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How Much Do You Spend on Your Hair?

Before this year, I spent about $40 or less per year on hair stuff.  That included maybe 1-2 trims from a hair place and my shampoo and conditioner.  Now it’s much more, but I still seem to be behind compared to some.  What do you think?

Crystal 2012

This was my hair in 2012.

Crystal June 2013

Then I had all of my hair cut off in 2013…

Crystal 2014

Now it’s still short and I’ve spent 2014 playing with different colors…

My 2014 Hair Costs

  • 5 Hair Cuts – $150
  • Paul Mitchell Reformer stuff – $20
  • 6 Temporary Hair Colors – $35
  • Colored Hair Shampoo – $5
  • Hair nets, combs, random coloring supplies – $10
  • Total 2014 Hair Costs = $220

Future Plans

I don’t see my hair costs dropping much in 2015, but I can make a little dent.  I need it cut when it gets shaggy, so 6 hair cuts a year are just going to happen.  I have about half of the reformer cream left, and will buy it for $12 off of Amazon when I run out.  I may not be as color crazy, and I still have two of those colors left to try that I already bought.  But it looks like $200 is going to be my annual hair number.

So, have I lost my financial mind when it comes to hair or is this pretty normal?  How much do you spend on your hair?

Finally Switched to Ting!

There are referral links in this post, but I found out about that program after I already switched to Ting.  Oh, and if you use one of these referral links to switch too, we both get $25 credits to our Ting accounts!

I’ve been mentioning it on and off, but we finally followed through on it.  We switched to Ting wireless services from Sprint yesterday.

Why We Switched to Ting

It’s about the money, honey!  We’ve been with Sprint for more than 10 years now.  Until last year, I didn’t know of options like Ting and Republic Wireless, and I wasn’t interested in trying out the pay-as-you-go plans I do know about since we do use more than 500 minutes a month, 1500-2000 text messages, and lots of data.  I knew the existence of options in a vague way, but I liked ours the best.  We paid $150 a month and had unlimited everything on two 4G phones.  It was easy and we didn’t need to think about anything.  But then I saw Ting’s rates about 6 months ago…

I also saw that we could get exactly what we have now with Ting for $50-$75 less per month.  Ting uses the Sprint network so our experience would be the same.  Same network, same 4G.  Oh, and we could bring our own phones since they are approved.  AND we could keep our phone numbers!

Did I switch immediately?  Nope.  I procrastinated because it was an unknown, and I kept prioritizing everything else.  Besides, the contract cancellation fees would stink, right?  Yeah, but Ting would cover 25%.  I wiffle-waffled anyway.

But yesterday, I received an email from Ting announcing that they are currently covering 50% of the contract cancellation fees up to $150.  I just couldn’t put it off any more.  I called, I figured out what I needed to do, and we have switched cell phone carriers.

My Samsung Galaxy S3

Yep, my actual phone!

How to Switch to Ting

Take it from a procrastinator, you should look into this and just switch if it’s a killer deal for you too.  And it is not as daunting as I thought it would be:

  1. Look at your last cell phone bill to see how many minutes, text messages, and data that you use and how much you pay.  This was actually the hardest part for me since I lost our login.  But once I was in, woot!
  2. This is the fun part!  Check out Ting’s rates for the same usages.  Keep in mind that even if you have multiple lines, add up the total minutes, messages, and data as entities unto themselves.  Ting charges $6 per line and then the amounts stated for the pooled totals.
    For example, my husband and I generally use about 800 minutes, 1500 text messages, and 500-600 megabytes of data.  We pay $135+$15 in taxes.  The same at Ting is $12 (2 lines) +$18 (minutes) + $8 (messages) +$19 (data) =$57 plus taxes.  $150 compared to $75-ish.  I’ll post an update after our first bill.
  3. Create a quick account with Ting.
  4. Use Ting’s Activation page to activate a new device with Ting or to port your number to Ting.  This can take up to 24 hours.  It took about 2-3 hours on our phones.  I suggest doing it overnight.  They will email your when it’s done and explain how to finish the download process.  Takes less than 10 minutes after that initial few hours.
  5. Once your phone has been switched over, call your previous carrier to request your final bill that will include the early termination fees if there are any.  This bill can be online or on paper.
  6. Turn that bill with the early termination fees over to Ting.  They will reimburse the 25%-50% within 2-3 business days.
  7. Enjoy your lower bills!

I’m really looking forward to updating you all with my first bill in about a month.  Wish me luck!

Don’t Finance Christmas!

I’ve mentioned that we’ve cut cable.  That means that when I do watch regular tv or shows on Hulu Plus, I see commercials that I can’t just fast forward through anymore.  My jaw fell to the floor when I saw this Fingerhut commercial yesterday…

Payments to Spend More at Christmas?

Budgets and payment systems with interest involved are never to be included happily in the same 30 seconds…

I’ve already written about layaway, and at least it is like saving up for the gifts that you are buying.  Most of the time, it’s interest free as well.  But I even warned about the dangers of using it to spend more.

That said, who wants to pay for the upcoming Christmas for all of 2015?!  Don’t finance Christmas!!!  That doesn’t sound sane to me.  Making payments so you can afford to spend more than you have saved for Christmas just doesn’t make sense!  If you want to buy your loved one a $100 bedding set or coffee maker, but you don’t have $100 to spend on it, then either save for it or don’t buy it!!!  Your loved one would enjoy something cheaper just as much.

Anything sounds like a better idea than making a $9 payment who-knows-how-long for a coffee maker!  Heck, they don’t actually tell you right up front how long that you will be making those payments.  First you have to get approved for a credit line, then there is an OMG chart to use to figure out how long you will be making payments based on the thing’s overall price.

Christmas Gift Options – 5 Ideas for $5 or Less

Heck, they would probably like personal time with you more than you going into debt for a coffee maker.  Here are five fantastic ideas for $5 or less:

  • Plan a hike, walk, bike ride, etc.
  • Help them check a huge thing off of their life’s to-do list (my friend is helping me frame some used movie posters to decorate our media room).
  • Treat them to homemade yumminess like beer bread.
Yummy, Yummy Beer Bread

Look at that deliciousness! Golden brown, crunchy crust with an amazingly soft and delicious center…

  • Visit a discount movie theater near you.
  • Have a home movie night with a shared favorite and some popcorn.

Anything on that list is better than financing Christmas.  What other ideas can you think of?

It Feels Like the Holidays! My Tips for Holiday Gift Ideas…

I woke up yesterday in the mood for hot chocolate and a fuzzy robe even though it was 80 degrees outside.  And I started Christmas shopping.  Yep, I’m in the holiday mood.

Christmas Card Tree 2012

Sometimes the best traditions don’t have to cost anything but a bit of time…your gifts don’t have to break the bank either.

Holiday Organization

What this means is that I started my annual Christmas list – a list of everyone I know and what ideas I have for presents.  I also write down what I end up getting each person and highlight the people I need to work on next.  It’s a process.

I started this a few years ago when I realized that we are close with more than 40 people.  A handful of them don’t enjoy the gift exchange thing, so they are even on my list with a note by them to remind me that they are covered by not being covered.  ;-)  Everyone else is a close friend or family member that I want to spoil a little.

A big part of my process is trying to find a good, yet inexpensive, present for those who I shop for.  With 25-30 people to cover, I try to keep all gifts at $15 or less.  $10 or less is the big win, but I do inch it higher when I find the perfect fit.  Our main goal is to stay under the $500 mark for gifts for others each year.

Tips for Inexpensive but Awesome Gifts

I know that you will read a bunch about cutting back on holiday waste spending.  I also know that Secret Santa’s and White Elephant Gift Exchanges kick butt and do keep costs low.  I am not arguing that Christmas can’t be done without much money involved at all.  Honestly, more power to you if you and your family and friends celebrate without the spending!

I, personally, still want to buy specific gifts for specific people.  It is technically unnecessary, but I enjoy it.  I enjoy the hunt.  I enjoy finding that little thing that makes each person smile.  Even when I’m stumped, I like the fact that I am spending brain energy on the important people in my life.

We, my group, spoil each other with time and food and whatnot year round, but Christmas is special to me.  It gives me a real kick in the butt to think.  It feels happier in general.  And slower.  I love the holidays.

If you are like me, here are some tips on spending less but still grabbing awesome gifts for others…

Food and Crafts

If you are an amazing baker, have a special recipe, or are handy with your hands, MAKE YOUR GIFTS FOR OTHERS!  We non-craftsy people LOVE them!  I know my roommate is making me a crazy quilt.  I think it will KICK BUTT.  One of my other friends is baking cookies for everyone – YUMMY!  Last year, I got a mason jar of cookie mix and it made amazing cookies.  COOL BEANS!

Homemade means love.  Love is good.  Never undervalue the awesomeness of homemade.  Heck, I am spoiling a bunch of people on my list with food-by-me.  I won’t tell you what since some of my friends and family read my blog, but I am making some yummy stuff!  I bet they’ll all love it, because who doesn’t like yumminess?!

Cookie-Basket-1

Inside Jokes / Funny Mannerisms

Inside jokes are the best fodder for ideas!  Funny can be priceless.

My husband is one of those people that seems pretty blah around groups on a regular basis until he gets a wild hair and chatters away.  I am a like-everyone-until-they-get-on-my-sh*t-list type of person.  He’s a people-suck-unless-they-don’t kind of person.  Last year, he got the coolest shirts ever from several of our friends.  They all said “Meh” and nothing else.  Different fonts, a couple of different themes, but “Meh” was the underlying factor.  He LOVES those shirts and still wears them.

This year, I’m getting a t-shirt for one of my self-proclaimed klutzy friends (who doesn’t read my blog, lol).  It says “I’m the Reason Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”.  They had every size imaginable.  It’s just too funny for that klutz you love or random child in your life.  It was $10 on Think Geek.

Hobbies

Hobbies are the next best idea trees.  My favorite t-shirt ever says “Careful or You’ll End Up On My Blog”.  It was a birthday gift from Isabelle.  I’ve worn it a ton for 4+ years now!  It has been joined with “It’s a Blog” shirt that has a Blob motif and a t-shirt with a dachshund typing away on a laptop.

Blog

My husband is a varsity sports official and enjoys the little $5-$10 goofy gifts his family, friends, and I find for him.  He truly enjoys his referee rubber ducky.  He also like the different ref-themed gag gifts around the house like the one that yells ref stuff at you when you leave the bathroom (we only turn it on for game days), the stuffed ref that was made to be torn apart and put back together, and the ref-themed groom’s cake that his mom made for him for our wedding.

The best thing hobby-wise could be to simply provide more supplies for whatever may be used up doing what they love.  An artist may need more paints, pencils, poster board, etc.  A person who sews may need fabrics, better supplies, yarn, thread, a pin cushion that goes on their wrist, etc.  A golfer always needs balls.  A tennis player may appreciate some wrist wraps.  There are all sorts of gifts for hobbies!

Things They Won’t Buy Themselves

I have some friends that won’t splurge on themselves, even for little stuff.  I use Christmas to fill in a few of those blanks.

I have gotten a fantastic used sewing machine for Mandy for FREE from a great neighbor that answered my classified on Nextdoor.com.  I am scouring Craigslist for cheap aquarium setups for my Little Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program since his mom was happy with the idea of me getting him a fish.  I might go the Sea Monkey route instead though.  Or a large bowl and a Beta.  We’ll see…

Sea Monkeys

Overall, gift ideas seem hard because we put a ton of pressure on ourselves usually.  Don’t.  Make it fun.  Don’t overthink it.  Aim for a smile or a giggle as opposed to the great shocker every time.  Sure, you may go crazy on a specific person some day, but it doesn’t have to be for every birthday or Christmas.  Don’t kill your budget for no true reason – your loved ones should already know that you love them.  This is just little, physical reminders.  ;-)

Have you started holiday shopping yet?  What are your tips and tricks?

I’m Discovering Dollar Stores

I haven’t ever been a huge proponent of dollar stores since I generally thought that most of the things they sell aren’t worth $1 or will break too quickly.  Well, the new Dollar Tree near my house is changing my mind.

Dollar Store

Plethora of Choices

This Dollar Tree is huge.  There are seasonal items, household goods, tools, makeup, toiletries, and even food.  It’s like a mini-Walmart except I never feel like I’m being trapped into small aisles between baskets and motorized scooters.  :-)

I was honestly surprised by the selection.  In the 1990’s, I remember dollar stores having cheap toys, candy, wrapping paper, and random stuff that I usually bought elsewhere.  Boy, has it changed!

I went in about a month ago to check out their Halloween decorations.  I had time, so I browsed around.  That’s when I figured out that they had so much.  I think I spent $9.72 and came out with six Halloween decorations, cookies, and some batteries.

Affordable

Everything is $1 or less.  I know all dollar stores don’t stick to that rule, but I am glad that this Dollar Tree does.  Obviously, not everything is a good deal for $1 or less, but the good buys seem to outweigh the bad options.  Heck, I bought poster board for $0.67 each instead of $1 like I found at Walmart…

Unexpected Deals

That brings me to some other awesome deals.  This Dollar Tree carries the Nutri-Grain Honey Wheat bread that we like so much for $1 a loaf!  It’s $2.25 at Sam’s Club, $2.80 at Walmart, and $3.25 at Kroger usually.  For $1 each, I stock up!

They also have $1 off-brand fig newtons and brownie crisp cookies that are really good.  Yesterday, I found the light bulb I needed for the oven for $1 and a little $1 LED press on-and-off light that we had been looking at on Amazon for $6.  Oh, and I won’t forget to mention the 10 pack of AA batteries.  And Mandy, my roommate, found a bunch of supplies for our nails that we use for girls’ nights.  We each spent less than $6 and came home very happy!

I’m impressed.  I’m also glad that our Dollar Tree is less than 3 minutes away.  I will try not to load up my basket with unnecessary purchases, but with a list, I should be safe.  :-)

Do you shop at dollar stores?  What do you think?

Layaway Isn’t an Excuse to Spend More!

I just had a conversation yesterday with a single mom I know with 4 kids.  She isn’t struggling to survive anymore, but she hasn’t made it to middle class yet either.  She was talking about buying an Xbox One and a Play Station 4 (PS4) for her kids for Christmas.  I asked if she found them used on Craigslist or something.  She replied:

No!  I put them on layaway!  It will be $1401.  But I already put $400 or so towards it, so I’m almost there!

NOOO!!!

NOOOOOO!!!  Why spend more than you have on gaming systems?  Aren’t you saving for a big move and don’t you have a bunch of other big ticket items on your need and want lists?

She and I are good friends.  I pointed out the problems that I could see with this plan.  I really like her and her kids, and I know they will kill me if they find out I talked her out of the other system.  But I did tell her that they may want her time more than stuff.  I even suggested some activities.  She sincerely thanked me for being more level-headed than she is being.  She even admitted that she is probably just trying to make up for the fact that she just went through a divorce.  She has now decided to just get the PS4 since the Xbox One would need all new games.  I’m considering this a win.

Layaway Positives

I’m still thinking about layaway in general.  I’ve never used it, but I understand its purpose.  You pick what you want, pay it off in installments, and pick up your stuff when it’s paid off.  Why not just wait to buy it outright?

The useful reasons that I’ve heard to use layaway:

  • Keep the gifts out of the house…like free storage.
  • Gives you time to decide whether you really want it or not, as long as there isn’t a fee to cancel the layaway.
  • Some layaway plans offer a small discount if you use them.
  • Sometimes you can put off-season stuff on layaway and pay off that discounted amount in time to use the items in season.  This helps if you are low income.
  • Could be used as a physical example of budgeting for children, although I think the temptation to spend too much negates this.

If you can’t afford to buy it outright, it being sold before you get to it would probably save you a lot of money.  But if you are low income, layaway seems like a less expensive alternative to additional credit card debt.

All in all, layaway is like credit cards.  Don’t use it if you can’t control your spending.  Don’t use it if you just let yourself use it as an excuse.  But if you are in complete control, and it helps you in some way, more power to you.

Do you use layaway?  Have I missed any of the positives?

Still All About the Thrift Shop!

Back in May 2013, I started a challenge to only buy “new” clothes from second hand shops like Goodwill for a full year.  I did pretty well and am still all about the thrift shop!

New Clothes Over the Last Year

I said in the challenge to myself that I would allow myself to buy brand new undergarments.  I stuck to this pretty well.  Here are the only new clothes that I have bought since May 2013:

  • A package of new underwear – $6
  • Swim suit (not technically an undergarment, but it touched my womanly bits directly and ended up being an amazing Amazon deal that looks fantabulous) – $33
  • Cat suit that I used to dress up for Comicpalooza as the Black Widow and Cat Woman (again, touched my lady parts, so I made an exception) – $28
  • Flexees (like Spanx) to make the Black Widow and Cat Woman look sleek instead of belly-licious. – $15

All Other Clothes – Donations and Thrift Shop

I will admit, I didn’t go clothes shopping much anyway.  Here were all of the other clothes that entered my possession since May 2013:

  • My friend, Isabelle, cleaned out her closet and I inherited a bunch of awesome new-to-me shirts.
  • Isabelle also donated the boots I wore as the Black Widow and Cat Woman as well as a nice pair of wedge heels to my small, but growing, shoe collection.  I think she felt sorry for my lonely other shoes…
  • Here were all of my Goodwill and resale shop purchases over 4 total visits (most of these were made this past week, which reminded me to write this post, LOL):  1 pair of boots ($10), 1 pair of heels ($7), two new shirts ($13), 1 pair of jeans ($9), 1 pair of slacks ($8 – and they are also knows as my “booty slacks”), and 3 sweater/pullovers ($14 – one given away accidentally at Fincon14).
  • Total = $61

That means that I have spent a grand total of $143 on clothing and related items from May 2013-September 2014.  I aim to spend $100 or less per year, so I have stayed on track.  I don’t see shopping again at all until 2015.  All of that said, I’ve decided to make this a permanent life change!  No reason to buy new when I can get the same or better used at 50%-90% off.

How are you doing with clothes?  Is it where your budget sails or sinks?