New to BFS?

If you are new to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (BFS), please click here. It'll give you a little background and a starting point for browsing BFS. See you in the comments soon!

As Seen On

Forbes

Yahoo
DailyFinance

Get Rich Slowly

House Logic

Check Out My eBooks!!!

How I Make Money Blogging Managing Your Monthly Nut

Categories

Yep, My Hair is Purple – Specifically, Manic Panic Ultra Violet

I finally did it.  Well, technically my friends, Dee and Mandy, did it.  My hair is now OMG purple.  I LOVE IT!!!

The Dye Job

For anybody that hadn’t ever dyed their hair before, it’s an icky process best done with hard apple cider and your best friends.  Dee had some extra Manic Panic in Ultra Violet temporary dye left, and I had some light-colored hair available for experimentation, so we decided to have a dye-job party last night!

Crystal Before Manic Panic Ultra Violet

Before Purple…

The Manic Panic Ultra Violet is a gooey substance and feels absolutely WEIRD when it’s being put into your hair.  It then feels super slimy as you wash out the remainder after the 30 minute baking period, lol.  Overall, EWWW, but I was having the time of my life bonding with my girls.  Mandy and Dee tackled it with gusto and I did my job by turning when I was told and washing it out as well as humanly possible after it set for 30 minutes.

As we started...

This was when they first started adding the dye to my dry hair…

Rub it in, rub it in

It probably took them about 20 minutes each time to fully cover my hair and they ended up needing to do it twice.

Purple People Eater

So much purple!

Make Shift Shower Cap

Yep, I forgot to buy a shower cap. But a grocery bag is super useful for lots of things including this!

The Result

I LOVE My PURPLE Hair!!!

I think I was a natural violet-head stuck in a red-head’s body. ;-)

I ADORE the end result.  I feel like I was always meant to have some crazy color of hair.  This is a temporary dye, so I’ll be lucky if it lasts 2 weeks.  BUT, then we’re going to try Aquamarine.  WOOT!!!

Have you ever dyed your hair a wild color?!  What did you think about it?

No Amazing Deals Lately in Cruise Ports

Thanks to amazing timing, a now empty vacation account, and friends and family who were available to journey along side us, Mr. BFS and I have been on 3 cruises in the last 12 months.  This will probably never happen again, but we just found great deals late last August, this past January, and again last week.  Altogether we spent about $4600 total for the both of us and have had 3 fantastic vacations.  I’ll never regret the expense, which is a blessing for any of you who know how I am, LOL.

Deals No More

All of that said, what has happened to the haggling overseas?  When we cruised a few years ago, I was able to haggle out lovely deals for souvenirs and art when we were in the ports.  But these past cruises have all taken us to the same places, but haggling has died.  The shop keepers won’t even consider it.  I sort of expected it in Grand Cayman, Belize, and Roatan, but it’s happening more often in Cozumel and Jamaica too.  :-(

It’s not about an international money transfer or currency issues.  They all accept American cash very easily and we always make sure to bring at least a couple of hundred just in case.  But they hold strong on their prices now about 99% of the time.

On this past cruise, I tried talking down the price of a $5 teak shot glass to $4 - hit a proverbial wall.  On the cruise in 2013, I tried working out a bulk deal for $13 of small figurines for $10 instead – shot down cold.  And that happened at the same place that I talked down a chess board from $75 to $45 just 2-3 years ago.

And the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has also started collecting taxes for all alcohol brought back.  Not even 1 free bottle per person anymore.  Oh, and that’s not just for Texas residents now – they have decided that anybody disembarking in Galveston has to pay the same duties too.  They ruined duty-free shopping for fun drinks…

No Alcohol

Okay, Maybe Some Deals

Don’t get me wrong, my favorite liqueur (Amarulla) is still $4 cheaper on cruises than at home, even with the tax.  The tax just pushes me to finish the bottle the night before disembarking.  ;-)  You can also find Tanzanite for about half of what it costs here.  Apparently, the fine watches are way cheaper out at sea too.  But I’m all about little knick knacks and whatnots, and none of that seems to be on perma-sale anymore.

Have you noticed less haggling happening on things like cruises?  How about around your city?

 

Keeping Our Electricity Costs Low AND Enjoying My A/C

I hate heat.  Rising temperatures generally lead to my rising temper.  Overall, I am a summer heat wuss that uses her air conditioner as a weapon against the world outside.  Given that, our current Houston, TX electricity costs are definitely not as low as they could be.  BUT, I don’t think you have to suffer to save money.  I shop around.

Electricity

The Long Game

At the end of every contract that I have with an electricity company, I look around to make sure that I am still getting the best deal for our situation.  Two of our friends live with us in a pretty large house, so we have four adults that all appreciate keeping our home pretty cool.  During the day, we generally want our thermostat between 75-76 degrees.  At night, we all like it at 72 degrees so we can hibernate appropriately.  I know how lucky I am that all of us agree on temperature – I don’t take that for granted.  :-)

In fact, even though I am known as the cheapskate of our little family, I don’t complain about our larger summer electricity costs usually.  I know we could cut back, but I also know that I shop around for the best rates for us so we don’t have to change our comfort levels.

Since I live in Texas, I generally use the Power to Choose site along with regular search engines to find the cheapest per kilowatt hour rates for us and then I lock us in for about a year.  If I lived in Australia, I’d use this energy conversion calculator to compare what I know (kilowatt hours) with what they may use (like joules).

Overall, by comparison shopping, I can keep our price per kilowatt hour to less than 9 cents, which is pretty dang awesome according to friends, family, and acquaintances that I end up chatting about this stuff with randomly…

Our Habits and Bills

Although our home stays between 72-77 degrees no matter what, we do conserve electricity in other ways:

  • We have programmable thermostats and stay on the program 90% of the time.  Our only main exception is for our potlucks since the house heats up quickly with 15-20 people hanging around plus the heat from the kitchen items cooking the food.
  • We are all well-trained to turn off lights and fans when we leave a room.
  • I double-check doors to make sure they are fully closed.
  • I unplug chargers and other unused things that were plugged in.
  • The house itself was built in 2012, so it is already energy efficient.

We also are bad in other ways:

  • My husband and I work from home and one of our roommates/friends is a student still, so there are always at least two or three computers being used at any time.
  • We all enjoy tv as background noise, so there is usually 1-2 TV’s on too (although it is actually silent right now, lol).
  • There are 4 of us, so there are usually 2-3 rooms with lights on since we’re in them.
  • I am the only one that unplugs unused chargers, so it is a constant battle.

All of that said, our winter electricity bills are around $70-$90.  Our summer electricity bills are around $150-$200.

What do your electricity bills look like?  If you live where it’s cold, how do your heating bills look in the winter?

Summer is Here – Of Course Our Rental Home’s A/C Would Die…

You read that right, the air conditioner in our rental home stopped blowing cold air.  It’s hitting 91 degrees during the day already, so this is pretty dang important.  Forgot to add in the original post that I first tried calling the a/c repair guy that we have always used, but they were already closed.  Mr. BFS and our friend went over immediately and narrowed down the problem, but our quick fix didn’t work for more than an hour or so.  It definitely didn’t buy me any time.  Now I am searching for a working a/c capacitor that can be delivered ASAP.

Broken AC

The Hypothesis

The system worked when our friend pushed along one of the rotating parts of the capacitor.  I’m calling this the “starter-thingy”.  BUT, then it stopped working again in an hour or so and the trick with pushing along the starter-thing didn’t work again for long.

Our hypothesis is that the air conditioner unit has a dual capacitor – a capacitor with a “starter-thingy” and a “main-capacitor-thingy”.  Well, we’re guessing that both parts are bad.

Long story short, I’m hitting Amazon.com and other online sites to find a good, FAST deal on the correct capacitor.  But we have the wrong numbers written down and my tenant is asleep (she also wanted to double-check the numbers in the morning when the sun was up), so we’ll need to figure out the exact capacitor model number as early this morning as we can so I can keep hunting.  I’m writing this post at 1:30am and haven’t had any luck yet.

Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best case – I find the capacitor we need on Amazon via Amazon Prime and we have the part by Wednesday, install it, and it works.  This would run us less than $50.

Worst case – we call out our a/c repair guy, it isn’t just the capacitor, it’s something irreparable, and we have to fork out $5000 for a new air conditioner.  This scenario also takes WAY longer.

Realistically – I find the correct parts but it takes us a week to really find out every issue or to have the part(s) delivered.  So this would take about the same amount of time as the worst case scenario, but costs way less.  It costs more than the best case scenario, but takes more time.

I’m handling this all right now, so this is to be continued…

How is your house or rental property treating you or your tenant right now?

Budgeting for Unexpected Expenses – Istanbul and Italy

Quick background:  I host monthly giveaways via my newsletter.  Readers enter by first signing up to receive my weekly newsletter, and then by leaving a comment on my giveaway post.  I ask for that comment to be a question for me if they have one.  Random.org chooses the winner each month.

Reader Question

Here was a recent question from Carmen:

My kids have gifted me with a ticket to Istanbul & then Italy for my daughter’s wedding in Autumn…what is the best way to budget for additional trip expenses?  Thanks–take care!

Okay, so most of us are probably thinking that the best way for budgeting for unexpected expenses is to save money in advance.  You’d be right, but that isn’t helpful if that hasn’t been done yet and the expense pops up anyway.  Plus, that may not be the question…

Travel on a Budget

How to Estimate Travel Expenses

First thing’s first.  Carmen may be asking how much she should budget for the trip, not how to come up with the money.  Either way, she’ll need to know.  For travel, I generally search around online for recent personal stories from other people to see how much things run.  I research them based on the big categories and round up to cover anything I may have forgotten:

  • Hotels/Where You are Staying
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Planned Fun

As a fun example, I actually researched the general prices of Istanbul and Italy to help Carmen out.  I don’t know any more than any of you do about her trip, so these are just general targets.

Istanbul

I found an Istanbul Travel Guide at Leave Your Daily Hell that says that a hotel will run you $55+ per night, but a hostel would be between $15-$30 a night.  Based on that same post and a 2013 Trip Advisor forum post, it looks like Istanbul runs about $75 a day for everything else including food, transportation, and fun.  You can eat cheaper and visit less museums and save even more.

Italy

According to this 2013 post on Slow Travel Italy, you may spend between $300-$425 a day in Italy depending on how fancy your hotel is and where you eat.

If you want to spend less, check out this Walks of Italy post about cheaper options.  I love the idea of staying in an agriturismo – an old farm house that offers you fresh made meals and they range from rustic to luxurious.  Most often they cover your room and breakfast and dinner for $70 or less per night (50 euros).

Then you just have to worry about your transportation around Italy, your lunches, and what you want to do for fun.  Getting around by train is an option that costs about $30 for most trips.  You could also rent a car, but that looks expensive.  You can grab lunch for less than $25 a day and then budget what you need to for fun based on where you go.  You can easily stick to a $150-$200 a day budget if you want to splurge a little but not a ton.

Budgeting for Unexpected Expenses After the Fact

Overall, it looks like you will want to budget for about $150 per day for your trip and you can bring that down by cutting back in whatever category you see fit by hunting around for less expensive options.

Cutting Expenses

The only way to save up extra money for something like this is to either cut expenses or increase your income.  You can cut your expenses by taking a close look at your spending – first get rid of the easy stuff and then put yourself on a strict spending plan for the categories that you want to cut back on after the easy stuff in handled.  We recently cut down our budget by $500 mainly through a stricter food budget and less fun money.

Make More Money

You can make more money in a bunch of ways, but the ones that pop into my mind are generally side hustles and hobby jobs since selling stuff is a one-time fix and generally, I like my stuff or I wouldn’t still have it around.  I also like having roommates since it’s pretty easy side income without a lot of hassle if you find the right person or people, but that is also more long-term.  Short term, look into summer jobs.  I made a whole list of summer jobs and hobby jobs last week.  I’m personally bringing in about $750-$1200 a month through pet sitting.  Babysitting and house keeping are always in demand too.

Hope this helps, Carmen!  Does anybody else have some ideas for her?  Please chime in!

The Last Dental Push…Hopefully

Monday was the $200 ladder. Tuesday was the $1300 dental bill. Hopefully that’s the last big push for hubby’s mouth and it’s just maintenance cleanings from here.

Dental Joke

The Visit

Last year, my husband had two main surgery days with this dentist – one that lasted 5 hours and one that lasted 7 hours. Those two visits wrapped up his largest issues like a few crowns, major cavity fillings, and a couple of wisdom teeth were removed. Altogether it ended up costing us about $12,000 since the anesthesiologist for the IV sedation was actually more expensive that the procedures themselves.

This time around, they were going in for the last stuff – 4 fillings plus a deep scaling (cleaning). They found one more cavity as they were doing the filling, so they took care of that too. Five fillings and a cleaning later (only about 2.5 hours this time), they were asking me for $1317! OUCH!

The Cost

The breakdown:

  • 5 cavities – $1017
  • Deep Scaling – $160
  • Exam Fee – $65
  • Xrays – $75

I’m hoping that they are correct and Mr. BFS will be good to go for years with just caring for his teeth and regular periodontal maintenance. Neither one of us likes that we spent more than $13,000 on teeth within the last year. I hope it is all done.

Overall, we were expecting around $1000 but we forgot about the exam costs and the cleaning apparently. $1300 is yet another ouch to the checkbook, but once again, I am concentrating on the happy feeling that we have enough to cover stuff like this when it comes along.

Dealing With It

While I wrote the $1300 check, I had some very angry and spiteful thoughts. I look at all of this money and just got so mad that some of it could have been preventable. Then I vented to a friend or two. Then I reminded myself that Mr. BFS feels like crap for spending that money too. Now I really am just looking for the positive side. For example, we had enough saved that this won’t be a long-term issue.  :-)

Any unexpected expenses for you this week?

Amazon for the Win Yet Again!

This is not a paid post.  I just really love Amazon.

Do you change things like filters on the schedule they tell you to?  We bought a new refrigerator in October 2012, and it has a water filter for the dispenser.  The manual said to replace it every 6 months.  Well…we didn’t.  But the water started flowing slower last week, so I started looking into pricing.

Water Filters are Expensive!

Sears had sent us some letters offering to sell us a replacement filter for “30% OFF” at $45 each.  OUCH!  So I did what I usually do when I think a price is unfair – I started searching online.  I usually go to Amazon and Ebay before looking all over since I know those two sites, and truly trust Amazon.

Side story – Over the last decade, I’ve bought hundreds of things from Amazon.  And we have only ever had a handful of problems.  I ordered an Ipod Nano a couple of years ago that was marked as delivered, but I hadn’t received it.  I called a few days later, and Amazon sent me a new Nano without even blinking.  :-)  Recently, I ordered a “used” garden gnome that was marked as perfect except for his packaging.  Well, my battle gnome arrived with a broken sword.  I couldn’t get an exchange since it was their only “used” one, but I didn’t want to return my awesome gnome for a refund.  So I asked their online chat rep to send me some super glue or a $5 discount for the inconvenience.  He immediately credited me the $5 and wished me well with my new, awesome lawn ornament.  :-D

Back to the filter.  I looked on Ebay and could have made a bid at $13 and waited around to see what would happen.  Or I could “Buy It Now” from several places for $28.  But Amazon had one for $22 with solid reviews and it was Amazon Prime.  I am grandfathered into Amazon Prime without paying since my mom and I were beta testers, so yay!  So I ordered my $45 filter for $22 on Wednesday and had it working in my fridge by Friday evening.  How cool is that?!  Never had to leave my house.

Always Look at Your Options

If you have a computer and internet access, don’t waste them.  I have spent a lot at Amazon.  Some on stuff that I needed, some on stuff that I wanted, and some on stuff that we “sort of” needed.  In the end, I’m sure that online shopping has led me to buy more “wants” than I could have without them.  But even with those expenditures, I think I have saved more overall.  So “need” plus “wants” for the same price or less than just “needs” without online options.  I’m fine with that.

Do you use Amazon, Ebay, or some other online site for most of your shopping?