Monday, January 14, 2008

But Enough About YOU...

We interrupt the recent trend of posting to go back to the self-involved, narcissistic financial navel-gazing this blog is famous for! A few recent observations:

I was very happy the other day to be able to use 6 nickels and 5 pennies that were weighing down my wallet when my breakfast happened to cost $2.35. It was earlier than I usually get to the deli, so there was no big line behind me and I could take my time to dig around in my change pocket without pissing anybody off! I love it when I can do that!

Mom sent me another $100 as a post Christmas present, when she mailed me a box of stuff I hadn't carried back with me. This will probably also be chalked up to the "Mom's Possible Debt Relief Fund," as once again, the check was preceded by a text message asking me not to cash it until a certain date. I don't know why my mother sometimes seems to want to give me money. She wants me to be able to buy things for my apartment, I guess, and I think she may feel guilty that my sister gets more parental help and had an expensive wedding, while I've never asked for any of that.

Still trying to get my head around the big picture of where our economy is going, more specifically, where the stock market is going and how that's affecting my account balances. Who knows what the future holds, but it's ugly right now. There's nothing quite like the experience of doing a Quicken update and seeing your 401k balance decline by exactly as much as you're thinking of spending on a big vacation.

I also had another shopping trip with a friend. I'm wondering how people feel about living vicariously through others. If you go shopping with someone and they spend money on things that you yourself can't afford, how do you feel about it? Can you enjoy the experience because they are finding something nice? Or does it just make you feel jealous? Does it make you want to spend money, or can you keep yourself from spending money by getting a bit of a thrill out of watching someone else do it? Sometimes I hate shopping for myself and get very frustrated, but find it almost easier to devote myself to helping a friend find things. Maybe it depends on what you're shopping for-- it might be different when it's clothes, vs. helping someone find new lights for their kitchen! I happily ran around Home Depot helping my friend select some small under the counter lights, and then helped her install them, without any desire to buy anything much for my own home. But then we went to find her a new winter coat, because she'd been admiring the one I got for myself last winter. She ended up buying one that cost almost twice what mine did. It looked great on her and I was happy she found it, but I couldn't help looking at the other coats from that brand and coveting a really funky burnt-orange down jacket that had a cool fake-fur collar. It was SO not what I needed, especially not at a cost of almost $600, but if they'd actually had it in my size, I might have been seriously tempted!

Speaking of Home Depot, I actually did buy one thing for myself: a $4 replacement circuit breaker. Last winter, I had a moment where my heat didn't seem to be working. I almost called an electrician, as I could tell it was due to something not connecting in the circuit breaker panel. Fortunately, my uncle the handy man explained to me over the phone exactly how to fix the problem without electrocuting myself, thereby saving me hundreds of dollars. (It was just a screw that needed to be tightened.) Everything was fine until a few days ago, when the problem happened again, but this time I couldn't fix it the same way. A little research showed that it probably just meant that the circuit breaker needed to be replaced (I'd probably damaged it myself by turning it on and off too much and jiggling it around) and sure enough, I again saved myself an expensive visit from an electrician by doing it myself! DIY electrical work is not something to take lightly, but if you know what you're doing, this kind of minor fix can be extremely satisfying, not to mention cheap!

I still haven't sat down to officially set a net worth goal for this year, or even to write down any particular New Year's resolutions. One I'd at least thought about was to make Happy New Year cards to send to all my friends, rather than buying holiday cards. Obviously it's getting a little late for it now! I suppose not sending cards at all is an even cheaper option. But I already stocked up on stamps, and now that I hardly ever send paper mail, it will take me forever to go through them if I don't send out cards. So if you know anyone who gets a "Happy February" card from a friend, you'll have a clue as to my real identity!


Noel Larson said...

I have to buy cards to use up my stamps is a new one :) Good thing they are now the "Forever" stamp and could work for next Christmas, if you wanted.

Sometimes buying stuff is like valve that you need to let a little pressure off once in awhile so the pressure cooker doesn't blow!

Card would be better then a $600 coat though :)

Anonymous said...

I love when you can use up some change in your wallet...somehow it makes me feel like I just saved a dollar, even though thats not true and kind of ridiculous. But, whatever, it feels good all the same. Simple pleasures...

As for the shopping thing, fortunately none of my friends are big shoppers. If I were shopping with someone and they wanted to drop $400 on shoes, it wouldn't bother me to not do the same and I'd be happy for them, if they could afford it. I feel twangs of envy more when a friend gets a big-ticket item, like a shiny new car with all kinds of cool gadgets in it. I start to think about going down to the dealership and doing the same. Inevitably, sanity creeps back and I never do.

I wouldn't obsess over the 401k balance, you have a long enough horizon before retirement that a downturn/recession/whatever we're in isn't a big concern. Think of it as an opportunity to buy some funds on sale, just keep plowing in the contributions and when the economy rebounds that 401k balance will jump really high.

Good job on the breaker. Electrical stuff scares me so other than changing light bulbs, I outsource those repairs. I have to admit, I usually try and do some simple repairs around my place but have mixed results. Once I tried to unclog a drain, and I was trying to untwist something with a plumbers wrench it slipped and knocked out a rusty lever that controlled the stop plug to the sink. After I finally admitted defeat and called in a plumber he looked quizzially at the mess I created and asked how that happened. I said I had no idea because I was too embarrassed to admit that I caused more damage than I fixed...but I think he knew!!!

Anonymous said...

Here’s a strategy for digging for change when there is a big line behind you. This only works if there was also a big line in front of you. Just fish around while in line for enough change to handle anything (such as 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 nickel, and 4 pennies) or as close as you can get. Then when you’re at the front of the line, it’s easy to pick out the relevant change, drop the rest into wherever you store your change, and then pull out and hand over the bills.

VixenOnABudget said...

I just barely came up with my resolutions/goals for the year. I feel more confident that I'll execute them since I took the time to really think the matter over.

Anonymous said...

I just read on the Happiness Project blog that the author send out Valentines day cards each year instead of holiday cards since it takes the pressure off the holidays :)

Freecia said...

I like taking my change over to the coinstar machine and get a comission free Amazon gift certificate. Might not be as easy to do this in NY, as change can be heavy, but I'm always amazed at how much I can get out of a quart sized zip lock. $30 of change is nothing to sneeze at!