Am I a puppy murderer?

Girl Ninja and I don’t own any pets. Mom and Dad Ninja, however, have always been dog lovers. In fact, at one point we had 12 greyhounds in our house (we fostered them until they could find a good home). They’ve scaled things back, however, and now only have three dogs, a boxer and two pugs. Allow me to introduce them…

While I’ve always known my parents loved their three dogs more than their three children, I never really realized just how deep that love ran. That is, until Bella (the boxer) started having knee problems (apparently her knee had completely blown out). She could no longer prance around my parents yard chasing the two smaller (and stupider) pugs. Concerned for their beloved Bella, my parents took her to the vet.

After a few consultations with two different veterinarians, Mom and Dad Ninja realized they really only had three options (listed cheapest to most expensive): put her down, amputate the bad leg, perform a knee replacement surgery.

Can ya guess which option my parents went with? You’re right, if you guessed knee replacement surgery. I don’t remember the total cost for the procedure, but it was upwards of $2,000. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!

Now I ain’t no puppy murder, but there is no freakin’ way I’m dropping that kind of coin on a pet. That’s like buying 4 iPads, or two 50″ LED TVs, or 4,000 Jack in the Box tacos.

It’s easy for me to think my parents are insane for opting for the surgery over amputation or putting her down, seeing that I… A) have no where near as much liquidity as they do and B) Bellas not my dog. I know my parents made the right choice for them, but I think my “vet” threshold would be about $500. Anything over that and the dog is going to doggy heaven, if there is such a place.

What the largest vet bill you’d be willing to pay ($500, $1,000, $10,000)? At what point does the well being of your pet go from a moral obligation (feeding, general health, etc) to an excessive financial burden? Anyone out there have tales of uber crazy animal fanatics that have dropped a small fortune on their pet?

Insert cliche Christmas post here…

I don’t want to send a wave of panic throughout the PF blogoshere, but I have some very important news to share, Christmas is 32 days away. Yes, 32 days. That means you have 31 days to buy, make, or steal some presents for those that you have to want to get gifts.

Over the coming weeks you will be bombarded with PF posts about black Friday bargains, cute Xmas craft ideas, how to budget for the big day, etc. Seeing that I don’t really keep up with the latest coupons and that I definitely suck at making things, I’ll just share a few thoughts on the holiday.

First, let’s talk budget. Say you plan to spend $500 for your Xmas gifting. If you’re on top of your game, you’d have put $41.67 in savings over the last 11 months to reach that $500 goal. But if you’re like 99% of Americans (myself included), all you’ve spent the last year doing is dreaming of apple cider and mashed potatoes, not budgeting for gifts. We knew Xmas was coming, we just failed to financially prepare for it. We have no one to blame, but ourselves.

Even though we don’t budget specifically for Xmas spending, we still plan to drop some coin. We are still trying to figure out exactly how much we think we should spend on gifts. I’m trying to convince her the dollar store is a great place to go shopping, but something tells me we’ll end up in Nordstrom or Anthropologie ;)… she has three sisters.

Girl Ninja and I both share a strong affinity for the Christmas season. It’s our favorite time of the year. I like it because it means I get to be home in Seattle with friends and family. Girl Ninja likes it because she can buy a bunch of stuff to decorate our home and because she can excuse her excessive Starbucks runs… “But Ninja, they only serve Peppermint mochas for a few weeks!” I pick and choose my battles, and when it comes to Girl Ninja and decorating and/or Starbucks, I’ve learned to shut up real quick.

I’m sure as December 25th approaches, I’ll have more thoughts to share, but for now I leave you with a few questions….

How do you plan for Xmas shopping? Do you budget throughout the year? Pull from discretionary savings? Or make everything yourself?

Do you have any holiday traditions with your family?

What’s your favorite holiday food? p.s. the answer is mashed potatoes.

Women: What is it about Christmas decorations that gets you high on life?


This article is part of the Go Banking RatesHolidays and Money” writing project, an on-going project that encourages creative writing in the PF blog community, centralized around a single broad-reaching subject.

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A shot at redemption

golf fail

Many of you know Girl Ninja and I honeymooned in Aruba. We delighted in 8 days of pure epic awesomeness. As great as the week was, there was one major thing that kept our week abroad from being perfect…. ME. Well, maybe it wasn’t so much me as it was my frugality.

In my defense, we did have a really good time. We went shopping downtown and bought ourselves really nice watches. We went to the high rise district and ate at some fabulous restaurants. And we even took a 3 hour snorkel tour in some of the clearest waters in the world.

Even though we had our share of fun, I definitely let my frugality get the best of us. Girl Ninja made multiple comments about taking a Jeep tour around the island or how fun she thought it would be to rent jet skis. I, however, am a stupid guy and just thought she was throwing ideas out there, not realizing these were things she desperately wanted to do. Marriage communication fail!

How stupid am I for dropping $4,000 on our only honeymoon, but cheapin’ out on a $100 jeep tour? Slap me sideways and call me Susan cause I ain’t pullin’ that crap again. The Ninja household will now live by this mantra when it comes to vacationing…Go big or don’t bother going!

Fortunately, I have a chance to redeem myself. Girl Ninja and I recently bought tickets to San Francisco! We’ve never been before and are excited to play tourist. Our honeymoon was all about relaxing, but San Fransizzle is all about running around until our heads explode.

I have no clue where we are staying (thinking the Hyatt Grand), no clue what we NEED to do, no clue what we SHOULD do, and no clue what we should AVOID doing. We really only know two things…

1) Our dates of travel (MLK weekend in January)

and

2) I’m not going to be such a Stingy McStingysauce this time.

I’m super excited for an opportunity to show Girl Ninja I can let my hair down and have a good time (yeah that sounded super feminine, but I don’t care). Don’t you worry though, I’ll still try and save some coin by browsing the San Fran Groupons and other local deals. I’ll be frugal before the trip, but not while we are there!

My frugal do-over would definitely be my honeymoon stinginess. What would yours be? Ever regretted your frugality? Ever passed on a super good deal cause you thought you could find it cheaper, only to end up letting the initial bargain expire? When you vacay do you go BIG?!

p.s. if you’ve been to San Fran (or live there) I’d totally appreciate any recommendations on things to do!

p.p.s. You know my friends that had that Charity Water well fund? Well, many of you stepped up to the plate and donated and guess what… they raised 100% of their target amount! Yay for water!!!! You guys/girls continually rock my face off. Thanks for helping out.

How much do you cost per day?

daily cost

If you’re like me, you know how much your household costs to operate monthly. According to the Ninja budget we are looking at roughly $3,400 in relatively fixed expenses. This works out to about $40k each year.

I’ve always looked at my expenses on a monthly or annual basis, but I thought we could change things up a little bit on this beautiful (at least beautiful here in San Deezy) Monday morning and see what our daily operating cost is.

Here’s what expenses I’m considering in my initial calculation…

Rent: $1,500/mo
Tithe $600/mo
Food: $500/mo (we like good food!)
Cell Phone: $180/mo (don’t pay this bill yet, but will begin in February)
Car Insurance: $140/mo
Gas: $200/mo
Health/Dental/Vision: $300/mo (pre-tax)
Debt payments: $0/mo
Utilities: $0/mo (our landlord pays em all)

There ya have it. $3,400 in relatively fixed expenses. Now on to the uber technical formula I used to figure out our daily cost….

daily cost equation

Boom. I gotta come up with $111/day to make sure the wife and I are taken care of. If we added all the variable expenses in to the equation (entertainment, household. clothing, etc) we’d be at about $124/day and if we get all realistic up in hurr by adding the (Roth, 401K, and taxes), we are looking at $204/day.

It’s important to remember these number are DAILY. Like 365 days in a year daily. You know why that’s important? Well, because most of us full-timers, are only getting paid for 260 days of work. That means there’s 100 days a year we cost money, but make nothing. Crazy!

I think the ultimate goal for most of us would be to maximize our daily income and minimize our fixed costs. This allows flexibility and freedom, and last time I checked, most people like freedom (no offense to those of you in communist countries).

So, reader, how much do you cost a day? What’s your daily ‘fixed’ cost (expenses you can’t really avoid or flex much)? And If you’re feeling really math-letic, what’s your ‘all in’ cost per day (taxes, savings, and anything else you spend money on)?

Lower your bills like a gangsta

lil wayne saves money
I can’t think of anything more gangster than saving a little money.  Seriously, who doesn’t want to save a little green? I sure as heck do, and that’s why I make sure my money is working hard for me. My favorite way of doing this? Shopping around, or as Snoop Dog would call it “Shop  it like it’s hot”. All it takes is a few minutes on the phone.

That’s right, it’s time to get your butt on the phone and start calling your car insurance company,  cable/internet company , cell phone provider, credit card companies, etc and play some hardball. I do it every year, and I often walk away with a better deal than I had before. Here’s a real example of a conversation I had with a former cable provide…

Me: Hi, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my cable service over the last year, but have received a pretty enticing offer from one of your competitors.

Them: And what offer is that?

Me: Basically everything you guys offer me, plus a few extra movie channels.

Them: And how much is their service expected to cost?

Me: The same price as my current plan with you guys.

Them: Well  it looks like we can offer you six months of HBO and Showtime for free.

Me: Hellz Yeah! Sign me up.

Sure, the phone call didn’t save me any money, but it sure as heck made my existing service exponentially more awesome. I encourage you to do the same. Hop on the phone with a competing car insurance company and talk to them about your current plan. I guarantee the new company will do everything they can to provide you a lower payment and win your service. A few minutes on the phone could literally save you hundreds of dollars a year. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a freak, but I definitely get some kind of sick pleasure when trying to finagle a deal. I love negotiating!!!! Let me give you another example of what a phone conversation with a competing car insurance company could look like…

You: Hi, I’ve been paying $200 a month on car insurance for the last six months, and I’m kind of sick of it. How about lowering my bill to $30/month instead? And throw in a warm apple pie while you are it.

Them: Let me see here. Well, you’re in luck. It looks like you called right in time to take part in our newest promotional offer. I’m just gonna run a few numbers real quick.

You: Sounds great, but make it quick. Oprah’s about to start.

Them: Alright sir/madam, it looks we can drop your payment from $200/month to the $30/month as requested, but unfortunately we are all out of apple pie. Would you be okay with banana cream?

Alright, maybe the last example is slightly ridiculous, but so is being a lazy a$$ and not trying to get the best deal out there. Grab your phone and make a few calls. You won’t regret it.

Here’s a list of some of the services you should try and negotiate with…

Car Insurance: Call competitors. tell them your current plan coverage and price and ask if they can beat it. If they can’t, you know you got a good deal. If they can, you just saved yourself some dough.

Cable: Again call the local competitor to see what their current price plans and promotions are. If you don’t have luck with them call your current provider and ask if they have any specials running. Pretty often they can give you access to HBO or other premium channels for a few months.

Credit Card: This is one of my favorite things to do. A few times a year, I call good ol Bank of America and ask them for a credit line increase. About 50% of the time, I get it. Why ask for the increase? Assuming I don’t increase my spending habits, having a higher credit line should help my credit score. If you currently have CC debt, it doesn’t hurt to call and see if they will lower your interest. Not too sure if the banks will budge with all the craziness in the markets, but it’s worth a shot.

Cell Phone: Call current provider and notify them you are considering a switch (even if you aren’t) and ask if they have any plans or promotions that will keep you from jumping ship.

Apartment: If you are renting (on a short term lease) hop on craigslist and see if there is another apartment similar to yours for a cheaper. I’ve moved quite a few times because I found something as good (or better) than my current pad for hundreds less. Totally worth it if you don’t mind moving.

Your assignment today is to go save yourself some money. Does anyone else out there enjoy negotiating? Do you “make the rounds” and ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck? What other services allow you the freedom to shop around?

I had no idea.

Wife Ninja is a freakin’ bed hog. Like out of control, bed hog. She takes up all of her side and at least 80% of mine. Oh and did I mention we sleep on a full size mattress? I can’t wait to get my hands on a bigger mattress. At least a queen and maybe even a king. But after a conversation with a friend, I learned that a nicer mattress may be a long way off.

Apparently a “decent” mattress costs at the cheapest $1,000, but more like $2K-$3k. Are you kidding me? Is this a sick joke? I had no clue they cost so much. Sleep is obviously a pretty important part of our lives. So it’s probably important we have a good mattress to accommodate. But can you really tell the difference between an $800 mattress and a $3,000 one? And if you can, is the price increase really worth it?

This isn’t the first time, I’ve been blindsided by the cost of growing up. I had another “Holy Crap” moment when I went ring shopping for Wife Ninja’s engagement ring. How can something so small, cost so much? It didn’t make any sense to me. But I knew I wanted to marry Girl Ninja, so ring shopping I went. And thousands upon thousands of dollars later, I ended up with this gem…

Another thing I think many of us fail to realize, is how much our cars can cost us. If you run the numbers, the results can be quite disturbing. Let’s take a look at my 2007 Scion tC. I probably put gas in it once every two weeks at $35/tank. Car insurance costs $135/month. Three oil changes per year at $25 each. Another $250 for annual registration junk. And let’s say another $200+/yr for random other maintenance fees. All said and done, my car is costing me at least $3,000 a year. And that’s with NO CAR PAYMENT. It’s ridiculous.

Just when you think you have your finances figured out, another crazy expensive purchase looms. What expenses shocked you? Was it household appliances? Bedding? Health Insurance? Something tells me my mattress, jewelry, and car experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. Help me out and tell me what else I should be looking out for 🙂

Frugal mans paradise

As I shared in an earlier blog post, I am the proud owner of a 46″ flat screen HDTV. It’s pretty much the most glorious thing I’ve ever owned and it was definitely my favorite wedding gift. But with a great TV comes great responsibility. One of those responsibilities is ensuring I’m putting that television to use. Only problem is, I’m not a huge TV guy. In fact, now that I think about it. I haven’t turned the thing on in over a week.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t figured out how to put it to work for minimal cost. I thought I’d share with you all, a few ways I try and get the best bang for my buck.

TV:

Like I mentioned, neither Mrs. Ninja or myself, are the biggest TV fans, but that doesn’t mean we don’t poke in from time to time to see what’s on. I called the local cable companies and the cheapest “decent” package I could get (with ESPN, HGTV, MTV, etc) was $60/month. Even if I wanted just the basic local channels it would still cost $15/month. So instead I spent $20 to buy an HDTV antenna. It’s awesome. I still get all the major local channels, in high definition, with absolutely no monthly cost. It’s seriously legit. Sure, I may not get the cable channels, but I bet I could find them online if I really wanted.

Movies:

I’ve known about Netflix for a real long time. In fact, Mom Ninja bought their stock a long time ago because she knew they had something good going for them. I never really felt like I needed it because I could rent at redbox for $1/day. But then Sister Ninja got me a sweet Blu-Ray DVD player that streams Netflix, Pandora, Blockbuster, etc. Since I can watch a ton of movies via Netflix streaming, I figured it is worth the $9/month cost. I signed up yesterday for a one month free trial. I hope it is as awesome as I’m thinking it will be. Any suggestions on what to add to my “Must watch list?”

Phone:

Goodbye landline and expensive cell phone plan. Hello MagicJack. This thing is legit. It plugs right in to my computer and operates like a normal phoneline. I have a cordless phone plugged in to it and can make unlimited nationwide calling! The best thing about the MagicJack is the price. The service is only $20 for the year. That’s right. For the year!!!! That’s less than $2/month for unlimited calling anywhere. The local cable companies land line plans start at $19.99/month. You’re probably thinking “I don’t need a landline, my cell phone works just fine,” but I’d be willing to bet you would be able to lower your cell phone plan minutes, which in turn would save you a ton! MagicJack isn’t the only internet phone option, but it’s the only one I’ve tried, and I like it a lot.

I’m sure these three things are nothing knew to you, but I can’t help but share how awesome they are. They truly are a frugal man’s paradise. Now if only I could figure out a way to get internet for cheaper. Perhaps steal the neighbors? Just kidding.

Are there any other services you all know about that help save ya’ll a buck? I don’t want to be missing out on some sweet deals. And I’m serious. I want to know what movies are on your “Must watch” list, so I can add them to my Netflix queue.

p.s. I was not paid by Netflix or MagicJack for this post, however, if they wanted to pay me for it, I would gladly accept contributions in the form of burritos or tacos 🙂