deserving

Have you noticed the “you deserve it” phenomenon in advertising lately? It is everywhere. You deserve a good night’s sleep. You deserve a beautiful smile. You deserve to go on vacation. You deserve a break.mcdonalds-you-deserve-a-break-today-ad

Apparently it’s not a new strategy for advertisers, judging by the above MacDonald’s advertisement. It’s been around for years, but why has it suddenly become so prevalent? It drives me bonkers for several reasons. The first reason is that whether or not I deserve something doesn’t factor into my mental processing when deciding to buy something. I’m going to use the advertisement below as an example.OrthodonticSpecialists-ad

If I were thinking about getting braces my thought process would work like this: “Ugg I have unattractive teeth. Are they so bad people notice them or am I just being self-conscious? Am I so uncomfortable with my teeth that it is worth it to spend $3,000 to get them fixed?” This is the question I always ask myself, is this product worth the price? Am I perturbed or uncomfortable enough with whatever problem this product will fix to throw that specific amount of money at it? It is a question of value, and value is very personal. If I believe a beautiful smile will provide a $3000 or more return in my confidence, self worth and how I show myself to the world then it has enough value for me to buy it. I use a cost/value analysis strategy to make purchases and whether or not I deserve something doesn’t factor into the decision. I think along these lines even when buying something small. I have never thought, “I deserve that candy bar”, instead I think “Do I want that candy bar more than I want the $1 it’ll cost” (the answer is usually that I want the candy bar more than the money). Deserve has too much emotional connotation to be included in a discussion about how to spend our money. We work hard for our money and I don’t want to spend it based on emotion. I want to make sound, logical choices with our money.

Secondly, I get so frustrated when I see advertisements trying to make me believe I deserve something. Lots of people deserve a lot of things. Starving people don’t deserve to starve; people dying of curable disease don’t deserve to die; children don’t deserve to be born into families who won’t love them; returning soldiers deserve a hero’s welcome home. Those are things I associate with the word deserve not straight teeth, expensive mattresses and hamburgers. People deserve basic human rights, not vacations and teeth whitening. A vacation is a want and it is perfectly fine and normal to want things but let’s not agree to disguise wants as something all humans need to make us feel valued. Deserve is such a loaded word and I have such a strong gut reaction it, especially when it is used to make a want into a need.

Thirdly, the word “deserve” usually serves as justification for doing something you want to do, not a reason behind doing it. I wish people would use facts to justify things they want. Like “I value the time with my family that comes from a vacation and it is worth the cost for me” instead of “I have been working really hard so I deserve a vacation”. If a person believes in the value of whatever they are buying they don’t need to justify it by deserving it.

Deserve is a tricky, tricky word. It is an emotionally loaded word. When advertisers tell you “You deserve it” they are triggering an emotional response that stems from pride and the need to be valued. The emotional response to the word “deserve” completely bypasses any logical analysis of whether we can afford or even want the advertised product. All humans have intrinsic value. But don’t let advertisers force you to believe that buying things will prove you are valuable. The word “deserve” makes it ok to spend more than you have.  By using “deserve” to justify things we can’t really afford we are ruining our ability to make future decisions independently of the past. We deserve to not be held hostage in the future because we made decisions based on one emotionally loaded word.

Do you have any internal response to advertisers declaring “you deserve it”?

i don’t want to be my own boss

world's best boss

Are you entrepreneurial? I’m not. I’m just not and I am completely ok with this fact. Some people have a deep desire to direct their own destiny and set their own hours and be their own boss. Certain aspects of being an entrepreneur appeal to me. Is there anyone that doesn’t find the idea of working from home and setting your own hours appealing? But as I approach 30 (I’ll be 29 this summer) I’ve become more accepting of myself and one of the things I’ve accepted as truth is that I operate really well inside boundaries, especially if someone else set those boundaries.

Work provides me with the structure and a set of expectations and I function really well inside those clear expectations. I also really appreciate someone else signing my paycheck. I don’t want the responsibility of making enough money to pay myself.  While I am grateful to know that I operate best with outsider expectations sometimes I am critical of myself for not being more entrepreneurial and taking fate in my own hands. The employment market trends all point to the fact that employers are more and more moving towards independent contract workers. Where does this leave someone like me who prefers to have a boss?

Honestly, it leaves me a little scared. I understand the move towards independent contractors’ from both an employee and employers’ perspective but understanding it doesn’t make me less scared to face the changing landscape of employment. My current employer is very traditional. Along with a 40 hour work week I receive health benefits paid in full, a pension fund with an optional 401K, flexible health spending account, paid vacation, paid Holiday and overtime paid at time and half – all benefits you would assume you would be getting if you worked at Sterling Cooper in 1963.

If I were to leave and strike out on my own all those traditional benefits would disappear too. The movement to entrepreneurial work is incredibly apparent on the internet today. Boutique shops and personally crafted goods can be found everywhere, not to mention all the blogs turned business and independent creative services offered. The shift is notable and powerful. This monumental shift in the way people present their wares and talents to the world is inspiring until I think of all the benefits I would leave behind if I left the traditional work paradigm I currently have.

I’m not thinking of leaving my job – we need the money to live on while we pay off our house. But I have been day dreaming of ways to make extra money during weekends and at night. Weekend and night entrepreneurial pursuits seem a good way to dip a toe in the scary water for me because I wouldn’t have to leave behind my traditional benefits. The gravitation towards entrepreneurship makes me feel old-fashioned for liking the structure of a 9-5 job.

What about you? Would you love to be your own boss or are you left wondering how you will fit in the brave new landscape of contract work? Are you your own boss now? How did you transition? Any suggestions?

february recap

month recap

Welcome to March! Waa-waa – there is still massive amounts of snow here and no sign of spring at all. I’m ready for spring. But since spring isn’t here I guess I’ll just stay inside and review our budget and progress in February. Yes!

February House Payments

We were able to pay $2,718.96 towards our mortgage this month. That means we were able to pay a little more than $1900 extra towards our mortgage! Thanks for working so hard Husband! Our payment coupons have a little box to check that indicates if you want the extra to go towards principle. I’ve heard at some banks if you don’t tell them specifically to put the extra towards your mortgage they will make advanced payments and it spreads your interest out longer. This chunk of change moved us to where our principle balance would be in June 2016 if we just paid it at the regular pace. Comparing the regular amortization schedule to the accelerated amortization schedule really helps me see the progress we are making and keeps me motivated.

Budgeting

We came closer with our cash budget in February.

FEBRUARY
Budget Actual Percent
Groceries $400.00 $  360.00 90%
Eating Out $124.00 $  124.00 100%
Home Improvement $50.00 $     60.00 120%
Pet Care $50.00 $     50.00 100%
Car Maintenance $40.00 $            - 0%
Entertainment $5.00 $       5.00 100%
Gifts $50.00 $            - 0%
General house $30.00 $     30.00 100%
Personal – Andee $70.00 $     52.00 74%
$819.00 $  681.00 83%

Our grocery was much more reasonable than in January. I had 5 people over for dinner one night and we still managed to come in under $400. I don’t think we’ll reduce this category any further for now because it can fluctuate so much depending on what we have going on.

We went over in home improvement because an exterior motion sensor light broke and needed to be replaced.

Our dogs spent all their money on bones and food. We buy their food at Costco because we have heard several veterinaries recommend it and it is reasonably priced.

Car Maintenance and gifts weren’t used and are rolled over continually to build a pot to pull from when we have larger expense. Like when we have several birthdays in a month. We did celebrate one birthday this month but we bought the gift with a left over gift card from Christmas. It was like finding bonus money.

We spent all of our general house money – paper towels, soap that kind of thing. Very exciting stuff in this category.

Personal money. I literally have no idea what I did with my personal money this month. I can’t remember a thing. I bought some candles when I was having a group of girls over for dinner – it didn’t seem reasonable to take it out of general house money because candles are definitely not a staple, for me they are a luxury – as absurd as that probably sounds. I bought Collin a new phone charger for Valentine’s Day so that’s where some of the money went. I struggle with the personal money category because the nerd part of me wants to track every penny I spend, even this category but the other part of me believes firmly that personal money should be used for fun and whatever I want. It’s the one category without guidelines or specifications so why should I track it? Because it really bothers me that I don’t know where I spent it! That’s why! (Hope you enjoyed that trip into my mind.)

So our cash envelopes did their job in February, we stayed on track for the most part and managed to live within the boundaries of one income.

naysayers

eye rolling

I thought it would be fun to play a game where we pretend I told some people about our plan to pay off our mortgage as fast as we possibly can and then share their maybe real, maybe fictitious responses and then how I responded to these suggestions in my head.

Suggestion from my Doctor:  (rolling her eyes) “Why don’t you just split the difference and pay it down really fast for 2 years and then pay it at regular speed for whatever is left?”

Response: We don’t want work really hard for 2 years and then drag the remainder of our debt around for another 16 years – that’s how long this plan would last.

Suggestion from an employer:  “You could just pay it like a 15 year mortgage and it would be done in 15 years. Then it wouldn’t be so hard”

Response: Yeah but then it would last for 15 years instead of less than 4. Why would we extend the very thing we are trying to get out from under? If we have to choose between living on a tight budget for less than 4 years or living on a medium-tight budget for 15 years I will always choose tighter, more uncomfortable for a shorter amount of time.

Suggestion from a family member:  “I don’t think that’s a good idea. You wouldn’t be able to write off the interest on your home loan if you paid it off”.

Response: We pay almost $10,000 a year in house payments if we pay the regular amount. We are not saving $10,000 a year in taxes by deducting the interest from our home loan. I don’t care who gets my money, either the bank gets tons of it or the IRS gets some of it. I want to keep more of it. Also paying our mortgage off early will save us over $72,000 in interest over the life of the loan. We’ll be ok without the tax write off.

Suggestion from another family member:  (laughing and scoffing) “Then what? Are you going to quit your job and go on government assistance after you pay off your mortgage?”

Response: What!?! That response says more about you than it does us. We don’t only have jobs because of our house payment. We work because it brings value to our lives, allows us to contribute to society, reach other goals and enjoy life. If the only meaning work had was paying our mortgage I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have bought a house, that’s too much pressure on a job. This response was hurtful to both of us until we were able to accept that it actually had very little to do with us.

Fun right? Those were all real responses to our plan; none of them were made up. And these are only some of the verbal responses; I get a lot of eye-rolling. But I don’t care. It’s not anyone else’s plan – it’s our plan. We came up with it, and we will own it. Nobody else has to do it, so I just try to ignore the comments. But the closer the commenter is to us the harder it is to ignore them. Sometimes I have to remind myself that with most people the comment isn’t usually about me but more about the person saying it.

cash budgeting part 2

I covered the mechanics of how I actually started the cash system in my last post. This time I want to show you how we divide up our money and make decisions.

I feel like our real life budget numbers are going to be the most useful in this post so please be gentle. This is a synopsis of where we planned to spend our cash in January and how we actually did. Our cash envelopes are broken down into nine categories:

JANUARY 
Budget  Actual Percent
Groceries $500.00 $390.00 78%
Eating Out $124.00 $145.00 117%
Home Improvement $150.00 $150.00 100%
Pet Care $50.00 $32.00 64%
Car Maintenance $40.00 0 0%
Entertainment $50.00 $75.00 150%
Gifts $50.00 0 0%
General house $30.00 $28.00 93%
Personal – Andee $70.00 $60.00 86%
TOTALS $1,064.00 $880.00 83%

We budgeted a total of $1064.00 and spent a total of $880 so even though we came in over budget on two categories we still only spent 83% of our cash allotments! That is pretty exciting and encouraging. Some categories likes Car Maintenance, Gifts and Dog Money will just continue to grow each month to pay for things that will cost more than one month’s total. A trip to the vet would obviously cost more than $50 and the left over each month will just keep accumulating so we have enough to pay the vet in cash – ideally. The car maintenance and gift categories work the same way.

Now let’s talk about where we went over – entertainment and eating out, the two categories that took the biggest hit when we started using cash. We went over on eating by one meal and that was a special occasion where we took pizza to a family member’s house to watch a football game. It was at the very beginning of the month and we were still afraid of how things would work. Excuses, excuses I know. Don’t make our mistakes! The entertainment category will fix itself this month because we only get $5 instead of $50 to balance it out, plus we still have a $20 left from January so essentially our entertainment in February is half of what it was in January because we spent too much. There was a play we both wanted to see and my husband surprised me by buying tickets, he is very sweet and thoughtful – and the play only ran in January. So it was worth it to have less in February, plus February is a short month so we won’t need to spend as much anyway! Right? I feel like I just spent way too much trying to justify that whole thing to you.

The category I am most proud of is groceries. I assumed when we cut our eating out budget we would buy more food and I expected that to be around $500; I planned big because I would rather start with too much money in this category than too little and have to take it from something else. But I obviously way over budgeted; which is awesome!

Changes as a result of spending:

After looking at how we did in January I felt comfortable reducing our food budget by $100. Our home improvement budget was also reduced by $100 for February because it wasn’t until half way through January that we decided to live on one income so we had to make more cuts and home improvement seems the easiest place to cut.

Personal Money

This category encompasses a lot. My husband prefers to have his personal money via debit card because he likes to spend some of his personal money via iTunes. He was a separate bank account at our same bank and I transfer his personal the same day I divvy up the cash envelopes. Remember when I didn’t buy the fox canister at Target ***LINK TO TARGET POST****?! I’m still excited to have such a tangible example of how cash makes a difference in my spending patterns.

Here’s a breakdown of what I spent my January personal money on

New black tights ($5 @ Target),

$5 to a homeless man (I don’t usually give money direct to the homeless buy I really like I was supposed to)

Diet Coke ($1)

New Shirt ($3.99 @ Goodwill)

Latte ($4)

Lunch with Mom ($18)

Lunch w/ Mom and Sister ($7)

Dinner Date w/ Husband ($15)

That leaves $1 I have no idea what I did with. Remembering everything I spent my personal money was tough. I need to write a separate post about how much I love the “personal money” category!

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cash budgeting part 1

On Tuesday I talked about a very tangible outcome of switching to using cash instead of debit cards. Now I want to talk about how I actually set up the system of cash envelopes. I had wanted to switch to a cash budget system for quite a while. While we were saving $20K last year our budget system consisted of, “put $1700 or more a month in savings and spend the rest on whatever we need/really want”. It was a savings budget, not a real way of managing our money. It was a small practice step for us. Living on one income made it necessary for us to have an actual, legitimate budget to make our money go as far as it can.

The task of moving our spending from easily swiped debit cards to cash was daunting in theory but much easier in practice. I thought about it for months and read about it and researched it – but in the end the only thing I could do was try. It was complicated at first. It involved setting up a new bank account as our primary bank is USAA and they don’t have local branches. (As a side note we absolutely love USAA, they have the best customer service I’ve ever experienced.) We couldn’t take the money for the cash system out of an ATM because we needed it in exact denominations. It didn’t make sense to take the money out of the ATM and then go to a local bank and try to change the bills into something else. So we had to open a local checking account. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get around this step so if you already bank locally you are way ahead of where I started!

I figure out the amount of cash we will need for the month prior to the month starting. I get paid weekly and by figuring it out before the month starts we are always planning ahead, not just keeping up. So the last two pay periods of a month are really going to pay for the first half of the next month, and the first two pay periods are going to pay for the second half of the month. In months where I get 5 checks instead of 4 we’ll use that extra money towards our house payment. So once I know how much cash we need for a month I divide that number by 4 and that’s the amount of my direct deposit into the local bank. When I figure out how much cash we need for a month I also figure out what denomination of bills we will need. Then the 1st and 15th of the month I go to the local bank and clean out the account. The local bank is basically acting like a revolving account. It is a little weird to go to the bank and say, “I need to withdraw everything in my account and I want it in these denominations”. Then I hand them a little piece of paper that looks like this.

note for bank teller

I think it is easier to give them the piece of paper instead of reading it all out to them. Yes I do feel like a crazy person asking for this weird amount of money divided out this specific way; but I figure if it helps us pay off our house and makes our lives better I can put up with bank teller thinking I’m a wack-a-doo. Then I take all the money home and put it into separate envelopes labeled for their specific purpose. We keep it in a little plastic file folder so when we go to the store or something we can just grab it out of there.

The fear of it being overwhelming complicated was way worse than it is in reality. It is something that you just have to get in there and do for yourself; and it won’t be pretty the first time but your confidence will grow and soon it’ll be a piece of cake.

On Tuesday I’ll go over the categories of our budget and how we decide the amounts for each category.

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