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When is it OK to "Spend your way out?"

In the midst of an ongoing economic recession, you’ll often hear that the government has the ability to try and spend its way out of a crisis. The idea is that the government spends more than it has on hand in order to keep the economy going temporarily, a shot in the arm of money, as it were. From a personal perspective, you don’t have access to the cheap interest rates or deep pockets that say, the U.S. government has, and so spending your way out of a problem is usually the wrong way to go about finding a solution. Yet in my case, when I lay out all of the goals I want to accomplish, one thing becomes abundantly clear.

I’ll need to make more money.

This sentiment is often scoffed at in Personal Finance enthusiast circles. You don’t need to earn more, you need to spend less. You don’t want to inflate your lifestyle, you want to slim it down to the point that you are living below your means. But what if your goals come with a price tag? Travel, for example, has been a dreamy ideal of mine for some time. I want to get out on the road and see if my generally introverted, reserved self has what it takes to hack it. I want to challenge myself to meet new people, see new things, get out of my comfort zone, and ultimately come out with a fulfilling experience on the other side. The issue here, unfortunately, is that I also like having my modest home in a just-far-enough suburb of Philadelphia. I like having a home base to come back to. I’ve finagled my way into a mobile job that pays the bills and then some, but if I want to pay my mortgage and see the world, I’m going to have to up the Ante.

Plan of Attack

My journey into learning about investing and saving really took off when I found the idea of compartmentalizing. People often joke that they’re excited to get a paycheck, only to see it flitted off to various bills and accounts, leaving little left over. I, however, loved the whole process. As long as what’s coming in is more than enough to cover my own ideas and savings, I viewed my accounts like a book shelf. Some went into my cost of living, another portion made its way into the emergency fund, while a smaller amount got transferred into spending or travel, a new gadget, etc. Everything was accounted for, but when you start expanding out and building new shelves, the money quickly gets thinned out.

Spending my way out

I am, in a way then, spending my way out. I want to be able to travel on a more long term basis while keeping my home here to come back to. This means that I’ll need to keep buffering the emergency fund, shove some more money into travel fund, and keep extra around for the usual maintenance and repairs, not to mention our one car. Adding additional streams of income when your necessities are already covered opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. You can save more, you can buy more, you can do more. Money may not buy happiness, but it does provide a level of opportunity. What will you use it for?

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Sites for Traveling on the Cheap

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Considering the ever widening net of travel blogs I find myself reading on a regular basis, it seems that travel as a whole has really gained in popularity in recent years. When you decide to really focus on what makes you happy, often times you come to the conclusion that experiences are more important to you than stuff. How are you going to gain said experiences, though? Travel is a common answer, but it also comes with a price.

Still, there are ways you can get around and see the world without breaking your bank, and just about anyone can work smaller trips into their budgets. Starting small is key, as traveling can be an overwhelming experience, particularly so if you want to go to more exotic locales abroad where you’ll need a proper visa, exploration skills, and an ability to communicate even if you aren’t familiar with the local language and the person you’re conversing with isn’t familiar with English (or your own native tongue). Here are some sites to help you dip your toe in the water to travel on the cheap:

Groupon Getaways: I find myself searching for these everyday, even if I’m not planning a trip out somewhere. The discounts are steep, usually in the realm of 40-60%, and there’s a handful of places to choose from. Always be sure to read up on the place you’ll be staying, of course, as a dumpy hotel in a poor location won’t be worth the discount, I assure you.

Living Social Adventures: San Jose showed up by default, but you can choose any city you like for some local fun. I like the idea behind the “Adventures” section because they are often day trips and done by groups, so if you’re looking to try out a new activity with a bunch of like minded individuals, here’s your shot. From paintball to winetasting to tubing in the Winter, there’s no shortage of ideas to keep you busy.

Jetsetter: If you have a mind for luxury, Jetsetter can be a great bet for fancier hotels and locations. The discounts aren’t as steep (20-30%), but at the price point for many of these hotels it’ll be a worthwhile discount nonetheless. If you want to take your significant other on a really nice getaway, this can be a great option, but don’t expect to get much of it if you’re running into a really right budget.

What about you, my few readers? Have you found any other resources that have helped you organize your travel plans while saving your wallet from a pummeling? What locations do you prefer to travel to?


Going Back to Investing

When I first entered the 9-5 workforce right out of college, my sole goal in life was to put my nose to the grindstone, save up as much money as humanly possible, and hit retirement at breakneck speed. As my time in the office began to drag on, however, I quickly began to realize that maybe I didn”t want to work in a cubicle for 30 years.  My journey to being self employed and working for myself has not come without cost, however. Presently, I”m able to save less, and even as I struggle to get back to my previous salary points, I hope to get back to investing regularly again.

The issue with investing outside of your normal retirement accounts is that it often takes time and patience when money always seems to be needed elsewhere. Why would you want to invest in a company that will throw you a few bucks in dividends each quarter when you need to fix the roof, call the electrician, pay your taxes, etc etc. If you really want to build up an additional source of income via investments, you better be ready to lock in for the long haul.

Still, I think that building up a nest egg of dividend income is an admirable goal, and as my income rises I”m hoping to allocate at least some resources back to it. As I do so, I”ll be sure to share my quarterly (That”s the plan) investments, and why I chose them.  Stay tuned.

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Using Groupon to Cut Social Outing Costs

In the world of Personal Finance, there are a few themes that the average person associates with keeping tracking of where your money goes and living below your means. One of those themes is sacrifice, the idea that you will want to buy X or do Y but you simply can’t because that would put you back into the red for the month. Still, no matter how closely you manage your money, you will still want to actually go out and have fun once in awhile. Much like even if you’re on a diet, you will still have the occasional ice cream cone or piece of cake.

The important thing to note is that it isn’t something to be ashamed of. Sure, that $30 you just spent at the bar could have been used to pad your emergency fund or help pay off an outstanding debt, but as long as you had fun and budgeted for the expense, there’s no reason you can’t go out and have a good time now and again. With the advent of online coupon services like Groupon, this can be made all the cheaper.

Groupon recently introduced their “Now!” deals, which are coupons to local eateries and activities that must be used within a day of their purchase. It plays well to the compulsive side of our nature, but it can also give you a nice meal out on the cheap. You can check out Groupon Now deals here. The site will load up places in your local area, and usually the  meal will be half off or more. This means that you can sit down with your significant other for a decent meal at $10 or $20 without breaking the bank. I’ve tried this successfully once so far, and I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for interesting places that pop up in the future, as well.

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Contest Time Idea: Help Me!

Ever since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed a good contest. The concept behind throwing up a hail mary pass for a shot at something that would be out of reach under other normal circumstances has always held an appeal to me.  In some cases, like the lottery or ., you’re paying for the chance to win, and it is easy to see why that’s simply not a good idea. What I’m referring to is a lot less life changing and a lot more fun. I still call in every year during Christmas time to a local radio station, for example, for a shot at a trip to the Caribbean or a new TV. I haven’t won yet, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the thrill of trying.

Instead, what I’d like to do is start hosting some mini-contests to help toss in some additional fun to my weekly routine, including here on the blog! If so, what would you like to win? Note it would probably be a monthly contest with a small prize, like a book or something. If you wanted a tool to help you with your Personal Finances, what would it be? The latest and greatest iteration of  “Spend less than you earn” in book form? A gift certificate to a movie? I’m open to suggestions!