Ridiculous Expense Edition: That Time I Spent $80 on a Light Bulb…

Today I have a guest post from the lovely Kayla over at Shoeaholicnomore!

During my freshman year of college I lived in the dorms. I’d never lived on my own, paid rent, or bought groceries (other than snacks to supplement the dorm’s food plan). To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of real world experience.

Toward the end of the year my then-fiancé and I were looking for an apartment and decided we didn’t want to spend more than $600/month on rent. Where we came up with that number I’ll never know, but that’s the budget we used.

After viewing nearly 50 properties of varying degrees of disgustingness, we finally found a place for just over our budget. The rent on this one bedroom was $620, but it included all utilities so we could use as much energy as we wanted!

The down-side of this “great find” was that it wasn’t in the best neighborhood and truthfully it needed a lot more than TLC. There was a spot in the living room where I refused to walk for fear of falling through the floor into the basement apartment below.

After some very dramatic events, I ended up renting the apartment by myself instead of with my ex. This meant that I had to come up with the rent money and all my other living expenses on my own while going to school full-time and working part-time. It was a tough time for me financially, and this is when I started to ignore my finances and get into debt.

Because the apartment was in a not-so-nice part of town, I left the outside porch light on all the time and I would commonly leave the radio and a light or two on inside while I was gone at work and class. My hope was that someone would think the apartment was occupied and thus I could avoid a break-in. The porch light also helped during the winter months when it would still be dark as I left in the morning and would be dark again before I returned home in the evenings.

Near the end of my lease in May, the porch light finally burned out. The worst part about this apartment was that the building was originally a single-family house built in 1911. It had very high ceilings and being a college student, I didn’t have a ladder to change the outside light bulb myself. I called my landlord and requested that the bulb be replaced and didn’t think anything about it until I got a bill for the “service”. They wanted $40 for changing that one light bulb!

Of course I thought it was ridiculous so I ignored the bill completely. When my lease was up and I got my deposit back I noticed that $80 was missing from my original deposit. After asking why it was missing, they sent me an invoice showing that $80 was deducted for the light bulb incident! I was annoyed, but I didn’t contest it and went on down the road.

Now that I’m more wise and aware of the world, and my finances, I realize I could’ve done things differently to avoid wasting that $80.

I could’ve ignored the bulb since I would be moving out anyhow and prayed they didn’t notice during the inspection. Total cost: $0-80 and a load of guilt, 0-100% savings

I could’ve asked a friend with a ladder to help me change the bulb. Total cost: about $5 for a new bulb, 94% savings

I could’ve paid the bill the first time around. Total cost: $40, 50% savings

I could’ve contested the $80 bill. Total cost: $40-80, 0-50% savings

I’ve certainly learned a lot about life and finances since then. Now I know better when faced with an expected charge on a bill: always question it the first time and avoid paying late charges/interest if at all possible.

Have you ever paid for a ridiculous expense?

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at Shoeaholicnomore.

Is The Personal Finance Community Too Judgmental?

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgWhen one opens their lives up on the internet be it though engaging in social media, blogging  or uploading cute pictures of your kids on Instagram, like it or not, you are willingly opening your lives up to outside criticism. This is especially true of blogging and a huge reason why it requires a bit of thick skin. You are, without a doubt, going to get backlash from casual readers to fellow bloggers. Creating a variance in conversation is what I love about blogging though so I welcome it, life would be pretty boring if people agreed with everything I said and did. We grow as people through exploration and accepting changes.

Last week I published a post titled ”How much is too much for groceries”. If you read my blog regularly, or even know me personally, you know I was by no means trying to ”bash” anyone or have a ”holier than thou” attitude. I was, in all honesty, looking to do what bloggers do best, create conversation. As someone who only spends about $500 per month on food, $800+ seemed like a lot to me, I didn’t say it was as lot for everyone nor was I trying to imply you’re a bad person if you spend more than what I spend on food every month, I genuinely wanted to know how far off the mark I was with my readers for average money spent per month, that’s it.

When comments started coming in, with quite a few new people popping up (thank you for stopping by), I was a little surprised at the interpretation of my post and other people’s comments. There was more than one comment stating in various words that the personal finance community was in general too judgmental (of non-PFers I imagine) and one person even said they limit their engagement within the community because of said judgement. While I thank you for your comment I feel like I need to defend the online community I am apart of, again please feel free to disagree.

While there is an extreme variance in what you will find within this community, everything from the extreme savers, early retirees, people in debt, millionaires, struggling students and everything in between, my experience is that people who blog and engage in this community do so to learn. We learn through interactions, posts, comments, arguments, reading, getting opinions, you name it. Though there has been many posts I disagree with I never felt that post was written in a judgmental tone, I simply have a difference of opinion, difference in experience or all together may think it is outright wrong. That doesn’t mean they are judging me for being different.

Had I written the post and finished with ” You’re all idiots and suck as humans if your family of six can’t or isn’t willing to eat on $400 per month” then yeah, that’s a judgmental and bitchy thing to do but for the most part the personal finance community offers opinions and questions to be challenged. My mission with the post in question was accomplished. People clearly pointed out how easily their family sustains themselves on $200-250 per week for a multitude of reasons and for that I thank you for offering me insight, even if I likely will never be in your position, I thank you for enlightening me, it was all I wanted.

I’ve said this before but I didn’t know personal finance was a ”thing”. I started this blog blindly and am so thankful for the internet niche I have stumbled into. Thank you for your comments, your encouragement, your disagreements and your lack of judgement when I’ve put myself out there. Maybe I’m alone but no, if we’re generalizing, the personal finance community is not judgement unless you include the personal challenges it may provoke, for that there is no apology.

I Asked and Got a Raise!

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgA few weeks ago I inquired on Twitter how often one should expect a raise and at what percentage. The most common response being ”annually, and inflation rate”.

I have never had to ask for a raise. I’ve negotiated my starting rate or salary but never had to ask for one. It was always given to me at a rate which I thought was fair but since being back to work from maternity leave, going on 16 months, I haven’t received one. Though I assumed it was an oversight by my employer, I decided to wait until the end of the summer (when my raises usually are) to approach the subject. When September rolled around with no pay increase was reflected on my pay stub, I brought it up.

My boss and I have a very casual relationship where we tend to do our best chatting via text and email. I work exclusively with him for 16 hours a week but we never actually have time to speak ourselves. We’re both very busy and no time to chat. Rather than just corner him one day during his only five minute breather, I planted a seed via text with a ”hey, I’d like to chat with you in the next week or two about a potential raise”. This way he knew I needed time and what it would be about. Nothing worse than catching your boss off guard when you want to talk about money.

I respected the fact that he was busy and waited a week. When we didn’t have time, and after he didn’t bring it up, I reminded him during one of our other conversations about work simply saying when he had a minute I was going to email him a document to look over regarding my potential raise.

My husband’s cousin works in HR and was able to provide me with a very detailed, province and city specified payroll document outlining basically everything about my job broken down by everything from years experience to dental specialty. It was a mecca of information and statistics. Though I was getting a fair wage, there was room for improvement based on this new found information exposing my entire field of work, I was prepared. I handed over the document and wanted to see what he thought was fair before I came at him with my (potential) counter offer.

I was also prepared to discuss my job, the vital roles I fill and my effectiveness as an employee. Though I was pretty sure he was aware at how vital I was after working together over five years, I was prepared none-the-less should the discussion come to it.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to see a 5% raise reflected on my pay stub. In my case there was very little negotiation actually took place. Once he had this document it was really all he needed and 5% was more than fair.

A few people have asked what I plan on doing with the raise, 75% will be going directly towards debt, helping me meet my goals and the other 25% being added to kiddos monthly RESP (education savings), no lifestyle inflation for this family, not yet at least ;)

Debt Free Bucket List: European Travel

Now that I have disclosed my plan to pay off the rest of our debt, it’s officially time to start living in the future right? Ok, at least let me indulge in a fantasy or two from time-to-time?

My husband and I honeymooned in Europe five years ago and we have been pining to go back from the day we boarded the plane home. We loved Germany so much we actually considered how we could move there. Though I can’t wait to go back to Germany and explore the rest of the country as well as surrounding Austria and Switzerland, I think our next trip will likely be the United Kingdom.

It wasn’t that long ago that the UK was lower on the travel list but it’s slowly creeping up to the top. I think a lot of it has to do with me getting older and being more genuinely interested in history, and more specifically where I come from. I know my family roots start in England where my husband is Scottish blood through and through. My sister-in-law has their paternal family free traced back to the 7th century, crazy eh?

I would love to take a (budget friendly) family vacation to the UK exploring all that the Kingdom has to offer and walk the lands our ancestors once did.

Given that I’m on the east coast of Canada and in close proximity to a major international airport, getting to the UK is quite easy and not that expensive (it was cheaper for us to fly to Germany than it was to fly across our own country). We’d likely fly into London and given that my brother-in-law is from N. Ireland and already has a UK driver’s licence, we’d look for a cheap car hire in London for him to chauffer us around! Growing up in the UK and travelling within it quite extensively makes him a great, free, tour guide and I can’t see us going without him!

I would likely spend at least two weeks travelling mostly between England and Scotland but if my brother-in-law was in fact with us, we couldn’t not go to Ireland and N. Ireland for him to see some friends and family, and to show us where he grew up. This is something he and my sister-in-law just completed earlier this year but I can’t see either one of them declining the offer to go again in a few years.

I love the idea of renting cottages for us to stay in as we travel. Given the size of our party (upwards of seven to eight people) I assume this is likely the most economical option. I also like the idea of not travelling with much of an itinerary and see where the roads take us. Only keeping a loose list of places we hope to hit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say my recent obsession with reading the Outlander series didn’t reinvigorate my desires too. Just trying to keep it real. Again, this hypothetical and probably far-fetched trip won’t happen until we pay our debt off but it’s nice to dream in the meantime.

Any tips for travel in the UK on a budget? Must see places??

How to Turn a Business Vision into Reality: 3 Ways of Generating Income

While the fortunes of the global economy may be beginning to decline, there remains ample opportunity for individuals who wish to establish themselves in business. When you consider recent growth and the fact that governments throughout the world are striving to empower entrepreneurship as a way of kick-starting their economies, there has arguably never been a better time to start a business. This will require a certain degree of strategy and capital, however, as even relatively low cost ideas can encounter issues and quickly drain your existing funds.

Funding your Business: 3 Methods of Generating Start-up Income

When it comes to funding your business, there are a number of options to keep in mind. With this in mind, let’s consider the following options: -

  • Save your Disposable Income: There is a key distinction between product and service driven businesses, as the latter typically can typically be established with a smaller amount of disposable income. This means that it may be possible to fund your business using accrued savings, as long as they have been accumulated responsibly and maximized through the use of high yield savings accounts. To achieve this, simply strive to create a frugal monthly budget that enables you to cut recurring costs and commit the majority of your disposable income into a high interest bank account.
  • Generate Capital by Selling Unwanted Items: If your business plan requires additional funding, you may be better served by entering the growing thrift market and selling unwanted items. Whether you do this through popular e-commerce websites such as eBay or reputable pawn broker outlets such as H & T Pawnbrokers, the main aim should always be to identify the value of individual items before maximizing this though resale. This requires considerable time and patience, while you must also build a wealth of knowledge and an unyielding willingness to negotiate with others.
  • Consider the Benefits of Peer to Peer Lending: The contemporary alternative to traditional banking, peer to peer lending is now one of the primary methods used of funding new business ventures. In the U.S. it is currently estimated that only 25% of business start-ups are funded through bank loans, for example, as entrepreneurs have been deterred from using traditional methods in the wake of the Great recession. Peer to peer lending affords aspiring business owners access to a diverse range of benefactors and funding options, while it also enables them to create flexible deals and retain control of their destiny.

 

Can We Pay Off $70,000 in 36 Months?

I was playing around with my trusty calculator last night to see where our debt stood. As of this month we owe a bit over $80,000 ($80,400). While this number seems impossibly large can we please remember that just two years ago our debt was closer to $109,000 (highest non-mortgage debt close to 116k). Since starting this blog, we’ve paid off $29,000 in principle debt, most of which was paid down in the last 15 months since my return to work full-time after my year long maternity leave.

While $29,000 is a decent accomplishment for 24 months by anyone’s standards, I’d like to attempt to kill $70,000 (of the remaining $80,000) in 36 months.

Why not worry about the other $10,000?…

The last debt that we’ll be paying off is my nationally issued student loan. A loan I currently make interest-only payments on and a loan which I can claim the interest paid as a tax deduction. Once the other $70,000 is paid off it will only take about five more months to pay this 10k loan off and again, all interest paid is a tax deduction where all other debt is not.

My Plan:

  • Pay off 0% interest loan first: $13,064 to be paid off in 12 months= $1088/month while making minimum required payments on all other debts. Total monthly debt total required: $2,064.
  • Come October 2015, 0% loan will be paid off and in following 24 months pay off remaining debt which includes student lines of credit and vehicle. I choose to pay the balance of the vehicle next for a few reasons. One, I like the idea of the vehicle being paid off in case something happens to it. Two, our auto insurance will likely decrease with paid off vehicle and three, it’s the largest single debt payment per month with a large portion going towards principle allowing us to pay it down quickly by snowballing out previous debt payments.
  • From Nov 2015- June 2016 (kiddo’s 4th bday!) pay off vehicle balance of what will be $13,200 (payment required $1,650/month)
  • From July 2016- Dec 2016 pay off two of three student lines of credit. Balance between the two will be about $9,800 (payment required $1735/month)
  • From December 2016-November 2017 (final payment the 1st of the month) pay off remaining $23,000 student line of credit (payment required $2,010/month).
  • December 2017 debt remaining (national student loan): 10,376 which will only take 5-6 months to pay off.

I have to be honest this is my ”life happens” plan. I’m fairly confident we should be able to do this. The evening out of some months being great and others not so great should make this plan possible. Though I am hopeful we can be done earler than projected, I have to remember that it takes $2,000 extra just to knock off one month of this plan so realistically this is the plan that we’ll execute within a month or two. Here’s hoping we can make this all possible!

The Growth of the Saudi Arabian Economy: Opening up New and Exciting Markets for Investors

While it is easy to deride the Great recession and its impact in the world, it is fair to say that some positive portents managed to emerge in its wake. Take the development that has been experienced in emerging and frontier markets throughout the world, for example, which has in turn created a more equal distribution of global financial power and influence. Such a development has reaped considerable rewards for international investors, who have been able to diversify their portfolios in the quest for more reliable financial returns.

Economic Growth in Saudi Arabia: Helping Investors to Diversify their Interests

The Middle East provides a particularly interesting study in modern economics, as it combines a number of developed, emerging and frontier markets within a small geographic space. With many of these economies experienced rapid growth in a short period of time in the wake of the Great recession, the region is also gaining power and global influence on an annual basis. This trend is unlikely to abate for the foreseeable future, as nations’ such as Saudi Arabia continue to invest in diversification and stimulate widespread growth that is not solely reliant on the revenue generated by oil or the potency of the energy sector.

As the leading economy in the whole of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia offers an interesting investment option in 2014. Although it has struggled to realize initial growth forecasts for the current financial year, its first quarter expansion of 5.1% exceeded the performance of the leading developed economies across the globe. Even though the growth rate eased to 3.8% during the second financial quarter, this still represents robust progress while it also suggests that rising oil prices and the government’s aim to diversify the economy are continuing to pay dividends.

The Last Word for Investors: Why Saudi Arabia May Offer a Unique Opportunity in the Years’ to Come

 For a country that is home to more than one fifth of the world’s recoverable oil deposits, it would be all too easy to rely on this resource as the sole engine for economic growth. Its leaders have resisted this temptation, however, and followed the example of established neighbours such as Qatar by developing a diverse array of revenue streams.

Simply by taking the revenue earned through the sale of oil and a widening portfolio of foreign assets, Saudi leaders are striving to invest their capital into a number of alternative industries including telecommunications and manufacturing. Such diversification subsequently offers international investors a unique opportunity to enter new and lucrative markets, while also setting a sound economic example for other developing countries to follow in the future.

 

How Much is Too Much for Groceries?

The other day I was reading one of my favorite personal finance magazines. Each issue they profile a person or family giving details of their entire financial life. I love reading about how other people live, even if they’re not at all comparable to my situation.

Anyway, this particular family wasn’t too far off from our financial picture in terms of income. Though our income is brought in between two working individuals, this family had one income (albeit large) while mom stayed home with two young children and managed everything else in the home. What always surprises me when reading these profiles like this, is how much money families and individuals delegate for groceries.

In these profiles, groceries are separated from eating out so it’s not one generic ‘’food’’ line.

This family of four, two adults, two young kids (under five I believe), budget $9,800 per year for groceries. In case you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s over $800 per month for a family living in one of Canada’s largest and most financially stable cities. I just can’t see how?

We live in a fairly expensive city in terms of food, not outrageous but the high price of gas alone on this side of the country drives food prices up. For our family of three, on an expensive month we might spend $500. I buy a lot of fresh produce and lean meat. Even if we add another mouth to feed, the max our grocery bill would get to is maybe $550 and I really think we could sustain our family’s food budget at the $450-500 mark no problem even with the fourth mouth to feed.

What are these people eating for $800 per month? I buy decent meat and produce. Are they buying pre-packaged meals for that amout of money? I just don’t understand. Even if we add in stuff like toilet paper and cleaning stuff throw in an additional $10 per month…

Keeping food costs down can be a callange. It requires planning, there’s no way about it. Every week my husband and I spend probably 30 minutes planning out our week of meals and I go to the flyers to seek out the best deals. If we plan a meal I don’t think is feisable that week, we wait for the ingrediants to go on sale and decide on something else. The more we plan and get organized, the easier it is. I constantly look for new recipes that I can make for cheap, are healthy and provide a large meal. I just made a huge batch of soup for dinner and we now have lunches for the next two days, total cost was less than $9.00 for six adult-size servings and this was expensive in my mind for a soup.

I could think of a lot I could do with $300 per month. In this situation the mom was concerned they wern’t saving enough for the kids post secondary, if they’re that concerend (though at the end of the day they had more than enough to invest), they could start by looking at their variable espenses like their food because I can tell you without a doubt there is no reason to spend that kind of money on groceries!

How much do you spend on groceries? Are you comfortable with this amount or would you rather spend more/less?

The MetaTrader 5 Trading App: Helping New Investors to Enter the Forex Market

There have been a number of important evolutions in the financial markets over the last decade, each of which has had an impact on the ease with which individuals can trade and make real time transactions. While the development of online trading platforms such as ThinkForex has been one of the most significant, however, it is the subsequent advent of mobile media that has truly allowed investors to maximize their profits. With a burgeoning range of mobile trading applications now available to smartphone users, it has never been easier to enter the forex market and develop an additional income stream.

The MetaTrader 5: An Effective and Accessible Mobile Trading Platform

The MetaTrader series is the very embodiment of this evolution, and the fifth installment is considered by many to be the single most effective In terms of basic trading tools, it provides real time quotes of financial instruments, which allows users to access market prices and values as they are announced. In addition to this, designers have taken great care to ensure that the platform supports all types of execution mode, which only serves to aid flexible usage on a daily basis.

As a general rule, mobile applications are designed to provide convenience to users. Ease of use and navigation is a key feature of the MetaTrader 5, and this has influenced the development of a user friendly interface that can be customized according to your specific trading preferences. The fifth version of the application is even equipped with an advanced offline mode, which can allow you to continue trading even as you lose connectivity. When you consider the importance of liquidity and real-time trading in the forex marketplace, this is something that remains hard to ignore in the quest for building personal wealth and economic growth.

Thinking Analytically: The Technical Advantages of the MetaTrader 5

While these specifications offer an insight as to what users can expect from the MetaTrader 5, it is as a technical analysis tool that the app genuinely repays its value. Aside from its real time interactive charts, users can also access more than 30 of the most widely used technical indicators, including Bollinger Bands, Money Flow Index, Stochastic Oscillator and Volumes and Williams Percent Range. There are also 3 individual types of chart, and the additional capacity to adjust the graphical settings of your interface allows you have vital information and analysis delivered in an easy to comprehend manner.

Aside from all other factors, it is these technical advantage that distinguishes the MetaTrader 5 from previous incarnations and similar mobile platforms. Given the marginal nature of forex trading and the volumes trades on a daily basis, even the smallest detail can have a big impact on bottom line income and profit.

Starting Your First eCommerce Business

Starting your own business can be both exciting and frightening. Proper research can take a lot of the guesswork out of your start up, but some things can only be learned by doing. Here is a rough guide on starting your first eCommerce Business.

Is the entrepreneurial lifestyle for you?

Being your own boss can be extremely rewarding but it can also be a lot of hard work. Be sure you have the right personality and work ethic to run your own business. There are many important factors to consider before diving in head first. According to Statistic Brain, more than half of all retail businesses fail within the first four years. There were many reasons cited for these failures including lack of market awareness, pressure from family about time spent working and lack of capital. Hopefully this article will help you to be a success in your new venture.

Do you have passion?

Starting and running your own business can be extremely stressful. It’s important that you are passionate about your project. Your love for the business will help you fight through the inevitable hard times during the startup phase. Can you envision yourself working long hours in this business? What if you make little to no money in the early stages of your new business? It’s very common for a new business to experience some hard times but if you are passionate about what you are doing that could make the difference between fighting to make it work and giving up.

Do you have time?

New businesses take up a tremendous amount of time. This can put a major strain on your social life and personal relationships. Be sure to have a long talk with your loved ones about your plans. If you have a significant other in your life who is against the business idea, this will make it very difficult for you to succeed. You need to be devoted to your business to ensure it succeeds in its early stages. Good time management skills are a critical skill to learn. Money Crashers gives some excellent advice when they suggest writing down step by step goals. Some goals may seem impossible until you break them down into smaller tasks and take action each day.

Do you have the right equipment?

Depending on what type of product you will be selling it is possible to get your business up and running for extremely cheap. You can purchase your own domain and web hosting for less than ten dollars per month and create your online store. There are also several great eCommerce sites that allow you to sell your products on their website. This is a great way to save money and time building your own website. This also allows you to test your product in small batches with minimal investment in time and money. Some of these websites charge a small commission but you get the advantage of their large amount of web traffic.

Since you are conducting business online you will need a computer. Laptops are convenient for travel and there are plenty of affordable options these days. In addition, if you are running a physical shop you will need a receipt printer. Shopify offers a great all in one solution that includes all of the hardware and software you need to print your receipts.

Once you have the essential hardware purchased you can easily take advantage of online applications to assist you in your daily business operations. Cloud storage such as Drop Box and Google Drive are great for the business owner on the move. Upload your files and documents so you can access them anywhere in the world with internet access. Also share and edit files with employees and track sales.

GoToMeeting is a great application for having business meeting while traveling. Use your tablet or PC to chat in real time with anyone in the world who is online.

Why eCommerce?

This day and age you must be selling your products online. Whether you choose to run a physical shop or not, offering your products to a larger market on the web greatly improves your chances of success. There are so many great resources available to entrepreneurs these days that the task of starting your own eCommerce business does not have to be a daunting one. Search online for local mentors or support groups.

Time to get started!

Business Insider reports over 543,000 new businesses are started in America each month. That is a large number and wherever you are in the world you can be a part of the action. Barriers to entry are extremely low and with the internet doing business across borders has never been easier.

Be sure you do you market research and get your finances in order. With the right tools, a strong work ethic and passion for your business you can succeed. Good luck in your new venture!