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Guest Post: Why I Can’t Afford to Start Dating

Note: Today’s guest post is by Cait, who writes over at Blonde on a Budget. She is a 20-something who is blogging about her journey from being maxed out, to becoming a balanced and financially sound woman.

Once twenty-something’s reach a major milestone, like graduating from university or turning 25, they are hit with a number of questions. When are you going to get married? What part of town are you looking to buy in? And when are you going to have kids? Being single at 26, my answer to most of those questions is, “I need a boyfriend first.” But the part I leave out is the fact that I can’t afford one right now.

I’ve been single for just over three years and haven’t dated much since going back to school last year. In that time, I don’t think I’ve missed having a boyfriend once. This could be because my schedule hardly lets up enough for me to even have a social life, but the truth is I made a conscious decision to stay single until I finish school (July 2012). Today I want to share with you why.

I Know My Priorities
Right now, my life revolves around three things: finishing school, paying down debt, and building some savings. Do I think I couldn’t accomplish those things with a partner by my side? Of course not, but I physically can’t afford to risk giving less of my time to any of these priorities.

If you haven’t read my blog before, here’s where I tell you that I currently have $19,000 of debt. I’m almost proud of that number, considering it was $28,000 just over 6 months ago! But it’s still a big number and something I think about daily. Until the day comes where paying off debt isn’t my #1 priority, I can’t afford to add a boyfriend to the mix. (And really, who’s going to be attracted to -$19,000 anyway!?)

I Know My Budget
Krystal has written a couple of great posts on why it costs more to be single. Some of her points are completely valid, especially the one about paying double for essential living costs. But when you don’t have a significant other in the first place, it can cost a lot to get to the point where you would be splitting your bills in half.

For example, my current budget includes about $30/week for groceries and another $15-20 for take-out (including coffee). Since dating usually starts over a casual coffee or dinner, and eventually leads into spending the night and then going on vacation together, I need to be in a situation where I can afford to add dating to my budget. Owing $5,000 on a credit card makes it difficult to enjoy those indulgences, which leads me to the final reason I can’t afford to start dating yet.

I Know Myself
When I have a boyfriend, I’m that much more likely to overindulge. Having a partner in crime makes going to the movies and trying new restaurants that much more accessible. I also love giving random surprises to brighten my guy’s day. Unfortunately, I know I don’t have the extra dollars for surprises, birthdays, and Christmas gifts that are needed in a serious relationship.

Part of my journey from being an overindulging idiot to becoming a financially sound woman is changing both my spending and saving habits. If I were to start dating someone today, I can almost guarantee that I would go back to ignoring my budget and living beyond my means. I can’t afford to start dating until I can trust myself to make good decisions that won’t hurt my debt repayment plan.

With all of this being said, if a relationship fell into my lap tomorrow, I wouldn’t shoo it away. I want to start a life with someone, as much as the next person, I just can’t afford to look for it right now – at least not until I’m debt free. When I finish school next summer, I will have no student debt and hopefully no credit card debt. Maybe then I can start working on answering some of the questions every twenty-something is faced with.

Guest Post: Minimalism and finances go hand in hand

Note: Today’s guest post is from Fabulously Broke, a 20-something who is currently a full-time hotel dweller, working as a freelancer in a big city.

I am a minimalist.

Actually, I didn’t know it was called “minimalism” when I first started, I called it being a “modern nomad”. What that term meant for me was someone who has the same lifestyle as a gypsy (traveling with what we own), but using a plane and living in hotels instead.

I didn’t become a “minimalist” until around 2009. I wanted to become one, simply because I hated carrying all of this junk from city to city, and never using 50% of it. It wasn’t until I finally got down to where I am at (3 suitcases, 2 carryons), that I realized all of the benefits of minimalism, and how it’s improved my finances.

Conscious of everything I own
I am now extremely conscious of what I own and what I use on a daily basis. I re-evaluate my items every 6 months, and I’ve come to appreciate what I own.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to collect more, to have more variety, or to simply have beautiful objects around you, but all of this stuff makes it very difficult for me to travel simply and easily. Even though I enjoy curling up in armchairs, just the sheer thought of knowing I’d have to lug it around with me when I move, or to put it into storage because I may not be able to stay in one city for more than a year, makes it a lot easier to avoid accumulating more to carry around.

Quality over quantity
Since I want to carry around less, I buy higher end products where it makes sense. I spend more where it counts so that my things can last with some light maintenance and care. That said, I wouldn’t spend $900 on a pair of shoes, when a $100 pair would do just fine, but I would consider spending more money on a winter coat if it were going to last me far longer than an inexpensive one. I’m always evaluating what I buy by how long I want to keep/wear it, and if it’s worth it to pay extra money for something that may not be a long-term item.

I care less about social status & image
I admit, I did care a lot about what people thought of me when I was younger. When I was younger, I cared if people thought I was well-off or struggling. I spent money to look like I was rich, when in fact I was struggling with student loans and juggling 2 jobs to barely make ends meet.

Now, I don’t care what people think of me.

I have priorities in mind for everything, including my possessions and I don’t need that validation from others by portraying a false image of prosperity. I don’t care that people look at my old car and think I’m a struggling student who can’t make her bills because I no longer put stock on buying possessions to show my social status.

I no longer buying as much stuff on impulse
I no longer go into a store and spend unconsciously, purchasing decor (yes, pillows were my “thing”), or buying yet another grey sweater to add to my growing collection. As a result of planning, and trying to curb my impulse spending, I am buying less, which means I am spending less.

I will point out that not all of this has turned into 100% savings. True, I do save quite a bit of what I earn, but I am perfectly willing to spend it as well. This year alone (2011), I have decided to take the entire year off to travel around the world and do whatever I please. In doing so, I have forsaken my income for the year and set myself up for a year of 100% spending.

I don’t need to take care of so many things
While I dream about owning a huge wardrobe with rows and rows of knee-high boots, I am far too practical now, being a minimalist. I think: Why don’t I just have ONE pair of flat brown knee-high boots that I will love? Why do I need two? One is just enough and therefore I will spend the time and money to find the perfect pair so I can keep it for a long, long time.

The bottom line
Minimalism isn’t the solution for everyone and  but it has certainly worked out for me.

Aside from the monetary benefits of thinking about living with less, I also feel better not having all of these extra possessions or commitments to weigh me (and my mind) down. I can now do whatever I want, so if I am on vacation for a week and decide I want to stay longer, I stay.

Being a minimalist is a choice of a lifestyle and it can be as extreme or as light as you choose it to be, which is a lot like how people make personal decisions about their money and how frugal they want to be.

It is all up to you.

Ultimately, I really believe that the less you have, the more free you will feel.

Fabulously Broke cleared $60,000 of student loans in 18 months. She can also be found at The Everyday Minimalist, a blog all about real-life, doable minimalist living for the modern urban dweller.

P.S. The winners of the JukeboxPrint.com business card giveaway were Blonde on a Budget, and Clinton! Congrats you two! :)

Guest Post: Does a car-sharing service save money?

NOTE: This is a guest post by Steven Zussino, President of GroceryAlerts.ca, Canada’s Source for Grocery Deals, canadian coupons, and printable coupons. They match coupons with the latest grocery flyer specials.

Many people have access to car-sharing services like ZipCar, but the question is do these services save money and how they compare to renting a car.

Car-sharing is similar to a traditional car rental service, however, car-sharing differs where you would only need a car for a short period of time (less than 1 day). Additionally, you only pay for the usage (typically the length of the rental and the distance travelled).

How does a car-sharing service save money?

1. Not paying for insurance that you don’t use.
One problem I have with insurance is that it should be based on how much you drive. I am paying almost the same rate of insurance if I drive 40 kms per month or 4,000 kms per month. A car-sharing service may work if you drive sporadically.

2. Save money on car depreciation.
As soon as you purchase a car, the value is decreased. With a car-sharing service, you do not have the car as a depreciating asset on your personal balance sheet.

3. Save money on parking.
My wife and I live in a large Metropolitan city in the downtown area. A parking spot would cost at least $60 to $120 per month. In more expensive cities, parking could be over $200 per month. A car-sharing service has cars located in several convenient areas around the city and absorbs the cost of a monthly parking pass.

4. Save time by not doing maintenance.
A car needs constant maintenance and repairs. A car-sharing service saves you time by not getting oil changes, filling gas, cleaning the inside of the car, and doing a car wash.

How can a car-sharing service cost money?

1. Wrong company or plan.
Some car-sharing companies have different tiers or plans. You will want to thoroughly review a company’s car-sharing plans carefully to make sure that you’re getting what you will use out of the service. Make sure you get a map of the locations of their vehicles and always review the plan to make sure it works for your situation.

2. Possible being underinsured.
Most car-sharing services will come with insurance coverage but you are responsible for the deductible if you get in an accident. When comparing car-sharing services, make sure that you fully understand the insurance policy.

3. Not following the regulations of the service.
For any type of sharing service, rules and regulations come into play. A car-sharing service has several rules i.e., you must return your cars on time otherwise the person that booked after you won’t be able to get the car. The sharing service requires you to take a close look at the vehicle before driving to make sure nothing is damaged and that their is gas in the tank.

When the rules are not followed, you will be docked with fees and this is something to be aware of when considering a car-sharing service.

4. Driving too many long-distance drives.
If you plan on driving a long-distance (over 20 kms), it is often better to just rent a car because some car-sharing services charge extra per km or mile driven.

Is it worthwhile?

In my opinion, it depends on the frequency and spontaneity of your driving style.  My recommendation is to try the Zipcar calculator tool and see if you would save money based on your driving style and costs.

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