green

22 Apr

Happy Earth Day, everybody! As a nature lover and and natural-light enthusiast, I try to be conscious about how my actions impact our environment. More often than not, the roads to going green and saving money intersect, creating a nice harmony of environmental stewardship and responsible money management. While my husband and I do more than a few things right when it comes to being ecofriendly, we can definitely do more. Here’s a summary of both!

Grand Teton National Park. Photo by me.

Grand Teton National Park. Photo by me.

 

PAPER
What We Do Right
– We avoid printing receipts, confirmations and other required documents by saving them to a PDF and storing them on flash drives and hard drives.
– We ask for paper bags at the grocery store and burn them in our energy-efficient wood-burning stove.
– I use my smartphone for tasks that used to require paper. For example, the Coupon Sherpa app helps me save while shopping without the use of paper coupons, while the navigation tool helps me get where I need to go without printed directions!
– I’ve cut down on paper towel use by switching to reusable cloths, including the ever-dynamic microfiber-water duo.

Where We Can Improve
– Recycle or burn the paper we accumulate through junk mail.
– Switch to reusable grocery bags in the warm months when we’re not using the wood stove.
– Review accounts and request paperless statements from all of them. My investment accounts kill several hundred trees just to send me updates, I swear.

ENERGY
What We Do Right
– Our wood-burning stove cut our natural gas use considerably this year. We turned it on for a total of seven days during the entire winter.
– Our whole-house fan makes it easier for us to avoid A/C use during the warm summer months.
– A programmable thermostat controls the temperature of our home and keeps our energy use top-of-mind with usage reports.
– The majority of our lightbulbs are CFLs, excluding the globe bulbs in our bathrooms.
– I launder everything in cold water, reducing the use of our water heater.

Where We Can Improve
– We have a ton of electronics and other items plugged in; we could reduce our energy use by switching off these devices when we’re not using them.

WATER
What We Do Right
– My husband is an irrigation designer by trade, so our system is highly efficient with specialized sprinkler heads and a drip irrigation system in the garden.
– We don’t brush our teeth with the faucet on. I’ve never understood why people do that!
– Water cycled through the wort chiller during homebrewing is used as irrigation for plants and trees.

Where We Can Improve
– It takes a few minutes for our shower to warm up, so a ton of water is wasted while we wait.
– I try to be mindful about water use when washing dishes, but I know I can do better here.
– I have good intentions when I pour myself a giant jar of water, but I’m forever finding half-drunk glasses around the house (Signs, anyone?). I use them to water plants and such, but still; get it together, Kendal!

WASTE
What We Do Right
– As a two-person household, we don’t accumulate much waste. Sometimes, we skip the weekly trash pickup because our bin isn’t nearly full enough.
– My husband composts spent hops and grain from homebrewing, creating rich soil for our garden. Our dogs enjoy grazing on the grain, too.
– Back when I was into juicing, we dumped the pulp from all the fruits and veggies into our garden as compost.

Where We Can Improve
– We can compost more of what we use and don’t eat. I’m eyeballing small compost pales for coffee grounds and other household scraps, while my husband is slowly creating a compost pile in our backyard.
– I’ve fished cans and bottles out of the trash can before to put into the recycle bin. I’ve also tossed a few soiled plastic containers into the trash, only to realize they’re recyclable. Tsk tsk.

FUEL
Pretty much an epic fail on this front. It’s where we struggle most because we live outside city limits and each have 15-minute commutes to work. Our vehicles aren’t the most fuel efficient, but my husband does have his eyes peeled for a diesel commuter car that gets 40+ MPGs.

Back at’cha — what are you doing right and where can you improve your green habits?

Your Money: How You’re Blowing It

16 Apr

I like to think of myself as a pretty frugal person. This hasn’t always been the case, but in recent years I’ve done a much better job of managing my spending. Yet, I know there are a few things I do that still sabotage my bank account. We’ve heard this phenomenon referred to as “the latte effect,” but it extends to bigger oversights like food and energy. I shared a few ways that most of us blow money as well as tips to fix them with Kirk Yuhnke on Good Day Colorado.

What do you blow money on? Is there something you used to spend money on that you don’t anymore?

Stories That Rocked My Week #5

11 Apr

Be jealous. I was a here a couple weeks ago (Peju Winery, Napa Valley, Calif.).

Be jealous. I was a here a couple weeks ago (Peju Winery, Napa Valley, CA).

I haven’t done one of these in a few weeks because I’ve been busy with travel, work and home improvement to catch up with my fave bloggers. Luckily, I found some time this week to get back in the groove and I’m pleased to share the following posts! But first, some shameless plugging:

Over at Modest Money, I offered the parameters I use when considering buying a daily deal. I think they can be big money savers when purchased wisely!

At GoGirlFinance, I list out unnecessary wedding expenses that when skipped can save couples over $1,000. #CrazyFact — the average 2013 wedding cost nearly $30K!

Onto what you’re really here for, the stories that ROCKED my week!

I love, love LOVED this post by Stefani from The Broke and Beautiful Life over at See Debt Run. She eloquently conveys how spending money on otherwise mundane expenses can be pleasurable. I feel gratitude when I pay bills at the beginning of the month because I CAN pay them. There’s no stress or fear about not being able to afford my bills, and that’s huge.

I’ve only recently discovered Kristin Wong and I’m ever-so-glad I did — she’s a gem. Her post about ways to save at the airport on Brokepedia was timely since I just committed a frugal fail at the San Fran airport. I bought a second bottle of water for my plane ride (after slamming the first one during lunch), only to find a water fill-up station IN MY GATE. Kristin would never do such a thing.

Props to John over at Frugal Rules for his first post on Daily Finance! I love me some “Game of Thrones,” so I was pretty pumped to read his post about money lessons from the epic series. John surprised me with some of the parallels he found (which were spot-on). Who knew the detestable Theon Greyjoy was actually good for something?

I enjoyed Dear Debt‘s unconventional money tips over at VOSA, especially the one about making more money instead of slashing spending. While cutting back on spending is always good money advice, focusing on it exclusively can make for a miserable lifestyle, especially when side hustles can help balance things out.

Since I would never have the stones to ask for a “good guy discount,” (or a “cool girl” discount, for that matter) I enjoyed the brazenness of The Billfold‘s article “The Art of Asking for a Discount.” My husband is pretty good at this strategy, having recently knocked down the price of a costly gadget by $25 just for asking.

Michelle of Making Sense of Cents is just plain amazing for so many reasons. Her story about saving money on wedding expenses through bartering is GENIUS. I never would have thought to trade my expertise for free or reduced-price services at my wedding. Consider my mind blown, Michelle.

You guys. It’s Friday!! #TGIF 

Frugal Win: Coffee Edition

7 Apr

Coffee at a B&B in Charles City, IA. Photo by me.

Coffee at a B&B in Charles City, IA. Photo by me.

 

Happy Monday, blogger friends! I hope everyone had a good weekend. My husband and I were busy with birthdays and home-improvement projects, but I had an opportunity to save MEGA BUCKS on gourmet coffee, the details of which I just have to share with you.

Last year, I wrote a guest post for John over at Frugal Rules about saving on java because good, strong coffee is a staple in our household. My husband and I especially like Starbucks’ bold blends like Sumatra and Espresso Roast. I stocked up on whole beans during Cyber Monday when they offered free shipping and additional discounts, paying around $7 or $8 a bag (compared to $14 per bag). That shipment experienced a delay in getting to me, so Starbucks sent me an apology email with a coupon code for 20% off my future order. Gotta love good customer service, right?

This weekend, I finally had the opportunity to use that code. Through today, Starbucks is offering 25% off most its coffees, teas and accessories, so I ordered 10 bags of coffee and used my coupon code for extra savings. I paid $78 for all this AND used a gift card I purchased at a 20-percent discount from GiftCardGranny.com to pay for it. In total, I scored nearly 50-percent off Starbucks coffee and have enough stock to sustain us for a year or so. We’re blessed to work at offices that value good coffee, so we only brew at home on the weekends.

I’m so pumped up about this frugal win that I really don’t need caffeine for energy this morning. Ha! Who am I kidding? I’m sipping on a hot cup of Sumatra as I type this.

What’s your frugal win for the weekend?

To Sell or Not to Sell

2 Apr

Photo by Diana Parkhouse via Flickr

Photo by Diana Parkhouse via Flickr

 

A few months back, my husband and I finally tackled the task of cleaning up our basement. We’ve been in our house for close to eight years and our unfinished basement has become a storage space for all the stuff we don’t want but can’t yet part with. We’ve amassed a surprisingly small amount of items but we’re both clutter-averse, so having anything down there is causing us to tick.

After throwing away empty boxes that once contained pricey purchases — HDTV, Dyson vacuum and, um, a trashcan — we were left with a few odds and ends. I’m pretty good about purging things and avoiding sentimental attachment, but even I find my heartstrings tugged by the strangest items. Case in point, the paper mâché giraffe my mom and I made for my fourth grade project. It’s about six inches shorter than me, ringing it at just under five-feet tall, and has a darling face with big brown eyes. I know I should donate him, but it’s entirely possible I’d have a breakdown at Goodwill and cause a scene, all because I can’t part with an animal composed of newspaper and chicken wire.

Next up: my wedding dress. I held onto it after the wedding because my cousin said she’d love to wear it at her wedding. She was 13 then so I knew the chances of her still wanting the dress when the time came was slim. And I was right — she’s recently engaged and looking for something tea-length. So, that leaves me with the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn packaged professionally in a box under my stairs. There’s absolutely no reason to hold onto it, but a small part of me is afraid I’ll get pennies for it and so I haven’t made an effort to put it on the market.

That leaves a couple boxes of items my mom gave me from my childhood. They contain Disney plates collected by my grandma and porcelain carousels that I collected when I was little. I have no use for these things and yet I have a hard time parting with them, mostly because I know my grandma cherished the plates and my mom spent good money on the carousels. It almost feels selfish to just sell them.

AND YET…the alternative is to keep them boxed up and unloved. I could make a little money by selling them to someone who will hopefully love them as much as I did. Is that so wrong? It’s not, I know, and yet as I searched for the going rate of these items on eBay, I realized another problem: I’m horribly impatient. Other people around the country are selling these same items and who knows how long they’ve been posted for sale. Somehow, the prospect of making money isn’t as strong as the desire to get these items out of my house. I could easily donate the carousels to Goodwill and try to re-gift the plates to someone who’s really into Cinderella.

My recent foray into online consignment has further discouraged me from selling my stuff through the Interwebs. A few commenters have convinced me to try Facebook and I recently joined a few local community groups that buy, sell and trade with each other. I haven’t taken the leap into photographing and offering my wares for sale, but one of these days it’s going to happen.

Do you put off selling items like me, or do you enjoy the process? What’s your favorite method of exchanging stuff for cash?