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Hubs Let’s Me Handle The Money

I was reading this article at Christian PF today and it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about how Husband and I manage our finances.  Really, I just assumed that you knew, seeing as how we are practically like family now. 

It’s really the thing to do in the personal finance blogging world, because, after all, who wants to read financial advice from a lady who can’t even balance a checkbook.  Yes, I could straight up lie to you, tell you I made millions in futures, commodities and other equally obtuse investments. 

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m basically Abraham Lincoln sans the beard right now.

 

The Basics 

We are a single-income family of two, have one debt – a military loan with basically a 0% interest rate (so, no real reason to pay it off early), no house, soon-to-be no cars, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, and a few other vanilla investments.  

We are boring. 

 

What We Think We Do Well

Minimize Crap Buying – This is something that two anal-retentive, clutter-hating people are bound to do well.  Our favorite tool for crap-minimization has been our separate “allowance” accounts; they make us think more about small purchases and put a cap on the amount of junk we could actually buy, even if we wanted to. 

Pay Off Credit Cards Completely Every Month – I’m aware that anyone who knows anything about money management knows that this is a very basic rule.  Well, we follow this rule very well and I want a gold star for it.  

Maximizing Our Investment Contributions – Hubs contributes the full 5% that the Air Force matches to his Thrift Savings Plan (401k) and, when I had a job, I did too – free money!  We also max our Roth IRA contributions every year (we’ve only been married a year and a half, but it’s a good start). 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 04/11/2010

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Boredom & Spending

As the old saying goes: Familiarity breeds contempt (of people).  There is, however, a lesser known variation of this famous phrase (lesser known because I just made it up, feel free to spread it around):  Familiarity breeds boredom (of stuff).   

Boredom can have many negative side effects: dizziness, weight gain, whining, grumpiness, and, perhaps most disturbingly, unnecessary spending! 

Don’t get me wrong, change is good, I’m a huge fan of change.  Why, I change my underpants almost daily (joke, just a joke people).  Sometimes, however, boredom can lead to discontentment which can lead to the urge/desire/need to change EVERYTHING.   

Most likely, everything does not need to be changed (unless there is shag carpet involved).  Often times, something “new” doesn’t even need to be purchased.  When you can’t get no satisfaction, looking around and working with what you already have may actually turn out to be more rewarding and fulfilling than going on a shopping spree. 

What if instead you:

Rearranged – your desk, your living room, your bookshelves.

Purged – I’m always amazed by how different a room looks when stuff is taken out of it. 

Cleansed – just as your car drives smoother after the car wash, your house will run more efficiently when it’s clean.

Or Changed Something…

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Article publié pour la première fois le 14/09/2010

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Tools for Teaching Kids About Money

My sister and her husband recently started teaching their 5 and unders about earning money. 50 cents for every poop patrol and other generally gross, but safe, jobs.  

Jimmy (5) is saving for a skateboard, no wait, now it’s a snorkel, and even that’s likely to change before the $10 goal is reached.  Not really sure why a kid in an landlocked state has want of a snorkel.  

Cooper (3), on the other hand, has remained dead set on the totally rad skateboard; and no, he wouldn’t even change his mind for Underdog’s original cape.  I asked.  Apparently this kid doesn’t understand the value of a collector’s item.

Interesting isn’t?  How money-saving personalities are already emerging at such a young age.  It’s like teaching your kids about money is important or something.  

I don’t remember how to play piano (short attention span).  Those tennis lessons didn’t stick (minimal upper-body strength).  But I’ve sure found some of the lessons my parents taught me about money management invaluable (but if I had to tag a number on it, I’d say around $1 billion).  

Here are some ideas from my own childhood for covertly planting the seeds of good money habits in your own children’s brains.  Subtlety is key, because we all know kids will resist what they know is good for them; like hair cuts and properly fitting jeans.  

Darn kids with their rock n’ roll music.  

I’m getting old.

 

You think this is some kind of game?!  Well, I suppose it is.

Life

You may find it slightly depressing to reduce this thing called “life” down to a colorful, hour-long board game, but let’s put your mid-life crisis aside, just for now, and teach your kids some valuable life-decision-making skills.  

Sure it’s not completely realistic, but if you were expecting that in a board game, I’m actually a little worried about you. 

Note: Make sure to read reviews on the different versions because the game has had some updates.  

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Article publié pour la première fois le 07/10/2010

4 comments

Why Diets Fail & Saving is Difficult

On nearly every New Year’s resolution list out there you’ll find some variation of “lose weight” and “save money.”  Go ahead and google it.  I’ll wait.

Do you see a problem with either of these goals?  Clearly there is one, because so frequently people fail to achieve them.  

 

Goal: Save the world.

Problem 1: Where do you start?  War, famine, pollution, Dora the Explorer? 

Problem 2: Who is going to help you?  While I applaud your ambition, this big of a goal is simply unobtainable on your own.

Problem 3: How will you maintain your motivation?  What are you gonna do when warlords are getting you down?  What will keep you from quitting when Dora evades your capture yet again?

Problem 4: How do you know when you’re done?  Where does it end?  Tell me, where does it end?!

 

The Michigan Surgeon General put out a publication addressing why diets fail, here are a couple of their citations: 

Diets deprive us.  Many diets involve eliminating certain foods or even whole food groups. 

I can think of no more self-depriving activity than saving.  Certainly, there are some expenses that are never missed (fees & interest), but what about the “fun stuff” that has to be cut (eating out & pedicures)?  

Chip & Dan Heath co-authors of Switch explain that, “psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource.  It’s like doing bench presses at the gym.  The first one is easy, when your muscles are fresh.  But with each additional repetition, your muscles get more exhausted, until you can’t lift that bar again.”

 

Diets are temporary. Once they have reached their goal, most people go back to “normal” eating, so the weight comes back.

Not all diets are temporary.  Technically you’ll always have a diet so long as you eat.  

Good saving and diet plans reshape your habits to make you sustainably healthier both fiscally and physically.  

Husband gave up soda for Lent and hasn’t been able to stand the taste since.  We’ve gone through several rounds of budget cuts, and, you know, I just can’t tell you what we eliminated because I don’t miss anything. 

 

Diets often don’t fit into normal life. Weighing and measuring food may help you lose weight, but aren’t practical as long-term strategies for most people.

Sometimes budgets aren’t practical.  As people search for miracle diets, they too search for magical financial fixes.  Choosing a method that fits your lifestyle can be difficult but is absolutely necessary for success.

If you can’t resist Cheetos, don’t keep them in the house.  If you can’t keep track of your spending on a credit card, use cash.  And if the people around you are perpetuating your unhealthy habits, then maybe it’s time for a change.

 

A few of my own theories on goal failure:

  • Non-specificity– save $1 and you’ve saved money, is the goal accomplished?  Save for a $4,000 emergency fund?  Great goal, but when’s the deadline?  Time-lines and targets offer needed incentive for butts to get moving.
  • Unrealistic-ness – trying to lose 50lbs in a week is blatantly unrealistic, but people still try to do it.  Paying off $40,000 of debt in 2 months, an equally non-achievable goal for most people.  Having high-expectations isn’t a bad thing, but setting yourself up for failure is.
  • All Pain, No Gain (In Sight) – As the Heath’s said, “self-control is an exhaustible resource.”   Greasing the wheels of change with periodic rewards may just be the best bet to ensure that the ultmate change actually happens.

 


Article publié pour la première fois le 30/09/2010

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The Emotional Purchase

 

Yesterday Husband and I went to Wal-Mart to look for a new wireless router.  This may shock some of you, but I have no interest in routers.  I like it when they work, I punch walls when they don’t; well, not so much punch walls as feel like punching walls.

Like a child being drug through the Home Depot, I shuffled back to the electronic’s department and whined to Husband that I wanted to leave.  That’s when I saw it.  A plain white box that contained the most beautiful router I had ever seen (considering my lack of reference, looking back, this seems a bit dramatic). 

I broke my cardinal rule, I picked it up and asked Husband if we could get it for no reason that I could verbalize.  He examined the box for the router’s specifications. Remember how I said “plain white box?”  Really, it was.  There was not a bit of writing on the thing.  That sobered me right out of my enchantment.   

Needless to say we didn’t buy it. 

This leads me to the concept of the emotional purchase.  Some say that women are more prone to this phenomenon, however, I would beg to differ because I have seen Husband, Brother-in-Law#1 and Brother-in-Law#2 all jump like little schoolgirls at just the sight of a new gun. 

Emotionality is frequently the driving force behind an impulse purchase. 

 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 08/09/2010

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The best things in life are free

I spent a very long, cold afternoon this weekend at my local Halloween parade. Each year, the city closes down Main Street for a Halloween parade followed by trick-or-treating for the kids. It’s very chaotic and very disorganized. And it’s very cold. But, the kids find it fun (this was the first year my daughter was old enough to want to go) and it gets a huge turnout. It’s also free.

As we were walking down Main Street, I commented to my husband that I think it’s great the city does this, especially for parents who have to work and can’t take their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. It’s a way to share that experience with their children and create those memories. It’s one way that our city is able to enhance a family’s Halloween experience for no extra  expense (municipal parking is free, too!) to the family. Which, given the hardships a lot of people in my city are facing, is nice.

Of course this gets me thinking about all the other free things that we have available to us that enhance our lives for little to no extra cost. Here are a few of them:

Community parks: Although there’s a small park in my neighborhood, I don’t like it very much. Fortunately, we live less than a mile from one of the biggest community parks in my county. This park is over 300 acres and contains walking and biking trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, 4 huge playgrounds, and lots of open field space. Parking is free and there are party pavilions available for a small fee. Even dogs are allowed! What’s particularly enjoyable about this park is that there really is something for everyone. Families and individuals can play, enjoy nature, get exercise and get outdoors all for free. With the amount of kids and adults tethered to electronics all day long, it’s wonderful that there is a free way to disconnect.

Libraries: I cannot express in a strong enough word how much I love my library. I’m an avid reader with extremely eclectic taste. I read a wide variety of subjects but rarely read a book more than once. For someone like me, the library is perfect. We also have a statewide loan system (when you live in a state with 3 counties total, it makes it easy) and sometimes my state is so foolish as to only order one copy of a book for the whole state; with the statewide loan system, I have no problem getting access to any book. The supplemental programs are fantastic, too. Each year, the vo-tech high school has a gingerbread house making event at Christmastime. There are family exercise programs, story time, and charity events. There are movies, book clubs, educational speakers (I got to see Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, this past April) and tons of free community events (including tax preparation).

The radio: For as much as I love my iPod, I love the radio that much more. I was raised listening to the radio. It was on all the time. I’ve gotten to the point that I cannot function (read: think) if there isn’t some kind of music on. I love all that the radio has to offer. There is literally something for everyone. I tend to get stuck in a music rut and the radio is constantly introducing me to new music. My morning commute would be that much more treacherous if it were not for the morning show that I’ve been listening to every morning for the last 9 years (there have been times where I’ve been laughing so hard, I can’t drive through my tears). For an accurate picture of how I feel about the radio, listen to Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio”. That should do it.

With the amount of stuff that there is to make my life easier–my iPhone, the Internet (I have learned so much from YouTube. I swear I do more than just watch old hair band videos), and DVRs–it’s nice to pause sometimes and realize that my life can be equally enhanced by things that are free.

What are some of your favorite free activities and items that enhance your life?

Article publié pour la première fois le 31/10/2011

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