Tricking Ourselves to Save Money

March 31, 2015 Permalink 0

Today we have a guest post from Katie Martens. Katie is here to tell us about how she and her husband trick themselves into saving up to $150 extra each month. Take it away Katie!

6757871357_f3f060a40c_zThere’s nothing more satisfying, at least financially, than getting paid for your work. If you’re a W-2 employee, you can count on that satisfying ka-ching in your bank account with reassuring regularity. And then what happens after the ka-ching? You spend all the money.

Maybe not, and obviously that’s not the goal, but sometimes that’s how it feels because you’ve worked hard, you deserve to kick back a little, right? Perhaps you enjoy a few extra dinners out, or you buy that pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing since last month’s paycheck. It’s the classic mindset a friend told me once: “Steak at the beginning of the month, ramen by the end of the month.”

My husband and I have this mindset, and have discovered two important things to combat our proclivity to award our hard work by spending ALL the money.


Awareness or recognition of your inclination to spend all the money. I know this sounds basic, but I once had a roommate who complained at the end of every month that there was always more month than money. It never occurred to her that maybe going out for dinner and drinks 4 nights out of 7  for the first 3 weeks of the month was not an efficient use of her monthly paycheck. As GI Joe says: knowing is half the battle. And I’ll take GI Joe a step further: knowing yourself is half the battle.

Colleges With Best Return on Investment

March 30, 2015 Permalink 0

gradI didn’t get into journalism for the money. No one does. I had no idea before entering college how much a bachelor’s degree in journalism would be worth, and if my return on investment would be worthwhile.

I doubt if I would have changed my mind if I had access back then to something like the “College ROI Report” that PayScale recently released. It ranks colleges by the best return on investment, measuring how much money a college grad would earn in 20 years after graduation, minus college loans and the total cost of attending college for four years.

Some schools, as PayScale reports, do a much better job of preparing their alumni for the job market than others. And some majors and careers lead to a much better return on investment than others, such as computer science and math over journalism.

A different return on investment

Monetary returns, of course, aren’t the only ways to measure the success of a college education. But they’re pretty compelling if one of your top goals is to go to a college that has a high ROI and is likely to help you land a good paying job.

Private schools led the list. Harvey Mudd College, a private college in Claremont, Calif., that caters mainly to engineering students, led the list with a 20-year net return on investment of $985,300.

Among majors, computer science and math grads had the best ROI at $1,619,700 over 20 years after graduating from Stanford University.

I won’t go over the entire list here, but it’s worth noting that wherever you plan to go to college, start saving for it now. Or at least start saving so your children can attend college.

The average college student graduates with almost $30,000 in student loans, according to PayScale. Given that the top schools in its ROI report cost $200,000 or so for four years, that loan amount doesn’t look so high.

Even so, I’ll take what I have with my journalism degree. I paid off my small student loans within a few years of graduating, and while my lifetime earnings won’t match what an engineer does, I enjoy my work much more than I ever thought I would.

Quick Meal Ideas to Help You Avoid Eating Out

March 27, 2015 Permalink 0

quick mealGoing out to eat is a huge struggle of mine. In fact, my entertainment/eating out budget category is the one I tend to go over in every single month. When I first started budgeting in January 2014, I tended to go over this budget category by a few dollars each month, but since then it’s gotten progressively worse.

As my life has gotten busier, my eating out budget overage has gotten larger. In fact, until I started freelancing online in the second half of 2014, I would only go over my budget by about $20 or less each month. Last month I went over my budget by nearly $200!

After reflecting on why I keep going further and further over budget for eating out, I realized it’s because I don’t keep any easy, quick meal ingredients on hand for nights when I am especially busy and don’t have time to cook. After I realized that, I decided to make a list of quick meal ideas so I can try to do better at not eating out as often out of pure convenience.