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Money Mentality, Women + Finances

Reader Question: Love and Money + How to Find Your Perfect Money Match

A few weeks ago, I got an interesting question on my blog from a reader named TJ. It was about money, dating and how the heck they work:

“What’s super discouraging to me as someone on the frugal side in Southern California is finding a partner who shares said frugal traits. It sounds like you paired off at a time when frugality was probably necessary for both partners (college students).

 

Do you have any tips on where a frugal person might meet other frugal types? You don’t want to make it all about the frugality, but it’s also hard to reconcile a lifestyle when you are on polar opposites on the frugal scales.

 

On one hand, I feel like I’d rather be emotionally and romantically content than incredibly rich, but I also don’t want to just blow all my $$ on a new partner. This is something that I find a lot of frugal blogs don’t seem to really touch on. The single people either don’t talk about it and the ones who are coupled off have been that way forever.”

The question is super interesting, but also complicated. In fact, it’s taken me almost a month to answer.

The truth is that I did get lucky with my partner, Alex. I was 19 when we met and Alex was 20. And while it’s true that both of us were in college, we were also young and (occasionally) dumb with money.

My Perfect Money Match

We met in London while I was studying abroad for four months and in many ways, we were on “vacation mode” for the first few months of our relationship. I had worked part-time jobs leading up to the trip, and as a result, I had a huge chunk of money that was set aside for “fun.”

We traveled to Paris, consumed delicious pub meals and ran through the streets of London after nights of clubbing with friends. Life was fun and carefree.

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But of course, the vacation eventually came to an end.

When I returned to sunny California, I was prepared to return to my normal budget. I had worked and saved for the trip, so I knew that my “fun” budget wasn’t sustainable in the long run.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the other change: (almost) poverty.

Alex picked up the financial slack in a lot of meaningful ways as we navigated this new reality and entered a period of extreme frugality. There were still hilarious nights of clubbing, silly dances and the occasional dinner out, but there were also 3 part-time jobs, tears and seemingly endless stress.

We weathered the storm together and it ultimately had a happy ending: graduation, full-time jobs and a strong partnership.

However, the good (and bad) news is that financial life lessons aren’t limited to your early 20’s, so if you meet your partner later in life, you still have plenty of time to grow together.

Some people meet after college, are further into their careers or even switch partners halfway through. And from what I understand, navigating the world of Tinder swipes, first dates and funny encounters is enjoyable but also overwhelming.

If you’re anything like TJ, you’re looking for a partner who shares your values, including the financial ones. But chances are that if you’re in the young adult dating pool you’re, well, young.

In other words, we’re all still figuring it out. So don’t panic if it seems like everyone is spending like crazy to impress his or her date. Instead, focus on the big picture.

When it comes to finding your money match, these are the traits that actually matter:

1. Financial Responsibility

I agree with TJ that a lot of people in Southern California (and the world) are not frugal. But that’s not the whole story. Millennials, especially young twenty-something year olds, care more about money and creating a prosperous life than any other generation.

Sure, they might own a car or indulge in beers on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care or are financially irresponsible. It probably just means that they’re young and having some fun. But even beyond that, it might simply mean that they have different priorities than you, and that’s okay. Perhaps your date eats out every weekend and drives a new car, but shares a house with five roommates or lives with parents to save money.

Those priorities are completely different than mine, but that doesn’t make one of us better than the other. Instead of looking for someone who matches your exact spending patterns, try to find a partner who lives a fiscally responsible life.

 

2. Generosity

When you’re trying to find your perfect match, generosity is the #1 most important factor and can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Just because your partner spends more money than you doesn’t mean that he or she is frivolous and materialistic.

In fact, it could mean the opposite. For example, my mom and stepdad tithe 10% of their salary to church, no matter what. They are generous with their money and occasionally prioritize giving over saving because they truly believe in their church and community. That’s a beautiful thing.

Similarly, I spent over $3000 last year on surprises and gifts for my family, partner and friends. When it comes to the people I love, no expense is too high and I love being able to spoil them. However, generosity doesn’t always take the form of cash. Sometimes, it involves giving time or energy instead. Regardless of the form it takes, a generous heart is more important than a frugal mindset.

 

3. Frugality Isn’t Always Best

Living a frugal life comes with a lot of perks: peace of mind, travel and even early retirement. But the truth is that it can also come with a lot of stress.

Advocates of frugality rarely talk about it, but more often than not, frugality comes with a side dish of guilt.

When you’re in the mindset of scarcity and fear (which often accompanies extreme frugality) you are depriving yourself from a life of joy. Agonizing over every purchase and depriving yourself of a dinner out or drinks with friends sets you up for failure because it inevitably leads to a spending binge.

But even beyond that, it’s important to enjoy life and TREAT YO SELF. Moderation is the key to success in life and in finances.

 

4. Respect

If you and your new partner have different money mentalities, than respect is crucial to the relationship’s survival. If your partner respects you and your opinions, then there’s a very good chance that he or she will respect your lifestyle and even make changes to accommodate your beliefs. (Of course, the reverse is true as well. So be prepared for some personal change too!)

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T: You’ve got to have it to get with me,” should be your new dating mantra.

 

5. Honesty…Fast

Get honest about your finances upfront. Debt isn’t shameful and a low salary isn’t a deal breaker (unless you’re this girl…).

But in all seriousness, get honest with your partner as soon as possible. Share your money goals and aspirations. Talk to each other about where you currently are and where you would like to be.

If you’re afraid of being judged, just remember that the sooner you determine whether or not you are a good match, the better because it means that you will waste less time and money. In other words, if someone is a jerk, bad match or financial train wreck than it’s better to know as soon as possible so you can get out.

 

6. Have Fun

In order to minimize the expenses of dating, be sure to keep the first date relatively cheap by opting for coffee or a drink. (That way, if they’re a dud, you’ll have minimized the money you spent.) But once you’ve determined that you like the person and that you enjoy his or her company, allow yourself to have some fun, enjoy the process and date to your heart’s content.

 

Do you have any advice for TJ about dating and frugality? Any experiences of your own? I would love to hear them!

 

Extreme Savings, Women + Finances

High Maintenance on a Budget: How to Get the Clothes You Want For $200 A Year

This is the second installment of the High Maintenance on a Budget series. The series uncovers how to  look good, feel good and live well while working towards financial freedom. The first article was about how to save $4,000 a year on makeup and beauty. 

 

On average, Americans spend $1,786.00 per year on clothing and accessories. If you peaked in my closet, it would look like my spending is average too. Although my closet isn’t overflowing, the clothing I do own feels pretty luxurious.

My dresser drawer boasts Victoria’s Secret swimwear in various forms and my pant collection consists of Jessica Simpson brand and Zara exclusively. On most days, I wear a Michael Kors watch on my wrist. Often, I feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury, but the truth is I spent a grand total of $200 on clothes, shoes and accessories last year, and about the same to decorate an entire apartment.* In other words, I’m saving $1,586 more than average consumer…and that’s on clothing alone. After 10 years, I’ll be $15,860 richer than the typical shopper.

Living good and looking good doesn’t have to cost a fortune.** In fact, it shouldn’t. Even though I live on 50% of my (less than average) salary, I never feel deprived. And you shouldn’t either.

 

1. Sales are Completely Useless (Until You Learn How to Beat Them)

For the most part, sales are awesome but useless. The majority of “Sales Events” are designed to lure you to spend money on items that you don’t want or need. We’ve all been there (I distinctly remember the time I purchased 5 identical t-shirts because they were 75% off. Spoiler: I never wore them)

To avoid the allure of impulse purchases, wait it out. Most stores begin a sale, see what items sell and then lower the prices again. In some cases, this cycle can occur multiple times in the course of two weeks. Ensure that you purchase on the final days by scouting out sales and then revisiting the store in a few days time. For most big retailers, the largest sales of the year occur during January and February and then again during July and August.

 Rocking my $5 cardigan from H&M

Rocking my $5 cardigan from H&M

One of my best Victoria’s Secret purchases occurred during their semi-annual sale. The store is on my walk home from work and I noticed the neon pink sale signs (I had also seen it plastered all over friend’s Instagram accounts). The $70.00 bra I had been waiting for a year to buy was reduced to less than $40.I almost caved and bought it on the spot but resisted.

Strategically stopping by a few days later, I saw that the entire sale selection had been reduced by an additional 50%. My $70.00 bra now rang in at a glorious $21.00 before tax. Although the bra wasn’t the exact same one I had seen a few days earlier, it was the same style, same fit and even better deal. I’ve had similar experiences at Zara where $60.00 jeans were reduced to $15.00 and H&M where a $35.00 cardigan was priced at $5.00. Don’t just shop sales, own the crap out of them and strategize your purchases.

 

2. Discount Stores = Your BFF

Stores like Ross and T.J. Maxx are known for their treasure hunt like experiences. Often, the buyer is required to sift through racks or scour low-level shelves to find the perfect item. Fortunately, this type of shopping experience has been known to intimidate the faint hearted or weak-willed.

This is good news for financial freedom beasts (like you).

By embarking on a quest in a discount store, you are guaranteed to find gorgeous designer items that are severely reduced in price. My recent purchases include $10.00 heart shaped Betsey Johnson earrings and $20.00 Steve Madden wedges I had been scouting for months. Mind blown.

 $15 dress from Ross + $20 Steve Madden wedges = Vegas done right

$15 dress from Ross + $20 Steve Madden wedges = Vegas done right

But don’t stop there. Be sure to shop the sales within the discount store. Yep, that’s right—discount stores have more sales on already discounted merchandise. My greatest bargain to date occurred during a sale at Ross. A Nine West bag that retailed for $80.00 was already a steal at $20.00. But on sale, I bought it for the shocking price of $8.00. To this day, I get compliments on the purse and I can’t help but smile as I remember the $8.00 I happily spent.

As for strategy, try to frequent discount stores in affluent neighborhoods. Rich neighbors often overlook or opt out of discount stores entirely. As a result, the best items are left for you to find.

3) Splurge…But Do It Wisely

Some things are worth the money. Determining the splurge-worthy items can be difficult though. For starters, it should be timeless item that you plan to wear or use at least three times a week for the next two or three years. Anything less than three times a week (and two or three years), and the item is merely an accessory for your closet and not worth the cash.

Next, determine the impact the item will have on your wardrobe. Thirdly, research if you can purchase a knockoff.

 My Michael Kors watch...worth the splurge!

My Michael Kors watch…worth the splurge!

For me, designer shoes aren’t worth the splurge. Not only can I buy mid-level designer shoes at discount stores, but I am also perfectly content to adorn my feet with knockoff heels and boots. But watches and sunglasses are another matter. Watches are always visible and often serve as a focal point in my outfit. Whether I’m going to the office in a $10.00 off-brand skirt or out for drinks in a and-me-down tank top, my $200 Michael Kors watch upgrades my outfit and creates the illusion of expense, no matter what I’m wearing.

Similarly, I splurge on $150 Ray Bans sunglasses.  Sunglasses are daily accessories in sunny Southern California. Even beyond that, they are noticeable items that sit on the center of one’s face. In other words: worth the splurge. Determine your must-have designer items and spend on one or two of them without guilt. With proper care, they should last for 3-5 years. In fact, I’ve worn my Ray Bans 2-3 times per week for the past 6 years. You’ll be getting more than your money’s worth.

 

4) Ignore Ads (aka: Shopping Won’t Fix Your Problems)

One of the easiest ways to save money is to ignore advertising. In the past, this was a easier to accomplish. You could turn off the TV or avoid the mall. In the age of the Internet, advertising is everywhere. It’s on the sidebars of your favorite websites and flooding your Instagram feed in the form of “sponsored posts.”

If you want to get serious about cutting your clothing expenses, then you need to learn to tune ads out. The easiest way to do this is to take breaks from the Internet. Set aside time where you are able to unplug and focus on yourself. Also, feel free to unfollow and unsubscribe from the worst offenders. Your headspace is precious. Don’t give it away for free. Your wallet (and brain) will thank you.

Secondly, learn the power of saying “no” and ignore the lure of more crap. For every pair of Steve Madden wedges I buy from Ross (which is a grand total of 1) there are 100’s of items I don’t purchase.

We all know this, but it’s worth repeating: buying items won’t make you happy. Similarly, it won’t make you a better or more interesting person. The hard questions in life about happiness, success and fulfillment can’t be answered by swiping a credit card at the store.

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*Sometimes a particularly expensive purchase (like running shoes—never go cheap on those!) will increase my clothing expenses for a particular year. Some years are higher or lower than others depending on my “big items” (or lack thereof) but my average for each during the past 5 years has been $200.

**For most people (myself included), “looking good” is an elusive goal that is largely defined by how we feel about ourselves. These are the stores and items that help me feel attractive and capable as I face the world. (If yours are different, or don’t include shopping at all, that’s awesome!) But ultimately, knowing that I’m saving large amounts of money while living a life I love is the biggest benefit of all.

 

 

How much do you spend on clothing each year? Any tips for saving money?

Extreme Savings, Women + Finances

High Maintenance on a Budget: How to Save $4,000 a Year on Beauty

Looking good doesn’t need to break the bank. In total, I spend $200 a year on beauty-related expenses. That figure includes a year’s worth of hair dye, daily makeup application, weekly at-home manicures and pedicures, the occasional fake tan and biannual teeth whitening. No one could accuse me of being low maintenance when it comes to beauty or makeup, and honestly I’m okay with that because my annual expenses cost less than one trip to the hair salon.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong about beauty products and I would never advocate cutting them out in order to reach financial freedom or gain control of your finances. (Of course, if you’re happy bare faced and beautiful, then more power to you!) But beauty shouldn’t cost a fortune and if it does, you’re doing it wrong.

1) Coloring My Hair for $3 a Month (AKA: Do That S*** Yourself)

For the past ten years, I’ve been dying my hair. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be blonde and took steps to make it a reality. Luckily, my mom is a beauty pro and dyed my hair herself. As I got older, she taught me her tricks (spoiler: it’s absurdly easy) and I took over the hair dying operation. My natural hair color is dark brown, but you would never know by looking at my blonde drugstore-colored locks. For a measly $3 per month, I have the hair color of my dreams. The same color in a salon would cost upwards of $100. Pure insanity. By opting for Revlon Colorsilk Beautiful Color, I am saving $1,164 dollars per year. That means that over the course of ten years, I’ll be $11,640 dollars richer than my professional hair dying peers. With smart hacks and a do-it-yourself attitude, there’s absolutely no need to spend thousands of dollars on beauty. But there’s also no reason to not look and feel your best.

The secret to doing something yourself is a combination of fearlessness and research. Extensive research (aka: googling) is always a good idea before starting something new. But after you’ve done that, it’s time to be brave, put on your big girl pants and just do it.

 

2) The Power of Buying Essentials: Flawless Skin for Cheap

The number one reason why makeup can be expensive is because it is cheap. Yep, it sounds bizarre but it’s true. If you’re buying drugstore brand makeup (Which you should be—$30 “name brand” mascara is absurd) then it’s relatively cheap. Wet n’ Wild eye shadow retails for about $2 and a good eyeliner can be had for about $3. The low price tag is intentional because it creates an environment in which it’s easy to grab multiples and not feel guilty. In reality, $7 mascara adds up quickly when you’re buying five of them and even beyond that, no reasonable human needs that many. Resist the mentality that more is best and buy only the essentials. At any given time you should only have one of each essential in your cupboard.

And for me, the essentials are pretty minimal:

  • EcoTools 6 Piece Starter Set ($9.26): I bought this set of makeup brushes almost five years ago and still use them every single day. For brushes, you don’t need fancy, just functional.
  • Neutrogena Skin Clearing Foundation ($9.47): One container of liquid foundation lasts me for about 3 months and for my skin type, Neutrogena is the best—clears blemishes and is oil free. Regardless of brand, foundation should never cost more than $11 every few months. However, it’s important to never go too cheap on foundation because the ultra cheap brands can cause you to break out.
  • Blush and Bronzer ($2.97): Unlike foundation, it’s okay to buy blush and bronzer for extra cheap because it’s not sitting directly on your skin and won’t cause breakouts. I typically opt for Wet n’ Wild or whatever brand is currently on sale.
  • NYC High Definition Liquid Eyeliner ($3.59): Eyeliner that stays on all day can be hard to find, especially for cheap. Luckily, NYC’s eyeliner has staying power and a great price tag. Each eyeliner stick lasts me about two months of every day use.
  • L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Miss Manga Mascara ($5.69): Almost any brand of drugstore mascara will do the trick and create thick, dark lashes. My current favorite is L’Oreal’s Miss Manga because it creates doll-like lashes, but any brand will do. Once again, it lasts for about two months.
  • Wet n’ Wild Eyeshadow Trio, Walking on Eggshells ($2.97): Wet n’ Wild eyeshadow pallets are the best-kept secret of the beauty world. Although the prices are rock bottom, the quality is top-notch. In fact, they are remarkably similar in quality to Urban Decay’s Naked Palette for $30.00.

These are my basics. Sometime I wear a bit more and sometimes I wear a bit less, but this is the bread and butter of my daily makeup usage and by opting for drugstore brand basics and using it until it’s done, I’m saving an average of $2,000 year. After it is all said and done, I spend less than $100 on makeup per year, and there’s no reason to spend more.

 

3) Tanning, Manicures and Teeth Whitening, Oh My!

In the world of beauty related marketing, more is better and less is never enough. From tanning salons to nail salons and everything in between, there are countless ways to spend big bucks on beauty related “necessities,” but there are also ways to get the same treatments for super cheap. The answer is simple: do it yourself. The DIY model of living is no longer reserved for home improvements and gardening. The world of beauty presents countless opportunities for money-saving hacks.

Manicures create a polished look and tie an outfit together, but I do it at home for less than $20 per year. Compared to the $20-$30 per week model that is sold at salons, I’m saving nearly $1000 a year. Similarly, if I ever need a quick glow, I tan at home. After a quick rub down with ________, my skin is bronzed for minimal effort and my bank account is happy. For less than $8 per bottle and twelve uses per bottle, I spend less than $30 per year on tanning. However, a tanning salon would set you back over $50 per spray tan session. In other words, I’m saving at least $1,200 per year.

 For teeth whitening, my solution is pretty straightforward: buy the cheapest Crest Whitening strips for $14.15 on Amazon and use them twice a year. There’s no need to opt for the more expensive whitening strips for $50+ per box. They promise “visible results” in three days but the actual results are the same. By committing to an extra seven days of Whitestrips, 10 days total, you’ll save yourself nearly $100 per year. (Staying away from professional whitening treatments should go without saying.) Although there are other cheaper solutions like baking powder and hydrogen peroxide, I’ve found that nothing beats the power of Crest, and honestly, at $30 per year it’s a steal.

 

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There are a lot of articles written about the “true price of beauty” that laboriously outline the countless ways in which women are getting swindled by marketers and the beauty industry. In some ways, it’s true. Excessive amounts of marketing dollars are spent on convincing women that they need beauty products in order to fit in, find a spouse or look beautiful. Perpetuating the belief that women are somehow inferior without makeup is not only wrong and insulting it is also sexist; men are not sold the same pack of lies.

But it’s not any different than other marketing. In the same way it would be absurd to never use a mattress again simply because Tempurpedic commercials exist, it’s also absurd to ditch makeup because of annoying marketing tactics. Instead, focus on simple beauty hacks that make you feel happy and attractive.

 

How much do you spend on make-up each year? Any tricks for saving money?