You swear you are barely spending money, but somehow at the end of the month you have nothing to spare and possibly some damage to the credit score.
It seems simple to "cut back," but many people refuse to actually cut out most of their unnecessary spending, not for lack of common sense, but out of fear that their social lives will suffer. Our fear of loneliness means we don't want to be left out, but don't fall for the myth that socializing is "supposed to" cost money. Your finances can take an especially hard hit if your circle of friends include people with higher incomes than you.
These changes to your social life can save you hundreds of dollars from monthly expenses.
A Simple Night Out: Three obvious ways friends of varying ages and genders like to socialize would be to, "grab a drink", "grab a bite", or "see a show". Lets pick the seemingly cheapest of these options, 'grab a drink'. Friend A, lets call him Alan, is on a budget and thinks he is saving money by suggesting "just a drink." Friend B, lets call him Bryan, is not worried about money and is completely unaware that Alan is trying to save money. In addition, Alan didn't mention it because come on, it's completely unrealistic not to be able to afford to "grab a drink" right? Pay attention to the word "grab," it insinuates casual, low key, with cost-saving potential. Bryan suggests "a little hole in the wall" in a "chill" neighborhood. Alan is excited because it sounds like a cheep night, and he gets to see his friend.
Fast forward three hours, and Bryan's "hole in the wall" is a boutique whiskey lounge and the "low key" drink options range from $14-$17 and there is no way Alan can have just one drink if his friend has thrown back three already. So Alan starts the night $30 in the hole and now Alan and Bryan are both hungry, are out on the town surrounded by takeout options raging from $8-$18 and likely need to pay some amount to get home ranging from $3-$25 depending on mode of transport. Before he knows it, Alan's cheep night has turned into at least a $45 night and likely more like a $65 night. Lets say he only finds himself in this situation once or twice a week. That's a minimum of $180 a month and say max of $520. That could cost Alan anywhere from $2100-$6200 a year.
Low Key Nuptial Celebrations: This is likely inevitable. Your friend invites you to a bachelor/ette party. It's a good friend and you can't possibly say no. That would be "so rude". You were hoping to save some money this month but your friends assured you this is a "wicked cheep weekend". (Ok, just your friend from Boston said that). You are immediately stressed by the invite, but you don't even consider not going. You assure yourself you will do it "on the cheep." You book the cheapest airplane ticket you can find ($299), rent the cheapest room you can find ($87/night and you are only paying for one of the nights), and take a Lyft Ride Share from the airport ($15).
You chip in for beer and Pizza ($40) the first night, move on to a dive bar for "cheep" late night drinks ($20), grab a "cheep brunch" at a greasy spoon the next day ($22) and on your last night get some street tacos and beers ($15). Before you know it, you're taking another Lyft Share back the airport ($15) and are back home eating ramen, with over $500 on the credit card and that doesn't even include the upcoming wedding. How many bachelor parties, weddings, showers, elaborate birthday parties, ect do we attend each year? 2, 6, 10? And not all of them are on the cheep. That's anywhere from $1000-$4,000 annually and could of course be much much more.
A Simple night in: You plan a cheep night in, friends coming over to watch a game or movie, or whatever. You think that the night is basically going to be free, but realize you should probably get some pizza or takeout for your friends ($25) and some wine or beer ($20). You spend about $45. If you only do this once a month, that's around $540 a year. Twice a month, that's $1080.
Quick Lunch Out: You have been packing your lunch most of the week, but you are exhausted and you are meeting a friend for lunch out. She requests sushi, you rationalize that lunchtime sushi should be cheep. Your personal total comes to $28. If you eat out like this once a week, runs about $1,300 a year. Twice a week would be over $2600.
Just Coffee: You friend at work suggests you get out of the office for a late morning coffee. You love late morning coffee and you have been staying in, cooking meals, the least you can do is grab a coffee and get some air. You "snag" a latte for $4.50. If you buy coffee out just three times a week, it will run you about $576 a year. Do this once a day, and it will run you over $1300/year.
Adult Birthday Parties: You know how this goes. You are invited to go to dinner to celebrate your friend's birthday. You don't know most of her other friends, but you don't want to be rude and say no. You found her something at a thrift store months ago, it was only $7 but you know she will love it. Birthday present is taken care of, and you write a really nice card. You plan ahead of time to not order allot, you even have some string cheese and wine at your apartment before you go. You get to the dinner, order one drink and a salad, about $18, plus the $7 birthday present, so your total cost that night, $28 with tip, or so you think. You finish your drink and just sip on water as you watch her friends order several more rounds of "tinis" and "ritas'. You are shocked that they are able to pay for multiple rounds of $14 drinks, but whatever. You know what happens next. Yup, your friend heads to the bathroom and all the other well-imbibed guests total the bill, divide by 9 and BOOM, you are struck with a $65 "chip in". Do this once a month, $780 a year.
I just identified $7000-$15,000 a year in social costs…and I was being reasonable. We all know this number could be close to $20k if not more.
You get my point. I also hear you screaming, SO AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE A LIFE!? 'You Are! You Are!' I shout back! BUT, you are not supposed to be able to afford everything the people you hang out with can afford. You are also not supposed to value the same things your friend's value.
That's the problem with middle class culture and spending habits. I haven't even touched on the overpriced apartments we rent, our clothing budgets, and our desire to travel far for "real experiences." I want to enjoy my money and I want you to as well, but I also loath the idea of spending money simply to adhere to social norms I don't actually value. I don't believe one should acquire debt for the sake of friendship. I don't think one should be guilted into a "fiscal norm."
I also question the depth of our friendships, if they require so much spending. So many of these costly events don't actually leave me feeling close and intimately connected to my friends. We often set out to fulfill our basic human need for social interaction and closeness, and instead are left feeling disconnected, not wealthy enough, and in debt.
Let me tell you a few examples of what I have said 'No Thank You' to recently:
1. No, I can't be in your wedding or attend your bachelorette ($300-$2500)
2. No I can't make your Birthday dinner ($50-$80)
3. No, I wont be able to meet you in NYC that weekend ($120-$800)
4. No, I can't meet for lunch ($12-$30)
5. No, I can't attend your fundraiser gala ($75-$600)
Let me tell you a few examples of what I have offered to do:
1.Would you like to stay with me when you are in town and catch up? ($Free)
2.Would you like to meet for a late morning hike? ($Free)
3.Can I take you to lunch for your birthday? ($35)
4.I have to do some grocery shopping, want to come along, we can tackle your list too? ($Free- Already in budget)
5.Would you like to cook together/Brew Beer and split the cost? ($Free- Already in Budget)
6.I already donate online to causes I really care about, but would be happy to share your fundraiser info with my friends ($Free)
7.Want to come watch a movie/eat popcorn/drink wine at my house? ($0-$12)
8.Want to meet at the gym and catch up on the treadmills? ($Free)
And before you tell me that those ideas are boring/silly/unrealistic, I am here to tell you that I have done every single one of them, and most of them a million times… but only with my REAL FRIENDS. And I promise you I have REAL friends. The kinds of friends that I don't have to get dressed up to see, the kinds of friends that I can cry in front of, or share my deepest darkest shit, and the kinds of friends who have tried on pants, at Cosco ,while I created a makeshift dressing room out of beach towels and tried not to pee my pants out of laughter. My cup runneth over with REAL FRIENDS.
There is nothing that makes a human feel closer to another human, than tackling the humanity of "just being" together. We can stop believing that the only way to find value in an experience is to pay for it. We can stop spending the money that we don't have and start spending time on the real friendships that we do have.
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.