Category Archives: Maximizing money

January Expenses and the uber frugal month wrap up

What do the uber frugal month challenge and our January spending have in common?

Only that they happened on the same month.

So peek through to see our uber frugal month challenge results. How much did we save? How much did we spend? and what was our honest opinion. Finally, whether we think it’s right for you.

So lets hop to it..

Continue reading January Expenses and the uber frugal month wrap up

Net worth update

Hi,

So it’s about time for another net worth update. When I first posted my net worth out for the world to see, I wasn’t so sure how I felt about it. Being transparent about you financials is a bit Taboo. It’s probably not a surprise that as the sharer I feel like I am leaving myself a bit exposed.

While I am not sharing my net worth here monthly it is something I keep and eye on. I decided that I felt that giving a yearly snap shot was probably not so bad. But I am running behind as these snap shots should be coming out during January. While I didn’t get the post out I did make sure to record my stats.

So in this post I will be sharing the growth we saw in the 12 month period since the last net worth post.

Also before putting this post out there I wanted to talk about our savings. Now that I’ve finally posted how much we saved last year I can finally share our new net worth. So if you haven’t read about our savings I highly recommend you head there first then come back here. Read about last years savings at Big Savings & Happiness: Can you have both?

Today we are already in May and that means this year is almost half over. Time seems to run right through our fingers so making big changes can seem so daunting. But a lot can change in just one year if you put your mind to it. That is the story behind our net worth growth.

It turns out 365 days is a lot of time.

Continue reading Net worth update

Frugal Back to School shopping

Last week on Tuesday Jr went back to school. Not only that, I also realized I’m getting old he’s getting old. I mean he’s in 2nd grade!

( inhale ,exhale, inhale, exhale)

What happened to the surprise baby. 🙁

After the initial shock I had a thought. And it went like this.

“Oh yeah, wasn’t there a shopping thing I was supposed to do to get ready for today”

I didn’t prepare at all. I didn’t even really think about preparing for it at all. Other then  “oh Jr starts school next week “.

Instead of think about it in regards to money and purchases. I thought about it in regards to time.

How are our schedules going to change? Adjust?

But wait a minute

I want to go back to this money and back to school shopping thing.

We all know that there is an endless barrage to buy. That is no different when it comes to kids and school. Actually my research showed its the 2nd most consumeristic time of the year. The message to buy was rampant. Even so I hardly noticed it myself.

The truth is I didn’t get a list so I wasn’t worried about having to check items off that list. Still, I got curious about this back to school shopping practice so I did  some research.

How much are parents spending on their back to school shopping sprees? And on what?

A standard list of items for back to school shopping even for young 2nd grade students is pretty extensive.

Back to school list

Writing utensils, Art stuff, Paper. But this list didn’t even include clothes.

Checking off all the items on the box + clothes will leave you $630 poorer says NRF’s study.

As an aspiring minimalist I have to say the list  I found looked a bit much. I recall my days in school and a few back to school shopping trips. (I don’t think it was as popular a thing back then.)  You know what else I recall having plenty of left overs at the end of the year.

It’s not over yet

After checking the last items off your list, walking around with a lighter wallet, you are finally ready to say good bye to the school related spending.

Phew!

While it sounds like most parents (American parents?) spend a lot of time thinking about the initial cost of school few discuss all the other costs.

Yup that’s right closing your wallet after picking up the last 3 ringed binder on the list is not the end of your school related spending. Oh no.

Whether you plan to pay for them or abstain its a good idea to at least acknowledge all the other costs.

$5-10 PTA membership. We receive the little envelope the first week of  school.  We pass on this because I don’t have time to participate.

$20- $60 Class pictures. Okay these are kind of nice special since we don’t go take professional pictures as a family every single year ( actually never do this).But the costs can get up there.

Growing up we always got full picture packages. You know how much good it did us?

Zero good, well zero to buy so many. Being the only family to live in the USA, it would have been nice to send them to family outside the country. But we  never did, instead we end up with hundreds of paid pictures that we didn’t need.

Maybe that was just my family but I’m using it as a lesson. We do buy them but only exactly how many we need. Which usually is the smallest package or 1-2 sheets. Usually $20-$27. Though still ridiculously over priced in my opinion much better then the $60 or more you spend if you want everything.

$5-$10 Field trips, ~2 per year. If you really like experiences, don’t forget to account for these later in the year. But the older your kid gets the more expensive. I was in marching band growing up and we had 3 field trips a year at about $45 each.

$20-$60 Spring pictures. The class pictures twin brother is the spring pictures. If your going to buy Ask yourself the same question. How many do I need exactly? We did not purchase these last year.

$????? Team fees, gear, and uniforms. We actually don’t have to worry about this, this year, but I know its a cost many parents place upon themselves. So make sure you account for it.

Also expect to get plenty of solicitations for, PTA garage sales, cookie sales, valentines day grams , mothers day grams, father’s day grams… Well you get my point. There’s a lot more spending to be done if you don’t keep your priorities straight.

Finally Hidden Costs

In my family and maybe yours too I know we will see Increased car usage. I recognized it right away that we would be using the car much more  frequently. Doing 2 round trips every day to school. This is going to cost more in gas usage. I am keeping an eye out to see it reflected in my monthly accounting.

Destroyed clothing. I don’t know what it is but during the summer break Jr did not put any holes in his clothing. However during school last year he was putting holes in his knees non stop and part of the dress code is no ripped clothing. So not only is there clothes shopping at the beginning of the school year  there is potential for it during the year too.

His Dad ended up purchasing him new jeans(multiples) more then once and we even did too. So I am expecting this cost this year as well. Though I am not scared of patching holes in knees for Mr. Roamer and myself. Jr’s tiny leg holes made the whole process much more labor intensive and time consuming. So I am thinking just purchasing replacements. Through thrift stores of course.

After all that bad news.

Tips for saving

  1. Wait to actually get a list from a teacher.

If you Google your child’s grade level there are plenty of lists of must haves available and the lists can be very inclusive.

Instead of doing this wait to get a list of items from the actual teacher. Then question the validity of them all. Every single item on the list. After all they are only suggestions so identify the real and true must haves, then move on to step number 2.

IMG_20150827_144500
We still have lots of pencils and erasers at home.

2.Check at home first. A cluttered house can make it difficult to find items but you should try anyways. Likely you have at least pencils, pens, eraser, glue and crayons already at home.

3. Realize they don’t need it new every year if it works fine still. School is not a fashion show.  Back pack, lunch box? You don’t need a new one every year.

Finally we are going to address the excess driving by increasing my biking.

So far we have spent zero dollars on our back to school shopping. But I know that will change as school term progresses.

Alright all you parents or students. Did you go back to school shopping? How did you save? If you didn’t cause you don’t have any kids what would you do with the extra $630 you might have spent?

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Do you put your money where your mouth is?

I made a lot of changes last year. Honestly though, they were easy changes to make. Math, I trust it. And it showed me it would be no problem to reach my goals.

Today I’m going to make a big change. I am so scared. That is so depressing in itself, when did I become so complacent. I have been with my company since 2008. The last 2 years I have suffered through it. I wasn’t proactive enough, maybe. Truth is it doesn’t matter, I just never did much about my situation. I see now that I’ve stayed because it was safe. I’ve been saying, “I am ready for a change,” but I haven’t done anything really.

Just last year I changed positions but I’m still with the same company.  I’ve tried to shake things up without shaking them up too much.

Do I really want to work at this company until I reach F.I.?

I changed positions because I foolishly thought I can keep doing this until we are financially free. But today I chose to not let the next 10 years be a sacrifice,  instead they would be a wonderful growing experience.

What was my big decision? To put my money where my mouth is and sign up for ZTL. It promises to help me understand the systems to set up an online business and show me the steps to actually get it done.  What? Why an online business? Lets jump back a bit.

Old Dreams and Goals

I don’t know when the idea first popped in my head, but I have wanted to to start my own business for a long time (some people call them side hustles). The kind of business has morphed, and it has included all these:

  • Own a Rental property, When I was in college I rented a house with roommates. I could tell that the landlords where making a killing.  So I could see the income potential. I wanted to find a way to purchase a house and rent it out. Right there in our college area.(I’m still interested in this)
  • Start a Restaurant, I also thought that a restaurant that served authentic Latin food would be an instant hit, especially in MI, where the food variety is quite lacking.
  • Start a class, I know how to do some crafty things and I wanted to try my hand at teaching it.
  • Do Consulting, If you read my about page you would know I am a lean manufacturing engineer. Lean consultants help businesses become more efficient and improve their bottom line. Not to mention I’d get to work with different industries. Sounds good.

So I have been wanting to start my own business for a while.

Are FEARS  holding you back?

Yet here I am, I haven’t done any of those things. I had excuses for all of them. Lean Consultant? I’m not actually certified. I didn’t have the money. I didn’t have the time. I wasn’t a professional chef or even had any culinary training. I got pregnant!

If I look back on my yearly goals, I have had a goal to get certification on there for at least 2 years. But the cost never made sense. Honestly I was miffed that my company wasn’t offering me the same opportunities they had offered other people. (People not even interested or appreciative of those valuable courses, yes I am going off on a rant). Some where along the way I learned that I needed to do it myself. That if I wanted certain certifications, I would have to get them myself.  But again I wasn’t setting aside the funds. I wasn’t making it a priority.

Do you make goals for self improvement? What keeps you from taking action on them?

Why now?

Like I said I have been wanting to go out on my own for a while. Try something new. But it never seem to be the right time. So whats changed? Why now?

  • Financially Secure: Finally our Family is in a good financial place right now. We are debt free and have reduced our expenses and have a cash flow cushion.
  • I’ve already started with baby steps. Staying up at night and having this blog on my mind constantly, I am committed and have the drive pushing me forward.
  • I am seeing returns already with putting myself out there . I’ve made new connections with great people who I check up on and who check up on me.
  • I don’t want to wait until I retire to live my ideal life.  I am aware that its possible to start living it now.
  • An Increase in courage, post like, Why I choose to spend 7K for a coach by Good Financial Cents have shown me the value in investing in personal growth.
  • Spend more time with my family, Starting an online business and making it viable will give me the freedom to work from home. I am ready to make the sacrifices (lose sleep) to get there.

The Cost to invest in myself

So this course, ZTL, I am signing up for isn’t cheap. It’s advertised at $199 per month. That means I would have spent $2388 by December. My frugality didn’t disappear, so once I had it in my head that I was interested, I wondered if there was some way to save on that by paying all at once. Sure enough in very small letters there it was save $391 by paying all at once. So I spent $1997 and saved almost 2 whole months of payments.

In the end it was really a cost vs. value question.

The new Goal

As time has passed my goals have morphed and their priorities have changed. Thinking about when I would even have time has also changed when I had projected to achieve them. Since becoming more financially savvy I have been able to positively impact my business goal. It has changed from….

  • Own my own business someday (before I die)
  • Own my own business after I retire (10 years out to even start)
  • Own my own viable business by 2016!

Signing up for this course has made me feel like I should be able to have something by the end of the year.

I’m READY!

Are you investing in yourself?

It doesn’t have to be 7K like Jeff or 2k like myself, it doesn’t even have to be $100.

You can start by reading books or blogs that make you take control. Things that will lay the ground work, the foundation for the next step.

I’m Currently reading 7 habits of highly effective people. This book in itself will help you get into the mindset where you can honestly ask if paying to learn is worth it. A mind set where you don’t just automatically say its too expensive and not worth the cost. But where you can ask if you are emotionally, physically, mentally and financially ready to make such a commitment.

I’m nervous, but I’m excited too. Paying money is just a financial manifestation of the fact that I am ready to make the changes I need to get out of my current job situation.

What is an investment you’ve made recently? Leave a comment down below no judgments here. What do you think is the first step to investing in yourself?

 

Design your own Wedding dress

Hi everyone today at Traveling Wallet we will be talking about wedding dress design.

Design your own wedding dress

  • Let’s talk about why you would want to
  • Tips for how to
Why design your own dress?

The Cost

Do you know the range for the cost of already made wedding dresses?

The average is $1,100

But designer dresses can even be north of $6,000. ( Boing, as eyes pop out of sockets)

The average cost would have been 20% of my budget.

I designed my own wedding dress and as it were my actual dress cost was $173. Which was more like 4% of my total cost.

Its funny I thought that designing your own stuff meant it would be more expensive. Guess I was wrong. 

Uniqueness

I’m going to play to the crowd here and say most women ( major generalization I know) are mortified about going to a party and someone else wearing the same dress. Not likely to happen at a wedding, but if you design your own dress then no one else will have it! Plus you can insure you have all the different features, something that is very hard to do when shopping ready made.

It would be one of a kind.

Accomplishment

Come on, how awesome would it be when someone says “oh I love your dress its so beautiful ,where did you get it? or who’s it from?” And you say I designed it myself. Extra point if you make it yourself too.

How to design your own wedding dress.

Find some inspiration

Roamer wedding inspiration inspiration 2 Wedding Roamer

I looked at pictures for ideas of features I liked and wanted to include. In my case a low back, mermaid silhouette and tiers? ( not sure if that is correct term). But the one thing I couldn’t find was an off the shoulders dress. So find yourself some inspiration.

Sketch up a design

Traveling Wallet Wedding dress design sketch
I drew many sketches but this is the one I provided to the seamstress.

I drew multiple sketches up trying to get my mind around the features I wanted to include. Perhaps you need a bit of drawing skills but as you can see by my picture it’s nothing like what you would see in patterns ( those things people buy at Joann to make clothes at home)

Add specific features. Outline the material, color , and any embellishment.

Find a seamstress

Once you decide you want to design your own dress and have it made, verbalize your goals to people. This will help you use your network. I found my seamstress through a friend who was also getting married and who’s mother was getting services also.

Vet her/ his work most have other jobs in progress hanging from racks. Look at them. You don’t have to agree just because you are there already. Poke around and look at the quality of the work.

Ask the following Questions

  • Ask about the schedule?
  • Have you worked with this material before?
  • How many times would you meet?
  • How many fittings would you get?
  • Can she meet your deadline?
  • Find out cost based on material and time and know you upper limit?

Hire someone

Draw up a contract . Sorry but verbal is just not good enough. This is to protect yourself specially if its someone you don’t personally know. I was fortunate everything went well enough, but I did have some issues with a different vendor which I also didn’t have a written contract. It should include most of the information up top.

After this the seamstress gave me options. I had to pay some money up front so she could buy the materials. Or she said I could buy the material myself.

I bought material, this is where my dress color was decided. I wanted a color initially: red, orange, yellow. Champagne? I’m not going to lie probably has something to do with my infatuation with Asian culture.

Red is my favorite color
This would be more my style then a big puffy princess gown

But I also wanted a specific material cotton eyelet. This material is predominantly sold in white. As in I had more options with white. So white it was.

Don’t make these mistakes

Since this was my first time ever in this situation I was timid. Don’t be timid you are paying the agreed on price.

On the last day after she had finally put everything together and I stopped by I wanted to try on the final product, but she had dry cleaned it already she said. So I just pulled it out of the bag and looked at it. It look great. Then paid and was on my way.

When I got home I tried it on anyway. I was disappointed to find the shoulders were in the wrong place so I had to make some alterations. I’m not shy around a needle so I was able to fix it but I felt upset.

  • Put it on ! Check it again before you pay and leave.
  • Speak up during the process!

When you work with a seamstress you are working with a dress that is being built not a finished product that needs alterations. So stuff is being pieced together. Speak up  during this process, I want the neck line lower, less ruffles. You have lots of opportunities to make the needed adjustments and when its done it should be made just right for you. You shouldn’t have to unstitch and resew.That is what I got hung up on.  You have to put it on when its all done. Rookie mistake on my part.

Traveling wallet roamer wedding dress
Some pictures of the final product. Can you tell it wasn’t store bought?

Wedding or Marriage

To be 100% honest the real recommendation I should be making is wear a dress you already have. I got a bit wrapped up in the fantasy of it all too. But in retrospect most of it is just plain old unnecessary. But lots of people don’t want to let this dream go so I hope this helps you to save as much as possible while following the dream.

Guys send your ladies over to this post because even though it was lady centered, it really helps everyone out to cut costs on any item on the wedding budget.

 Can you include a picture of you in your wedding dress in the comments*? Seriously!

* I honestly don’t know if that is possible in the comments but thought I’d ask anyways.

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.