Health insurance snafu
July 22, 2008, 8:51 am
Filed under: Money Basics, Relationships, Wedding

As of August 4, I will no longer have health insurance. Jake’s soon to be old employer offered insurance to employee’s domestic partners and so I was able to be on his plan, but his new employer does not offer this coverage.

Since I work part time, neither of my employers offer health insurance benefits. So far, I’ve considered getting my own independent health plan (with dental coverage), but that would cost me about $80 a month which is money I really don’t have. My other option is to go to the courthouse with Jake and get our marriage license almost a full year earlier than our actual wedding ceremony so that we can be legally married and I can be put on his insurance.

Anyone have any other ideas?


While the cat’s away…
June 29, 2008, 11:39 am
Filed under: About me, Relationships

Jake spent last night at his brother’s house since they needed to get up early this morning to play a rousing game of golf. Home alone, I was content reading for a good couple of hours and figured I would hit the hay early since I had a long, sweaty day of moving behind me. I hopped on my computer between chapters and saw that my best friend was online, so I sent her an instant message. I wound up calling her a few minutes later because, sometimes, it’s just easier to say things than to type them out.

We stayed on the phone until 2:30am talking about politics, weddings, school.  It was so good to have a long talk with her as we haven’t been able to in ages due to the distance (she still lives in Pennsylvania and I’m down in Virginia) and life generally getting in the way.

The cost of reconnecting with my best friend of 14 years: free.
The value of reconnecting with my best friend of 14 years: priceless.

You call that a vacation?
June 20, 2008, 8:10 pm
Filed under: About me, Coupons, Food, Frugality, Relationships, Travel

I really enjoyed my vacation, but man, we sure did a lot of stuff. We drove from Virginia to Pennsylvania, saw my friends and family there and spent the night. The following morning we drove from Pennsylvania to upstate New York to see Jake’s family for a few days. While we were there, we drove to Burlington, Vermont and Montreal, Canada. On our way from upstate New York back down to Pennsylvania, we stopped in Woodstock, NY to have lunch. We spent the night in PA and saw some of both Jake’s and my families, then drove back home to Virginia.

Somehow along the way, we managed to adopted Basil, a part Siamese cat, from one of Jake’s aunts. The poor little guy was being terrorized by her three dogs and we just couldn’t say no to rescuing him. Our dog, Honey, and Basil are slowly working things out.

My two favorite frugal things about our trip both have to do with Jake’s mom. My future mother in law works at the family grocery store. Over Sunday breakfast, I casually told Jake that I had to buy the newspaper. He gave me a funny look (why would I want the newspaper from upstate NY?) and then he unscrewed his face and said, “Oh, coupons.” Jake’s mom happened to overhear and said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I can get a whole bunch from the store for you.” She not only got me a few copies of Sunday’s coupons, she also got me a bundle of last week’s coupons too. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my future mother in law? She’s also going to try and snag some for me every week and mail them to me. 🙂

Another perk of knowing someone who works at a grocery store is access to “out dates” or food that’s recently expired that the store can no longer sell even though the food is still perfectly fine. Jake’s mom went through everything for us and we came home with a whole boxful of free food.

Today is Jake’s and my three year anniversary, so I’m going to have to cut this post short so I can enjoy the rest of the evening with the one that I love. I hope your past week as been a bit more leisurely than mine.

Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke: Love & Money
April 8, 2008, 11:03 am
Filed under: Books, Money Basics, Relationships | Tags: ,

This is the tenth installment of my review of Suze Orman’s The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. The previous installment, Big Ticket Purchase: Home, covered the basics of buying a home.

Lasting relationships require financial intimacy. The key to this intimacy is not only understanding that the two of you have different financial personalities, but also striving to work together to come up with a shared approach to spending, saving, and investing. This requires complete openness with one another in regards to how much money you make, how much money you have in your accounts, and how much debt you owe.

Orman recommends merging some, but not all of your finances. Your shared living expenses should be paid out of a joint checking account, but be sure to keep your separate checking accounts for your personal expenses. Always keep your own individual credit cards that are only in your name so that you will still have an individual credit history in case something happens and the two of you split up.

When paying your living expenses, the two of you should pay equal shares, not equal dollar amounts:
-Figure out your combined monthly living costs and add 10% (because everyone underestimates)
-Add up your combined monthly take home pay
-Divide your expenses by your combined take home pay to figure out the percentage of expenses you each have to pay 

(Example- $3000 expenses/$4000 combined income= 75%
75% of $1500 [your monthly income]= $1125
75% of $2500 [your partner’s monthly income]= $1875)

Pay your bills together every month. Both of you need to be up to speed on your joint income and spending. Once you have paying bills together down, your next natural step is to start saving together. Use the same equal shares method that you use for expenses to create a plan for your savings contributions.

Orman makes the important point that while you do not take on any debt that your spouse amassed before you got married, all of the debt accrued during your marriage is a joint responsibility. It doesn’t matter if only one of your names is on the account, loan, or credit card- you are both responsible for it.

Once you have dependents, you need to get a life insurance policy. Never get a policy before you have dependents, as it will be a waste of money. Orman suggests only buying a term life insurance policy, not a whole life, universal, or variable/cash value policy. Term provides insurance for 5, 15, 20, or 30 years. You choose the term based on how long you expect your dependents will need to rely on you financially. You want a plan that has a guaranteed level premium where your annual cost will not change for the entire policy term. Your dependents will only get money if you die during the term, not after. Orman states that life insurance was never meant to be a permanent need; it’s only meant to be a temporary solution until you build up enough assets to take care of your dependents. A term policy gives you coverage for the amount of time needed and that’s it.

If your partner has no respect for money, they won’t have any respect for you either. Orman suggests talking to your significant other about financial issues, but be careful not to attack them. Figure out areas where change needs to occur and conduct ongoing conversations to encourage and support them while they take on new habits. If your partner truly loves you, it will not be hard for them to make financial changes.

Jake and I have had countless conversations regarding his spending and saving habits, as well as my own. It was been an uphill battle, but he has made significant changes over the years because he knows how important it is to our relationship to get our finances in order. We’re still not on the same page all of the time, but it feels like we’re at least in the same book now! Jake and I share an ING checking account for our utility bills and a HSBC savings account. I’m thinking about having us use the checking account to merge our grocery spending as well. I have to admit, we split our bills 50/50 instead of by a percentage, as Orman recommends. I think we may have to change this soon though as I make significantly less than Jake does and boy, do I feel it when it comes time to pay the bills.

The next and last installment of my Money Book for YF&B review will be a wrap up of all of my installments.

When a saver loves a spender
March 20, 2008, 9:13 am
Filed under: Frugality, Relationships

This post was included in the March 24th Carnival of 20something Finances over at Keep the Reins Tight.

While alike in many other aspects, my fiance, Jake, and I handle money just about as differently as two people could possibly handle money. As you can probably guess, I am very much a saver, seeking out the best bang for my buck and not squandering a single dime that lands into my hands. Jake, on the other hand, spends and spends until he can’t possibly spend anymore- then he whips out one of his credit cards to inflict even more damage.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Once we started to share our financial habits with one another while we were dating, I realized that Jake was setting himself up for financial disaster. If there was going to be a future for us, he better put away those damn credit cards and pick up a brochure on his company’s 401(k) instead. As non-confrontational as I could be, I started to talk to him about how he shouldn’t do this and shouldn’t do that with his money. “Cook at home! Open a savings account! You don’t need another CD!” He would usually grumble, jump on-board, and then a few weeks later be back to his old habits. I really couldn’t do much though; it was ultimately his money and he was going to spend it how he pleased, no matter how much I scolded.

Then, we signed a lease and got our very own apartment together. Exciting, except for the fact that we were both flat broke. I didn’t have a job and he didn’t have a penny saved from his steady paychecks (despite someone urging him to do so for two years). Now that we were living together, I finally had some leverage. If we were going to make this work, both financially and relationship-wise, we needed to work together.

Over the years, many an argument has broken out between us regarding everything from taking an extra slice of pizza for lunch to which toothbrush holder to buy to coupon usage. Luckily, I’ve managed to make some headway and Jake is on a much better financial track than he was when I first met him. Plus, we are engaged now, so I must be doing something right.

The arguments have taught me many things about how a spender’s mind works and I try to keep the following points in mind when I need to approach the subject of money with Jake:

Set savings goals. If there is something that your significant other really, truly wants, bring it up whenever they are about to spend money frivolously. During one of our greatest moments of contention, I said the following to Jake: “Do you really want to marry me? Because if we don’t start saving money for our wedding, we’ll never get married. We can’t afford it. For every $10 you spend on going out to lunch, we are $10 farther away from having a wedding.” I literally saw the connection being made and the light bulb going off. Keep your eye on the prize, any prize.

Automatic savings. Make it as easy as possible for your significant other to save money: set up an automatic bank transfer from their checking account to their savings account. Every two weeks, a set amount is withdrawn from Jake’s account. He doesn’t even have to think about the fact that he’s saving.

Meet them half way. If you constantly say no and deny them things that they want or think they need, your significant other will start to resent you and tune you out. One of Jake’s favorite hobbies is playing guitar. He owns about 6 or 7 of them. I told him early on, “If you want to buy another guitar, you have to sell one of the ones you already have.” His guitar buying as significantly slowed since then. Jake also likes to eat out despite the fact that he’s a great cook. I’ll agree to go out about once a week; we just have to pick from the restaurants that I have coupons for.

Appreciation of possessions. Jake insisted that he needed a new pair of shoes (it’s true, they were looking very worn) until I opened up the closet and pointed out 3+ pair that were sitting there unused. He had completely forgotten that he had them. Another way to approach this point is to call attention to items that are unappreciated in the hopes that your significant other will sell them. The first time I did this, Jake flipped out. He thought I was forcing him to sell all of his possessions. I simply asked him to look through his CD, DVD, and book collections and to set aside ones that he no longer used. Once I explained to him that we could sell a book he hadn’t read in five years for $10 and that $10 could then be put into a savings account and accumulate interest instead of letting the book continue to just sit there, accumulating dust, he understood it wasn’t a personal attack on him.

Patience is a virtue. Anything can be endured for a trial period, right? If your significant other protests against a frugal move you’d like to make, ask them to grin and bear it for a few weeks, maybe a month. I had to do this when I told Jake we were unplugging our appliances and electronics when we weren’t using them in order to save money on our electric bill. Talk about flying off the handle. “Just wait and see if there’s any difference in our next electric bill,” I told him. I sure didn’t hear him complaining about paying 50% less for our electricity the following month. Additionally, if they want to buy something and they want to buy it now, ask them to wait it out for a week or two. Does it still seem as urgent and rational once they get some distance from it?

Lead by example. There will be no blind leading the blind here. If you want your significant other to change, you need to show them that you’re dedicated to a frugal lifestyle, even when the going gets tough. Once they see the results of all your sacrifices and realize you only want the best for your future together, will they really be able to find any ground to stand on?

This one is for the books
March 15, 2008, 7:10 am
Filed under: Coupons, Frugality, Relationships

Before heading off to work, Jake, my fiance, said (all selfassured and not in a mocking tone, I might add), “I’m not going to go out to eat unless I have a coupon.”

I think I can die a happy woman now.