"Secret skimping is out, like false bosoms." - Marjorie Hillis, Orchids on Your Budget, 1937.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flight of Fancy

When I was younger, I think I thought this is what my 20s would look like.

Now, I start fires, but not deliberately. I don't even own an apron. I rarely harness a stool's bongo-like qualities for an impromptu drum circle, and I definitely can't sing and serve at the same time. The kitchen in the apartment I rent is an eighth the size of that one. And there is for sure no dancing.

Maybe someday I'll find myself cooking in a good sized kitchen, cranking out some crunchy grooves, but for now, it's just me and the microwave.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Love in the Library

Recently, my neighborhood Hollywood Video closed its doors, and I was left to ponder exactly how much time I would serve for all the illegal movie downloading I thought I'd be doing in the coming months. Instead, I learned to do without.

I learned to do without, that is, until, at the urging of blogs like Get Rich Slowly, I finally trudged over to the local branch to register. Sure, the DVD selection is a little lackluster (and sticky), but it's free, which beats the hell out of a $40 per month video bill.

I might have to pick up some latex gloves if I keep this up (what is that mysterious, pervasive stickiness??), but they will more than pay for themselves after a few visits.

...But seriously, is it slobber? A food substance? An antiquated anti-theft mechanism? I'd like to see a breakdown...some bar graphs or something.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Family Money

A recent post on An English Major's Money discusses EM's first, green memories of money, and instead of responding there, I decided to address it here in a slightly different way.

I remember that money was something we didn't have, but managed to spend nonetheless. Our financial situation, to me, wasn't malleable. Instead, save the idea of a windfall, you either had money, or you didn't, and whether you did was almost a moral issue. We were "poor" like some other families were "nice." Of course, I can't objectively say how much we didn't have, but this is what I remember.

My mother had a bad TV-shopping habit, which kept the collectors ringing at all hours. I believe it was from her that I learned [non-]impulse control. These tendencies spilled over into the grocery cart, too. A gallon of ice cream half-eaten, followed by some self-flagellation, and then in the garbage it went.

My father thought himself quite frugal. He wasn't constantly buying things like my mother was, but he wasn't careful with money. His favorite things to say were, "we can always buy more," or "if you want it, get it," which always puzzled me ("with what?", I thought). A hard combination of pride and denial, I'm sure.

My parents are in their late 50s, and they have no savings. My bat-mitzvah money and part-time, minimum wage paychecks were contributed to the family pot. I was always willing to give up my money -- to my parents, my clientele, to anyone, really. I remember, as a 14 year old, refusing money after baby-sitting all day. I thought accepting the money would be greedy.

I'm sure Suze Orman would have a field day with that last bit. Is self-undervaluation like this exclusive to females?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Straight up, now, tell me...

I have a confession to make.

I have yet to open a Roth IRA.

For the past year, I've yammered on to anyone who would listen about my grand retirement plans, but I've neglected to actually do anything. Now, with the economy downturn, I'm in need of some sound advice (and a push).

I am willing to contribute all or part of the 2007 max before April 15th, but keeping the current state of the economy in mind, what is the best move I can make right now?

Other factors to consider:

  1. I saved 7 to 8 months worth of living expenses, the balance of which is sitting in a money market account, gaining only about the price of a movie ticket each month (because of plummeting interest rates).
  2. My student loans > my savings account balance. The loans are quietly accumulating interest at a rate of 4.75%.
My original plan involved straight up index funds. Now, my options are as follows: a) do nothing, b) divert 3k+ from my savings into a new Roth IRA, or c) divert all but 3 months of living expenses to my student loan balance. This would still leave me about 9k in the hole.