• Posts Tagged ‘afford’

    The Cost of Higher Standards

    by  • March 19, 2012 • Tagged: , , , ,  • Comments

    Churros y Chocolate

    In my belly.

    Image: Oscar

    In college, I had the good fortune to spend a semester in London. Because I was on a boatload of financial aid, and determined not to run up any credit card debt, I spent my summer budgeting and saving and preparing to spend as little money as possible living and traveling abroad. Four months and many bean dinners and hostels later, I emerged slightly more cultured and no more in-debt than I had been before my travels.

    Back then, I was more than willing to do (and endure) whatever it took to see as much as I could on the money I had. Reviews for that Paris hostel say that it has bedbugs? Whatever, it’s cheap! Dublin hostel only has availability in a room of 20? Sure, I’ll be there with a friend, it’ll be fine. Yes, I’ll leave at 5 am to take the cheaper train to France, and sleep in the Dublin airport to cut down on one short night of hostel expenses. I was young, and excited, and happy to endure slight inconveniences for travel.

    Years later, I’ve noticed that my standards have changed. Thanks to some careful planning, and $800 in vouchers for sitting in an airport a few months ago (thanks, US Airways!), my husband and I will soon be off to Spain for a vacation. Where once I would be heading to hostel websites, I instead found myself looking up hotels and apartments with high ratings and nice amenities. I’m older, and I’m a little bit more spoiled, and I now value a certain degree of comfort and privacy over the frugality of the international hostel options. I do not want to be in a room with 20 strangers. I do not want to wake up any earlier than I have to. I want to take the train, and not the overcrowded bus, to the cities we’ll be visiting. I want to sit down at restaurants, and order what I like, and not skimp on ordering drinks to save a dollar.

    My husband and I share similarly frugal ideals, although there are moments when we disagree on what is and is not worth it (I want to take a cab from the airport; he insists on public transportation). Luckily, we both agree on the unmitigated importance of stuffing our faces with as much jamon as we can find, and consuming all of the wine we come across. He’s had his fair share of frugal traveling, and we’re both at a place where we’re willing to spend a little more to get a little more. It’s a nice feeling, to know that my financial world won’t collapse if I’m not counting every penny that’s going towards sangria and churros.

    Have you noticed that your standards have changed as you get older? Or are there still areas where you’re willing to rough it?

    We’re Cutting Back on Weekend Trips

    by  • April 28, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    In the past we have enjoyed taking weekend trips to visit friends, attend weddings, go hiking, etc. But with the increases in gas and food expenses lately, coupled with wedding expenses, these weekend trips are going to be among our first budget casualties. This weekend we had planned to spend 3 days in St. Louis, attending a friend’s wedding and seeing the local sights. Attending the wedding was important to us, but two nights in a hotel was just more than our budget allowed. So at the last minute we decided to make it a two-day trip instead.

    Are you planning to reduce your summer travel plans due to the recent economic downturn?

    Free (More Expensive) vs. Not Free (Less Expensive)

    by  • February 11, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    This year we’ve resolved to be a little more organized in life. These days much of our lives is on our computer, whether it be financial data, photos, music, or old emails. In the last 10 or so years we’ve been using computers on a (near) daily basis, we’ve managed to accumulate gigabytes worth of stuff that we’d rather not put into the recycle bin. Regular old CD’s aren’t cutting it anymore for large-volume long-term storage solutions, therefore we decided that we would like to have a DVD burner for our storage and backup needs.

    This past Christmas I was given a $100 Best Buy gift card, so I decided to look for a DVD burner there.

    Last week’s Best Buy sales ad listed this Samsung DVD burner at $49.99. The same Samsung DVD burner at Amazon was $34.98 plus $8.32 for shipping, for a total of $43.30. The same DVD burner at Newegg (OEM version, pretty much the same thing but without all of the packaging) is $29.99 plus $5.84 for shipping, for a total of $35.83. So which one did I go with?

    Best Buy. I found a coupon online for 10% off, which brought the total to $49.09, all of which was subtracted from the balance on my gift card. No money out of my pocket, plus if something goes wrong with it I can always return it to the store.

    The question I have for you, readers: Would you “pay more” for something if you had gift card to pay for it, even if you knew you could get it for cheaper if the money came out of your own pocket?

    Weekly Roundup, Expensive Parking Edition

    by  • January 17, 2008 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Living in a big city with big city prices has definitely warped my sense of money. For example, when did paying $16 for parking downtown for the day become “cheap”? I guess when there’s other places charging $25+, I guess it isn’t so bad. Onto this week’s roundup…

    Frugal Law Student asks who actually deposits money in ATMs? Answer: We do. For us, it is convenient, quick, and hassle-free.

    Over at Wisebread there is a good article on how a realistic budget can be a marriage saver. The story is quite endearing, and is almost mirrors the way that Her and I do things. Especially budgeting with a bottle of wine.

    Ask Dong tells you that before you date, get a credit report. That is definitely the way to not let your dong see any action.

    Speaking of getting action – guys and gals, if you’re thinking of getting something to spice up the ol’ love life, remember that vibrators are too expensive (and they break easily). Thanks, Her Every Cent Counts, for that.

    Single Ma tells why she kicks ass goes against the grain. I have to agree, the pfblogosphere gets really old when all you read are the same things over and over and over…

    DINKs give some good tips on how to talk about money. We have our State of the Union talk every so often.

    2 Million
    is going through Smart Couples Finish Rich and creating value circles. When we read this book we did the same thing, and going back to these circles really helps us focus on where our money goes.

    Living Almost Large thinks about the consequences of having your parents move in with you. Since both of our parents’ are getting older, we’re going to have to start thinking about decisions like this.

    English Major is thinking about the the economy and how it works. She muses philosophically about topics like the stock market and corporations. What’s really fascinating are the comments which reveal where to get more information.

    What Is It Like to Be You?

    by  • May 17, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Him and I now make a combined income of (just barely) over six figures. This is far more than we’ve ever made before. At this new income level, life has become easier. We are able to make large payments toward our credit card debt, while saving a lot for our wedding and retirement. We can go out to a reasonably nice dinner on special occasions. We can use our rewards credit card and pay it off every month. We can buy new clothes when we need to. We could move to a slightly more expensive apartment if we chose to. If our car needed repairs, we could probably pay for them. Bill paying is no longer a stressful and depressing ordeal. We can buy nice gifts for our friends and families. But we still worry about money. Anything over $250 is a big expense to us. We can’t afford to take a big vacation, although we can swing a weekend camping trip or a night in a decent hotel. We have to save up for things we want.

    So, I am curious what it is like for others who earn more or less than us. How does money impact your daily stress level? How much freedom can you afford? Are you happy? How much money do you wish you made?

    Crying Over Spilled Meat

    by  • April 24, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    So last week we took Him’s parents out to dinner at Fogo de Chao, a brazilian cowboy meat emporium. None of us had ever been there before, but the concept is almost like a table-side buffet. Waiters in costume bring around large spears of meat, which they carve table-side. There is no menu; you simply accept or decline each meat offering as it comes to your table. The absence of menus made us unaware of the price of the meal. We also ordered a cheap bottle of wine and a single dessert to share. The total bill with tip came to OVER THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.


    So was Him. Not wanting to cause a scene in front of our guests, we quietly paid the bill and left. Later when we got home, I expressed how upset I was (not at Him, just in general). I was so upset I cried. Him felt guilty, since he had made the reservation without looking up the average meal price. I don’t blame Him, since I did not look it up either. We have never spent that much on dinner, even for special occasions at fancy restaurants. We would never have gone there if we had known how expensive it was. This was far more than we budgeted for. While this won’t bankrupt us, it was a severe blow to the budget and devastating to the sense of financial control we had previously felt.

    This is the most upset I have been about finances in many months.

    Proactive Parent Protection

    by  • July 3, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    My parents have been planning to drive out to visit us this summer. Over the phone, my mom admitted that she was planning to pay for their trip by maxing out their home equity loan. This is a bad idea for several reasons – they are close to retirement and should be aiming for zero debt, and often a HELOC is the last line of credit available to you in an emergency and it should be reserved only for emergency use. I was dismayed by this news, and told my mom that a better choice would be to save up for a trip until they could afford it. But she wouldn’t listen.

    At the same time, I recently realized that in order to take time off during their visit, I would need to take some unpaid days off from work. This doesn’t align with our goals of aggressively paying off debt and saving up for our wedding. I realized that this trip was going to be a bad financial decision for my entire family, so I sat down and talked to Him about it.

    Him had a great idea! He suggested we cancel their visit, and offer to visit my parents during Thanksgiving instead, when we already have time off from work. At the same time, we can accrue some air miles toward our Honeymoon. It’s a better solution for everyone. I pitched the idea to my parents today, not mentioning my opinion of their loan idea, so they would feel as though they were doing us a big favor and wouldn’t be embarassed by their financial situation. They thought it was a great idea! My mom even confessed that she was worried the cost of the trip would “sink” them, but she didn’t want to cancel it and break my heart. She was so relieved when I suggested we re-schedule.

    It just goes to show how tightly money and emotions are bound up. Sometimes parents are willing to quietly put themselves in financial jeopardy for the sake of their children. Therefore, it’s important for children to recognize when parents are over-extending themselves and be proactive about protecting them.

    Create Your Own Wedding Monogram On A Budget

    by  • May 23, 2006 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    It’s easy and inexpensive to brand your wedding with a classy wedding monogram. You can purchase a ready-made design for $50 at Bliss Wedding Market, or you can pocket the cash and design your own. If you’re uninspired, you can check out their selection to get ideas. To make your own is really easy though.

    Step 1 – Get Fonts
    For a designer touch, you’ll want better fonts than your computer came with. Google terms such as “script font” and “wedding font” to find free font download sites. When you find a font you like, download it. Usually you’ll have to extract the font. You’ll end up with a file name that has a .TTF extension. Now you have to install the font. Browse to My Computer/Local Disk/Windows/Fonts. Drag the file into the fonts folder. An installation screen will appear briefly, then your font is ready. You can install as many as you like.

    Step 2 – Get Inspired
    Browse through the monogram collection at Bliss, or look at other wedding sites for inspiration. Pick a few styles to experiment with, keeping in mind the limitations of your software and what shape your wedding initials are (wide? tall? long? short?). You might want to print out copies of your favorite monogram styles for reference.

    Step 3 – Create!
    A good, basic software program to use is Powerpoint. Set up a blank slide and add a text box with your initials in it. Experiment with fonts and sizes until you like how it looks. You can also add basic shapes (rectangles, circles, ovals, lines, etc) in Powerpoint. If you wedding has a theme, try adding a stylized graphic to the monogram (you can download tons of free graphics online too).

    Step 4 – Brand Your Wedding
    Once you have your monogram, incorporate it throughout your wedding to create an “expenisve” designer look. Some places to consider: Invitations and other stationary, save-the-date magnets, menus, place cards, paper napkins, balloons, painted on the aisle runner, added to your dessert plates with a sugar stencil, etc. If you are printing your own items at home, it’s easy to copy and paste your monogram into most other software packages. If you’re having your items professionally printed, you can submit the monogram on a CD.

    I sat down the other day and created a selection of eighteen monograms for our own wedding. It took about 3 hours. Now we just have to choose which one we like best. We might use three: One (with the Chicago skyline at the top) for our save-the-dates, a second one (more formal) for the day of the reception, and a third (with our combined initials) for after the wedding. Doing it all myself was fun and easy, and saved us $150.

    Wedding Budget Panic: We’ve lost $10,000

    by  • April 27, 2006 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    We know you’d love to just jump right in and leave a scathing comment, but please read our responses to this post as well. Thanks.
    Read His response.

    Read Her clarification and response.

    This week our wedding budget suffered a huge blow. My parents reduced the amount they are offering to pay for our wedding from $10,000 to….zero. To be fair, my parents never actually promised us the $10,000. When we got engaged, I told my mom that I would like her to tell us how much they would be willing to contribute by April 15. Between then and now she has repeatedly said she would like to give us $10,000 but that she and my father were having trouble agreeing on an amount. April 15 came and went with no mention of the money. So a few days later I called my mom and reminded her that we will need to know exactly how much they can give us and when, so we can accurately plan our wedding budget. She seemed to have forgotten all about the April 15 deadline and sounded a little put off by the request. Still, she promised to give me an answer soon.

    On Sunday night, she called. She sounded more chipper than usual and made some small talk before announcing that she and my father had decided on their wedding contribution. Then things started to take a turn downhill. She began by stating some facts:

    They are 70 and 72 years old. They are still working, and cannot stop working because they do not have much money saved for retirement (I do not know how much but it isn’t more than $50,000). Their health is failing and they are afraid they will be forced from their jobs. They have borrowed the full amount available from their home equity loan (not for any sort of emergency, but for Christmas gifts and the like) and they will have to make monthly payments of $1500 for two years in order to pay off that debt. They have no money set aside for our wedding. And they cannot give us any money for the wedding.

    Part of me feels abandoned. They have made bad financial decisions their entire lives, and did not plan for their retirement or our wedding. I feel like if they cared about me, they would have saved some money for our wedding. My mom even had the nerve to suggest we should elope. How could she so easily say she doesn’t care if she’s at our wedding?

    Part of me feels angry. How can they be surprised that I would expect them to help pay for our wedding? We’ve only been out of college for two years and are already burdened with $1000 a month payments for the student loans my parents forced me to take out (because they saved nothing for college, either). I’m angry that my mom kept hinting at a large gift, than cheerily told me we’d be getting nothing.

    Part of me feels relieved. I am aware of their financial situation and know that they really cannot afford to help us. This is probably the first financially responsible decision they have ever made. I foresee that I will be expected to care for them when they run out of money, so this thrift will help delay their dependence on me.

    Most of all, I feel panicked. The typical wedding costs around $25,000 and I don’t see how we can do it for much less, especially in Chicago. Of course there are ways to cut costs, but it takes a lot of cutting to halve the budget. We have $4,000 saved up for down payments and a quarter of that will go to reserve the church. That doesn’t leave much for reserving the reception hall and everything else. We both agree we do not want to take on any more debt to pay for the wedding, and estimate we can save up around $15,000 ourselves if we try very very hard.

    On the phone with my mom, I couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t want to say anything I would regret so I told her I had to go. Then she heard me crying and sounded shocked. “You expected us to pay for your wedding?” she exclaimed. I told her again that I needed to go and I hung up. I have not called her back yet. I don’t know what to say to her. I’m just so hurt.

    Any suggestions from our readers would be appreciated.

    What does “afford” really mean?

    by  • February 27, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    How do we define the term, “afford”? Is it being able to pay cash up front? Is it being able to make the monthly payments? Is it having to choose between something unaffordable and an impossible alternative? According to www.answers.com:

    “afford” means to be able to spare or give up

    So by definition, we can afford something when we are willing to give up something else. However, both sides of the equation are not always equal. What if we give up financial security in exchange for a mansion? What if we exchange a comfortable retirement later for a fun vacation now? This is why there can never be a single financial definition of affordability – because every person would assign a different value to the variables in the equation.

    Part of the reason we are successful at beating down debt is that we have discussed our values. So when we are trying to decide if we can afford a nice wedding, we are able to weigh the exchange correctly. We would be exchanging our ability to quickly pay off existing debt and minimize our taxes for beautiful wedding photos and memories. Because all these things are equally important to us, we can see that the equation is roughly equal. So we’re going to try to do it all: Have a nice wedding while still paying down debt and saving for the future. Doing this analysis should help us set spending limits without feeling guilty or deprived.