Do you need spending goals to save?

Many public finance bloggers talk about the importance of goal setting when you’re trying to get out of debt and start saving.  They suggest putting a picture of Tahiti or the house you’re going to buy on your fridge.  If you don’t have any goals, then you must manufacture one so that you can strive for it as you eat your meal of rice and beans.

Sure, goal-setting can help you be more disciplined in your saving/spending… but to what purpose?  If you have to manufacture a goal does that make scrimping a better use of your money than not having that goal and just spending the excess?

The ability to buy fancy cheese every week at the grocery store is not the kind of thing that usually comes as a set goal.  But if you don’t have some pie-in-the-sky goal, maybe you’ll feel less guilty about doing it!

Tied with this is what to do with your extra money once the debt is paid off and you’re saving at a nice clip for retirement.  “Savings goals” become “spending goals” if your saving is only motivated by the things that you can buy.  Sure, you should loosen up your lifestyle a bit until it’s comfortable, but there’s no reason to look for places to spend your money. Eventually a reason to spend it will come to you on its own unbidden. Having a lot of money saved up can provide freedom.

If you get a windfall, don’t think, “let me find something to spend this on.”  Either you’ve got a list of things you need/want to buy or you can stick it in savings, because something you need/want to buy more than whatever you think up now will come later and you will be prepared.

Our first two years with real jobs (but used to living on a tiny fraction of the salary in an expensive city), DH and I had this discussion– what should we do with the extra money? Save or find some way to spend it? Two years later a very good, very expensive, reason found us and we were very glad to have that extra money saved. We were able to do something wonderful we would have been unable to do otherwise.

Now, that isn’t to say you should keep washing out baggies etc. if you’re putting away 100K/year, unless you *want* to wash out baggies. Just that finding spending goals isn’t necessarily the way to go. Find a standard of living you’re happy with and don’t look for things to purchase. Save what’s leftover.

Do you need goals to save?  Alternatively, are you like Jacq and FGA and need spending goals in order to lifestyle inflate?


Link Love

Hilarious post on the wedding cake surcharge by well heeled blog.  Also watch the video clip.

Tenured Radical with her take on the Penn State horribleness.

Morning sickness at work?  What to do?

cuscus!  from zooborns.

prof cero brings us a writing match

I can see why people lose a lot of weight on this diet.  I was totally with them until they said no milk products… also the no legumes is weird.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the Grumpies: Fame

First Generation American:

You say you want to be famous on the internet, but would you really like fame in real life? Why or why not? Ie..if your blog hit the big time, would you want to be outed?

#1:  I am famous… not a household name among normal folks, but people in my career area know who I am.  Which is kind of disconcerting.  But it is nice being respected in the field– I do good work and I’m getting a little credit for it.  Or at least getting credit for sticking around (which is probably 80%, right?).  If our blog hit the big time enough to be outed I would totally disavow it.  #2 wrote the whole thing.  Famous on the internet is fun when it’s anonymous, because it’s fame you can turn on and off.  Stalkers, not so much with the fun.

#2:  probably not, because then I couldn’t bitch about work

Would you like fame in real life?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 18 Comments »


  • Dear job market candidates:  I neither want to see your cleavage nor your chest hair.  This is not LA, and we are not in the entertainment industry.  (Also:  we are not a “creative” discipline known for flamboyant apparel.) [Also:  Dear trick or treater, if you have cleavage or a beard, just stop.]
  • Dear students:  The person you are copying from may not know what he is doing either.
  • Dear student, when you are the second to last person to turn in your exam, do not ask, “Are you going to have these graded and grades posted by tonight?”
  • Dear student,  It is not office hours.  I do not care if you cannot find Dr. MaleFullProfessor.  I am not helping you with your homework for his class.  I suggest trying his email address.  Even if I were willing to help you, I would still not be able to read his mind for you.
  • Dear student, Please do not use acronyms if I don’t know what they are.  Also: I really hope this ALEC of which you speak is not the one I get when I Google ALEC.  (Update:  It wasn’t.  Also turned out not to actually be ALEC, but another acronym ze had misspelled as ALEC.)
  • Dear random parent,  Putting “(this is not a chain letter)” in your subject header does not, in fact, make it not a chain letter.
  • Dear colleague, if my door is shut then no, I don’t want to chat.
  • Dear ants, Stay out of my office.  I’m serious!
  • Dear colleague who is my height,  Do not complain at me that you are 115 pounds.  Even if you used to be 95 pounds.  This is not Los Angeles and I am both a healthy weight and tens of pounds heavier than you are.
  • Dear student, Do not email me to tell me you bought a previous edition of the textbook and the homework problems do not match up.  That is not my problem.  And why are you asking me what to do?  I already told you what to do, buy the textbook.  Or use the one on reserve at the library.  Or work with a friend who wasn’t so cheap.
  • Dear other student, Do not email me to tell me you did not buy a textbook and are thus unable to do the weekly assigned reading.  Choices = consequences.  Also:  see above.

What should we call our regular readers?

What should we call our regular readers?

Zuska calls hers Zuskateers…


#2 says:  THE GRUMPIES!

#1:  We’re the grumpies… can our readers also be grumpies?  Or maybe just grumps…

Yeah, while we’re at it, what should our official nickname be?  We like the Grumpies, but we’ve noticed other nicknames popping up around the interblogs.  The Grumpy Gals.  The Grumpy Girls… What say you?

Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post

We are not against homeschooling.

A lot of people who don’t do it are.  Their arguments include:

Lack of social interaction.  Not being with same-aged peers.  Home schoolers can’t possibly get all the academics they need.  Lack of extra-curriculars.  OMG, what about the sports.

These are pretty well straw arguments.

Our major point is that you should compare homeschooling to the alternative… and well, the alternative often sucks big-time.

Little social interaction beats mandatory interaction with Mean Girls, and if one wants voluntary social interaction there are about a million organized after school activities one can do, even if there isn’t an organized home schooling situation in your area.  And who needs same-aged peers when you’re out-of-synch?

Home schoolers tend to do better on average on the SATs and motivated ones can learn faster with an individualized curriculum when they don’t have to wait for their peers or spend all that time transitioning. All that wasted time being bored stiff counting ceiling tiles and the teacher won’t let you read under your desk.

Extra-curriculars can be paid for, as can sports.  If one cares about sports.  Which one doesn’t necessarily.  But public school often cares about nothing else, that and cheerleading.

(Aside:  We are a little creeped out by people who homeschool because they belong to a religious cult and don’t want to introduce evil influences like Harry Potter, but if they weren’t homeschooling they’d be sending their kids to cult schools.  Our little area of the Bible belt even has part-time schooling options for such folks.  Sure, they cost money, but in theory if the money is going towards the church anyway maybe it can count as part of their tithe.  Or some kind of financial aid thing can be worked out for tithing members.  Such folk are not the only people who homeschool, and we’d be creeped out by them even if they didn’t homeschool.  At least if they’re home schooling they’re not trying to ban books from the school library.)

We sure wish we had been home-schooled.  At least through middle school.  Especially middle school.  But elementary school too with only a few exceptions for stellar teachers (and those exceptions for only one of us).  But we weren’t.  And the therapy still hasn’t fixed all the trauma.

So we’re not homeschooling, and we hope we never have to (both because we work full-time and because one of us doesn’t have kids).  But more power to the folks who do.  Especially in this no-child-left-behind everyone-gets-a-trophy environment.  Especially if your kid is different and different is not what your school system is looking for.  Help your kids learn how to think and not have a sense of entitlement, and we’ll be happier when we get them in our classes.

What do you folks think?  Home schooling yea or nay?  Be respectful!  Your answers will be graded for critical thinking and grammar.  (Kidding!  We won’t grade your answers– we will just provide our usual thought-provoking probing questions to increase rather than cut-off conversation.  But still, be respectful.)

p.s.  This list is interesting.

p.p.s.  Confidential to PZ Meyer.  By not trying to fix your local school system you are also just as bad as those anti-vaxers.  In fact, you’re worse than the home schoolers you decry who pull their kids out of dangerous or failing districts because you should have all that extra time to join the school board etc. because you don’t have any K-12 kids to take care of.  Also, you should be donating money to the district to atone for not having (more) kids, at least the amount that they’re not getting in federal funding.  How dare you be so selfish.  We will be ranting this in full at a later date (title:  Stupid “You should be doing more” arguments from people who aren’t doing anything) .  [Update:  In case it isn’t clear, this confidential is sarcasm– we think property taxes are enough mandatory supporting of public schools for *everybody*, with or without children.  If you want to do more, great, but there’s a reason we have taxes.  Maybe those taxes should be higher or the federal contribution should be higher to poorer districts, but that’s an issue to take up politically, not on the backs of individual children.]

Consolidated debt advice

I seem to type this same info over and over again on blogs and forums, so here’s a consolidated post.  It generally addresses a family with children still living at home.

There are things you can do to get out of debt without declaring bankruptcy.  It will still be a long hard slog out of debt, but you’re not trapped and you’re not alone.  A good place to start is the website getrichslowly .  It is FULL of information on debt, frugal living, different options etc.  The commenters are also, for the most part, stellar, and many of them have helpful and interesting blogs themselves.  And you, too, may find it useful to blog about your debt once you set on a repayment plan, or if you need help getting started.  There’s a huge community of experienced personal finance bloggers willing to help and encourage, whatever your problems are.

Depending on how you got into debt and what your personality type is, there are different books that could help.  Check these out from the library!

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is worth a read, even if that isn’t your debt personality.  But his method is pretty foolproof and works well for people who have lost hope.

Elizabeth Warren’s book All Your Worth has a simple heuristic that can help you if your expenses are out of whack.

David Bach’s books, either Smart Couples Finish Rich or Smart Women Finish Rich, are good if you work much better on not thinking about your spending.

I don’t recommend Suze Orman’s methods (more recently she’s aligned with Dave Ramsey, but her earlier stuff encourages credit card debt), but her discussion of emotions and money in her 9 Steps book is fantastic and very helpful if part of the reason for the problem is negative emotions (possibly family influenced) about money.

Your Money or Your Life (by Dominguez and Robin) is a secondary book you should read no matter what your situation.  It will put all this money stuff into perspective, even if it isn’t focused on debt repayment.

The FIRST thing you should do today is call up all your CC companies and ask for a lower interest rate.  Call up your other companies if you have them– cell, phone, cable etc. and ask for a discount.  Call up your insurance companies and ask for a discount.  My husband did a round of calls recently and knocked $500 off insurance costs with no cut in service, just by asking.

Once you’ve been in a rental for a year, you can ask for lower rent so long as you have been paying on time steadily.  Or if you don’t want to do that, you can ask for no increase in rent if they try to raise it.  Good tenants are hard to find.

A lot of people get into debt, and a lot of people get out of it once they decide that’s what they’re going to do.  Yes, bankruptcy might be the best option in some cases, but there are many things to try before getting to that point.  You don’t want to be in the situation where you declare bankruptcy for something you could have worked your way out of, and then not have that protection later if you get hit with 6 or 7 figure medical bills.  (That happened to a relative of ours.)

There’s hope!  I don’t know what your individual situation is, but I know that you can get help.  You can get out of debt.  You do not have to stay trapped!