Tag Archives: monetary thrill

Walden on Wheels # 2: Van Dwelling Grad Student

To save money, Ken Ilgunas lived in his van ( “an upholstered hermitage” ) while he attended Duke to get a Masters in Liberal Studies…and kept it a secret. Ken Ilgunas is the author of Walden on Wheels. My earlier post addressed the first half of Ilgunas’s story-how he got rid of his undergraduate loan debt.

Cover

“The Creepy Red Van”

He made several pledges to himself:

  • First: “In order to live debt free in my van, I’d have to lie”. The first rule of van dwelling-is don’t mention the van dwelling.
  • Second, he vowed not to accept any gifts, even though his mom offered to pay his rent so he didn’t have to live in the van.

“I didn’t think of a gift merely as a gift but as a debt with bow wrapped around it.”  “When we accept a gift, I thought, sometimes we don’t just acquire a debt but an identity.”

  • Third, he continued his life as an ascetic by giving up meat, dairy and beer; and joining the campus gym (for exercise and showers) . [I say ascetic for his purposes-not everyone who gives up meat is an ascetic].

The burden of lying by omission to fellow students about where he lived and being worried about whether the campus police would kick him out of his permitted parking space took a distinct toll on Ilgunas’s social life. After two months like this, he had a  “surfeit of solitude”. When you read the book, you can see how he solved that problem.

In addition, he was living on $103/week, not counting tuition and other school fees. According to charts in the book, he spent $4.34/day average on food. For reference, the dollar amount for a person using SNAP (food stamps) is $31.50 per week or $4.50/day.

English: Logo of the .

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As listed in the book, his monthly expenses consisted of: car insurance $46, entertainment $33, vehicle costs/repairs $73, gas $23, misc. $65, food $132, cell phone $37.

Notice: no utility expenses, nothing on clothes, no long commute.

You might take a moment to jot down your own expenses and see if there is any place to cut without being as Spartan as Ilgunas. What I learned from the book is that many of us with  “first world problems”, live a relatively easy life. For those of us with larger debts, Ilgunas demonstrates the value of being absolutely focused on one’s priorities and ultimately learns another lesson as well:

“If I wanted to stay close to nature and my true needs, I would have to continue to live a bare-bones, simple uncluttered lifestyle.”

Without adopting a ‘bare-bones’ lifestyle, there is value in seeing how others accomplished their goals. J. D. Roth, the founder of the finance blog Get Rich Slowly wrote about getting rid of his $35,000 in debt in 2007. Whether you choose to stop using credit;  adopt a lite beer vs. microbrew budget; sell most  of your possessions ; leave the country; or live on only one income (if your family has more than one revenue stream), there are other people who have vanquished their debt. It is very hard, but you are not alone (unless you want to live in your own van).

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Filed under Debts, First World Problems

In the Mood: Music for your Money “Workout”

What gets you in the mood…for money management?

Money Money Money Mooooney

Money Money Money Mooooney (Photo credit: Ahmed Rabea)

Blues for budgeting?
Polkas for planning?
Rap for retirement funding?

Jason Zweig has a great list here .  My personal list also includes a few titles not on Zweig’s list.

  • For a calm session of financial sorting, filing and shredding, how about “To Everything There is a Season” by The Byrds?   
  • When thinking about the Great Recession, there are many versions of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” I enjoyed the late Daniel Schorr’s impromptu version on NPR, and am also fond of the song as sung by Broadway and TV star Mandy Patinkin. Here’s a link to a  rendition on David Letterman .
  • This lively song “Money, Money, Money” (I prefer the Meryl Streep video) reminds us despite the movies, a rich man may not be the best solution.
  • Last but not least, listen to some classic Aretha
Aretha Live at Fillmore West

Aretha Live at Fillmore West (Photo credit: thejcgerm)

to remind us it is good to:

spend your money in line with your values,

respect the hard work of others

and above all, respect yourself with  your spending.

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Filed under Everyday Financial Tasks, Just for Fun

Are You Having Budgeting Fantasies?

A friend of mine recently confessed to me that she grew up with, wait for it …budgeting fantasies. Before you get in a kerfuffle over this, here’s  the story.

One of her parents would send her to the nearest store to pick up a box of cereal, bag of apples or extra milk. She would march 2 blocks up the hill  to the local grocery and shop for what was on the list. However, before she chose those items and walked back home, she created her own mental shopping list for playing house. When I have my own house, she mused, I will buy this and this, and this! Plus, she added the prices in her head to keep track of her spending. Eventually, she did go back home with only her family’s requested items in the bag! (She assures me that this was one of her very favorite things to do.)

You may not have experienced this in your family, but I am sure that you can see some advantages to allowing a child this independence, instead of dragging a bored, screaming child down yet another grocery aisle.

Video for 04.20.2009

Would you allow your child to assume responsibility for choosing one group of food for the family each week? Maybe milk or cereal? If you’re bolder, how about fruits or vegetables? Here are some benefits to consider:

  • it may increase their cooperation at meal-time
  • they might enjoy it
  • it will give them a practical application for arithmetic
  • it gives them a window into what their parents do with their income each month

Pick a popular food group, assign a dollar amount to it that you can live with – for better or worse, and try it out with your children.

Vegetables in a grocery store, Paris, France.

Vegetables in a grocery store, Paris, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would your child eat more radishes if they chose them at the store?

Try it out and let me know what happens!

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Filed under Learning About Finance

Ads placed by WordPress- i.e. the lottery

Today I pulled up my blog and was surprised to see a video ad for …lottery tickets. Please note: Ads placed on this blog are placed by WordPress.

I would never recommend lottery tickets on this blog.Sign Your Lotto Ticket, As of January 28, 2008...

Unless I was explaining that this is an expenditure (investment just doesn’t seem like the right word) where most well, actually darn near ALL of the time, you will lose all of your money.

Meaning:

Yes, Virginia, you will lose all of your principal on this one!

It can be a momentary thrill, but that is a subject for a different type of post.

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Filed under Learning About Finance