Friday, January 17, 2014

The Age of Excessive Materialism

I really enjoy reading financial independence blogs and articles about how 30 somethings have retired at 35 by curbing their spending, saving more, and making wiser choices. Sometimes I have to remind myself of what my financial goals are and these blogs do that for me. The last couple months or so, I feel like I have been hemorrhaging money out of my butthole like it is my job. My budget and my bank account are not very happy with me. So this blog entry is going to be kind of a reminder to myself of what my financial goals are, ways I save money, what I splurge on, and a reminder that a fancy new thing is not what will make me happiest in life. So I am going to tell my dirty secrets with my bad spending the last two months, as well as what I try to do to save money, and ultimately what my goal is.

In the last two months, I bought a new car, have spent approximately $2,200 on airfare, spent $675 on a car rack for the said new car, spent over $600 eating out at restaurants in the month of November alone, $200 in December eating out, and over $1,000 on clothing in the last two months.  This is absolutely ludicrous! Of these things, I could have easily not bought any more clothing... I assure you, I do not need it. I don't even prefer eating out, it makes you fat and the food is always loaded with sodium. I didn't *need* a new car, but my old one was costing me nearly $500 a month in gasoline to commute to work, so I traded it in for that reason alone. I will save some money by doing that at least. I am not sure that I needed the car rack right now for the car, but it is needed for my lifestyle. I probably could have shopped around to save some money on that... but I didn't. I let my want for it overrule my judgement in saving $100 by buying it online. The airfare, well $600 of it is for vacation in March, the other $1,550 was partly my fault for trusting American Airlines to not be a bunch of douchebags and wanting something (getting to Oklahoma 10 hours earlier) that ended up costing me $1,000 extra after it was all said and done. I really wanted to get to OK earlier though and be with the Boy Toy and his family, so it was an expense I was ok with. Travel is usually one expense I don't ever mind paying for, I do shop around for airfare though, usually for a few months.

I need to make myself feel a little better now about blowing my budget, so these are things I do that save me money:

  1. Recycle/reuse clothing. I wear my jeans and most shirts more than once before washing. I reuse towels anywhere from 1 week to 10 days.
  2. I grocery shop... I know it doesn't seem like it from the above expense breakdown, but I do. I usually spend about $50 a week for groceries, sometimes a little less. I don't eat a lot of meat but I do eat a lot of fruit and veggies... which when you eat seasonally, this is pretty cheap. Not eating a lot of meat cuts my costs considerably. I also buy meat when it is on sale and freeze it.
  3. I shop around for airfare when I want to go somewhere, usually months in advance. Airlines usually have specials that just pop up randomly on certain days, so I will setup alerts for places that I want to go and watch the airfare. In regard to the $600 airfare this past month, Iceland was on my Boy Toy's list for places he wanted to go and I wanted to go back as well. We were planning a vacation in March, we just hadn't nailed a place down. I saw the airfare on Wednesday and it was $750. I looked again on Thursday and it was $550, $578 after all fees. Yay, saved $200 and going to Iceland again in March. :)
  4. I fix things in my house. It is a rare day that I hire something out to a contractor to fix. Youtube will pretty much tell you how to build a rocket, so fixing drywall or a pipe is not that difficult to learn how to do.
  5. I buy things that last (or ask for them for holidays). I have nice knives, nice pots and pans, solid wood furniture, etc. I have had most of it for at least 10 years. I only buy white linens now as well because I can bleach them, so towels don't start to smell funny after a couple years of use. Plus, white is always fashionable and goes with every bathroom decor.
  6. I buy open box items at places like Target. I bought my KitchenAide mixer for $100 at target because it didn't have a box... it is a $350 mixer. Yay! 
  7. My water comes from the tap, which also gives me the added benefit of fluoride so I have not had a cavity in many years.... could be my brushing but could also be the added fluoride. 
  8. I use a site called to buy a lot of the gear that I need for my lifestyle. It is a site that has privately sold items as well last season items so you can find a lot of technical clothing, climbing gear, camping supplies, etc. on there for 1/3 of the normal cost. Some of it is used, some of it comes from outlet stores new. REI attic sales are also amazing. I have a $2,600 mountain bike that I paid $600 for that was almost brand new when I got it. Same with my kayak.
  9. I contribute 15% of my income to my 401k, this lowers my taxable income as well as sets me up for earlier retirement. 
  10. I invest money in the stock market. As of this writing, I am up 60.56% on my initial investment by doing my best to research what I am buying into.
  11. I used to have a cell phone plan in my name, it cost me $150 a month. My company will pay for my cell phone and give me a phone. I did not take advantage of this for my first year with the company because I was paranoid about the content that is sometimes sent to me.... then I realized I didn't care and neither did they. 
  12. I don't have cable. I pay $7 a month for a Netflix subscription instead. 
  13. I rent my textbooks for school rather than buy them. There is a site called that rents text books for about $30 for the semester, this is fantastic as many books can cost more than $100 and you never use them again after the semester is over.
  14. I grew a garden last year. I have been growing my own tomatoes for about 5 years now in the summer time, on my deck, but I went all out last year and grew a bunch of stuff! I plan to do the same from now until forever. It was a fun hobby, but it was also neat to be able to pick green peppers from my garden and make stuffed peppers with them that very night for dinner. Pretty cool in my opinion. 
  15. I make my own coffee every morning and put it in a to-go mug to take to work. I used to love Starbucks and drank it regularly, then I realized how much I could save by doing it myself and have more control over the flavor.

Back to dirty secrets... these are things that I waste money on regularly. It is my goal this year to fix these things.
  1. I live in a massive house. I live in a house that could easily accommodate a family of 8. I plan on downsizing this coming spring/summer to a smaller, cheaper house that is more centrally located to the things and people I like. 
  2.  I love brand name laundry detergent. $15 for Tide? You got it! It is dumb. If you look at the back of a Tide bottle versus an Xtra bottle that costs 1/3 the price, they are the same ingredients. 
  3. I buy books. I buy a lot of books. Why? I don't know. I love the way they smell and reading an actual book?!?! They just take up space, or I end up giving them away. I'm going to use my library card more this year and the Kindle Owners Library, both of which are free. 
  4. I love jackets and backpacks. I have so many jackets/coats and backpacks that some only come out twice a year. I'm not buying another coat or backpack for the entire year of 2014. 
  5. I use Pureology shampoo and conditioner. At $30 each, per bottle, per month, I'm being ridiculous. I have this idea that it makes my hair softer/silkier/healthier etc. but it doesn't. No more so than a mid range shampoo or conditioner that would be half the price and still do the trick.
  6. I buy high end shoes and high heels when I go on vacation. I have multiple pairs of shoes that I hardly ever wear but I justified spending upward of $400 on some of them because I was on vacation. No more shoes for me this year! I have a closet full of shoes and boots. 
  7. Since cutting my hair short, I have noticed that my salon bill has almost quadrupled. I was going to the salon every 8 weeks to get it done over the last year, at $150 (sometimes more) each time it was beginning to add up. I'm letting my hair grow out a little bit now so I don't have to get it trimmed/cut/touched-up so often to keep it looking nice. (If you're keeping track, my yearly hair care is at about $1,260 this past year... that's absurd)
  8. House plants. Every spring, every year, I go to Home Depot and buy a boat load of house plants for my house because this is the year that I will be able to keep them alive!!! I can never keep a house plant alive, ever. Over the years, I must have spent at least $1,000 on plants that I just don't water and don't care for.... and then I wonder why the plant has died. 
  9. I buy $15-20 lip blams and lip glosses regularly... and I promptly lose them after two uses. I am not buying anymore expensive lip treatments for 2014! I prefer to use Vaseline on my lips at night anyway, I don't know why I buy those things. 

So I was at my friends house the other night, and on her refrigerator there was a "WANT/NEED" list. Seeing this list changed my life and helped me remember my financial goals versus all the shit I have been buying lately that seems extremely excessive as I write this. She told me that this list really helps her to remember what is important and her wants versus her needs. I decided I am going to start doing this so that I can visualize my wants vs. needs to help curb my spending. 

There are certain expenses that I will not ever cut out of my life because they make my life a better place, even though I would save a lot of money doing so. Those are:
  • Organic/local food. I will always opt to buy organically or locally if the option is there. I will happily pay a few dollars more for a happy chicken rather than one pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, its breasts too big to walk and just left to rot on the floor of a chicken coop. No thanks.
  • Travel/Experiences. I spend a lot of money on these things. I love to travel and I love to go on adventures. These things make my life a wonderful place and they are the reason I want to curb my materialism a little more. I want more free time and more money to experience the joys of life and the beauty that is in this world. I do not want to be held down by my possessions. I do not want to be a slave to my job because I live a lifestyle filled with "stuff." I want to see every single country on this planet, that is my goal in this lifetime.
We have been taught that we are consumers and our worth is based on what we own. The media looks at humans as consumers and the majority of our economy is based on consumables. I read an article that calls childless people "selfish" because by not having children who will later become consumers, soldiers, and tax payers later in life, we are contributing to the economic collapse of this country. Surprisingly (because it came from Fox News), it said that immigration is necessary to keep America as an economic superpower. We are taught to shop until we drop, spend spend, spend, throw things away, THIS IS THE AMERICAN DREAM!!!! Fuck that. I don't work because I enjoy it and I'm not selfish because I don't have children. I work to support a lifestyle that I have become accustomed to. Well what happens when that lifestyle no longer costs as much as it did before because you aren't buying ridiculous shit that you don't need??? Your living expenses go down, you can save more, you can work less, and you can live more!

My two cents on the matter.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Congregation of Canoes

As the New Year rang in I was reminded why going to bars sucks sometimes.... because sometimes, douche canoes congregate in them. Why is it that certain types of men think they can come up on women in bars and become belligerent and rude when a woman does not want to talk to them? Do they think that they can just intimidate them into a conversation? I suppose it does work every now and then because there are a lot of women out there who really like assholes or are too passive to deal with the situation, but when a woman tells you to go away, why would you not just listen? Save your ego and go find someone who actually wants to talk to you.

Being the person that I am, with the experiences that I have had, these men do not sit well with me and their arrogance infuriates me. Their belligerence and intimidation tactics just make me want to punch them in the face, to be perfectly honest. I suppose a lot of women will just brush it off and let it go; unfortunately (or fortunately), I am not that relaxed when it comes to these situations and I don't brush off their acrimony. As I found myself yelling at two complete strangers for thinking they could force my friend to talk to them, and that they could insult me when I told them to leave, all I could think about was why they would willingly put themselves in this situation when they could have so easily walked away and found a woman who actually wanted to talk to them? Did my friend and I have a look about us that told them it was ok to disrespect us?

I chalk this type of behavior up to a chauvinistic/sadistic character flaw in these men that make them think they can act like this toward women. This isn't the first time this has happened, I have found myself in this situation before and I have watched it happen to plenty of women over the years in bars... some are actually flattered by it. I was in a bar on St. Patty's day quite a few years ago and I watched about 10 men get into this one girl's face because she slept with one of the guys and his girlfriend found out. People stood around and did nothing as a couple of those guys punched her in the face and kicked her. I got my ass kicked by a group of guys that night because I'd rather get beat up than to be the person who stood around and did nothing. My face was nicely wrecked that night thanks to those guys. The night ended with a huge bar fight, one girl getting her front tooth knocked out, and tons of cops showing up, but I have zero regrets when it comes to deflecting some of the punches for her.

I grew up watching my mother get beat up by men, so maybe I am overly sensitive when it comes to men being hostile toward women, but that junk does not fly with me. I would rather get my butt kicked a thousand times than to let men like that think that women are objects for their entertainment rather than individuals with their own morals and standards. I was overly polite when I first told them to leave because my friend was not interested, yet their open disdain for women had to complicate the situation. Lucky for me, there were three men with us who had my back, but they shouldn't have had to step in because it should have never escalated the way it did.

Gender roles still exist in Western culture and gender inequality is still prevalent in the United States, these are just the facts of life, folks. Men are seen as more assertive and absolute; whereas women are seen as more yielding and sensitive. I am even guilty of enjoying my gender role sometimes, as I quite enjoy having a big-strong-boyfriend that makes me feel safe and protected; however, these  generalized stereotypes have made some men think that they can treat women like they are less than equal. It makes them think they can put their paws all over a woman and that it is perfectly acceptable to berate her when she objects to it. No society treats its women as well as its men, but do not be offended when a woman stands up for herself. Do not look at her like she is any less of a human being or like she should not have handled the situation in the exact same way that a man would have.