Money Win: I haven’t purchased a brand new book in over seven years! I don’t love the location of our house but I do love it’s proximity to the library. When the weather is nice and time is on my side I’ll walk there with my son. If I’m in a hurry I can drive and park there in less than five minutes. Now I reserve books and movies through our county’s online website and simply wait for them to become available. In the past I bought books but never read them. Now I feel the pressure to finish books before they are due, which means I only check out one or two at a time and typically read them from cover to cover. According to my latest library receipt I’ve saved over $3,000!

Money Fail: I’ve noticed a few minor issues with my vision lately. If I read for more than an hour or so the words on the page become blurry. I scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist I’ve visited before, but forgot our insurance recently changed. I didn’t realize the error until I received a $175 bill for an out-of-network visit. Dang! That’s a rookie money mistake. I’m surprised the receptionist didn’t tell me I was out of network, but shame on me for failing to search for an in-network doctor.

Money Win: With a new prescription in hand I drove to the nearest vision care center in search of glasses. The cheapest pair would have set me back $130. I decided to try Walmart instead and found that even the most expensive brands were covered in full by my my insurance carrier. So I wasted money on my exam, but saved money on the glasses themselves. That’s like a half-win.

Money Win: My husband and I give money to our alma mater every year, but we like to give back in non-financial ways too. In the past we reviewed resumes and provided employment advice for current students. After my son was born I started volunteering my kids and I for various graduate studies in the speech, health and psychology departments. Apparently it’s quite difficult to recruit young children for these studies, because you don’t get paid to participate, but I figure it’s an easy way to give back and you never know if our assistance may lead to a scientific discovery. Earlier this winter I heard about a new study that would pay for participation so on a whim I signed up for it. I earned four hundred dollars for less than two hours of observation. In case you are wondering these aren’t pharmaceutical studies, so there is no risk in participating.

Money Fail: I dragged two large boxes of toys and clothing out of our house and out to a local consignment shop. We donate the majority of our unwanted belongings, but every so often I’ll try to sell items that possess a higher retail value. I left the house later than expected and sat on the beltway for over 45 minutes waiting in traffic. When I arrived I was told I’d need to wait an hour for my items to be processed. After rifling through a ton of items, they picked out a handful and presented me with $17 in cash. I sat in traffic on the way back home due to an accident. My past consignment trips ranged from $40 to $150, but this payout made me question my decision to sell stuff rather than just give it away. I drag everything that doesn’t sell over to the donation center anyway. The time I wasted was worth more than $17.