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Archive for September, 2007

This weekend I’ve spent almost $200:

$100 – car repairs
$30 – prescription
$25 – massage
$25 – gas
$12 – food

For some reason, on the weekend following pay day I always feel less bad about spending a bit more. Besides, my expenditures this weekend were necessities: car repairs, prescription, the massage (hey, I needed it!), gas (gotta drive), and food (gotta eat.. right?). 😉

In other news, September ended uneventfully for the most part… but I think I can safely say that my net worth is in positive territory. With $14,000+ in retirement savings & $6,400 in emergency fund, my assets have finally surpassed the $19,000 student loan. Non-zero net worth? Feels pretty good.

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Money, honey

The blogosphere is a buzz with this (relatively) new New York Times article on men, women, expectations, dating, and money. Or, most specifically, the expectations that higher-paid women have about dating men who earn less than they do.

I don’t know if I have anything good to add on to the discussion (see here & here).

All I have to say is, I never want to fight about money with someone I love. I think it can bring out the worst in us, dragging out issues that might have little to do with money itself but everything that money has come to represent – power, success, expectations, worthiness.

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Monthly fixed expenses

1. rent
2. auto insurance
3. high-speed internet
4. health insurance
5. student loan repayment (to start in December 2007)

Basically… that’s it. No cable. No subscriptions. No car payment. I don’t have a cell phone payment because I’m still on a family plan (thanks Mom & Dad).

My fixed expenses as a percentage of income is actually very manageable, and might even be called low by some standards. I realized something… I LOVE having low fixed expenses. I love not having to write a $300 check for my car every month. I love knowing that my student loan repayment is only $160 a month. I love having a rent payment that is significantly lower than the 25% of gross rule-of-thumb.

I feel as if I’ve discovered a secret. But of course, it’s only common sense that the lower my fixed expenses, the higher discretionary income I would have to spend (or save). I don’t really feel pressured or stressed about money – at least, any pressure that I DO have is related to future concerns, not day-to-day cash flow.

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Not well enough, is what I concluded after I read this article from the NY Magazine.

When I ordered food last night, I gave the delivery man $15 for a $13 tab. But it probably wouldn’t have hurt me to give him a $3 tip instead.

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Lowering my credit card spending

For the past two or three months, my credit card bills have been over $1,000. Since I put almost ALL of my expenditures on my credit card, the statement is a fairly accurate reflection of what I spent on.

I took an hour to go over my 3 most recent statements, and discovered that, without a doubt, eating out has been my most expensive category – frequently accounting for over half of the bill. Just as a practice, I circled all instances where I thought I could’ve cut back without too much pain – usually Starbucks drinks, a couple of quick lunches here and there, and found out that I could’ve saved $100+ just by being a little bit more aware of where I’m spending my money.

Yesterday I thought buying a $10 chicken & rice, but then I decided against it. I went back to the office and had leftover noodles instead.

Hey, every little bit helps, right?

I also spend a couple hundred dollars at Sephora, but now that I have enough rewards points for a $100 gift card, my goal is not to spend any actual dollars at Sephora from now until the end of the year.

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Most bloggers warn against the dangers of lifestyle inflation as twenty-somethings go from broke college students to young professionals. Before I started working, I’ve also wondered if the thrill of the first paycheck would make me throw caution to the wind and just spend, spend, spend.

Instead, I’ve discovered that stepping out into the “real world” has turned me into a total cheapskate. Why? Well, let’s just say that after working 9 to 5 (that’s 9 AM to 5 AM. The next day.), I’ve truly learned the value of dollar.

Now, instead of going out for lunch, I usually eat leftovers from dinner or make instant noodles. Instead of running to Starbucks for soy vanilla lattes, I make hot chocolate in the office. Instead of buying a $30 lamp at Target, I spent $6 at a thrift store. I don’t browse at Banana Republic’s sales section anymore. I refuse to look at shoes. I might’ve even gotten over my love of handbags. My 4-year old laptop with an overheating problem and non-functioning Excel? It’s staying.

I still spend quite a bit of “weekend” money, but during the week I spend very, very little. And that is why I’m putting away $2,500+ a month: if I am working my tail off, then the very least I can do is to save enough money so that I have something to show for it.

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Mom’s secret stash

Last night, Mom told me a very rough approximation of what her net worth is, and it’s a figure that made my jaw drop a little.

I won’t go into more specifics here, but suffice it to say that if you saw my mother going to the grocery store or driving to work, you would never have guessed.

This knowledge made me feel proud, and humbled. My parents made a very good salary compared to the national median income, but they started in their late 30s, their first language isn’t English, they lived in a very high cost-of-living area, bought two houses and sent me to an expensive private school for college.

We rarely went on vacation or ate out, Mom frequently took extra shifts at her job, and Dad’s first new car in 11 years is another Honda, not a BMW or a Mercedes. We’ve had our sofa set since 1995. My parents weren’t the smartest investors. They didn’t advance the quickest in their careers. The real estate boom helped a lot, but that was more of a buying a place to live (or rent out) instead of flipping properties.

Really, everything my parents got, they saved. In a lot of ways you’d think they are an ordinary middle-class American couple, but what they’ve achieved is quite extraordinary.

And if they can do it, with circumstances that were far less fortunate than mine, then I have to be able to achieve financial security for myself and my future family.

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