Monday, July 26, 2010

Leaking Money?

Hello friends! Happy Monday! I hope you all had a lovely weekend - sorry for the lack of posts recently. I think it's what's called "summer plans". :) Anyway, trying to be better and don't be too upset.

So leaking anything is never good (unless there's a chocolate fountain that's sprung a leak). Now that I'm a homeowner, the word "leak" sends chills down my spine, as does "hole", "repair" or "sinking foundation". How would you feel if I told you that you have a money leak? Well, chances are you probably have one! According to a recent study in SELF magazine, people cannot account for an average of $1100 a year! This comes mainly from incidental expenses that add up over time.

For me, I definitely leak money when I have cash. Since I rarely have it (I put everything on a credit card), when I do have a few bucks in my wallet, it's gone! I had $60 in cash this time last week, and now I have $13. I went to the farmers' market and spent $8.50 on berries, lemonade and the most amazing chocolate chip cookie, I spent $2 on parking at my doctor's office, $15 at the grocery store and the remaining $22, I have no idea. And this is someone who actually pays attention to where her money goes...or tries to, anyway. If I did that every week, I'd lose track of $1144 a year, just like the average person! Eek!

So what can I do to stop leaking money? Well, for one, I know cash doesn't work for me - I can't track it and it seems to disappear easier. Another thing is keeping in check those little things that seem to add up. There's nothing wrong with dinner and drinks with friends, a movie date with Junior Mints, or getting those shoes (on sale, hopefully). But it comes with a trade-off - you're further away from your savings goals. Every time you have a questionable purchase, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?". If the answer is yes, do it! If not, don't. It's that simple.

Do you leak money? How do you keep focused?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: You Don't Have To Be Rich

Hi everyone! Back from a mini-vacation with my husband and good friends! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

While I was on vacation, I started and finished 2 personal finance books (who reads personal finance on vacation?). I love Jean Chatzky (you may have seen her on the Today Show or on Oprah) and I picked up her book "You Don't Have to Be Rich: Comfort, Happiness, and Financial Security on Your Own Terms". I thought it was a great book, and it had many interesting points. Three interesting points:

1) The amount of money you make has no bearing on your happiness - so the old addage "Money can't buy you class"....whoops, (too much Real Housewives of New York) I mean "Money can't buy you happiness" definitely rings true. Unless you are destitutely poor and cannot meet basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, the more money you make does not make happier. The research Chatzky conducted consisted of asking questions about happiness with your health, self-esteem, job satisfaction, satisfaction with friendship, relationship with a significant other and financial happiness to 1500 people. Once people made about $50,000 (close to the median salary in the U.S.), happiness in all categories was about the same. This is probably because once you make more money, your habits change. You start spending more because you tell yourself you deserve it or you somehow validate your extra spending to yourself. However, one thing the research demonstrated was that money could make you miserable. If people had too many bills, were incapable of balancing their household's budget, or constantly worried about the state of their finances, money turned out to make them unhappy, even if they made a six figure salary. Mo' money, mo' problems.....

2) Living within your means - I know, this probably gets so old. You hear it from us all the time at Lean with Green, but people (except you, dear readers!) don't get the message. According to the research, most people can meet basic needs (mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc) and they also have enough money to have a good time (65% of people said they had enough money to travel, eat out, shop, etc). But less than 1/3 of people could weather a financial hardship, 1/4 of people said they save the amount they would like for retirement, and 20% say they have enough for their children's education. What the what? People would rather go on a trip than save for retirement? Okay, yeah me too! But if you're shorting your future and your kids' future because you like cashmere sweaters in every color, something's gotta give. If you're already contributing to your retirement, have 6-12 months of living expenses saved, and have plans for your kids' education (if applicable), then go to the Bahamas! But I'm assuming for most people, you need to get to work and stop robbing your future self.

3) Make an "enjoyment list" - make a list of things that make you happy. That way, you know what adds to your happiness and you might be surprised to find that many of those things costs little to nothing. What's my enjoyment list? Getting a hug from my husband, spooning with my dog, taking a bath, a cup of coffee with a friend, hosting dinner parties, a long walk on the beach, eating Thai food, Sex and the City marathons, reading a good book, board games, cooking and baking, kickboxing, breakfast for dinner, blogging, Maui, family get-togethers around the holidays and good hair days. Almost everything I mentioned on that list is free or low cost. And Maui isn't free or low cost, but it's something I wouldn't mind saving for because it truly makes me happy (AND I have an emergency fund and contribute to my retirement - ha!).

Chatzky's book was great, and I'd highly recommend it. She has a lot of interesting statistics from her research, and she offers some good pointers for general personal finance from getting appropriate life insurance to how to consolidate your credit cards to save money and more.

I'm curious about what you all think - do you think money makes you happier? What are some things on your enjoyment list?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Deals!

What a week! Although I love me a three-day weekend, the amount of work you have to do doesn't go anywhere just because you have an extra day off, you know? I digress....

Here are your Friday Deals!

*80% off a $25 gift certificate at when you enter code FUN.

*20% off orders at when you enter code twentypercent.

*FREE C.O. Bigelow lip shine with any $10 purchase at Bath and Body Works! It starts today online (enter code shiplip) and tomorrow in stores. Looks like it's only good through tomorrow, so take advantage! For more information, "like" Bath and Body Works on Facebook.

*FREE Thai Cashew Chicken Breast meal at Panda Express on July 14th with this print out coupon.

*And one of my favorite days of the year is coming up - July 11th...otherwise known as FREE Slurpee Day at 7-11 stores! On Sunday, go to a participating 7-11 between 11 AM and 11 PM to get a FREE 11 ounce Slurpee! Sounds soooo good in this hot weather!

Enjoy your weekend! See you next week!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy July 5th!

I hope you all had a great weekend, and if you're lucky enough, it's still going! Maybe you set off fireworks, maybe you had a picnic with family and friends, or maybe you hosted a 4th of July fete. I'm in the latter category, and as I'm cleaning up and wondering what to do with the 2 cases of leftover Bud Light (gross), I'm also wondering what to do with the hamburger buns, potato salad, cookies, cake, can't all fit in the fridge and it's been well-documented that I hate leftovers (or at least having them more than once). What's a girl to do?

If you have lots of leftover hamburger/hot dog buns....

*Use the hamburger buns for breakfast sandwiches (I'm patiently waiting as my husband's making me a fried egg and cheese sandwich).
*Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and toast buns for croutons.
*Check out more recipes and unique ways to use leftover buns from Real Simple. Mmmm...bruschetta!

How about leftover potato salad?

*Potato salad sandwich from Cheap Eats sounds pretty good....or these faux latkes with tuna from Lunch in a Box sound interesting....

Other miscellaneous things to use up: chop up leftovers from your crudite platter and put in a salad, crumble leftover hamburger meat and toss into tomato sauce and spices to make sloppy joes, and if you've got any leftover corn on the cob, you could cut off the kernels, mix with black beans, red onions, avocado, lime juice and chili powder and you've got a great salad!

Just for fun, here's a picture of my American flag cake!

Okay, back to cleaning up - have a good rest of your weekend!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Deals!

Hi everyone! Happy Friday! Lots to look forward to this weekend, and the fact that it's a long holiday weekend makes it even better! Here are your Friday Deals!

*As if I needed a reason to eat at yummy McCormick and Schmick's! Get a FREE movie ticket when you present this coupon with your dinner all this holiday weekend (Friday - Monday). Woo hoo! Here's a list of the restaurants and theaters that are participating.

*FREE Jr. Deluxe at Arby's when you buy a drink on July 5th!

*FREE La Source Hand Therapy at Crabtree and Evelyn! Print out this coupon to redeem it.

*FREE music, courtesy of iTunes and Starbucks. Fun summer music to go with your fun summer Frappuccino!

*$15 off every $60 you spend at Express. Sooo love their Editor Pants! Could be a good time to stock up. Use code 7495 when you shop online. Ends Monday.

*The final sale is on at J. Crew - there are some really great deals. I love this sweater! Originally $98, it's now $70!

Happy 4th of July everyone! Hope you have a fun and safe holiday!