Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Author Archive: Jana

Sometimes it’s OK to splurge

Today was payday in my house. Actually, it was one of the 2 “extra” paychecks we get each fiscal year. No bills get paid out of these paychecks. We use 24 out of our 26 paychecks, plus the majority of our second income, to pay bills and pay off debt. We’ve decided, together, that for these 2 “extra” paychecks, we let ourselves have a little breathing room. For these paychecks, we spend the money on the absolute necessities like gas, food, savings, and daycare but also use it to give ourselves a little bonus.

For instance, we each get a small allowance out of every paycheck ($20 every 2 weeks). From our extra paychecks, we bump that up to $100. We will usually treat ourselves to a nice dinner. We may each buy one special item and then we kind of let the rest sit. But this summer’s extra paycheck bonus is filled with all kinds of good stuff:

  • $300 for our vacation (accommodations are free and food is separate. This is just for activities)
  • $100 to take our daughter to see the Laurie Berkner Band (of the children’s performers, she is probably the most tolerable)
  • around $300 for my plane ticket to the Financial Blogger conference
  • $150 for my husband’s yearly fishing trip

I will also be using some money to buy this:

It’s nice to have some extra income every once and awhile to spend on fun stuff rather than bills and debt. While we do a pretty good job budgeting money for smaller ticket fun stuff items, buying the bigger things guilt free is a good feeling.

Do you ever use extra income to splurge? What do you like to buy?

Town for sale? I’m buying!

You may have seen this listing: Scenic, South Dakota

That’s right. The whole town is for sale. For just under $800K. That’s less than the cost of a lot of houses. It’s less than the cost of paying Derek Jeter for a year. Heck, it’s less than the amount inherited from cousin Bertha! But is the town worth it? Would you buy it?

In a dream world, I would. Who wouldn’t want to own her own town? Just the thought of owning my own town makes me giddy with anticipation for what I would do with it. Bear with me for a few minutes as I indulge my imagination (and bottomless wallet).

Priority #1: Hire a good contractor to do the work. I have a neighbor/friend who not only is a contractor but his partner is an architect. I’m pretty sure I’d get a good rate, and I’ve seen his work first hand, so he’s at the top of my list to do the work.

Priority #2: Now that I’ve got the contractor and architect in place, it’s time to start attracting businesses. Since the town is only 46 acres, I’m not looking for big box stores. I want mom and pop shops. I want a small, independent book store. I want an ice cream shop. I want a hardware store a la Teen Wolf (the good, Michael J. Fox version, not the crappy MTV show). I want a diner that also serves vegetarian fare, grocery store, a clothing store and a gas station (fortunately, the bones for a grocery store and gas station are already there). There will also be a coffee/gourmet hot chocolate shop that boasts free wireless Internet; sort of like a Starbucks but again, a mom and pop shop. And I want to restore the local saloon and dancehall.

Priority #3: The restoration of the saloon and the dancehall. I think this could be the centerpiece of the town. Not just as a bar, but as a place for entertainment for the whole town. We’re talking concerts, movies, speakers, book fairs, pictures with Santa and the Easter bunny, charity events…pretty much one central place to hold these events.

Priority #4: Hire a great advertising/public relations firm for a huge advertising campaign. Since the town is on the way to Badlands National Park and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, it’s sure to draw some attention with the right marketing strategy. The fact that town was owned by a rodeo legend (from what I’ve read) can definitely be a key element in this strategy. Sort of like what Lightening McQueen did for Radiator Springs.

Priority #5: Get the town on the public transportation line. Make it easier for people to get there from other locations. This is how the town will maintain an influx of visitors beyond those who are passing through on the way to other locations. Also, there will be free parking for those who chose to drive.

Priority #6: Hire a competent, qualified town manager. The town will collapse without proper management. Once it’s up and running, I want someone to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the town, work with the shop owners, visitors, public officials and anyone else involved with the town. Other hires, most likely on a part-time basis: a web designer for the town’s website, a blogger to keep the website flush with fresh information, and one law enforcement officer. Maybe two. I want to at least give the illusion of order.

Priority #7: Rename the town Janatown. This one is still up for debate.

So that would be my strategy should I purchase Scenic, SD. What would you do?

It takes one

Rob Base was wrong. It does not take two to make a thing go right. It only takes one.

What the heck am I talking about? In order to clear that up, I’ll have to start with a personal philosophy that I have:


  “Changing the entirely too daunting. So I aim to impact one person. Because if I’ve impacted one person, I’ve done my job.”

To illustrate my philosophy, let’s talk about my cat. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been concerned for homeless animals. It makes me sad that they have no shelter, no regular food source, no love and a lot of times, no name. So when my homeowner’s associate send around a newsletter urging people to use their trash can lids because “We’ve noticed some stray cats in the neighborhood and we don’t want them”, my internal middle finger was lifted and I decided to do something about it. Like feeding the feral cat that’s been living in the neighborhood for the last 2 years.
Not only did I start feeding this cat daily, I built her a shelter and arranged to have her neutered; no more feral cats were going to be conceived on my watch! As time’s gone by, this cat–Boots–has become our pet. The neighborhood knows she belongs to us.  Boots responds to her name. She doesn’t really leave the vicinity of our house because she knows that its her home, too. My daughter adores her and cries every night because Boots isn’t allowed to sleep in our house. And although she still won’t let us pet her (she’s been feral for about 3 years), she has to make sure that we are within her sight whenever we are outside. She is now our cat. She has been given a foundation. Even though I can’t help all of them, I have made a difference for this one cat.
That’s what I’m trying to do with this blog. My financial stories and advice may not be useful for everyone (though I do hope that everyone finds them entertaining) but if I can impact one person, then I’ve made an impact. If one person finds a foundation from my story, then I’ve reached my goal. Am I a financial expert? Hell, no! But I hope I’ve made enough mistakes and course corrected enough that someone else can relate to my story and course correct herself (or himself). Because if one can inspire one who can inspire another one, well, there’s no stopping us.
Oh, and the cat? Here she is:

Money Tune Tuesday: Absolutely Still

This week’s installment of Money Tune Tuesday is a bit different. Rather than a song about money, it’s a song that represents perhaps one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Ever. Oh, and it was free.

Last Friday, I saw Better Than Ezra for free at Baltimore’s Power Plant Live. Sure, it was hotter than the sun and I had to pay for a hotel room and my Jeremiah Weed crush got warm before I could finish it but it didn’t matter because I got to see BTE. I had been wanting to see them for more years than I can count and when I saw that they were playing for free in my favorite city, there was no way I was not going. I called my parents, got them to babysit and off I went.

I wish there was a word for how infinitely amazing this show was. It was perfect. And I can’t believe it was free. A show that good should not be free. I am over the moon that it was, in fact, free but I would have gladly paid money to go. It was so good I forgot that I was melting into my flip flops (I only remembered that later, back at the hotel).

So, in honor of this unbelievable show, and it’s homage to the frugal, today’s money tune is Better Than Ezra’s “Absolutely Still”. I chose this instead of their more well known songs like “Good”, “Desperately Wanting” or “Breathless” (apparently this one has been covered by Taylor Swift) because, well, it’s incredible and lots of people need to hear it:

Roseanne: Domestic goddess, financial mentor.

I’ll start with a confession: I watch a lot of television.  It’s a flaw that I’ve come to accept and embrace.

I tend to gravitate towards shows that feature “regular” people—Friday Night Lights, The Office, Parks and Recreation. Not only are these shows just awesome, they often depict people in realistic financial situations.  But for me, no show has painted a greater picture of financial reality than Roseanne.

Watching the show in reruns as an adult has given me a whole new perspective. It was pioneering in the way it portrayed a working family. From the cleanliness of her house to her relationship with her family to her struggles with her weight, there was nothing about Roseanne that I cannot relate to now. Most importantly, the show depicted money in a way that has never been duplicated.
photo from carseywerner.net

Here’s what Roseanne taught me about money:

1.     It’s OK, and often necessary, to be working mom. The reality for a lot of women, me included, is that having a full-time job is necessary. Roseanne worked at numerous jobs in order to help provide for her family. She never once expressed guilt or remorse for having to do it; she knew her family needed the money to take care of their kids and their expenses. So she did it. And sometimes she got in trouble for needing to put her family first. But she accepted the consequences because family comes first.
2.     Discussing finances with your spouse is a must. Many episodes focused on Roseanne and Dan discussing their financial difficulties, including how they were going to pay their bills. These dialogues showed that it was perfectly acceptable for a married couple to sit down at their kitchen table and discuss money (pre-lottery winning season. Let’s just forget about that).  They showed that even if you argue sometimes, even if you splurge on little items, it’s still important to do be open and honest about your household budget.
3.     Being a savvy grocery shopper is a way of life. Who could forget the trip to the supermarket with Darlene’s home economics class? Her pantry was often stocked with generics, she paid cash, clipped coupons and her meals were never anything fancy. But the Conners had dinner together every night and everyone was fed. She also valued the specialness of a dishwasher and eating in a restaurant. There are a lot of lessons in that.
4.     Don’t quit on your dreams. From Dan’s drywall business to the motorcycle shop to flipping houses to Roseanne’s restaurant, they were never afraid to pursue their dreams in order to make a living. They borrowed money, employed family and friends. They put in long hours, hard work and often struggled and failed. Eventually, they were able to profit from The Lunch Box, proving that with hard work comes success. It also shows that if you have a dream, go for it. Because you’ll regret it if you don’t try.
5.     Fix what you have before you run out and buy something new. They spent a lot of time fixing what they owned, performing general housework as well as doing their own construction and home repair. If something is broken, you try to fix it before you spend your money on something new. Sure, Dan was a contractor and a general handyman, which made it easier for them to DIY but the point is that you take care of what you own.
While some of the story lines were not at all plausible, many of them were. Roseanne demonstrated the values of work ethic, family, and humor but the realistic portrayal of one family’s finances really hits home.
Are there any TV shows that you feel portray finances in a realistic manner?