I’m driving in my car and that’s that!

Ok.  I’m going to take an unpopular stance here. I refuse to take public transportation to work even though gas prices are soaring.

Here are my reasons:

1. It’s uncomfortable for me. There are some public transportation around my workplace but none really nearby.  The closest metro station is a 20-min FAST walk which would be difficult for me to do since I insist on wearing heels everyday to work.  Yes, I could wear tennis shoes and then switch them out when I got to work but I just don’t want to lug tennis shoes around (they don’t fit in a purse) and show up all sweaty to work.

2. It’s inconvenient for me. I don’t want to wake up earlier than I already wake up (5:30am) just to catch a bus to make it to work on time (and if I miss the bus then I’ll be stuck waiting for the next one).  I often take classes after work but I don’t want to lug books with me and switch multiple buses and walk just to make it to class on time also (and yes, buses do get stuck in traffic to, though the metro doesn’t).  I also like the flexibility of having a car so I can leave work early if I need to or stay at work late if I need to rush on a project. Plus, I like to catch some snoozes in my car during lunchtime (can’t really sleep on my desk without it being a bit awkward)

3.  It’s safer for me. I work in a not-so-nice area in the middle of Los Angeles.  In the winter, it’s often dark when I get in to work and dark again by the time I get out of work.  As a single young woman, that’s just darn creepy walking outside.  With my car, it’s parked in an enclosed parking lot so I can quickly walk to my car and go straight home.

4. It actually saves me money. This is the kicker for me.  I generally pay about $45 a week for gas (yes, it still makes me cry a little when I fill up once a week).  Taking public transportation, I would have to probably take an extra hour or more waiting and taking public transportation everyday.  Even if I value my time at my entry-level salary from when I started my job (thank goodness it’s a bit higher now) which is $14.50/hour, for that extra 5 hours a week I would be doing basically nothing super productive , that’s wasting about $72.50 worth of my time well over the $45/week I pay for gas. Yes, I could be reading a book but I’m the type that tends to get nauseous if I read a book in a moving vehicle.  Plus I’d have to pay bus fare on top of it all.

So, by taking my car instead of public transportation, I save money, save my time, and I save my sanity.

Could I be doing more to save the environment and going green?  There are plenty of other things in my life that are “green”.  Could I commute?  Probably if any of my coworkers lived near me.  We’d end up driving quite a bit out of the way just to pick the other person up.

But, before you come down on me with the green and frugal wrath, in a few years down the road, my boyfriend and I are planning to get married and since we both don’t have the funds for another car at this point in time, we’re probably going to be driving around LA to both our jobs in my old clunker of a car.  Unless I can somehow convince him to take public transportation!

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Invisible Money

It seems to me that money is so invisible now. When I get paid, I see it as a number online. When I pay someone else, it’s a swipe of the credit card and numbers get deducted. Very rarely do I pay with cash. When I fund my online accounts, I click my mouse and tap the keys on my keyboard and the number in one bank account goes down while the number in another bank account goes up. In my investments, my portfolio worth is just numbers fluctuating depending on what price people are buying and selling at.

When I do pay in cash, it disappears from my wallet into a cash register into a bank account where the paper is converted to 1s and 0s in some computer somewhere. It’s almost as if my cash disappears and sometimes I wonder where it goes and if it’s ever going to appear again, holding my breath like an audience of one watching a magic trick that hasn’t quite finished yet.

Wouldn’t it be strange if we just woke up one day and found that all the money had disappeared and instead all we had were numbers. I pay you a certain number and you sell me something for a certain number and my value is a certain number but there was absolutely no physical object to back it up with. Then, if all the data got erased (a la Fight Club), what would we really be worth? Would we all start back to zero? Would everything be a blank slate again?

Yes, I know that’s a bit dramatic but it’s the what-ifs rather than reality itself that can really show what the underpinnings of reality is really made of.

[edit: this article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance 3rd Anniversary edition!  To check out more good reading, go here.]

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Investing Experiment

I’ve always had a fascination with riskier investments. Up ’til now I’ve kept most of my money in index funds of various sorts but I’d like to get investing in stocks on a more frequent basis just for fun. So, I’m developing an investment strategy that I’ll let you guys in on as soon as it’s settled and I’ll keep you guys updated periodically of my progress. Then, we’ll see what happens!

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Restarting my budget (once more!)

Ok.  I’m going to try to restart tracking my income and expenses once again.

I’ve tried.  I’ve failed.  I’ve tried again.  And I’ve failed miserably again.

I’ve tried paper solution.  I’ve tried desktop solutions.  I’ve tried mini-notebooks and bags and bags of receipts.

So, now I’m going to try an online solution.  It doesn’t directly connect to my bank accounts which is good for safety but will be more difficult for me to keep track of all my daily expenses.  However, I’ve already decided to cut back on expenses so perhaps that will be more helpful.

I think my biggest problem is that I have a type A personality.  So everything needs to be accounted for.  But daily life comes and takes over and suddenly I find I’ve gone 3 weeks without tracking anything and I have no idea where anything is and I just can’t keep my budget going with 3 missing weeks of data in the middle because all the numbers will come out wrong.

I’m crossing my fingers that I will actually make it this time.  I think the trick is to make it part of my daily routine.  So, it is now officially my homepage until I make a habit of it.  Wish me luck!

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What I did with my stimulus check

Now that everyone’s slowly receiving their stimulus check, we are all trying to decide what to do with it.

What did I personally do with my stimulus check? I decided to split it into practical and very frivolous.

I had 3 criteria for my frivolous purchase:

-It would have to be completely impractical

-It would have to be more expensive than the things I normally buy for myself

-It would have to be something I’ve been wanting for a very long time.

This means that it would be a complete splurge which would make me feel happy and would usually give me a major guilt-trip if I bought it on a normal basis. So, I went ahead and bought a 35mm Holga. It fits all the criteria because I don’t need another camera, especially a retro flawed plastic film camera. It was a little over $100 with film so it was out of my normal single purchase range. And I’ve been lusting after it for well over 2 years now.

The rest of the stimulus check went into an ING online savings subaccount dedicated to saving up for my next year’s auto insurance. Boring but it will be quite a lifesaver when the end of the year comes along.

If you want to see what other people are spending their stimulus checks on, check out this website: http://www.howispentmystimulus.com You’ll find a range of spending from the very practical and frugal to fancy electronics to new life experiences to just really really stupid stuff (my opinion entirely…). In fact, some people gave away their stimulus checks to the more needy.

How did you spend your stimulus checks or tax refund?

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, a story of salvagers

Salvage day means a lot of people across my small city dumping out large pieces of “trash” out in front of their house. Old furniture, random pieces of wood, lawnmowers, and anything else too large for most people to dispose of.

But they say: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Not 5 minutes after I drag a ripped up screen door to the front of my house, a pick-up truck piled high with other goodies zooms up. A man jumps out, grabs the screen door, rips the torn screen off, throws the frame in the back of his truck, gets back in, and zooms away.

All around the city, vans and pick-up trucks roamed the nearby streets looking for something to spruce up or sell.

It was a good deal for all sides. I got rid of something I didn’t want for the price of time and a little muscle-work. Someone got something they wanted for the price of gas. And the city got everyone to beautify the city just a little bit more. Of course, the city had to pay a bit more to take away the large pieces that the salvagers didn’t bother with. In the long run though, with a prettier cleaner city, housing prices will stay high in my little city, and everyone benefits.

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Are sales really sales? A tale of shoe shopping.

Payless is an incredibly tempting place to browse for someone who adores shoes as much as I do. The prices are great and very occasionally, I can find something that I really love. Payless often has their BOGO sale which is their “Buy one, get one half off” sale.

One time, I went with my sister to shop. She browsed the aisle looking for a pair of plain black flats while I whirled through the aisles pulling down boxes left and right. Eventually, she settled on a pair of shoes while I had found two pairs to my liking that I could wear to work for a total of three pairs of shoes. However, I realized they were having the BOGO sale on and I frantically combed the shelves for another pair of shoes to take advantage of the deal.

Until, suddenly I realized: Why am I trying to find another pair of shoes that I don’t need and that I don’t even like just to take advantage of a 1/2 off deal? Instead of saving money, that would just be spending money that I didn’t need to spend.

In fact, did I really need 2 more pairs of shoes when I could just buy one and get great use out of it?

So, I deliberated, shoved one pair of shoes back on the shelf and bought myself a pair of shoes and my sister a pair of shoes (1/2 off!!). I had a great new pair of shoes, my sister was happy, and I saved a bunch of money. All in all, quite happy.

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