Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest

You’re bringing home a paycheck, paying off the bills, and setting money aside every month like a responsible adult. But is that money doing anything other than waiting for a rainy day? Your saved money ought to be earning you more money. If it’s not, it needs to start.

A Spinster's Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest
When a mommy dollar and a daddy dollar fall in love…

First off, let me say I’m not a financial expert, and I can’t offer any real financial advice. What I can do is share my personal experiences about how to save and grow money when you only have a little bit, and don’t want to run the risk of stock market investing.

1. Open up a savings account.

If you don’t already have one, open a savings account immediately. Interest rates may be low, but you’ll still be earning some money every year by keeping your funds in a savings account.

How does a savings account differ from a checking account? The short answer is that one pays you interest (a percentage of money based on the amount of money you have saved), and the other doesn’t. Typically a checking account is what you’ll pay your bills with, and a savings account is where you’ll put your extra money for safekeeping. You can still withdraw money from a savings account any time you need to.

2. Put your money into a CD.

A Certificate of Deposit is similar to a savings account, but differs in that you agree not to withdraw your money for a certain amount of time. CDs generally offer higher interest rates because the bank can do more with your money when they don’t need to have it available for withdrawal. Your money is still FDIC insured, just as it is in your checking or savings accounts, so you can’t lose it the way you could playing the stock market. If you have a good amount of money saved up that you don’t plan to use for a while, a CD is a good way to earn a little extra interest.

3. Use an online bank.

Internet banks are legitimate banks (assuming they’re FDIC insured– always check), but tend to offer higher interest than regular savings accounts due to their lower overhead costs. If you don’t want to tie your savings up in a CD, or if you only have a small amount to start with, online banks can be an excellent option. Some online banks are exclusively online, while others also have brick-and-mortar locations.

One online bank that has a creative setup is SmartyPig. With SmartyPig, you create “goals” which you can fund on a recurring or sporadic basis. When you reach your goal, you have the option to get a cash boost by withdrawing your funds via gift cards, or you can simply transfer your money plus interest to your regular checking account.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep your money in your mattress (well, at least not all of it) or in a no-interest checking account. It may only be an extra few dollars, but every bit counts.

Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank

Let’s not beat about the bush. Living alone is freaking expensive. While there are many wonderful aspects of living alone, the price tag definitely isn’t one of them. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke or living in a run-down room in Cracktown?

...but it has such a lovely view.
…but it has such a lovely view.

Besides maintaining overall financial wellness (which we’ll go into in more depth later this week), there are two major steps in making your dream life own your own a reality.

1. Prioritize

I made a post a while back about picking out a safe apartment. But unfortunately, safety often comes at a high cost. Before you do anything, you’ll need to sit down and decide what’s most important to you in terms of housing. Usually you’ll need to consider

  • Size: How much space do you need?
  • Cost: How much money can you spend?
  • Safety: How safe does the area need to be?
  • Location: How conveniently located does it need to be?

This will vary for everyone to some degree, but the most ideal configuration I’ve found is this:

Safety first. You don’t need to live in a gated community with an armed guard, but living in a safe environment should probably be highest on your list. Crime happens everywhere, but some neighborhoods are more prone to violent crime than others. To learn more about choosing a safe neighborhood, check out this post.

Cost Next. I’d like for cost to be the least important factor, but living on a limited income makes this vital. Make a list of your expenses excluding rent. Now subtract that from your monthly income. Take at least 5% off of that number to compensate for a drop income or unexpected expenses. What you have left is the absolute maximum amount you can spend on rent.

Then Location. Proximity to your job, shopping centers, and family affects other monthly costs like gas and car maintenance. Work the numbers and see if living in an out-of-the-way area will get you more or less of what you want.

And Finally, Size. More space is usually more enjoyable, but unless you have so many possessions that you’d have to pay for storage space should you move to a small space, this will the most flexible of all your needs. A studio apartment that’s all your own can make for a far better life than a five-bedroom, single family home with people you dislike.

But what happens when you don’t have the money you need to get the priorities you’ve set?

2. Finding Ways To Make The Numbers Work

One of the most straight-forward ways to save on living expenses is to live with a roommate. The old adage the two can live as cheaply as one is definitely true when it comes to housing expenses, so splitting your living space can mean halving your bill. There are many ways having a roommate could go wrong, but if you know the person fairly well and have a mutual, detailed roommate agreement, it can end up working very well. Sharing your home with an adult friend can offer more privacy than living with parents, depending on the situation, so having a roomie won’t necessarily rob you of your single freedoms.

You can also usually negotiate the cost of rent, whether you’re renting from a legitimate apartment management company or a single person. Apartment complexes sometimes offer discounts for residents working for ‘preferred employers,’ or when their residency rate is low. A little subtle negotiating (for instance, letting them know you’re still looking at other places may make people or companies more inclined to offer a discount) can save you hundreds per year.

Then there’s negotiating with yourself. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom looked so tempting when the realtor walked you through, and you could technically afford it… but what kind of safety net could you give yourself if you took the studio apartment for $175 less per month? An extra 2k per year looks pretty good compared to extra space that – while you could certainly make use of it – you don’t have any real need for.

Finding a way to live on your own without getting into debt is possible, it just takes a lot of planning. And I can say from experience that it’s worth the time and mental fatigue you’ll invest running through all the different mathematical scenarios when you can come home to your very own home.

The Spinster Financial Series

The idea of a single, childfree woman usually conjures images of a wealthy woman at a high-paying job who attends the gym regularly. She can often be seen with shopping bags in one hand and the latest phone in the other, heading into Starbucks to buy whatever the most expensive coffee on the menu is.

The American Spinster: Financial Series
No kids? BUY ALL THE THINGS!

It’s appealing but, for most of us, definitely not reality. In the real world, spinsters need to watch their money just as much as anyone else. That’s why this week and next I’m going to be looking at several of the most important elements of money management for the childfree woman.

Below is the lineup for this series. Links will be added as they’re posted.

1. Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
There are many wonderful aspects of living alone, but the price tag isn’t one of them. The adage that “two can live as cheaply as one” is certainly true in terms of rent or mortgage payments. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke?

2. Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest (Wednesday)
You work hard for the money, so it’s time to make it work for you. This post covers how to safely invest your money, especially when you don’t have a lot to play with.

3. Financial Guides for American spinsters (Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
For this week’s Spinsterly Read post, I’ve compiled a list of the most helpful books on finance for single and childfree women.

4. Start Saving Like You Have Kids (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
Women without the recurring expenses that children bring should resist the temptation to spend the same amount that parents do. Learn how to put (part of) that extra money in savings without living like a pauper.

5. Investing In What You Buy (Wednesday)
Every purchase you make can be an investment with the right point of view. Learn how to shift your thought process to make wise decisions, even on “frivolous” purchases.

6. Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Method of Financial Planning (In Place of Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
Disney gets a lot of flack for the old-school morals promoted in their older princess films. But were they actually on to something?

Spinster How-To: Enjoying Your Home Part II

Last week we went over Part I of Enjoying Your Home.

Decorating Your Home
This should not be your living room.

All of Part II can be summed up in one simple step:

1. PERSONALIZE YOUR HOME.

Decorate. Show off your possessions. It doesn’t matter if you only have a six-month lease. This is your home. Live there. It may seem like really simple advice, but it makes all the difference, and so few people seem to do it. They move their furniture in, maybe hang up a single poster, but that’s it.

And if you’re afraid of losing your security deposit, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways for renters to safely add their own style to their home. For instance:

  • Buy wall stickers (they sell them at Dollar Tree).
  • Frame and hang some pictures.
  • Go to Habitat for Humanity and find some cheap, good-looking furniture.
  • Put up curtains. You can find them cheap from thrift stores, or you can make some. Curtains are the perfect beginner sewing project, and nothing alters the look of a room faster.

The important thing is that you don’t wait. Don’t wait for your next apartment, or your first house. You have your very own space, and that’s a true gift. Use it. Make your home somewhere you want to be. Go through your Pinterest “Dream House” board and put some of those ideas into action. Whatever you do, just don’t put it off. Six months turns into a year, and a year turns into five before you realize it. Don’t waste a single week living in what might as well be a hospital room.

Decorating Your New Apartment
A little decor goes a long way.

Your home doesn’t need to look like a Pottery Barn catalog, it just needs to welcome you home.

You have permission. You’re an adult, living in your own home. Make it your home.

 

[P. S. Have you entered The American Spinster’s Easter Giveaway yet?]

Spinsterly Reads: Anne of the Island & Anne of Windy Poplars

The American Spinster Review of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island & Anne of Windy Poplars

(Though I normally try to avoid spoilers, I should warn you that if you’re unfamiliar with the Anne series, I’ll be giving away the ending of Anne of the Island.)

L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is well-known, even if the sequels are not frequently read or remembered. Anne of The Island and Anne of Windy Poplars are the 3rd and 4th books, respectively, and take place after Anne has moved away from home but before she gets married.
The American Spinster: Anne of the IslandIn Anne of The Island, Anne Shirley moves away from her beloved home at Green Gables to study at Redmond College. While women regularly attended colleges in Canada at that time (the late 19th to early 20th centuries), there were still many people who saw it as a waste of time and money to give a woman a higher education, since she would simply marry a few years later. Anne herself is accused of going just to “catch a man.” Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Anne spends a fair amount of her time refusing proposals and avoiding her friend Gilbert Blythe’s advances.

Although romance takes up a good portion of The Island, the story is, as ever, about Anne and her remarkable outlook on life. She’s homesick initially, but soon meets up with friends from her hometown and makes new friends at Redmond. One of my favorite moments is when Anne and several friends rent a house together. When the former tenants leave, the women move in and put their personal touches on the place.

“How those young women enjoyed putting their nest together. As [Phillipa] said, it was almost as good as getting married. You had the fun of homemaking without the bother of a husband.”

Throughout the novel, Anne receives several marriage proposals that range from the ridiculous to the insulting, and it’s both sad and humorous to see the way her girlhood ideas about that romantic moment buckle under the weight of reality. Anne manages to take it all in stride and keep a cheerful outlook, at least until Gilbert proposes. Although everyone around her can see that she loves him, Anne is devastated, and refuses him outright, saying he’s ruined everything.

It’s only after the tall, dark, and handsome man of Anne’s dreams makes his proposal that she realizes following the notions of her youth might not be the best way to live one’s adult life. In the end, Anne accepts Gilbert’s proposal, and agrees to wait for him while he completes his education to become a doctor.

It’s a beautifully-written story of a young woman spreading her wings and ultimately enjoying her first taste of independence. Anne is the epitome of what many girls aspire to become: independent, intelligent, strong-willed, and loving.
The American Spinster: Anne of Windy PoplarsAnne of Windy Poplars is the chronological continuation of the previous novel. While her fiancee Gilbert is in college, Anne takes a job in Summerside as a school teacher. Much of the novel is told through Anne’s letters to Gilbert, in which she describes her life as a boarder at Windy Poplars.

I like this story, because we’re introduced to two resolute spinsters with very different backgrounds and personalities. The first is Rebecca Dew, the long-time servant at Windy Poplars, who has a deep love-hate relationship with the household cat. The second, far more interesting character is Katherine Brooke, Anne’s fellow teacher.

Katherine is a sour person, who seems to go out of her way to annoy Anne and make her unhappy. Anne, however, refuses to let anyone make her bitter, and resolves to win Katherine over. As the book continues, it looks like Anne might really have met her match, and may need to learn to accept the possibility that there are incurably miserable people in her world.

In her final effort, Anne invites Katherine to come home with her to Green Gables over the winter holiday. I won’t give away the details, because it’s a great moment to read, but suffice to say Anne manages to earn Katherine’s friendship, and helps her move into a happier lifestyle.

At the end of the book, Anne heads back to Avonlea to marry Gilbert, saying goodbye to her life as a single woman.

The novel was published after the chronological completion of the Anne series, which ended with Rilla of Ingleside, the story of Anne’s daughter. The addition of this book into the cannon probably came as a result of the high demand for more stories about Anne. Whatever the reason, I’m glad Montgomery revisited this time in Anne’s life, and gave us the details of the time she spent as a working woman. It’s one of my favorite books of the series.

Buy Anne of the Island or Anne of Windy Poplars online, or check them out from your local library. You can even read it for free online, as it’s in the public domain.

Spinster How-To: Enjoying Your Home

American Spinster How-To: Enjoying Your Home

Part I: Establishing Your Space

I’ve written peripherally about this before, but today I want to devote an entire post to this novel idea. So here it is: You should enjoy your home.

Groundbreaking, isn’t it?

American Spinster: Enjoy Your HomeI know it’s not a new idea, but it’s something that people say they do, or want to do, and never actually do. Unless you’ve already paid off your mortgage or bought your home outright, you’re paying probably a large portion of your income to live in your home, and you’re probably not getting your money’s worth. Even if you’re not paying much for the roof over your head, it’s still your respite from the world. It should be a place you absolutely love to be.

But let’s break this idea down. Firstly, you’ll need to create/establish your space. What does this involve?

1. Your home should be comfortable.
You have a workplace (unless you work from/at home) in which to be uncomfortable. Even if it’s not obvious, stepping into an uncomfortable home environment can really sap the life out of you. This needs to be a welcoming place.

American Spinster: Enjoy Your Home

2. It should be restful.
There’s nothing wrong with having a game room (sounds pretty good, actually), but there should be a place in your home where you can relax, whatever relaxing means for you.

3. It should be private.
Sometimes there’s not much you can do about this if you have roommates, but your home should be a place where you can be alone if you want to. That means you have control over the boundaries; no one can show up and enter your home if you don’t want them to.

So how do you get this?

  • Keep it clean.
Sterile Hallway
Maybe not that clean.

When I say this, I mean whatever “clean” means to you. If you’re comfortable with a bit of clutter, fine. If you need every last corner to be truly spotless, okay. Mess makes people uncomfortable, so it’s important to keep your home at the level of cleanliness that works for you. I don’t mind visible stacks of papers or collectibles lining the walls of my home. But my stress level rises, however slightly, when dishes pile up or the floor isn’t clear and vacuumed. Determine what your comfort level of cleanliness is, and make time to keep your home at that level.

  • Keep it energizing.

This can mean very different things for different people. For me, I like quiet. Loud music, background TV, or a howling cat take away from my peace. You might like a more active environment, spending time on the Wii, having friends over, or turning up the volume on a favorite album. Whatever re-energizes you after a long day.

  • Maintain your boundaries.

Maintain Your BoundariesAs I mentioned earlier, this can be difficult when you have roommates, but even then it shouldn’t be impossible to have some control over the comings and goings in your home. If you’re the only inhabitant, this might mean learning to say “no,” which is not an easy task. From our earliest time as humans, our dwellings have been to keep us safe from the outside world, whether from the elements or predators. Today, it might not be a raging tiger after your life, but a raging human being after your peace of mind. You have the right to tell someone that now is not a good time. In fact, you have the right to tell anyone not to come around ever again.

Most of the time, however, this just involves saying, “I’ve got a lot of work to do here at home tonight. How about another time?” And that’s not a lie. Your work happens to be letting yourself get some rest, which is vital to your well-being.

If you have roommates, offer them a mutually-beneficial agreement regarding guests. This might be that no one has guests over without first telling/asking the other housemate(s). Or it might mean you set up visiting hours. From 5-8 each day, you know you might have other people in your home, but after that, they have to leave. Most people will understand that roommates work different hours, and will respect this arrangement.

Once you’ve got these measures in place, you’ll have established what your home is and how it’s maintained. The second part of making your home an enjoyable place to be is more on the visual side of things. See Part II here.

The American Spinster’s Easter Giveaway

Welcome to the American Spinster’s Easter Giveaway!

This month, we’re offering the winner their choice of a hand-crafted cuff bracelet featuring the original illustrations of Jennifer Moran. This assortment of delightful jewelry comes from JEsquireCreations via Etsy.

www.MisplacedMoo.etsy.com

JEsquire Creations offers a varied assortment of jewelry and accessories. The giveaway winner will have their pick of any handmade aluminum cuff bracelet.

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www.MisplacedMoo.etsy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the full selection at JEsquireCreations on Etsy.

What do you have to do for your chance to win one of these gorgeous bangles? Just click the entry button on the Rafflecopter widget below. That’s it!

If you’d like additional chances to win, you can get extra entries by completing other tasks, such as liking JEsquireCreations and The American Spinster on Facebook, or sharing this link with your friends.

American Spinster GiveawayThe raffle begins on March 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM, and ends on March 31st at 11:59 PM. The winner will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter. Open to US residents only.

While not required, remember to subscribe to this blog for updates on this giveaway and future giveaways.

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