Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Netflix vs. Redbox: A TV Girl Smackdown

After discovering Redbox a couple weeks ago, I've been toying with the idea of cancelling my Netflix subscription, but I haven't quite been able to bring myself to do it. In order to make the decision, I've employed a winner take all boxing match between the two.

In the first corner we have Redbox, which lays the first punch with it's price. The cost of Redbox is basically nothing. I can get free rental codes through Inside Redbox, and I'm very diligent about watching the movie that night and returning it the next day, so I don't get hit with fees. Compared to Netflix at $10 a month, which gets me about 8 movies, Redbox is far superior.

In the second corner is Netflix, which lays the second punch with The Queue. I love The Queue so much that I recently discovered that the limit is 500 movies. Nevermind that it would take me about five years, two months, and two weeks (yes, I calculated) to watch that many movies and tv shows, I just love The Queue. I love that I can save shows and movies for later so that I don't forget about them. I also love browsing through the list until I find something I've forgotten about, getting excited about it all over again, and moving it to the top of the list. I love adding, subtracting, and rearranging movies in that thing. It's like a giant To Do List, and combining Television with To Do Lists is basically heaven in my book.

After one good punch on each side, Netflix lands another jab with it's selection. Netflix has just about every movie, tv show, and documentary that you could dream up. Their selection trumps any local video store, and it certainly rises far above Redbox, which consists almost entirely of mainstream movie new releases. For me, the best thing about the Netflix selection is the tv shows. I've discovered and come to love many tv shows through Netflix, and I wouldn't have otherwise watched them because it's too prohibitive to buy them at $50 a pop.

At this point you'd think Netflix was ahead, two punches to one, but Redbox's cost punch was the strongest hit, so they're laying pretty even right now. Netflix allows you to put your account on hold, reserving your queue, but not charging you or sending you any movies. I've decided to do that for now and see how I get along on Redbox only. I may decide to resurrect my Netflix account in the summer when the TV drought hits. We'll see.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Biggest Budget Busters

Ana at Debt-Free Revolution posted a meme on her biggest budget busters. Instead of tagging people, she said anyone who wanted to could tag them self, so Tag! I'm it. :)

I do very little impulse buying anymore, so I don't really have the "little things add up" type busters anymore, but here are my three biggest budget busters:

1. Student Loans: Seriously, I must love education. A lot. To the tune of $100,000. Although this isn't exactly a "budget buster" in the sense that I impulse spend randomly, it is the single biggest expense in my budget, so I'm putting it here. At $660 a month, my education costs more than my rent each month. It's truly disturbing how little I thought about paying it back while I was accumulating it.

2. TV on DVD sets: This is one that I impulse often, but I've gotten much better about it since my financial revolution. I had a weak moment with Veronica Mars Season Three in January, but other than that I've abstained completely. It helped that I got a few at Christmas, and my birthday is coming up, but I think I may have to use some of my blow money to acquire Prison Break Season Two. The upside is that I've waited so long to buy it that I can get it on Amazon for about $25 rather than $45 when it first came out. A lesson in delayed gratification.

3. Plane Tickets: Although this is a budget buster, it's one that I feel is fully justified. I live in Southern California, but my whole family lives in Western Washington, so I budget for three trips per year to visit my family on holidays and other special occasions. This year I'm going for my sister's wedding in August, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas. It costs about $300 to $400 per trip, so it's expensive, but you just can't put a price on going home for the holidays. It's a song for a reason.

I'll tag Carol of Debt Free in the Ozarks. What are your biggest budget busters?

A Frugal Weekend and a Carnival

This weekend I made two big batches of food and froze the leftovers to have later. On Saturday I made The Simple Dollar's Quick Chicken Casserole, and on Sunday I made Turkey Zucchini Chili. I did a rough estimate of the price per serving on each of these. The casserole worked out to about $1.10, and the chili was about $0.60. Pretty good if I do say so myself. :)

Also, the 149th Carnival of Personal Finance was today, and my post, Choosing Fight over Flight, was included. Here are links to a few of my favorite posts:

Cutting the Cost of Food at Savings Freak
An Expensive Mistake: How I Overslept and Missed My Flight at Money Under 30
Spending Money Is Good at Cash Money Life

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Moment I Realized I'm Smarter Than My Parents

Just when I think my parents are starting to get it, they go and do something monumentally stupid. Yesterday my dad told me that they'd just put in an air conditioner for $16,000, courtesy of a loan from the electric company. He was so excited to tell me all about their "great" interest rate.

You know what a "great" interest rate is, Dad? ZERO.

That's what I should have said. Unfortunately I'm only quippy after twelve hours of thinking about it. I did tell him that the definition of "not being able to afford it" was that you couldn't pay cash for it. He said, "Oh, I see," in a condescending tone that told me if he'd been standing next to me he would have patted me on the head.

The stupidest part of the whole thing is that they probably won't hardly use the thing. They live in the Seattle area. No one there needs an air conditioner. They've lived in the same house for over 20 years, and they never needed an air conditioner before. What kind of logic suggests that they would need one now, and need it so badly that they had to get a $16,000 loan to get it? It defies the imagination.

That puts their debt up in the neighborhood of $50,000, not counting the stuff they've co-signed for me and my sisters or the mortgages on their house and rental property. They're just completely in love with debt. I so SO do not understand it, and I'm to the point now where I think they may never learn.

The thing that really grates on me about this is that I've been sending them money by the truckload lately, and they're just taking it and throwing it down the drain at payments for crap they don't need. I know I owe them the money - it was never really mine to begin with, and they can do what they want with it - but it frustrates me to no end to know that I'm sending thousands of dollars to people who are going to piss it away. The next thing I know they'll decide that they "need" new car smell in their life.

Good thing Battlestar Galactica is on tonight. I need something to distract me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Choosing Fight Over Flight

GLBL wrote a great post on reasons why people don't budget. Before my Financial Revolution last August, I was firmly in the "It's Too Complicated" camp.

For some unknown reason, I had created a mental block when it came to money. Just thinking about anything to do with money, whether it was budgeting or consolidating my student loans or doing my taxes, would bring over an intense fear. My fight or flight reflex kicked in and I automatically picked flight every time. I either ignored the situation or I called my mom and whined to her until she helped me or did it for me.

I'm still not sure what it was that turned me around. I can remember the how and when; I was reading about America's debt problem on MSN Money, and I went home that night, added up all of my debt, and decided to figure out how to turn it around. But I still can't figure out the why. What was it about that day that made me pick fight instead of flight?

Whatever the reason was, I'm infinitely glad I chose to fight. I'm over $111,000 in debt, but I feel like I have more money now than I've ever had before. Creating a budget was the best thing I ever did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Revolution Money Exchange Referral

I signed up for Revolution Money Exchange, so I'm posting a referral link here if anyone is interested in signing up.

If you haven't heard of it, it's basically Paypal without the fees. They're running a promotion right now where if you sign up through a referral you get $25 and the referrer gets $10. The offer was supposed to end today, but the site now says that it ends May 15th, so apparently they extended it. The money isn't tied to the account for any period of time, so you could even sign up just to get the $25, transfer it to your bank, and then close the account.

Here's the link if you're interested:
Revolution Money Exchange Referral Link

Allocating My Economic Stimulus Check

Paid Twice's post about the economic stimulus check reminded me that I should post about what I plan to do with mine.

I've seen lots of articles about how you should spend it to stimulate the economy or how putting it on debt and/or saving it actually does stimulate the economy. Truthfully, I have no idea what to make of all of it, and I really couldn't care. I think the whole idea of the stimulus package is pretty stupid. It's just a political move in the big game that is the election.

That said, I'll gladly take any money that comes my way, and I'll definitely be putting every penny of this check toward debt. I have goals and a plan, and it doesn't matter where the money comes from or what it's "supposed" to be for. Any money that comes into my budget goes straight out to achieve those goals.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April Budget Challenge Update

I've mentioned before that I'm participating in Give Me Back My Five Bucks' April Budget Challenge, and so far, I'm doing really well. My goal was to stick to $20 for blow money.

So far I've only spent $1.08 for a Redbox rental a couple weeks ago. I went to get a movie and none of the codes I had worked, so I paid for the rental. I should have walked out without the movie cause it really wasn't that important to rent a movie right then and there, but it was only a dollar, so it was an inexpensive lesson learned.

We're halfway through the month, so if I can keep this up, I'll have some money left over to add to next month's blow money. With almost $40 I could buy a TV on DVD set or some comic books I've been missing out on. I'd probably buy Prison Break Season Two or a few issues of Buffy Season Eight. Hmm... choices, choices.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why 33 Cents?

Yesterday my mom called and asked me why I'd sent her $419.33. I wondered how she could possibly forget that I owed her almost $10,000 and was paying it back, but I answered that it was her payment for the month. She said, yes, but why 33 cents?

Apparently she still hasn't grasped the concept of "every penny counts". I've told her how I'm snowflaking everything I save/earn and giving it to her at the end of the month, but apparently she didn't think I really meant everything. Like, to the penny.

Overall though, she's been doing better at paying attention to finances and paying off debt. She started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, and I think hearing it from him rather than me has helped a lot. She's called me a couple of times to ask a "what would Dave do" question and tell me she's going to revisit her bills and she if they're paying for things they don't use, so I know she's thinking more about finances and taking steps in the right direction. She didn't jump in wholeheartedly from the beginning like I did, but everyone's different, and she's picking things up slowly but surely. Hopefully one day she'll call me with a question or comment about paying cash for a car.

*Sigh* Mothers are so hard to train.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm excited about Redbox, Yogurt, and Half and Half

I'm officially in love with Redbox. Or Redbox codes, to be more specific.

After discovering Inside Redbox last Monday, I've been renting movies for free for a week. I'm in heaven. I've even thought about canceling my Netflix subscription, although I probably won't because of the depth and variety of choices Netflix has over Redbox.

The most convenient location is in an Albertsons on my way home from work, so I've been stopping there on my way to or from work almost every day. It only costs me a negligible amount of extra gas to do so, and I've also discovered that the yogurt and half and half I'd been buying at Stater Bros is a little cheaper at Albertsons, so some of the trips are killing two birds. It's just all around great for me! :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

March Net Worth: -$97, 122

Yay! It's April! I always like the beginning of the month because I get to see the effects of all my budgeting, frugality, and delayed gratification.

I got a nice surprise this month when I got a bonus check from work. It was $625, so it was a nice chunk of change to add to my income. I put $400 into my emergency savings to help prepare for the upcoming move, and the rest got added to my snowball and sent to my parents.

The final net worth number for this month is -$97,122. Details can be found here.