Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bonus! And How to Spend It...

I found out this week that I would be getting a nice bonus this year. I'd been hoping it would be at least as big as last year's or perhaps even bigger, but I was trying so hard not to count my chickens before they were hatched that I was actually quite surprised by the final amount, which was slightly over $15,000 gross.

First of all, it's just great to get an amount of money like this in one lump sum-- it makes it so much easier to just stick it in the bank and not spend it. But of course I'd like to spend a little bit of it! Getting a bonus feels like getting a reward, and it makes you want to give yourself a little treat. Given that I'd only budgeted myself to receive $7,000 gross bonus, I started to think maybe I didn't have to postpone the new computer purchase that I'd pushed off to next year, and of course other fun items also came to mind. I'm already giving myself the present of an expensive vacation this year, and this makes me feel a little better about that! But I still couldn't help wanting to spend some money!

So here's what I ended up doing, after work on the day I found out how much my bonus would be: I went to Pier 1 to try to buy a couple of baskets. Whoooo, big spender, right??? And here's what's even more pathetic: they didn't have any nice baskets in the size I wanted, so I walked out empty-handed!

Why did I want baskets? Well, I only have two real wastebaskets in my apartment: one in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen. In both bedrooms, I have small shopping bags from Banana Republic that I've been using as wastebaskets, and in the living room, a crumpling shopping bag from Ann Taylor has been holding all my newspapers until I tie them up for recycling. A friend commented that it was a bit of a mess, and why didn't I just buy some cheap baskets to hold the avalanche of papers and magazines. Yeah, I thought, why don't I?

This is the kind of minor spending that I tend to avoid. When faced with spending $10 or $15 on a basket to keep my recycling tidy, I think "ugh, these little things add up and it's a waste of money. A paper shopping bag does the job pretty well, and maybe one of these days I'll happen to find a cool box or bin of some sort on the street somewhere, so why should I buy anything?" (And in fact I did find a very nice wine crate recently, but that is currently serving as a makeshift nightstand.) But getting a bonus of $15,000 made me think it was ok to allow myself to buy a basket or two, and now, of course, I am so annoyed that I couldn't actually complete the purpose!

I've been fantasizing a bit about what it would be like to spend my bonus. I'd never just spend the whole thing, but what if I just spent the $8,000 that was above my budgeted amount? After taxes and 401K deductions, it would probably end up being about $4,000 net. If I got a really snazzy 17" MacBookPro, that would be about $3,000 right there. This is probably more computer than I really need. I could get a refurbished one for about $2,300 probably, when you factor in tax. But maybe I could just go for a lesser model-- I wanted a 17" one because I don't have a TV and I've always used my computer to watch movies, but now that I'm seeing someone who has a TV, maybe it's not as big an issue! So let's say I just get the cheapest new MacBook at about $1,100.

Then I thought I might get some curtains. I saw some cute ones at Pier 1-- they didn't actually have them on the shelf, so I jotted down the name and thought I'd just try to order them online. Well, turns out Pier 1's website is totally lame. A lot of their products aren't online, and you can't search their online catalog. No wonder the company isn't doing well-- step up to the plate, people, if you want to sell me some curtains! Maybe I'll try Pottery Barn instead. I'll take a wild guess and figure it will cost me $1,000 total for all the windows I want to cover.

Ok, what else. How about a new bike? I've been thinking it would be good to replace my folding bike with a full-size one now that I have more storage space, but given that I hardly ever ride it anyway, maybe that is a dumb idea.

Oh-- a new camera! I just bought one, on sale for about $140, thanks to a tip from The Big Picture. I did this right before bonus time, but I'll count it anyway.

A bookcase: I could use another one to hold my ever-growing collection. I'd like to have one made to match what I already have, which I bought unfinished and then stained myself. Sounds very cheap but the way it actually worked out, the cost of a new bookcase would probably be at least $450.

Umm, umm-- how 'bout some clothes! I still want some Seven jeans, (which could come to as much as $200) even though I just picked up another pair of Lucky jeans on Ebay for less than half price. Unfortunately I have been gaining a little weight lately and if I don't lose 5 pounds, I'm afraid many of my other recent purchases aren't going to fit.

Ah! And that gives me a good solution as to how to spend the rest of my bonus, since I'm having such trouble trying to come up with things! I'll buy some personal training sessions! I think I have $490 left. At my gym, I think you can get a package of 10 training sessions for about $800-- that will put me a little over my bonus amount, unfortunately... and given my atrocious level of exercise discipline lately, I don't know if having some muscle-bound person exhorting me to "push it" or whatever will really get me any closer to losing the 5 pounds!

You know, it might just be easier to just SAVE all the money after all...

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

congratulations! that seems like a fairly big bonus for your field, right? i think it's great that you're going to treat yourself. i usually don't and just bank it.

Meagan said...

haha, too many options! Congrats on the bonus. Sounds like the easiest option is saving it! Maybe you could use some of it for a weekend mini-vacation and pamper yourself a bit?

MEG said...

Congrats! That's quite a nice little chunk of change.

I think you should treat it the same as you do your regular income - X percent to savings, X percent to giving, X percent to fun money, etc.

Of course you probably don't need any percent of it for bills or committed expenses (the biggest part of your "regular" budget probably), so you can bump up other percentages that have been lacking. Sounds like fun money it is!

Also, I'd consider setting a part of it (maybe 10%?) aside for giving; it'll probably make you feel better than any of your other purchases/savings (not that that's the only reason to give), and plus the deduction will lower your taxes by a bit. :-)

Freecia said...

I have a macbook. My suggestion is the get the base macbook pro model, some extra ram, and a external monitor for tv use. The video resolution on the macbook's graphic card doesn't really lend itself to an external monitor. And don't go refurb... Not worth it for laptops because they cost way too much to fix and Apple will take the system for a few days, at least.

Check the containerstore.com for containers, as well as Trader Joes and Ikea.

Curtains, IMO, are excessively expensive. Time to DIY.

Go use the bike, lose 5 lbs, then reward yourself with some jeans. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Emporer's Club will be happy to relieve you of half your bonus :)

Just kidding, congrats.

Escape Brooklyn said...

Congrats! What a nice surprise that it was so much more than you expected. =)

I really, really need a job that gives out bonuses...

calgirlfinance said...

Wow! That's a huge bonus. Congrats for being recognized for your hard work! Since money is how we're recognized for a job well done, it has greater meaning than just money.

Anonymous said...

If I were you, I'll spend $500 and invest the rest.

This is not the year of spending.

msfrugal said...

Don't buy baskets at retail. Go to a thrift store. They have great piles of them for $1-2.

At least they do around here.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Our bonuses get direct-deposited tomorrow, so I've been doing some of the same thinking you have. My plan is to pay off my credit card bill, buy one nice piece of jewelry as an annual treat, and save/invest the rest. The save/invest portion is going to be fairly significant, so I won't feel bad for spending at least half of my tax rebate check on clothes and other fun purchases. I like the idea of saving, but once in a while it's good to treat yourself, especially when you get "extra" money. Planning for the future is good, but it's nice to enjoy the now too.

Moneymonk said...

I agree with Meg, split it into 3 sections, but it's always easier to save it

Anonymous said...

congrats on your bonus! i'd spend a small, pre-determined amount on yourself, and save/invest the rest. buy yourself something much more valuable with that bonus: peace of mind, security, more choices, early retirement....

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't have read your blog tonight. Makes me sad that I'm a teacher and make lousy money. There used to be intrinsic bonuses...that was before No Child Left Behind.
bummer for me...great for you! :)

Anonymous said...

Buy a MacBook & invest the rest - you won't regret your purchase! You earned the $ through your hard work, and if you invest the rest of it, what is to regret?

Anonymous said...

Bronx chica...congrats! I just got a raise and i'll be adding it to my debt!

Sherry said...

Congrats! :-) You should treat yourself to a nice meal at a restaurant you wouldn't splurge on otherwise. Enjoy it!

delilah said...

It was so nice to live vicariously through you and your big bonus! congrats

I was just at IKEA, they have tons of baskets, in all sizes, it's worth the trip. And curtains, a good range of them.

Know The Ledge said...

My wife and I work at a company that provides a yearly bonus that we recently got last month. It was a nice boost to our finances, and while we may have used a very small amount of it to go out and have a nice dinner, the rest went in the bank to get our emergency savings back up to where it needed to be.

Anonymous said...

Whats a Bonus?? A lot of us real life folks don't get these.