What I Really Want

I had an interesting discussion last night with my wife. She was wondering what I wanted to shop for on boxing day (we typically get cash as a present from a few people). Now granted I do have a few smaller wants on my Christmas list, but beyond those I was having trouble coming up with anything else (as I mentioned here).

Then I realized I still have a long list of wants, but right now most of them can’t really be bought. For example:

  • I want our second baby to be born healthy and around 40 weeks (unlike our son who came at 30 weeks) and to be able to spend time with him or her.
  • I want my son to talk better. We’ve noticed a bit of a delay with his speech.
  • I want less junk in my house and in order to really organize it well.

Part of this lack of material wants is from the fact I’ve already collected most of the toys I really want in life. I’ve got the MP3 player, laptop, wide screen TV,  and a surround sound system.  Yet another part of this is loving what I already have and appreciating where I am in my life.  Things don’t really bring lasting happiness as much as experiences and people can.  The sooner you can learn that the wealthier you will be in every possible way of your life.

So this Christmas I challenge you to come up with one gift that isn’t based on getting more stuff, but instead giving something to address a person’s deepest wishes.  Give something that where the dollar value is not important, but rather the meaning behind it.  For example, give a small photo album to a friend with  pictures of good times you had together or just funny photos.  Or perhaps give the gift of your time where you block out a day of your busy life to just spend it with them.  Be creative and have fun, you might be surprised how well gifts like this can go over.

Book Review: The Complete Tightwad Gazzette

With my current plan to reduce expenses for the next six months I figure I need to do some research on how to be extra frugal, so I borrowed a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn from the library. I have to say this is not your average book of penny saving ideas. It’s actually a summary of some of the best material from a newsletter called the Tightwad Gazette which ran from 1990 to 1996, so you have about 927 pages of reading to do.

Now normally I wouldn’t bother reading that much material about saving money, since I would expect to find it boring.  But I was surprised by the humour in the writing and how similar Amy’s philosophy is to mine about saving money. She writes one article about finding your comfort zone about being a tightwad. She suggests going cheap enough that your are no longer comfortable and than back up one step from that.  This way you can find your own personal cheap level you are comfortable with.

The other main idea I learned from this book was about saving money in general. You have to ignore the “Sale” signs and do the math to determine what is actually the most savings for you. For example, when I go buy meat I can’t tell you what a good deal is since I don’t know what a good sale of ground beef looks like. Is $1.59/lb a good deal or is it a rip off? Amy suggests creating a price book of sales to help you learn what a good price is and which store they are at for all your grocery items. I rather like the idea, so I’m going to do this for meat and cheese (two of our most expensive categories on our food bill).

Beyond these two main ideas, there are literally hundreds of tips on how to reuse or reduce costs on just about everything. I was actually amazed by some of the ideas people had. Some were so simple and useful to me while others made me think “People actually do that to save money? Are they nuts?”

Overall I think this was a great book to read if you are looking for ways to save some money. It took me a while to read all the material and some of it is obviously out dated, but I still think most of the book’s values and ideas are still valid today (not to mention it has a recipe for bacon-bean chowder that is amazing!).

Has anyone else read this one?  What did you think?

My Money Mistake and How to Avoid it

Well Ram over at the Canadian Capitalist is celebrating his blog’s third birthday and in order to help him celebrate I’m going to take up his challenge to write on my money mistake and how to avoid it.

In my case I feel one of my bigger mistakes was leasing a new car just out of university. You see I thought I’ve got a good job and frankly after all those years of living on the cheap I deserved it. I just didn’t realize I had signed a four year contract to flush money down the drain. In total the car cost me almost $24,000 in payments and the buy out of which it was only worth around $7000 today.

Now I realized the major problem that caused me to get the car in the first place. I had mistaken my parent’s standard of living as my own. I didn’t realize that when you just get out of university you are suppose to be poor and still have nothing. I had a negative net worth of -$25,000 and then I added to it with a car lease. What the hell was I thinking?!?! So in the end I have to put that decision on the wall of shame. I didn’t need a new car. I actually just needed a car. I could have borrowed some money from my parents to make a down payment and then got a bank loan for the rest and got a used car.

Yet shortly after getting the car I realized how much it was eating up of my monthly income. I started to hate that payment and this it turns out was a good thing. Because I hated that payment it made me want to learn more about my own money. In some regards this started me on my path to where I am today.

In the end I won’t recommend leasing a new car to anyone, but it did serve a purpose. It reminds me that regardless of how much I learn there is still more I don’t know about money. So I keep reading and writing hoping if nothing else I can help just one person not make some of the mistakes I have.