To start out with today, I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who commented or reached out after reading my post on anxiety on Monday. I had debated writing something on anxiety for a very long time but I hadn’t worked up the courage to share it so publicly. As much as I work to be open and honest here on this blog, there are certain things that are harder to share than others. That post is definitely the top of that list.
The outpouring of support and understanding was humbling and I am so appreciative of this community. On the whole, there isn’t a better, more supportive place on the internet, in my opinion. It’s because of all of you that I felt I needed to share and that I would be cared for in doing so. So thank you, for surpassing my expectations and for making me glad that I did share that piece of me here. I just wish that so many of you didn’t relate so well.
Friday’s Frugal Five
I decided to switch things up this week for no other reason that I thought it would be fun and I wanted to try it out. The beauty of not treating this blog like a business is that I don’t have to treat anything about this like gospel and can switch it up as I please. Perhaps I’ll throw one of these in every quarter or so now? We shall see, but it was definitely fun to put together.
Instead of writing down five of my frugal things for the week, I reached out to five bloggers and asked them to write one for me. I didn’t give them any other instructions beyond writing something similar to what I do on a typical Friday, and since I tend to be all over the place in both length and topic, they had a lot of leeway to write whatever they wanted.
I really enjoyed seeing these snippets into the lives of some of my favorite bloggers, and I hope you will too. There’s something that feels more personal and relaxed with these posts, which is probably why I sometimes get described as more of a “lifestyle” blogger rather than just personal finance. Since life is way more messy than that, it makes sense to me that all pieces of my life overlap here.
Having these bloggers do the same meant that I got to see some of the same with them, though they tend to be the type of bloggers who write more about their lives anyway, which is likely why I resonate with them. With that, here are this Friday’s Frugal Five, not written by me.
1. Retire By 40
Earlier this month, I got into an accident. I was on the way to the gym after dropping my son off at school and a guy on a bicycle rear-ended our car. I had to make a quick stop because the cars ahead braked. Unfortunately, the guy was following too closely and crashed into the back of our Mazda5 minivan. His road bike has tiny tires and it just couldn’t stop quickly enough. Luckily, he only got a few scrapes and didn’t hit his head. The bike put a huge hole and a sizeable dent in our car, though.
From experience, I knew right away the fix is going to be very expensive. A few years ago, a car backed into us and dented the side panel. It would have cost over $1,000 to fix that minor dent. Instead of fixing it, I used touch-up paint to mask the dent and pocketed the insurance payment.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure who was going to pay for the damage this time. Our car is not new (2010) and I only have liability coverage. My insurance would pay to repair the other party’s car when we get into an accident, but not mine. Also, this was a bicycle that ran into us. Would his car insurance cover this? I was stressed out for a bit, but I had other issues to deal with so I shrugged it off until later. Worse comes to worst, we’ll slug it out in the small claim court.
Later that day, I took it to the neighborhood body shop. Guess how much it’ll cost to repair this.
• New rear lift gate – $2,100.
• New rear lamp – $360
• Minor scratches – labor.
• Side panel – 10 hours of labor to fix the dent.
• Labor – about $2,100
Holy moly, that’s almost $4,600. That’s more than the car is worth at this point. It’s running well, but with these damages, it is only worth about $4,000.
The next day, I filed a claim with my insurance and they confirmed they’re not going to cover anything. However, they filed a claim on my behalf with the other party’s auto insurance. I got a call back from my insurance about a week later and they told me the other party’s car insurance won’t cover this either. At this point, it doesn’t look too good, but I was super busy fixing up my rental condo. Our tenant moved out and I have to replace the closet door and we had damages from a water leak. Ahh… The joy of being a landlord.
A few days later, I got some great news. It turns out that their home insurance policy will cover this. I guess that’s how it works with bicycles. I got on the phone with them and they’ll send a check for the damages + cost of the rental car. We should see a $4,800 check any day now. Whew!
Now, the frugal part. I’m not paying $4,600 to fix this. The car isn’t worth much anymore. I just need to make sure it doesn’t rust out and prevent water damage somehow. For a temporary fix, I taped plastic sheeting over the hole. On the plus side, our car is a relatively close match to “duct tape” gray. We have to focus on small wins, right?
Once the payment is in the bank, I’ll try to DIY it somehow. I can paint over the dent in the corner and that should be fine. I’m not quite sure how to fix the hole, though. Maybe I can spray some expanding insulation foam inside, slap Bondo on top, and paint that area. It doesn’t have to look great as long as it drives straight. At this point, we’ll probably donate the car once it’s no longer useful. Do you have any advice for me about the hole?
I saw an expensive vase I wanted on a department store. The type of vase I would buy, keep for life, and never think about buying another vase ever again. It was even on sale. But instead of buying it right away, I decided to check if there were any secondhand ones on eBay. There were tons! For half the price.
While the specific color I want hasn’t popped up yet on eBay, continuing to wait confirms to me that it truly is the right buy. There have been plenty of things I thought I wanted and forgot about the next day, so I always try to practice delayed gratification. And always shop around before making a purchase. You never know.
Do you know how some families have strange notions that are unquestionably passed down generations? Well for my family that was the ‘fact’ that “used objects are dirty.” This idea seemed to stem from grandmother without basis and was passed unquestionably to my mother.
This idea extended from used clothes at thrift stores to library books. I don’t know if it is my rebellious nature or my natural skepticism, but when I was told as a fact “you can’t go to a thrift shop – they’re dirty” and “used books are gross” I completely ignored those opinions.
I got my first library card in my early teens when my Mom told me point blank “you need to stop buying so many books” (I know – I was shocked too). She did have a slight point because I was reading a book a day.
So I set out on my own and got a library card and started my lifelong love of public libraries. I checked out those ‘dirty’ books and had the time of my life. Between that and the newly prevalent internet with all of its various blogs and free writing I was set!
Later in life when I was out of my parent’s house I tackled the other ‘taboo’ practice of buying clothes from thrift shops. In college I didn’t have an income and as a result looked for the cheapest ways to replace my clothes once they were worn out – enter thrift shops.
I washed the used clothes and wore them happily for years and didn’t understand where this weird bias in my family came from. Is this so different from taking clothes from a friend that’s looking to get rid of them, washing it and wearing it?
My love of thrift shops and confusion over my family’s bias was further entrenched when I started my career in NYC. Living in Manhattan and paying for 2 separate bedrooms on my $35,000 salary taught me to pinch every penny so I kept visiting my beloved thrift shops (and still do to this day actually. 90% of the clothes I wear are from them).
One shocking revelation I had while living in that metropolis is that in major cities a lot of clothes in thrift shops have actually never been worn. The clothing items were still adorned with tags and were in pristine condition.
I once went to a thrift shop during my lunch break and found a Diane Von Furstenberg dress that apparently retailed for $1,000 with its tags still on. It was on sale for $20. I texted my cousin who lived in Jersey at the time because she was obsessed with that designer…and she didn’t want me to buy the dress for her because it was in a ‘used’ store. I almost pulled my hair out.
I understand being averse to germs, but not all used things are ‘dirty’ and especially with respect to clothes that can be cleaned thoroughly before use. I can’t even calculate how much money I have saved buying 90% of my clothing from thrift stores over the past 8.5 years – including my professional clothes that helped me look ‘the part’ and gain countless higher paid jobs and promotions. Thrift stores, library books and used items in general are one of my biggest life hacks that have helped me have a happy and frugal life.
At the beginning of the year, I set an arbitrary goal of spending $1,500 a month on my living expenses. From month to month, keeping my life under $1,500 a month in New York City has proven to be a challenge, at times both exciting and frustrating. New York City is an expensive city to live in. But I’ve managed over the years to figure out delicious foods to eat, places to visit, and activities to engage in that doesn’t leave my wallet empty without compromising my sense of fulfillment.
However, in the past few months, as I made a decision to move out of the city by end of year, I’ve began to spending more time exploring and enjoying the amenities of the city. I’m mostly a hermit by habit, with my chronic illnesses syphoning away most of my energy and willingness to be out and about. But in the past few months I’ve been making an active effort to spend time with friends, drinking at cafes, and eating at my favorite restaurants. And while it’s been great for my step challenges and mental health, it’s been exhausting for my body and my wallet.
I’ve been keeping track of every cent I’ve spent since beginning of 2019. I’ve gotten as close to my self-imposed limit of $1,500 as $6.75 in March, and as far as $317.73 in January. While I have different categories and budgets within all my categories, I think the success of me being under (though sometimes VERY close to the edge) my budget every month so far has been the fact that it’s a flexible budget.
As long as I’m under $1,500, it doesn’t matter if I spent all of it on restaurants and cafes, or buying a new book. I’ve had months with doctors’ appointments, which meant I spent $40~100 on cab fares to get to and from the hospital. In March, I spent almost $300 for filing and paying taxes!
But because I’m not “mentally” rigid in my categories, I was able to just “move around” money from other categories to reach my overall goal of staying under $1,500 for the month, keeping my discouragement level down. I might not have “followed” the budget to a T, but at least I’m under the overall goal, which is to stay under $1,500! So I’ve been able to trudge along, continuing my tracking for 4 months. Now, I’m in my 5th month, and I’m still tracking!
It’ll be quite a cool chart to look back on at the end of the year to see how I spent money for a whole entire year!
My girlfriend and I have been on a Marvel movie binge in anticipation of The Avengers: Endgame coming to theaters (no spoilers please!).
While I’ve watched just about all of the movies in the series, she had only seen a handful. As we both wanted to see Endgame, we have been binge watching all the movies in the series, so we are both fully caught up on the story lines.
My old self may have gone out and bought all these movies to watch. “I like these movies so buying would make sense as I could watch them anytime!” I’d tell myself.
However, when you add up the cost, it totaled up to a huge amount. By my count, there is a total of 21 movies to watch (before Endgame). If the cost of all the DVDs average to $10, that would be $210 to get them all… a hefty price tag for anyone.
Instead, we have strictly been reserving the movies at the local library and checking them out a week at a time.
The library is amazing. I love the idea of being able to share resources that you don’t need all the time, reducing consumption and waste in the process, and this is exactly what the library is meant for.
For us financial independence minded people, this is also a much more cost effective strategy than going and buying all your movies and books.
Sometimes it’s the little things that can go a long way towards reaching your goals in life, whether that is financial independence, sustainable living, or both!
Back to me for my weekly exercise update, because even though I let other bloggers take over the Frugal Five, I want to keep up the accountability of sharing my exercise and nature time here. Friday we had family in town so we spent the afternoon and evening with them, which meant a long – slooooow – walk. While I definitely got some steps in, we stopped and started enough times my Fitbit hardly registered any exercise. Like, ten minutes for an hour long walk. Still counts, I suppose.
Saturday was a lot more walking: at the farmers market, around town before and after lunch, and then the mile and a half walk back after a date night, which included a bit of low key dancing at a bar with live music. I worked an extra long day on Monday so I didn’t get a chance to work out at the end of my work day. I wanted to do something that counted as exercise though, so the kiddo and I danced / did jumping jacks / pretended to fight bad guys for a good half hour straight. Maybe a little silly, but it definitely got my heart rate up and got us moving around in the evening.
Tuesday was my three mile walk to work and then I went to the gym to lift and then outside for a run after work. And then after that we walked the dogs through the park and I ended up with 30,000 steps that day completely on accident.
Thursday we went birding/on a nature walk with my friend that she had to do for an environmental science class. While I don’t regret quitting my weekend park ranger job, I really do enjoy that short of thing and had a lot of fun with it. She’s in a geology class next quarter and I can’t wait.
It was another good week in terms of time outdoors, even with a few days with quite a lot of rain. Through Thursday (May 22nd), my total count for the 100 hours outdoors challenge is sitting at 72.75 hours for the month.
What did you think about my mix up for the Frugal Five this week? Should I do it again some time? Or stick with my regularly scheduled programming? I have to admit, it was a bit weird to update you all in short form this week, but definitely fun to do something different just because.