How Much Is Too Much Financial Sharing?

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Many people divulge more than they need to about their financial situations to their friends and family. There was a time when I was one of them. Similar to my last blog post about when to pull out of savings, this is a personal choice and you need to do what makes sense for you. If telling all to your best friend is your mutually agreed upon thing, then go for it. But I would hope being thoughtful about how much you say would be a priority. I’m not saying don’t share, I’m saying don’t be specific.

Rent

“How much do you pay in rent?” Have you ever been asked this? I have, a trillion times–and I’ve answered it far more than I care to admit. I’ve asked people too, but I put that practice to bed in recent years. Honestly, the person who poses this questions is almost always innocently asking; it’s not meant to offend–but I find it so nosey! What does it matter unless you are trying to move into my building? Do you just want to compare your rent to mine and feel good or bad depending on how we measure up against each other? I do not see the point. If you want an apartment in my neighborhood–go online and find one. You don’t need to know how much I pay to do that. I have experienced the negative side of divulging too much in having multiple friends dangle the cost of their place being cheaper than mine in front of me, without actually saying what they pay. I don’t think it’s malicious–but I do find it weird. I guess I should be proud of them for being vague, since that’s the point I’m trying to make. Vagueness is okay.

And don’t get me wrong, I am curious as hell about this sort of thing when I walk into a new place. But that’s what real estate apps and Craigslist are for! I look at houses for rent on CL regularly, so I already have an idea of the market in any given neighborhood around here. Same with real estate. Ask me anything about housing from LA to Eureka and I’ve got an answer. I’ve checked it all out. My point is, if curiosity is really your motive, there are other ways to satisfy that than putting your friend in the awkward position of having to answer this question. I’m guessing people don’t realize it is an uncomfortable thing to ask, and that is why I believe it’s innocent on their part. This then begs the question, how do you deny giving an answer? How does one politely say, “oh, we’re not sharing that information”. There’s no obvious way around this. You wouldn’t ask someone what their mortgage is would you? Or how much their house is worth? Why is it different for renters? It shouldn’t be.

Income

Let’s get something straight: I care about how much you make. I’m curious, I want to know, but I’ll never, ever ask. If you want to tell me, cool! But I will never, ever tell you. Not because I don’t trust you my beautiful friend, but because I see no reason anyone else needs to know. Aren’t you in essence giving power to the person you relay this to? If they are able to see how well you do, for example, aren’t they better able to judge your subsequent financial decisions? I know what you’re thinking. “Anne is my best friend and would never judge me like that”. You’re wrong. We’re human. If she knows you make $300,000 a year and don’t tithe to your church, she’s judging you (and righteously I might add)! Similarly, if she knows you make $40,000 a year and buy a brand new car with all the upgrades, she’s going to question that. Why give anyone that kind of power over you? Better to let sleeping dogs lie and keep your cool when it comes to sharing this very important and private part of your life.

Savings

If you have one, good for you! If you don’t, apply this to your future self. Similar to your income, sharing this information means putting all your cards on the table. And for what? So people know you have enough saved to pay for your kid’s college? That you are rich? The reverse is also true. In my pre-frugal days, I once had a friend ask me if I had anything saved and I said “no” and she was shocked. It kicked me when I was down and only made me more anxious about my financial situation. You don’t need people knowing if you do or don’t have any money. I know how hard it is to practice this train of thought, but you have nothing to prove.

Debt

This is the one exception I can think of at the moment, however I would say to tread carefully. Debt is a crisis in this country. It is a problem that needs fixing and any advice or help one can get should be taken. If that requires you to divulge what your situation is in terms of a financial collapse, you have my support. I think any sharing with the hope of fixing your situation is good sharing. When I had debt, I told people about it–but it was more complaining. That is not good or productive sharing. When I paid it off, I proudly told people and a few asked how much it had been. I told them and obviously, I did the same here on this blog–but again, the motive matters and this is truly to encourage.

I do not have it all together. I write about money because I love managing it and finding creative ways to make it work for me. But we still struggle, we still overspend and we have to take out of our emergency fund when the going gets tough. I will tell anyone what I spent on a dress or a piece of furniture, because I almost always assume the motive is they want something similar. And those aren’t really “mine to hide”, since if you know I got it at Nordstrom, you can find the price yourself. But I am trying my best to be more tight-lipped when it comes to other areas of finance because I have only seen it as damaging in the past. So there you have it– a few of my standards for social finance. What are your personal boundaries for what is okay to divulge and what isn’t?

 

Financial Regrets: Leasing a Car

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Leasing a car is the most expensive way to operate a vehicle. This is a lesson I learned as I was transitioning into my frugal phase in 2010, ignored it and leased a car anyway. Great start to a lifestyle change: ignore the advice of said lifestyle experts. One of my sisters even said to me, “did you see that chapter in Dave Ramsey’s book about this?” At the time, I had a pit in my stomach about it, which I ignored in favor of a quick fix. Any experienced finance professional will tell you that buying a used, reliable car and “driving it into the ground” is the route to go. My previous car was the first one I ever owned (also a lease to begin with) and I had it for ten years. After a series of irreparable breakdowns, I looked into leasing a Kia because I had no money for a new car. But I know you dear reader, are smarter than that and have funds set aside for just this type of dilemma. Within a week, I had a new car and shiny monthly payments to go with it. Boy was she cute: stick shift, bright red, sporty. It didn’t matter that I was throwing my money at a car I didn’t own and never would. I had a way to get around! And it never broke down! Free oil changes for a year? Sign me up, scammers!

Believe it or not, this is not the reason I regret my lease. You don’t need another person explaining to you why this is a bad financial decision; if you do, google it and you will see hundreds of articles on the topic. I regret leasing my vehicle because of the specific situation I went through in order to give it back.

When your lease is up, you have two choices: return the car or buy it. On my contract, I had to pay $400 just to do the former and then any additional amount they wanted to make up because of wear and tear. The car was in good shape, but there were some scrapes on the exterior from years of curb parking in the city. I looked up the Kelley Blue Book value of my car at the time and it was $3,000 more than the amount I owed on the car if I were to buy it. This is rare and I saw an opportunity to make some money. If I bought my car at the end of the lease, I would avoid the $400+ in return costs and could then resell it for more than I would be paying. In other words, I could potentially make a fast $3,000 if it all went my way. Seems pretty clever right? Plus, California has a law that if you resell a vehicle you purchased within ten days of the title signing, you are exempt from paying tax on it. Even more money saved! This was the goal… and I failed. Miserably.

I bought my car through the parent company via check for the full amount, as opposed to the Kia dealership. By doing so, at the recommendation of the company, I was able to avoid the tax and registration costs, knowing I would not own the car in a few short weeks. But the problem here was the title was processed about a week before it was in my hands for signing, because it came from out of state. The date on the title is considered the start of the ticking bomb for the “sell your car in ten days” game, despite assurance from the DMV that I could fill out a Statement of Facts explaining I did not receive the title until a week later and be in the clear. So really, when I received the papers in the mail, I actually had about three days to sell the car, unbeknownst to me. Instead I took exactly ten, making nothing near what I was going for (actually losing money). An absolute fail. I should take a moment here to note the importance of a clear head when trying to coordinate a transaction worth thousands of dollars. I was on a film set, standing on the curb outside, talking with the DMV lady to get information about the process and scratching notes on the back of a call sheet. This is already a problem. One ear was waiting to be called back inside, the other trying to make out what the person was saying over noisy traffic. My husband had flown across the country for a family emergency and received tragic news that weekend which was completely distracting me. I was emotional, he was not present as a sounding board and my head was totally muddled as a result. Not a great combination when the stakes are high.

I had posted the car on Craigslist to sell that week. No dice. I found a company that comes to your house and appraises the car, giving you money on the spot. Their offer was insulting. I went to Carmax and they turned me away because I had no registration. I called a company I had previously sold a car with, they gave me a quote over the phone. Still too low. I did my research and found another great place to sell the car, hoping to make back the money I spent and then some. Their reviews were solid, they were known for paying higher than other places and they had a reputation for honesty. Another personal life mistake: I waited until the very last second to do this. It was “day ten” in my brain, so it had to happen then (when in reality, I was past the due date and could have waited as long as I wanted because I was going to have to pay tax no matter what). Previously stated emotional tragedy in our personal life was pending and required my husband and me to fly out of town again that very day. I had a flight within hours of trying to sell the car and my bags were in the trunk. I’m sure I looked shady as hell; “here, take the keys, I got a flight to catch”. I left the reputable car buyer place in tears after learning that according to their vehicle analyzer, my Kia had been in an accident prior to my leasing it, greatly decreasing the value. The dealer knew this and leased me a “brand new car” anyway. I was a hot, crying mess. The man showed me all the subtle evidence of this. He opened the trunk and pointed out how the paint color on the inside did not match the factory paint. He explained how having seams in certain places is an indication that parts had been replaced from rear-end damage. He also shared with me what he would have paid if these defects didn’t exist, which stung a little. I was fuming; shocked. I didn’t want to miss my flight and had to be across town. Crying in front of stoic mechanics was crazy awkward. Needless to say, they wouldn’t purchase the car and instructed me to go back and sell it to the scammy dealer that I got it from in the first place. He said if they tried to low ball me, to demand an explanation, because unless they were willing to admit the stuff they had covered up, they should be giving me a fair price.

Here is mistake #2,045: I went into the Kia dealership with 30 minutes to spare and puffy eyes. I’m sure my luggage didn’t help either. They were already winning before I set foot in the door. I had no time to negotiate and they had the upper hand knowing I was rushed. In the end, the accident was never brought up and they gave me enough for the car to where my loss was only about $1,000. With my ride to the airport waiting outside, this was not terrible–and very possibly equal to what it would have cost me had I returned it at the end of the lease. I felt okay about it, even with the loss. It was over, my hands were free, the car was gone forever.

Ah…but that sneaky sales tax. There had to be more, didn’t there? I went to the DMV to pay it. They were all, “huh?”. I left the DMV and called the State Board of Equalization, who were all, “huh?”. Apparently my situation is very rare, and most people do not take advantage of the “resell your car in ten days and don’t pay sales tax” loophole. This left very few professionals who knew how to deal with my case. Transferred call after transferred call led to my writing a lengthy letter, providing all the necessary documents, to the State Board of Equalization–the people who I was told handle the tax. They replied a month later saying I was denied the tax exemption because the date on the title was two weeks prior to the date I sold the car. Go figure, Statement of Craps. This meant, I owed even more money on a car that wasn’t even in my possession anymore. And they didn’t bother to tell me the amount I owed either, they thought it’d be cute if I could figure it out all by myself like a big girl. Did I mention during this period, we had no car? I took a bus to the DMV and got picked up by my sister. Things were going SWELL.

Being the idiot that I am, I read the denial letter, put it aside and thought, “I’ll pay this during tax season”…because that’s when you pay taxes, right? Apparently not sales tax. Little did I know, I was earning interest for every month I did not pay the tax. Finally, as the end of the year approached, I started thinking about the car again. I thought to myself, “Sara, you savvy economic genius you, why don’t you look a little more into that sales tax situation to see if you need to pay it in the same calendar year as the purchase?”. My research was inconclusive, so I thought I might as well pay it and be done with it, just to be safe. Look at me, two steps ahead of the game, thinking on my feet. So last December, I went into the DMV and paid a total instructed to me there (after much confusion and deliberation on part of the staff, mind you) in the absence of a total from the organization that should have provided one. Finally, I had wiped my hands clean of the situation. My debt was paid, people! Tax payer here, close my tab!

No such luck. In February, I received an outstanding balance notification from the State Board of Equalization, asking for the payment that I had already made through the DMV–upon their instruction. They had kindly included an actual dollar amount to pay this time. It’s really great that the DMV and BOE communicate so thoroughly. Rather than freak out and and start crying, I calmly wrote a bitchy letter in response. I explained every detail of what happened, provided all the necessary documentation AGAIN and wrote a check for the interest accrued. I scoff at your $78, BOE! It was over as far as I was concerned. The victory was mine.

You’ve heard this sad song before. It wasn’t over. Yesterday, as in the day before April Fools’ (if only it could have been today!!), I received another notice that I owe the tax and not one word acknowledging my previous communication. Are you joking, BOE? Get your act together, girl! Did you not see the lengths I went to be clever and condescending all in one carefully constructed letter? What about the photo copies I made of my DMV receipts? Or the precise math I did to calculate the actual interest I owed versus the amount you were trying to charge me? Not even a thank you? I should charge you interest for how long you are drawing this out.

Some of you may read this and think that this situation is so specific that it won’t deter you from leasing a vehicle. But may I remind you, that had I followed Dave Ramsey’s (and countless other financial experts) advice, this entire thing could have been avoided. Here are some lessons to take away from my unresolved car frustrations:

  • Do not trust a car dealer. Ever.
  • Do not lease a car
  • Do not pursue a rare loophole that no one in the field is familiar with and expect good results
  • Do not lease a car
  • Do not negotiate a high stakes transaction during an emotionally tumultuous time
  • Do not lease a car
  • Do not trust the DMV’s counsel without a second opinion
  • Do not lease a car
  • Do not attempt to sell a car in ten days
  • Do not lease a car

Even if you never find yourself in my situation, you should at least find five of these lessons useful. I don’t want to discourage those of you who do lease a car, as I have done it twice and survived. I just hope this causes you to think twice before acting. Do your research and know how much money is truly at stake before you sign the papers. It’s a lot more than the monthly statement reflects. I’ll let you know how my story ends when I do.

 

Getting Organized = $

Do you have a corner of your home that needs some TLC? Spring started last week and because our society professes it the best time of the year to clean, ’tis the season for household projects! Unless you’re like me and gave your closet a makeover in January. Our spare bedroom is primarily an office and stores many a DVD and blu-ray. And that’s just what’s in the actual room! The spare closet used to be filled with VHS tapes, comic books, CDs, two bookshelves, two plastic stacking drawers, our luggage, a guitar, tents, sleeping bags and some extra clothing that was never worn. I had dominated the entire upper shelf with heavy yearbooks, binders, boxes of sentimental paraphernalia and every diary I’ve ever written in since childhood. You should have seen the look on my husband’s face when he saw that I not only kept every note ever passed to me since middle school, but had them organized in a binder. There was so much weight up there that the entire shelf was sagging in the middle and clothes could not be hung on most of the rack because the two were pressed against one another. This is the city dwellers version of a basement or garage. Anytime we received something that didn’t have a home, it was adopted by our spare closet. I’m happy to say those days are gone and fortunately for me, I don’t have a good “before” picture to show you.

A good place to start when taking on a project of this sort is, “what can I sell to pay for the changes?”. Naturally, my first instinct was to sell of all my husband’s stuff. Instead, what we did was pull out the contents and separate what we wanted to keep from what we didn’t. I came up with two bags of things I figured were unsellable and donated them to Goodwill (tax write off!). My husband chose some DVDs he didn’t want, cut his VHS and comic book collection in half and sold every thing to Amoeba Music in Hollywood.

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This cleared out an entire closet bookshelf, one which I had owned for far too long and happily gave away. We also emptied the two plastic stacking drawers and sold them for $5. Because I love to sprinkle my posts with Craigslist tips: if you are simply trying to get rid of something and profit is not the primary purpose, sell it in the $5-$10 range. People will think it’s a good deal even when the item is worthless to you. I originally put these drawers on our curb hoping someone would take them within a few hours. When I noticed no one had, I swooped them back up and posted them on CL. The guy who ended up buying them thought I had meant $5 a piece and offered me $10 total. (I didn’t take it.) The point is, someone else thought our trash was worth double what we asked. A valuable lesson for future sales. We also sold a DVD player, a GPS and a backpack for $10 a piece and some free weights for $5. That’s $40 for useless-to-us stuff. Eric got $87 in store credit from Amobea, though had he taken the cash instead, it would have been around $65. That could be $105 towards a closet makeover.

In the past year, we’ve accumulated so many board games that we had to divide where they were stored. Half were in the spare closet on a shared shelf that also held toiletries, and half were inside a trunk in our living room. Needless to say, this was sloppy and inconvenient. I took the brackets off an old shelf that I had just taken down in the kitchen (left by previous tenants) to make more room for the kitchen island project. Then I threw out the actual shelf to replace it with a large wood sign I made and didn’t like. I flipped it over to hide the writing and screwed in the brackets to create a second and much larger shelf for storage (for free!). Now all the board games are in one place and the bathroom supplies have moved.

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I look at The Container Store as a playground for adults. That is: neat, efficient, organized adults who value system and order. That’s all of us, right? Hello? They carry clever storage solutions that many retailers do not. Last year during an Elfa sale I was able to get an over-the-door wrapping paper unit for our living room closet, which has been a great space saver. They make many versions of this nifty contraption and I had remembered there was one specifically for media. Elfa was having another sale in the winter, so I sprang for it and got the entire unit for $74.68 down from $107.90. I fit all of my husband’s remaining VHS tapes in it, along with two racks of CDs. I also bought two plastic Christmas bins that were 50% off for $20. We used them to consolidate our respective containers of personal items, thereby minimizing the amount of space needed on the upper shelf. I threw away seven small boxes and recycled hundreds of pieces of paper; did I mention I also saved every greeting card I ever received?

I had some scraps of wood on hand that I was able to use to prop up the sag in the middle of the upper shelf, opening up the entire rod for potential clothes hanging (free). Once we were done replacing the contents, there was way more empty space, very few hangers in use and only one bookshelf left. We put a hook that we already owned (free) on the pivot door for bags and managed to store some things under our new bed frame and in our recently emptied trunk. The spare closet is feeling pretty spacious these days. It’s certainly not as neat as one of those closet organizing systems with fancy shelves and whatnot; but it’s a DIY version of that at little cost. We spent $55 to make these changes if you subtract the amount for items sold on CL. And had we cashed in on the Amoeba sale, the entire cost would have been covered with a $10 profit. That could be your story. Alternatively, we could have spent nothing, kept the cash and found even more creative ways to store things. That’s money in the bank. What could you sell today that would buy you a closet makeover tomorrow? Happy Spring cleaning!

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Financial Regrets: Saving for Retirement

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You may have picked up on something about me by now: I love Pottery Barn. This was also true of me back in my wedding season, when I registered for their farmhouse bedroom set including a dresser and two night stands. I used one of those registries where you could mix a bunch of different stores on the same site and have a donation fund for certain things. At the time, neither of us had a dresser. We received enough to pay for the set, so we ordered it while on our honeymoon and our empty bedroom became furnished within a week of returning. What does this have to do with retirement, you ask? I’m getting there…

Since this time, I’ve toyed with the idea of whether or not to complete the set with a matching bed frame. The main thing holding me back had been not knowing if we would ever upgrade to a king size bed from a queen. After a series of stays in places that had a king size, we discussed how it felt too big and we might never get one. I translated this as, “go ahead and buy the Pottery Barn bed frame”. I started my hunt where I always start, my dear friend Craigslist. Here’s a tip: I usually do two searches when I’m desperate for a certain piece. I type the exact name and see if what I want pops up and then I type the name of the store alone. Way more appears with the second search, so you’ll have to weed through that; but sometimes it catches things the first search didn’t. I did this for weeks before the one I was looking for came up. Correction: a variation of the one I was looking for came up. It had canopy attachments. Not something we’d use, but higher in value if I wanted to resell at some point. I looked into it and learned the canopy parts were removable and able to be concealed, so you could use your bed both ways. That was my green light, so I pursued the seller the way I always do, offering less than she was asking. Mind you, this was already a great deal. The lady was selling a $1499 piece of furniture for $400. She was a slow responder and informed me someone else was looking at it and willing to pay $400. This combination made me nervous. I took a day to think it over, and wrote back saying I would pay the full $400 and could pick it up right away. Sold! I got the piece for 25% of its retail value. Pottery Barn has a delivery surcharge of $150 and they charge 10% of the price for shipping over sized items; both of which we didn’t have to pay. And no tax! But we did have to rent a U-haul because the parts were too long to fit in our car. That added about $90 to the cost (“In town moves from $19.95”, my foot!). Still a great deal if you add that to the total, which would have been $1933 at full price and we only paid $490. A $1443 savings.

Remember that Wells Fargo savings account I mentioned? Guess where we got the $400 to pay for the bed frame? Not our checking, not our long-term savings, not our emergency fund! Our “free” money–the Way2Save amount that is transferred over in small increments had accumulated enough to afford us this lovely piece for what felt like nothing.

And now to how the retirement ties in… when I wrote the article about the W2S account, I was giving advice that I had not taken myself. I suggested linking the account to your retirement to make automatic contributions that would feel thoughtless. After I realized that this was something I could be doing but instead bought a fancy bed frame… well, I regretted it a little. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with the price I scored. And I waited for over a year to act! And I know that if we ever do upgrade to a king, I can resell this puppy for more than I bought it. But what about my retirement account? That’s $500 more I wouldn’t have to worry about scraping together before April 15th had I thought of it sooner.

It was only last year that I really started to feel the pressure to open a retirement account because I kept reading about how important it is. I sure wish I had known that in college. Not that I had the money then, but man it would have been cool to open something small and have those ten years of compound interest behind me. But alas, this is my situation and all I can do is move forward. I contribute to my Roth IRA whenever I can. I have no system in place, no set amount that goes in. My husband’s current job (and the two before) has an employer matched 401K (free money!), which gives me some assurance that we haven’t been total fools. But I constantly read that even people with those should open an IRA too. It never ends!

So now I find myself in March, nearing the end of tax season, with a retirement account begging for my attention. Last week, I decided to start throwing all the money I could at it until the 2013 deadline to contribute. I plan to max it out and then get started on this year’s. Hopefully my saving season will eventually shift from April-April to a normal calendar year. I should point out that this could be a one click transfer if I wanted to just pull from savings. But while retirement trumps home ownership goals, I am trying to minimize the hit we take, as that fund is primarily meant for the latter. I highly recommend you try to do the same. What corners can you cut in the next month to put the maximum amount away for your future? I’ll keep you updated on my progress and feel free to tell me yours!

I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit stressing about retirement, but based off my calculations, I think we will still do very well. Twenty-nine is not THAT late to start saving, many start much later. Please don’t panic if that’s you. Just do something about it. In my city, most are pursuing a creative career and that makes us a community of late bloomers to begin with. Make the change today: do some research, open an account and sell some stuff to get the money in there. This is a perfect use for your tax return if you have one.

I learned a lesson from writing this blog and took my own advice. I linked my retirement account to my Way2Save so that automatic contributions will take place at the end of every month starting in April. That way, the extra cash that has been our “sweet spot” will be put to better use. Than shopping for furniture? Hard to imagine, I know. I’m excited for the painless saving it will generate, but I still have to contribute on the side as well. It shouldn’t look much different from how it does now, except hopefully I won’t be rushing to the finish line next April. I pray it is an encouragement to note that even those of us who put financial fitness above all else can make choices that don’t reflect this fact. There is always a way to recover and I hope that I can be a small part of that process for you.

The Purse Fund

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Last year, I found myself newly married and wanting a purse (these obviously go hand in hand). I had gone through my phase of fake leather, Urban Outfitters, cheapo purses and was ready to upgrade to the real deal. I had developed a penchant for handbags in my college years after my mom bought me a Coach purse for doing well in school. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a normal gesture or the rewards system my family used–though, I could be into that. I had worked forty hour weeks as a waitress while taking twenty-one unit semesters, summer courses that kept me from returning home, volunteered at a hospital and did community service with 7th graders in order to gain acceptance into UCLA. So, she was sweet and bought me a little congratulatory gift for all my effort (which paid off, I got in). Little did she know, that was all it took to convert me. That chapter wore out its welcome and I stopped the expensive habit a few years later. Enter the Urban Outfitters phase. Now, back to 2013: here I was, a newlywed, wanting something that was once a justifiable expense to be a mutually accepted reality in our lives. Then I realized, no man would ever see the price of a designer purse and understand (to be fair, I didn’t test this theory). That’s when I thought of The Purse Fund! I realized I could buy my own with the scraps I saved up over the course of a few months, and similar to our Way2Save account, we would never feel the hit.

I started saving in a paper envelope that I kept in my dresser. The banker would poke fun at me when I’d cash a $3 check that I got from a rebate. I sold mounds of things on Craigslist: nothing is junk! Everything has a price tag! One person’s trash…you know! The rule in our house is if either of us bought something before we were married and chose to sell it, we get to keep the proceeds. If it was a joint purchase after marriage and we sell, it goes into our checking. I made that up. Because of this. *pats self on back* I used eBay sparingly, as I think it’s the devil, but I managed to sell a vintage dress and older designer purses I had hung onto. I even sold two used cell phones for a decent price here. There are numerous places to get cash for your clothes in Los Angeles, which I did a bit of as well. Since starting the fund I have been able to buy two purses. I currently have enough for a third, but I’m holding out to save a little more.

The icing on the cake is once you’ve worked for the money, you aren’t going to just spend away your sweat and tears. You’re going to find the best possible deal because you know the value of a dollar. So with that in mind, my first purchase was for one marked down by $100. The second? Are you ready for this? $310 off! I have the outlet mall and Black Friday to thank for that. I realize not everyone likes purses the way I do. But I know you have that special something you want to splurge on occasionally. For my husband, it’s adding to his blu-ray collection. For my sister, it’s probably video games. For many women, it’s shoes. You can apply this method to any old thing you like and watch the cash pile up. It works like this: seek quality first, be willing to wait (sell/save), remain frugal in your purchase. Just because you have the cash doesn’t mean you spend it. 

How to make Restoration Hardware Affordable*

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Maxwell Chair

Who do you know that is under forty and can afford this store? No one? Me neither. I love looking at all the beautiful pieces of furniture, the vintage Monopoly set we’ve been eyeing for years, the clever stocking stuffers at Christmas time… But if I have ever considered buying something from Restoration Hardware, it has always been through Craigslist. More on this in a future post, but Craigslist is your friend. Or at least he’s mine. He may be my best friend. When my husband started working from home, we decided to get a more comfortable chair for the den since that would now be his work space. So naturally, my first resort was CL.

I had fancied the Maxwell leather chair from Restoration Hardware, but figured it was highly improbable that we would get it at full price. It retails for $2410 (for the luxe depth), they charge $149 to bring it to you and then there’s that wonderful 9% sales tax. So when all is said and done, you would be spending $2775.90. On Craigslist, RH stuff usually sells surprisingly close to full price, but it’s still a better deal than in the store. No one seemed to be selling the chair I wanted in the time frame I needed it, so I moved on.

In my google searching, I had discovered that there are two Restoration Hardware outlets in the Los Angeles area; one in Long Beach and one in Camarillo. I called both to see if they had the chair in stock and neither did. This is the part to pay attention to, the part that makes all the difference in getting the best deal you can: I called again. And again. And every week until one of them said yes. In fact, they didn’t even have it in stock when we spoke; but on a previous phone call, one kind clerk had informed me that the list of weekly orders comes on a certain day, meaning they could know up to one day in advance if something would be available that week. You better believe I called a day in advance so that I could plan ahead and be there if they had it.

The beautiful thing about Restoration Hardware outlets (and probably a lot of others!) is that the outlet price isn’t where the deal ends. They usually have some sort of promotion on top of the lower price. On this particular day, it was an additional $20 off every $100 spent. To start, the chair was already over $1,000 less than the total value stated above. Then with the promotion and the fact that we were able to haul it away ourselves, we ended up saving $1,318.20.

We bought a quality product that will last; no faux leather that will rip apart in two years. It actually looks better as it “ages” in that you can scrape it up and it only enhances the vintage look of the leather. We were able to get the luxe model, unused (it would have been if it was from CL) and without flaws, which is an important note: when shopping for furniture at an outlet always ask if there are any defects.

The kicker here is that because Eric works from home, things like the square footage of the office and any work-related furnishings are TAX DEDUCTIBLE. The chair being such had not occurred to us until this past weekend when we met with our tax accountant. She deducted the entire thing because it was bought specifically for our home office. How about that? The government honors Restoration Hardware purchases!

As a friend told my husband when he sank into its depths, “this is the chair you will be sitting in when your future son-in-law asks for your daughter’s hand in marriage”. I think he’s right. We’ll have it forever.

*Affordable is a relative term, and for the purposes of this blog, I will be speaking as if the reader is someone seeking a quality frugal lifestyle. I go more into this concept in my introduction.