Oct 19

Time, Money & Convenience


Time seems to fly these days even more than in the past. Between work, household duties and errands there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the age old time vs. money debate. Does it make sense to pay for convenience?  

Prepared food- Pre-cut veggies, pay by the pound salad bars, heat and serve meals etc. I used to be a prepared food hater. I was too cheap to buy these convenience foods and thought that people who did were lazy. We have a decent set of knives and I’ll gladly cut up veggies to save the difference in price.  Fast forward to today, and I’m actually a big fan of heat and eat meals and pre-prepped foods. Fresh Direct had a really good selection and it saves me from blowing my budget on take-out and/or eating processed crap.

Take out food- Sometimes I forget to bring my lunch to work. When this happens my standby is usually Subway. I buy a 12 inch sub and save the second half for lunch the next day. I save on delivery fees and tips by ordering online or via phone and picking up the meal myself. Added bonus-I get out of the office and get a little fresh air and exercise.

Valet Parking- Nope, not for me. If I have to pay extra to park the car then I’ll park and walk. If there’s a nearby parking lot for free I’ll park a few blocks away and walk instead of parking in the garage under the store or restaurant. If I can get there via public transportation, even better.

Cabs- Sure it gets you there faster and sometimes it’s so much nicer than walking in the snow/rain, but I’m usually too frugal for that. I try to plan in advance how long it will take me to get places so that I can take the subway and don’t have to splurge on last minute cabs.

Personal Assistant- Yes, it would be nice to have someone to run errands for me. At this point in my life I probably have more time than money, so I’m willing to go to drop off the dry cleaning, wait in line at the post office, and wait on hold when calling customer service. If I had kids or other responsibilities a personal assistant is something I’d think more carefully about.

Cleaning help- The bf and I have talked about hiring someone to clean our condo a few times a month. So far this hasn’t happened, but we’re seriously considering it when we finally have kids. I’m a little neurotic about the way things are done, but I’d happily pay someone to help out with our household cleaning and free up a little more time on the weekends if/when we have little ones.

Everyone has price they’re willing to pay for convenience. What are the things you’re willing to pay extra for?


Oct 17

Pets Are Pricey

Many US households have a pet, and if you’re a pet lover you probably have more than one. The bf and I have three. A Shih Tzu and two Persian cats (click the link to see their furry faces). All of them are rescues and each of them gives us so much love and joy. But how much do they cost us?

Grooming-Having long-haired animals isn’t cheap. Because the bf is allergic to cats we get them groomed at least 3 times a year (lion cut for anyone who’s familiar with cat grooming). We also have our dog groomed every 4 months or so. Each grooming is about $75.00 plus tip. Sometimes there are grooming coupons for the big chain stores. We also get a 25% discount after 5 grooms with the cat’s groomer.
Food- We feed our pup Innova wet food ($2.25 a can) and Avoderm dry food (a 3.5 lb bag retails for about $11.99). The cats eat Authority dry food (a 4lb bag retails for $7.99). PetSmart often issues coupons for $3.00 and sometimes even $5.00 off their authority brand. Combine that with a sale ($5.99 is the sale price) and we stock up on 4lb bags of cat food for only $0.99. I recently got so many bags that we won’t be able to finish them all before they expire. I was able to donate 10 bags to my local shelter, yay!

Treats- Expensive treats have gotten really out of hand in my opinion. The other day I saw a $27.00 bag of organic dehydrated chicken breast bites-wow! But don’t worry, our pets don’t go without. Both the dog and the cats get Greenies. They aren’t outrageously expensive and there are often coupons for them. Just recently the company put out a $2.00 coupon, so I was able to get bags of Greenies for the cats for about $0.40!

Vet Visits- Walking through the door will cost you at least $100. Routine wellness visits, vaccinations and spaying/neutering add up quickly. Check with your town/city to see if there are any discounts given by the city for rabies vaccinations. Once a year our city offers free rabies vaccines to all registered dogs.

Clothing- Ok, not everybody buys their pets clothing, and to be honest I never thought I’d be one of “those” people. But after the dog is groomed he’s freezing without a jacket. Literally he shakes and pouts and whines if we take him out without a coat in the winter. Dog coats aren’t cheap, especially if you buy them at the fancy pet boutiques. I’ve found that Lands End makes really nice quality fleece coats for $24.50. They are machine washable and dryable and hold up really well. We’ve had his fleece coat for 3 winters now and it’s still looking good and fitting well.

Pet Sitting- We don’t have a lot of need for a pet sitter because we take the dog everywhere we go. I’m so neurotic I’ve actually canceled paid for trips because I felt so bad leaving the dog. But I’ve recently found a couple of people I trust to watch the pets. Dog walking in our area is $15 per walk, and cat sitting is $15 per visit. So far we haven’t taken a trip without the dog, but if we did it would probably cost us $60-75 per day. Instead, we plan to have a friend watch him for us. She’s so good with our pets and has graciously offered to watch them for free.

Bottom line…pets are expensive, but if you’re frugal and a good deal hunter you can cut your costs pretty significantly. We buy our pet food and treats only when they are on sale and always use coupons. I watch the deal sites, and also regularly check out the blog My Pet Savings. We try to keep up with grooming as much as we can at home so we can extend the time in between grooms and as I mentioned in the last paragraph, we enlist our friends to watch our pets to save on pet sitting costs.

Do you have pets? What are your favorite tricks for saving on pet supplies and services?

Oct 14

Does College Major=Money?

As I get older (cringe), I’m beginning to better understand the importance of picking the “right” college major. Whenever I get the chance to talk to aspiring college students (nephews, interns, friends and whoever else will listen) I try to encourage them to think about how their interests translate into a college major… and ultimately a career path.

I’m not trying to be a dream smasher, if you have your heart set on majoring in basket weaving that’s cool, but will it keep food on the table? Getting a degree in Classics or Latin? Nice, but what the heck are you going to do with it when you graduate? Unless you’re independently wealthy and don’t need to work, you should think about how your college degree translates into dollars. I know, because I did the complete opposite!

When I signed up for classes the summer before my freshman year of college, the registrar asked me for my major. I told her, “pre-law”. She said that my university didn’t have a pre-law major (oh no my hopes of being an attorney are dashed), but most students who go to law school major in Political Science.  So, “poof” with no prior thought or research… I declared myself a Political Science major.

Fast forward to 4 years and one month later. I had a BA in Political Science from a decent university, but no real “skills” or professional work experience. My degree didn’t translate well into a professional job (believe it or not nobody was knocking down my door to solicit my knowledge of US government) and law school was no longer something I was interested in. I had $20,000 in student loan debt for a degree that couldn’t even get me a job. I was scared, broke, and angry at myself for not having the foresight to realize this might be a problem.

After several months of job hunting, I stumbled into a temp agency that was willing to, “take a chance” on me. Fortunately, they hired me to work in the billing department of a large hospital. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying  there’s no value in getting a degree in Political Science, or Latin or basket weaving for that matter. I’m interested in politics and I learned a lot through my coursework, but if I had it all to do again I would taken more time and care in deciding what my major was going to be.

After a couple of years of working, I finally figured what I wanted to do with my life, enrolled in graduate school and went another $10,000 into student debt. Fortunately, I didn’t need to have a specific undergraduate degree to enroll in my graduate program. But if I’d been more sure about what career I was interested in before attending college I could have saved myself a lot of time and money. Live and learn, right?

Did you choose the right major/degree. Would you do it the same if you had to do it over again?

Image: David M. Goehring via flickr.com

Oct 09


Hello and Welcome to Student Debt Survivor!

I’m KK, and I’m glad to have you here. Student Debt Survivor is the place where I plan to “talk” about my debt free journey, frugal living, the ups and downs of making and sticking to a budget, personal finance, and everything in between.

I’m just a “normal” twenty-something who survived student debt and I’m excited to meet like-minded folks who have done (or are in the process) of doing the same thing. Stick around a little and see what it’s all about.