Dec 23

If at first you don’t succeed, Frye, Frye again!

frye Almost everyone has heard of re-gifting, and probably many of us have received a, “re-gifted” gift (I know I have). But have you ever, “me gifted?” You know, the act of buying yourself a gift during the holiday season.

Here’s how I “justify”, me gifting ;-)

I’m pretty conservative with my clothing budget for most of the year. By the time Christmas rolls around, I usually have a good idea of the, “basics” that I need and want. So when good quality, classic pieces go on sale I buy myself a few.

I’m certainly no fashion maven, but I do have an appreciation (and love) for long lasting, high quality fashion pieces. The, “classics” so to speak, are less trendy, better made and more stylish over time. When I buy a good quality piece of clothing, or shoe, I can wear it for many seasons (and hopefully many years).

A few weeks ago Eric and I went out to dinner and I wore a pair of boat shoes. Don’t ask me what I was thinking (I clearly wasn’t), because my feet were freezing. When I complained about how cold my feet were, Eric basically told me I was nuts to wear boot shoes with no socks in December and asked why I didn’t just wear riding boots like, “all the other girls?”

“Why? because I don’t have any!” Fortunately, I’ve since solved that, “problem!”
That night found a pair of cute Lucky boots at Macy’s (above). After sales and additional discounts I paid $125. Yes, that’s a lot of money for a pair of boots, but they looked well constructed and had good reviews so I bought them. When they arrived they were cute, but weren’t nearly the quality I was hoping for. They probably would have last a winter or two, but I wasn’t super excited about them (and for $125 I wanted to be at least a little excited).

So I did a little more research about good quality boots and came across the Frye website. That’s where I fell in love (dramatic, right?) with a pair of Frye “Melissa button boots”. They were not only adorable, but well-made and seemingly comfortable (that’s what the reviews said).

The only problem? They were $348! Gulp! $348 for a pair of boots? I think not.

I love a high quality pair of shoes as much as the next gal, but I can’t justify spending $350 on a pair of shoes right now (even if they are adorable). So I checked eBay and the department stores and decided to wait it out to see if I could get a better deal.

Long story short, I bought two pair from Macy’s when they went on sale for $250 (one size 8 and one size 7.5, because I wasn’t sure which would fit better). Then I saw them go on sale at Nordstrom for $200. So I bought two  additional pairs and returned the first set to Macy’s. Then… I found them on sale on Amazon with an additional promo code for $158!! So I bought two more pair and called it quits.

My FedEx guy must have thought I was running an impromptu shoe store out of my apartment. By the time it was all over I’d purchased 9 pair of boots (I ended up purchasing an additional two pair on Amazon to sell on eBay).

I kept 3 pair and paid $246 out of pocket (total cost of the boots, minus the money I made selling the other 2 pair on eBay). Not too shabby for 3 pair of Frye boots (one black, one brown and one black bootie-the exact boots I wrote about wanting in this post over a year ago!) that retail for over $300 a pair and will last me (hopefully) a lifetime.

Did you do any, “me gifting” this year?

treeMerry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day and a Joyous Festivus from my family to yours!



Dec 22

5 Ways to Get Better Car Insurance

Having auto insurance is the law. But what if your budget is a little too tight for your usual coverage? Or what if you’re looking to switch brands for a better deal? Here are just five ways to find a nicer and more affordable policy.

1. Compare and Contrast

Many people stick, “car insurance” into a search engine and pick from among the first results they see. This is, of course, a terrible way of making a decision. You need to be willing to put time and effort into your search for the perfect policy, and if that means going to page six of Google, so be it.

2. Ask About Deals Directly

In a study from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, less than 30 percent of auto insurers willingly offered information on deals and discounts that could save their customers money. The customers had to bring up the subject themselves. Don’t be afraid to look your insurer right in the eye and say, “That’s too expensive for me. Is there anything you can do?”

3. Know Your Insurance Types

In most states, only liability coverage is required by law. Things like, “uninsured motorist insurance” are optional add-ons that insurance companies try to sneak into their service packages. If you already have auto insurance, pull out your policy and examine the details. Are you paying for extra or comprehensive coverage when just the basics would do?

4. Upgrade Your Car’s Safety Features

Auto insurance quotes tend to go down when the quality of your vehicular security goes up. Things like car alarms and wheel-locking mechanisms will tell the insurance company that you take safety seriously, and as a result, your car is less likely to get stolen and cost them. It’s a win-win for both of you.

5. Become A Better Driver

When’s the last time you took a driver’s ed course? Because they’ve been known to knock a few dollars off monthly premiums. In the same vein as the above, insurance companies are willing to reward you for being a safe, conscientious driver, so think about going back to school to save yourself hundreds per year.

If you’re serious about reducing your monthly expenses, these five tips will help you lower your auto insurance costs into something manageable. You may not have a choice about obtaining coverage, but you can decide who will protect you and for how much.

This post was contributed by Mike Jordache

Dec 06

How Do Consolidation Loans Hurt Your Credit

If you are trying to get out of debt, a consolidation loan appears to be a good option. Your term, interest rate, and what you do afterwards will determine if this loan will positively or negatively impact your credit.

Applying is a Hard-Inquiry Check

Since a consolidation loan is a personal loan or merging your loans into a new credit card, there will be a hard inquiry check. Your score will decrease by a few points and remain on your report for two years. This however would not be enough to warrant not applying if you do need this loan.

Your Credit Rating Could Decrease Due to Your Credit Worthiness

A credit report consists of a credit score and a credit rating. If you apply for credit elsewhere, the underwriter will take a look at your credit rating. Your credit rating includes your job stability, current income, and how you use your available credit lines.  If an underwriter believes that you can increase your debt because you now have no balances on your credit cards, this could make your rating decrease.

High Interest Rates

Consolidation loans are meant to help people get out of a financial bind. If your credit is not above average, you could have a hard time obtaining an average interest rate loan. Some lenders prey on that and offer you a high-interest rate when compared to others. A higher rate means a higher payment and longer terms to pay your loan off. Some online installment loan lenders may provide a loan but you may end up paying more in the fees.

Missing a Payment

If you are not careful, you could get a consolidation loan with a higher payment than you were paying for all your split debts. Late payments or missing payments make a huge impact on your score, causing negative effects that will stay on your report for a while. For this reason, be cautious when signing up for consolidation loans. Ensure you know the interest rate, monthly payments, and if your payments will increase should you miss one.

Closing Your Accounts

After receiving a loan consolidation, you may feel relieved to be rid of your credit cards. You may not trust yourself with your open accounts. Closing your accounts will negatively impact your credit score. The longer your account stays open you’ll show a long credit history. You’ll also decrease your available credit, which will appear as though you’ve maxed out your credit limit. You’ll be a high-risk consumer at that time.

This post was contributed by Kayla McDonahue

Dec 01

I Bought Thanksgiving Dinner & I Overpaid

ThanksgivingI generally consider myself a pretty money savvy gal. I hate to pay full price for things and it literally makes me cringe to think when I find out that I could have bought something for less. 95% of the time I use coupons at the grocery and drug stores and I peruse slickdeals and the savings blogs (to make sure I’m getting the best deal) before I make a purchase. I’m not shy to barter or ask for a discount and I always shop through one of the cash back sites like ebates or shopathome when I’m making an online purchase.

But sometimes (probably about 5% of the time) convenience overrides frugality.

And this Thursday was a prime example of that! So here goes (brace yourself), This thanksgiving my family had a beautiful meal from…Boston Market. Yup, that’s right, I purchased $100 worth of Thanksgiving heat and serve, “fast food” from Boston Market and warmed it up in the microwave (yes I’m laughing to myself as I type that). After a long couple of weeks, I was too stressed and too tired to fool with Thanksgiving cooking.

Long story, short, Tuesday night in a fit of panic I almost had a meltdown because I couldn’t get our stove, “streak free”. Normally, I’m pretty relaxed, and don’t care much about a streaky stove, but Tuesday night all of the stress from the previous weeks seemed to culminate in a massive freak out (ask poor Eric, I almost cried at 1am as I googled “natural cleaning recipes to clean a black stove”).

I’ve been pretty quiet for the past couple of weeks because our kitty Liam took a dramatic turn for the worse and we ended up having to put him to sleep (RIP my little love). Since then I haven’t really felt like blogging, or cleaning or cooking. So the thought of my family coming into town to our dirty house, followed by a day of massive cooking and cleaning, pretty much pushed my to my breaking point.

Sadly, I had most of the food I needed to make the Thanksgiving meal, including a frozen turkey breast. Thanks to my, “mad couponing skillz” I probably could have bought the rest of the ingredients to make the whole meal for $20 or less. But the thought of spending all day cooking was too much.

Thanks to the wonder of the Internets, I ordered a turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy and the whole shebang then went to bed (streaky stove and all).

When I picked up my parents at LaGuardia the next morning, I told them they were in for a, “real treat” because they wouldn’t have to eat my cooking. Instead, I’d ordered a delicious, “catered meal” (wink). Neither of them had eaten Boston Market before (they live in rural Maine) and both agreed the meal was delicious.

thankful-thanksgiving-food-family-eating-diet-funny-ecard-iKFSo thank you to Boston Market for helping me retain my sanity and thank you to Eric and my parents for understanding that it’s not what you eat, but who you’re with on Thanksgiving that matters!

Have you ever bought Thanksgiving, instead of making it (even if it was more expensive)?

Full disclosure: I don’t really like to cook and this isn’t the first time I’ve avoided cooking on Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago Eric and I went to our favorite Indian restaurant on Thanksgiving (Yes, I’m very thankful for a partner in crime who doesn’t really like turkey, and doesn’t care that I’m not a great cook ;-))

Nov 15

Why the Self-Investment of Higher Education is Worth It

Education costs continue to rise and many college graduates are working lousy jobs with no relation to their field of study. For a time, I was counted among their number, but I’ve begun to see the subtle benefits of having a college education, even if it’s not paying off big time right now. Thanks to my private student loans I have an education that’s helping me build a better future for myself. These are the three biggest factors I am personally thankful for with regard to my time at school.

  • Growing Up. I fear that if I had never gone to school, left my small town home, and learned how to fend for myself, I would be a lot less happy with my present life. Without the social stimulation at my school, I wouldn’t have been exposed to a lot of the thoughts that went on to make me who I am. My social group would be homogeneous and severely limited. I would have never had the experiences you can only have away from the people you grew up with. This is not all about partying and philosophy; it’s about experiencing the essence of life. Even if your major doesn’t translate into an awesome career right away, simply being able to expand your horizons is worth (moderate) student loans.
  • College Grads Make More Overall. The college graduates mentioned above haven’t lived long enough to experience this for themselves, but it’s true. Excellent statistics gleaned by the Hamilton Project illustrate just how much more a college grad makes, on average, than a high school grad, over their career lifetimes. Young graduates can’t appreciate this (unless they look it up and think about it); a university trained worker doesn’t experience peak salary until some 26 years into his or her career. The lifetime pay of one of these workers is more than double their high school educated counterparts. And it’s not just about the money you make directly from your profession. It’s about what you’re then able to do with that money. The college graduate stands to make so much more in investments and business earnings than someone who doesn’t have the extra money to throw around. Once you’ve paid down your student loans, your options really look not that bad after all.
  • It Opens Other Doors. Employers hire people, not majors. This is true. And of course a hard-working and inspired person will make themselves marketable, no matter the limits of their own educational background. But it’s harder to get over that hump. Simply having a college degree can get you a seat at the table in many application scenarios and other specifically social employment opportunities. On the one hand, I kind of hate this. It’s a cultural differentiator that benefits some on imaginary merits. But it’s the world we live in. This is the positive side of student loans. They put education and its many social benefits within the reach of those who could not otherwise afford it.

You’ll continue to hear lots of complaining from the anti-college crowd, telling you you can make it on your own. College is a scam and a ripoff. I’m here to tell you, it’s only what you make it. Sure you may leave with debt, but if you pick the right major, have a good attitude, and focus on advancing yourself in whatever way works for you, you will be able to make more of your life, more easily, with a college degree (and some debt) than without one.

This infographic explains college financial aid letters. Read along to find out how much is offered and how much you’ll need in financial aid.

Financial Aid Award Letter Sample

**This post was a guest post written by Michael Miller

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