Apr 3, 2009

Money Well Spent Part II

In my previous post on money well spent, I explained some of my thoughts on the relationship between money and experiences. Essentially, I feel that while refraining from spending money on frivolous expenses, such as lattes, is the "right" thing to do financially, it isn't always the best choice. Instead, I argued that certain experiences are worth the money.

Let me take that idea a little bit further. One of the reasons that this whole idea came up was because I have often read about how much money a person can save simply by cutting back on small everyday purchases, like coffee. They say that $4 a day is like $1400/year, and that's a huge amount of money saved, and that's true! You can't argue with the math. Therefore, some financial experts recommend cutting back on certain expenses, like four dollar lattes, in order to save yourself a huge amount of money. And I agree with them.

This might sound like it is in contrast to my previous post, and my previous point, but it is not. While I did advocate certain experiences, I did not encourage certain expenses. The difference comes from the originality and uniqueness of the experience. The reason that the cafe crawl we went on was so good was because a) I had never done it before, b) I had a great time with old friends and new friends, and c) I got a memory I can cherish for years to come. A daily latte cannot, and will not do that.

In fact, I would argue that a four dollar latte on a regular basis would actually cheapen the experience. If I drank coffee every single day, having a coffee is no longer special. Just ask my fiance, who works at a coffee shop. When she first started working, she would drink free coffee (because its free!) until she was sick and couldn't sleep at night. Now, she's learned to moderate herself, but there is nothing unique or special about drinking coffee, as it is done on a regular basis.

As soon as a fun, cherished moment becomes routine, it also becomes mundane. If you are buying a coffee out of sheer habit, then stop. It's not worth the money. Save your money for something unique, an experience, a present, a treat. Not only will you save money, that four dollar latte will become the treat, the present, and the experience. And that's worth paying for.

Apr 2, 2009

New Site?

One of my goals when I started writing this blog was to see if I could start making money online. My day job is a casual position, meaning that when there is no work, I do not work. Most of the time, I get full time hours, but about a month ago I was only getting 3 or 4 shifts a week. Money is tight, what with saving for a wedding, trying to pay rent, and staying out of debt. So after a few days off, I wanted to see if I could start making money while "working" from home.

My initial foray into the world of making money online came through Associated Content. I created an account, started writing content, and even managed to attract the attention of a PR manager and a category editor. I even got one of my articles featured! Now, this hasn't been the most profitable venture to date, as during the month that I've been apart of the site, I've made about eighty cents. Which, actually, is a fair bit more than I thought I would have earned by now.

When I started looking at various online money making sources, one of the one that attracted me was blogging for money. Essentially, you create a blog, get followers, and somehow monetize it, whether through advertising, selling paid posts, sponsorships, etc. I'm not a huge fan of any of those options, sadly, but I do have an idea or two for the future. The problem is, before I want to try to make money off a blog, I need to have a readership. And the best way to get readership is to put yourself out there. And the best way to put yourself out there is to brand yourself. And blog.alan.schram doesn't exactly scream "personal finance".

So I've started messing around with a few options. One of the potential ideas can be seen here. It's a blog that will eventually be called "Saving For Serenity", and that is a potential look for the new site. What do you think? The site explains a bit more about what it would be, the ethos, the direction, the motivation. Let me know what you think.

Apr 1, 2009

Combining Finances: Developing Friendship

This is the first post in a series called Combining Finances.

In just over four months, I am getting married. One of the many challenges that will arise at that point will be the process of combining my bank account with my fiance's. It's one of many huge steps that we will be taking as we seek to intertwine our lives. This series of articles will be a look back over our relationship and how we dealt with our independent and collective finances.

There's no better place to start than at the beginning. When Ashley and I started developing our friendship, it was natural that we got to know how the other person was with their money. The first time that I met Ashley, she invited me over to her apartment, where she lived with a "revolving door" of roommates and guests. It was a very open and inviting apartment, one that included a regular offering of food. One time we went out to a local bar with a couple of other friends, and Ashley offered to pay for my food and my drink, simply saying, "you can get it next time". Ashley was generous with her money, even though she didn't have very much herself.

On the other hand, I came from a more frugal background. I knew how much money I had, and that I had to conserve it for the rest of the year. Therefore, if I was to go out for an evening, that was fine, I just couldn't buy very much - if anything at all. I had no shame in going to a restaurant and not getting anything, and I didn't feel bad if the tip I left was rather small.

Ashley lived in a two bedroom apartment with one other person. She understood that she could not live in a dorm type situation, because she was beyond sharing a room with another person. She wasn't comfortable with that, and therefore was willing to pay the extra money for the extra room.

I lived in a one bedroom apartment with two other guys. The inconvenience of a lack of space, privacy, and freedom came from a desire to save money - not necessarily enjoy where I was living.

So as Ashley and I developed a friendship, Ashley was often willing to pay for things that I would otherwise hesitate on. Should we grab some blizzards from Dairy Queen? I would love to have one, but didn't want to pay for one. Ashley would love one as well, but would want to buy one alone, so she would pay for my blizzard as well. If Ashley knew that I liked something, like a cheese bun from Superstore, then she would pick one up for me while she was there, simply because she knew that I would enjoy it - regardless of the cost.

This definitely developed a bit of a tension in our friendship, as she would often be willing to give, and I would be willing to take. She was expecting a balanced relationship, where I would also offer to take on the cost part of the time, but I rarely would. My priority was saving money, her priority was relationships.

At this time, even before we began a relationship, I asked myself if I would be willing to invest in a relationship with a person that had different financial priorities than me. Would I be willing to compromise, or change my priorities for the sake of the relationship?

One thing that I've learned over the past year and a half is that we aren't going to change the other person. Ashley probably thought that she would get me to loosen up a little bit, and I thought that I would teach her how to be cheap. Neither of these things has happened. We have definitely come to compromise on a lot of things, but we still have our backgrounds and our own ways of looking at money. Looking back, our friendship was a perfect time to get to know each other, a time where we could watch and learn without being emotionally invested. It allowed me to grow in understanding for Ashley's perspective. Even though we had different views on money, we both agreed that our relationship was worth more than our fiancial priorities, and that set the foundation for future discussion on the subject.

Coming up next time: The start of the dating relationship

Mar 31, 2009

March Review

The first month of blogging has concluded. What have I accomplished this month?

Save $100 Challenge

At the beginning of the month, I promised my readers that I could teach them how to save a hundred dollars by the end of the month. The month has come to a close, and I believe I have given everybody that has read this blog the opportunity to do just that. For those that haven't been reading, here's a quick recap so that you too can save $100 this month.

Start by tracking your spending with a spending record. See where you're spending your money so that you know where you are overspending. Sometimes just being aware of how much money you're spending on something is motivation enough to stop spending that much money. Then open a high interest online bank account so that you can separate your spending from your saving, and automate your savings so that you don't have to force yourself to save. Reduce your fixed expenses so that you save money on a monthly basis without having to do anymore work. Start an emergency fund. Finally, save a bunch of money on groceries this month. How much money did you save this month? Why not set up your finances to automatically withdraw that much money from your account every month so that you can start saving?

The Great Blog Off

The Great Blog Off comes to its conclusion today. I did not win. If you haven't voted yet, head on over to the Facebook Group page and cast your vote for your favorite blogger of the month.


I have started to formulate a number of plans for the month of April. One that I am willing to reveal is the start of a series on combining finances. As my fiance and I have progressed through our relationship, we have come across a number of stages of financial independence and interdependence. I will be sharing my thoughts on the stages of relationships, and how they are related to finances. I will also be addressing some of the major obstacles that we've come across, and how we have been tackling those issues.

Any questions? Comments? Concerns?

Mar 30, 2009

Money Well Spent Part I

There's an oft cited example of personal finance that revolves around the issue of a $4 latte. The typical theory is that if one was to stop buying a daily latte, and instead invest the money, they would be rich. The math and the logic behind that argument is generally hard to refute, but as it is so often with life, the "right" choice is not always the best choice.

While I am in pursuit of financial freedom, I am attempting to rearrange how I think and view money. I have already begun to prioritize, address my ignorance and my fears, and determine for myself what kind of money I want. Along that path I have begun to realize one of the purposes that money serves. For me, money opens up the possibility of experiences.

This issue arose just yesterday as some friends and I went on a cafe crawl across Vancouver. We started at my apartment, where I made breakfast for six people. From there, we went to six different cafes around Vancouver and the North Shore, tasting espresso, taking pictures, and driving around in the drizzling rain. This type of experience is not a cheap one, but I feel as though it is worth the money. Breakfast for six people is not the most efficient way of saving money for a wedding, but it was worth it. It created an experience that I will likely remember and cherish for years to come.

Money in and of itself is worthless. It's only value is the value that we place on it, in exchange for other things. We give up our time and energy for money. We give up our money for food, a place to sleep, and sometimes, for good experiences. Sometimes an experience is worth the money. Sometimes, a latte is worth four dollars. So sure, if I choose to not buy a $4 latte, I'm four dollars closer to financial freedom, or retirement, or getting out of debt. But when I get there, will I be rich?