Posts filed under ‘thoughts’

More Odds and Ends

strawberry

More odds and ends

  1. The cold weather, school closings and delayed openings have kept me out of stores the past few weeks. This is a win-win in my book. The less often I find myself in a store the less often I find myself craving something I really don’t need.
  2. I’m a little torn about the latest grocery shopping bills. My husband and in-laws have graciously offered to pick up milk, bread and other household staples for us a couple of times over the last few weeks. While I am very happy not to trudge off to the store with a three year old in tow our food bills are much higher than usual. I can’t ask them to look over sale prices while they are in the store and I hate to hand over a wad of coupons that may or may not work properly, so I’ve decided for now convenience must win over saving money. This trend will probably continue for at least a few weeks or months after the baby arrives.
  3. For Valentine’s Day my sweet husband brought home a $47 box of chocolate covered strawberries. The frugal side of me cringed just a bit, but the very pregnant, craving sweets girl was more than happy to receive them. For the record they were some of the tastiest strawberries I’ve eaten in a very long time.
  4. It seems I ran over some nails and screws on my way to or from preschool. One punctured the sidewall of my tire, which will require a $250 replacement. I just bought the car, (brand new), in December. Needless to say I am not happy about having to replace it!
  5. Indoor adventures for toddlers aren’t cheap. I took my son to the bowling alley this week and spent $20. I must say it was really nice to get out of the house for a few hours, but I couldn’t believe the bowling alley didn’t have a discounted price for preschoolers. The shoe rental alone cost $5. It seems I need to find some cheaper indoor adventures that aren’t too difficult or tiring for a very pregnant woman to maneuver.
  6. I’d love to find a few more go-to recipes that I can prepare quickly or even freeze in advance. With a little one on the way I’d really love to stock the house with staples and know that dinner won’t take more than a few minutes to prepare. If you have any favorite recipes or sites you frequent please leave a comment below.

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February 20, 2015 at 6:00 PM 2 comments

Odds and Ends

Kohls Order - BabyGanics Edit 2

Random financial thoughts cause I can’t seem to concentrate on any of the posts I planned.

  • The original quote for basement remodeling was $25,700. So far, the total now stands at $46,000. We made a few drastic changes to our original plans, which added $9,300 worth of contracting work. The rest came from a combination of flooring supplies, sinks, toilets, radiators, accessories, a new television, speakers, organizational supplies and furniture. Yikes! The original quote didn’t include any of these items.
  • After our recent purge of unwanted items I really enjoyed reading the Forbes article: The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits. I don’t like the author’s use of the word “chicks,” but otherwise this is a very interesting article about the time, effort and money spent acquiring, organizing, maintaining and storing items we buy. The moral to her story, (and mine after remodeling our house), is to simply stop buying so much stuff.
  • I’m burning up unused gift cards like crazy. I have a huge stack that has been sitting in the safe at our house for years. As each holiday passes the stack grows just a little bit taller and while I always think I’ll manage to find a use for them I never do. So this week I sold two I know we’ll never use on eBay, used two more to buy a set of queen sheets from Burlington Coat Factory, one to buy a supply of new underwear and burned three more on take-out dinners for my family. If possible I’d also like to use a few spa related cards before baby #2 makes his or her arrival. I hate to admit this, but I still have hundreds of dollars worth of cards remaining.
  • I recently became a huge fan of Kohl’s. In early January I bought two bottles of shampoo & body wash, one tube of toothpaste and a twenty pack of hand sanitizer wipes for just over $14. I used three coupon codes to knock $10 off a $30 purchase, 30% off the remaining cost and received free shipping. This is a phenomenal price for all four products. Subscribe and save would cost $8.37 per bottle of body wash, which means I received all four items for less than the cost of two. For some reason my shipment never arrived so I contacted Kohl’s, cancelled the first order and resubmitted over the phone through a friendly customer service representative. Somehow the representative knocked my price even lower and I paid just over $10 (after tax!) for all four items! I was so excited by this order I placed a similar one a week or so later and received six products for less than twelve bucks!
  • Thanks to my Things to Look out For List I recouped a $15 gift card from J. Crew. When I placed an order way back in December one of my items was out of stock. The order was cancelled because the item was never restocked, but J. Crew failed to issue me a new gift card. If I hadn’t written myself a note I would’ve lost out on the value. I called customer service and asked for a new one to be sent via snail mail.
  • By the way after seeing $46,000 in black and white saving $10 or $15 here or there seems like nothing. My husband says I think in terms of dollars and cents, but really looking at a number that big definitely makes me see the value of big money.

February 16, 2015 at 11:05 PM 2 comments

Would You Feel Guilty Profiting From Hand-Me-Downs?

Money

The other day I wrote about my trip to the local consignment shop. In that post I mentioned consigning a few articles of clothing that were given to me by a former coworker. In response I received the following comment:

Just curious but do you feel guilty for taking something someone gave you for free and then turning around and selling it and keeping the money? I got mad at my brother for selling stuff I had given him since he didn’t tell me and kept the money. The original reason I gave him the items is because I thought he could use them to save him money. If I had known he was just going to sell them I would have sold them myself. Not trying to say what you did was wrong, just curious if you have any thoughts on that.

Here is my response to that inquiry:

The short answer is no. I do not feel guilty. Here’s why… My friend had twin boys. She knows that I cannot possibly use all of the clothing she gives me every season. One time I received thirty pairs of toddler pants. Another time I received twenty pairs of shoes. I wouldn’t even have the space in the dresser to store all of these things if I wanted to.

Second, every time I pick up hand-me-downs I specifically ask her if she wants any of them back. Every time she tells me ‘no. if you don’t need it pass it on to someone else.’ Up until now I’ve done that by donating to friends, family and our local donation center.

Third, I take my friend out to lunch every time I pick up clothes from her. The pitiful amount of money I earned from her hand-me-downs at consignment wouldn’t even cover the number of lunches I’ve paid for over the last three years. I earned $18 for all the stuff I took in. Three quarters of that was stuff that I had purchased myself. Of course, if the items I received were worth hundreds of dollars it might be a different story.

My advice and two cents… If you want stuff back after you lend it to someone let them know. My brother gave me two expensive items: a baby carrier and an expensive toy. He asked me to return them after my son was finished using/playing with them. For everything else he said keep it, pass it on, whatever. I think you definitely need to set firm expectations of what you expect when you ‘give things away.’ In the future if you give your brother things I would definitely suggest asking for them back if he isn’t going to use them.

I’m curious what the readers of this blog think. Would you feel guilty selling someone that was handed down to you? Do you think you should let the original owner know it might be worth money and offer to return it so they could sell it themselves?

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February 6, 2015 at 8:54 PM 11 comments

My New Year’s Resolution: Focusing on Happiness

joy

For the past two years I’ve maintained one and only one resolution: to accept the things I cannot change. It is easy to hold this resolve in good times and much more difficult to press on in times of distress. When a dose of antibiotics unexpectedly induced neuropathy I had a hard time accepting the cards I was given and when I failed month after month to conceive another child I certainly let my emotions get the best of me.

Thankfully these major life hurdles feel like a distant memory. My second child is due early this year and for the time being my neuropathy symptoms have all but disappeared. While one hurdle may stand behind me I know that another is probably hiding just around the corner.

While acceptance is certainly a key to persevering so is trying to remain positive when life drops the wind from your sails. I have found my greatest cheerleader is my husband who cheers for my small victories and pick up the pieces of my emotional state when I am unable to pick them up myself.

This year though I hope to continue on my path to accept the things I cannot change, but I also hope to focus more on the joys and small victories around me.

One summer a few years ago I wrote down the happiest moments that occurred each week. It wasn’t elegant or elaborate, just a few words about happy events in my life. I came across that journal a few days ago and felt the love swell inside of me just by reading it. I want to remember those moments and use them to help me bridge the gaps that seem so dark and gloomy.

When my son was born three years ago my husband went through a deep depression. He wasn’t depressed about the birth of my son, but rather about the changes that occurred in our marriage and daily lives as a result of having had him. A year or so ago he began digging himself out of the darkness, but I know that having another baby will shake the foundation of our lives once again.

This year I want to focus on happiness. Though I know we may feel great stress I hope that we can keep sight of the joyful moments and carve out time to find joy together.

If anyone has suggestions on how to accomplish this goal please leave a comment below.

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January 1, 2015 at 3:42 PM 2 comments

Gift Exchanges: Really Crappy Gifts

wrapping paper

Two years ago my brother and I officially stopped giving each other gifts for Christmas. I can say without a bit of remorse that I’m glad we ended the exchange. Every year it became more difficult to decide on a gift and the added stress and cost just wasn’t worth it anymore. It was a mutual agreement; my brother was just as happy to end the swap as I was.

Honestly, I wish I could end the majority of my gift exchanges. I’d prefer Christmas to work like Thanksgiving where we drive to someone’s house, eat good food, spend quality time together and head home.

More often than not I spend a lot of time thinking about what people will like and find that I receive generic, thoughtless gifts in return. Last year I received a particularly crappy, five dollar present as part of a family exchange. (Before anyone jumps in and says “maybe the gift giver can’t afford more than that” I will say with absolutely certainty that they can.) This particular person had no problem providing more thoughtful, expensive gifts to other family members.

I spent a good deal of time and money buying gifts for that person, but as the calendar rolls into December I’m not certain that I want to get burned again. I’m not really sure how to handle the exchange of gifts this year.

Do I continue to spend energy searching for gifts when I know full well that I won’t get anything decent in return or do I throw in the towel and buy this particular person something equally crappy? Ninety-nine percent of me says do the right thing and buy a nice gift. The other one percent says forget that; put very little thought or money into it and call it a day.

Unfortunately I cannot envision a way to end the exchange all together. That would be my preferable solution to this problem, but I just don’t see a way to make it happen without a larger conflict arising.

So what do you think? Have you ever been faced with a terrible gift giver? Do you have advice on how to handle my situation?

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November 21, 2014 at 11:02 PM 11 comments

Thank You Gifts: When Do You Give Them?

thank you

Once or twice a year my dad invites a few of his friends down south to spend five or six days at our beach house. My parents always arrange the date around a convenient time for us. In essence, they make certain that we won’t have a need or desire to stay at our house during that time.

My husband and I are happy to share the house with my parents and their friends and because they stay during the off season we’ve never asked them for a rent check or any other form of payment.

My parents typically invite three other couples to the beach with them. The first year two of the couples bought us a thank you gift. They purchased the gift together and wrote both of their names on the card. The same thing happened the following year. This time around we received a very generous gift from one of the couples, but nothing from the other couple. The third couple didn’t provide a gift this year or any other.

For the record I don’t expect a thank you gift from any of the couples. I do find it interesting though that some couples always think to send us a gift and others never do.

I am not always great about providing thank you gifts, but I do send cards and notes quite frequently. Do you have a rule for providing thank you gifts to others? If you stayed in a friend’s beach house do you think you would provide a gift to them?

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October 26, 2014 at 9:09 PM 6 comments

A Little of This A Little of That

My finances have been all over the board lately.

On the good side of things:

  • My husband never watches television and I typically only watched Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen once every couple of days so I downgraded our package and requested a monthly discount. Yearly savings: $324.
  • We increased the deductible on our insurance policy from $1000 to $2500. Actually I asked to change it to $5000 but that wasn’t possible through our particular policy. Yearly savings: $240.
  • Requested off-season rates for internet service to our beach home. Yearly savings: $137.48.
  • Our mechanic purchased our broken 1999 Toyota. We agreed to the deal for $350. That’s not a whole lot of money, but it’s more than a tax write off would have provided.

On the not so good side of things:

  • I opened a new IRA account. Somehow my husband and I missed the opportunity to contribute to our IRAs the last two years! I set calendar alerts to remind me from this point forward. That will not happen again in the future.
  • I ordered new black flats and boots. I actually picked out a few pairs from Zappos with the intention of returning whatever doesn’t fit. Estimate: $200. By the way does anyone know a place to purchase super comfy, good quality boots that don’t cost a fortune?
  • I drained $250 on new clothes last weekend. My clothes don’t fit particularly well right now and I need to prepare for the colder weather.
  • We are closer to choosing a vehicle to replace our old Toyota. My husband originally wanted a commuter car, but recently started dreaming of something bigger.

October 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM 1 comment

The Moments That Defined Our Financial Future

The other night I took my husband out to celebrate his thirty-eighth birthday. Over wings and beer we began discussing the current state of our bank accounts and the events that helped define our finances. Here are the details in no particular order:

  1. Our parents paid for our college education leaving us completely debt free after college.
  2. Neither of us ever accumulated credit card debt.
  3. Through the combination of a variety of paid internships and jobs we saved a good deal of money before ever leaving school.
  4. After graduation I lived in a group house, which saved me thousands of dollars in rent and utilities.
  5. Rather than renting an apartment we bought our first house within two years of graduation. We lucked out and purchased when the market was low and refinanced a number of times when rates dropped.
  6. Moving in together helped us save on all living expenses as we paid one set of bills rather than two.
  7. We both worked in the high paying field of software development.
  8. The company where I worked had amazing benefits including high paying bonuses and pay raises in my first ten years.
  9. Two of our three cars are over fifteen years old.
  10. We live within our means and never inflated our lifestyles, (other than purchasing our vacation home), as our incomes increased.
  11. Other than back and forth trips to North Carolina we have traveled very infrequently. (I’m not particularly happy with this fact, but it has helped us save money.)
  12. Due to a number of unforeseen medical issues my first child was not born until shortly after my thirty-fourth birthday. Thanks to time and the first eleven items on this bullet list we had already saved a significant amount of money.

I’m sure there are other major events that impacted our financial success but these are the first twelve that came to mind.

September 14, 2014 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

My Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

A few days ago I posted a reader’s question about unequal financial gifts for his children. I thought I’d follow up with my advice. Here is the email I sent in response:

Up until this point I have only received comments and emails about this subject from grown children and I appreciated hearing from a parent’s point of view.

I have not experienced financially inequality from my own parents, but I have witnessed it many times via extended family members.

Here is the issue… Hypothetically, f I work hard, stay on track and save my money I can afford a house in a nice community. If my sibling does not do these things do they “deserve” the same life that I live? Do we not make choices in our life and have to live by the choices we made? For example, if I choose to become a software engineer than I may earn a lot, but I might not enjoy my job. In that case money wins over enjoyment. If my sibling chooses to become an artist they may love their job but not be able to afford a house in a nice community. I believe resentment grows when a sibling sees a child getting the best of both worlds; a life they enjoy and financial success (in the form of money from their parents).

Similarly if a child goes through his late teens and early twenties enjoying life and running up debt, while another sibling settles into a career and starts working, is it really fair to even the financial score. That sibling had the time of his life and ends up right on track with their sibling who had to work hard and make a way in their lives for themselves. Resentment breeds when perception says “I didn’t enjoy the last ten years the way my sibling did and now they are on equal footing.”

You also have to take into account “perceived” need versus “real” need. Is your son really in such a dire predicament. Does he really need to move into a new, nicer community if he cannot afford to get their himself? I have seen parents who believed their children “needed” an SUV because they had two children. There are many families who drive smaller cars and get by just fine with that. Only you know if he really needs help, but it is important to realize that your dreams for his life may not match up with his salary and lifestyle.

Having said all of that I love my son more than anything I ever could have imagined in life. I am going to send him to preschool next week and my heart breaks for the couple of hours that he will be away from me each week. While I know that it will be good for him to play with other children I hate to let him go even for just a little bit. The love we have for our children is strong and as parents we want to do everything in our power to protect and help them. Ultimately you have to follow your heart in your decision and if you believe your son needs help then you will probably provide it to him.

I would suggest talking to your daughter about the situation though. From what I’ve seen a lot of the pain comes from misunderstandings between parents and their children. The child who receives money feels loved. The child who does not feels left out. If you plan to give your son money I would have a very frank and open conversation with your daughter about your choices and how it ultimately effects her. She may be perfectly fine with your decision but even if she’s not she will appreciate the fact that you were concerned over this topic, that you thought of her feelings and that you reached out to her before doing anything. Let her know that you are concerned that she will not receive equality in this situation, but that you love her so much that you wrote a comment seeking advice :)

My son is not even three, but one of my goals in life, (and I sure hope I’m able to remain on task), is to provide a level of transparency into the decisions we make for him. If we don’t understand motivations we may come to resentment them.

Thanks again for leaving a comment and sending an email. I do hope you will let me know what you decide and how things work out. I wish you the best of luck.

September 1, 2014 at 5:41 PM 1 comment

Reader Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

Over the years I’ve written a lot about unequal financial gifts for children. In response I’ve received many personal emails asking for advice. Up until this week all of those posts came from grown children in these situations, but a few days ago I received this comment from a concerned parent.

I thought I would repost his comment and ask my readers for advice. What do you think this concerned father should do?

We very much love and have been trying hard to treat both our now adult children equally. We paid for their education, though they paid for their living away from home.  They love and trust each other, and this is very important for us.

Our daughter worked hard in school, got a university diploma and has been working tirelessly, even now, while raising her three teen/pre-teen children.  They have their own house with a large mortgage, but they live comfortably as both she and her husband have good income, and need no financial support.

Our son, several years younger, had a couple of false starts at college but eventually got a minor degree, while engaging in a more liberal and financially less responsible lifestyle, accumulating a sizable debt.  We cleared most of his debt with a “loan” at one point, most of which was left unpaid.  At the time we made it clear that it will be considered  in the distribution of our estate whenever…  Many years later, after getting married and having one child, he lost his job (not his fault…), and had a hard time finally finding one, which is still just an unpaid “Internship”, hoping it leads to a reasonably paying full time position.  Now their second child is coming, and they still live in a rented apartment, in an area not preferred for raising children.  Their savings are not enough for the down payment on a reasonable house.  We live frugally, but would be willing to help him out from our limited retirement savings.  However, it would be difficult to justify giving an equal amount to our daughter now, as our savings were meant for our old age, so we should have no need to rely on our children’s help.  In a way, we would like to equalize the chances of our grandchildren.

So, what to do, and how to do it?  We would love to hear from you, the contributors of this blog “on the other side of the coin”.

August 30, 2014 at 9:30 AM 3 comments

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