As I was waiting in line at my local TJ Maxx I watched a woman scurry over to the checkout counter. “Can I leave this here?,” she asked, rolling an oversized piece of luggage into a corner next to the carts. A few minutes later she reappeared. “Can I leave this here too?,” she asked laying a toy on top of the luggage. While I waited in line the woman returned two more times creating a nice little stack of items she wished to purchase.
I thought it was odd. Why not just take a cart and dump your stuff inside as you shop? The store was quite large and she was gathering stuff all the way from the far back corner and walking it all the way to the front of the store. It seemed like a ridiculous waste of time.
Eventually the cashier got annoyed with the pile she created and suggested that the woman take a cart. “Oh no I couldn’t,” she said. “I can’t be trusted with a cart. I know my limits and try to stick to whatever I can carry.”
In theory it was a great idea. Shopping without a cart forces you to think more thoroughly about each and every purchase. You have to really want something to lug it around the store with you.
It was clear that this woman wanted to avoid unnecessary purchases, but she’d found a loophole with her own plan to save money. Sure she didn’t have a shopping cart, but she certainly wasn’t carrying everything she intended to purchase in her own two hands and walking around the store with it. If anything she was buying more than a cart would hold, because the luggage would have taken a significant amount of space and left little room for anything else.
I really wanted to stick around to see how many items she finally purchased, but instead I grabbed a bite to eat inside the mall. Thirty minutes later as I walked back through the store to get to my car I noticed the woman was still shopping and her pile at the front of the store had grown into a sizable mound.
I completely understand the desire to trick yourself into spending less, but this woman’s approach was clearly not working. I’m sure she burned a few extra calories shopping this way, but I don’t think she spent less money.
What do you think? Do you have tricks for saving money? Do you ever find yourself creating loopholes so you can continue to spend?
As we all know children cycle through toys quickly. I’m always on the lookout for gifts that my son will continue to treasure for a long time to come. I recently dug through the mound of toys in his playroom in an effort to move some out of the way and bring others to the forefront. He receives so many gifts between his birthday and Christmas that I often don’t know where to put them and have resorted to a toy rotation of sorts, where I box up a bunch and then bring them back into the playroom a few weeks later.
As I was reorganizing the toys I also did my best to corral his books into boxes. Along the bottom of the stack I found a recordable book my parents purchased for him on his first birthday. It’s a hallmark book that allows you to record your voice as you read the story. I specifically asked my parents to buy this for my son when he turned a year old.
Ever since he was born my son has loved to listen to stories. While other children tend to wiggle off of your lap after a few seconds or minutes my son can sit with a stack of books and read for an hour. I wasn’t sure how he would respond to a book that spoke to him, but from the minute he opened it he fell in love with it. He would find a comfy spot on the couch or floor and listen to the story two or three times before setting it aside.
He loved it so much that I bought four additional books on clearance after Christmas. In one of the books rather than recording the story I recorded my voice asking questions like “where is the dog” or “where is the train.” After he read through the book a few times I would record over the previous version asking him to point out new images.
Over time the books were lost under the stack, but when I dug them out a few weeks ago my son climbed up onto the couch and read them over and over again. He still loves the book my parents recorded the best. He listens to it every day and tells me who is speaking on each page. He can’t say “grandma” or “grandpa”, but he has nicknames for each and shouts them out as soon as he hears their voices.
This is one of those gifts that serves as two gifts in one. It is a gift for my son as much as it is a gift for my parents. My parents loved reading the story aloud to my son and my son loves hearing their voices.
It’s a great gift for connecting family. I recently bought one for a friend of mine whose parents live in Europe. His daughter can’t see her grandparents every day but she can hear their voices.
You can find the books at Hallmark, but I’ve saved a few dollars here and there by searching for cheaper versions on Amazon.
Temptation is probably the worst part of the holiday season for me. I am enticed by the scrumptious food displayed on holiday tables, seduced by the brightly colored boxes filled with decadent chocolates and lured to the deeply discounted promotions constantly appearing in my inbox.
Some time in early October the unsolicited catalogs began arriving. I seem to spend a couple of minutes every day contacting companies and politely asking for my address to be removed. They each tell me it will take 6 to 12 weeks to process my requests, which means I’ll continue receiving catalogs right up until Christmas.
These days I rip off the back page and immediately throw the paper in the recycle bin. If I don’t look inside those shiny pages I won’t be tempted to buy something I really don’t need. I unsubscribed from the majority of bargain blogs earlier this year, but since that time a few have crept back into my RSS feed. From Black Friday until now four blogs, (just four), have posted over three hundred times. I’m inundated with titles that read “buy this toy for $10″, “pick up children’s pajamas for $4.80″, “BOGO sales on this that and something else”.
I’m finding it difficult to keep my wallet in my pocket. I find myself thinking, ”That would make a great birthday gift for my son’s friend”, “I need to buy a baby gift for an upcoming shower” and “I’m almost certain the cat destroyed a couple of comforters.”
In reality I don’t need anything. In fact, my gift box, (a plastic bin where I store toys, baby gear and other bargains), is already overflowing in the basement and odds are that the cat will destroy another blanket, so I might as well just live with the one we already own.
It’s true that you can find remarkable bargains around the holidays, but in order to avoid the larger temptations I’m choosing to put my head in the sand. I am unsubscribing from bargain blogs and stopping all catalogs and other direct mailings. I’m no longer opening the email in my inbox either. If the sender is a manufacturer or store I simply click delete without ever reading the contents.
So far I’ve avoided buying anything we don’t need. Will I kick myself three months from now when I pay full price for a toy for little Johnny’s birthday? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.
I could use a little reader advice. Here is the scenario. I currently have a two year old son and would like to get pregnant again. It took nearly a year to get pregnant with my first child so I have little hopes that it will happen sooner for us this time around. I don’t really want to go around telling people that I am trying for another. If you’ve never suffered from infertility you might not relate to that sentiment, but if you have struggled month after month to conceive you probably understand where I’m coming from.
A member of the family recently announced that she is expecting her first child next year. As soon as the announcement was made another family member immediately offered up all of my baby clothes and baby equipment.
I was offended that someone offered up my stuff without asking me first, but overall I wasn’t too worried about lending things out. My first thought was ‘no problem,’ I’m not currently pregnant so I’d be happy to share many of the things my son used throughout his first two years. But when I mentioned this to a friend she said it was a horrible idea for the following reasons:
- Babies ruin things. These days baby equipment is covered in cloth and materials that can easily become stained and damaged. I keep things very neat, clean and orderly and there is no way to know that the family member I am lending to would do the same. Also, since babies generally make a mess this may not be something the mother can control.
- The family member is pregnant with her first which means someone will throw a shower for her and she’ll get all new stuff. If I give away my stuff and it gets ruined, broken or otherwise damaged odds are that I would be left holding the bill to replace things for my next child.
- It’s generally difficult to ‘lend’ baby items, because moms can’t keep track of everything you gave them. If you hand over a pile of clothes, the mom receives clothes from other friends and family and buys additional items she won’t be able to keep track of everything.
She said it wouldn’t be considered lending, but rather giving and that if I gave her anything I shouldn’t expect to receive a single thing back.
I completely understand my friend’s point, but it seems awfully stingy to keep things stored in my attic when I don’t know if I’ll ever be graced with another child.
So what do you think? Would you lend out your baby clothes and items if you knew you wanted more children? If you lent them out what would you say to ensure that the items are returned?
Last month I published a brain dump of sorts. This month I am back it with a new set of random thoughts and ideas.
- This morning I attended an open house for a preschool just down the street from my house. I am considering sending my son there next fall for two days a week and I was shocked by just how emotional I became at the very thought of my little guy starting preschool. My emotions got the better of me as I pictured him another year older and navigating the world without me. Children change so much in these early years and I’m just not ready for time to pass so quickly. Right now I want to savor the snuggles, kisses and hugs. I want to go on adventures that involve nothing more than picking leaves and searching for houses with Christmas lights. I want to soak up the time we have together before he starts school.
- I’m not convinced I’ll send him to preschool but I do want to investigate my options. I plan to submit an application and pay the non-refundable $75 fee. Then I can sit on my hands and wait until late next summer to decide if I really want to send him.
- I loved reading all of the conflicting viewpoints about bargain shopping after Thanksgiving. Some personal finance bloggers were on board with diving for bargains while others pointed out that no one really needs more garbage from China. I love that we live in a country where we can spout our thoughts and I am thankful for the means to step back and reflect on my own beliefs this time of year.
- I did not shop at all on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
- I returned a pair of snow pants on Saturday. I received a hand-me-down pair from a former coworker, which saved me $18.
- I took a bunch of bags to the donation center on Friday. I felt a bit guilty at first for bagging up some toys my son no longer plays with, but when I saw less fortunate children walking around the store I knew I had done the right thing. My son still has more toys than he needs and if we are blessed with a second child we have the means to buy more. Do you have family members that never donate to others? I have a few who would rather store stuff for thirty years than give to those in need. When I told them I donated some things I could sense their utter disappointment in me.
- While I was at the thrift store I stopped in to look for another pair of snow pants. I’m afraid my son might outgrow the ones we received by January or early February. I paid a little over $2.00 for them, which seemed like a ridiculous bargain. Snow pants are the perfect thing to buy from the thrift store. They are barely worn and if it doesn’t snow I won’t feel guilty for shelling out money for them.
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It’s something that none of us like to think about, but many people suffer from serious injuries in the UK each year. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents 23,039 people were seriously injured on the roads in 2012, whilst a shocking 2.7 million people were forced to visit hospitals as a result of accidents in the home.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, 175,000 workplace injuries took place between 2012 and 2013, which resulted in over 7 days off work. Although most of us do our level best to prevent accidents, they can still occur.
Just how would you cope if you suffered from a serious injury? Think, for instance, of your current financial commitments. Perhaps you have a car or a house you are paying off. Perhaps you have outstanding debts or essential direct debits linked to healthcare or family pets. Most likely you will have an assortment of bills which must be paid every month in order to supply you with electricity, water and so on.
Naturally, if you were injured, your loved ones would step in to assist you with your finances. But what if you are the main breadwinner? Where is the money going to come from to pay for the mortgage or for petrol to take the children to school? These are questions that should be addressed, for you and your loved ones’ sake.
So, how can you protect your finances in case you suffer an injury? Listed below are five simple steps to take in case you are in such a situation.
- Consider your existing policies first. What cover does your car insurance policy provide? How about your travel insurance? You may be covered to some extent at work through your employer’s liability insurance.
- If necessary, take out personal injury coverage. This will cover you for a wide range of accidents and may provide considerable compensation for any injuries sustained, which will help you to manage your finances.
- Work out exactly how much money you need to have each month to cover all debts, mortgages and living fees. This is a figure to bear in mind.
- Look into finding a personal injury lawyer. Doing so means that if you do suffer from an accident which wasn’t your fault, you will have the legal representation required to sue for damages. Visit the First Personal Injury Website to find out more.
- Make a plan with your next of kin as to how to proceed if you are seriously injured. Give them your bank and insurance details, so they can swiftly access the funds needed to maintain your household.
With this plan in place, you will rest easy. If an unexpected accident occurs your loved ones will be able to carry on living while you recuperate. It pays to plan ahead, just in case.
If you are interested in saving money, you should know that refinancing your home is a great way to cut costs. In fact, refinancing can save you hundreds of pounds each month. However, refinancing is not always easy. To make the process as pain and problem free as possible, remember to make use of these three tips when you begin the process:
1. Be Patient.
While refinancing is a great way to save money, it is not a quick process. Just remember that a few weeks of answering questions and gathering paperwork is well worth the effort. If you plan to refinance adopt an attitude of patience before you even begin the process.
2. Try To Stick With Your Current Provider.
Before searching for other lenders try to refinance with your current provider. Try to get your current lender to provide you with a competitive product. The goal is to refinance while paying as little as possible in closing cost fees. To determine whether refinancing with your current provider will be most economically advantageous for you, get a quote from them and then compare it with that offered by other lenders.
3. Attain Proper Identification.
When refinancing you will be required to present several forms of identification for each borrower. Often, mortgage providers are very picky with respect to the form of identification they will accept. Also some lenders accept documentation that others do not. In many cases, a driver’s license or passport is required along with a recent electricity, gas, or water bill. Credit card bills and bank statements may also be used for proof of residence. However, each financing institution may not accept them. Since this is the case, be sure you understand what identification is required by the mortgage company you work with and have everything prepared so the refinancing process can be handled as seamlessly as possible.
4. Recognise The Sales Strategies Of Banks.
Oftentimes, banks see mortgage and refinance applications as an opportunity to try to offer their customers a lot of extra products and make money off the debt you take out. Some of these extra products include building insurance and mortgage payment protection insurance. Know what you need in advance. This will prevent you from making impulsive or mindless purchases.
As mentioned earlier, refinancing can be a financially prudent decision to make. If you are interested in saving money through refinancing, be sure to implement the tips and tricks listed above. Doing so can help make your refinancing process faster, simpler, and even fun. Good luck!
I’ve been writing about personal finance for the past seven years and in that time I have blogged a lot about saving money. In fact the topic has popped up so often on this blog that I created a separate category for it. While I certainly encourage others to save money I do not think that saving is the ultimate goal in life. Like everything else the desire to set aside money must be balanced with happiness, enjoyment and simple living. I know people who max out ten credit cards without batting an eyelash and others who almost never spend money to make their lives better. The trouble for most people appears to be finding that middle ground.
I don’t intend to hoard all of my money in a bank account and never let it see the light of day. When I see fit I spend money in a way that makes my day to day tasks easier or faster to complete.
The readers of this blog don’t always see eye to eye with me. I believe part of the problem lies in the name of this blog and I have considered renaming it on more occasions than I can count. I think the world “Frugal” has a negative, miserly connotation. That someone who claims to be One Frugal Girl, should not spend money on anything in life but the bare neccessities. A lot of people read my posts and comment on my lack of frugality. You bought new hangers, bowls and storage containers? How dare you?!! What a waste of money! I myself struggled with the decision to buy these items, so I’m not surprised by the reaction.
Would it have been financially wiser to keep the money in the bank instead of replacing old products that were still functioning properly? At first glance most definitely, but after further thought you may find that creating a more organized home actually saves you more money.
If I can see everything in my closet I won’t accidentally purchase something similar to what I already own. If my kitchen is neat and orderly I will enjoy spending time in there and will be more likely to cook at home. When I replaced my old pans and kitchen knives I began to enjoy preparing meals at home, because both preparation and cleanup times improved immensely.
Similarly if I accept bags of hand-me-down clothes but fail to organize them in a way that makes them easy to find then I might not ever use them. I can spend a little money buying containers and set aside everything in a neat and orderly fashion over the course of two hours or I can find myself digging through the same pile of clothes every time my son grows into the next size. Frustration might give me a reason to ignore the hand-me-downs in favor of a trip to the store where everything is neatly displayed.
I spend a lot of time at home. I don’t want to be frustrated by the need to move half of the items in my closet to see the other side. (A poorly designed 1950s storage area leads to this problem, not an overabundance of clothes.) Nor do I want to move things around in the cupboards just to reach the glass bowl I need to store leftovers.
The goal is not to hoard money away and live in misery. If I am frustrated by my surroundings I want to take small steps to make them better. And yes, that means spending money when and if necessary.
Unfortunately we don’t get the opportunity to live forever. We all have to learn to balance happiness, saving and spending. An organized life and home help me feel peaceful and grounded. I argue that in the end that saves me money, but whether it makes sense financially or not, sometimes decisions are about more than just the money. Also, isn’t peace of mind sometimes worth the money?
Photo Credit: jenni waterloo