Personal Finance 

A Million Bucks By 30 Missing Chapter: Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 4 of 4)

This is the third installment of a chapter originally removed from Alan Corey’s A Million Bucks By 30 (review). In this part, Alan shares the rest of the lessons learned.

Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 4), Lessons Learned:

Similarly, if you’re about to buy something stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Do I already own something like this?” Ridiculous, right? How many black skirts do you own? Red sweaters? Pairs of brown boots? I thought so. I see this time and time again in all my friend’s closets, girls and guys. If you really want something that you already have do the following: Go to your closet and find everything you haven’t worn for year, and bring it your local recycled clothing store. You probably have at least 50 items. If the store doesn’t want to buy it from you (be prepared, they’ll offer you like $2 for a leather jacket that they resell for $25), try to sell it online. Take the money you make (50 items X $2 = $200) and go buy whatever it is you are jonesing for. You open up closet space and now only have items you actually wear.

My friend Eric spent 3 years buying clothes at discount prices at our local recycled clothing store (like your $25 leather jacket) and reselling them on eBay for a decent profit (selling it for $40). He find this so lucrative, this was his only income for three years. He wasn’t getting rich off of it, but he was able to live entirely off the earnings, create his own hours, and plus, he thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

If it’s an obvious trend, go for the cheap knockoff. So Prada’s spring shoe line is all about pink patent leather mary janes with glitter accents. That’s totally awesome — Payless and Target have them too, for about $400 less. (I never said there wouldn’t be sacrifices.) Girls, take notice. Guys don’t notice your shoes. You think I’m going to know the difference between Manolos and your Payless high-heels? All I’m going to notice is that you’re freakishly taller. Enough said.

Do yourself a huge favor and don’t shop with your credit card; it’ll keep you from spending money you don’t have.

Consider being model at a school for hair stylists to get cuts for free. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything crazy or complicated, but a.) these people aren’t total morons and b.) they want to do a great job. It’s their “class work” and they don’t want to get a D+. And you don’t need a haircut every month. It’s okay to wait a while.

Invest in some nice manicure and pedicure supplies and do these yourself. Or just do them yourself most of the time.

Figure out when you absolutely must have a certain brand, and when a generic version will do. Have a favorite shampoo or cleanser? OK. But do you need top of the line cotton balls? Hand lotion? Mud mask? Similarly, when comparing your fancy brand with a store or generic brand, check out the ingredients: are they, in fact, the same? How much are you paying for a name brand, a company’s marketing campaign, and nicer packaging?

Bitch and Swap. There are a bunch of names for these, but the basic concept is that you get a group of women together who have all gone through their closets and pulled out the stuff they never, ever wear, or are sick of, or that doesn’t fit anymore. Each person presents their items, and if anyone wants something, they take it. If more than one person wants it, negotiations ensue. (This is where the “bitch” part comes in, but it usually all works out for the best.) Make this the last step before you donate your clothes. Anything that doesn’t get claimed goes to charity. The end result is that everyone gets something new and cool for free. Maybe this goes without saying, but it’s wise to plan this with friends your size. My sister went to one and no one wanted her clothes and she couldn’t wear anyone else’s clothes because she’s a foot taller than most humans. But she got some items and reused the fabric to make her own stuff. And even got a shirt she thought she could sell.

That’s it for this missing chapter! I hope you enjoyed it!

 Personal Finance 

A Million Bucks By 30 Missing Chapter: Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 3 of 4)

This is the third installment of a chapter originally removed from Alan Corey’s A Million Bucks By 30 (review). In this part, Alan shares a few lessons learned from that experience.

Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 3), Lessons Learned:

Have enough confidence in yourself that you don’t need to wear expensive clothes to feel good. Also, don’t making shopping a leisure activity. You should buy things because you need —actually need—them. It’s not necessary to go shopping every week. You should feel great whether you’re wearing a sweatshirt or a cummerbund at the end of the day. (OK, no one feels great wearing a cummerbund, but you know what I’m saying.) A shirt is a shirt, and an expensive shirt is going to get red wine spilled on it. Eliminate one more worry from your thoughts, and buy clothes that you don’t have an attachment to.

Now, I understand that being so Spartan might not work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with alternatives to curb your spending. For example, try setting a clothing budget for yourself, and never exceed it. This strategy would help ensure that you make purchases for the long term, and resist the latest trend. Or if you must have nice clothes, and you actually enjoy worrying about them getting dirty, do the following: Buy something that is known for its quality, and will last forever. If you see you clothes as a long-term investment, your attitude about their value will change.

Kelly didn’t have an attachment to her clothes for a different reason. She didn’t value her clothes. She didn’t have to sock a way a dollar a day for a month to buy a $30 skirt. When you work hard for something, you cherish it and take better care of it. You don’t lose things you waited a month to buy. Kelly had never experienced this. But I have the feeling she has experienced many of boyfriends camping out on her couch with their mouth shut watching TV.

Lastly, my room was a mess, but I knew where everything was. Kelly had a walk-in closet and it still took 45 minutes for her to find a pair of shoes she had never worn before. If I ever had a new pair of shoes, you can rest assured I would know where they were at all times: on my feet.

Fashion changes every season, and because of that, it’s an expensive addiction/beast to feed. With my clothes, I buy cheap and then try to make them into long-term investments. And like I said, I don’t think I dress that far off from the norm. Shopping at second-hand stores and budget malls have provided me with plenty of clothes and plenty of savings. And, actually, plenty of compliments, so I must be doing something right in the fashion department.

Now, before every woman reading this book hurls it across the room because there’s no way in hell they’re only buying one pair of shoes a year: hold on.

I get it. That’s probably not happening, and in my experience, women tend to really dig shopping — at least more than men do. Like I’ve said, if you really want to save for a down payment for an apartment, or seed money for your small business, it’s crucial to take a good hard look at every purchase you make, and determine what’s worth more to you: that cashmere sweater or putting a little more towards your nest egg (plus the compound interest you’d earn on it). With that in mind, here are some suggestions for the ladies (and shopping-friendly guys), on how to make the dollars you do spend go further.

If you’re shopping online, never, ever, buy anything without searching to see if there’s an online coupon that can save you some money. (Just Google “online coupon”.) There are literally sites on the Web that just keep track of who’s offering what discount for how long. Sometimes you can score free shipping, sometimes 20% off. If you don’t use them, you’re just throwing money away.

Never, ever pay full price. Need a dress for a wedding? A suit for a new job? Head to one of those mega outlet malls (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about), shop at discount retailers like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Daffy’s, Filene’s Basement, or Syms — and be sure to comb the clearance racks.

I’m a big fan of selling stuff on eBay, but it’s also a good place to get new high end merchandise at a fraction of the price. Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs, Banana Republic, J. Crew — they’re all there.

Hell, I even got a pointer from The Oprah Winfrey Show once. (Yeah, yeah, ok, I watch Oprah from time to time. But at least I don’t have a need to buy more than one pair of shoes!) She had a rule, if she really wants something, she waits 24 hours. If she really wants that product, shirt, or whatever it is still in 24 hours, she’ll then buy it. Usually, the effort of going back to the store is more trouble than it’s worth. Concluding that she really doesn’t want it that bad after all.

That’s it for part three, keep on the lookout for the final installment tomorrow! Our final installment covers even more lessons learned.

 Personal Finance 

A Million Bucks By 30 Missing Chapter: Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 2 of 4)

This is the second installment of a chapter that was cut from Alan Corey’s A Million Bucks By 30 (review). In this part we get to learn about Kelly, the girlfriend referenced in the title of the chapter.

(This is a pretty long section but reads really quickly and is pretty interesting)

Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 2), Where We Learn About Kelly

A girlfriend of mine, Kelly, would spend most of her paycheck on clothes. Each week, she and her friends would head off to the mall and shop. Not just window-shopping, but actually purchasing clothes until they ran out of money. This was a weekly endeavor, one that thankfully, I was never invited to attend. But I saw the results, in the form of the scores of shopping bags that made it back to the apartment. I never understood the need to have more than one black shirt, but it was Kelly’s money and her choice to buy seven of them in one day. I had already figured out that an Excel spreadsheet wasn’t going to change anyone’s spending habits, so I figured I just had to learn to keep my mouth shut, and boy did that prove to be a formidable challenge. At least she had cable TV to watch whenever I felt like speaking up.

A typical evening went something like this: Kelly and I would have plans, and we’d usually run an hour late because she couldn’t decide between wearing her red pumps or her red pumps with a bow. I’ve come to understand that this is important to many people, but when it makes you perennially late, there is a problem at hand. I think it’s the rare case when a person makes any life-altering choices in preparing to go to the bar down the street. The beer is still going to taste the same. Kelly explained it wasn’t so much the decision making process that made her late, it was the fact that she could never find the outfit she was looking for in her closet. She just had way too much in it to locate what she wanted! To me, this was another sign of a bigger issue, but I kept to my game plan and kept my mouth shut. Plus, she was so much fun when we finally made it out, it was always worth the wait.

Eventually, we’d show up at our destination and get a chance to enjoy ourselves. She would be drinking cranberry and top-shelf vodka and I would be downing water or the cheapest beer available. For some reason, this behavior would embarrass her, so it was just a matter of time until she started buying me “real drinks,” as she called it. (A real drink being anything that cost more than six dollars.) I would try to reason with her that I enjoyed her company regardless of what I was drinking. My thoughts always fell on deaf ears, and after a while it became easier to acquiesce. If she wanted to pay for them, it was fine with me.

By the end of the night, I’d want to walk/stumble home, and she would offer to splurge for a cab. Time and time again, this was the scenario: I would offer up a cheap alternative, only to get outbid by Kelly who wanted to go the more expensive route. She offered to pay every time, because she knew I was completely happy doing the budget-friendly alternative. Either she was really sweet, or I was the biggest mooch ever. (Most likely it was a combination of both.) To her a good night was spending a lot of money. To me, a good night was spending it with her (and not just for the free drinks!)

The thing was, Kelly was constantly complaining about being broke. She blamed her job, her parents, and even her apartment, but she never made the connection between her actions and her financial predicament. To make things worse, when she wasn’t spending money, she was losing it.

Kelly had a habit of losing her bag or jacket whenever we went out. Her date to lost item ratio was essentially 1:1. Complicating matters was the fact that she wouldn’t realize something was missing until about three days later, at which point it was next to impossible to retrace our steps. And I’d be the one calling the bars, restaurants, and theaters trying to track down her gear. We had a blast going out, but the aftermath became a headache. When I wasn’t doing that, I would just sit there, with my mouth shut, watching her cable TV. I didn’t want to ruin this good thing we had going.

Once Kelly let it slip that her parents were subsidizing her rent. Her entire paycheck from work was mainly disposable income. The weekly shopping spree was her pay-off for working a 9-5 job. Kelly felt like if she just had a higher salary, she would be able to make ends meet. While the rest of the world worked 9-5 to live, Kelly did it to pay for a 14 blue scarves a week habit. And when she lost something, there never was the sting of disappointment or inconvenience that normal people experience when that happens. Instead, she would just have another excuse to go out shopping. With her rent basically paid for, Kelly had the opportunity to be richer than all of her friends, but she was squandering it away recklessly by shopping for recreation, losing things with no consequence, and always picking the most expensive options. She made one bad financial choice after another.

Kelly was the first person I’d ever met who just had no value or concept of money. She always had the financial safety net of her parents’ support in case things ever got out of hand, so she never had to think about or manage her finances. Even if I had tried to teach her the value of a dollar, it would have been like attempting to teach her French Bulldog Italian. She was a sweet girl who never had to learn about personal finance, because there were never any consequences if she didn’t.

Yet through it all, Kelly just constantly talked about being broke. She could not see why she was always bouncing checks or having to call her mom for more money. She eventually turned it around on me, because I wouldn’t buy her anything. Her reasoning was if I wasn’t buying myself new outfits, I could at least buy her new outfits. I didn’t even offer a retort, I liked her too much. I just continued my plan to sit with my mouth shut and watch her TV. I was going to milk this game plan as long as possible, because my only other alternative –Excel spread sheets – hadn’t worked in the past. After about four months, she had had enough, and she kicked me out. And you know what, my life changed. I haven’t been late to parties or watched the Home Shopping Network since.

That’s it for part two, keep on the lookout for part three tomorrow! Part three covers the first half of some lessons learned.

 Personal Finance 

A Million Bucks By 30 Missing Chapter: Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 1 of 4)

I recently reviewed Alan Corey’s book, A Million Bucks By 30 (review), and absolutely loved it. So, I thought it’d be fun if Alan wrote a guest post while I was away on our honeymoon and he did me one better – he sent me a chapter that was cut from the book.

This chapter focuses a lot about frugality and probably an interesting profile of a common relationship between a spender and a saver. Since this was cut from an earlier edition, Alan couldn’t place it in the chronology of the book but he estimates this was around when he was 24 or 25. Regardless of the original placement, I’ll be splitting this up over the next four days so be on the look out for the next three parts.

Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 1)

Wow, my bedroom is a mess. Stacks and piles of clothes everywhere. An actual compost heap of clothes. I guess if something’s been on the very bottom of the pile for 5 weeks, that should make it clean by now, right? Let’s see…in the middle of the pile are my jeans – middle level means clean for jeans. My red shirt, nope, that probably needs another week. Oh cool, my socks! Those always take the longest, they’ve been there at least a month. OK, I can wear those. Oh man, my underwear is funky. Underwear never gets compost clean. Speaking of which, I’m down to my last clean pair. I’m a grown man, why can’t I just do laundry like everyone else? And why are drawers and closets so complicated to me? I guess I do know where everything is at least; I’m not completely senile yet. Yet!

I don’t treasure my clothes like many people, but that’s because I purchase my clothes from second-hand stores or at a tremendous discount. As a result, I don’t really get attached to anything I wear. I don’t expect high quality from things that cost so little, and honestly expect my clothes to fall apart after a few washings. But the truth is that rarely happens —all of my clothes seem to last forever. (And so I wear them forever.) My key to buying clothes is to avoid anything that’s trendy. Trendy has a shelf life, and I don’t want my clothes expiring. But at the same time, I don’t think I’m going to get arrested by the fashion police anytime soon. I’d like to think I’ve assembled a wardrobe of items that are adaptable to a wide range of occasions (like black shoes) and those that history has shown have staying power (like dark blue jeans). I don’t look expensive, but I still look good. Expensive only brings headaches: If I spill food on my cheap shirt, it’s not going to ruin my evening; if I spill food on your expensive shirt, well, it will suck to be you.

That’s it for part one, keep on the lookout for Part 2 tomorrow! Part 2 covers the girlfriend, Kelly, mentioned in the title and the conflict that often exists in a relationship if one person is a spender and another is a saver.

 Personal Finance, Reviews 

Review: A Million Bucks By 30 by Alan Corey

A Million Bucks By 30 by Alan CoreyI always enjoy books that tell a story of someone’s life and this one, A Million Bucks by 30, about how Alan Corey “overcame a crap job, stingy parents, and a useless degree to become a millionaire before (or after) turning thirty,” was no exception. To get a feel for the guy, I think you have to start at the dedication. You know those pages right before the title page where the author thanks a few choice people like a half second Academy Awards acceptance speech? This is what his said:

This amazingly awesome book is dedicated to my parents, Nancy and Larry. Mom, don’t worry, there shouldn’t be any embarrassing grammar mistakes. Dad, thanks for buying this before it hits the bargain bin.” (those would be the stingy parents he referred to on the cover page)

The second “dedication page” reads: “Just to be clear, this amazingly awesome book is not dedicated to my sister, Jill.” You can get a sense that the book is probably going to be an entertaining read… you wouldn’t be wrong. 🙂

So, what is this book about? Alan Corey’s life. He, like many young people, decided he was going to become a millionaire by thirty. He didn’t sit around and envision the perfect future, he didn’t wish and hope that good things would happen to him, he moved. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got to where he was going, but he acted. This book is about all the crazy things Alan did. Some of them got him closer to his goal of a million bucks, some of them just got him to the next day, all of them are crazy stories and ridiculously entertaining to read.

Besides being a man of action, Alan is resourceful. Many of us unlearn the things we learned to survive in college, he learned to adapt them and use those skills to improve his life. In college, many people are frugal. By the time we get a five figure job and enter the real world, we think we’ve made it. We think the days of ramen are over and we can start living the high life! Not Alan, those resourcefulness skills just have more weapons to play with! Heck, the guy is making a decent wage ($40k in NYC is rough, but decent) but still plays “How Cheap Can I Go?”

So, how about these great stories? Chapter 10: Tripped Out is an awesome chapter about how he would try to get on television shows. The first story he talks about is Change of Heart. On Change of Heart, one half of a couple would go out on a date and decide whether to stick with her current boyfriend or go with the new one. Alan auditioned, got cast, and he was the new guy for this girl. He was in it for the free food and drink plus the $350 appearance fee. What’s funny is that the girl did have a change of heart, picked him, but they never saw each other again! He goes on to talk about a few other shows, how to use creativity to get on them, and other entertaining nuggets of randomness that make the book a fun read. (here’s a video montage of his appearances)

So, I bet now you’re burning to find out how Alan, in playing “How Cheap Can I Go?” and appearing on random television shows, reaches a million bucks? Real estate. That’s right, Alan saves up, borrows, and eventually makes his bank on real estate deals. Why do we need yet another book about real estate especially in this awful housing market? It’s because this book isn’t about real estate, it’s about how to fight and claw your way to your dreams. The difference with this book is that you get to follow Alan’s life from the beginning. You start when he graduates college and has no idea what the heck his MIS degree means to when he appears on Queer Eye (season one, gets $15k worth of free stuff!) to when he borrows money from his mom to when he starts entering the real estate world. It’s not an instruction manual on any one thing, it’s a testament to the fact that everyone’s path is different and Alan’s was merely more exciting than most. 🙂

I really enjoyed this book and Alan was kind enough to send me an extra copy, so leave a comment about your favorite game show TV moment and I’ll draw a name next week. The winner will receive a signed copy of A Million Bucks by 30.

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