Tales from the Wallet: Setting Financial Goals

You always see personal finance articles advising you what to do at the end of the year — but I see far fewer of them advising what to do financially in the beginning of the year. Personally, I like to do two things around now:
a) I take a “financial snapshot,” and
b) I make three or four financial goals for the year.

(Pictured:  FOLLI FOLLIE Blue Stripes Wallet, available at Lord & Taylor (having awesome sales of up to 80% off today) — was $85, now $51.)  

The “snapshot” was inspired by the Excel spreadsheet that I started when we were looking to buy the apartment.  It’s just a listing of all of our accounts, investments, debts, and property — and it lists the current value for each of those line items.  Big deal, you say — [Read more...]

What’s YOUR Annual Clothes Budget?

How much do you spend on clothes — and how do you keep track? Reader T has a great idea for a topic thread:

Kat, there have been some interesting discussions lately about spending limits and annual clothing expenditures. How about doing an open thread on how much people spent in 2012 on clothing and accessories? You could ask people to list total amount, best/worst purchases of the year, industry, level of experience (ie: 5th year associate in big law), and perhaps salary or how much they spent as a percentage of total salary. I think this would be a really fascinating discussion!

This should be a fun one. We’ve kind of talked about this before, discussing how much you expect to pay for general items of clothing, as well as how to set a budget, but we’ve never really talked about a clothes budget.  (I have asked the question in surveys to readers — in our last survey, taken in August 2011, 40.2% of readers responded that they had spent “$500-$1000″ on clothes for the first half of 2011, with 27.8% saying “less than $500″ and 22.7% saying “$1001-$2500.”)

So, readers, how much do you spend on clothes?  Do you set an “annual budget” for yourself?  How do you enforce it?    [Read more...]

Tales from the Wallet: How to Open a Roth IRA in Less than 45 Minutes

Alexander Wang Quillon perch walletWe’ve talked about tax-advantaged savings before, but I actually just helped a friend get set up for a Roth IRA, so I thought I’d share some findings, and open discussion to readers — do you save money in a Roth IRA, IRA, 401K, or other tax-advantaged savings vehicle?  How much do you save — and what do you invest in?  (Pictured: Alexander Wang Quillon perch wallet, available at The Outnet for $142.50 (was $285).) [Read more...]

How Much Do You Spend On Bags?

Purses & Pumps :), originally uploaded to Flickr by nikkicookiebaker.How much do you spend on bags? After our discussion on Tuesday regarding whether a reader should spend $2100 on a bag that she was different from what she normally carried, reader E wrote in with this comment:

After reading your post yesterday regarding expensive, professional bags, I wonder who out there can afford such a bag? I am a lawyer at a big firm and live in DC. My firm pays the standard scale — I currently make $185,000 and will soon get a raise to $210,000. While I realize I may be somewhat conservative when it comes to clothes (I tend to buy designer clothes on sale or through Gilt or Ideeli), I am definitely not cheap. I would buy a $350 purse, but that is a far cry from $2100! Like most lawyers I know, I have student loans and a mortgage. However, I don’t save that much money (though I do pay extra on my loans). So my question is, who pays $2100 for a purse? Are these people who have no loans? Who have married money? Or am I just not investing enough in my wardrobe? I am interested in getting your (and other readers) opinion(s).

This is a great question, and we haven’t discussed this since the big discussion on how much people generally spend on clothes a few years ago.*  (Pictured.) I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but for my own $.02, this is how I look at it:

- The vast majority of my bags are in the $300-$600 price range.  Many were purchased for below $200, though, either at sample sales, online sales, or through flash sales (some of where I had “referral points” from recommending different flash sale sites on the blog).  [Read more...]

Tales from the Wallet: Who Manages the Money In Your House?

Kate Spade New York Glitterball Coin PurseWho is in charge of your money — you? your partner? everyone?  This came up recently with a friend, and I thought it might be an interesting open thread.  For those of you without a partner, do you want to stay in charge of your finances — or will you be happy to give that drudgery over? (Pictured: Kate Spade Glitterball Coin Purse, available at Zappos in pink and black for $50.)

For my $.02: In our household, I’m the primary one in charge of our finances, both day-to-day and long-term.  (We tried when we were first married to put 80% of our income into a joint account and 20% into separate accounts for spending money, but we simplified everything and have totally joint accounts now.)  I give my husband a “State of the Union” summary about twice a year (or whenever the mood strikes) — what the balances are, how the investments are doing, how we’re doing on our goals for the year, the good news (how much debt we’ve paid down/savings we’ve banked), the bad news (if we had to dip into savings to pay any bills, how much, when, etc).  He also gets the weekly summary emails from Mint, as well as text messages when our accounts drop below a certain balance (I think that’s another Mint feature, but it may be through our bank, Chase.)  In all honesty, I think it’s easiest to have one person manage everything, but that’s just what I know.  (Especially in our situation, where I occasionally write about personal finance and so I’m reading about it more, whereas my husband just was never into it that much.)

I think it’s funny how sometimes this is seen as a “gendered” family role — I think it’s usually seen as “the man’s job,” but my mother was the primary one in charge of day-to-day finances while I was growing up, as were both my grandmothers before her.

Ladies, who manages the money in your house? If you’re not the primary person, do you get “reports” from your partner?  Was this something you negotiated before you intermingled finances, or did you just fall into your roles?

How to Ask For a Raise

Money on the Table, originally uploaded to Flickr by tuchodi.How DO you ask for a raise?  Reader K asks this classic question…

I am looking for tips on how to successfully ask for a raise! I have a unique situation – I was promoted just under 1 year ago, and got a significant raise in my salary. However – I actually took a pay cut, since I went from base salary + commission. The powers that be don’t view commission as part of your salary, so I essentially took a 20k pay cut if you look at my W2′s, but on paper I earned a significant raise. Now, looking online at salary ranges for my position and the company’s pay grade chart, a 15% raise would put me smack dab in the middle of nationwide salaries in positions like mine, and my company’s pay grade chart. Asking for a 15% raise seems ballsy to me, especially in this economy, but I have received a LOT of praise this year, including from the CEO directly. I feel I have earned it. Suggestion or tips on how to go about this? I actually have never asked for a raise before! Thank you!

Congratulations on your great year, and the bump (on paper, at least) in salary.  A lot has been written about how women don’t negotiate raises the same way men do — we hesitate to do it, we ask for too little, we don’t do it often enough (to say nothing of employers who have a bias against women). (Pictured.) [Read more...]