A long time ago my husband and I consolidated all of our accounts into one bank. We rolled all of 401ks into IRAs and acquired access so that we can view each others retirement accounts. When we log into our bank account we can now see each and every dollar we’ve saved and just how much it’s increased or decreased as the days and months pass by.
After entering a user name and password we can see a total of our net worth minus the properties we own. For the record I don’t include cars, jewelry and other such things in my net worth. I include money in the bank and real estate; nothing else.
Having everything in one place certainly makes things easier, but could it also be saving me money? I hadn’t thought much about it until a friend forwarded me this link. I did not pay to read the entire study, but the abstract states:
The decision to save enhances well-being in the long-term but it conflicts with the desire to spend money to gain immediate gratification. In this research, we examine the influence of having single versus multiple accounts on individuals’ savings and spending decisions. We find that individuals save more with a single account than with multiple liquid accounts. Utilizing work on motivated reasoning and fuzzy-trace theory, we suggest that multiple accounts engender fuzzy gist representations, making it easier for people to generate justifications to support their desired spending decisions. However, a single account reduces the latitude for distortion and hinders generation of justifications to support desirable spending decisions. Across four studies that provide participants with the opportunity to earn, spend, and save money, we demonstrate the proposed effect and test the underlying process.
Perhaps it is easier to overstate your net worth when money is placed in multiple accounts. When money is not co-located you must add the funds from each account in order to decipher just how much money you have. If you don’t manually add the figures together you may create a fuzzy estimate of your overall worth.
I think this makes perfect sense. Without looking at a concrete figure you create a ballpark estimate in your mind and then decide whether or not you have enough money to spend on the items you want. I can see how it would be easier to spend money without that black and white figure staring back at you.
Over the years I’ve found that the more I save the more I have a desire to save. That’s because I can log into my bank and see the progress I’ve made to date. If you save $100 in one bank and $100 in another the numbers don’t look nearly as impressive as saving $200 all in one place. It seems silly, but it’s true.
Looking at that $200 number will provide the incentive to continue setting aside money. As the number grows so does your sense of achievement. The more money you save the more accomplished you feel.
I never thought about the correlation between consolidated bank accounts and saving money, but the more I think about the more it makes sense. For the record, sites that provide a snapshot of your bank accounts could probably provide the same value.
What do you think? Do you think consolidated bank accounts and snapshots of net worth would help you save money?
Life is busy. To make it a little less hectic I adhere to the following rules. I hope you find them useful too.
- Write down all those little thoughts floating around in your brain. I use an application on my iPhone, but a pen and paper would do the very same trick. I maintain a number of lists, but I reference my to-do list more than all the others. I write things like: return order to Amazon, check credit card statement, buy trash bags, find a notary and review tax statements. When applicable I add a date to the task and receive a reminder twenty-four hours in advance. Any item that requires action on my part gets written into this list and every time I finish a task I check it off. Doing so ensures that I don’t forget anything important. It also ensures I don’t miss the mundane tasks like stocking laundry detergent downstairs or buying trash bags to hold our garbage.
- Reduce clutter and organize rooms. The easiest way to reduce work around your house is to purge your possessions. Minimalists have this all figured out, but I am not a minimalist. I keep various pots and pans in the kitchen to serve different purposes. I own a blender, juicer, crock pot and waffle maker. The trick for me is finding a place for everything. The appliances all reside on a basement shelf, which leaves room on our kitchen counter for chopping and mixing. Those tools that I use only one time a year, (for some reason the turkey baster comes to mind), reside in a small plastic box that I also keep in the basement. One drawer in my kitchen contains our silverware, the other contains a pizza cutter, ice cream scooper and the utensils I need for flipping, stirring and whisking. That is all. Everything in my house has a place. We have bins for toys and cubbies for hats, scarfs and gloves sorted by owner. In our case: Dad, Mom and Son. When we get home from an outing we put things away immediately. Coats go into the closet, hats into the box, shoes in a special spot on the floor. With that stuff out of sight and out of mind we have much more space to play and when we go back outside we don’t waste time looking for misplaced items.
- Clean out your wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack everyday. Before my son was born I almost never carried a purse. Instead I tucked a very small wallet into my back pocket that contained one credit card, my license, a AAA card and insurance information. These days I carry a much bigger bag full of snacks, toys, stickers and training pants, but every afternoon when we come home from our daily excursions I dump the contents of that bag out onto the table and then put everything away. Garbage is tossed and food is placed back into the fridge. This allows you to start over tomorrow with a clean slate.
- File your receipts. Buy an inexpensive accordion binder. I bought mine from the $1 bin at Target. As you clean out your bags and wallets check for receipts and file them into your binder. Mine is compartmentalized by the stores I most frequently visit: Target, Macy’s, Home Depot, Marshalls, etc. If the description on the receipt looks too vague take a minute and write the details of what you purchased on the back of it. Every few months I weed out the receipts and shred the ones that are over six months old. Receipts for more expensive items like a television are kept longer, since these items often come with one year warranties. If you need to return something to the store you’ll know exactly where to find that receipt.
- Read the magazines that arrive every month. If you subscribe to magazines make certain that you stack them in one location in the house and actually take the time each month to read them. Every time you finish a magazine donate or recycle it. Do not leave it in the house to collect dust. The stack should remain the same size each month as each time a new magazine arrives the old one should be read and discarded. If you find the stack growing larger and larger consider ending your subscription. This probably means that you are paying good money for something you aren’t using.
- Ask to be removed from all catalogs. Email or call the company who sent the catalog and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Make certain to include the details found on the back of the catalog; sometimes a company will not stop solicitations without those special codes. Getting rid of catalogs helps you on multiple fronts. First, you won’t feel tempted to buy things you don’t really need. Second, you will save the environment as less trees are cut down and less fuel is utilized to get those magazines from point A to point B. Third, you won’t have to deal with them in your mail anymore.
- Unsubscribe from all unwanted email. Go through your inbox and click the unsubscribe link for each and every email that you are not interested in. It only takes a second or two to open these, but removing them from your inbox means you don’t have to waste any time at all.
- Open and read your mail every day. This is an easy one. Pick a room in the house and set up a shredder, scanner, trash can and recycle bin. Dump the spam into the recycle bin, this may include circulars, unsolicited mail, (without your name on it), and anything else that you don’t want. Dump envelopes into the recycle bin. Shred all unsolicited credit card offers and anything else that could make it easy for someone to steal your identity or wreak havoc on your credit score. Whatever is left is real mail. Much of this may include bills and bank statements. These documents should be scanned and digitally filed by date. We save all documents as yyyy-mm-dd – description. This ensures that items are sortable and easy to find when needed. Once things are scanned shred the physical documents. Don’t forget to set aside time to pay your bills.
- Create backups of your data. I must admit that my husband has taken over this particular task for our household. The key is to backup everything you can. Family photos, bank statements, medical records, you name it. Make sure everything is backed up so a broken hard drive doesn’t force you to lose everything.
This may seem like a lot of tasks, but after awhile it will become second nature to complete them. With less mail to process, less email to read and less time wasted looking for lost objects you’ll free up a good chunk of time in your day.
I rarely buy anything on eBay. Unless I’m looking for a vintage toy I prefer to shop elsewhere. I bought a couple of playskool puzzles for my son’s birthday and a 1960s Lite-Brite for Christmas. Unfortunately, I overpaid for both.
I earned eBay bucks for each purchase and my big cash back total was a whopping $5. I didn’t need anything, but decided to poke around on the site for a couple of minutes, just in case something caught my eye. I ultimately convinced myself to purchase a discounted gift card. I figured I could buy a $10 gift card for less than half price. The eBay bucks would knock $5 off the price and it would probably be discounted by at least a couple of dollars. Of course I couldn’t find any $10 auctions I liked so I upped the ante and settled on a $25 auction. With one minute to spare I placed my bid, won, paid immediately and waited for my gift card to arrive in the mail.
I used to buy discounted gift cards quite frequently. Back in the day there was a site that would allow you to swap cards. Let’s say you had a Crate and Barrel gift card and wanted a Babies-R-Us gift card instead. You could create a wish list of the cars you wanted and another list containing the cards you had available. Thirty seconds later the system would match you up with someone wanting to trade. I swapped fifteen or twenty gift cards this way and bought others at deeply discounted prices. That site went out of business, (total bummer), so I stopped buying discounted gift cards as often. Every once in awhile I come across a good deal, but otherwise it’s a whole lot of hassle to save five or ten percent. The fact is you never know if the person will actually ship the card to you. Even if it does arrive the description is not always accurate. I’ve received two or three that were actually merchandise credit cards not true gift cards, which cannot always be used interchangeably.
If I hadn’t wanted to burn the $5 worth of eBay credit I would not have poked around eBay and I would not have bid on an auction. I will admit that eBay bucks suckered me into buying something I didn’t really need.
Nevertheless when the card came I did not check the balance. I was busy that afternoon. I looked through the mail while I was making dinner, stuck the card in my wallet and didn’t think about it until I was at the store today returning a couple of items. When I presented it to the cashier she told me it had no money left on it.
Ugh. I bought a gift card with no value. I immediately contacted the customer service number on the back of the card and asked for a history of transactions. I was told the entire amount was used prior to the time I bid on the auction and certainly prior to the time I received it. I contacted the seller immediately. She apologized and refunded the money, but why would a seller send a gift card without any money on it?
Here is what I think happened. I bid on the auction at the last minute without looking clearly at the photos. It seems there were two attached. The first contained a picture of the front of the card. The second contained a picture of the back of it. I can honestly say I never noticed the photo of the back of the card. I would have taken note of it because it clearly displayed the gift card numbers.
My guess is that someone was trolling eBay, came across the listing, wrote down the numbers from the card and used it before the auction ever ended.
The lesson here: NEVER, EVER, EVER buy a gift card from eBay if the numbers are listed or photographed. If you are a seller NEVER, EVER, EVER sell a gift card with the numbers are listed or photographed. There are a lot of crooks and scammers in the world so don’t post valuable information like this out on the internet.
Luckily the seller felt bad about the situation and refunded my purchase. I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t been so nice about it.
My lesson has been learned. 1) Do not buy things you do not need just because you have a coupon or in this case expiring eBay bucks. 2) Do not bid on an auction without looking at all aspects of it including descriptions and photograph.s 3) Do not buy a gift card if the numbers are made available on the internet.
Let There Be Light was written by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and illustrated by New York Times best selling author Nancy Tillman. I was unbelievably excited to receive this book. Tillman is the author of On the Night You Were Born, which is one of my favorite children’s stories.
I received that book as a gift just before my son was born and could not read it aloud without crying for the first few months after his birth. In fact, since his birth I have gifted it to a number of friends that had children. In my opinion On the Night You Were Born is the quintessential book for every new child. It received five stars on Amazon with over 522 reviews.
I suppose I had my sights set incredibly high when I received Let There Be Light and as a result I was a bit disappointed. Let There Be Light is a children’s book that captures the story of Genesis and God’s creation of the world in seven days.
Based on the illustrations I would rank this book quite highly. The artwork of landscapes and animals is truly stunning. I love how the images correspond to the beauty God creates in seven days. I did think the final verse was lacking a bit. After all that God created Archbishop Desmond Tutu simply writes “God looked at everything that he had made and clapped his hands together in delight, ‘Isn’t it wonderful.’” I didn’t think this was a particularly powerful statement for such a miraculous undertaking and the text did not flow as cleanly as the words written on other pages.
I did enjoy this book and my two year old son asked me to read it to him multiple times. He loved pointing to the pages with animals and explaining all that he recognized.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
A few thoughts…
- My son has been sick for the past week, which means my little boy who never watches television is sitting in front of it for hours on end. Just as he started to feel better he passed the bug on to me. I tried all sorts of quiet games this morning, but none seemed to keep him happy, so I’m afraid to say the TV is back on. I’m a little worried that we’ll need to break this habit once we all feel better.
- We wrote two very large checks to cover estimated taxes this week. It just so happens that the stock market also took a bite of our savings. Needless to say logging in to our bank account is not making me happy.
- My husband gave me an excellent idea for a book. I’ve always wanted to write one.
- According to the calculations in my handy-dandy spreadsheet our mortgage could be paid off in as little as five years or as many as eight. Eight years doesn’t seem like a lot, but for my husband’s sake, (he’s the one working), I’d really like to be finished in five. Well, honestly, I wish we were already done with it. My original plan was to be finished by thirty-five. Looks like I’ll be somewhere between forty-one and forty-four.
- My blog was inaccessible for a short time yesterday, (reason still unknown), and I went into a tizzy. I didn’t realize how attached I am to this site. I’ve been writing since March of 2006 and couldn’t bear the thought of losing it. Even if I never blogged again I’d like to know I could go back and read through everything I wrote. Luckily my husband assured me he is backing up my data.
- I feel like it’s been cold, rainy or snowy most of the last few weeks and I really need to spend more time outdoors. Bring out the sun!
In other news today is the last day to enter my Amazon $100 giveaway. If you haven’t left a comment already you’ll need to click over to that post before midnight EST.
We all know her. She’s the one who looks like she fell out of Anthropologie and landed in Pinterest. She’s never heard of a “bad hair day” and she somehow manages to visit all the hottest venues without having to work. She’s everything you want to be, and she doesn’t even try. She’s the “It” girl. This year, she could be you.
Despite what many women think, living fabulously doesn’t have to be expensive. Below are five tricks to saving money while living the rockstar lifestyle of your dreams.
- Dress to Impress in one-of-a-kind apparel: Online craft markets like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet bring together talented artists and quirky individuals from around the world. On these quality-centered sites, you can find unique, homemade clothes that will never cause you to think “she wore it better.” Furthermore, because transactions are between real people and not corporations, you can get the most for your money and help out a fellow arts-enthusiast as well.
- Make money with an online business: Whether your talents lie in fine jewelry making, cupcake baking, or portrait painting, selling your homemade goods online can earn you a little extra income and a fan base as well. Websites like Shopify and Bigcommerce make it easy for you to start your own online business because they simplify the process of web design and make it accessible to everyone. For example, if you wanted to sell clothes on shopify.co.uk, you could learn all about the intricacies of e-commerce, advertising on social media sites, and attracting internet traffic using SEO formatting. Understanding the best way to design your store could be the first step towards building your own successful start-up company.
- Make use of online offers and deals: Timeout now has pages for most major metropolitan cities. On this website, businesses can build up their customer bases by offering discounts and limited-time offers. For you, this means cheap dinners at world-renowned restaurants, luxuriously inexpensive spa treatments, and discount tickets to events and shows.
- Become a blogger: Nothing says fabulous like a photo-filled Tumblr feed. For anyone who’s ever watched Julie and Julia, you know that writing about what you love online can be both rewarding and lucrative. Because of websites like Tumblr and Blogger, it has never been easier to start your own e-journal. Post pictures, write about the amazing places you go, and before you know it you could have a following. Many successful fashion bloggers receive invites to industry events, and sometimes food bloggers dine for free! Furthermore, if you attract a certain amount of attention, businesses will pay you to let them advertise on your blog, so you can make money and promote yourself at the same time.
- Get into DIY: Repurposing your old clothes can be cheaper (and more enjoyable) than buying new ones. There are hundreds of websites that offer unique DIY ideas for all kinds of wardrobe updates. Make a boring jumper exciting by adding a few rhinestones, or go the extra mile and make a statement necklace from scratch! Pinterest is a great place to start and their DIY page provides limitless inspiration.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Many expecting parents pour through websites and baby stores in search of perfect, must-have items for their registries. Mothers and fathers-to-be create long lists in the hopes that everyone will buy items they want, but many parents don’t receive the things they selected. I’ve watched many expecting parents receive a room full of gifts, most of which were not on the registry.
While every gift should certainly be appreciated there are a couple of things you can do to facilitate the gift giving process and ensure you receive more of the items you want and need.
First, register at two stores. One should be an online site, preferably Amazon. The other can be a major retailer like Target or a baby store. There are a number of reasons to choose two. First, online sites like Amazon typically charge much less than the big name baby stores.
Before a baby shower attendee goes shopping, either online or in store, she will probably have a target price range in mind. The price will vary depending on how close the person is to the parents-to-be, how long they have known each other and how much they can afford. This isn’t always the case but most people pick a specific number before they start shopping. The common price points are $25, $50, $75 and $100.
Let’s start with an example; you want to register for a play yard/playpen/pack-n-play. At the baby store the item costs $115 which is just out of reach of the person who is willing to buy you a $100 gift. At Amazon the item costs $95 and includes shipping, which might make it the prefect present.
Think carefully about the price points of items on your registry. Think through the list of people you would like to invite to your shower and how much each might spend. Your favorite aunt might be willing to spend somewhere between $100 and $150, but the coworker you’ve known for two years might not want to spend more than $25. Make sure you include a number of items on your registry within each range.
When I registered, which was over two years ago, I found the biggest price differences on big ticket items like strollers, car seats, high chairs, bouncy seats and pack-and-plays. Brick and mortar stores were consistently higher and the price difference ranged from a few dollars more to nearly $40 for a few items. A few dollars here and there don’t sound like a lot, but it could be the difference between matching someone’s price point and going over.
Another reason to register at Amazon; most people who are buying big ticket items won’t need to see or touch these objects in person. They’ll be happy you registered online so they do not have to lift and drag it these large, cumbersome items through a store and into their car. You actually save them a whole lot of hassle by providing the means to have it shipped directly to their door. A lot of brick-and-mortar stores have websites, but not all of them offer free shipping. Many of Amazon’s larger baby items ship for free.
So if Amazon prices are cheaper why register at brick-and-mortar stores at all? There are two main reasons. First, the baby shower attendee may want to go shopping. She may want to touch the soft baby blankets and look at the sweet, pint-sized baby clothes. Second, the world is made up of procrastinators. You would be amazed by the number of people that receive an invitation a month before an event and actually buy the gift only a day or two before attending.
If you register solely online you discourage the people who want to see and touch things in person from buying what’s on your list. You will also ensure that the procrastinators who put off shopping until the last minute will go rogue. They will quickly realize that the gifts they order will not arrive in time and will randomly buy something else for you.
Okay. So now you know you should register at two places, compare prices for all big ticket items and consider price points when registering. What else?
Try to put aside your urge to pick the cutest things. Prices for the same item in a different pattern or color can vary dramatically. Take the rock ‘n play sleeper as an example.
The SnugaMonkey version costs $75.99
The Rain Forest version costs $44.99.
Now the person who was going to spend $75 for an item can easily buy the more expensive version, but by choosing the less expensive item you create a new option for someone willing to spend less than $50. One version might be slightly cuter than the other, but the truth is your baby is going to lay in the middle of this contraption so you won’t be able to see that snuggly monkey design anyway. Another piece of advice, if you know you are having a boy or girl, still consider gender neutral colors. When I registered I noticed a lot of items were cheaper in green and yellow.
Also, keep in mind the age range for certain items and the amount of time your child may spend using it. You may think you need the cutest, most expensive baby apparatus, but realize your child will only use it for a few months. I’m not suggesting that you always register for the least expensive item, but rather that you weigh the decision to choose pricier items. If you cannot live without the snugamonkey and it’s not in someone’s price range you will be forced to buy it yourself. Would you rather have a slightly less cute design or pay $75 out of pocket for something you find irresistible? I’d opt for choosing something less adorable if someone else was willing to pay for it. Maybe you wouldn’t. That’s fine, just think about your price points and what matters most when selecting.
This doesn’t mean you should always register for the cheapest item. If you plan to jog with your baby or take long walks with him or her you will want a comfortable stroller. I registered and received a less expensive stroller at my baby shower and grew to hate it. In my case it turned out that the stroller handle was not high enough to fit my 6 foot stature. I kept that stroller for a year but absolutely hated it. I ultimately purchased a new one, but I disliked the fact that a close family member spent good money for one I disliked so much.
Think carefully when you select items and be extremely cognizant of prices. Unless you have wealthy friends and family members don’t register for a $50 sleep sack. No one wants to spend $50 for that. Register for a good quality, but less expensive brand and you might receive three or four. Your child is bound to spit up or pee on them and you’ll want to have a couple on hand for late night changes. Remember that items like this can be purchased at Marshalls, Ross and similar stores at a fraction of the price. Last week I spotted ten or twelve hanging from the clearance rack for four dollars. In fact, I suggest walking through non-baby stores to see what’s available and how much things cost.
Another key piece of advice. Do not register for clothing, wash cloths, bibs, burp cloths, hooded towels or baby blankets. I can pretty much guarantee that you will receive these anyway. Women love to buy soft, cutesy things like these and the expecting parents will inevitably receive a bunch of them. If you have friends or family members that knit you may also receive handmade booties, blankets, hats and even mittens. I have never been to shower where a mother-to-be didn’t receive at least a couple of these items.
Also keep in mind that some baby sized gear is cute, but certainly not necessary. Full sized towels work better than the hooded baby versions and extra soft wash cloths will work perfectly fine for a baby. In other words you can find work arounds for these types of items so it is not crucial that you receive them. They may not have baby motifs on them, but they will last long beyond the baby years.
Lastly, make certain people know where you are registered. If your friend or family member is hosting the shower ask them to include the details on the invitation. If people don’t know where you registered you are bound to get a whole lot of stuff you really don’t need or want.
Do you have any other advice for creating a baby registry? If so, please leave a comment below.
Last night my husband came home after visiting with a close family member. “Their house is better than ours,” he said quite matter-of-factly, “They’ve made it feel so much more like a home.” I was surprised by his comment and asked for clarification. “It smells good,” he said. “Their house is filled with candles and potpourri. They have fancy coasters on their side tables and a wall of DVDs. They moved into that house five years after we bought ours and in half the time they made it feel homier.”
I couldn’t disagree with his reasoning. In fact he was absolutely right. Every time I visit their house I notice some new trinket I’ve never seen before. The table and hutch gleam with seasonal placements and decorations. Beside their sofa are tall wooden candle holders holding warm, colorful, scented candles. They hang new pictures and artwork on the walls. The house has been filled with lots of new furniture; large couches, tables and chairs. It isn’t quite the cover of a home and garden magazine, but it’s a lot better than the hodgepodge of random furniture and accessories that fill our place.
The difference between our houses comes down to options and choices. Unlike our friends we have NEVER prioritized purchases for our house. In fact, we have done quite the opposite; for years we purposely chose not to spend money on it.
We held on to the most hideous couch you could imagine for over ten years. Most of our furniture was and still is mismatched and fraying. Part of the reason is our thirteen year old cat. After all, what is the point of purchasing new furniture when the cat will most likely destroy it. Cheap IKEA chairs and old couches make sense when the arm rests are ripped to shreds every time we leave.
But the cat cannot be blamed entirely. There are other aspects of our home we could have fixed much sooner. For over ten years we delayed remodeling our bathrooms. Those bathrooms included 60 years of ground in dirt that would not budge. For a long time half our windows couldn’t be opened and bugs flew in through the rest. Our doors were drafty, our paint faded and our hand-me-down furniture old and creaky. We use a kitchen table that was owned by my grandmother and a dining room set inherited from my mother-in-law.
I don’t always love this situation. I am aware of the problems in our house, but firmly grounded in the decision not to do anything about them. After many years we did remodel, replace our windows and paint, but many of the other less-than-perfect aspects of our home remain as is.
Simply put, we used our money for other things. A few years after we purchased our primary home we plunked down a chunk of change on a beach house. Every year for the past ten years we also maxed out our 401ks and Roth IRAs. We spent many weekends at the beach fixing things or working on new projects. We focused our time and energy on our home away from home. A magical place that still makes us happier on rainy days then any sunny day at home.
This particular family member’s home is not the only thing that is better than ours. You could argue that their cars are nicer or at the very least newer than the 1999 jalopies we own.
This may bother my husband. I’m not so sure by the tone of our conversation last night, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. We all tend to spend money on the things that matter most to us. It is very clear that we have different priorities. One is not better than the other. Just very different.
My lucky streak continues into 2014. I won three more contests since the new year started, which means I’m off to a very good start!
Now it’s my turn to host a giveaway. Leave a comment on this post letting me know how you would spend $100. That’s it.
One random winner will be selected next week. The prize is an Amazon gift card code for $100.
1. Subscribe to One Frugal Girl by RSS. Come back and let me know you’ve subscribed in an additional comment.
2. Follow @onefrugalgirl on Twitter. Come back and let me know you’ve followed in an additional comment.
This contest is now over. The winner is #72: Paulie.