Getting my gripe on at Groupon

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“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” – Dave Ramsey

I’m not sure if it’s a cultural norm, a nasty habit, or an insecurity built into our collective psyche (maybe all three), but I, for one, have spent countless dollars on garbage I either didn’t need or couldn’t afford.

Thankfully, I’ve really been able to turn things around the past six months or so. I won’t get into how I became debt-free here (perhaps in an upcoming post), but I think one of the primary keys to financial freedom is to simply cut out all of those unnecessary impulse buys. No, I’m not talking about cutting out buying chocolate bars while you’re stuck in line at the grocery store (those are essential) – I’m talking about things that you didn’t truly love in the first place. Things like that heinous pair of shoes you just had to have, the authentic poker table you currently have wedged in your garage, and the myriad of Groupon deals you’ve purchased over the past year. For me, that last one has been a particularly humbling lesson in shopping smart. Let’s review my track record.

• Last year, I inexplicable bought not one, but three vouchers for one month of unlimited rock climbing time at the Toronto Climbing Academy. Who can blame me? They were only $45 each! At over 60% off, my hands were essentially tied – never mind the fact that I haven’t been rock climbing since I was 12. The real pain in all of this is that I bought it online, promptly forgot about it, and now (a whole year later) they’ve expired! Needless to say, it was the best $135 I ever spent.

• In another woeful tale, I haplessly bought two hours at a recording studio (at the tremendously discounted price of $85), only to find out after the purchase had been made that you were not allowed to bring instruments into the studio. The ad said nothing about it being a strictly voice-centered recording studio, but ‘buyers-keepers’… Needless to say, I have no plans to croon out my own Christmas album.

Now I will admit that ‘daily deal’ purchases aren’t the problem here. The lesson I had to learn was to be smart about my purchases. I’ve admittedly come close to making some additional buys in recent weeks, but have been forcing myself to delay the final decision for a few hours. In all cases, I ultimately elected to pass – much to the delight of my bank account.

Do you have any horror stories of your own? How do you keep your impulses in check?

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What’s causing ‘Generation Boomerang’?

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Image Credit: Strollerderby (http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby)

Having moved out of the family home at the ripe old age of 19, it’s been years since I lived full-time with my parents. In those days, I had a Corolla to drive, plenty of home-cooked meals, and no shortage of clean towels and laundry. It was convenient, comfortable, familiar, and (perhaps most of all) very affordable.

Even during the summers of my undergraduate, living at home was a welcome break. I would be home every May to August to work my construction gig and pay off as much student debt as possible. Even then, my parents expected some rent money to cover my share of food and utilities, but that was totally fair. Living at home allowed me to bank most of each paycheque, and helped me put a dent in the considerable amount of student debt I was accruing. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Since then, I’ve been living in Toronto – one of Canada’s most expensive cities by a long shot (surveys seem to keep flip-flopping the #1 spot between Toronto and Vancouver every other month). I racked up even more debt while completing my graduate studies, but my subsequent jobs have enabled me to get back on my feet.

I know how scarse jobs are these days, how close some families are, and (from first-hand experience) how comfortable it can be living at home. But I was floored when I learned from CBC’s recent ‘Generation Boomerang’ documentary that 51% of adult children in their 20s are living at home – some even sleeping in the same bedroom they grew up in. Equally astonishing, one in three parents in the UK have actually remortgaged their home in order to help provide for their adult kids coming home!

The documentary found that the cost of raising one child from birth to age 18 was $200,000. The cost of raising them again through their 20s?: an additional $60,000. That’s quite a price-tag for parents hoping to save for their own retirement.

So what’s the reason? Some are arguing that today’s generation is complacent, lazy and unwilling to accept work they deem to be below them. Others point to the lack of jobs available, the rising cost of living, the historic student debt levels and the fact that those from the ‘Boomer’ generation are still sitting on their jobs atop the food chain.

What’s your take? What is causing the ‘Generation Boomerang’ phenomenon?

Breaking Even

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Well, it’s official! After working for the past two and a half years, I’ve finally shed the shackles of student debt, and am ready to start saving from scratch. Imagine that!

For as long as I can remember, saving has been a rather elusive and fanciful term. After racking up considerable debt during my undergraduate and graduate studies (including a pricey semester abroad), I’ve been throwing money into debt with reckless abandon in hopes of one day reaching the tipping point.

Thankfully, that day has now come. The final payment has officially cleared, I’ve closed my student line of credit, and I’m now in the black, baby!

Upon hearing the news, my Dad congratulated me, laughed and said, “you’re out…until next time.” I concede his point, but before you jump on board with more of the same, just keep it to yourself. Let me enjoy this for a few more days.