Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is just a glorious show. This Sunday’s show was no exception.
If retirement accounts and fund choices scare you, that video is a fantastic introduction to investing that touts the benefits of index funds and the dangers of non-fiduciary financial advisors.
The thing is, I was an index investing convert even before I joined the working world, and I was still completely confused when it came time to choose investments for my 401k. As Fluffster now holds a Bachelor of Financial Advising (you can too, just click that link ;), here is a hopefully-straightforward supplement.
I am spoiled. Fergus is in charge of cooking, and for good reason: his food is delicious (plus he enjoys cooking). Some mornings I literally wake up to the offer of breakfast in bed.
Yet as I write this Fergus, is away on a business trip. And I can’t cook. And I hate cleaning the kitchen. What’s a frugally minded, culinarily-impaired engineer to do? Since we only go to restaurants rarely (and they have to be special, not just a convenience purchase), eating out is not an option. That would be weak.
Yesterday my guest post for the Millennial Money Man was published! Read about my trials and tribulations attending a gala. That’s right, a gala. On two days notice. Yeah…
If you would also be freaked out and have no idea what to wear, definitely check the article out. I cover basic dress code guidelines, and of course all the frugal options – including rich people secrets I learned while undercover as a respectable gala attendee!
We went on vacation to Montreal earlier this month! During a snowstorm! And it was fun!
We live in the Boston area, meaning we’re about a five hour drive away from Montreal. And yet, in our years living around Boston, we’ve never visited Canada. A foreign country, with a foreign language (in Quebec province), right there, close enough to take Fluffster along for the ride. Granted, most people there speak English, but I still got to order a croissant in French.
At this point you might be wondering why “straw” is in the title, much less “new straw.”
We do not take extensive inventory of the fridge or the cupboards before heading out, and we certainly do not go in with shopping lists. We practice lazy, but frugal, grocery shopping. On a typical month, we spend right around $300/mo on groceries, and when we used to really cut back, we spent slightly over $200/mo on groceries for the two of us. For context, the USDA “Thrifty” food plan for a two adult family is $386.40 as of April 2016.
And more importantly, how much time and effort does it take?
Fergus and I try to have a balanced view of financial planning – we’re not about to spend all our evenings and weekends working just to reach retirement a little sooner. At the same time, we’re not going to spend hard earned money on a fancy car or house that really won’t improve our lives when all is said and done. Most of our decisions seem easy. Do we need a new couch? No, ours is just fine and Fluffster loves it. Should I buy that dress? No, I already have three dresses, and that shade of green reminds me of pea soup in a bad way.
Some questions are a little more nuanced, like what is travel hacking and what’s the cost/benefit analysis?
Strangely enough, practicing frugality can enhance both your earning power and your workplace satisfaction. Knowing that we live below our means and could easily live off only one of our salaries gave me the courage to step away from a job that was emotionally draining and unfulfilling.
It was a fine job, really. No one yelled at me, the pay was decent, with good benefits and a fine work/life balance. Expectations were low, and I could spend as much time as I wanted slacking off on personal finance forums. And that was the problem. There was no sense of accomplishment, no sense of fulfillment.
Right out of university I started off bright-eyed and idealistic, thinking I could help make the world a better place, but the culture did not reward that thinking. When I did what I considered to be “good work,” it was not recognized. I had honest conversations with management asking for feedback and guidance on how to get promoted and grow in my career, but every year the answer changed.
Fergus and I went to Cafe Fleuri at The Langham in Boston, where we spent $42 per person to eat at the “Chocolate Bar.” Plus tax and tip, the entire trip was over $100. It was a really interesting experience that we don’t regret (even though we probably won’t do that ever again). This post explains the insanity.