Why I plan on driving my car into the ground
Over the weekend, a friend and I were enjoying a couple of beers in my neighborhood. As we sat outside people watching, he drooled over every fancy car that drove by.
"That's a whatever-whatever," he would tell me. "It costs $100,000."
I live in Los Angeles, where these symbols of affluence are common.
I’m 30! Am I where I should be with my finances?
"I can't believe I'm going to be 30!" I told my Dad at the beginning of the year. As I had said the same thing when I turned 20, I knew he would reassure me that 30 actually wasn't that old.
"Nope, 30's old," he said.
Love, relationships and financial harmony
You'll have to forgive the overt theme of today's post. I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while, but it's such personal issue that I've shied away from it.
But when I realized that this week's post would fall on Valentine's Day, I took it as a serendipitous opportunity to break out of my comfort zone and talk about something that scares me a little: my love life. Specifically, this is the story of my love life meeting my financial life. Oh, boy.
A couple of years ago, I met someone who changed my whole perspective. I started to not just think in terms of "me" but also "we." As these things go, we decided to share a life together. Sharing a life meant sharing an apartment. And sharing an apartment meant sharing finances.
Romanticizing poverty and learning financial independence
In high school, I babysat a kid whose parents were pretty well off. And by "well off," I mean they were crazy rich.
One day I decided to take the kid out for ice cream -- my treat. When we got to the ice cream shop, I only had enough money to buy him the small, and he wanted the large. What then followed wasn't exactly a temper tantrum; it's probably better described as a communication breakdown. He was legitimately confused as to why he couldn't have the larger size.
He truly couldn't understand the concept of "not enough money." Price was not a matter of quantity to him, but simply a choice -- it was like asking whether he wanted vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. The idea that his options were limited because of cost was beyond him. He also didn't understand that I was treating him. From his perspective, the ice cream was always there for him to begin with -- it didn't matter who happened to be forking over the money.
HSA pros and cons
Lately, my dad's been praising the benefits of having a health savings account. This year, he had the opportunity to get the most of his HSA -- bad news for his health, but good news for his wallet (side note: Dad is now doing OK health-wise). If you have one or are considering one, here are all the HSA pros and cons to consider.
But first, if you are looking for the 2016 and 2017 annual contribution limits for HSAs, here you go:
Drawing the line with poor customer service
Last year, I wrote a breakup letter to Chase Bank. It was pretty ugly. I'll save you the heartbreaking details, but trust me, they had it coming.
Closing the account was another nightmare. They wouldn't let me break up with them! They told me I couldn't close the account because my signature on the request form did not match the signature they had on file. An understandable concern, but I'd been signing my name as either a squiggly line or "The Hawk," for the past few years, so I don't really understand why my signature had suddenly become so important.
It took months. But my account was finally closed, and I've been recovering nicely since the breakup. I'm in a new relationship with a financial institution that I can trust, depend on and, most importantly, I rarely have to call for anything.
The rise and fall of the shopaholic
As a college student, I often took up side jobs to make extra cash. One of those side jobs included selling random things on eBay. It was easier and slightly more lucrative than holding a garage sale every weekend.
Once, I sold a pair of highly coveted boots that I no longer wore. They went for $75, or in college currency, one textbook. I'd already started wrapping them up and brainstorming my budget when I received an email from the buyer:
"Sorry, but I'm not going to pay for these," she wrote. "I have a shopping addiction, and my husband is going to be upset."
Redefining Frugality: Mistakes and Money Lessons Learned as a Freelancer
Sitting on my desk as I write this is an application I should have filled out months ago. Twenty-two months ago, to be exact.
It was then that I left my 40-hour-a-week office job, which included a convenient 401(k), dependable health care plan and, most refreshingly, a kind and understanding boss. It was tough to leave that job, but I wanted to pursue a career in freelance writing.
The entire experience was overwhelming. Details of that are for another post, perhaps, but the point is: what I found most overwhelming was dealing with my own finances. Administratively speaking, my employer had taken care of my retirement plan, taxes and health insurance. It was great.
Friendships and financial inequality
A few years ago, I started spending time with a coworker outside of work. She was cool, fun to hang out with, and we had a lot in common. Except income.
She worked in a separate department and made significantly more money than I did. Hanging out with her and her friends usually involved dining at fancy restaurants, drinking at fancy bars, and talking about whether we'd go to Greece or St. Bart's -- I hadn't been to either.
Today, we're no longer friends. It's not because we had some falling out or personality clash -- we just came from two totally different worlds. After turning down a slew of invites, not being able to vacation with her, and generally saying 'no' to friendly financial pressure, we grew apart.
The Politeness Tax
The other day, I ordered a small pizza for lunch. The delivery guy showed up, sweating from the summer sun, and told me my total was $10. I had a twenty-dollar bill on me. As I handed it over to the exhausted, out-of-breath pizza guy, I felt bad asking for change. So, against my better judgment, I gave him the entire twenty. A 100 percent tip.
You're thinking it, and I'll be the first person to say it—that was stupid.
Sure, I wanted to be nice—it's nice to be nice. But I had also just voluntarily paid double for something. And I'm in no financial position to pay double for things.