Money To Live

October 15, 2012

Read the Fine Print

Filed under: banks,investments,savings — by moneyconsciously @ 9:38 am

We all know we should read the fine print. But how many of us actually do read the fine print…and does it make a difference?

After reaching my savings goal, I planned to close a savings account. I wanted to use the funds, and I did not want to be charged the withdrawal fee. Since I was not planning to use the account again within the coming months, closing the entire account seemed a fair solution.

My bank assistant recommended that I simply withdraw the funds instead of closing the account, insisting — even after I expressed doubt about withdrawal fees — that I could do so without penalty.

I went home and checked the account terms and conditions. For my account situation, there was indeed a fee. If I had not read the fine print earlier, I would have followed the advice of the bank assistant and been charged this fee.

Reading the fine print ahead of time saved me money.

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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.

August 17, 2012

Introduction

Filed under: blogging,Uncategorized — by moneyconsciously @ 8:35 am

Thank you to Katy for her warm welcome! I look forward to writing on Money to Live.

Sharing with Money to Live a similar philosophy, I use money to live the way I want. One of my approaches to achieving this is to make more conscious choices: how I wish to live, and how I create and use money to support myself in my goals. I write about the practical details and bigger picture values, with some creative dots in between.

August 16, 2012

Pet-sitting and House-sitting

Filed under: home,savings,travel — by moneyconsciously @ 3:25 am

Do your friends enjoy vacation? Great! Do they have plans for taking care of their pets, garden, mail, car or home while they are away? Perhaps you can be of service…

Over a one year period, I committed to approximately half a year of pet-sitting and house-sitting. In exchange for taking excellent care of my friends’ pets and homes, I lived rent-free. Without my own home, I eliminated my home rent expenses whilst on extended travels. In experiencing different home environments and housewares, a try-before-you-buy opportunity that informs my purchasing decisions, I will save money in the future too.

My friends saved money on board for their pets (who stayed stress-free at home). They received continuous maintenance of their home, garden, car and mail. They didn’t worry about the unexpected, including fixing damage after a storm or replacing low batteries in a fire alarm.

Pet-sitting and house-sitting arrangements can be a fabulous win-win. Collectively my friends and I saved money on rent, pet board and maintenance expenses. Plus, my friends enjoyed their vacation with peace of mind.

Welcome, Anita!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 3:12 am

A dear friend of mine, Anita, is going to start writing on Money To Live. Look for her first post soon!

July 6, 2012

The second paycheck

Filed under: career,family finances — by moneytolive @ 3:34 pm
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Since having a baby, I changed the way we handle our paychecks. Before, everything went into our joint account and was then siphoned off to a savings account or used to pay bills. Now, though, my paychecks go into a separate account, at a different bank.

I keep my paycheck separate to make sure that I earn enough money to cover the costs of working – childcare, house cleaner, prepared meals, …

A few weeks ago, I talked about this with a friend. Her family was in a financial transition (big boost in income), and she decided to set up their finances the same way. Her partner’s paycheck would cover all expenses, and hers would go into a separate account.

Despite being reassured on a Friday that her job was safe, on the following Monday she was unexpectedly laid off. Amidst the unpleasant aspects of a layoff, she was very appreciative that she had already set up their day-to-day finances without depending on her income.

March 17, 2012

Constantly checking accounts

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 2:49 am

I think it’s time to revise how I handle our finances. Back when it was just me and R, I had a routine where once a week I checked our main accounts and reviewed our cash flow projects for the next few months. This was also a time to transfer money between accounts. Once a month I did a more thorough review and took a snapshot of all of our accounts (cash, credit cards, investment, etc.).

Now, though, I am checking our main accounts about five times a week. Since my income is irregular and we have new, large, recurring expenses (primarily, childcare), our accounts are a little more complicated. Throw in a major car repair, plane tickets to England, and a delayed tax refund …

Our money for childcare is kept in a separate bank account. If my projections are correct, this account will finally have a surplus by September. Then I won’t need to keep tabs on its balance as closely.

Until then (and until we get our tax refund), I am grateful to have built up an emergency fund. We can pay all of our bills on time while we wait for some cash flow bumps to smooth out.

February 13, 2012

Mortgage milestones

Filed under: debt,home,loans — by moneytolive @ 10:21 pm

Paying off a mortgage is a long slog. While we make extra principal payments each month, it is sometimes hard to get excited about our progress.

Last month, though, we reached an important milestone. Our monthly principal payment is now larger than our monthly interest payment!

As with any big goal, it is helpful to break it down to more achievable mini-goals. Any time we reduce the principal by another $10,000, that’s reason to celebrate. Last year, we got excited about our mortgage balance when it matched our non-home assets. Theoretically, if taxes and transaction fees did not exist, we could pay off our house with our other investments and retirement savings. Since paying off the mortgage is only one of our financial goals (along with saving for retirement, a new car, and a rainy day), we won’t actually do this.

February 6, 2012

Secret Savings

Filed under: family finances,savings — by moneytolive @ 8:22 pm

Some people stash money away secretly from a partner, but that’s not what I mean by secret savings. I’m talking about keeping it a secret from yourself. My mom and my husband both do it; I don’t.

As a girl, I remember my mom showing me her check register and how she rounded up every withdrawal a little bit. That way, there was always extra money in the account.

Hubby R has two secret stashes, at different locations. One of his stashes is in a CD and would cover 3 months of minimal living expenses, but it’s not allowed to be counted as part of our emergency fund. I think of it as his "Knight in shining armor fund." If our finances completely collapse (not likely), he can ride in on a white horse to save the day. His other secret stash is the "zombie attack fund." It’s about 3 weeks worth of living expenses stored in cash at a secure, alarmed location.

Despite these two accounts being "secret," I include them in our monthly net worth statement. Each month, R reminds me that these don’t count and that I’m supposed to forget about them. I laugh.

January 23, 2012

Buying airplane tickets for an infant

Filed under: babies,family finances,travel — by moneytolive @ 9:32 pm

R and I travel several times a year, primarily to visit my family and friends (his friends are all local, and his family is all overseas). R is tall, and neither of us is tiny, so airplane seats are not that comfortable. When we were expecting, I paid attention on flights. Could we fit into two seats with a baby? I decided that no, it just would not be comfortable.

We have our first two airplane trips planned for the spring — to visit my parents and to attend a wedding. Baby L will be about 5 and 6 months old for these trips, and we got him his own seat each time.

In order to be less annoyed at buying extra airplane tickets, I signed up for an Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska has good flights/times/prices on our most frequent routes (San Fran, Las Vegas, Austin) and decent leg room, relative to other airlines. Based on our spending and their promotions, I expect we’ll get 2 tickets a year for $200 out of pocket (one reward ticket, one companion ticket, and we pay an annual fee and taxes).

Using those free/cheap tickets and traveling at off-peak times to visit my parents, we can lower our travel costs with a baby.

We’re planning a trip overseas to see R’s family later in the year, and it’s tougher to shell out close to $1k for a baby’s plane ticket than a few hundred for a domestic flight. We haven’t figured out a plan yet, but one possibility is that my mom will fly with us. We’ll have three adult seats, and we’ll take turns carrying L. I’ll let you know how that goes …

I’ve been gathering travel tips from other moms, and this is one of my favorites: If the baby screams on the airplane, buy drinks for the people nearby. Hopefully we won’t have any screaming, but if we do, I think I’ll buy a round.

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