You’re not me.

So I was reading the other day (Yes I do actually know how to read) and came across something profound. I’d like to share it with you now…

No one-size-fits-all recipe can guarantee a great relationship. Whether we’re talking about husband and wife, close friends, co-workers, or parent and child, every relationship is different. No two are ever exactly alike. What builds and sustains one is often of no value in another….

…..Each relationship has its own dance and drama, played out according to the unique strengths, needs, and personalities of the partners.

I think the author makes a valid point: What works for one person, might not work for another. Later in the chapter he goes on to discuss, that just because each person is different, that does not mean there are not fundamental rules in which we must all oblige. For example, don’t kill, steal from, or lie to each other. When these “ground rules” are broken, bad things happen.

Ready for the personal finance tie in? No two financial journeys are ever the same, but the ground rules apply to all. Sure there may be some disagreement in what is considered a fundamental financial principle, but here are mine…

1) Spend less than you make

2) Don’t accumulate debt (without a game plan to pay it off)

3) Have money set aside for a rainy day

If any one of these three financial principles are violated, you will almost surely face unnecessary hardships. Notice, though, that there is room for WHAT YOU WANT within each parameter. Sure you need to spend less than you make to have financial freedom, but it’s up to you how much less. Maybe it’s $50/month, $500/month, or more. You get to decide what works best for you.

Becoming financially secure is not about following a strict guideline, but more taking some basic principles and making them unique to your situation. We need to be more tolerant of our peers gameplans, unless their plans involve money, vodka, and a tiger.

I’m a pretty stubborn individual so it’s important for me to be reminded that my way is not the best way (although I will definitely try to argue that it is). What are some universal financial principles that you believe everyone must follow? Have you been stubborn, like myself, and become frustrated when people don’t do things “your way”?

Hi.

Hi. No, that is not me being polite and greeting you. It’s actually my way of rubbing in your face that I am going on vacation today…to Hawaii (HI). Pretty clever right? We fly out this evening and couldn’t be more ready. If you don’t believe me, check out this depressing picture I took yesterday while driving…

Apparently Washington didn’t get the memo that it is July, a month made for BBQs and wakeboarding…not rain jackets and umbrellas. Fortunately, the forecast for Oahu is a comfortable 80 degrees for the next week. Warm temperatures, Hawaiian food, blue water, and relaxation…YES PLEASE!

Obviously I’m pretty excited about this trip for a few reasons.

1) Girl Ninja and I were away from each other for four months. We like to think of this as our second honeymoon.

2) Girl Ninja hasn’t been to Hawaii since she was two years old.

3) I have only been to Hawaii once, in 2009, for less than 24 hours.

4) Our entire trip is going to cost less than $1,500.

Since I like to pretend this is a personal finance website, I thought we’d focus the rest of today’s post on point four, the money aspect. Here is the tentative budget for our trip…

  • Tickets: $558 total. My ticket was $458. Since we are loyal users of the Alaska Airlines credit card, we receive a $99 companion ticket each year. The companion ticket has no black out dates or restrictions. Instead of dropping another $458 on her ticket, it only set us back a hundo.
  • Parking: $80. We are paying to park at the airport since it is about 1.5 hours from where we live. It’s too far for us to ask a friend or family member to make the 3hr trip twice.
  • Lodging: $200. This was the reason we picked Hawaii. I have a friend who lives in San Diego, but spends his summers at his parents’ house in Hawaii each year (he’s a teacher). His parents are in the Philippines this summer so he has the house to himself. We will be staying with him 7 of the ten days we are there, for free. The other three days, we were able to rent an ocean front timeshare in Waikiki for $67/night. Booya for taking advantage of someone else’s crappy time share investment.
  • Food: $400. When we are staying with our friend we will cook most meals. Excited to try some authentic home cooked Hawaiian food. We will pay for the groceries, but this will obviously be cheaper than eating out every meal. Don’t get me wrong though, we will definitely try some local restaurants. We shouldn’t have a problem staying under budget in this category.
  • Entertainment $0: Mom Ninja hooked us up big time for my birthday and got us a three day all access pass to Oahu. We literally can do a bajillion different events free of charge. If we feel like renting mopeds, petting dolphins, snorkeling, going to a Luau, visiting Pearl Harbor, or a ton of other things we can… AT NO COST TO US! Thanks Mom!
  • Spending: $???: If it were up to me, I’d put the budget at about $100, but something tells me that isn’t going to go over well with the wifey. I don’t really have anything that I’m looking to buy, but I imagine GN will want to get some clothes, jewelry, or other little trinkets. We have decided that we are going to start collecting coffee mugs from each place we visit, so we will likely come back with one of those 🙂

If you were worried that I wouldn’t be blogging while on vacation, worry no more. The laptop is coming with me and I plan to pump out a few posts from the beach…while sipping on a Strawberry Pina Colada of course. Yes, I like “chick drinks”.

Where are you vacationing this summer? Do you collect anything from your travel experiences (shot glasses, shirts, etc)? Anything we should do in Oahu?

Presale Paradise

It has come a little late…but wait no longer.  Moving is BUSY, and I have a sick Ninja at home (no post from him today) so I am finally getting to sit down and share my treasures from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.  

The presale appointment for my mom, sister and me was set at 10 am.  We walked out the doors at 2:20.  It’s a little shocking to realize we spent 4 hours and 20 minutes (with a  squeezed in refuel at the Nordstrom Cafe…fav lunch place) in the store, but we left with some great finds.

I was able to get Ninja to document them…he’s a trooper even when he is sick (quite a sight to see too…he walks around the house with tissue stuck in each nostril, you learn so much when you’re married). 

This was one of my favorites.  Splurge for sure($80), but I still saved $40 from the original price.  Once I put it on, I knew I wasn’t leaving the store without it.  I’ll probably wear it with a more neutral color tank underneath…we’ll see.


(obviously wasn’t ready for this photo haha)

Two of my sisters and I got this Caslon sweater.  So cozy, and winter white cute.  Best part? Only $44 instead of $68.

I love NORTHFACE. This will be the perfect jacket for those rainy days to work. No hood, but that just means an umbrella is the perfect match. This was the most expensive purchase, but you know its going to be a long-lived item from a brand like North Face. Damage: $133 (normally $179). And I might add that Ninja loved this one because a rain coat was on my “needs” list.

Word on the street is that fur is in.  I’m not loving the white under this vest, but it’s what I can find in my tornado of a closet during moving week.  It’s by Hinge, the tag says “Designed in Seattle”….it must be my welcome home gift.  


I also got a cute tank top with buttons and lace to wear under cardigans to work- but I got tired of trying clothes on.  Ninja was in a little bit of Nordstrom shock realizing the cost of some clothing items (I stayed within budget though).  So, I decided to blow him away showing him I know how to shop a deal when I see one.  Two new pairs of shoes for under $25…TOTAL (black were $9.98 and brown were $12.98).  I know they are Target, but when they are that cheap, you just can’t say no.  Plus, they aren’t an everyday item so they won’t get worn down quickly. 


There’s a little sneak peak to my latest shopping finds.   Ninja home #2 is getting closer to completion, but we need a Hawaii trip first.   After that we’ll take you on a tour. 


Gaming the system

I wrote a mildly popular blog post a few weeks back about my disdain for extreme couponers, you know people that spend 30+ hours/week searching for, and ultimately buying, a bunch of crap they don’t need. Well, I got an email from a reader, Emily, asking for my thoughts on a popular, new way to game the system. Check it….

 I came across this article the other day. It’s essentially about gaming the mint to rack up frequent flier miles at no cost. Being in a position where I could do something like this, I get that creepy gut feeling that it’s wrong. After all, free shipping doesn’t exist, the taxpayers are footing that bill. Where would you stand?

Before I begin dishing out my opinion, I think Emily answered her own question. If you have a creepy gut feeling with anything it can only mean two things…1) Your moral compass says you are doing something naughty or 2) You have very bad diarrhea. Since science says women lack the ability to poop (at least that’s what I like to believe), it’s probably safe to assume Emily would be violating her personal “code of conduct” by taking advantage of this program.

Alright, enough about Emily, what would Ninja do?

I wouldn’t do it. Not because I think people that do are necessarily evil (although some probably are), but simply because I’m lazy. That sounds like a heck of a lot of work for a relatively minor reward. Even if I charged $5,000 worth of US Mint Coins to my Alaska Airlines Credit Card and deposited said coins in to my bank account a few days later, I would have only earned 5,000 miles. Which is only one fifth of the miles I need to earn a free flight. Thanks, but no thanks.

Have you heard of credit card arbitrage? You haven’t? It’s just another way to game the system. A few years back, when interest rates on high-yield savings accounts were between 3 and 4 percent, some people would sign up for 0% interest credit cards that allowed them to take cash advances with minimal (or no fee). They would borrow like $50,000 on this CC and put the cash directly in to their high yield savings account. They would collect interest on that $50K each month, and use some of the principal to pay down the loan over the course of the 0% offer. They could literally end up making about $120/month in interest just by borrowing money against their credit card. Obviously, credit card arbitrage is pretty pointless nowadays seeing that “high interest” accounts are only paying out like 1% interest.

So are there always going to be loopholes and ways to game the system? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean I plan on taking part in them. Instead, I’d rather focus my attention on the big picture. Things like budgeting, investing, spending, giving, saving, and singing Joan Osborne’s “What if God was one of us”. Who has time to game the system???

What other tricks or loopholes have you heard of or read about? Are extreme couponers and people taking advantage of the US Mint blurring the lines of ethical behavior? What would you do?

Why Debt Doesn’t Define You

Got a guest post for you today. Hope you enjoy it 🙂 Girl Ninja will be out with her friends tonight, so I plan to knock out a few articles  for the rest of the week. I miss you guys, in a totally creepy/stalker way.

Whenever I’m looking for a pick-me-up or some inspiration, I like to turn to anarchistic nihilist Tyler Durden.

What? I do!

Never have truer words been spoken than Tyler’s musings on money, prosperity and lifestyle in the novel (and movie) Fight Club.

Tyler says: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”

Inspiring stuff, right? No? I’m sorry, please don’t cry, I was only trying to motivate you.

What I’m trying to illustrate, via the work of novelist Chuck Phalanuick, is that money and debt do not define you as a person, and are not a reflection of your worth or potential, and here’s why.

We’ve all either heard of or used the Voice over Internet Phone (VoIP) giant Skype, right? It’s the thing all the cool kids use to chat online – think MSN messenger on steroids.

Well, did you know that Microsoft bought Skype last month for $8.5 billion? You might have read about that online, but did you also read that Microsoft was taking on Skype’s reported $686 million debt in the deal?

We can leave the politics of why MS decided to pay so much for the company up to the social media pundits and economists, but it’s interesting to note that so much potential can be seen in the company that it would be bought for such a huge amount despite its debt.

See where I’m going with this?

Okay, so this is a company, and I’m sure there MS is getting a lot for their money, but the overall point I’m making, if I’m making any point at all, is that debt does not, or should not, define you.

What matters, it seems, is your potential. What you have been is irrelevant, what you could be is key.

Of course Ninja already knows this, and not only refuses to let debt define him but treats debt with abject hostility as he launches a furious Dragon Punch into its sickly face.

As Ninja recently mused, looking at what has happened in the past isn’t necessarily a good way of predicting what might come in the future. Why am I mentioning that post? Well, simply put, just because you have been a debtor in the past, you shouldn’t then define yourself as a debtor for the future.

Anyone who either; has a web connection or has spent any time in an educational institution beyond the age of 16 will likely have heard of the psychological idea of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. Its premise is that the belief of a perceived truth about your behaviour will directly perpetuate that behaviour.

Apologies for the psychology 101 – in a nutshell, if you believe yourself to be a naughty boy, you’ll live up to that persona with bad behaviour.

So, if you consider yourself to be a debtor because you’ve struggled with credit cards loans in the past?

Well, you get the point, right?

Happy YesterBirthday to me!

Yesterday I turned 26. I partied hard. And did not write a blog post. Here is an old one. Love you.

Yup, that’s right. I knowingly throw away $5 a month in installment fees. I pay my car insurance with my credit card, and every time I do, I get hit with the stupid installment fee. The fee is lame and I have options to avoid paying it, but I don’t. I know, WTF?!

Here are three ways I can eliminate or reduce paying these installment fees.

1) Pay the balance in full on my credit card. This method means I pay the remaining $573 balance today, get dinged with one more $5 installment fee for using my credit card, and then not have to pay again until my policy renews.

2) Make a few larger than minimum payments. My rate is $119 a month so I could make two $290 payments so I don’t have such a large chunk taken out of my savings at one time. It would reduce the overall amount installment fees that I paid over the course of a year.

3) Set up an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) through my checking account. It’s a really cool idea. My insurance company will pull the $119 from my checking account each month without me having to do anything. You basically give permission for them to access your account and withdraw the payment. There are no installment fees because they are pretty much guaranteed their money and they don’t get a two percent fee from the credit card companies.

The third option is clearly the smartest financially speaking. It would save me $60 a year and allow me to keep a maximum amount of cash on hand, since I wouldn’t have to pay the balance in full. But, I’m really weird because I hate EFTs. I only use them for my student loan payments (because it lowers my overall interest rate). I just feel uneasy about allowing people access to my checking account. There is security in knowing I make the payment when I want and not having to trust the electronic gods with my payment.

This is definitely PERSONAL finance, so I’m trying to weigh how much I want to be personal with how much I want to be finance. I will probably end up setting up the EFT, even though it’s not my preferred payment method. In this dual, finances trump personal preference. Does anyone have any EFT horror stories? Is $60 an okay amount of money to “throw away” if it calms my nerves a little bit? Blah, I guess I should be happy that a $5 installment fee is my biggest financial concern right now.

Paying to Work

I love what I do – but it is kind of a love-hate relationship with teaching.  I just finished my first year as a contracted teacher and it was a rollercoaster.  There are some things about my work that some people just don’t understand…Ninja especially.

My job costs money.  Like really, lots of it.  The costs are not ALWAYS necessary, but definitely worth each penny.  It’s a job of many titles when you teach kindergarten.  You are nanny, custodian, counselor, mommy, interior classroom designer, researcher, and of course, teacher.  I found that spending money on certain things helped with my organization, shortened certain tasks, and just made things easier.  Unfortunately, these things cost money.

In my eyes, the benefits outweigh the cost.  Ninja, on the other hand didn’t (and still doesn’t) always understand how a job can actually cost us money.  Simple things like a headphones for the computers, a book stand for my library, or even a GLADE scent plug-in made HUGE differences. Each purchase either solved a problem or made me more efficient.  Dividing my list of things to buy into “have to haves” and “wishes” and knocking out small things one at a time is our perfect compromise.

Now, starting a new school year…after a 1,200 mile move mind you…I’m on the hunt for filling my new classroom and making it ready for the 20 little crazys I will get to meet soon. Craigseasy, Pinterest, eBay, and Sunday paper ads are my new addictions.  Bookcases, rugs, books, folders, pencil boxes, bulletin boards, chart stands…the list goes ON and ON and ON.  BUT, being married to a budget nazi, I have found a need to compromise.  There are things that I want, but understand how backwards it is to pay out my pocket for my job and therefore I carefully pick out things that are worth paying for and then find them on sale.

As I’m reminded everyday, communication and compromise are the ingredients for a successful marriage.

Does your job cost you money? How much would you be willing to pay for work?  Am I crazy for doing what I do? How do you decide what to buy and what to keep wishing for?