travelling wallet wireless war

Waging the War on Wireless

A battle for better internet rates

Hello All, Guest post today…. Mr.  Roamer, but don’t worry, my grammar and story telling isn’t much worse than the Mrs.

Well lets get too it:

After returning from the mail box last Monday afternoon, we discovered that AT&T no longer was providing us with the promo rate of $25.95 a month (6 mbps down, 1 up for the tech savvy).  They had hiked the rate up to $52.00 a month.  I was speechless and frankly, kinda pissed off.  I told the wife that I would call the next day and talk some sense into them.

Traveling wallet internet bill
Look at it just look at it! DOUBLED!

Flash forward to the next day.  I called during my morning “break” at work (first mistake).  And proceeded to kindly ask the customer service agent for a better rate, after all they don’t set the rate, no point in making their day worse.  After about 3 minutes on the phone and getting nowhere except for a very pathetic offer of $42 a month for the same service,  I proceeded to say “I want to cancel my service”.  (first correct move).

That was promptly responded to by something like “Let me transfer you to our customer retention department” (now I was getting somewhere).

Trying to remain professional at work, I quickly word vomited “I am at work so if it takes longer than 5 minuets to transfer, I will have to hang up”. That’s where I shot myself in the foot letting them know I was in a rush.  And I would bet any money that was relayed to the next agent.  The Customer Retention agent joined the line promptly at 4 minutes and 59 seconds (of course).  She offered the same deal as the first agent but also offered an upgraded $35 a month for double my current speed (12 down, 2 up).  She ignored my pleas of maintaining my current speed for the same price or at a substantial discount  from the $42 offered so in a last ditch effort, I attempted to call their bluff and say “Ill just cancel my service”

Her response wasn’t anything like what I was hoping for… “Ok, we are sorry to see you go…” (strike three) And then it was done.

Deciding that a blog kinda needs home internet for posting (among the other internet dependent items at our home) I decided to do some research on the providers and rates in our area.

On Wednesday night, I was ready to do battle and this time with the power of knowledge to back me up (and not being in a hurry).  Talk about starting off with an awkward conversation asking to un-cancel the internet service I canceled the day before… Anyways, after explaining the situation this agent offered me the same deals as the reps from the day before.  But using the research and competitors pricing I had put together, I kindly pushed and pushed until he told me “I can double your previous speed for $28 a month”

In my book, I called it SUCCESS!!!

My Negotiation Advice

So if you want to negotiate with these crooks, here’s my advice:

1. Set aside some real time (the second call took over an hour with the first thirty being on hold)

2. Price out all the providers in your area and have it available.

3. Don’t threaten to cancel if you have the service, because apparently they don’t need the business that bad. (Mrs. Roamer here: I’d have to disagree I think cancelling played a major role in getting the better rate as in, We don’t mess around!)

4. Using your research, have at maximum cost you would be willing to pay and kindly push back until your happy.

Hope this helps you out.

Mrs. note: So in the end we went 3 days without internet and Mr. Roamer was able to negotiate price down to $28 with supposedly an increase in speed but I can’t really tell the difference on that last part.

Vacation with the traveling wallet

Fun on the Fly: How not to Vacation

The fancy pants trip to Wisconsin.

We recently returned form a very short adult only vacation. We traveled to Wisconsin from California to attend one of my friend’s wedding. It was great to see people and catch up again. Since we were on vacation we threw caution to the wind and spent freely. I knew it was going to be painful to see the numbers added up later.

It was lovely!
It was lovely!

Vacations can be very expensive when you get caught with your pant down. In other word when you’re not prepared. I am not adept with purchasing flights with points but I still think we got a good deal with the flights. However,  after that everything else was poorly planned.

Trip Costs

The Flights

This is almost always the most expensive part of our trips. From frequent travel I knew that purchasing tickets early was key. That is exactly what we did. I purchase plane tickets 3 months early and got what I thought a good deal.

2 round trip tickets from LAX to MKE. Sadly with a connection in DFW but that was a trade off for the price.

Total travel cost for 2: $646.40

Just to put in perspective why I felt this was a good price. We have purchased last minute tickets from Michigan to California or vice versa for 1 person for $700 or a bit more.  (Thankfully we are much smarter then that now a days!)

The Hotel

I’ll be honest we normally do travel that allows us to stay with family so this year was a rude awakening when it came to factoring in accommodations. In our earlier trip to Colorado, I was like, we are spending what for hotels? This trip was no different.

Darn it! just realized we could have totally couch surfed with some strangers since we had no kids with us. (seriously thought about it just now, as I type this post)

Cost for 2 nights : $204.9

The Food

This is where we made a big mistake! Well at least that’s how I feel. We could have easily spent less if we had planned the details better. Eating at the airport is not wise, the food is not very good and its expensive. How many meals did we eat at the airport you ask? 4, because of the connection we spent long days in travel and needed to cover breakfast and lunch for 2 days.  ( I know its embarrassing).

Just on airport food we spent $38.58

However we made 11 food related purchases during this vacation.

Total cost of food: $113.88

I feel we could have easily save at least $52 with better planning. Which would have included cooking oatmeal the night before our flight out for our breakfast and made some Pb & J sandwiches for our lunch on our way to Wisconsin.  We could have also packed extra oatmeal to have for breakfast on the day of our flight back.

How We Saved

Outfits

Now I know everyone doesn’t do this, but it has come to my attention that lots of people do like to find any excuse to buy themselves some new clothes. So I will say we saved here.

Actually I finally got around to taking in a dress my sister gave me, and the Mr. Roamer wore some of what he already owned.

My new to me dress! Finally fixed and ready to wear.
My new to me dress! Finally fixed and ready to wear.
Showing of the alterations. What do you think could I be a hand model?
Showing of the alterations. What do you think could I be a hand model?

To be completely honest I didn’t look up weather in Wisconsin. So I spent most of the night in a sweater since it was a stark difference from our California sun.  The sweater turned out to be good as I did not hem it tight enough around the bust.  Live and learn.

Total clothing costs: $0

Transportation 

We saved big here! We got dropped of by my mother at the airport and since it was a work day we would have used the car anyway.

I did do some research when it came to getting around. Luckily my friend had planned the festivities within a tight perimeter so walking from church to reception was completely feasible.

IMG_20141018_180706273

When we arrived at Milwaukee airport we used public transportation to get to the downtown where all the action would be happening.

Through out the trip we spent most of the time walking and only had to pay for bus fares to and from the airport. $2.25 per person. On the day of the wedding we walked to the fancier hotel where other guest were staying and found that there was a shuttle to the festivities. Score!

Total transportation cost: $9

Babysitting/ Child Care

Since the party was adult only we also had to arrange child care. My mother watches the children while we work. However for non essential situations we pay her on top of what our current arrangement is. Since this was a non essential situation it did have some dollar bills attached.

Roamer babysitting costs
Have to make sure the little ones are taken care of.

Total cost of child care: $150

The Present

We re-gifted.  That’s right I said it. Now that I’ve been learning about how important the earth is and all that I had no shame in re-gifting. It was some thing we had received for our wedding and we never even took it out of the package. I honestly feel bad for stuff that just sits around unloved.( Poor Woody and Buzz)The bride is a big Disney fan so I though it was perfect!

Exactly how they looked. Still in original packaging.

The only thing we bought was a card to go with it.

Total Cost for gift: $4.51

When you break it all down it doesn’t look so bad. So I’ll add it up for you. So you’ll understand why I think it was a Fancypants type of vacation.

Total trip cost: $1128.69

Or we spent  $19.46 per hour for the duration of the vacation.

Going on a vacation?

Some free attractions to consider

-Go see a church. People are always traveling to other countries to visit churches. There is lots of stain glass and architecture to be absorbed everywhere and anywhere.

Visit the markets. The hustle and bustle of the local markets is lots of fun. Usually you find some local tasty treats. Bonus!

- Just walk around. We saw a fire dancer at a park. No joke.

Check out  this article from the Frugalwoods their vacation was well thought out and they saved big buck because of it.

Are you going on vacation soon? How do you plan to keep the costs down? And what tasty treats will you enjoy?

Wedding or Marriage

A Wedding or A Marriage? Part 1

Here at the Traveling Wallet I am trying to talk about the journeys we go through in life, and one of the many stops people encounter is indeed the wedding. At 27 I’m at the age where everyone seems to be getting married or having babies. Seriously its every where.

But today I’d like to focus on marriage, lets start with a story. Maybe you’ve had a conversation like this lately maybe not but what’s the first thing to talk about when there is a proposal and therefore a marriage on the horizon. Well The ring of course… what follows is an actual conversation

Coworker ” I’m going to propose to Jenny*, how much did you spend on your wife’s ring?”

“I spent about $300 on it”

Coworker “Oh I’m not that cheap.”

“It’s actually exactly what she wanted.  Anyway, Will she still say yes if you gave her a ring from the candy machine?..ok ?then it shouldn’t matter?”

Doesn’t that exchange just paint the picture perfectly?

I think in this day and age we all need to sit down and ask ourselves this hard question. As a man, would she still say yes if I gave her a cereal box ring? and as a woman, Would I marry him if he gave me a vending machine ring? Really you are marrying the person not the ring. It seems to me the perfect test. I mean if the answer is no , why are you even getting married?

Wedding rings Roamer
The meaning of the wedding isn’t lost in the simplicity of the rings. They are after all a part of the whole. The goal is a happy and long marriage.

So I will be writing a series talking about ways to save on the wedding but we all need to remember it’s just the wedding not the marriage. Wedding vs. Marriage these are not mutually exclusive but we do have to recognize there is a difference and a rather important one at that.  When you realize that and remember it, it will be easy to cut and slash all the waste. 

Getting Married? Focus on what’s Important!

Save money on the wedding by focusing on the marriage.

Weddings have become big stage productions.  The wedding has become a show, a moment in your life to pretend you are royalty and to show everyone how amazing, fabulous and well off you are. God dammit this is the one day in your entire life that you deserve to be pampered and waited on. That is what a wedding is about, Right?

Wrong!

This might pain some people to hear but a wedding isn’t about showing off, you’ve already successfully found a mate. ( Who are you trying to impress? and why?)

A wedding really is just the door into the world of marriage, and what is a door really? Just a separation of one room from another. In this case from bachelorhood to married town.

Now think about that for a little longer.  How much time do you spend in a door way when walking from one room to another? A few seconds a minute maybe.. Is how fancy the door important? Not really, because in the great scheme of things you spend a negligible amount of time there. You spend your time in the rooms.

The same is true for the doorway to marriage. If you take the vow seriously you will be spending another  50-70 years with this person. That’s 24 hrs x 365 days x 50 yrs= 438,000 hrs and  a wedding takes what 6 hrs?  That is so small in comparison its not even .1% of the time you’ll spend together.  Yet there we are, most of us spend so much money and time for the wedding but not the same amount for the Marriage.

Now that we understand that a wedding is a doorway. Isn’t it just amazing and insane how people spend more time preparing for that 6 hrs celebrating then preparing for the 50 years after that day. So my advice lets all start preparing for a marriage not just a wedding. One of the biggest things neglected during wedding prep is having the difficult conversations before the I DO.

It’s been shown that the biggest tension between couples is indeed finances. Having an ostentatious wedding that caused you to get into debt is a sure way to start your marriage on the wrong foot.

So now that we know what a wedding is really for, saving should be easy. We can clearly look at each expense and acknowledge that  what we are adding is just to create a show, but won’t actually make the marriage any stronger. 

The Wedding Cost

During this little series I’m going to address some of the main culprits in a wedding. I’ll talk about

  1. The Location (where we get married?)
  2. The Dress
  3. The Guest list
  4. The Food
  5. The Pictures
  6. Decorations (including flowers and all the other knickknacks)
  7. The Engagement Ring.

I pretty much cover my feeling about the ring in this post. The conversation up top and the video down below really illustrate how I feel about the engagement ring. But just in case I think its completely unnecessary. But if you are going to buy one it needs to be one that you can afford. As in no monthly payments. A bigger engagement ring is not going to insure you a long marriage especially if it causes you to go into debt.

So ,here is a picture of what my numbers were for my wedding.

Wedding Cost for the Roamer
Our Wedding Costs, Itemized. HEY LOOK! I was able to save almost $800 from my budget.

We budgeted $5,000 and while that is still loads of money it is quite small when compared to the “Standard wedding” costing $25,000 or more.

Let’s finish this serious conversation on a light note. Think outside the box check out this college humor video.

I’ve been wanting to write wedding posts for a while because I really just don’t understand what is going on these days. Reading the following article really made think and pushed me to finish.

* name changed for privacy

 If you had a big wedding was it worth it? What would you have done differently?

If you are getting married soon what are some of the costs your worried about?

Interest savings rates

Got Interest? Making your money work hard for YOU

We are all looking for the holy grail, passive income and interest growth is the first step.

I’ve been managing money for longer then I realized. I thought it started after I graduated college but really it was before then. It was really in high school.

I use to have an account at a credit union that I rarely had access to. It was 2 cities away and it’s were I kept my emergency money.

How funny to look back now and realize I always had an emergency fund. This was the money I had saved while growing up.  It totaled $1,000 but it fluctuated up an down but I almost always had at least $700. It was my child hood account, so I had no debit card for it just the card that had the account number. I kept this account open specifically because it was so hard to get to. It was meant to be for emergencies. I knew that if I needed to, I at least had $1000.

I also had a WaMu account where I kept the money I earned in college. (remember Washington Mutual?)

I remember opening my quarterly statement from the credit union. Always curious to see the interest I had earned and always reading about how if I earned more then $10 it would be reported as income. Wow! I use to think $10 in interest wouldn’t that be great, but I really didn’t understand the system.

Fast Forward

I graduate from College and in an effort to have my money earn more money I devise a plan.

CDs, at some point I had become aware of CD’s and their higher interest earning potential. So I drop $1000 into a 1 month one. I saw wow I earned $ .25. in just a few months. More than I had earned in several years in a plain old saving account.

I wish you could hear me chuckle.

How funny that $.25 made my eyes gleam with possibilities. I increased the quantity somewhere to $3,000 and earned more interest. But I soon realized I could earn more if I just did a 6 month CD.

6 months I thought that’s a long commitment

But I had gone 6 months not drawing on my monthly CD just renewing it and adding some deposits. That’s when I realized its not just that I don’t get to pull my money out, I also don’t get to deposit more.

That’s when it clicked. Well, I could just open a new one.

Aaahhh ha! That’s it! I’ll have two 6 month CDs spaced 3 months apart in effect making a 3 month CD and getting the much higher .2% interest rate. All I have to do is divide the money evenly and place about $3500 in each.

CD wheel
6 month CD’s , but plan so that I have access every 3 months.

I was quite proud of myself.
Gaming the CD system. Now I was earning about $4 every 6 months. The best part all my $7000 were earning the higher interest but I had access to $3500 four months a year.

Woo Hoo what a success story! Don’t you think?

Fast Forward

This year I finally opened my Barclay account. A while back someone had made a comment about money market accounts and how you earned way better then saving account. Well I did the research and I couldn’t find a money market account but I did discover the much more competitive online banking options.

Online banking I thought is that even safe? I was nervous sure, but it was FDIC insured. So I took the plunge!

Long story short now in less than 6 months I have earned about $14. That is 4 times more then I was earning in the CDs.

I won’t be leaving my money sitting around in a poor excuse of a saving account ever again.

So here is where it gets good for you. Story time is over now its time for action so here are the Barclay stats.

Barclay stats.

FDIC insured
Limit 6 withdrawals a months
Pays currently .9% (as of 10/1/14)
minimum balance none so $1
About 10 day wait to get funds out.

What its not doing

Locking your money up!  (you can deposit and withdraw every month. Now that is what I call flexibility!)

My advice

You don’t need to take the 10 years to learn about banking like I did.

Here is my step plan
1. Save your emergency fund $1000 to start
2. Skip the CD’s they tie up your money and don’t pay up.
3. Open an online savings account. I am partial to Barclay but there are other choices.
4. Move money to Barclay start with the $1000

Have you paid off all your debt? Yes? move to step 5

5.Set up automatic saving to your online account $100 a month at least
6. Watch your money grow
7. If you do have an emergency put it on your credit card. Earn points
8. Then transfer money from your online account. The 10 day wait is fine and you will not pay interest on your credit card if you pay the balance in fullIf you do have an emergency put it on your credit card. Earn points
9. Celebrate the fact that you are earning free money
10. Save 3 months expenses
11. Open vanguard fund with all other savings

This goes with out saying that step 5 and on is only after you have paid off all your debt.

Maybe your still not comfortable with the idea of investing or having your money somewhere you can’t get to it.

Because of how long it took me to learn I had practice with  baby steps. First with my credit union being to far to get to easily and then with the CDs that limited my access. So I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of not being able to get to all my money on that same day. I’ve built that up.

So take some time to get comfortable with the idea keep it in your brick and mortar bank for a few months but don’t wait to long.  Each day that passes those are dollar you are loosing. After 2 months move it over .

This should hopefully get you more comfortable with the idea of a retirement account and just regular taxable investing. You’ll definitely need to build up patience and commitment to learn to let your money ride the bumpy upward trend.

Update: It occurred to me that my point was to soft. What I am saying is that if you are going to be saving big quantities of money for a safety fund you should have it in the best vehicle. Earning the most interest.

What do you think? Leave me a comment.

Traveling Wallet

Versatile blogger Award: Random facts about ME

versatile-blogger-award

WOOH!

HAHA well I just got nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award!  First I’d like to thank my husband, and the children and (SCREECH!)

Just Kidding. It’s funny really, this reminds me of chain letters. Do you remember those chain letters in middle school? Still I’ll be a good sport and play along. It’s all for fun so thank you Mrs.Tips for nominating me.

So the way this works is that the nominated get to share random facts about themselves. Sweet! So in no particular order.

AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE ROAMER REVEALED!

1. You guessed it, I’m a woman! When I started this blog I felt it was really important to remain anonymous BECAUSE, I felt people respect male opinions more when it comes to the topic of money. Which is silly really since most of the men at work make it sound like their wives control the money. Hmm. Something to think about.

2. I have 2 children. AND, it really bothers me that neither of us is really raising them right now. You can say what you want but if you spend 9 hrs a day away during the first 5 years of their lives, well you have to realize that someone else is impressing upon them during the most important developmental time of their life.  Its not an opinion it’s the truth. (Unless you defer daycare duties to robots then its something, not someone)

3. I really like to dance. But I don’t make time for it now a days. Except yesterday, Yesterday was Awesome!

4. I’m opinionated.

5. I hate smoking. with. a. passion.  I know some cool people who smoke. I don’t get it.

6. Booze! no thanks. I partied it up in college but that didn’t include booze. During that time I could count on both hands how many drinks I’ve had in all my life. Now I probably need to use my toes.

7. I use to write poetry. Specially when I was going through a rough time.  It was probably poorly written but it was healing.

8. I still haven’t decided whether its more important to sleep or blog. With a full time job, kids, husband and trying to blog. Where does sleep fit in? I don’t know how others do it. Hmm. blog…or…sleep. Blog or Sleep. BLOG? SLEEP?

9. I have the best HUSBAND EVER! SERIOUSLY. He does way more dishes then I do. I appreciate it immensely. I should probably say that out loud more.

10. I want to help people who are super financially illiterate.  I’m trying to figure out how I get them here. I am thinking of teaching a class.

Thanks again so much for this fun post idea. Hope you all enjoyed.

Now its your turn.

 leave me a comment if there is some financial topic you want me to discuss specifically.

 

Student loan forgiveness

Why I don’t endorse student loan forgiveness

Are you telling me you want to exempt and forgive people from paying student loans that they consciously got into of their very own volition.

Have you ever heard the phrase necessity is the mother of invention.

In plain English that means if you need it you will figure out a solution.

As a person who just recently conquered student debt  I have to ask myself, Why is this topic even on the table?

The truth is the real problem is that so much money is being borrowed so let address the real issue not the symptom. People being way in debt is not the cause of the problem it’s the result. The real problem is that students go into college not really understanding how money works and what it will all look like when they get out.

Oh and they accept defeat. As in ” School is so high cost I can’t possibly get an education with out going so into debt that my brain will explode.  But hey, a degree is important it doesn’t really matter in what I just need one.  After all its the only way to get a job”

So instead of being reactive, lets get some stuff in place to prevent the problem in the first place. 

Simple rules I never heard of before college but that every student should know before picking their degree.

Before you get into DEBT 

  • Don’t get into more debt then your degrees starting salary. So, know what your degree is actually worth, not just the sticker price.
  • Work during school, to pay for school(work study or better yet attend a school where working is part of the graduation requirement, I did and made 15/hr right out of high school in my field of study)
  • Apply for scholarships merit or other.  There are scholarships out there for so many things not all based on GPA. It takes time but you can find them, ” I got a scholarship for 12k a year just for being from California, no joke”
  • Realize the cost of every hr of class, Don’t retake classes. Seriously I was not the best student and retook quite a few classes. IT COST ME DEARLY. In my last year of school, the extra one I had to take due to my lack of focus , I about doubled my debt, I owed 26K and jumped all the way up to 46K in one year. Bye bye scholarship only good for 4 years.
  • Don’t ignore the schools that pay you to go. Your financial aid package should definitely be one of the determining factors for where you study.
  • Student loans are not for buying cars ( seriously I saw a shirt in college that said Sallie Mae paid for my car, I was like what does that mean? Oh that they borrowed money to buy a car. Really what the F? )
  • Most all college/universities have free extracurricular activities for enrichment and entertainment purposes. Plan to use them.

After you are in DEBT

  • After you graduate keep living like a college student.
  • You can deduct some interest in your taxes if you make less then a certain amount so, Use the tax refund you get on interest, to pay the principle . Sorry no fun money.
  • Pay highest interest rate first.
  • Watch your balance like a hawk call the provider, suffer the long wait to make sure any extra money goes to the principle
  • Use the grace period to pay down principle. 
  • Pay interest if you can during school. ( some loans accumulate interest during schooling some don’t) This prevents it from capitalizing and having your interest earn interest.
  • Max out subsidized loans first
  • Realize that debt is bad!! It doesn’t matter if it’s for coffee or university  most debt means interest, and interest means you are paying (giving away) extra money. The sooner you pay it off the less interest you will pay over all.
  • Get your priorities straight.

Lets take a look at the first bullet point.  Don’t borrow more then your starting salary. Let look at a really over simplified chart.

oversimplified graph
oversimplified graph

In this chart we just looked at the numbers, if you borrow more then your starting salary you are already extending the payment years, because you couldn’t even cover it with all your new fancy salary. This chart doesn’t even take into consideration interest, add that in and you’ll get a really ugly picture for people who over borrow.

 Now let say you can save half, much more realistic well it will take you 4 yrs to pay it off if you borrow more then your starting salary. Now if it was less then your yearly salary it would take 2 yr to pay off saving half the income.

What message are you sending?

All this is asking is learn to pay your bills. Create good habits.

I recently read an article where the question was I’m drowning in so much debt I feel like I’ll never be able to buy a car or house..hmm lets see if you can’t pay off $ 500 a month what makes you think your ready for a $ 2000 a month house payment? Clearly this pain you feel is a red flag, but the lesson to learn is not how do I get out of the obligation, it’s how do I learn to manage my money better. Oh and it also means, yeah you can’t afford to buy that truck and house yet since you can’t pay off a debt 1/10 as big.

Sorry the truth hurts.

So I say let people learn how to manage their money now and look at the long term impact of their decisions so that you don’t train people to think its ok to borrow more then you can payback. Who knows maybe this will translate to all their purchases and we won’t have people who can’t even save 20% down for a house, maxing out the
limit of what they can borrow and later filing for bankruptcy ….(A Utopian financially literate world…HEY, I can DREAM can’t I)

With all these tips why should we forgive student debt . You got into it knowingly it’s just another bill.

But just for another visual I ran some more numbers

Student loan chart
Looking at numbers for different debt situations, and some alternative payment options.

In the above chart we have different debt situations but the message its trying to convey is how much bigger your minimum payment can get. It also shows how just adding a few more dollars to your payment reduces your term sentence and saves you lots on interest. Sure its not taking into consideration if you have children or just bought a house or new car. But if you follow the rule about not borrowing more then you make the alternative payment plan is reasonable. We were able to set aside $1480 per month for our student debt and that still included $400  of fun money in our budget.

I say start holding people accountable for their decisions specially if they are fabricated problems. As in you can spend $100 a week on a bar tab but you can’t scrape together the $300 a month to pay of some principle to your loan. ( If your sharp you noticed that $100 a week equals $400 a month and you could redirect that fun money to your job of paying off that loan money). Or if you are going on international vacations or any other unnecessary spending when you have a financial obligation. 

Do you know a high school graduate who is about to transition to the real world. Pass them the advice and set them up for success
It’s true that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink . But if you put a bunch of financial puddles around them you can at least hope they’ll get their feet wet.

What do you think? Do most people have a valid reason for needing their student loans forgiven?

– The Roamer

If you want to read more of my student loan debt pay off read my article University Debt Freedom.

travel 2

Saving on a Vacation: Traveling alternatives

Its labor day weekend and so the summer officially ends. Many are out and about trying to get in their last stint of travel.

We had the chance this year to explore some new territory but looking back I’m interested to see what the cost was and whether we could have done it differently.

I’m not a travel hacker by any means. The travel I did when I was younger was largely due to school. Thinking about it I was able to do it for really cheap maybe at a cost of $100 or less for climbing trips to West Virginia and Kentucky. That was for about 3 nights with food and logging included. I would venture the trip to Chicago and Philadelphia for a conference where about the same.

So now lets analyze the Roamer clan’s summer trip to Colorado.

Recently we had a vacation. Traveling is one of the passions I want to feed but that doesn’t mean I am looking for the plushest accommodations or the highest priced locations. The small amount of travel I have been able to do has been during my college years on shoestring budgets. Living the adult life doesn’t make me want to inflate my travel cost, specially when there is no reason.

It was great fun to visit family and to experience a different place. I loved the houses in Colorado. They all looked so unique and seemed to have their own little details that made them seem so. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted ,like try out the Bcycle, but it was nice to go somewhere new. So as far as I can tell our last trip cost was $1915 for a nine night stay in Denver,CO for a family of 4. I’ll break it down in a graph then I’ll present the alternative more affordable option.

Colorado Costs

 

The Alternative

As I planned our trip I just automatically assumed we would fly. How else would we get there. It didn’t even cross my mind to drive until a coworker asked how we would be getting there and assumed we’d be driving. In retrospect  I can see that we could have driven to Colorado.  It’s a long haul with 2 kids, but I had driven twice the distance frequently to Michigan when I had just the one. So it’s possible, and oh the money we could have saved.

One of the things I had checked out was camping during our stay. Trying to figure out how we’d do that with no camping gear in CO, well, I realized it wasn’t feasible. That is only true for flying there, if we had driven we’d pack the camping gear from home. Tent, sleeping bags, and so on. We could have stayed at  Jefferson county fairgrounds, the tent stays are shown for $25 per night, 7 day stay limit, 14′ x 14′ plot.  There are showers and restrooms. Sounds good to me and what a price cut compared to our actual accommodations. 

Just changing those 2 items, how we got there and where we stay would yield us a saving of almost $1,000.00. You can see that in the table I included, and that was without changing any of the other costs. To me that is a good amount of savings.

Still we were fortunate to be able to save costs in other places. Having family in the area meant a few of the meals where covered as we visited different relatives houses, and one even let us borrow a car so we had no car rental costs.

So even though the trip could have been about half as expensive we still did ok. If you do the math it was about $53 per person per day.

Are you setting out for some travel for this long weekend? Did you just get back from a trip some where? It really is amazing how just a few tweaks to the itinerary can save you money. What do you do to save on your travel?
Vanguard 2

Entering the World of Investing

I finally did it!

I opened my own Vanguard Account!

 I took the plunge, and opened my first independent investment account.

Don’t ask me why, but I felt a rush and anticipation as I worked towards owning my vanguard fund.

I felt like I am finally jumping into the pool  of  investing.

It’s kind of amusing and silly as I have a 401k which I just currently set up to max out. That is of course also investing.

I know why it feels different, because really it isn’t my choice when it comes to the 401K. The company pick who will run our investments, then the investment firm decides what funds they will offer. You (I) just pick how much. Currently the that portfolio is running off of a target retirement date. 

Even though I know I could be more active this is just were I am at now with this.

So being able to choose it all. The investment firm, the stock. The amount.  It’s exhilarating. But I’m nervous and fearful too.

Yet I am confident. My nervousness wasn’t about loosing money it was about starting something new and pushing my comfort zone. 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and what have I learned about investing?

KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Why vanguard?

Well I frequent lots of FI blogs, I drink the stuff up like delicious sweet juicy nectar and I’m not going to argue with the pros. (pros because they’ve been doing it longer and have net worth’s to prove it)

So here is the scoop
It really has to do with Low fees. If I’m able to drop an equal amount of money into this account as my 401k I wouldn’t be surprised to see better gains due to lower fees.

They offer a total stock market fund. 

I’m excited and can’t wait to see how I ride out the stocks bumpy upward trend.


** congratulations to me . The new proud owner of some  VTSMX stocks. All I could purchase with the $3700 I had sitting around, The VTSMX  has the low entry of $3000.

idea

Why Didn’t I think of that?

Today I had an Ah-HA moment.
Honestly, it was a face palm moment and I really did think. Why in the world did I not think of that.

Lately I have been learning a lot about finances. I’ve been getting nice and friendly with the idea of investing, and dipping my toes into optimization. So understanding the purpose and usage of a 401K has been one of them. So we finally committed to maxing out our 401K’s every year. To do that we did the math and figured out what percentage of our paychecks we had to contribute to get there.

The Problem

When we started doing this calculation we were assuming a year of contributions. Which means how do we need to spread this out in a 12 month period.

Why was this a problem?

Well we were in July not January, This means we were ignoring all the potential of this year and saying “OK, lets just make sure next year we get the $17,500 into each of our 401K.” (making and awesome plan like that is not a problem)

BUT what about this year?

This year we started with lower percentages in our 401K and just recently scaled it up to the percent we need to max out.  We would have only contributed ~$13,382 and ~$9471 to our respective 401Ks. While this is a lot better then the national average it is not the maximum contribution.

These numbers leave about ~$12,000 on the table.

The Solution

So what to do next?

So I ran the numbers again (since I am the money managing being in the house) This time with the goal to max out the contributions allotted for this year, but still have enough paycheck to pay the bills for the next 4 months.

So the math looked something like this

Max contribution- $$ already contributed-$$ taken out for next paycheck= total left to contribute

$17,500- $6,969-$712=$9,819

Then divide that by the number of months left. Then divide by 2 since I get paid twice a month.

$9,819/4=$2,454/2=$1,227

This means that for every paycheck I need to be contributing $1,227 to get close to maxing out my 401K.

Well that’s all nice and dandy but my 401K works on percentages.

So now I just divide this by my paycheck gross.

$1,227/$2,299= .53 x 100=53%

So there you have it I need( and did ) up my contribution to 53% to make sure I capture as much of my tax saving 401K money as possible.

One thing you do need to think about is you do still need to leave enough money to cover all the other draws on your paycheck. For example your medical premium, taxes, FSA and such. Even adding all my other costs I will still be able to bring in a paycheck. So make sure you do that final check.

Maybe you won’t be able to max out your account this year, but if you find your self with more money because you have payed down your debts and are living more efficiently. Well I would definitely look into dropping more money into that 401K.

Another great reason to know how to do this little calculation is that if you are planning on leaving a job (for whatever reason) and don’t have another one to go to. Well you can still get all your $17,500 while you work you just do the math. Lets say I’m planning to quit work in June 2015. Well I can just divide $17,500 by 6(# of months) and then I’ll know how much I need to contribute each month so that I contribute the max.

 

Have you had any financial Ah-ha moments lately? Let me know maybe it will inspire me to have another.
Food 1

Save Money: by not guessing what’s for dinner

Do you get home from a long day at work and walk around wondering what is for dinner . Just to throw your hands in the air with exasperation say ” F it “and jump back in the car looking for your favorite eats. Well you might not know but you are suffering from a sickness that result in a chubs belly and endless amount of money being flushed down the drain.

I know it sounds terrible. Would you like to get the cure! It’s actually easy ( no pills involved) all you have to do is grab a pen and paper ,then start making some lists. That’s right a few list will get you back to sexy waist and pockets of money*

(Cut infomercial)

Ahh,  it’s the beginning of the month and it’s time for the usual routine here at the Roamer fort. Prepping the dinner menu for the month.

Let’s face it, a lazy moment is almost all it takes to jump in the car and head to a restaurant or to pick up the phone and order carry out when it’s time for dinner. Lets also admit that rarely do we save money by eating out, and to top it off its rare to get food of good quality or nutrient. And for goodness sake sometimes it doesn’t even save us the time.

Having to rush through our bed time routine with the kids because we decided to go out to eat is not fun and it doesn’t happen if we just cooked at home.

Here are a few tips on saving money when it’s time to eat.
When that hard long day comes it’s going to take a lot of will power to not take the easy and expensive way out so here are a few preventative steps to take before that day to make choosing the healthiest and most affordable option the easiest.

Make a list

I know sooo boring but whatever. I make lists, its my thing and it is helpful . Really you could probably open your pantry and refrigerator and whip up something creative with the ingredients you find,  but in reality creativity sounds like challenge/work and when I am feeling lazy a challenge is not what I want. So back to the list.

The list I’m talking about is a list of all the food you and your partner know how to cook.. Including all the different varieties( so not sandwich but tuna sandwich,  chicken  sandwich, avocado sandwich) and so on. The benefit of this list?  Well sometimes we go out to eat because we are tired of having the same thing all the time. Chances are that even though you know how to make 20 different dishes you actually stick to about 5-7 meaning you repeat them often in a month. Ugh, No wonder you feel like you have pasta and tomatoes sauce twice a week,  because you are!

Now you can be in awe at the variety of food that can be had at home( I like to remind people to relish  such knowledge because really most of us don’t know what’s what until we write it down). Now that we are armed with this information we can move on to step 2(* if your list is small 10 dishes or less it’s time to spruce up those cooking skills unless a lack of variety is not an issue for you or the family)

Make a menu

I use to make a weekly menu .. Then I wouldn’t have to guess on that night what was for dinner and I was set for a week. But man it was a pain every Sunday. Neither of us wanted to make it plus we still ended  up repeating meals weekly, so now we make monthly menus . So you can start slow and make a week one or go all out and make a monthly one. The point is that even if you have all the ingredients to make something you might still not make it because you have to pull the idea out of thin air. That takes more effort, not that I’m encouraging laziness, just encouraging efficiency. (Roamer tip, don’t forget about lunch on the weekends).

Spend where it counts

I use to be quite reluctant to spend a lot of money on chicken and beef. Compared to all the staples they were the most expensive items. 

Then I came to the realization that I could spend $ 10 for 2 cuts of beef and maybe $4 more for veg and rice… or I could buy only vegetables and ground beef( cheap meat) save $5 on the beef. Then get a craving for steak every other week and spend $50+ dollars on 2 adult plates and maybe a kids plate at a restaurant totaling $ 100 more a month.  Or with those $100 I could have bought 10 more serving of protein, so I got smart and started spending where it mattered.

Pretty much what it comes down to is planning ahead can cut out lots of the issues you can encounter. This is true for our finances and is also true for our meals.

It’s funny because it doesn’t only save you money but it saves you from all the extra hassle. Some people would say doing all this(lists) is a hassle but what about all the hassle you deal with when you don’t know what’s for dinner day in and day out. Blah! Give me 30 min Guaranteed instead of potential hrs and hrs of hassle stretched out over 30 days.

Finally also make sure you have easy meals on hand. For me this is stuff that requires very minimal preparation. I am including my Avocado sandwich as and example for one of our lazy dinners.

To summarize

Make a list of all the meals you know
Create a menu
Make a shopping list
Spend where it matters
Have an easy to whip together meal for lazy days

My Avocado Sandwich Recipe 

Ingredients: Eggs, Avocado, Onions, Spinach,Bread, Lemons, olive oil

1. Add olive oil to pan, Scramble eggs in a pan, cook/brown onions

2. Rinse spinach and lime, Toast bread, Cut avocado

3.Assemble Sandwich, Squirt lemon juice before adding second slice of bread. ENJOY! you could even add a side of carrots

food

* result vary and are 100% dependent on what you eat and that money saved is not wasted in some other area

What Tips do you have for cutting food costs?

Funding the Journey through Parenthood, Early Retirement and Travel