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For as long as I can remember I imagined it would be difficult for me to conceive children. After my medical problems in 2005 I was convinced children would not be in my future and after struggling for a year and a half with infertility I was almost certain.
When my son was born this perfect little baby laid in my arms and I felt whole in a way I never thought possible. I felt like I wanted to sing and dance for decades. I could not believe that something I never thought would happen had finally occurred. I wanted to pour myself into my son. To make certain the universe knew just how much I treasured this gift.
After my son was born I left my job, my sense of self, my sense of worth, my wages and most of my interaction with the outside world. I am the type of girl who places focus on work and my son became an around the clock job. With no one else but me to raise him 90% of the time I felt responsible for molding him into an incredible being.
I sat beside him and talked and played for hours. I couldn’t bear to hear him cry and although it seems crazy I never wanted to leave his side. Even when I was exhausted I would wake to every rustle of his bed sheets. For the first two years, even though he was in a separate room, I woke almost every time he stirred. And when my husband took him away to give me time to rest I couldn’t sleep. I was with him so often that my mind wanted to know what he was doing at all times.
As a result of this focus I let everything else fall to the wayside. Looking back its not that hard to see why this happened. When I think back to my first ten years at my previous job it actually makes perfect sense. I would start coding as soon as I woke up and kept coding, (not stopping to shower or cook dinner), until 2 am. How many times did my husband have to tell me to put away my computer and go to bed? If I was that focused on work imagine how focused I became on my child!
As a result of this focus I stopped paying attention to everything else. I knew that the majority of parenting landed on my shoulders and the enormity of that brought me inner stress and turmoil. I couldn’t even shower for five minutes for fear of his crying!
As far as I can tell much of my work paid off. My son seems to be a very caring, loving, polite and intelligent boy, but as a result of my actions other things in my life suffered.
I became so focused on my son that I didn’t always make dinner or clean the house. I lost myself and often failed to connect with my husband.
Strangely enough the addition of a second child woke me from my slumber. While trying to balance two children I realized I was too wrapped up in the first one. How could I find time to care for two kids when I couldn’t even find time to cook dinner?
Things are so much better now. The oldest goes to preschool three days a week, which gives me time with youngest and when the youngest is napping I find time for everything I was previously too exhausted to do.
I do not regret the way I spent my time over the last four years, but I am happy to see the light again.
Yesterday, (in the brief span of time between dropping and picking my son off at daycare), I traveled to Target to complete a very simple return. I went first thing in the morning in the hopes of beating the crowds. I try to maximize my son’s time at school. It’s a whole lot easier to map out a plan and run as many errands as possible without him in tow.
When I arrived at the store two women were standing at the register chatting with the cashier. I could immediately tell by the body language of both parties that my hopes for a short wait were about to be dashed.
The women were attempting to return an air mattress that was hanging half way out of the box. The Target receipt clearly stated that returns would be permitted until the given expiration date. The expiration date on the receipt turned out to be August of last year.
The customers requested a cash refund for their purchase. The cashier pointed to the expiration date and explained that the receipt was no longer valid. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I cannot offer you a cash refund.”
She further explained that their only option was to exchange the mattress for another one or to purchase something else within the sporting goods section of the store. Each time the cashier explained the returns process the women grew angrier, louder and more disgruntled.
I don’t know how long they were chatting with the cashier before I arrived but fifteen long minutes later I was still waiting in line to return my two items. I understand that they felt unsatisfied but store policy is store policy and attempting to convince a cashier to return something the system will not accept is simply not going to happen.
I seem to spend a fair amount of time in long return lines lately. I shop quite frequently on the Internet and some items, like clothing, do not always fit as I expect. That means packing them up and paying shipping fees or schlepping to the store and waiting in line to return them.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have waited in line behind someone trying to cheat the system. Take a few weeks ago, when a woman with an obviously worn area rug and no receipt attempted to convince the cashier at Kohl’s she paid full price for it. The cashier kindly checked all of the woman’s credit cards for the charge in an effort to search for her transaction.
If you are at all familiar with Kohl’s you know that nothing is ever full price in that store. After failing to find the transaction the cashier kindly offered a merchandise credit, but of course that would not do. The woman threw a temper tantrum right there in the store shouting about paying full price and wanting a credit back on her credit card.
I stood patiently in line, waiting.
Please, I beg of you people, get out of line. Let me complete my simple return in two minutes. Let me hand over my receipt, let the cashier scan my item and get the heck out of the store.
f you do not bring in a receipt you will not get your way. If you grow loud and angry you will not get your way. All you will do is make the poor suckers in line behind you wait and quite frankly I don’t want to wait twenty minutes while you try to cheat the system.
If you want to receive your money back then keep your receipts and return the items within the allotted time frame. Please don’t try to pass off used goods as new. Please, I beg of you.
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As I was contemplating my decision to stay at the beach I couldn’t help but think of all the ways I’ve wasted money over the years.
There was the time we remained on COBRA long after we should have switched over to my husband’s insurance plan. We paid well over $1500 a month and went to the doctor only twice during that period. Switching plans would have saved us over $9,000 a year. With a young son I wanted to know we had the best insurance possible, but I could have paid our entire deductible three times with the extra money we spent.
How about the time I paid full price for a mattress. Luckily I was able to rectify the situation, but in the blink of an eye I spent $600 more than necessary. Let’s not forget the mutual fund that dropped it’s five star ranking. Over the course of three years it fell to two stars, resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars. Although I look over my portfolio over year I somehow missed this failing mutual fund three years running.
I’ll worry about forgetting to use a $5 coupon and then allow myself to lose wads of money over the long haul. I’m sure we all do things that are penny wise and pound foolish, but it feels pretty stupid to save one dollar here and pick up 25 cents there, all the while letting real money drain from our bank accounts.
I thought long and hard about where to go for my medical testing. While I might save $440 by going home I have decided that staying put makes much more sense. I’m fine with making the decision to spend more money, but I hate knowing that sometimes I let money slip out of my hands without ever really thinking about it.
I believe if you want to help people do good you have to make it easy for them to do so. My in-laws are a perfect example of this. For years they threw all of their recyclables in with the regular garbage. Whenever we visited I was dismayed at the amount of plastic and glass commingling with the trash.
One day I had enough. I bought a plastic container, (a laundry basket of sorts), and placed it right next to the trash. Every time they finished a drink I placed their can or bottle into that container. I told them that I would carry them down to the recycle bin at the end of the night.
I’m not sure why no one thought of this solution before, but sure enough by the end of that week they bought a large plastic trash can to hold their bottles and cans and started emptying it out every night. Just like that they went from a family that threw away everything to one that consistently recycled.
If you want people to do good you have to make it easy for them to do so. That’s one of the reasons stores now ask if you want to donate money at the checkout counter. Most people won’t go out of their way to write a check to charity, but offering a dollar when you’ve just paid for $200 worth of groceries is certainly easy enough.
I love companies and charities that understand this premise, so I was especially excited to hear about Save1. Save1 is a a family owned coupon and loyalty site representing more than 5,000 of the top online merchants.
I know there are a ton of coupon sites out there, but this site is different from all the rest. Every time you shop through Save1 they provide a healthy meal to a malnourished child through one of their non-profit feeding partners. Since it’s launch date in October of 2012 they have provided more than 96,000 meals!!!
So how does Save1 work? It’s simple. Use an online coupon or special offer from the Save1 site. Save1 receives a small commission and uses that money to provide a meal for a hungry child. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
I encourage you to read the Save1 story. If you plan on shopping online consider using this site. You’ll save money on your purchase and a hungry mouth will receive a nourishing meal. It’s an easy way to help a child in need.
If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping quite yet, you might want to check out Amazon’s list of items that quality for Free One Day Shipping. You don’t need to be an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of this. Just make sure you choose one day shipping when you checkout and make certain that the item you want qualifies.
This is a guest post from Suzan Bekiroglu.
For many students with federal student loans, consolidation can be a great way to save money on both the amount of the interest rate and on the monthly payment. However, few students really understand how the consolidation process works or how it can benefit them.
Federal loan consolidation is a process in which a bank takes a former student’s direct loans and bundles them together as a single loan with one payment. This new loan can have a lower interest rate than the previous loans, and a longer payment term if desired.
Loan consolidation is a great way to get some relief on student loan payments. Many recent graduates feel trapped by the high amount of debt they have taken on. A typical graduate has nearly $24,000 in student loans for a Bachelor’s degree. In this harsh job market, many of these former students are considered to be underemployed; that is, they are working part-time and/or below their skill level. This means that many students are not making enough money to meet the minimum obligation on their student loans.
To make matters worse, many people do not discover until it is too late that they cannot discharge their student loans in a bankruptcy. Unlike practically every other type of debt, a person who cannot pay their student loans has no way of legally getting rid of them. This means a borrower has to find some way to make their payments or risk having their wages, tax refunds, and even their Social Security checks garnished. Student loans are a great way for a former student to lower their debt burden without running the risk of legal trouble
Fortunately, there is currently a special federal consolidation offer to help struggling borrowers. Anyone considering this option, however, should act quickly. June 30th is the deadline for this special program that will allow borrowers to lower their interest rate. Through this consolidation program, a borrower will be able to stabilize their interest rate and their monthly payment. By going through direct loan consolidation, a borrower will be able to know what their monthly payment will be until the end of the life of his or her loan. Knowing that your payment will not rise is crucial to being able to pay back student loans.
The Obama administration is offering this loan consolidation program only to people who qualify. Letters to all students who qualify for the program were sent in January of 2012. If you think that you may qualify and did not receive a letter, you can find out more information through your loan servicer and through the Federal Student Aid website.
If you are currently facing the possibility of not being able to pay your student loans, consolidation may be a good option for you. Be sure to research this option carefully, however, since borrowers are only allowed to consolidate their direct loans once. Consolidation is an important decision that can help you to become more financially independent and get your student loans finally paid off.
Ms. Bekiroglu is a published author, freelance writer and editorial consultant for secureloanconsolidation.com. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida, she faced the mounting obstacle of paying over $24,000 back in student loan debt. Determined to eliminate the debt, she became knowledgeable about money management. She seeks to educate others with tips on managing student loans and other kinds of debt, as well as in general personal finance and money saving tips.
I’m sitting home watching movies with my husband and my son who are both sick witha fever. Not exactly the way we planned to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it’s nice that we are all home and snuggled together.
I haven’t written much this week. I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon, but here are a few of my favorite June posts from other blogs:
- Could this be an heirloom someday? (The Frugal Girl)
- Reader Story: What Financial Freedom Really Means (Get Rich Slowly)
- Start Big. Start Small. Start Somewhere. (Becoming Minimalist)
- 5 Lessons from Ending a Friendship (Think Simple Now)
- Why You Should and Shouldn’t Care About What Others Think of You (PickTheBrain)
It has been FOREVER since I posted a list of my favorite weekly links. I simply haven’t had the time to keep up to date with blogs these days, so I’ve cut a bunch from my RSS reader in the hopes of focusing on posts that are most relevant to me. Of course, I seem to flag them and rarely remember to go back and read them. Tonight I had a few minutes and found a couple I really enjoyed…
- On Remembering What’s Most Important (becoming minimalist)
- This I Believe: 43 Lessons from 43 Years (Get Rich Slowly)
- The Value of Contentment (MoneyCrush)
- You Don’t Need a Vacation. You Need a New Life (The Minimalist Mom)
- Negativity Gets Us Nowhere (Frugal Babe)
I have a secret to tell. I’m One Frugal Girl who does not budget. At least not the strict sense of the word. I have a general idea of how much money I can spend on things, but I don’t sit down at the beginning of the year and define just how much I can spend right down to the penny.
I’ve tried to budget in the past, but I always find that I don’t keep track of my spending in a way that makes budgeting easy. My husband and I keep detailed records of our finances. I can generate cash flow, income and expense reports in a moment’s notice that depict how much we earn and spend down to the penny. This tracking is easy. We pay for everything with a credit card and meticulously document exactly where our money goes each month.
The problem with budgeting is that I can’t seem to keep track of exactly how much I’m spending as I’m spending it. For example, if I budget $100 for clothes. I need to keep that number in mind as I go shopping. When I buy shoes for $20 and clothes for my son for $30 I need to go update my budget so that I recognize I can only spend $50 more.
Every time I’ve tried to follow a strict budget I’ve failed to update the numbers as I spend. So when I go out shopping the next time I don’t know if I can spend $20 or $75. Then I get frustrated with myself for failing to update the documentation and ultimately give up on it entirely.
I no longer worry about exactly how much I spend in a particular area and while I look at the numbers on the credit card at the end of the month I don’t keep track as I go along each day. I do make notes as I review the credit card statement though. I track my overall expenses in very specific categories. If I find that I’ve already spent a lot on one specific area I stop myself from heading to any of my favorite stores for awhile. The same goes for any other category for which I seem overextended.
The truth is that these days I don’t spend much money. I try to live my life as a quasi-minimalist. I purge when I can and try to bring new things into the house unless they are absolutely necessary. My no-budget approach works because I don’t desire many new things these days and don’t find myself craving too many things that require a credit card.
I know a lot of people live by a budget and couldn’t imagine having it any other way. Others can’t stand budgeting and avoid it like the plague. How about you? What are your thoughts on budgeting? Do you find it helpful or hurtful? Do you use a specific system to help you stay on track and how often do you find yourself diverging?
This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about Budgeting see the Budgeting Roundup.