Author Topic: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best  (Read 5673 times)

Britan

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Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« on: November 18, 2014, 10:20:37 AM »
The best remedy for this, I think, is some punches delivered directly to my face.

Synopsis/TL;DR: 25y.o. with (effectively) no debt, $52,000 salary, full time job, part time school. Capability to grow moneystubble some months but a propensity to fall victim to wussypants syndrome especially as it relates to food (and guilt spending on friends/family).

Here is my actual annual (YTD) and monthly average spending and income for 2014.

CategoryYTDMonthNotes
Income39,6692,834YTD includes tax refund, tuition reimbursement, and $ from parents for plane flights home. Monthly is just my paycheck
Spend Tot36,2382,093
Difference3,431741
% Saved8.65%26%
Rent10,160960
Edu9,208-Grad school. Paying in cash. 1/3 is reimbursed by work. Done 5/2015
Groceries4,107339"Family" of 2. Proceed face punch.
Dining3,619339Insert face punch here.
Useless stuff3,522???Gifts, household, "entertainment", clothes, cash, tax prep.
Car2,288214Gas and Insurance
Gym1,37570Rock climbing gym. My only work out, especially because in winter after dark, a tiny gal like me cannot be outside alone for both temperature and safety reasons.
Travel1,077-Mostly paid back by parents because otherwise I'd never visit home
Utilities4658040 electric and 40 internet/month
Medical417-Mostly out of network mental health
*Disclaimer: I consolidated some categories by hand, so I apologize if my totals are off by a little.

Assets:
CategoryAmountNotes
401k$11,900Started 3 years ago. See questions below
Savings$4,940In savings account to cover next year's tuition in full
Investments$1,708Index fund, just started last month
Car2007 Hyundai ElantraPaid in cash, ~150k miles

Liabilities:
Student loan: $53,000 from undergrad. However this is entirely covered by parents, so effectively $0, and it should be gone by next year.
No car loan
No month-to-month credit card debt

Some notes
  • Commuting is expensive for me, but boyfriend walks to work. He is the one with more of a pants on fire debt emergency due to his grad school.
  • At 25, I don't pay for health insurance yet but that changes next year.
  • I don't pay for my cell phone either. That may also change soon.
  • I may be moving to California next year for boyfriend's job. Hello rent increase!
  • I finish my (fully paid in cash) Master's degree next May, so that cost will go away! And my salary will increase!

Goals
  • Save more than 26% per month (and more than 8% per year). Even with my luxurious dining habits, 26% per month isn't shabby, but I know I can and should do better.
  • Save $100,000 for a 20% down payment on a ~$500,0000 condo/house. This would probably get me a 1 br near my work's office in CA. Until then, I'll just be hemorrhaging money on rent equal to what a mortgage payment would be.
  • Live off one income (preferably mine) so that the boyfriend can pay his whole student debt (~$60,000) and credit card debt (???!!!) in one year.
  • Be able to move to part time work before 30 to have more time for things like potential kids, pets, rock climbing, painting hobby, etc.

Questions
Feel free to tackle any subset of the questions below:
  • Diniiiiing! Some days after work and school, I just don't have the energy to cook, and the boyfriend is a huge enabler (pusher even) of eating out because "we deserve it". I know. So mentally speaking, how do I resist this? And how do I convince him in the heat of the moment that, no, we actually deserve to not stress about debt? Any go-to foods to keep around for when this situation strikes?
  • Useless stuff. Treating my mom to [Edit]expensive dinner when she visited. Buying wedding presents. Cash (read: dining). Clothing. Most months I'm good, but other months I catch wussypants disease and make enough stupid decisions to more than make up for it. Sigh. Commence the face punches. Maybe shame will help.
  • My employer's 401k is stupid. It's through some small company and there is no option to put it in an index fund which makes me want to face punch someone. What do I do with it?
  • Speaking of retirement, how am I doing with that 401k? I have no point of reference for my age. I don't feel the need to retire early, but would love the flexibility of part-time.
  • Are my goals reasonable given my income? Especially that house one...
  • Does anyone have any good references for how to talk to significant others about debt and money?
  • What else would you like to face punch me for in the table above? I suspect I know already and promise I will try not to turn into Mr. Complainypants, maker of excuses.

And for those of you that made it this far, I applaud and thank you in advance for your ability to focus on such a long and rambling post and for your generosity in giving me some of your time.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2014, 11:01:42 AM by Britan »

savedough

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2014, 10:51:26 AM »
As far as dining out goes:  prep on whatever is your least busy day.   With little kids, I have to have dinner on the table in 30 minutes after we get home from work and daycare or they implode, so I do a lot of prep work on Sundays - chopping veggies, portioning fruit for lunches, make marinades, etc.   This means two things:  you have to have a meal plan and you have to be realistic about your schedule.   I can't make certain dinners on weeknights.  When the kids or I have an activity, it is eggs and waffles (premade and frozen) or leftovers for dinner and we plan for that.  We do allow some flexibility in the meal plan, it isn't a bible, but we waste less food and don't eat out much as a result.

minimustache1985

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2014, 10:52:32 AM »
At least you know where to facepunch yourself :)

Dining: Digiorno, Bertolli, Stouffers, etc. are your friends.  So are the ingredients to make super easy meals like grilled cheese or breakfast for dinner.  I get being tired and not wanting to cook, but these options are even easier than picking up takeout or going out (and while frozen stuff is far from healthy it's still typically better for you than restaurant food).  A crock pot is also awesome, I can throw meat and veggies into the crock pot turn it on in the morning, then viola!  Dinner is waiting at home.  Cooking ahead in batches on the weekend may help too.  As far as the BF goes just start making food, lead by example and hopefully he'll come around.

Do not buy a 500k place in SoCal.  Even with 20% down you're looking at a $2500ish mortgage on top of other homeowner expenses (and for a condo probably a horrid HOA fee), you can absolutely find rent cheaper than that, especially if you're willing to share a 2Bd/2Ba with other professionals at least until you have kids- SoCal being so expensive makes it a lot easier to find quality roommates than LCOL areas.

Treating your mom to dinner isn't useless- she's subsidizing your travel, health insurance, and loans.  Do feel free to cook a nice meal in instead, but thanking her for those things is called for.  For weddings give what you can afford not what you feel pressured to based on the fanciness of their party, the rest you know are facepunch worthy.

Open a traditional IRA and save that way.  Get any employer match, but if your investment options suck don't contribute any more than enough for matching until you're maxing out an IRA.  With your newfound restaurant and shopping savings you should be able to max that out.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2014, 10:56:26 AM »
First, if this income supports 2 people while your BF is in grad school, that makes it a little less facepunchy. If this is for only 1 person, you have major work to do.

It seems like you know what you need to work on, you're just looking for advice on how to fix it. In addition to the items you already punched yourself in the face for, I would add: Rent (If you are in a high cost area maybe this isn't so bad, but consider smaller, less trendy area, or roommates to save here), and useless stuff.

Your expenses are high for people who hang out here. Your lack of liabilities is a huge thing for a 25 year old, so great job there. Income is solid, assets are hopefully growing, so as long as you keep the expenses in check I think you'll be fine. Once the education expense drops off you will be able to save quite a bit. Health insurance cost shouldn't be too bad if work covers any of it for you, and same for BF.

Answers to questions:
-Either pre-cooked meals that you freeze, like a batch of spaghetti that you eat on Monday and freeze until next Monday, or things that don't need to be cooked liked salads, vegetables, PB&J. You are spending 20% of your income on groceries and eating out. This is a huge area for potential savings for you.

-Don't buy useless stuff. It's ok to treat your mom to a meal, or attend a wedding, but buying crap won't make you happy long-term, it will extend your working career and prevent you from meeting your goal at 30 years old.

-401K-Max this out. Right away. Tax savings are immense, and this is your patch to meeting your goals. Even if the funds are bad, you can move them to an IRA anytime you change jobs or quit, so you can move them to something better eventually. It's worth paying higher fees for a while to gain the employer match and the tax savings. Also, +1 to what minimustache1985 said here. Get employer match, then max T.IRA, then max 401k.

-Goals are reasonable, but I would invest as much as possible before buying a house/condo, particularly one that costs $500K. Let your money start working for you before you dump a bunch into an illiquid, non-productive asset.

-Significant others and money is one of the most difficult issues many of us deal with. Refer him here to start. If he doesn't like it, try other sites. Tell him your goals, and try to find some common ground goals to work toward.

Welcome to the forum, and good luck.

mm1970

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2014, 11:16:33 AM »
The best remedy for this, I think, is some punches delivered directly to my face.

Synopsis/TL;DR: 25y.o. with (effectively) no debt, $52,000 salary, full time job, part time school. Capability to grow moneystubble some months but a propensity to fall victim to wussypants syndrome especially as it relates to food (and guilt spending on friends/family).

Here is my actual annual (YTD) and monthly average spending and income for 2014.

CategoryYTDMonthNotes
Income39,6692,834YTD includes tax refund, tuition reimbursement, and $ from parents for plane flights home. Monthly is just my paycheck
Spend Tot36,2382,093
Difference3,431741
% Saved8.65%26%
Rent10,160960
Edu9,208-Grad school. Paying in cash. 1/3 is reimbursed by work. Done 5/2015
Groceries4,107339"Family" of 2. Proceed face punch.
Dining3,619339Insert face punch here.
Useless stuff3,522???Gifts, household, "entertainment", clothes, cash, tax prep.
Car2,288214Gas and Insurance
Gym1,37570Rock climbing gym. My only work out, especially because in winter after dark, a tiny gal like me cannot be outside alone for both temperature and safety reasons.
Travel1,077-Mostly paid back by parents because otherwise I'd never visit home
Utilities4658040 electric and 40 internet/month
Medical417-Mostly out of network mental health
*Disclaimer: I consolidated some categories by hand, so I apologize if my totals are off by a little.

Assets:
CategoryAmountNotes
401k$11,900Started 3 years ago. See questions below
Savings$4,940In savings account to cover next year's tuition in full
Investments$1,708Index fund, just started last month
Car2007 Hyundai ElantraPaid in cash, ~150k miles

Liabilities:
Student loan: $53,000 from undergrad. However this is entirely covered by parents, so effectively $0, and it should be gone by next year.
No car loan
No month-to-month credit card debt

Some notes
  • Commuting is expensive for me, but boyfriend walks to work. He is the one with more of a pants on fire debt emergency due to his grad school.
  • At 25, I don't pay for health insurance yet but that changes next year.
  • I don't pay for my cell phone either. That may also change soon.
  • I may be moving to California next year for boyfriend's job. Hello rent increase!
  • I finish my (fully paid in cash) Master's degree next May, so that cost will go away! And my salary will increase!

Goals
  • Save more than 26% per month (and more than 8% per year). Even with my luxurious dining habits, 26% per month isn't shabby, but I know I can and should do better.
  • Save $100,000 for a 20% down payment on a ~$500,0000 condo/house. This would probably get me a 1 br near my work's office in CA. Until then, I'll just be hemorrhaging money on rent equal to what a mortgage payment would be.
  • Live off one income (preferably mine) so that the boyfriend can pay his whole student debt (~$60,000) and credit card debt (???!!!) in one year.
  • Be able to move to part time work before 30 to have more time for things like potential kids, pets, rock climbing, painting hobby, etc.

Questions
Feel free to tackle any subset of the questions below:
  • Diniiiiing! Some days after work and school, I just don't have the energy to cook, and the boyfriend is a huge enabler (pusher even) of eating out because "we deserve it". I know. So mentally speaking, how do I resist this? And how do I convince him in the heat of the moment that, no, we actually deserve to not stress about debt? Any go-to foods to keep around for when this situation strikes?
  • Useless stuff. Treating my mom to [Edit]expensive dinner when she visited. Buying wedding presents. Cash (read: dining). Clothing. Most months I'm good, but other months I catch wussypants disease and make enough stupid decisions to more than make up for it. Sigh. Commence the face punches. Maybe shame will help.
  • My employer's 401k is stupid. It's through some small company and there is no option to put it in an index fund which makes me want to face punch someone. What do I do with it?
  • Speaking of retirement, how am I doing with that 401k? I have no point of reference for my age. I don't feel the need to retire early, but would love the flexibility of part-time.
  • Are my goals reasonable given my income? Especially that house one...
  • Does anyone have any good references for how to talk to significant others about debt and money?
  • What else would you like to face punch me for in the table above? I suspect I know already and promise I will try not to turn into Mr. Complainypants, maker of excuses.

And for those of you that made it this far, I applaud and thank you in advance for your ability to focus on such a long and rambling post and for your generosity in giving me some of your time.
Do you not like your parents?  I ask because I see you are willing to pay to eat out, and for a rock climbing gym, but not to travel to visit home. 

It's an interesting set of priorities.  It's something that I think about sometimes - I have a niece and a nephew who are now early 30's, and throughout their 20's, and even now, their mother buys their plane tickets home.  I also have known 20-somethings on their parents' insurance (though they could get it through work), and on their parent's cell phone plan (though they could afford their own).  While I think it's mustachian and understandable if you pay your parents for your portion of the cell phone bill (1/3 if there are 3 of you), and the same for insurance, I don't get the idea that something fun should come before insurance or trips to visit family.  Just not my priorities.  (Starting in my 30's, I paid to fly my mother out to visit, and now that she's gone, we pay for my MIL to come visit.)

On to other things.  When I was 25, I was working full time and taking master's classes at night, and I ate out ALL THE TIME.  Don't do that.  I shudder to think of how much money I was blowing on eating out back then, because I was "too tired".  My boyfriend at the time (now husband) cooked regularly, but then he moved away for grad school, and it got ugly.  Of course I didn't really know how to cook then either.

Now I have a full time job and two children, and the ONLY way I make it work is through meal planning and packing ahead of time.  So if I have a day where I have a full work day, followed by a meeting, I pack ahead of time.  For example, last week I got called to jury duty unexpectedly, on a day when I had a 4:30 pm PTA meeting.  I instructed my husband to feed the family leftover burritos from the freezer.  What I did was:
1. Take veggies and hummus for an afternoon jury duty snack
2.  Pack a salad for lunch, in a cooler bag, with an ice pack (with a fork, and a bottle of water)
3.  Run home after jury duty, making me a little late for PTA, where I microwaved leftovers and a vegetable and took with me to the 3 hour PTA meeting.

You know the nights that you are going to have class.  So, if Weds is that day, Tuesday night: 1.  What am I having for breakfast? 2.  What am I having for lunch?  Leftover stir-fry?  Pack it up already.  Put a piece of fruit and some nuts on top.  Do I have to run to class after?  Make a turkey sandwich.  Take ALL of it with you to work, use a cooler/ ice pack if you need it.

Once you get used to planning ahead, it's very easy.  So even if there's a day that you wake up and haven't prepared, it won't take long at all to make a sandwich, or pack up cheese, nuts, and vegetables, or whatever.

Also, when you get into the habit, it's easier to cook than eat out.  Beans and rice, burritos, crockpot chicken, spaghetti, soups.  I cook 2-3 big meals on the weekend, freeze some, eat the rest until they are gone, defrost something for the rest of the week.  It's better if you get used to eating the same stuff over and over (I eat salad for lunch EVERY DAY.)  The answer, again, is plan ahead - KNOW what you are cooking. Seriously microwaved vegetables and some chicken on the George Foreman, or an already-roasted chicken from the grocery store - not the cheapest you could do, but better than eating out.

For 401k, just look at the options and figure out how to spread it out.  Ours has "retirement date" options - I just use those.

Britan

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2014, 12:24:42 PM »
Thank you all!!! This is super helpful and makes for a very good slap in the face to make me think hard about my spending and my priorities.

Quote
Dining: Digiorno, Bertolli, Stouffers, etc. are your friends.

All good food advice I needed to hear. I will survive if I have frozen meals once or twice a week, especially if it saves me from eating out. I do try to prep on weekends but inevitably find one night where there is "nothing" to eat. This is my complainypants whispering evilly into my ear because it's always not true. At this exact moment, I have food prepped for the next 3-4 days, but when I do my Friday grocery run, I'll be sure to pick up some frozen/premade stuff. Weekends are the hardest for me, ironically.

Quote
Do not buy a 500k place in SoCal. 

NorCal actually, but where I'm looking, it's probably the same situation. I expected as much, though I have a long history behind me of pressure to buy a house ("the price will always go up", right? ...Right?) that I need to de-train myself from. And it's actually really good to get reinforcement of the idea that maybe buying a house isn't always a good idea. That being said, the move situation is so up in the air that the cost may be entirely different than what I'm thinking now. So I guess really my goal is to have the ability to put $100,000 on a house at some point in the future. Whether or not I actually do that, who knows!

Quote
First, if this income supports 2 people while your BF is in grad school, that makes it a little less facepunchy. If this is for only 1 person, you have major work to do.

It's a mix. I pay 75% of rent, 90% of food, and 100% of utilities. Most other categories are just me. So 1.5 people? It's still pretty embarrassing how much I spend.

Quote
If you are in a high cost area maybe this isn't so bad, but consider smaller, less trendy area, or roommates to save here
Definitely a factor for when I move. For the current situation, I actually do live in what could be described as a "trendy" neighborhood, but in the cheapest building I could find. It's also just about the only way for the bf to walk to work without me having 2-3x the commute. For the eventual future, does anyone have good tips on finding/vetting roommates? My experience living with friends has been...highly variable. My experience living with strangers has also been...highly variable!

Quote
Don't buy useless stuff. It's ok to treat your mom to a meal, or attend a wedding, but buying crap won't make you happy long-term
Yeah... I guess part of the problem too is that when I do this I tend to go overboard. I don't just treat her to a meal, we go somewhere fancy schmancy. I don't just attend a wedding, I get a fancy gift and don't carpool with friends to get there. But yeah, the other useless stuff has got to go. I'm going to put a moratorium on buying clothes.

Quote
Do you not like your parents?
I... will not go into too many details, but for a wide variety of reasons, I get along well with them... from a distance. However holidays are a major source of stress (see >$400 spent on metal health this month in anticipation of Thanksgiving). This is only the second Thanksgiving in the last 7 years where I have not purposefully made plans to avoid going "home". It's a shame because I like my brother and sister...but that's an entirely different post for entirely different blog. And I'd actually like to get entirely financially free from them, if only to stop the constant war over who I should have "loyalty" to. (Can you tell they are divorced?) I know many people have wonderful and healthy relationships with their parents, but I am not necessarily one of them. Once they reach a point where I can (mentally) afford to be around them for more than 10 days at a time, my priorities will probably change.

Quote
Significant others and money is one of the most difficult issues many of us deal with. Refer him here to start. If he doesn't like it, try other sites. Tell him your goals, and try to find some common ground goals to work toward.

His views on cars are supremely mustachian. Definitely common ground is there. I have already slipped in mentions of MMM into conversations but he's much more of a podcast guy than a blog guy.

Quote
Get employer match, then max T.IRA, then max 401k

This! This is so useful! Hearing it now makes so much sense I don't know why I didn't think of that. My current money in the index fund is not an IRA, but next paycheck, I will make one just for that purpose and start on it. With all the money I will be saving by not eating out so damn much!

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2014, 12:37:02 PM »
House: Read this and this.

Parents/Pressure from others: This is your life. You choose. Tame the mammoth!

Boyfriend/podcasts: This guy hangs out on these forums under 7years and has long but very good daily podcasts on all things finance. Send him a link.

401k's/IRA's: A lot of great info over here.

If you follow all those links, you'll have a huge head start on most newbies on this forum.

Britan

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2014, 12:49:01 PM »
House: Read this and this.

Parents/Pressure from others: This is your life. You choose. Tame the mammoth!

Boyfriend/podcasts: This guy hangs out on these forums under 7years and has long but very good daily podcasts on all things finance. Send him a link.

401k's/IRA's: A lot of great info over here.

If you follow all those links, you'll have a huge head start on most newbies on this forum.

Thank you!!! I will get reading!

2ndTimer

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2014, 02:22:02 PM »
The slow cooker was made for you.  Get one with a removable crock that fits in your fridge.  Before you go to bed fill it with whatever you are going to make.  The next morning plunk it in the heating mantle and turn it on.  Then when you walk in the door at night you will be greeted by the luscious fragrance of beef stew or chili or chicken breasts in sauce or whatever you made. 

minimustache1985

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2014, 04:04:28 PM »

NorCal actually, but where I'm looking, it's probably the same situation. I expected as much, though I have a long history behind me of pressure to buy a house ("the price will always go up", right? ...Right?) that I need to de-train myself from. And it's actually really good to get reinforcement of the idea that maybe buying a house isn't always a good idea. That being said, the move situation is so up in the air that the cost may be entirely different than what I'm thinking now. So I guess really my goal is to have the ability to put $100,000 on a house at some point in the future. Whether or not I actually do that, who knows!

For the eventual future, does anyone have good tips on finding/vetting roommates? My experience living with friends has been...highly variable. My experience living with strangers has also been...highly variable!


Ah, yeah NorCal and SoCal are both horrid expensive, but renting usually wins there.  I lived in SoCal so the numbers may be slightly different plus I haven't lived there in 3 years, but I never paid over $1100 for my share of rent- and that was for the master bedroom.  Having the ability is of course a good goal, although I wouldn't keep too much of that tied up in cash with buying being a maybe, you want those $ working for you.

Roommate wise, meet people and if they have the place already see it in person so you can see how clean they tend to keep things, etc.  Talk about things that tend to irritate roommates: do you do dishes immediately after, do you soak things and scrub the next day, do you let them pile up?  You want someone whose habits are close enough to yours that they won't drive either of you batty.  I tended to shy away from young 20-somethings who may be more into partying (although not all are- I was the 22 year old living with 30-somethings because I meshed with them better), and most of my roommates had professional jobs (speech therapist, engineer, teacher) so we had similar enough sleep schedules not to bother one another coming home and whatnot.  Also look for people who are looking because their previous roommate moved on for an external reason like getting engaged and moving in with their FI, moving for a job, etc.  Good roommates tend to have the same one(s) for awhile, so ask about their last few roommates and get a feel for if they go through them quickly- if everyone leaves after a short time they are the common denominator.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2014, 04:07:57 PM by minimustache1985 »

TheThirstyStag

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2014, 06:51:42 PM »
On the subject of your grocery bill, I don't think $339/mo is face punch worthy.  You're well below the US median monthly grocery bill for a family of 2.

galliver

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2014, 07:11:42 PM »
Questions
Feel free to tackle any subset of the questions below:
  • Diniiiiing! Some days after work and school, I just don't have the energy to cook, and the boyfriend is a huge enabler (pusher even) of eating out because "we deserve it". I know. So mentally speaking, how do I resist this? And how do I convince him in the heat of the moment that, no, we actually deserve to not stress about debt? Any go-to foods to keep around for when this situation strikes?
  • Useless stuff. Treating my mom to [Edit]expensive dinner when she visited. Buying wedding presents. Cash (read: dining). Clothing. Most months I'm good, but other months I catch wussypants disease and make enough stupid decisions to more than make up for it. Sigh. Commence the face punches. Maybe shame will help.
  • My employer's 401k is stupid. It's through some small company and there is no option to put it in an index fund which makes me want to face punch someone. What do I do with it?
  • Speaking of retirement, how am I doing with that 401k? I have no point of reference for my age. I don't feel the need to retire early, but would love the flexibility of part-time.
  • Are my goals reasonable given my income? Especially that house one...
  • Does anyone have any good references for how to talk to significant others about debt and money?
  • What else would you like to face punch me for in the table above? I suspect I know already and promise I will try not to turn into Mr. Complainypants, maker of excuses.

Hi Britan!

Re: Dining/cooking: It's a *really* common problem. For a range of reasons I started eating out *much* more my first year of grad school and I continue to work on scaling it down to where I'm comfortable again. It's gotten easier since I moved (IL to SoCal) and moved in with my bf. New campus has fewer food options (so I'm forced to pack my lunch), and living together has 2 benefits: we no longer have to travel every other weekend to see each other, and we can share the burden and the fruits of cooking. Anyhow, here are some strategies I've come up with in the past 2-ish years:
-I hate reheated (mushy) vegetables, so freezing (or even refrigerating) some types of leftovers doesn't really work for me. What has worked is prepping different parts independently (grilling or baking meat, chopping vegetables, making pasta or rice) and then combining on the spot. Stir fry, fajitas, or any starch+protein+veg meal in fast-food time (if everything is prepped).
-Keeping shelf-stable but fast stuff on hand, preferably also cheap. Frozen dinners/pizza (potstickers!). Pasta+sauce or cheese. Canned soup (protip: dump a cup of mixed frozen vegetables in). Canned fish or chicken.
-Explore supermarket prepared foods and how they can become meals: rotisserie chicken and frozen vegetables (do you see a trend, haha?). Potato salad and BBQ meatballs. I'd sometimes buy bags of pre-grilled chicken for salads if I didn't feel like making my own. Obviously not ideal, but this is a first step (just don't get stuck on it). Everything is cheaper at the supermarket.
-Sometimes, when I got back from the gym at 8PM, starving, and had nothing prepared, I'd make breakfast for dinner (eggs+toast)...and then prepare food. Grilling chicken at 10PM. All good.
-One big hurdle for me was getting away from the 'eat what I want' mentality toward 'eat what I have.' It's like, I know I have pizza at home but I want Chipotle! Well...too bad. Hold on to that feeling and make burritos next week. I think MMM helps with that.

Re: Boyfriend: Now, I don't usually make calls on people's relationships...but I hope you realize how significantly you're supporting your bf. I'm assuming you've been together a while and are planning a future, because otherwise investing in him (25% of your rent, 40% of food, 50% of utilities) doesn't make sense. And  I can't even imagine claiming that you "deserve to" eat out when you're living off someone else's income like that! You can tell him no; it's your call!

Re: California: Like I said, just moved to SoCal and I was expecting the price jump to be awful. It wasn't as bad as expected, although NorCal (if you mean SF Bay Area) is definitely worse (my parents live there). It also helps that unlike some other areas (not sure where you are), you don't have ridiculous heat or AC costs. Fresh food is quite cheap if you shop around. The outdoor opportunities for entertainment and exercise are fantastic. Biking to work is an option year-round. So, there are a lot of inputs to the cost equation and it doesn't *have* to be ridiculous (except your rent). From everything I gather, house-buying is a bad choice here, but I have no personal experience with that anywhere. I would do the math, in your shoes. Maybe once you're ready!

Re: rock climbing: It's fantastic exercise and not worth giving up! Also a great way to meet great people! Don't stop! Unlike a 'traditional' gym membership this isn't something you can recreate at home for a few months of the fees, or do with a video. And it's an excellent form of mental and physical exercise and if you have a passion for it and do it regularly, your membership is worth every penny. [My family has climbed since I was about 9 or 10 and I wish I was better at it/loved it more than I do... If you do move to the Bay Area you should look up Planite Granite, it's a good rock gym and I think they offer yoga classes with a membership, too!]

Britan

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2014, 08:37:16 PM »
You guys are all amazing!

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Ah, yeah NorCal and SoCal are both horrid expensive, but renting usually wins there.  I lived in SoCal so the numbers may be slightly different plus I haven't lived there in 3 years, but I never paid over $1100 for my share of rent- and that was for the master bedroom.  Having the ability is of course a good goal, although I wouldn't keep too much of that tied up in cash with buying being a maybe, you want those $ working for you.

You have no idea how good it is to hear that it's normal (a good idea even!) to rent. My whole life my parents have owned, along with the parents of literally every person I knew. I'll keep up the goal of saving/investing, and using that towards what makes the most sense. If that's a house, great. If not, also great.

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On the subject of your grocery bill, I don't think $339/mo is face punch worthy.  You're well below the US median monthly grocery bill for a family of 2.

Really?! I shop at Whole Foods! And get organic/pastured beef and eggs! And I waste so much of it too. Hence why I know I can do way better in the cost department. My goal for next month is $50/week which I can do if I can resist the allure of $10 trail mixes and $8 eggs and out of season fruit every week.

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-Keeping shelf-stable but fast stuff on hand

I have been working on homework all day, and my boyfriend reminded me that we have boxed soup in the cabinet. Note to self: Keep doing that.

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-One big hurdle for me was getting away from the 'eat what I want' mentality toward 'eat what I have.' It's like, I know I have pizza at home but I want Chipotle! Well...too bad. Hold on to that feeling and make burritos next week. I think MMM helps with that.

This describes me way too accurately. I always have something. Boxed soup. A can of sardines. Polenta. There is something there, I just have to suck it up and eat it, because I have the mad blessing of actually having food in my pantry and shouldn't take that for granted just because it isn't "gourmet".

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Boyfriend: Now, I don't usually make calls on people's relationships...but I hope you realize how significantly you're supporting your bf. I'm assuming you've been together a while and are planning a future, because otherwise investing in him (25% of your rent, 40% of food, 50% of utilities) doesn't make sense.

5 years now, and ~2 of those, the situation was reversed when I was unemployed. He's done it for me, for a significantly longer time and with significantly less history between us!

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Re: rock climbing: It's fantastic exercise and not worth giving up! Also a great way to meet great people! Don't stop! Unlike a 'traditional' gym membership this isn't something you can recreate at home for a few months of the fees, or do with a video. And it's an excellent form of mental and physical exercise and if you have a passion for it and do it regularly, your membership is worth every penny. [My family has climbed since I was about 9 or 10 and I wish I was better at it/loved it more than I do... If you do move to the Bay Area you should look up Planite Granite, it's a good rock gym and I think they offer yoga classes with a membership, too!]

I love Planet Granite! I try to go whenever I'm out there, though day passes are getting expensive! Depending on where I was in CA, I could go climbing outdoors more, negating the need for a membership. But there isn't anything around here less than 3 hours' drive away. When class is laid back, I go ~3 times/week, so it's easily worth it to me especially because it keeps me sane. My gym also offers free yoga and ab classes I try to take advantage of

Also, all the above didn't stop the boyfriend and I from trying to recreate the gym at home! His old place had a yard and we built a free standing "mini training wall". The wasps and the rain and the snow got to it though.

TheThirstyStag

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2014, 10:42:50 PM »
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On the subject of your grocery bill, I don't think $339/mo is face punch worthy.  You're well below the US median monthly grocery bill for a family of 2.

Really?! I shop at Whole Foods! And get organic/pastured beef and eggs! And I waste so much of it too. Hence why I know I can do way better in the cost department. My goal for next month is $50/week which I can do if I can resist the allure of $10 trail mixes and $8 eggs and out of season fruit every week.


In that case, there is certainly lots to shave off there.  Nobody around here will ever recommend shopping at whole paycheck.

Spondulix

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 10:59:31 PM »
The slow cooker was made for you.  Get one with a removable crock that fits in your fridge.  Before you go to bed fill it with whatever you are going to make.  The next morning plunk it in the heating mantle and turn it on.  Then when you walk in the door at night you will be greeted by the luscious fragrance of beef stew or chili or chicken breasts in sauce or whatever you made.
Id recommend a rice cooker, too. Doesn't need much supervision and great to ask for as a Xmas gift. I cook a couple cups of rice, lentils, or quinoa every Sunday night and use that to supplement meals during the week.

Siobhan

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2014, 11:46:35 AM »
The slow cooker was made for you.  Get one with a removable crock that fits in your fridge.  Before you go to bed fill it with whatever you are going to make.  The next morning plunk it in the heating mantle and turn it on.  Then when you walk in the door at night you will be greeted by the luscious fragrance of beef stew or chili or chicken breasts in sauce or whatever you made.

I love slow cooking...and for some god unknown reason NEVER thought of this, I'd always come down in the morning and prep it before work....kinda want to facepunch myself for that one

mm1970

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2014, 12:12:05 PM »
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I expected as much, though I have a long history behind me of pressure to buy a house ("the price will always go up", right? ...Right?)

Yeah, we bought our house in So Cal in 2004, that's what we thought.

:(

mm1970

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Re: Reader Case Study: Want mustache, have 5:00 shadow at best
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2014, 12:16:06 PM »
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I... will not go into too many details, but for a wide variety of reasons, I get along well with them... from a distance. However holidays are a major source of stress (see >$400 spent on metal health this month in anticipation of Thanksgiving). This is only the second Thanksgiving in the last 7 years where I have not purposefully made plans to avoid going "home". It's a shame because I like my brother and sister...but that's an entirely different post for entirely different blog. And I'd actually like to get entirely financially free from them, if only to stop the constant war over who I should have "loyalty" to. (Can you tell they are divorced?) I know many people have wonderful and healthy relationships with their parents, but I am not necessarily one of them. Once they reach a point where I can (mentally) afford to be around them for more than 10 days at a time, my priorities will probably change.
I kind of understand this.  My parents separated when I was 16, divorced at 18.  I had many a year of splitting up my visits home.  There was so much strife that one of my sisters did not attend my wedding.  It wasn't until my brother got married 6 years after I did that the whole family mostly "made up".  But still my mom would give me grief when I tried to schedule a visit with my sisters (my dad's children from his previous marriage).  She got the last laugh, I guess, she died the day I was supposed to be having the holiday meal with them, so I missed it.

And of course, within 2 months of my father passing, so that there was no longer a "split" on my side of the family, my husband's parents split up.  So...yay?  Conservation of divorce I guess.

So, it's totally okay to not go home for the holidays, and to build your own traditions with friends.  We did that early on - long before we had kids.  "Friendsgiving!"