23 February 2011


Today, our big screen TV arrived.  It's our first one ever... up till now, we've had my husband's old 27" CRT television in our living room.  Yes, we only have one TV and yes, we like it that way.  As a matter of fact, we're probably moving the old TV into our guest bedroom after today.  But as I sit here staring at this very expensive box in my living room (DH isn't home from work yet to set it up and connect it to every other device in the house... not that I couldn't, but it makes him happy), I can't help but realize that it represents a lot of our financial values.

  • Pay using money you have today, not money you hope that you will have tomorrow
    • We used the first of our new rental income after it was deposited.
  • Get something extra for your purchase
    • We paid using a rewards card (which we paid off immediately!) to get a gift certificate.
  • Pay the least possible
    • We watched the price fluctuate for a year and bought at the second lowest price we've seen.
  • Prioritize spending
    • We put off buying until our other priorities were met.
  • Buy exactly what you want
    • We did research and bought what we wanted.  No buyers' remorse for inferior quality!

You see, my husband has wanted this TV for three years.  That's a long time to put off a purchase that we've actually been able to afford for most of that time. But we decided that it was more important to use our "extra" money to pay down debt.  So why now?  One, we finally rented our house out and we agreed that 3 months' rent could purchase a TV and the rest of the contract went to debt payoff.  Since the rent money is income we didn't have before, we were both comfortable with this arrangement.  Two, the price has dropped considerably in the last three months (it's last year's model).  And three, it felt like the right time.  That sounds a little wishy-washy, but finances are a head game as much as they are logic.

Three years ago, it felt irresponsible to spend this much on one item.  This month, we knew we could afford it, it was what we wanted, it was down in price, and it was no longer an impulse buy.  That lets us enjoy it without dreading the credit card bill (and I must re-emphasize, already paid) or feeling guilty.  Personal finance is about what works for you.

Have you ever made a purchase that seemed externally out of line with your priorities?  How did you make your decision to buy?  Did you regret it or enjoy it?

11 February 2011

Who Is John Galt?

Super exciting discovery!

One of my favorite books of all time, Atlas Shrugged, is coming to theaters this spring!  Its release date is April 15th (yes, tax day, and if you've read the book, you know why), but the trailer was released today.  So here it is in all its awesomeness:

The filmmakers thought ahead and broke it up into three movies.  Each one will cover one part of the book, which was originally broken into three parts anyway and divides the storyline at very natural points.  I think this will help enhance the talk surrounding the mystery of the story.

And yes, there will be an outing to see this movie, whether I have to drive all the way to New Orleans or not.  You see, it's an independent film, so the distribution won't be as wide as say, Transformers 3; but on the plus side, it will make you think, as opposed to killing brain cells by watching vulgar car-bots.  Thus, it will be worth the drive time.

Anywho, for those of you who are fans of Rand's work, there's a Facebook page for the movie as well as an Official Site.  Be sure to visit, "like", and repost.  Increased visibility for a movie like this can only help.

09 February 2011

Women's Health: Anemia

I'm fascinated by information on women's health.  Well, really, medical science in general, but especially the medical science that applies to me.  I've recently added a few new blogs to my Reader subscriptions that are science blogs by women, a group previously unrepresented in my reading.

And, unsurprisingly, that addition has unleashed a goldmine of good articles.  My favorite one so far is this one about women and iron-deficiency.  It discusses medical bias in the treatment of anemia in female patients in a (mostly) non-medical-scientist-friendly way.  The article is about how medical practitioners assume that anemia is caused by women's menstrual bleeding when studies show that this is not the case.

Information like this is always fascinating to me.  Does it really indicate an anti-female bias in medicine?  Or is this one of those common misconceptions (like that stress causes ulcers... it's actually a bacterial infection) and doctors just don't question their assumptions?  I could make a case either way.  Ultimately, this just reconfirms for me that everyone should take an active role in their health care.  If you think something is wrong, insist on testing, not opinions.

What do you think?  Ever been on the wrong side of a diagnosis or treatment because of your age or gender?*

*Side note: It drives me nuts that every time I go to the doctor with any symptoms, they insist on a pregnancy test, regardless of my cycle timing.  Just because I am female and of a certain age, not all my symptoms are related to reproduction!

07 February 2011

Financial Summary

I was attempting to write out a multi-post series on the story of our financial journey, but I ran into a problem: it's a very long tale.  It's really only about 6 years of story, but there have been a lot of ups and downs that I think are relevant to where we are now and how we approach all things personal finance.  So instead of putting up the multi-part post right away, I'm going to summarize a bit and end with a question.

Here is where we started just after we were married:
  • ~$125,000 in student loans
  • ~$35,000 in credit card debt
  • A home mortgage in Las Vegas (go ahead, laugh...)
  • A 3 month emergency fund
  • 2 cars with no car payments
  • 2 incomes (with health insurance; one "real" job and I worked retail for another year)

Here are some bad things we've done:
  • Slipped up with the budget.  (Repeatedly.)
  • Waited months to hire a property management company for our house.
  • Paid for very expensive financial classes that were informative, but not immediately useful
  • Waited months to adjust our spending after we moved

Here are some good things we've done:
  • Adopted 2 dogs and are proactive about their health care
  • Paid ahead on our mortgages
  • Paid 50% of our student loans in 4 years (20% of the time allotted)
  • Paid off some student loans, rather than extra payments to all of them
  • Paid off all our credit cards but one (currently our pay-off focus)
  • Started retirement accounts
  • Increased our emergency fund
  • Controlled our expenses
  • Increased our income
  • Used our spare income to pay off debt
  • Negotiated with our credit card and mortgage companies (successfully!)
  • Planned ahead for our military move (on 8 weeks notice!  But this alone has paid huge dividends)
Here is where we are today:

  • ~$70,000 in student debt (we added ~$9k for me to go back to school)
  • ~$8,500 in credit card debt (the plan is for this to be gone by the end of the year)
  • A rented out house in Vegas
  • A 5 month emergency fund (which could stretch a lot further)
  • 1 car with no car payments (and half the insurance payment!)
  • 1 income (which roughly equals our 1 income + retail job income from 4 years ago)

So here's my question: what would you like to know more about?  How we cut expenses?  What order we paid off debt?  Where we are now?

Or, since I love swapping advice stories, what have you done in your situation?