One week of spending with #1

Inspired by Yuppie Millenial’s post.  [link updated to refinery 29]

Grocery shopping: $176.56
Cream sodas and donuts for the kids (we went because I wanted a donut, but when I got there they were out of the kind I like so I didn’t get anything): $10.50
DH ordered a replacement door handle for my car since he broke one at the donut shop: $12.97
By dinner time I was really starting to feel under the weather, so DH picked up ramen from the new from-scratch ramen place in town (they make their own noodles! no msg! so good): $39.80

DH decided to try a new Mexican place with the kids. It was meh. (I stayed home and slept.): $34.06

DC1’s after school care for the next month (paid early via credit card): $115
DH ordered replacement earphones for himself out of his allowance: $31.88

DH put gas in the car: $15.55
DH also bought a ton of stuff for work that he’s getting reimbursed for, so I’m not going to count it. Our garage is gradually turning into a workshop. But that’s a trade-off for telecommuting.

DH decided to get burgers for lunch and brought one to my office: $20.30
Replacement booster seat for the carseat that was in the accident (DC2 is big enough for this particular booster and refused the super expensive convertible one that I wanted to buy because zie didn’t like the cowmooflage, thus forcing me to look at other brands and saving us ~200): $53.01

No spending

Paid violin teacher online (usually this is $80, but she’s taking a week off): $60

So is this a typical week?  Hard to say.  Usually we eat out as a family 2x/week and DH goes out for coffee or for lunch in order to get out of the house during the week.  Usually he doesn’t bring me any and pays for it out of his allowance.  Most weeks we spend ~$200 for groceries, but some weeks we spend more because we go into the city or we skip entirely because we’re too busy or need to eat the pantry down some.  Also this misses most of our major first of the month expenses like daycare, mortgage, and so on, though I guess I did pay for after school and violin a bit early.

Does anything surprise me?  I guess how many small purchases got made?  DH tends to buy things right away when he thinks we need them, but I tend to buy things in lumps.  His frequent buying of small things is definitely a function of having amazon prime.

But an interesting snapshot.

Have you ever tracked your spending?  Why or why not?  How in detail did you go?  Did you learn anything?

Humblebrag: My monthly retirement savings is equal to my monthly take-home

That’s right, folks, with my retirement accounts maxed out, I am saving 50% of my net income (after taxes, health insurance, parking etc.)

Of course, this would be a lot more impressive if we weren’t spending the bulk of DH’s monthly income… sure, we’re maxing out his retirement too but he’s only got the one account and it doesn’t have the best match in the world.  There was  time when we were saving a much larger percent of our joint income, but now we make more and spend a lot more.

Also mind-blowing:  If I made more money, then I would be taking home more than I could save for retirement.  Because retirement is maxed out.  (I wonder if this means I should turn it all to Roth instead of Traditional so I can get those last drippings of retirement savings even if it means my taxes this year go up… a difficult decision problem.)

But still, when I got my first paycheck stub for the year (I *heart* getting paid!) I thought that was a pretty neat thing– once you include the employer match, I’m putting away almost exactly what is going into my savings account.

I love money so much.  It provides so much security.  So much opportunity and possibility.  You can spend it too, but my favorite thing about it is that I no longer have to worry so much about most things.  If DH loses his job or I get sick of mine, we’ll be fine, at least for a while.  We can’t retire and continue to live the life to which we’ve become accustomed, but we could take a chance that required us to stop saving for retirement for a while.  We still can’t buy a house in Paradise, but we could rent one, at least for a while.

This message brought to you by the first paycheck of the school year (and the first full paycheck in over a year!).  Being paid is so much more awesome than not being paid!

Do you like getting paid?  Do you have any humble-brags about money you’d like to share?

In which we do not have to buy a new car (yet)

So I don’t know if you remember, but when we got back from Paradise this summer we had some cash moneys left that we hadn’t spent.  I’d been worried that I was going to need to spend it on a new car in case my 2005 Hyundai Accent hadn’t taken well to storage.   My sweet little Accent was doing well enough that instead I paid $1K+ to fix the cosmetic problems that I caused when trying to park the car on 2 hours of sleep right before leaving for paradise.  It’s currently having some problems starting right off, but I assume that we just need to replace the spark plugs or some kind of cable and it will be fine.

Because we didn’t think we’d need to replace my car any time soon, we put the $30K we’d been saving into the stock market.  It is now worth less than 30K as of this writing.  (Oops!  Probably should have waited until October, oh well.)

A couple weeks after doing that and well before I got my first paycheck for the school year, DH got rear-ended at a stop sign.  In his lovely 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.  He and the kids are fine, but the car could no longer close the trunk.

The other driver was at fault but apparently that doesn’t really matter, at least not in the short term.  (Liberty Mutual says they will seek compensation from the other company, but they have to pay out first, so it may happen.)  So we owe a $1K deductible.  The repairs were initially set at ~$2500, but after the take-down of the car (which took a week and a half) they found another $850 or so in additional needed repairs for the frame, which put the total cost of body shop repairs at just under what the insurance company would declare the car totaled at.  I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.  Then another week and a half to do the repairs.

So… we’re not going to buy a new car.  DH decided he wanted a Prius (~25K walk-away price).  I figured if we put off the actual Prius buying until October we could pay cash by using my entire October paycheck plus most of our emergency fund.  Or maybe we could float it on credit cards earlier since the next payment wouldn’t actually be due until after I got paid.  But now we don’t have to do that.  Whew.

That’s our story.  I kind of like driving our 10/11 year old cars.  I’m not really big on change.  I mean, some of it is the expense, but a lot of it is me being kind of attached to our current cars so long as they’re not giving us too much trouble.  But we will probably have to replace one or the other of these cars at some point in the not too distant future.  I just always thought it would be my Accent first.  I mean, it has a tape deck in it(!)  (The Honda at least has a cd player…)

How did you decide it was time to get a new car?

Using children as labor

I had a Monday deadline.  What with one thing and another, my (new) RAs didn’t finish or didn’t correctly finish turning my color figures into consistent black and white figures in Excel before the weekend.

Since I hadn’t actually finished writing the paper yet at that point I wasn’t going to have time to do it myself.  So I thought… I bet this is something DC1 could do.

I asked DC1 if zie was interested in learning excel and fixing up some graphs for me and said I would pay hir, though I didn’t yet know how much.  Zie said sure.

So DH showed DC1 how and we decided the exact shades and dottings and markers that we liked, and DC1 finished over the weekend in less time than I had expected (~3 hours total) and did a great job.  Zie had really nice attention to detail, something I haven’t had in an RA for several years.

My mom never let me help with her rote grading or other work activities, even when it was mindless stuff I could easily do.  I did do some data entry and cataloguing for my father for various of his self-employment ventures.  It is legal to employ a child in a family business.  Is my research a family business?  This particular deadline comes with a check and I do have my own EIN.  If I don’t have to do it, is it a hobby?  If it is legal, is it ethical?

I salivate at the thought of my brilliant, careful DCs running Stata code for me.  We’re not there yet, but man, that would be awesome.  I know economist children of famous economists who grew up doing RA work for their parents and other economists for cash, and they seem to think they picked up useful skills, especially when that first non-economics major didn’t work out.  A person who can code can make a tidy sum.

Did you ever help your parents out with their work?  If you have children, have they helped out with your work?

Money, Love, and Food

This is a repost from 2010 back when we had great blog posts but few readers to appreciate them!  Feel free to comment as if it’s new since there weren’t many comments to begin with.

Thought provoking post at GRS, for anyone with children or who grew up with parents.

To sum, a woman grew up with a father who told her they were wealthy but would not spend or let her spend on things.  Now she feels guilty whenever she does spend, despite having a healthy (100K) emergency fund in place.

The comments contain a lot of conflicting arguments about how we’re destroying our kids.  It seems like parents can’t win.

The things her father said to her sounded a lot like the things my father said to me.  I had many of the same experiences growing up.   Yet I did not take away the same lessons and overall I am very happy with my relationship with money.  Sure I felt guilty spending on luxuries when we had no money and we were trying to pay off DH’s college debt, but once we got into a comfortable place, I got comfortable with spending on things I could afford.  Take care of myself and my family first, then spend on luxuries without unhappiness.

Over the past couple of days my mind has been grappling with the question about what’s the difference between my situation and hers.  At first I thought it might be the autonomy I was allowed with my own small allowance (nobody made me save it– though I did learn to save on my own for larger items).  But I don’t think that was it.   It also isn’t talking about money as a family or not talking about it.  Or knowing the parent’s financial situation or not knowing the parent’s financial situation.  It definitely isn’t being denied an ice cream cone out or getting every wish granted.

The real problem is when we associate tools with love. The poster and most of the commenters are taking for granted that how money is spent is a sign of where love lies.  That isn’t the case.  Money is just a tool.  After basic needs are met, you can spend nothing or spend a ton aligned with your family values about what is important, but that is not love.  The child in the post perceived the soda or ice cream as lack of love.  As a child I perceived it as not wanting to spend money on an item that my father did not value.  A commenter talked about how he felt guilty when told that they couldn’t go on a vacation because they were saving for his college.  As a child I saw that as information that my family valued education over trips to Disney World (not that we didn’t travel– we went on countless road trips, but generally on the cheap and often to visit family) and that my future was important enough to delay gratification for (and corporations are really good at getting people to spend money).

There’s a reason I’ve never understood the women who want their husbands to buy them expensive jewelry to prove their love or to apologize for an argument, especially at the expense of quality time as a family or true financial security.

In my family, we were also encouraged to ask questions and test limits.  I think my father was proud when we made a counter-argument about how we were willing to pay the additional money to get a cold drink *now* or that the ice cream in the small pint is better quality than the ice cream in the large tub and we don’t need a large tub’s worth anyway.   It was most important to him that we understand why and how we were spending our money– not to be skin-flints but to truly understand frugality and value.   For my own parenting, I think we don’t have to worry about the money messages we’re sending if we talk them out, encourage communication and even disagreement, and let our children know if we’re worried they’re taking the wrong message. It’s like teaching undergrads, if you encourage students to ask questions in a safe environment, teacher mistakes can become valuable teaching moments rather than a disaster. They can lead to more rather than less learning.

How does this juxtapose with Donna Freedman’s wonderfully sweet column on material gifts from her mother?  It’s the gesture, not the item.  But the gesture need not be a thing at all, and it need not involve money at all.  It really is the thought that counts.  Maybe it’s ok to think of buying a soda as an act of love (though it’s an odd thing for most Americans where soda flows more freely than water), but it is never ok to think of the lack of buying it as a withdrawal of love.  There are many ways to show love, and a homemade toaster cozy or a timer that brought order to a mother’s life are examples of things where the thought is much more important than the money spent.

For me this connection is more obvious with food– emotional eating.  Culturally this is a big problem for us… chocolate chip cookies do cheer someone up when they’re down.  I love it when my husband bakes me a batch.  It reminds me of vacations with my late grandmother or brownies from my mom.  But it is important to separate the thoughtfulness of making the cookie from the cookie itself.    And maybe the few extra pounds is worth it for immediate comfort.  It’s when that emotional food connection becomes a problem, or that emotional money connection becomes a problem that we really need to remember that love is love and money is a tool and food is something to eat.

Do you intertwine love with money or with food?  Do you have healthy or unhealthy associations with money and/or food?

Ask the grumpies: PF blogs?

Rosa asks:

Are there any PF blogs, not on your blogroll, that you recommend?

As you note, we read the ones on our blogroll.  From miser-mom, one of us reads Planting Our Pennies.  From Donna Freedman I’ll often click on Ipickuppennies.

Feral homemaking doesn’t update anymore, but her blogroll is pretty active, so sometimes it’s worth clicking on that.  Most of the stuff on her blogroll is about living on a lot less, which really isn’t our thing these days.  Standouts include Non-consumer advocate and the frugal girl, which is kind of the opposite of non-consumer advocate in that it often has sponsored posts.  I find I really can’t read a lot of the other blogs like I used to because I feel guilty for having so much when some people have so little.

I used to read a bunch of stuff off of femme frugality‘s blogroll, but she got rid of the blogroll so I only rarely catch up on savespendsplurge or budgetandthebeach and similar well-heeled formerly 20-something bloggers.  If she still had the blogroll I would probably read more of their posts when the titles were interesting.

Other regular reads include:

A Gai Shan Life, but she’s not solely PF.

nzmuse, similar to a gai shan life in terms of not being solely pf

Occasional reads include:

Afford Anything – she posts about once a month and her posts are really interesting– usually she’s only talking about real estate investing which I have less than zero interest in (like, you would have to pay me a ton to get me to do real estate investing), but despite that, I still find it fascinating.

Leighpf – every post that Leigh does is a gem, but unfortunately for us she’s been posting *less* than once a month.  We are grateful that she still comments on other people’s blogs!  I’d say she’s the one PF blogger that I still learn things from.  I would be interested in knowing what PF blogs *she* finds useful.  (Note:  sometimes she points out good posts on her twitter feed.)

a windy city gal sometimes posts about finances

solitary diner sometimes posts about finances

stacking pennies updates once or twice a month

retirebyforty  doesn’t really have anything for me, but I’m vaguely interested in Joe’s financial life

club thrifty  Their posts are mostly PF 101 or travel hacks, so I only stop by occasionally these days.

evolving pf  Only posts about once a month now and mostly only life updates.

Financial Sam –  I suspect that many of his posts are just trolling, but occasionally I’ll stop by out of morbid curiosity.

yuppiemillennial —  She posts somewhat sporadically or I’d read her more regularly instead of waiting for her to comment here.  I did read her engineering PF blog regularly but she took it down.

I would read more formerly oilandgarlic, formerly etc.   But either she’s on a hiatus or she’s moved to another blog that I haven’t figure out yet!

Blogs I don’t read often but (I think) are still around:

There are a bunch of bloggers who used to comment on our blog but no longer do.  Whenever I stop by out of curiosity, I notice that their posts tend to be PF 101 stuff, so there’s not much incentive to stop by regularly.  People who are just starting (probably not Rosa) would probably find them more useful.  These include folks like squirrelers, budgeting the fun stuff, step away from the mall, retire by 40, little house, etc.  (For all I know some of these may have been sold.)

From time to time I’ll look at frugalwoods, but I dunno, before they moved I started to find the blog to be pretty repetitive and after they moved it became less interesting.  When the headline on Mr. Money Moustache is interesting, I’ll read that off Miser mom’s blog roll.

So I really don’t have anything new for you!  I bet there’s not a single name up there that you don’t recognize.

But maybe our readers have suggestions?


I just switched our gas bill to auto-payment.  I’d let our email go for a while and when I finally got around to looking at it, I saw that our gas bill is due in a couple of days.  The gas bill is paid by credit card for no additional charge so I figured, why not just auto-pay it.

Usually I like to keep our energy bills paid manually even if I pay them via credit card online because I like to keep an eye on our energy and water consumption and to make sure nothing weird is going on.  Our regular utilities that cost the same every month (internet, netflix, etc.) no matter what I’ve been happy to let automatically charge the credit card bill.

But lately I just haven’t had as much time or attention.  So… hopefully I’ll notice any unusual gas bills when I go over the credit card statement.

I’ll still manually pay bills that come from our bank account or that charge extra for credit card billing.  But who knows, maybe I will relax that in the future.  We’ll see.

How do you decide which bills to automate and which to pay manually?