Archive for April, 2012

The Cost of Travel

Travel is expensive. But you know what I’ve decided? I don’t care. I’m doing everything “right”:

  1. I have 6 months in emergency reserves, plus all of my insurance deductibles set aside. (Total: ~$24,000)
  2. I am investing 20% for retirement, including maxing out my 401(k).
  3. I have a pretty good picture of my spending.
  4. I am making a car payment to myself, automatically each month, to be able to pay for my next car in cash. Even though I’ve only had my current car for about a year and a half.
  5. I’m saving about 50% of my net pay each month.
  6. My net worth has exceeded my expected gross annual income. (w00t!)
  7. I have no family obligations (plus I’m single).
  8. I have no debt (and never have).

So I’m planning on taking all of my vacation days for travel, plus weekend jaunts. But wow, are weekend jaunts more expensive! I’m cool with it taking longer to buy a condo if that means I get to travel more in the meantime (the amount of vacation time I have will limit this from really being much of a problem though).

Thus far in my young life, I’ve been to many cities in North America and Europe:

  • Austria: Vienna
  • Belgium: Brussels
  • Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria
  • Czech Republic: Prague
  • France: Paris, Strasbourg
  • Germany: Berlin, Cologne, Stuttgart
  • Greece: Athens
  • Italy: Rome
  • Mexico: Cancun, Manzanillo, Nuevo Vallarta, San Jose del Cabo
  • Netherlands: some town I can’t remember the name of
  • Poland: Krakow
  • Slovakia: Bratislava
  • United Kingdom: London
  • United States: 7 states

Where have I not been that I would like to go or some places that I would like to go again? I’m going to categorize these by the number of weeks I would want to spend seeing them (0 = weekend jaunt).

  • Australia (1-2)
  • Canada: Rockies (0), Nova Scotia (0), Quebec City (0), Victoria (0 – it’s been awhile)
  • Europe: Ireland (1), Scotland (1), Spain (1-2)
  • New Zealand (1-2)
  • United States: the other 43 states* :)
*I know that that isn’t super clear, but I’m not quite ready for you guys to know which state I live in.

I’m sure that I’m missing many places that I haven’t been, but this is my list for now. I don’t want to overextend myself with travel and sports. Taking a vacation a month in January, February, and March was a bit much. I think that I should look at having a minimum of a month break between trips. I’m not going anywhere in April or in May and then I’m going away for about a week and a half in June. This puts remaining trip slots for the year in August/September and October/November.

As for my June trip, I’ve already paid for the flights and the hotel in full. So all that is left is food, touristing, and airport transfers.

If I go on a trip in August/September with my mom, we will probably go to Waikiki or one of the Canadian weekend trips that I would like to do. If I go with a friend, maybe we would go to Washington, DC, but I wouldn’t do that trip in November with the election.

Soon, I should start my 2013 travel planning! (Mostly for the placement of the 2 week trip so I can plan my vacation days accordingly.)

Readers, any cities that you’re particularly fond of and you think I should visit? :) What is your favorite US city to visit and why?



How I Pay My Bills

You know how your credit card bill is due 25 days after the cut-off of the billing period? Or your cable or cell phone bill is due a few weeks after it arrives in the mail? Some people then think “Oh, I’ll pay it later” and put off paying the bill until it’s past due. With all of the different bills that I have (credit cards, cable, cell phone, rent, electricity), trying to keep track of all of the due dates is annoying.

My solution? Pay the bill immediately when I receive it. Since the balance in my checking account covers all of my regular bills, variable expenses, and has a nice buffer, I know that there is always the money to pay the bill.

For credit card accounts, this helps to keep the balance lower since I never use more than 10-20% of the credit limit before the billing period is over and then as soon as the statement amount is displayed in the online banking, I make a payment as of that day for the full balance. This also helps me to feel like the amount billed on the credit cards is far more manageable since I don’t charge very much on each card every month.

I also read *every* statement. My cable provider often increases the bill slightly every few months and sometimes there are random small annoyances on my cell phone bill as well. By getting the latest 6-month promotion and buying my own cable modem (used and cheap), I’ve reduced my cable and internet bill down to only about $50 per month, which is pretty good.

Readers, how do you go about paying your bills? Do you pay them right away like I do or do you wait until the very end of the grace period?



How to Evaluate a Job Offer

Every company has different ways of compensation. Some companies have amazing benefits, but lower pay. Some value equity over base salary. Some don’t offer a 401(k) and some do, but don’t offer matching.

You need to add up the following:

  1. Annual base salary
  2. Cash bonuses
  3. Value of stock options/RSUs (restricted stock units)/ESPP (employee stock purchase plan) based on the current stock price
  4. 401(k) matching (how soon does it vest?)
  5. subtract the cost of your health insurance premiums and your estimate of how much you would spend on co-pays/etc.
  6. subtract any 401(k) matching you would walk away from at your current employer
  7. value of other benefits such as free parking at work, lunch, dinner, life insurance policy, etc.

You should also add up the above over the same time period with your current employer.

How do the two amounts compare? Ideally, the amount with the new employer should be a step up from the amount with your current employer.

The catch whenever I try to play with the numbers is the amount of 401(k) matching that I would walk away from if I took a job with another company. Once my 401(k) matching has vested, that will be no longer a concern.

It’s up to you to decide how much an offer needs to be to switch companies. Personally, I would like to see my overall compensation go up by more than it has in the last few years, so probably around 10-20%. But when it really comes down to it, which product(s) would I prefer to spend my working hours improving?

(No, I am not looking for a new job, but I have been thinking lately about how exactly I would evaluate an offer for a different company.)

Readers, how do you evaluate competing job offers?


April Personal finance links round-up

Well apparently I starred quite a few posts in my Google Reader this week! I don’t know how – it’s been absolutely gorgeous here. Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend :)

Canadian Couch Potato shared why daily market commentary is a joke. I particularly enjoyed his analogy, once I finally got it.

Free Money Finance shared a reader profile of a woman in her mid-twenties who wants to stay in her small hometown. I’m definitely glad that I moved out of my hometown, but it’s also incredible that this young woman knows what she wants at her age for so many life decisions. Some might say that I do, but I am most definitely single.

Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks discussed when minimalism and personal finance collide. I am definitely not a minimalist – I am planning on buying a two bedroom condo just for myself :) That said, I do try to keep a limit on the quantity of shoes and clothes that I own.

Mr. Money Mustache guest posted at Financial Samurai about how early retirement is not as risky as you might think. As someone who is actively thinking about this, I really enjoyed the graphs and numbers that MMM shared, just as I do on his blog.

PFBlogWatchDog told us why you should use 5 year CDs for your emergency fund. I’m definitely a fan of that idea!

Meg at World of Wealth shared a story about a new friend with a different perspective on wealth. This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as well, as I encounter more and more people at similar income levels, but everyone has a different idea of how to spend and save their money or what wealth feels like to them.

I Am 1 Percent talked about why it is important to identify your talents early (if possible). I know I’m a bit of an oddball, but I knew what I wanted to do when I was pretty young and I’m definitely reaping the rewards from that knowledge.

Kevin at Thousandaire asked if you could go without a car. I ran that experiment when I first moved to my current city after college and survived for almost a year with a combination of a car sharing program and public transit. Eventually for my use cases, the cost of the car sharing program exceeded the costs of car ownership, so I bought a car. I’m glad I waited, but I’m also glad to have the car now.

Kathryn shared a crazy story about when you should fire a broker. I’m glad that I never got caught in the financial advisor trap!

Emily and Kyle of Evolving Personal Finance shared five money-saving moves from their wedding. I loved their ideas, even ignoring the fact that it saved them some money. Who doesn’t want to have a wedding reception in a science museum or at a family home? That sounds pretty awesome to me!

Nicole and Maggie of Grumpy Rumblings asked their readers what they would do if they didn’t have (to have) a job. There were a lot of fascinating answers to that question :)


April food habits, Week 2

There is most definitely a culture in eating out at my office. I realize that this is bad on my wallet somewhat, but I really enjoy it. It’s an easy way to catch up with male friends and it also creates a great team bonding experience. I often work from home once a week and so I think I’m going to limit my not eating out for lunch to that day.

I feel pretty good about this week too, almost to the point that I don’t feel like writing another one of these posts, but I’ll keep doing it for the rest of the month. I’m definitely feeling like some of my spending is shifting from Entertainment/Dining Out to Groceries this month because I’m eating more dinners at home, which is good.

It sure is easier to eat dinners and to feel better about what I’m eating when I have all the time in the world… Hah.

Sunday, April 8th

  • Brunch: pancakes and milk
  • Dinner: mac and cheese!
  • Groceries bought, cost $52.74
  • Total day’s cost: $52.74
Monday, April 9th
  • Lunch: leftover mac and cheese from last night
  • Dinner: granola bar and chocolate? Oops! Still sick, so my appetite is a bit off.
  • Total day’s cost: free!
Tuesday, April 10th
  • Breakfast: oatmeal and orange juice, plus an orange
  • More groceries bought, $32.44 – I picked up some bread, more interesting soup, meat and cheese. (And leftover Easter chocolates :P omg so cute)
  • Lunch: Chunky tomato soup and sourdough garlic loaf! (still home sick)
  • Dinner: Peanut butter granola bar and some hot chocolate
  • Total day’s cost: $32.44
Wednesday, April 11th
  • Breakfast: cereal and orange juice
  • Lunch: burger and milkshake with coworkers (coworker covered for me)
  • Dinner: prosciutto, ham, and my favorite medium cheddar cheese on sourdough garlic bread
  • Total day’s cost: free!
Thursday, April 12th
  • Lunch: French toast with coworkers, cost $28.92 (covered for coworker from yesterday)
  • Dinner: out with a friend before going to play sports, cost $4.37 (Entertainment)
  • Total day’s cost: $33.29
Friday, April 13th
  • Lunch: with a friend, cost $8.88
  • Afternoon snack: frappuccino from Starbucks, cost $4.11 (Dining Out)
  • Dinner: frozen general Tao’s chicken and rice (Groceries)
  • Total day’s cost: $12.99
Saturday, April 14th
  • Lunch: out with friends, cost $20, but paid with cash which is already counted as spent
  • Dinner: leftover food from last night
  • Total day’s cost: sort of free
Week 1 Week 2 Total
Entertainment $55.43 $4.37 $59.80
Dining Out $19.04 $4.11 $23.15
Groceries $3.00 $85.18 $88.18
Lunches $22.09 $37.80 $59.89
Overall $99.56 $131.46 $231.02


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