Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shave Old Man Style and Save Money

  A few years ago I got tired of spending tons of money on fancy razors with ten blades on them, and lotion dispensers, etc. They didn't last very long before I had to get a replacement and the replacement blades were ridiculously expensive. Needless to say I was desperate to find an alternative.

  I found my answer on a very entertaining site; I love this site, it has all kinds of interesting and entertaining content. But the article that changed my life happened to be one of their most popular, which explains how I found it so easily. The article How to Shave Like Your Grandpa discussed my exact problem. I was tired of wasting money on expensive razors. Shaving should not cost this much! After I read this article I asked for all of the items suggested for Christmas. As the article mentions, my Grandma was able to find me a cheap used safety razor at an antique store. Needless to say, if you buy one new or used (new Safety Razors will run you between $20-$35) it should last you a lifetime. My grandma also found a cool vintage Old Spice shaving mug too. She also found a used boar hair brush. In this case I recommend going new, the used one was constantly shedding and I could tell it wouldn't be around long. A new badger hair brush (Manliness approved) is about $13 and should last you a few years. I have had mine for about a year and a half and it's going strong. I was able to find decent shaving soap for about $4 at Target and Kroger as well. Now for the blades. I went with a razor blade variety pack because I was new to this and didn't know if there would be much difference between blades so I figured I might as well try a few types. Some people seem to have a preference, personally, I couldn't tell the difference. I replace my blade about once a week and I shave about every other day. So my 100 blade pack that cost about $25 should last about two years. You could probably stretch it to 2.5 years pretty easily as well.

  So after an up front cost of about $76 you should have enough to shave for about two years, because all of this equipment will last at least that long, except the soap of course. The soap seems to last about 3 months I think. So my estimate is about $61 (razors, soap, brush) every two years. I looked up the cost of Gilette Fusion blades, and its about $28 for an eight pack on Amazon. Assuming you replace those weekly, you are looking at about $182 a year just on blades. You would still need to buy shaving cream anyway. Even if you stretched the Gillette blades out, each one would have to last you about six weeks to even out.  Some people also like that you aren't wasting plastic and packaging when you use safety razors.

  So it turns out grandpa was on to something. If you shave like grandpa, not only will you save tons of money, its also cool and seems to provide a closer shave than those expensive blades anyway. Maybe if I were a real badass I would try a straight razor, but I am not there yet!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to Update Your Payroll Withholdings to Reduce Your Interest Free Loan to Uncle Sam

   I figured with tax season kicking into gear it would be a good time to post an article to help people change their payroll tax deferrals to get them closer to what they should be. Personally, I would rather have as much of my money coming my way as possible. I don't want to loan the government my money interest free, which is basically what you are doing when you get a tax refund.

   Now, when you get ready to start this process you will need the following pieces of information:
  • Your most recent pay stub
  • Your most recent tax return

   Note: The calculator will ask if you are participating in any tax-deferred retirement programs, these are typically your 401(k) plan or 403(b) plan if you work for a non-profit, etc. It will also ask if you are participating in what is typically called a cafeteria plan, which would be your health savings account, flex spending account, various insurance programs, and transportation spending accounts. There are links on the site that will provide more detailed descriptions. 

  You will be able to tell if you are participating in these programs based on the deductions on your pay stub, but if you aren't sure I would suggest looking at the last few pay stubs to see if any deductions are being taken out because some employers may only handle deductions on a monthly basis. 

   Once you have these forms you can use the link below to go to the IRS website and they have a useful calculator that will take you through the necessary steps to help you determine how much to withhold.  Once you complete the calculations you will want to get a new IRS Form W-4 from your payroll or HR department to update your withholdings accordingly.

If you make any changes throughout the year, such as changing your 401(k)deferral rate you will have to go back and run the calculations again to get your updated withhold amount to use to complete a new W-4.

While many people love the idea of getting a nice fat refund check when they file their taxes, they are missing out on the things they could do with that money if it went into their wallet instead of the federal government's account. They could build an emergency fund or invest it. Now, if you think the extra money will just be spent frivolously, and you would be more likely to do something smart with your refund, then by all means keep things as they are.  You could even run the calculations above and make sure more is taken out if this is a way for you to force yourself to save.

Disclaimer: Even though I am an accountant, I am by no means a tax expert so please make sure to read the instructions on the IRS website when using the above calculator to make sure you are following all of the steps properly and considering your own unique situation.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Streaming Media and Why It Isn't The Most Frugal Option

   Based on my time spent reading numerous PF blogs and articles over the last few years I have noticed a very popular trend among the bloggers and their readers. Many cable-cutters also adopt this same trend. Dumping the over priced cable packages many of us blindly paid month in and month out has saved many hundreds of dolla's that's for sure. I cut my cable when I moved into an apartment with a roommate back in April 2012 and haven't looked back since.

   The next step for most cable cutters is to sign up for the popular Netflix or Hulu Plus services which generally run around $8 per month. These services are an excellent value for the content they provide and the lack of commercials (an excellent and very frugal by-product since it helps reduce the urge to spend). Sure, $8 a month isn't a significant expense by any stretch, and even signing up for both to get maximum content would only net you around $16 or so a month.

  What's the big deal you say? Well, assuming an average rate of return of 8% over ten years if you invested that $16 per month you are talking about just under $3,000. Not a lot sure, but certainly significant. As an accountant I had to resort to numbers, it's in my nature.

  If you want to keep tabs on your favorite shows and movies, I would recommend you consider your local library. Its "free" since you pay for it through your taxes, so why not enjoy the benefits. Many libraries have copies of the current popular movies and TV shows so you can still binge-watch that season of Breaking Bad like you could on Netflix. My local library even has shows that I can't get on Netflix. Of course, another option is to invite yourself over to your friend's house to watch these shows on their DVR which can be a fun social event. You might as well capitalize on your friend's cable-paying misery.


First Post

   Like many people before they become bloggers, I spent a significant amount of time reading and following many of the more popular PF bloggers out there as a source of inspiration. They can help you to refine your behavior and serve as constant motivators to make sure you are on the right path. Many of these same bloggers mention their motivations for starting their own blogs, a more common one being accountability and a sense of community. I think it makes a lot of sense to start your own blog, not only to try and spread some of your own unique ideas out there, but because there is so much you can learn from others as well.

   I am an accountant by training, and as you might expect, was pretty certain I new most of what there was to know about money and personal finance. As I dove into the personal finance blog world I became certain I had a lot to learn. Up until that point I was one of the few people I knew who was considered "cheap" (aka frugal in my opinion) by most of my friends and family members. I quickly learned there was a whole world of like minded individuals out there who could serve to inform and inspire me.

   Now I want to take my education to the next step and also see if I can lay out a different viewpoint than those already out there. I figured I might as well use a nickname I earned back in HS, most likely due to my "value conscious" behaviors, as the namesake for my blog. I hope to use this site as a means of accountability and a place where I can learn as much from others as I hopefully can teach them.