Dear Readers…

Hello readers & followers! It has been quite some time since I wrote on this blog and I was ready to actually delete this blog. Luckily, someone made a recent comment that brought me back to those goose bump feelings I would get when I touched someone. I will be writing again, but may be changing the formatting on this blog.

Ok, quick updates on my life!

I am still debt free! Woo Hoo

I recently purchased a 2013 Mini Cooper (dream car) in cash – it was hard to see the savings diminish, but my 2005 Mazda3 had over 210,000 miles and it was time to say farewell. I could not mentally stand the thought of having debt/car payments again, so I bit the bullet and drained the savings. I am in rebuild mode again. On a pay it forward mentality note, I gave my Mazda3 to my cousin in Sacramento who loves it as she was taking the bus to class each day. I now keep up with her Snapchats and her in the car – typically at a fast food joint. 🙂

I am now focused on saving more money for a down payment! I still want to focus on one new country vacation each year and one new state each year, so I need to be able to add that to the budget for sanity purposes, but I do want to focus on that 20%.

One of my personal friends recently became a Real Estate agent and introduced me to a lender who is evaluating my finances. I do not feel very confident about the liquid cash I have, but we will have to see how our discussion goes on Tuesday.

Now that I have a focus, I will be mainly blogging on ways to save for that down payment! Here are some budget friendly action items I have recently done.

  1. I stopped buying coffee! I used to walk into the office daily with coffee the last few months, but I now make it at home daily. Back to the grind!
  2. I have been brown bagging it. Due to my crazy work schedule and commute, I had to outsource my shopping and stick to a realistic plan. This may help you city dwellers:
    • I use Instacart (www.instacart.com) for my grocery shopping. I accepted the fact that I would arrive home around 7pm and was way too tired to shop and then cook. I easily stopped by the local Vietnamese restaurant nearby way too many times dropping $20+ a night! I now create a shopping list, walk to my car at work, hit “submit” and by the time I am home 45 minutes-1 hour later, groceries are delivered to my door. I signed up for the annual fee to avoid delivery fees each usage, so I then just pay for the tip. However, the money I save from eating out is well worth it. Not only to mention, my sanity and time is saved!
    • Learn what works for you: I purchased an indoor grill because I hated the way my chicken breasts came out, so I invested in items that will help me eat what I shopped for. I also found a Griddle pan at Ross that I love that has helped me make breakfasts more enjoyable. Also, frozen rice is a life saver, but is more pricey, so I am looking into a rice cooker.
  3. Back to saying NO! I have said no to quite a few things. If it does not bring me joy, I just can’t do it. Also, I am looking for NEW adventures, so if I have tried that restaurant, if I have already done that event before, chances are, I will say no to you (with a smile)

Ok, that is all folks – Keep you posted on my down payment goals. I am also looking into investing strategies, so I’ll share that as well.

Cheers!

Frugal Idea #39: Projecting the spend

Hello! I feel so horrible that I have not written in quite some time. I have a full-time job that had completely taken over my life for a bit, but I am back. My load is still heavy, but more manageable, and I am finally in the groove. I also have consciously taken more of an effort to be myself again and do what I enjoy doing. My current priorities are:

  • Writing again
  • Remember that I work to live, not live to work
  • Travel, travel, travel
  • Still empowering myself and others to always stay on the path towards financial freedom
  • Cooking – I love it!
  • Yoga and working out – definitely in a new phase in my life
  • Love

What is on your list? Take time to really think about what you want out of life because our biggest asset is time. During my time her on earth, I want to take care of my money, so that I can live the life I want. Money cannot guarantee happiness, but having no money can guarantee misery!

So much to write about, so I need to organize my thoughts and stick to one topic. I want to write about understanding your spend. In the past few yeas, I have really become organized in many parts of my life. I truly believe becoming more of a minimalist has aided to that as I have learned to say no to so many things that do not add value. I now want to live a life of (pardon my language), of a “Fuck Yeah” mentality. For example, hey, Neville do you want to go to this concert? If my answer is not “Fuck Yeah”, it’s a no go for me. Excellent way to save money. Time to go back to proper English now. 🙂

Since travel has been important to me and I am forcing myself to leave the United States this year (one must never be too busy for what he/she loves), then I need to evaluate my spend. I have a few domestic trips booked already, so I need to figure out a way to pay for my international vacation without dipping too much into savings (which I would definitely replenish!).

Here are some changes in my life I have done the last two months to have more funds for my vacation spending:

Change the cat’s diet – Mila has been one lucky cat! I used to buy her a new toy once a month and of course, I believe in quality litter and food. However, I have noticed she tends to not eat all of her dry food. She has learned that I come home from work a certain time and she waits for the wet food. As I pet her hello, I remind her that this is a house we do not waste food in (not that she understands that). So, I actually skip the wet food feeding. She ends up finishing her dry food with a bad attitude. The food lasts longer, helping with the overall save. I also have enough variety in her toy selections to still bring excitement into her play time.

Beyonce said to upgrade, but I now downgrade – small things such as ordering a small coffee vs. a medium coffee goes a long way!

Tindr truth – I have been on a dating rampage and the best gentlemen I have met have actually read my blog and are also saving money. Perfect way to brainstorm ideas. My most recent date included a walk up and down Polk street and choosing one restaurant to share a dish. No need to have an awkward moment of who spends what. Let’s decide on a dish together and share it.

Cooking at home! – I have been much better at cooking at home. I am choosing easy recipes vs. complex ones that will require extra ingredients. For what I do have at home, I google search recipes with that ingredient. An example was having extra ground beef. I found a recipe that required just a few additional ingredients. So, I purchased bell peppers and will stuff them with the ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese. Bonus points that the website stated these were easy to freeze for future meals.

Say no – As mentioned, saying no has never been easier. I do not want to be a hermit, but I know myself well enough to know what would bring me joy and value to my life vs. wasting time. I no longer want to add more to my plate that adds no value (yes, that includes people). Don’t feel so pressured to impress people you actually don’t care about!

I have a lot more on my mind, but I will wrap up this edition by saying: Live your live as it is, not what you or others thought it  would be. You will no longer feel pressured to spend time or money to impress others. Do you!

Frugal Idea #38: Mint.com

After a long day at work, I had dinner & drinks with a friend who was curious about a career in Recruiting. I have worked in Recruiting and Staffing for over 10 years, so of course I wanted to meet. After tasting each other’s cocktail, sharing a salad and entree together, we found ourselves talking more about money, savings, investment, and financial freedom. I have found a like minded person! Twas’ a good night.

Every now and then I get a text from that very same friend asking if I have heard of this podcast or have I read that article on investment. A recent text reminded me to explore Mint.com. I finally opened an account and I love it! Prior to Mint.com, I was using an Excel spreadsheet to calculate my Net Worth. I originally thought my salary was the most important factor when it comes to my finances, but I have learned, it is truly your Net Worth. You can have large pay checks, but if you spend more than you make and have numerous liabilities, you are actually in the hole. Friends who I thought were well off, were really only in debt. They had mortgages, car loans, credit card debts, and waited for the next pay day. I made a choice to increase my Net Worth vs. worry about what people thought I earned.

This journey towards financial freedom has been great. I eliminated all consumer debt and now aggressively paying off my student loans. Once those are done (I predict by end of year), I will be 100% debt free! I will then switch towards an aggressive savings and investment strategy. I have been learning more about manifesting abundance in my life (that will be another blog).

Mint.com is my spreadsheet… made easier! I synced the only three credit cards I use (they earn points and yes, I pay them off every month), my checking account, money market account, investment accounts, and also the value of my car. My Net Worth is in the positive! It has been exciting to see that number grow. I remember when I was in the negative and I will never be in that situation ever again.

Mint.com will show you trends in the way you spend, set personal goals (I chose buying a house by Feb 2017, paying off student loan by Dec 2015, and retiring by age 60 if not sooner), and you can also source ways to save money. Mint.com even lists savings accounts with higher dividend returns. The best part is, Mint.com will also provide your credit score!

I have much gratitude for meeting my friend at Jasper’s that night. Not only does this Tenderloin restaurant bring good vibes, drinks, and food, it is now home to a financial event that will help me grow my Net Worth.

Here is a great video that also inspired me by Mike & Lauren:

Frugal Idea #34: Checklist

I can’t help but be nostalgic.

As the last day of 2014 approaches us, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on your actions this past year. Each year, I gain more financial knowledge and ways to live a life of minimalism. Did you hit your goals? Were you able to learn something new to set you up in a stronger financial situation in 2015? To start you off on the right foot in 2015, here is a checklist of what I typically plan on completing each year. This checklist continues to grow each year. What financial year end traditions do you have?

  • Tax Season – Email/call your tax preparer/service to get an early appointment to complete your taxes. Be sure to ask for a checklist of what you need to bring to the meeting to capitalize on a potential return. Tip: Did you know that you can submit your car registration as a tax deductible purchase? Plan what you will do with your refund. Hopefully, it is to pay debt or save!
  • W-2s – If you completed a W-4 for an employer, start organizing and collecting your W-2s from all employers. Make sure you mailing addresses are up to date to avoid delays in delivery. Also, many employers are now switching to online access to your W-2s. See if this is an option for you and you should be able to access it pretty early in January!
  • Donate – Now is the time to maximize your tax deductible donations. If you have non profit organizations that you enjoy giving money to, be sure to submit those immediately. It is also a great time to purge your space of clutter. Donate items to your local thrift store i.e. Goodwill. Be sure to save all receipts for proof of donations. Tip: For online donations, I created a “donations” folder. All receipts were transferred into this folder for easy submittals during my tax meeting.
  • Declutter – I truly believe if you clear space, you not only invite new things to come into your life, but your mind is clear enough to make smarter decisions. If you took time off away from work, dedicate a little bit of time to clearing spaces you have ignored all year. That includes a shelf in your closet, that junk drawer, that cabinet in the kitchen. Shred all documents you no longer need and if you have not used something in over a year, chances are you will never use them. Get rid of it! Tip: If you get easily distracted, put on music and set your phone timer for 30 minutes. Focus on one area until timer goes off. You would be surprised how much you get done without checking texts, social media, emails, etc.
  • Review – Review all of your statements from credit cards, bank statements, and retirement statements. Make sure you do not see any discrepancies.  Look at your summaries of finance charges and late fees. Do you feel guilty paying that much? See if you can transfer funds to a lower APR option or pay off as much as you can. If you have been earning reward points with any financial institution, make sure you take advantage of points earned that may be expiring.
  • Credit Score – I obtain my credit score once a year. It helps you know if you are on the right track. If your number has lowered, review the details. Do you see fraud or too much debt? How can you change this in 2015?
  • Savings – I always thought it was fun to see if you obtained your savings goals.  Pull up your January statements for your savings accounts and retirement funds. Compare where you started January 1st to today. Did you save 10-20% of your income this year? If not, why? Plan how you can achieve this next year.
  • Evaluate – Did you save enough this year to switch to a Money Market? Are you ready to invest money in stocks or bonds? If you have enough for an emergency fund and extra income, be sure put it towards a way to make extra money.
  • Add another stream – Count how many streams of income do you currently have? Do you have an idea to try in 2015? You may be surprised to learn how creative you can be. This year I focused on taking extra money and buying concert tickets that would sell out. I would then re-sell with a markup. If you have multiple ways to grow wealth, you can re-invest more funds towards your future.
  • Expense reports – Turn in your expense reports for work! If you keep missing deadlines, what can you do to be better organized?
  • Plan – If you earn an annual bonus at work, be sure to use it smartly. If you have debt, plan how much you would like to put towards debt. Instead of a high priced ticket item you want to purchase, take 20% of it to invest or put towards savings.

On a final note, take care of yourself. How you treat yourself is how others will treat you. I believe the Universe will return love to you once you love yourself. Take time to treat yourself before the New Year. You do not have to spend a lot of money. Have a nice outfit picked out (I am sure there is one in your closet) to celebrate the past and upcoming year. Have your hair done, nails done, and eat well. Be sure to surround yourself with people who make you feel great. If you feel like a million dollars, you can definitely earn a million dollars.

About the writer:

VegasTrip

Neville (Nev) Bendiola grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, California until the age of 10 before relocating to Sacramento, CA.  Growing up in a low income family, he slept on the floor most of his young life until he got his own twin size bed at the age of 10 – a memory he will always remember. Nev relocated back to San Francisco for college where he continued on in a career in Staffing Sales and Recruiting. Achieving financial success, he spent more than he earned using credit cards along the way. He found himself  carrying debt through the recent recession. Inspired by friends and reading success stories online, Nev moved into a Studio apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district where he minimized his spending and material items. He is currently focused on saving money and sharing the ride with his readers along his journey to financial freedom.

Contact: frugalnev@gmail.com

Twitter: NEVBB

Facebook: facebook.com/frugalnev

Frugal Idea #12

Be in the moment, be present, be aware, be open to communicate, and you may just save!

I have to admit I enjoy people watching. I try my best to not judge someone, but I am naturally curious of a person’s actions, thoughts, and emotions. I have noticed that many more of us seem to be distracted by our cell phones & tablets. Headphones seem to always be inserted in ears listening to music, focused on the sounds of beats versus the sounds of life, always allowing us to avoid talking to strangers. As people walk with heads down and headphones on, reading their emails, texting while driving, I cannot help but wonder how conscious we really are sometimes!

I recently took a business trip to Las Vegas for work (winner at the Roulette table!) and as I waited by the airport terminal gates for my flight, I noticed the crowd of people with headphones on, tablets up, and how cell phones were checked every few minutes. I made a conscious decision to be in the moment; otherwise, the moment may just pass you by. I decided to chat with my co-workers who happened to have the same flight home. Suddenly, we hear a voice from the Virgin America employee from the overhead speakers stating that they sold too many seats for this flight and if there was one person willing to give up their seat. In exchange, a $300.00 flight credit would be given along with a free meal in your upgraded seat in business class. I looked around and I saw blank stares and bobbing heads as music blasted through their headphones. I wondered if this would be a good financial move for me considering you would have to sacrifice time and fly to Los Angeles’ LAX airport first then to San Francisco’s SFO airport. This would mean I would be home 1-2 hours later than planned. I imagined taking off and landing a total of 4 times and my stomach turned.

However, I then thought of how much I loved traveling, thought of my upcoming trips (Bachelor party in New Orleans and Chicago later in the year) and thought $300 would really help me in my financial goals. Frugal Nev would be proud! I then realized, I had some of my co-workers’ items stored in my luggage since her bag was over the weight limit. I felt guilty knowing I would not be able to give her the items after we land, but if we do not ask in life, we shall never know our options. So, I decided to communicate. After telling her that I was interested in taking the deal and explained that this flight credit would help me financially, she agreed to let me give her items at a future date. Score!

As I waited for folks to board, I was informed by the flight crew that someone ended up not showing up for the flight and that I can get on the original flight as planned. To thank me for volunteering, I was given a $25.00 flight credit instead. It may not have been $300, but not only were the stressed out employees thankful, I now have a future discounted flight. As the plane took off, I smiled knowing I saved money by being present and in the moment – exactly how I want to live my life.

Frugal Idea #8

When you focus on gratitude, you save. Every Sunday, I take a few minutes of the day to read, watch, or listen to something inspiring. I recently have been focused on gratitude. It is easy to be upset that you are not quite where you thought you would be by now (financially, career, home, location, etc.) or upset that you do not have a material item you can not afford at this moment in life. I used to think I “needed” items, but when I focused on gratitude, it really puts your life & possessions in perspective. One year, I wrote down 5 items/ideas/events I am grateful for. In honor of FrugalNev, I am listing 3 material items I currently have that I thought of replacing/upgrading, until I replaced that want with gratitude and that prevented me from spending more to fill a void.

1) I am grateful for my 2005 Mazda 3 car. It has 164,000 miles on it, but it is paid off. I am grateful that I do not have to pay monthly dues to a loan. I am grateful that this car takes me to work daily and that I can visit a family member or friend. I am grateful that I can go on a trip to explore a new city. I am grateful and do not need to buy a new car at the moment.

2) I am grateful to live in a studio in San Francisco. It may not be a 1 bedroom and it may not be a studio that I own, but I am grateful to live near downtown San Francisco. I am able to walk to a restaurant, walk to go shopping, and attend the numerous cultural and artistic events. I am grateful to be in the city I have always wanted to live in. I am grateful that I can afford to rent this space and grateful to have great neighbors. I will buy a home when the time is right, I have 20% down, and have 8 months of emergency funds to cover the mortgage. I will buy without settling down to a space I think I must buy rather than I want and can afford to buy. I am grateful this studio keeps Mila (my cat) and I warm and safe.

3) I am grateful to have enough clothes to wear to work, the gym, a casual night out, and to sleep in. I may not have the most expensive items and most of my clothes are last season’s wear, but I am grateful to have people compliment my style from time to time. I do not need to buy more clothes unless it is time to replace an item due to wear & tear, stains, or if it lost its shape. I have more clothes than some people in this world and I am thankful.

I hope you find time to be grateful for items you currently have. Before you buy, think if you really need it. It may stretch your dollar!

 

Frugal Idea #7

$1551.25.

Let’s get back to that number shortly. I remember thinking I needed that mocha or latte. About two years ago, I made the jump. I bought a $10 Coffee Maker (Steal!) at Target and started brewing my own coffee in the morning. Of course, I have a cheat day every now and then. A cheat day happened last week. I had a hard time sleeping and I had overslept. I literally got up and ran out the door. No AM caffeine – eeks! I usually go to Starbucks or a local cafe here on Geary, Angel Cafe and it never fails to be shocked at the price for an espresso drink. So, let’s go back to that number $1551.25. If you bought a drink with all the fixings (that extra shot, flavor syrup, etc.), I estimate it to be about $4.25. At 365 days, it comes out to $1551.25 and monthly at $129.27.

To put things in perspective, $1551.25 was more than my monthly rent for a 1 bedroom in San Bruno. $129.27 is higher than my cell phone and cable monthly bill. I ride the Caltrain to work at times and those coffee to-go cups are everywhere and then I see the homemade coffee makers with their coffee tumblers and creative drink cups, like a mason jar. Bravo to them.

If the habit is just too hard to shake, at the very minimum, spend smart. Get a Starbucks Gold Card. Every time you buy, you earn a star and 30 stars equals a free drink. I learned a secret in San Mateo (where I work). Piazza’s (the gourmet grocery store) has a card for their Starbucks (12 buys, 1 free) that can be combined with your Gold Card. Winner! It is like double coupons.

See what the card is about here: http://www.starbucks.com/card/rewards/gold

However, I say, try that Coffee Maker (P.S. if you make too much, save the rest for an iced coffee treat later!)

Image

Here is what I brew with – $10 at Target!

Frugal Idea #6

For those who work in sales, business development, real estate, or just a plain ol’ foodie and client lunches or dinners are crucial for relationship development & retention or you just want to be a food obsessed Heffa, you best have created an Opentable.com account! I have been using this site for about 4 years now and use it to not only obtain feedback on service & food, but it is helpful in choosing a place to recommend to a client (sometimes that can be the hardest part). Every time you book a restaurant through this portal, you can earn 100 or 1000 points. As you gain points, you earn an Opentable cheque good to use at any restaurant in their network.  I use OpenTable throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Las Vegas, Sacramento, etc. Every year I have earned at least a $100 cheque. I love treating one special person in my life to a new restaurant that may typically be over budget. Great way to have a good time out. Happy eating!

Check it out: http://www.opentable.com

 

Frugal Idea #5

Keep it real! This entry is dedicated to keeping it real….with yourself.  Let us take a moment to pay attention to our eating habits. Focus on what you are throwing away, what goes bad in your fridge, and what expires in your cabinets. Why did you buy it? Was it on sale and a deal too good to pass? You had to buy ten of those… just in case, right? Keep it Real: Buy what you need and buy what you know you will eat.

We are encouraged to buy loaves of breads on sale (and freeze them), buy heads of lettuces instead of instant salads, buy in bulk, etc to SAVE SAVE SAVE. But what does a single man in a small apartment with limited space do?  It was not working out for me. I found myself stricken with guilt as I took trash out half full of food gone bad.  Here are some habits I have done to keep it real for my lifestyle.

  • I buy pre-washed baggage lettuce. I use it for sandwiches and salads. I have limited amount of time and washing a head of lettuce takes time and is typically too much for me to eat before it turns a lighter shade of brown in a day or two.  
  • I buy individual packages of cheese sticks. Block cheese may be cheaper, but block cheese with a hint of mold is not a nice way to cut the cheese.
  • I buy large pieces of meat when on sale. I cut it in half or thirds and individually wrap them in saran wrap into 2 servings and freeze them right away.
  • I am not a huge milk drinker, but I do like it in my morning coffee. I always bought half gallons just in case I wanted that random bowl of cereal, but I found myself pouring out half or a fourth of it away in a week or so. I now buy a small container of milk for $1.00 at the local liquor store. No waste.
  • I like the occasional junk food like French Fries, so I buy frozen French Fries that I can bake in 15 minutes to kill the urge of fast food. I also enjoy making 3-4 patties from a pound of ground beef I grab at Trader Joes.  Homemade burgers.
  • I love ethnic foods, but it is pricey to order from the local restaurants, so I rotate my cravings by having available foods from my favorite cuisines. For example, I have frozen Naan from Trader Joe’s and frozen Saag Paneer.  When I crave Indian, I heat those up and my craving goes away. $20 vs. $8 or so makes it worth it! I also have Instant Miso soup packages, Tempura flakes, and Teriyaki sauce in case I want to whip up a Japanese inspired meal.  Whatever your favorite cuisine may be, have an alternate way to make it at home.
  • I love fruit, but it goes bad fast, so I avoid whole Pineapples, Melons, and large fruits. I now buy pre-cut fruits because I will eat it. I make up the cost by buying smaller fruits in season & on sale – apples, oranges, berries, etc.

Take a look into your fridge, cabinets, drawers, freezers, and office desks. Stop buying what you never open, never finish. Invest in foods that you will love and enjoy….alone or to share with someone special. 

 

Frugal Idea #4

Frugal Idea #4

It’s tax season! I am by no means a tax professional, but I have learned over the years that you need to remain highly organized to not only maximize your tax return, but to reduce your stress level and meet all deadlines. I recently have dedicated one space in my apartment to file away all documents from last year and all new documents needed for this year. I’ve learned that I work well with boxes (tip: you can purchase affordable boxes at Daiso for $1.50!). Choose a size that can fit receipts and choose another box or binder for all letter size documents. For donations I have made online to a Non Profit, I created an email folder listed as “Donations”. I would move all e-mail receipts to this folder for easy tracking and printing. If you dislike clutter, take advantage of online services such as obtaining W-2 forms through your employer vs. paper statements, credit card statements to search for donations if you missed a receipt, and Excel spreadsheets to track mileage for your charitable events, etc. I linked a website of what to bring to your appointment if you choose to go to a Tax Professional. P.S. If you are receiving a tax refund, I challenge you to save 20% of it and put another 20% to debt (yes, that includes your student loans).  If you plan on making a large purchase and it requires all of your tax refund, can you wait another pay period? If you can save 100% of it, BRAVO!

http://blogs.hrblock.com/2013/02/04/tax-document-checklist-what-do-i-need-to-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/