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Archive for June, 2007

Why Do Savings and a Rich Life Have to Be Mutually Exclusive?

Thursday, June 28th, 2007


In my June 22 Yahoo!Finance column, I offered some financial advice for new college graduates. I wanted to highlight two comments that puzzled me, and open this discussion to blog readers.


Comment #1: “So, pretty much the whole point of the article is to save all your life, never spend money on anything, be cheap and get out from paying for dinner, and so on… Then, when is the good time to have fun, travel, drive a nice car, go shopping???

Comment #2: “The main idea of this article is that person should spend his life saving money. Do not socialize with the people you like only with those who do not make you spend money. Do not drive car you would like only the one that is cheap. Do not travel it cost a lot of money. Just save, save, save, save and one day you will have enough money to spend time with people you like, drive the car you want, and travel to the places you wanted to see all your life. The life you already wasted saving.”

These kinds of comments really baffle me. Why do people think that saving money and enjoying life have to be mutually exclusive? I traveled extensively in my 20s and still do. But I always put the effort into finding a bargain fare and a great deal on a hotel. You don’t have to stay at the George V Hotel to really enjoy Paris.

In the column, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how to handle an expensive dinner with friends. I’m not suggesting people don’t go to expensive restaurants with their friends. It’s something I enjoy myself. My point is, you can be friends with anyone, but you have to think about how that lifestyle will affect your other goals.

I have friends who are millionaires, friends who are living paycheck to paycheck, and lots of friends in between. The reality is, I can’t spend all my time with the millionaires, because engaging in the activities that those friends tend to enjoy would be really expensive – and detrimental to my other life goals. Friendship and socializing are an important part of my life; but so is educating my children and preparing to support myself when I either can’t or don’t want to work. Unless I have a millionaire’s income, I can’t do both all the time.

Speaking of which, I do have millionaire ambitions. I’m getting closer every year. I also believe the best way to achieve that goal is working for myself. I started my business five years ago, after my company laid me off with 500 other people. What gave me the courage to go on my own? Savings!

The retirement and emergency savings I had accumulated gave me the cushion and comfort to launch my own business. I make more money and work fewer hours than when I worked for my previous employer. I work hard, but now have the freedom to schedule my work around my other priorities – time with my kids, working out, socializing with friends. The savings is what made the entrepreneurship possible, which is what made the freedom possible.


Bottom line: Being a committed saver through the years bought me both opportunity and freedom in my 30s, and reduced the stress I know I would otherwise feel in my 40s, when I have a home and three kids.

Tell me your thoughts. When I suggest they people make savings a regular part of their financial life, why do some people equate that with diminishing their quality of life? Comment here or email me at laura at laura rowley dot com.

Budgeting for Gas on Your Next Roadtrip

Friday, June 15th, 2007


Before you hit the road on vacation this summer, figure out your gas budget. Divide the cost per gallon of gas by the miles per gallon your car gets. Consider my annual road trip from New Jersey to Chicago: Assuming my minivan gets 20 miles to the gallon on the highway, and gas costs $3.15 a gallon, it costs about 16 cents a mile for the trip. That’s 1,600 miles roundtrip, so the gas budget is $256. Check out this online driving distance calculator to plan your next trip. If you don’t know how many miles per gallon your vehicle gets, here’s a government-sponsored site to help you figure it out.



You never know, your kids may get more than memories out of a cheap road trip. Earlier this year, when Michael Arndt accepted the Academy Award for best original screenplay for “Little Miss Sunshine,” he thanked his family for the inspiration. “When I was a kid, my family drove 600 miles in a VW bus with a broken clutch,” he said. “It ended up being the funnest things we did together.” What I want to know is, how does someone who uses the word “funnest” in a speech win an award for writing?


Would love to hear your ideas and stories on the best ways to save on your next family vacation. Comment here or email me at laura at laurarowley dot com.


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