Do you upgrade?

As I type this post, I’m sitting amongst the lowest of the low. The scum of the earth. The outcasts. That’s right. I’m flying coach. Gasp!

Let’s be real, flying first class is pretty awesome. Not only do they enjoy a couple of inches of extra legroom, but they also have the luxury of having their nuts warmed (I mean the airplane peanuts your perverts). But is it worth it? Not for this ninja. First class is nice, but I’d much rather save that $50-$100 and be slightly uncomfortable for a few hours.

For me an upgrade to first class just isn’t worth it. There are, however, a few things I will almost always upgrade.

Camera:

I’m totally obsessed with photography and I’ve got to warn you, it’s an expensive hobby. I got my first digital SLR this last Christmas. I, like many others, decided to lose my dSLR virginity to the Canon Rebel. The camera comes in three different models: the XS, the XSi, and the T1i. The XS is the cheapest model at about $500 and the T1i is the most expensive at $706. Instead of being totally frugal and getting the cheapest model, I did a little research and decided the cost increase for the XSi was worth it to me. Even though it is about $100 more than the XS, it has some features I didn’t want to miss out on. Six months later, I’m still in lust with my camera and am glad I went with a slight upgrade. Here’s a picture I took of a friends baby this weekend…

Electric Toothbrush:

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. I’ve always owned the normal $0.99 toothbrushes from Target, but a few months ago I decided to “upgrade” to an electric toothbrush. Only problem was, I was too cheap to drop the $80-$100 on a Sonicare. Instead I opted for the $20 no name one. Big mistake. It sucked. The motor in it was so weak that it would stall when I’d push the bristles up against my teeth. Let’s just say, I tossed that toothbrush a few days later. I’m still too cheap to fork out the moolah for a Sonicare, but if I do venture back in to the world of electric toothbrushes, I’ll be sure to upgrade to a legitimate model.

Gas:

I don’t know if this technically qualifies as an upgrade seeing that I put regular unleaded in my car like most of you probably do. The upgrade isn’t in the type of gas I buy, but where I get it from. I’ve read some pretty interesting reports about the negative impacts “cheap” gas can have on your car. Filling up at Chevron or Shell may cost a couple bucks more than stopping at Arco, but good quality gas has a pretty significant effect on the overall efficiency and lifespan of your vehicle. I’ll gladly pay an extra $0.10/gallon if it means I’ll get better gas mileage and have less vehicle maintenance.

What are some areas of your life where you’re comfortable paying for an upgrade? Do you fly first class? Book nicer hotels? Pay for premium memberships? Buy the middle or highest grade models of a certain product?

Ungrateful Ninja…

I went out to dinner with some friends the other night. Yeah, believe it or not, I actually have friends! One of them is a pretty consistent reader/commenter here on PDITF (shout out to MattyIce). We were talking about some of my recent blog posts when he said, “Ninja, you are sooo good looking and you smell amazing”.

Okay, you caught me. He didn’t say that, but wouldn’t that have been really weird if he did?

This was our actual conversation…

Friend: One of my buddies reads your blog and he made some comments to me about your recent budget posts.

Me: Oh yeah? What did he say about them?

Friend: He said you seemed super stressed about your post-marriage budget even though you anticipate having about $2,000 in left-over income each month.

Me: Yeah. He’s right. It does stress me out a little bit.

Friend: He also said he can’t believe you seem stressed about having such a large surplus when he doesn’t even make $2,000 in a month.

Me: Hmmm. I guess I may have came across as a little ungrateful. I should probably blog about this.

Friend: Yes. You should. Because I love your blog and it is what gets me through the day. It’s the wind beneath my wings. I love you. If it were possible, I would want to bear your child.

Yup. That’s EXACTLY how our conversation went down the other night. Moral of the story mi amigos is this: I’m a crapbillion times more excited about my income than I am stressed about it.

If I have ever came across as ungrateful, unappreciative, or even snobby, then I have failed yet again at communicating my thoughts.

Just last week I wrote an article about how it is difficult to verbalize financial success, but easy to communicate financial turmoil. Well, I think this is probably why I may seem more stressed about our budget than I actually am. It’s a lot easier to say “Oh man this variable income thing kinda stresses me out” than saying “Wow, Girl Ninja and I are going to have an incredible income.” I’d feel weird proclaiming the latter statement as people may perceive that as arrogance. But ya know what? I shouldn’t be afraid. It’s time to just lay it out there and tell you how I really feel.

I’ll be 25 when I get married this summer and Girl Ninja will be 23. I expect our 2010 annual income to be approximately $85,000. Next year, 2011, we should hit right around $100K. Our income level for our age is WAAAY higher than I would have ever expected. I am totally stoked on our generous income, but I also believe it’s important to temper that excitement with reality. The reality is, our income could decrease at any moment with the loss of job, medical issues, etc.

With a generous income, a great deal of responsibility follows. How should we save for a house? How much should we contribute to retirement? How much rent is “too much”? When you have a smaller income, or a lot of debt, you don’t have the need to stress about such things. Instead your wondering “Can I afford my water bill this month?” of “Will I be able to make my car payment?”

Now obviously I’d much rather worry about retirement and down payments than putting food in my mouth or gas in my car, but an increasing income doesn’t come without its own unique issues. Transitioning from ‘frugal bachelor’ to ‘upper middle class husband’ is a pretty big change. One that I like to share here on the blog. Please forgive me, however, for focusing on the things that stress me out about the transition, when I should be writing more about the joy and gratefulness I feel.

I’ll do better. Pinky promise 🙂

Do we really need china?

Gentlemen, I have some words of wisdom to share with you: Pick and chose your battles wisely. I am no relationship expert, but I have definitely learned a few things. Particularly, when to wave the white flag and admit defeat.

Getting married is a pretty humbling experience. I am constantly reminded that life is not just about me anymore. I’m learning to be less selfish and more selfless. I am far from a”perfect” fiancé, but I do my part to love Girl Ninja as best I can. Sometimes that requires me to step outside of my comfort zone. The ability to compromise doesn’t always come easy, but it is an essential piece in any healthy relationship.

Here are a few areas were I had to learn to bite my tongue…

China

Apparently girl ninja is part Asian ’cause she has a strong affinity for china. No, not the country. The dishware. You know, the really expensive plates, bowls, and cups that you only use once a year. I’m willing to bet just about every dude out there (and probably a bunch of you women) don’t understand the concept of having extremely expensive dishes that only get used a handful of times. I’m right there with you. That said, it is extremely important to Girl Ninja that we have a set of china in our future home. Growing up she loved the days that family gathered around the formal dining room table and sat down to the fancy plate-ware (typically holidays and special occassions). To Girl Ninja, china is not just about expensive dishes. It has a much deeper meaning. China to Girl Ninja means enjoying a special meal with those that are most important to her. As silly as I think the expense may be, I can’t argue with the significance. Thus, we registered for this china set….

Our first place.

Yeah I know. I’ve blogged about it many times and I’m sure you are sick of hearing about it, but this is definitely an area where I have to learn to compromise. I’m currently paying 11% of my gross income towards rent each month. I have become so acclimated to minimal rent expenses that the idea of paying more for a place totally freaks me out. Although my cost of living is low for my income, it definitely has its downfalls. It’s not in the safest of locations. It’s pretty outdated. And it gets almost no natural light. It’s a total man cave and Girl Ninja would drop dead if she had to live here. We recently started apartment shopping and have been looking at places that are around 28% of my gross income. With the addition of Girl Ninja’s income it would really be about 21% of our household gross income. It’s nearly double the percentage I’m currently paying, but it’s still a totally reasonable number. If GN is going to feel more safe and comfortable in a place that costs a little more (but is within our budget) then you better believe I’m gonna provide for her.

Flowers

I know just about every guy out there reading this is shaking his head in agreement with me. What the heck is it about flowers that women love so much? Sure they smell nice, but so do brownies, and at least brownies taste yummy. Okay, maybe they can brighten a place up, but so can a 52″ flat screen TV. For as long as I live, I will never understand why Girl Ninja loves getting flowers as much as she does. She’s messed up in the head, but ya know what? If that’s how she feels loved, then I’m more than happy to drop $10 every now and again to make her day a little brighter. Do I like spending $10 on something that dies a week later? No. Do I like making Girl Ninja happy? Yes. Flowers it is then.

These are just a few of the areas of I’ve been learning to put Girl Ninja’s needs before mine. I’m slowly picking up on the art of compromise, but still have a long way to go. The old saying “Happy wife. Happy life” has never rang more true.

What are some areas of your life that you sacrificed for your partners benefit? Can one of you women please explain to me why you enjoy getting flowers so much? Ever seen a relationship fail due inability to compromise?

You gotta put yourself out there…

I’m a total networking whore. Something about meeting new people is exciting to me. I’ve never been a shy person, but recently I’ve been shamelessly whoring myself out to just about everyone I know.

As you’re all aware, Girl Ninja and myself are about to start apartment hunting for our first place. It’s really exciting, but also really overwhelming. Instead of trying to do things myself, I’ve taken a completely different approach. I’m telling just about everyone I know (in the San Diego area) that GN and I are looking for a place to live, and would LOVE LOVE LOVE any help in the process.

Ideally one of the rich families we know would be like “Hey, that’s interesting. My wife and I just started an adoption agency for Ninjas. We would love to put you up in our ocean front guesthouse. For free.” Sadly, life doesn’t operate around ‘ideals’. Although I may not have people begging me to live in their second home, we have had some people take interest. So much so that one of the mother’s of a kid I tutor, has dedicated the next month of her life to finding a rental for GN and myself.

This mom is totally awesome and I have gotten to know the family pretty well. She is a real estate agent in San Diego and has a buttzillion (new number I just made up) resources to make this process smooth. She has access to rental properties that only post through the realtors MLS. Everday she sends me an updated list on all the local properties she thinks we’d like. This is awesome for two reasons. 1) These rentals generally aren’t listed on Craigslist and 2) usually an agent charges you to view the MLS listings. She is totally hookin’ us up fatty and we are super thankful.

Okay, enough about that, it’s time to get on with the message: THROW YOURSELF OUT THERE. Simple enough. Right? You should take advantage of opportunities to meet people because you never know how they might be able to help you out down the road (or maybe you’ll get to help them out). You’ve heard the saying “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know”. Did you know there is a reason that saying is so popular? Because it’s true!!

“Putting yourself out there” does not only mean rubbing elbows with the right people. No. It is so much more. It’s applying for the job you’ve always wanted. Do you know the best time to look for a job? It’s when you already have one! It gives you the ability to casually browse the market (without the fear and anxiety that comes with unemployment) and only apply to jobs you legitimately want. So what if you don’t meet the minimum qualifications for the job description? What’s the worst thing they could tell you? “No.” Is that really that bad? You realize if you are only applying to jobs you would love, it only takes one “yes” to change your life?! How exciting is that?! I’m convinced that options are a good thing. You should be too.

I’m always looking for ways to better myself, especially when that means applying for dream jobs and networking with new people. I never want to become stagnant, and “putting myself out there” has definitely been a huge part of my personal successes.

So am I a rare breed, or do you share a similar passion for networking? Any introverts out there that struggle with this? What means do you take to always better yourself or your situation? I’m excited to see what you all have to say so that I can hopefully learn some new tricks 🙂

Happy Friday! Now go tell your boss you want to have a slumber party at his/her house.

Funny Money Habits

So I’m kind of weird. Scratch that. I’m really weird. Actually, I’m willing to bet you are just as weird as I am. Why am I weird you ask? Well, I’ve realized I have some awkward money habits that I thought you all might enjoy hearing about…

Tipping on a credit card.

Whenever Girl Ninja and I go out to dinner, I always tip enough to make the final bill a whole number. If the dinner bill is $23.45 I would tip $4.55 so the overall total was $28.00. Does anyone else out there do this?

Carrying Cash.

I’ve wrote about it before, but I hate keeping cash on me. I know you credit card haters will say “Studies show people spend more when they use a credit card…blah blah blah” but I’m a ninja and I’m not bound by statistics and science. If I have cash I spend it. It doesn’t hurt me at all to drop a couple benajims, probably because I’m too lazy to track my cash expenses. With my credit card account, my balance automatically syncs to Quicken and shows me exactly how much I spent at Store XYZ today, yesterday, and even last year. I hate debt, but I sure do love my credit card.

Transfering interest.

I have three savings accounts with ING. My emergency fund, a wedding fund, and an extra savings fund. I decided a while back, I will always make sure I have $10K in my E-fund just in case I lose my job…or need to buy a kidney through the black market. Each month my $10K E-fund get’s credited $9.16 in interest. Instead of letting this account slowly grow, I immediately transfer the $9.16 to my “extra savings” fund to ensure my E-fund is ALWAYS at $10,000 and not a penny more. Again, it must be something to do with nice clean whole numbers.

Organizing my money.

Like I mentioned above, I don’t like carrying cash on me, but since I do quite a bit of tutoring, I accumulate a couple hundred bucks each month. It’s not uncommon for me to walk to the bank with $436 to deposit in to my checking account. When I am at the bank and filling out the deposit slip, I have to take extra time to organize my money. I make sure all the bills are facing the same direction and that they are ordered from highest denomination on top to lowest denomination on bottom. I think deep down inside I must be insecure, because part of me desperately wants the bank teller to profess to the entire branch that I am their favorite customer since I’m so organized. Yeah, I know. I have issues.

Obsessively checking bank accounts.

I bet quite a few of you are also guilty of this. I probably look at my checking and credit card bank accounts three or four times a day. Don’t ask me why. Every time I make a purchase on my credit card, I have to check to make sure it appears in my account balance. I think I must be scared that some restaurant is going to charge me $250 for dinner instead of $25. As if that isn’t bad enough, even when I know I haven’t spent any money and I know that I’m not getting paid for another few days, I still have to check my accounts. I don’t know what my deal is, but I HAVE TO check my accounts EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Aside from my finance related quirks, I also hate seeing the battery meter drop below 100% on electronic devices. I hate starting my car, ’cause I know each time I do, that is one less start out of it’s life. And I frequently put headphones in my ears, even when I’m not listening to music.

It’s Friday, so I’m hoping you will be a little vulnerable and share some of your silly money and non-money related habits. Do you sanitize your hand a bajillion times a day? Does your money have to be placed a certain way inside your wallet or purse? Or maybe you pick up every coin you see on the ground…even super dirty pennies? Come on people, share your quirks!

Happy Friday!

I will gladly give you my student loan

Are you sick and tired of me blogging about my relationship with Girl Ninja yet? If so, don’t worry there is a $100 giveaway included with this post and if you read on you can figure out how to enter. Anyways, I wanted to take a little time today to write about how Girl Ninja and I are going to operate, financially speaking that is.

First things first. There will no longer be a “my” debt or “my” savings. Nor will there be a “her” checking account or “her” credit card. By getting married we are committing our lives to each other. Yes, that sounds cheesy, but it is true. Remember the part in traditional wedding vows “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer” well guess what ya’ll; Girl Ninja is going to be in debt for the first time in her life beginning August 8th.

No she’s not taking out student loans, buying a new car, or charging up her credit card. She’s actually doing one of the stupidest things she could do…marry me (she’s way out my league). Which means she will also be marrying my student loan. It’s not all bad though, ’cause she will also get to marry my savings account, which thankfully is quite substantial.

While my debt will still legally be solely my responsibility, we are prepared to work through the “for richer or poorer” part together. It means there is no more “mine” or “hers” but everything becomes “ours”. In the matter of a 30 minute wedding ceremony, we will transform from TWO individuals to ONE team (a pretty sexy-licious team I might add).

The days of individual checking accounts will be a thing of the past. Once we’re hitched, we plan to open up joint checkings, savings, and credit card accounts. We wont have any accounts that the other person doesn’t have full access to. Both of our paychecks will go in to OUR checking account, so it can be transferred to OUR savings account, and eventually be used for OUR expenses. Did ya see what I did there? I emphasized “our” because that’s exactly what everything will be…ours.

I personally don’t understand how some married couples (or even couples who are practically married) can separate their financial lives. There are married couples out there in which the man and woman will literally split “mutual” expenses down the middle. Excuse me married couple, Do you and your wife really need to write separate $500 checks to cover your $1,000 rent?

Why must you keep separate accounts and divvy out who pays what bills? If you made the decision to completely and transparently share your lives with one another, why should your finances not follow suit? Is it because you don’t want your spouse to see how much you racked up on your credit card this month? If that’s the case you have bigger issues in your relationship than financial ones.

  • So married couples, do you and your S.O. have joint accounts? Was the process of combining your finances frustrating at all? Anything you regret or would have done differently?
  • If you don’t combine accounts, why not? Is it so both have financial responsibilities?
  • What’s one thing about money you wish you would have discussed prior to tying the proverbial knot?

p.s. Remember that $100 giveaway I mentioned at the beginning of my post. There isn’t one. I just needed a way to keep those of you who don’t care about my relationship involved. Sorry.

I suck(ed) at life

After I graduated college, I had to face reality. The days of part-time jobs, bunk beds, and sleeping until noon were a thing of the past. It was time to figure out my life. Only problem was, I didn’t know a thing about the “real” world. So I did what I thought was most logical and went through a life coaching program.

Life Coaching. Sounds pretty cheesy right? I agree it does sound a little funny, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you want to learn how to be a good photographer, what’s one of the best ways to learn? That’s right, it’s to be coached by someone that has some mad photography skills. So why would my life be any different than a hobby? A sport? Or a blog? Truth is, it shouldn’t.

I went through a 12 month life coaching program. Every other week, I had a 30 minute phone call with my coach. (It really shouldn’t be called “coaching” though, as my coach didn’t tell me what to do, but instead helped me establish goals and aided me in achieving them.) There were seven different aspects of life that we focused on. They were: Family, Fitness, Faith, Finances, Friends, Focus, and Priorities.

We worked through each module establishing visions and action plans to ensure personal success in each category. I ended up inputting each module in to an excel spreadsheet, and now have my entire life in one single document sitting on my desktop. Below is a snapshot of my Focus module…

As you can see I wrote out my vision of what I want my life to look like, and what steps I need to take to get there. Is anything in that spreadsheet profound? No. We all probably want to have efficient finances, a wonderful marriage, and kids we adore. It’s not the vision that makes life coaching awesome. No, it’s the action plans and accountabilty that really foster growth.

I told my coach each week what I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to accomplish it. Two weeks later when we spoke again, he would ask if I was successful in meeting my goals. It was the accountability (knowing he was going to ask if I met my goals) that motivated me to complete each action plan.

There are a lot of ‘say’ers, but not a lot of ‘do’ers, when it comes to finances. Sure, you want to be rich, you want a large income, and you want to work for yourself, but what are you actually doing to make that happen? Do you have your goals written down somewhere and someone that will help hold you accountable to said goals? If not, your vision doesn’t hold much value.

Have you ever gone through any type of life coaching or mentoring program? Did you benefit from it? If not, what system do you use to foster personal growth? Anyone out there think the life coaching gig is a waste of time?

Clarification:

Life coaching was free as it was part of a ministry of my church.  My coach did it as a volunteer so he wasn’t paid at all. I would never sign up for the infomercially type life coaching programs where they charge you $300 for some CD’s and $50/hr to talk to someone about life.