Archive for the ‘Spending’ Category

Eyewear Sticker Shock
October 4, 2012

I’m lucky enough to have avoided most health problems in my life, with one exception: my eyesight is terrible.  When I was twelve, my dad (who also has bad eyesight) tried on my glasses and was amazed that the prescription was so close to his own.  Luckily, my prescription has tapered off by now, but I still need glasses and/or contacts to function like a normal human.

I went to the eye doctor last week to update my prescription and order new contacts and glasses. I have one pair of contacts left, so I need to reorder. I haven’t had new glasses in years, but the anti-glare coating on my current pair has started flaking off, so they need to be replaced.

Right now I’m going through a little bit of sticker shock!

For contacts, the doctor is saying I should go for daily lenses.  They gave me some free daily lenses to try out, and let me tell you, those things are luxurious.  No need to worry about remembering to pack a contact case or solution, no need to track how long it has been since I last swapped to a fresh pair.

However, do you know how much those things cost?? It’s $650 per year.  Normal 2-week lenses are only $250 for a year.  I am also worried about how much waste goes into the daily lenses.  That’s 730 little plastic blister packs with foil seals.  That’s a lot!  And it seems like such a stupid thing to worry about (especially since I contribute my fair share of waste to landfills), but seeing the pile from just a week of these babies made me feel like a bad global citizen.

I was considering getting a 6-month supply of daily lenses and then just wearing them half-time with glasses, which would at least decrease the cost/guilt slightly.

Unfortunately, it looks like glasses are going to be expensive too!  My insurance will only cover a specific amount for either glasses or contacts, so either way I’ll have to cover a chunk of cash.  Here is the glasses breakdown:

Frames: $250 (The cheapest pair they had were about $200, my favorites were, of course, around the $400 mark)
Lenses: $100 for thicker lenses OR $200 for thinner lenses, + $100 for anti-glare coatings

I could keep my old frames, but in all honesty, they have not fit properly since I bought them.  They look good on my face, but they slide down my nose.  Plus the plastic is discolored in places (and oh my gosh I walk around like that all the time, what is wrong with me).  The lenses would definitely need to be replaced, which I might end up also doing to have a backup pair.

I’ve also been looking at some of the online retailers that promise glasses for $100, but I’m a little wary of them.  Maybe as a backup, but that still means spending the $400 – $600 on the primary pair.

The debate in my mind seems a little silly since obviously I need to see, but at the same time, it makes sense to optimize my spending, especially when we’re talking about over $1000.

Do you wear glasses/contacts?  What kind do you use, and how much do you pay?

We accidently bought a new car already
July 24, 2012

I mean, the title of this post kind of sums it up, doesn’t it?

We started off with grand plans.  There was a long list of cars we wanted to check out, and we even made the nerdiest spreadsheet of all time, which listed car costs and features.

D test drove a couple, and we test drove a few together.  We went to test drive the top car on D’s list, a Honda CR-V, one night after work.  On our way there, we promised each other, “We’re not buying a car tonight.”

Fate laughed in our faces.

First of all, it’s a nice car!  And it had some amenities that were on our “desirables” list (again, see the nerdsheet).  More importantly, it had all of the qualities that we deemed important: all-wheel drive (D’s requirement), not-too-terrible gas mileage (mine), cargo space (D’s, but I agreed it would be nice), big back seat (both), USB hookups (both, and I’m aware that this is such a shallow thing to insist upon in a car).

Knowing that the price on the sticker is a big fat lie, we asked what they really wanted for the car.  The brought back a sheet with a bunch of numbers and also a sheet with the monthly payment (they seemed to think it was really important, but we were all, “whatever” and just looked at the bottom line, the out-the-door price).  We said, “Wow that’s a lot,” and got up to go because we were hoping to test drive a Subaru that same night.

Our salesman told us to wait, scurried off, and came back with another price.  This made us pause, because it was lower than Edmund’s True Market  Value (thanks Tom and StackingPennies for that suggestion!).  Still, we’d made our pact – no buying.  The salesman left and came back again with an even lower price, but we still didn’t want to take the plunge.

The salesman got a little pushy at this point.  We’d mentioned we were interested in the Mazda CX-5, and he just started trash talking the hell out of it.  So I did something I’m not proud of – I whipped out the nerdsheet.  I pointed out that the mid-level CX-5 comes standard with all of the features that we’d have to upgrade to get on the CR-V, so we’d basically be paying more to get the same.

He came back with a higher out-the-door price that had us paying less for the car but included an extended warrantly.  At that point, I slung my purse over my shoulder and said that if we weren’t going to buy the car at the lower price, how could he expect us to buy it at a higher price?  I was really cranky because the Subaru dealer was closed and I’d all of a sudden realized that we were haggling over a car that we weren’t sure we wanted to buy yet.

One more price. It included a stupid prepaid maintenance “club,” but he wouldn’t take it off.  Even so, the cost of the “club” + all of the car stuff was still under the invoice cost listed on   It was invoice, you guys. We accidentally negotiated down to invoice. I had Edmund’s open on my phone, and I whispered this to D. And then we very politely asked if we could have a few minutes. And we decided to go for it, if they’d give us a cargo tray for the back (it was like $100, probably cost them $30, so not a huge coup).

Our sales guy was a little slimy.  It’s to be expected (I don’t think people become car salesmen to help others).  So he said we had to finance the car to get the price. Fine. We put down the maximum down payment on the car that he would allow (and we’ll just pay off the rest when the bill comes), and put as much on the credit card as he’d let us ($2500).

We though we were done, but then it was time to bully us into the extended warranty AGAIN. They even offered us 0% financing, but it wasn’t worth the $1800 that the extended warranty would cost.  They had the financial guy take us to his office and refuse to let us leave for AN HOUR. Finally, we just were “rude” and said we didn’t want it and that we were sick of being there and being hounded.  Then they acted all offended, but thankfully stopped badgering us. We signed the papers and picked the car up a few days later.

The best part? When we got home, we read the paperwork, and we could cancel the prepaid maintenance club.  Meaning that we ended up paying $250 under invoice.

I’m not fooled into thinking that spending over $25,000 on a car is “saving,” but I’m happy with the price we paid and the car we got.  The only thing we’re kicking ourselves over is the fact that we probably could have canceled that extended warranty too, which would have saved us another $375.  Still, I could spend weeks lamenting the extra money we could have squeezed out of the dealer, and it’s just not productive. Next time, though, we’ll know.

And that’s how we accidentally paid under invoice for a new car.

Big Purchase on the Horizon: New Car
July 11, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that D’s parents loaned us a car while he was in grad school.  It was technically already loaned to his sister, but since she lived in a very car unfriendly city, she was OK with us taking it for a few months.  However, she’s now moving, and our loan has been called in.

This, by the way, is perfectly reasonable.  We were very lucky to have that car, but now that we are back to having two incomes, it’s more than fair that we pass it along.  Unfortunately, though,this means we’re now down one car.

The way I see it, we have a few options:

1. Live with one car.

We did this for over a year when we lived in LA, and on and off while we lived here in VA.  It wasn’t impossible then, but things are a bit trickier now.  Before, we either worked in the same city or one of us could take the Metro. Now, D works nearly an hour away, so I would have no access to car all day.  This is not an insurmountable problem, since my job is very close to our apartment.  I could walk or bike many days, or D could drop me off and pick me up.

I’ll be honest: D is not interested in this idea.  He’s not a personal finance blogger, he doesn’t care how much money we’d save by going down to one car.  All he sees is how inconvenient is would be – and has always been – sharing one car.  We make decent salaries and could buy a new car in cash, so in his mind, there is no good reason to have only one car.

My inner cheapass is quieted only because I know that when we move in a few months/a year, my commute will no longer be 2 miles and then we WILL need a car.  It would probably be easier to spread out these larger costs so we’re not simultaneously wrestling with buying a car and making a down payment on a house.  Which leads us to our other choices…

2. Buy a used car.

I’m afraid that this post is going to make D sound like a wanton spendthrift, but he isn’t.  I tracked my spending obsessively for 4 years when we lived in California and saved almost $40,000.  D didn’t track anything for those 4 years, and he also ended up with $40,000.  I’m into spending on lots of little things with a complete inability to spend on large purchases. D doesn’t spend much money day to day, but he is willing to splurge hard on something he likes.

That entire paragraph is leading up to this confession: we’re getting an SUV. A small one, but still.

I railed against this choice for days.  How it’s socially irresponsible to get anything but a Smart Car.  I offered to take a scooter on the highway every day.  I pulled out EPA Fuel Economies for dozens of vehicles.  I even started throwing hybrids into the mix (then quickly retracted that since the cost of the car is also a huge factor)!

It was no use. D wants the cargo space, the leg room (he’s 6’1″), and he’s not willing to give up on that.  Even hatchback sedans couldn’t change his mind (which, you know, good call. Because they are ugly.).

Here’s the thing about late model used SUVs. They aren’t that cheap!  We searched for a little while on CarMax, but there was nothing that met out requirements for space, attractiveness, MPG, and cost.  And that’s when we decided that we might want to make the worst PF decision of our lives (dun dun dunnnnnn!)…

3. Buy a new car.

I bought my car, a 2006 Toyota Corolla, new.  I was right out of school, had just moved to LA, and that was what I thought you were supposed to do.  I didn’t (don’t) know anything about cars, so buying new just seemed safer than buying used.  I got an OK price but terrible financing.  Still, that car probably ended up making me money over the years.  I was so bereft over the crappy interest rate on the loan that I started looking on the internet for financial advice on getting ridof debt.  I discovered MSN Money, The Simple Dollar, and the world of blogging. A monster was born!  Despite being the worst blogger ever, I have done well financially.

We’ve test driven a few cars recently, and can I just say that new cars are NICE these days?  My car is 7 years old and I always thought it was a big deal that it had a 6 CD changer and nice speakers.  The cars we’ve been testing have iPod hookups and touchscreens and even refrigerated glove boxes.

Yes, they probably had us test drive those types of cars so they could sucker us into the upgraded packages.  IT WORKED.

Even though I still yell at D about how much cheaper a used car would be, no matter how ugly he thinks it is, I secretly want all of the nice new car stuff.  And of course, now I’m ashamed because I used to think I was above all that, but instead I’m just as shallow as all the normal people.  My financial asceticism does not extend to Bluetooth, apparently.

If it’s not totally obvious by this point, we are seriously considering going new. We have the cash to pay for it (although I may still go for financing if I can get one of those sweet 0% loans), and my hope is that we will be able to keep it for years and years, or at least until society starts breaking down because there’s no more oil left.

So!  My hope when I put this out into the intertubes was to get some others’ inputs/experiences.  Did you buy a new or used car?  How did you decide?  How did you haggle? And if the loan interest rate is 0.9% and my savings earn 0.84%, does it make sense to pay cash?

March 19, 2012

If you asked me on laundry day, or on Day 78 of a shopping ban/wear everything challenge, I would tell you that I have too many clothes. If you asked me at 7am on a weekday, I would tell you that I need to go shopping because I have nothing to wear to work today.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it on the blog or just on Twitter, but I repeated my challenge to ban all shopping until I’d worn everything in my closet. I’m getting down to the wire (although technically I’ve broken the ban by buying emergency underwear when I forgot to pack panties for a weekend vacation), and both the itch to shop and the itch to purge are in full force. Yes, I am aware that those 2 things are somewhat contradictory.

Here is part of the problem:


Those are my 3 magenta clutch purses. Not shown is a larger magenta tote. I would say that 4 magenta purses is too many, especially when 3 of them are so very similar!

In my defense, 3 of said purses were gifts (2 of the clutches were from the same person!). And they do all serve slightly different purposes: one is fancy, one is casual, and one is a luxe suede that could go either way. I’ve gotten compliments on all 3.

It’s clear that I need to let at least 2 of these go, but I tend to be really sentimental about gifts. If someone put thought and effort into choosing a gift for me, how do I just throw it in the Donate pile?

My sentimentality made sure these purses made it through my last purge, but decluttering my closet for real means being a stone-hearted biatch.

And the worst part of all of this? I don’t even really like the color!

Do you hang onto gifts, even of they’re no longer “right?” What would you do if you had my purse problem?

The Life I Want vs. The Life I Have
February 13, 2012

D does not understand my interest in fashion. He likes to look fondly back on College Sarah, who rocked socks with sandals and only owned one other pair of shoes, whose tiny wardrobe couldn’t fill apartment closets, who could wake up and be on the bus to class in 10 minutes.  Grownup Sarah likes to wear skirts out to dinner, insists on wearing high heels on New Year’s Eve, and feels constantly self-conscious about how her hair looks.

We were taking a walk around our neighborhood today, and we got onto the topic of shopping for a life you wish you had vs. shopping for the life you’re actually living.

When shopping for clothes, I tend to make these giant leaps of reasoning. If I have this fancy dress then the exciting party invitations will start rolling in. If I have this beachy maxi dress then I will have a vacation where the long skirt flutters becomingly in the breeze as I stroll along the water’s edge. If I have that skirt then I will become leggy and slender and effortlessly cool like the model. If I have that suit then I will be capable and respected at work.

I like to think that I’m immune to marketing – after all, I’m not buying name-brand items or getting caught up in the Missoni for Target hoopla (thought I admit the Jason Wu stuff was cute) – but I’ve been fooled all the same. Why else would  I believe that I could buy myself into a life filled with parties and tropical vacations and a model’s body?

Worse still is that the life I shop for (or wish I could shop for) is a life I probably would not enjoy.  I enjoy dressing up, but I hate parties. They make me tense; I fret the whole time over making sure I say the right things. I don’t like the beach much either. My Irish-pale skin burns easily and I get bored after sunbathing for just an hour. I wouldn’t mind looking like a model, but I bet I’d have to stop eating cheeseburgers and pizza for dinner. I already am capable at work, so the suit may give me a confidence boost but not much else.

Often, the life we have is the life we really want, the life we’ve shaped through our decisions and the choices we make based on our own priorities. My imaginary shopping lists are just that, at least until my priorities change or we win the lottery.

What kind of life do you wish you had?  Have you shaped a different sort of life for yourself, or does your purchasing align with your dream life?

A reminder to myself
December 30, 2010

One of the most annoying things about every January is that, just as I make my New Year resolution to spend less on clothes (beginning with a ban on shopping in January), there are a ton of great sales.  As winter drags on, all of my warm, thick sweaters (uh, all 3 of them) start to pill and I’m sick of them since I wear them constantly.  I start to think that something new – a poppy red sweater, an icy blue turtleneck – is just the thing to pull me out of my frozen funk.

This year, I’ll probably still do the shopping ban, because it’s tradition and because it really feels like a way to get the year started off right.

And really, how happy is another sweater going to make me?  I don’t even look good in turtlenecks!

How to spend $500 in one day
December 7, 2010

Forget that Hanukkah is 3 weeks before Christmas this year. Attend a party where people give you gifts. Feel like the worst person in the world. Buy lots of gifts to overcompensate.

Also, buy a down coat because it is freezing out and you are a wimp.

December goals are drafted but not typed up yet – so sorry!  I promise that I still have goals!

July Finances = Decimated
July 28, 2010

I’m not looking forward to reconciling expenses for July.  We took a vacation to the beach for 4 days, and though it was pretty inexpensive, all things considered, it’s still a huge chunk of money!

$387 for the hotel
$100 for miscellaneous fun spending on the boardwalk
$85 for golf_______________________________
$572 total

Plus, we bought some tickets for Penn State football games this fall (my cousin gets season tickets and sells them to us for face value) for $220, and paid for some of my sister’s since she wasn’t there ($440, to be reimbursed in August, hopefully).  Ugh, and there’s still one more game we need tickets for!

Chad and I also had a failure of communication this month and managed to pay part of our credit card bill twice.  It’s not a ton of money, but still. Very sloppy.

Realistically, I know we planned for this vacation, I know we’d have bought the football tickets anyway, and the extra $50 we paid toward the credit card will be taken up by normal spending by the end of the week, but everything crammed togethr into one weekend is still a little much for me to handle!

How is your July going?

To Smartphone or Not to Smartphone?
May 20, 2010

My Verizon contract expires this month, and I get the New Every Two credit.

I really want a smartphone.  I have no need for a fancy phone, but there you go.

+ Sometimes, I really want to look something up, and I can’t because I’m not near a computer or I don’t have any internet. Problem solved!
+ It would be good to have a backup in case something goes wrong with my computer again.
+ The Palm Pre Plus – which is on the very short list of phones I’m considering – has the capability to be a WiFi hotspot.  Which means that I’d never have to worry about finding a place to connect when I’m traveling. (There is also the possibility of it replacing our cable internet, but probably not until Chad starts working.)
+ I’d pretty much get the actual Palm phone for free with the NE2 credit.
+ The New Every Two program is sort of a ripoff if you don’t upgrade your phone as soon as the contract expires.

– You have to get a data plan, which would effectively double my $35/month bill.
– My current phone still works, and I don’t really use it that often anyway.  I’m just not a phone person.
– I’m not allowed to bring my phone into work, which means that the usable time is pretty small (unless I give up sleep).
– I don’t usually go outside my home in order to surf the internet, so having that capability isn’t going to be life-changing.
– I already have an iPod Touch, which would probably do all the cool stuff the phone would do if I paid $9.99 to be allowed to get apps.  I still would need a WiFi connection to take advantage of some, but $10 vs $700 is not chump change.
– Surfing the internet on small screens is incredibly annoying.

Logically, I know that getting the smartphone would be a financially impruent move (committing myself to $700 in payments over the next 2 years).

Still, I want shiny and I think that the benefits, while probably not worth the cost, might be worthwhile.  I’m on track to exceed my savings goals for the year, and $300 per year isn’t going to make or break anything.  In fact, I need to scale back my 401K contributions again, and that would probably cover the difference.

I’m looking for someone to talk me into – or out of – this upgrade.  Just don’t be offended if my lust for shiny toys outweighs your logic. 😉

Entering The Season of Wanton Spending
November 4, 2009

The end of the year is always problematic for my budget.  From Halloween until January first, it’s an endless orgy of parties and shopping and family activities.  Every party seems to demand a new dress.  Every gift for the people I love seems inadequate, so what solution can there be but to spend more?  Since everyone is coming closer to home, there are more outings – and of course, those always cost money.

Here are some expenses I’ve already incurred, and just the ones I foresee i the future.


$200 for paintball and assorted Halloween activities, for 2.

You guys, they charge $0.04 per paintball.  I did not know this! I probably shot around $40 worth of paintballs.  So. worth. it.


We’re going to THE football game of the year for Penn State.  Unfortunately, THE game means we paid out the ass for tickets, and overnight accomodations weren’t cheap.  We got a great price for everything (sharing a house with like 14 people does cut down on costs), but still, the total is a bit high.  I can’t not go, though, and if we win, it will all be worth it.

$260 for 2 tickets and a parking pass

$300 for 2 people at the house for 2 nights.

$200 for miscellaneous things, like drinking (but I recall being able to get a pitcher of Long Island Iced tea for $5, so maybe not), food, and the near-certain purchase of some PSU paraphranalia during our visit.

Then, of course, we get to Thanksgiving, which shouldn’t be too bad.  Tolls up to NY are still like $20, and there’s gas and everything.  Still cheaper than flying in from Los Angeles!

Chad’s sister is having her baby shower, and I’m excited to have my first niece.  I kind of want to go crazy with the gift – I’m bad at remembering gift giving, so I figure if I can get something good up front, that will cover me up until the first birthday.

$300 for the baby shower gift, maybe?  I really don’t know what’s appropriate.  Anyone who knows these things, let me know!


$600 for gifts.  I always set this amount, and I always go over a little bit, but this is because my parents & my sister have their birthdays around this time too.  Please refer to where I said that my gifts just never seem like enough.

$100 for a dress for my comapny holiday party.  This I can probably skip.  I have a red dress that is just about perfect for this kind of thing, and I’ve only worn it like… twice, ever.

$200 for holiday events, like the Hershey Park Christmas Candy Lane.  Also for anything else that might come up.


$250 for New Year’s.  TBH, most of this will probably be spent on a new dress.  (I CAN’T STOP MYSELF!)

I’ve never really bothered to set up a budget for stuff this time of year.  It’s the only time my whole family gets together, so it seems silly to miss those experiences just to save a couple of bucks.  I’m good almost all year, and that means I can afford to loosen the old purse strings for stuff like this.