Should We Buy That 70″ TV We Want Oh So Badly Or Wait?

When we painted our living room a few months ago, we moved our furniture toward the middle of the room to paint. When we did that, we noticed that our TV looked bigger when we were sitting closer to it. Novel concept, I know.

The thing is, when our furniture was moved toward the middle of the room, we were reminded how our TV looked in our old, smaller living room.

We moved into our new home over a year ago and the living room in our new home is much larger. Now that the furniture is moved back to its normal arrangement our TV looks much smaller.

The question we’ve been battling with is, should we get a larger TV to fit our new living room or should we wait until we’ve accomplished some of our other goals first? First I’ll explain our other goals, then we’ll discuss the TV situation a bit more.

Goals We Want To Accomplish (In Addition To An Awesome 70″ TV)

So we have a big goal we’re trying to accomplish right now. We’re trying to fund our imergency fund (investment emergency fund), which is an extension of our emergency fund. We currently already have a 6 month emergency fund in cash (actually, a high yield online savings account) but we wanted to feel a bit more secure and have a bit more money on hand.

The problem is, we didn’t want all of that in cash due to inflationary forces slowly eroding the value of our cash. Instead, we decided to put the second part of our emergency fund, our imergency fund, into investments. We decided we wanted another 6 months of expenses in our imgergency fund so this will support us for months 7-12. 

Eventually the imergency fund will grow beyond six months of investments, but for now that is our initial goal. We’ve been able to fund 3.5 to 4 months of our new goal, but still have 2 to 2.5 months worth to invest. There is no rush finish our imergency fund, but we think we’ll be able to complete our goal by the end of 2014 if we don’t make any major purchases, like that sweet 70″ TV.

What We’ve Already Accomplished This Year

We’ve already accomplished two pretty major financial goals this year. The first goal was to finish paying off my wife’s $80,000 of student loan debt which we finished up in early Spring of this year. We were super stoked to finally get rid of the student loan debt and free up some major cash flow every month.

The second major goal we’ve accomplished is fully funding our 6 month cash emergency fund that I’ve already mentioned. We didn’t have to fill this up from $0 since we kept a decent emergency fund while paying off my wife’s student loan debt. However, we did still have to save a few more months of expenses to fill the fund to its intended level.

We feel like these are two pretty major accomplishments this year, but just because we’ve accomplished two big goals doesn’t mean we should splurge on a 70″ TV, does it?

Is A 70″ TV Really Necessary?

No, a 70″ TV is never necessary… ever. We know this is clearly a want and nowhere near a need, but we’re allowed to have some fun with our money, right? The 70″ TV’s we’ve looked at are right around $1,500 and honestly, I think that’s probably a bit much for a TV.

In all likelihood, we’d probably get a 60″ or 65″ TV that comes in at under $1,000, but a 70″ just looks so amazing and so much bigger! It should be clear we haven’t decided on which TV we want yet. There’s a good reason for that.

If We Buy A Massive TV, We’re Hoping We Get A Massive Deal

We don’t plan on buying this TV on a whim, which should be apparent. Instead, we’re going to do some research, wait for the right time and hopefully get an amazing deal IF we decided to buy a bigger TV.

I’m thinking there should be some pretty awesome TV deals around Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Maybe we’ll luck out and get a good deal then. If not, we’ll just wait for a deal we can’t pass up.

Or Should We Buy An Experience Instead Of A Thing?

It’s been said that people enjoy experiences more than things, and in general I agree. We could spend the $800-$1,500 toward an experience, like another cruise, instead of getting a TV. However, I think a TV does somewhat count as an experience. TV shows and movies provide countless hours of entertainment which could be considered an experience much like going to the movies would be.

So Do You Think We Should Get A Massive TV?

So what do you think? Do you think we should go ahead and get a massive TV now and satisfy our want immediately? Do you think we should wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Or do you think we should just pass up the bigger TV altogether and focus on our 7-12 month imergency fund first?

Don’t tell me I should cancel cable though, we’re not doing that! We’re keeping cable, so that means we will always need a TV to watch our wonderful cable programming, even if we do have to call to get our bill lowered every 6 months.

Let me know what you think! Should we get the TV or not? I read every comment, so we’ll definitely take your opinion into account!

New Homes Or Homes With Character? Which Would You Prefer?

When it comes to buying a home, most people fit into one of two camps. People either want the features and amenities of a newer home or they want the style and character only an older home can provide. There are huge difference in how you should go about buying each type of home. So, what should you expect?

Homes With Character Could Be A Steal Of A Deal

Homes with character can come one of two ways. They can be perfectly restored and updated while keeping their charm or they can be diamonds in the rough that need some work. Unless you have a big budget and don’t want to earn some sweat equity, then you might want to consider looking for the diamonds in the rough that you can customize to your liking. You can save money on the purchase price and customize your home exactly how you want to while keeping the character that attracted you to the older home.

Character Could Cost Big Money In Repairs And Maintenance

These diamonds in the rough could end up costing you more than you bargained for. If you’re doing any major renovations you could easily run into unexpected problems that would demolish your budget. When you buy a home, you can’t see through the walls to find potential problems with plumbing, electrical and dangerous insulation. That said, if you budget a contingency fund for these problems you could overcome them.

The extra cost isn’t all in the renovation phase of owning the home though. Older homes have older equipment and building materials that could require maintenance at any time. Granted, a new home will have these problems after a few years, but generally you don’t have to worry about a big dollar repair within the first few years of new home ownership.

New Homes Can Provide The Perfect Fit

For the other camp, new homes are the perfect solution to their house hunting adventure. You can customize anything you want in a new home, provided you pick the right developer and neighborhood. You can pick the perfect floor plan for your family, the perfect paint colors on the walls and the perfect flooring for every room. You can even pick out the perfect appliances. Unfortunately, all that awesomeness usually comes with a higher price tag in the current real estate environment. On the positive side, you shouldn’t have to change a thing after your new home is built!

New Construction Isn’t What It Used To Be

Like everything else these days, most homes aren’t built to the same standards as they used to be. In today’s tight economic conditions it’s easy to see how builders would cut corners and use cheaper materials to squeeze a little bit more profit out of each house they build. Not all builders will do this, so make sure you find a good quality builder that has a great reputation. You’ll pay more for your home, but hopefully it will be built better and there will be more time between big repairs.

Whether you like the character homes or shiny new construction homes, be prepared for what challenges might lie ahead. Realize that everything comes with some good and some bad and be prepared to make the best out of the situations that could provide potential challenges. House shopping should be fun! Just go into it with your eyes wide open.

Which do you prefer? The charming home that could use some work, the more expensive, fully renovated house with charm, or the new build made just for you?

Watch Out! 4 Things That Are More Expensive Than I Thought

As I get older and go through life’s fun twists and turns, I’ve realized that there are many, many things that are far more expensive than I realized. Sure, I knew that buying a home would cost a pretty penny in addition to things like college tuition. However, below are a few things that caught me off guard in terms of their prices. Am I the only one?

1. Sofas

My husband and I hardly own any furniture. We sold it all when we moved to Grenada and right now we are living next door to my in laws borrowing some of theirs. When we move in May, we will start with a blank slate.

So, in preparation for that, I’ve been looking at sofas. Holy moly – Why are they so expensive? I’m fine with buying a used sofa or one that is really, really on sale during some closeout, but I’m left wondering how anyone affords to just spend $700 on something to sit on.

2. Maternity Clothes

I know that clothes in general can be pretty expensive depending on the brand, but I was not prepared for how expensive maternity clothes would be! It seems almost unfair that women need to buy new clothes only to have the prices jacked up just because they are pregnant. I found most of my maternity clothes at second hand stores and towards the end of my pregnancy, I just started wearing my husband’s shirts. Hey I work from home; I’m not trying to win any beauty contests.

3. Pet Ownership

Raise your hand if you’ve ever shelled out a few hundred dollars for your pet unexpectedly. When I got my dog, I fully admit that I had no idea how much she would cost us. For a relatively healthy rescue mutt, she has sure put us through a fair share of emergency moments, like the time she ate an entire bar of pure organic dark chocolate the night before we were supposed to leave Grenada with her on the plane. That was a fun time and pricy vet bill! For the record, she made it home with us to the States safely, just a little worse for wear after they pumped her stomach.

4. A Paid Off Car

When you pay off your car or in my case, when your parents give you a car for college and it’s all paid off, you think you’ve got it made. After all, doesn’t everyone want to enjoy their vehicle without those pesky monthly bills? Well, as I’ve found out from owning my paid for car the past 10+ years, a paid off car is still costly! As it gets older, things break more regularly and eventually you’re going to need a new one! We’re not quite there yet, but it won’t be long before we add to the fleet.

I’m sure these aren’t the only things that are more expensive than I previously thought. What are some other examples that you can think of? Anything crazy expensive that you thought should be cheaper?

Add More Fun! Increase Your Wedding Entertainment ROI

Today we welcome an amazing contribution from my friend Joe Saul-Sehy!

Hello, I’m Joe. I was a wedding disc jockey.

Hi, Joe!

Now you’re imagining me with a blue ruffled tuxedo, aren’t you? Hey, just because I was a wedding DJ and could lead a mad Hokie Pokie didn’t mean I was a slimy dude in a cheap tux. On the contrary, I had some wicked great chicken dance moves. I should stop while I’m ahead. So, with Lance’s wedding right around the corner, I thought I’d write a post for people planning a celebration. You pay good money for entertainment. Let me give you some pointers from the other side of the table.

Think carefully through your entertainment as you plan your event. There were some events that I knew before loading up my truck and heading to the venue, that they were going to be busts. Whether you’re hiring a DJ, finding a magician, or asking your sister to sing opera, it’s a great idea to think it through. Your entertainment is about value…and especially if you’re spending money on entertainment, you want to wring every dollar out of your investment.

Think About The Venue

Horror Story #1

– I was asked to play records (that dates me, doesn’t it) at a party in a barn. I knew the floor was going to bounce as people danced. I spent most of my night trying to find ways to stop my records from skipping. The crowd spent the evening booing me. This was a disaster before I’d even arrived.

Instead:

– Take a look at your venue. What type of entertainment fits best? A wedding hall might be the best spot for a disc jockey, but in a park you might be better off with some music playing in the background and outdoor activities like carriage rides or a nice bonfire. That barn would have been a great spot for a country rock band.

Think Through Your Requests

– Someone asked me to play a reception with strict music requests of obscure songs and didn’t allow alcohol at their event. I’m not saying you need alcohol at a party and played plenty of great parties where everyone had a fun, sober time. However, don’t be too let down when you require your guests to listen to music they don’t appreciate, keep them sober AND ask them to have a good time.

Instead:

Ask your entertainer for suggestions instead of dictating terms. If you’ve done a good job choosing someone, you did it based on their experience. Why tie one hand behind their back by bossing them around? In my DJ prime, I probably played 30 weddings a year….and you’ve maybe gone to five, total. Clients who asked me for tips and let me feel out the crowd were going to be better off. Another tip – Watch disc jockeys or bands play live a few times before choosing one. If you watch a performer play an event you’ll have a better idea if it’ll be a fit for your crowd.

– Last year I hosted a party for my kids and hired a disc jockey. I didn’t tell this guy what to play, but I did give him as much information about the crowd as possible. I made sure he knew the venue, what else I was planning, and how the night would run. It was no surprise that he was a huge success with the crowd because I let him to his thing in an comfortable an environment as possible.

Plan Special Events

People love surprises. Some that happened at events I worked:

– The bride and groom didn’t show the wedding cake ahead of time. Instead, they presented the cake with a flourish after dinner. It made a nice statement and took something mundane at every other wedding and turned it into additional fun.

– One couple pretended they weren’t having any entertainment. My speakers and disc jockey equipment were cleverly hidden where we could quickly move them into place. After the dinner they surprised everyone with ME! (I know, what a let down, huh?) I’ve seen this trick on a few occasions and have used it myself at parties. Don’t tell anyone you’re hiring that guitar player…just wait until the right time and surprise everyone. Your guests will love the feeling that your nice event became something special in an instant.

Remember Other Special Events

I loved it when the bride and groom acknowledged other events happening on the same day/weekend as their special day. One couple made cupcakes for a cousin’s birthday and distributed them while leading everyone in “Happy Birthday.” Another had a chili dog bar at the end of the night to celebrate another couple’s anniversary. It was cheap and was a nice way to appreciate some special friends while everyone was together celebrating the wedding. At the very least, acknowledge these people for taking the time to celebrate your fun day instead of their own.

Some people just hired me to play and then hoped that I would make their day special. I tried my best at every party, but the ones that went off best were well orchestrated. I had a feel for the crowd ahead of time from the bride and groom. I knew what special events we had waiting for the guests. I even then planned a few special events myself just because I was so fired up by the great planning vibe coming from the hosts.

On that note: enjoy yourself on your wedding and ask a good friend to be your host/hostess. They help the entertainer, food people and others so that you can be free to enjoy your guests. I loved working with a host rather than the bride and groom (or worse, mother of the bride), because they were generally calm and just carrying out orders.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to good, solid wedding fun? What are some great wedding entertainment tips you’ve witnessed?

Joe Saul-Sehy this week launches the Stacking Benjamins blog, where he shares stories about earning, saving and spending with a plan. He’s also co-host of the popular Stacking Benjamins podcast.

Finding a Frugal Venue for Wedding Ceremonies and Receptions

I announced that we got engaged a few weeks ago and a few people commented that they wanted to hear more about the wedding process and how we planned to save money along the way. We’ve already made a few decision regarding basics of the wedding, such as the date and the size of the guest list and those decisions are pretty basic.

We didn’t pick the date based off of anything special, we just did what worked best for us and what we could fit in the schedule. In terms of size of the guest list, it was a pretty easy decision because we have a very limited budget. We’re pretty much inviting only immediate family and we’re keeping the guest list under 20.

With those two items crossed off the wedding planning list we could now start making some more detailed decisions. The first thing on that list was the venue for the ceremony and reception. We had heard that venues could run up your budget fast so we knew we needed a plan of attack.

How to Find a Frugal Wedding Ceremony and Reception Venue for Your Wedding

Some of the best ways to come up with ideas for frugal venues is to ask people who are established in your community. We are relatively new to our area so asking friends who have lived here their whole lives was a huge help. They know the area and where to find the great deals.

Be sure to think off the beaten path and consider public areas. In general, you can rent these areas pretty cheap and it is a great way to support your local community government. If you haven’t been to the local parks in your area you might be surprised at how nice some of them are!

Make sure to check out places where you have relationships with the owners or organization. You could probably get a great deal at your local church or potentially a not-for-profit organization building that you volunteer for. Even if you don’t think they’ll let you hold an event, it probably wouldn’t hurt to ask.

If you heart is set on a more expensive venue there are still ways to be frugal. Try scheduling your ceremony and reception at off peak times of the year. Another option is to schedule it on a weekday rather than a weekend or to schedule your wedding ceremony or reception at a non-traditional time such as in the morning.

By scheduling when the venues aren’t as busy you can likely get a discount on the normal price.

Our Initial Ideas for Wedding Venues

We initially had been talking about two ideas for wedding venues that ended up not working out for various reasons. We were seriously considering having the wedding at the beach or in my parents’ back yard on the water.

The first plan was to have our wedding on the beach. We currently live just 3 blocks from some of the most beautiful beaches but we’re going to be moving into town before the wedding. The things we really didn’t like about the beach was it would be hard for some guests to be able to get to the actual ceremony (walking in sand is a horrible idea for older people) and we’d be at the mercy of the weather with no hope of cover. Weather can be very unpredictable in Florida and with my luck there would be an all day downpour on the day of our wedding.

The second plan was to have our wedding in my parents’ backyard. They have a great backyard that would be an amazing backdrop for the wedding but it had the same problems as the beach with the weather. The other problem is it just isn’t big enough, even for our limited guest list.

Our Frugal Wedding Venue

We ended up finding a great deal on a frugal wedding venue. We decided to have our wedding in a great public park in our city. All we had to do was talk to the leisure services board for our city and ask to reserve the park. The park has many great outside locations we could have the wedding and a covered area in case it rains so we’ll be fine no matter what the weather.

As far as cost goes, they do charge a fee of $100 to reserve the park for a 3 hour time block  and a $250 security deposit in case we need to set up electricity or some other service. We’ll get the security deposit back after clean up and leave the park the way we found it.

Our Frugal Reception Venue

We had to do a bit searching to find a frugal reception alternative that would work well for us. We actually asked some of our friends for ideas and many recommended a local community center in a nearby community in our city. They don’t charge their residents for use but we had to pay a $50 use fee and a $100 deposit which we’ll get back after we clean the place up when we leave.

The reception venue isn’t anything fancy but it doesn’t matter because fancy isn’t important to us. It is a nice building that provides tables, chairs a small kitchen area and a decent outside space. We get complete access to the venue the whole entire day of our wedding so we can have people there earlier in the day to set up if we want. We thought it was a steal for the price!

So now that we have the wedding venue and reception venue settled I’m sure we’ll have a lot more decisions to make. What should we be looking out for and do you have any frugal suggestions?