Monday, April 25, 2011

Will You Ever Retire?

It's been well documented in this blog that I'm totally freaked out about retirement. Yes, it's still a good 35 years away, but expenses are also going to start creeping up with a baby (and another one in the future) - add to that a bigger house eventually, college funds times two...oh man. Why do all the good things in life have to cost so much money?

So I was reading this great article in Money Under 30 and felt a little sick to my stomach after I was done. According to blogger David Weliver (and others in the PF world), you should have anywhere from 1-2 years salary in your 401K or other retirement account by the time you reach 30. Uh, what? I mean, I thought I was doing okay in my retirement savings, but 1-2 years salary?

After my husband was laid off in 2009, we were completely focused on building up our emergency fund to last 6 months. When we found out we were pregnant, we started building a healthy savings account for medical and baby expenses. So instead of upping my retirement contributions (like I intended to do a year ago), my money was saved in other places. Did I make the right choice?

I'd love to hear from you all out there - does anyone have (or did you have if you're over 30) a year or two's worth of your salary in your retirement accounts? How did you do it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Earth Day Freebies!

I do love the earth. It's pretty awesome. I love celebrating Earth Day, too! Not only do you get to take some time to appreciate the planet, but some really great freebies and events happen to encourage you to adopt habits that are good for the earth! Here's what's going on for Earth Day 2011:

*My absolute favorite Earth Day freebie (did it last year) - trade in any cleanser bottle (full or empty) for a FREE full sized Origins facial cleanser! Only on Earth Day (4/22). You have to fill out this form in advance, and I'd recommend going early before all the supplies run out!

*FREE coffee or tea at participating Starbucks on April 22nd when you bring in your travel mug!

*FREE coffee at Whole Foods when you bring in your travel mug, too! Check your nearby store to confirm they are participating.

*FREE eco-friendly workshops at select Home Depot locations!

*Lowe's is also celebrating Earth Day by giving out a million FREE trees on Saturday (4/23)! See if your nearby Lowe's is participating. While you're there, make a FREE birdhouse with the kids at 10AM with the Build and Grow program.

*The best way to celebrate Earth Day is in the great outdoors, right? FREE entrance to all national parks!

And don't forget - celebrate Earth Day by doing something good for the planet! Take a shorter shower, turn off your lights, turn down your heat (or AC, if you're having better weather than me!). Maybe even hug a tree!

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Deals PLUS Tax Day Freebies and Deals!

Hi everyone! Thanks for all your great feedback for whether or not we should give up cable. I'm strongly considering it once summer rolls around. And now for Friday Deals!

*Boden, one of my very favorite stores, is having 40% off select items for their midseason sale! They make fantastic clothes that really hold up well, so while they are a little on the spendy side, getting items for 40% off is a great way to start what will likely be a Boden obsession for you! :) Plus, you can get an additional 10% off AND FREE shipping! Go forth and shop - you won't be sorry.

*All you cosmetic junkies should take advantage of Sephora's sale - 15% off! You have to be a Beauty Insider, but it's free to sign up (plus, you get all kinds of cool perks when you do). Ends April 21st.

*And thanks to lovely reader Alysia for pointing out this fabulous freebie - to celebrate Earth Week, Target is giving out FREE reusable bags on Sunday, April 17th. Get there early - I went to my Target last year to get one an hour after they opened and they were almost out! Remember to ask Target cashiers for 5 cents off when you bring your reusable bag to the store!

*FREE Curly Fries at a participating Arby's today when you bring in this coupon. Mmm...

*FREE admission to National Parks April 16th-24th to celebrate National Park Week!

*FREE Bath and Body Works 2 oz lotion of their new fragrance Into the Wild...hurry, it's only good with this coupon today and tomorrow!

Tax Day Freebies and Deals

I hope you all have filed your taxes, but you still have a couple more days (thanks Uncle Sam!). We owe this year (BOOOO!), but not too much. If you're getting a refund, remember to spend it wisely! If you have to pay like me, here are some freebies and deals to at least take the sting out a little.

*Cinnabon is giving away FREE Cinnabites from 6-8 PM on April 18th (participating locations only).

*FREE sundae at Maggie Moo's on April 18th from 3-6 PM at participating locations.

*McCormick and Schmick's restaurants are giving people two days to celebrate the end of tax season - today and Monday, get bar food and drink specials for $10.40.

*P.F. Chang's is giving 15% off dine-in and takeout orders on April 18th.

I'll repost some of these deals on Monday so you remember to take advantage! :) Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Giving Up Cable

Okay, not quite. I love the heck out of TV, particularly cable. My DVR tapes over 10 shows a week. I have a sick obsession with multiple shows on Bravo - anything with Bethenny Frankel, or a show that starts with "The Real Housewives of..." I will most likely watch. And then they sucker me in with spinoffs and new shows that look AMAZING.

But I hate paying the piper for my addiction. Every month when the Comcast bill comes, I feel a little nauseous. It also includes our internet service, but $160 a month for reality shows and NBC sitcoms? I am so torn between my want to save money/feel like less of a couch potato and the sheer entertainment value of watching grown women throw wine at each other. And yes, I am that person that calls every few months to negotiate a lower rate by threatening to get a dish or cut my cable. But still, I wonder if even the reduced high cost of cable is worth it.

So when my good friends and fellow TV afficianados Kate and her fiance Joseph brought up giving up cable, I was shocked! They, too, love TV (and they watch better shows than I do) - how could they even consider? But their suggestions of watching streaming shows via Hulu/Netflix and paying 99 cents for others on iTunes really had me thinking...could I do this?

For one thing, it would help prioritize what I really want to watch. The ability for me to tape shows has caused me to delve deeper into the basement with bad TV. Another Kardashian show? Okay. What's this new cooking competition? Sure. Put it on my queue. If I didn't have access to DVR and cable and had to pay per individual show, 80% of what I watch currently probably wouldn't make the cut. Is this show worth 99 cents to watch? Sad that I'm watching shows that aren't even worth a buck.

Are there any other TV addicts out there that have cleaned up and given up cable? How is life on the other side?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Birthday Resolutions

As I've mentioned before, I'm not so big into New Year's resolutions, but more birthday resolutions. Why? Well, for starters, January 1st is just kind of an arbitrary day. Yes, it's the first day of a new year, but it's pretty much just another day. Your birthday, though, is a whole new year for you. Plus, people never keep New Year's resolutions and I figured I'd keep myself more accountable and pump myself up for my new year if I had some goals to go with it. I do both financial resolutions and personal resolutions.

Birthday resolutions in past years:

*Have 6 months of living expenses saved - check!
*Increase retirement contributions by 5% - uh, still working on it
*Open a Roth IRA - ugh, no
*Make steps to become pregnant - check!
*Take 3 vacations a year - check!

So since I turned 29 a few weeks ago, I wanted to keep you up to speed on my resolutions for my year before the big 3-0.


PUT MY MONEY IN A ROTH IRA - this is in all caps because it has been a goal for almost 2 years and I haven't done it. Bad personal finance blogger, bad! It WILL happen this year, even if I don't put the max contributions in. I'm determined.

Start a college savings fund for our daughter - I'm assuming college costs will keep rising at their current rate of 7-13% every year, so by the time our daughter goes to college, it will cost an arm and a leg. We'll start saving now - money we get now for her will start going into a savings account, even though I'm not sure yet what savings account would be best.


Be the best mom I can be - I know to make goals achievable, they have to be SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). While this may not be a specific or timely goal, I'll hopefully be able to measure it in smiles. Wow - super cheesy! :) But seriously, my daughter is my number one priority, and there isn't anything I wouldn't do for her. Until she's a teenager - and then, I will not give her my credit card.

Run a half marathon - I've never been a runner. There was the time I ran track in 8th grade and I thought I had an asthma attack...turns out I was just out of shape. But I want to really push myself and see if I can do it. I've signed up for a race with my friends for Labor Day weekend and I'll be so proud of myself when I cross the finish line. I'm not doing it for time - I'm doing it for pride. And the chocolates and mimosas at the end of the race.

Okay, so there you have it! My two financial and personal goals for my 29th year!

Anyone else make birthday resolutions? How about sharing a few of your goals for the year?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Deals!

Finally, some Friday Deals for you all! :) Did anyone watch "Extreme Couponing" on TLC the other night? Makes me want to up my deal-hunting game a bit, but they are definitely on the crraaazzy side in my opinion...anyway, onto deals that you don't have to work so hard for!

*Ben and Jerry's is having their annual Free Cone Day on Tuesday, April 12th in their Scoop Shops! The lines are usually long, but so worth it! Dreaming of a Cherry Garcia cone...

*Speaking of ice cream, Baskin Robbins is having their 31 Cent Scoop Night on Wednesday, April 27th from 5-7 PM. The 31 cents will benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Put it on your calendar!

*Need to update your spring wardrobe, ladies? Ann Taylor and LOFT are celebrating their Friends and Family with 30% off your purchase! This ends Sunday, April 11th, and is good in stores and online. Here's the coupon.

*April is National Volunteer Month and Volunteer Match is celebrating all the folks who give their time by giving away FREE Newman's Own products! Yes! Sign up for a project during the month of April and you'll get a coupon for any free Newman's Own item! I'm a big fan of their Caesar dressing!

Enjoy your weekend! The sun is actually supposed to make an appearance here in the Northwest, so I'm going to try and soak up some Vitamin D with my family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saving Some Bucks with Baby

While I'm a neophyte parent, I'm well aware of how expensive babies and children are. But in my very limited experience, I have learned strategies on my own or through my very smart parent friends on how to save money with a new family member in the picture.

*Go Gender Neutral - while it is SO tempting to get all those cute gender specific clothes or furniture, try to steer clear of getting everything in boy or girl styles, particularly if you're planning on having more than one child. I'm not going to sit here and say that my husband and I have nothing girly - we totally do. However, many of our big purchases (like the stroller, car seat, etc) are gender neutral. It doesn't seem to make a ton of sense to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment to last a few years to not be able to use it again if or when another baby is welcomed into your family.

*Have Multipurpose Furniture - who wants to spend a couple hundred bucks on furniture only to have it serve a few years? My husband and I were pretty savvy when it came to shopping for nursery furniture. We purchased a crib that converts into a toddler bed (you can even find some cribs that will convert into a full sized bed), and instead of a changing table, we got a dresser that a changing pad can be secured to and then removed. We wanted to get furniture that would grow with our daughter and viewed it as an investment as opposed to furniture for the baby stage in her life.

*Cloth Diaper - I know that this sounds completely crazy to most people. And it very well could be, as it is not yet something my husband and I have actually done yet. But if you can make the commitment to cloth diaper, it can save you beaucoup bucks (an estimated $1500-$2000 over the diapering process according to Consumer Reports). The value doubles if you can reuse your diapers for another child. And cloth diapers today are totally different than they were a generation ago - no pins, but velcro and snaps instead! Obviously, there might be an initial yuck factor to get over and the startup costs are more steep(anywhere from $12-$20 per diaper), but most likely, the diapers will pay for themselves within the first 6-8 months. Plus, it's good for the environment. Oh yeah, and they're super cute. What's not to like?

*DON'T Register for Clothes - most family and friends are excited to shower your new arrival in clothes - they're cute, easy to pick up and fun to shop for! You may even have some people who want to give you their old baby clothes for free. Save space on your registry for other things you may really need. If you don't get enough baby clothes, they are quite easy and cheap to pick up at places like Target, Babies R Us, or even Goodwill. Also with clothes, be careful of buying too many before baby's here. Your baby may not fit into newborn clothes. Or those cute seasonal clothes (fleece jackets and mittens, or summery clothes) may not fit when the weather's appropriate.

*DON'T Stock Up - I know, this seems counterintuitive. You want to be prepared and in control. But babies have personalities, and just like you, preferences. Maybe they won't like those pricey bottles you have 10 of. Maybe the swaddling blankets you bought 4 of will make baby uncomfortable. Start with getting one of a few different types and see what your baby prefers. It might seem a little wasteful at first, but not using one item sure beats not being able to use a dozen, don't you think?

*Know What to Get Second-Hand - there are plenty of things you can get at Goodwill, on Craig's List or handed down from friends and family. And it will save you a TON. But be careful - baby items are frequently recalled. Do your research and make sure the good deal is also in the best interest of your baby's health and safety. You can't put a price on that.

*Nurse - if you can, breastfeed. Not only have studies shown it's the best for your baby, but it's FREE! :) Of course, breastfeeding does come with expenses (pumps, clothing, accessories, etc), but compared to the costs of formula, you'll save a lot of money. Bonus - it's good for moms! You burn up to 600 calories a day AND it is linked to lower instances of breast cancer!

Hey moms and dads out there! Anything else you did to save money?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life Is What Happens...

So sorry for the delay in posting, but I had a baby.

And she's really cute and takes up a bunch of my time. :)

While I'm focusing more now on trying to be an amazing mom instead of a blogger, I'll try to be a little more regular while my little angel takes naps. More posts coming soon...