Money To Live

September 14, 2013

New Purchases

Filed under: budgeting,cost analysis,scrimp/splurge,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 10:33 am

Recently I made a purchase of items over which I hesitated. They cost more than I planned to spend, but were very lovely. Here’s why I chose not to scrimp, but to splurge.

The items were a good fit. They filled the niche I planned to use them for, in more than one way. They would be long-lasting.

The items were also well designed and made of good materials. Some or all of the work (design, production) was done locally rather than outsourced to sweat shops. And the items were sold by a wonderful local business.

It’s the second set of points that probably contributed to the higher cost of the items. However, those points were congruent with values I support. So, putting my money where my mouth is, I made the purchase.

No regrets.


August 17, 2013

Create money to live

Hmmmmmm… I sat down to write this blog post at my usual schedule. Ideas popped in, but none flowed into writing. I willingly spent a few hours procrastinating. I reminded myself, as any writer knows, that you just have to do it.


Today’s blog message is simply this: to create money to live, you just have to create money to live. Do you know how to earn more money? Do you know how to save more money? Do you know how you can improve the quality of (the value you experience from) your money? Go create money to live!

March 15, 2013


Filed under: budgeting,goals,hobbies,scrimp/splurge,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 12:09 pm

We’ve all heard the advice not to impulse buy. But here’s an example of how seizing an unplanned opportunity — combined with patience and knowing where I stood financially — worked out nicely.

My wishlist included an item that was a non-trivial expense. I knew that I would eventually purchase this item for a hobby, however a) it was not a priority, and b) it didn’t fit my current spending pattern.

On the weekend I passed by a sale. I decided to stay open-minded. The sales assistant recommended me a product and size, and the first one I tried was excellent: much better than I expected, and I felt it was unlikely that I could find a better fit even if I were to shop around.

When I walked into the store, I already knew that I had planned to not buy this item immediately. The pressure to impulse buy was removed.

I also knew that, although it wasn’t within my current budget, I could make it happen if I really wanted it. If I bought the item now, I would benefit from a 40% sales discount and no future rental costs. I would also save time shopping around.

So, after patiently wishlisting this item for a year, I impulse bought it…and saved time and money in the long-term 🙂

December 21, 2012

Farmers’ Markets

Filed under: spending — by moneyconsciously @ 11:42 pm

What if your food could be delicious, fresh, locally grown…and inexpensive? I enjoy these features by shopping at farmers’ markets. It’s not only my pocketbook that benefits: local farmers make more money too. We both have more money to live.

Organic apples at half price! Sold as juicing apples, these were the same type of apples as their regularly priced counterpart; they were just not “perfect” aesthetically, so you would never see them in the supermarket. I snapped up 4 kg of those delicious apples.

“These are a delicate mix of sweet and tart, they’re turning with the season this week”. Yup, it was another cheap bag of apples, freshly picked just a few days ago and with unofficial tasting notes. Sometimes the lovely stall owners tuck some extra produce into my bag as a gift.

“One dollar! One dollar bag! Six for four dollars!” At the end of the market weekend, fruit and vegetables from my local growers’ market is particularly cheap. The same food that sold for normal prices during the day is sold for $1 per bag, for multiple bags it’s often cheaper. It’s a great way to pick up a lot of inexpensive produce (and particularly great if you’re cooking large veggie soups or preserving fruit). The food is fresher and cheaper than the supermarkets even at non-sale times.

Where’s your nearest farmers’ market? 🙂

September 19, 2012

Clothes Swap

Filed under: entertainment,philanthropy,savings,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 12:13 pm

A friend organised a clothes swap. She collected friends’ clothing items that were ready for a new home; sorted and hung them on racks; and hosted a party during which we could try on and buy clothes at $1 per piece. We all left with ‘new’ pieces of clothing, donated the remaining clothing, and raised over $300 for charity.

I acquired a year’s wardrobe for $20. My new wardrobe included: professional workwear and dress items, all still in good condition, that would have normally cost a hundred times more; clothing experiments that I might normally not have tried at retail price; and a few frivolous extras just for fun.

This was a great win-win. Apart from enjoying a good spring clean and a good party, we saved money ourselves and raised money for charity.

September 27, 2010

Costs associated with working full time

Filed under: career,cost analysis,spending — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

There are extra costs involved in working outside the home — gasoline and clothing are two common examples.

For me, I would also need to find someone to walk my dog every day. To keep my sanity, I would get a grocery delivery service and a cleaning person. The cleaning costs could vary from $50-$100/ week, depending on how much we needed. I’m estimating at the higher end because in the summer we would have to pay someone to do the weeding and lawn care that I do. If I am honest with myself, I know that I won’t pack a lunch every day, and I’ll end up eating out more frequently.

I spend a non-trivial amount of time making sure that we don’t get ripped off — and it’s resulted in $2-3k of savings this year alone (disputing the purchase of flawed merchandise, holding credit card companies accountable for their advertised rewards, disputing false information on our insurance reports, …). I’ll lump that category into “extra fees” that we avoid by me having the time (and energy) to fight for the money.

To even consider taking full time work, I would need the salary to trump my current annual wages by $23k! Of course, there are some very real benefits of full-time work — employer match to retirement savings and health insurance, to name a few.

What do you think of these expenses — did I leave something out, or do you think this is ridiculous?

I’m earning $X now (where $X could swing +/- 10% in any given year), and I would really only consider working full time for $2X, which would more than cover the extra expenses. But is it worth it?

August 19, 2009

The Modern Way to Float

Filed under: banks,spending,Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

Decades ago, it was common to float a check. For my reader(s?) born after 1990, here are two examples:

  • I go to the grocery store and write a check for $200, even though I know I only have $150 in my bank account. I expect to receive my paycheck tomorrow, so I can count on the paycheck being deposited before the grocery store cashes my check (it used to take several days to a week).
  • Watch the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can.

With the rise of debit cards and check scanning technology, the time between writing a check and the funds being withdrawn has shrunk from a span of days and weeks to a span of seconds and minutes.

The modern way to float a check is to use a credit card.

Credit card users fall into two buckets:

  • “floaters” who use the card for its various perks (rewards, convenience, consumer protection, etc.) and pay the balance in full each month
  • – “debtors” who don’t have the money to pay the balance in full each month

When talking with “debtors,” I have sometimes had trouble explaining how I use my credit card, but now I found a good way to explain it: I use my card the same way people used to float checks. For each transaction, I used to have a grace period of 2-6 weeks to pay for the transaction. With recent legislation (sec. 163), the grace period is now 3-7 weeks!

July 8, 2009

Ask for a no

Filed under: negotiation,spending — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

A friend told me about the idea of “asking for a no,” which means asking for something you do not think you will get when you have nothing to lose. It is great practice for negotiating when the stakes actually matter.

Some people do not like negotiating because it seems manipulating or mean – but it doesn’t have to be either of those. At its best, two people negotiate to find a mutually beneficial solution. It is possible (and usually advisable) to be polite, respectful, and honest throughout a negotiation.

Recently, I “asked for a no” at The Gap. A jacket I had been eying finally came down in price from $78 to $30. I particularly liked the green jacket but noticed that the yellow and blue jackets were marked down to $25.

  • I took the green and yellow jackets to the cashier to confirm I would only pay $25 for the green jacket. She said “no,” they have different prices.
  • I asked if she could match the lower price, and she said “no.”
  • I asked if there was any other discount she could give. She paused and then sold me the green jacket for $25.

The $5 at stake is not a huge amount, and I would have bought the jacket for $30.  By asking for a lower price, I practiced staying calm in a low-stakes negotiation.

Have you “asked for a no” before? I encourage you to “ask for a no” this week and write about your experience in the comments, or email me privately.

July 1, 2009

Dollars, Cokes, and Carabiners

Filed under: spending — by moneytolive @ 5:01 pm

A friend says that as a child he thought of everything in terms of how many cokes it would cost. Instead of thinking about how much money he would earn per hour, he would think about how many cokes he could buy per hour of work. (His mom was anti-sugar.)

Another friend compares all purchases to what he could buy in rock climbing equipment. “Another beer at the bar? Nah, because I could buy a new carabiner with that money.” (I know very little about rock climbing … he probably is not buying new carabiners, but that is the only name of rock climbing equipment that I know).

I wonder how common this behavior is. I would love to get results of a survey with these questions:

  • What % of the population thinks about money in this way (or has in the past)
  • Of people who think about money in explicit, concrete terms, what is their current credit card debt
  • What was their maximum credit card debt in the past?
  • What other types of debt do they have?

My hunch is that these people have below average credit card debt.

October 14, 2008

Another way to dispute a purchase – small claims court

Filed under: spending — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

Yesterday, I wrote about disputing a purchase through a credit card company. When I old the story to a lawyer friend, she suggested that I could also use small claims court to resolve the dispute.

Here is an interesting article about taking an airline to small claims court over a “weather-related” flight delay.

To me, the effort to take someone to small claims court seems significant. I much prefer going through the credit card company, since all I had to do was fill out some paperwork.

The guy says it only took 4 hours of his time total to handle the claim, but I know it would take me longer. I would spend at least 4 hours reading about small claims court, another 2-3 hours consulting two friends who are lawyers (I would take them out for coffee to ask for the advice), 2-5 hours worrying about it the day before going to court, 1-2 hours going to the courthouse and coming back, and then 1-2 hours thinking about it afterward (that adds up to at least 10 hours).

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