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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Help Your Financial Success- Prevent Unnecessary Purchases

We had a great guest speaker last night, Laura Zander (Owner of Jimmy Beans Wool), in my personal branding class. She gave us the low-down on how she started her company. Even though the class is based around social media, she spoke on many topics. I think she’s particularly amazing because she has grown Jimmy Beans Wool from nothing into a +6 million dollar company within 10 years with no business education. As I listened to her story, it became apparent to me that a lot of her success is due to frugality. She gave an example that the table they use in the back of their store is one her husband bought from a garage sale when they first opened. They use this table to write on, and while it might not look the best, it still serves its purpose. Why would they buy a new one while this one’s still standing? There is no doubt in my mind that this mentality (along with other personality traits) is why Jimmy Beans Wool is as successful as they are.

Anyone reading this post is probably fairly good at practicing frugality, but I think we can all use some reminders every now and again. If Laura can own a successful yarn company and stay frugal, so can we. It amazes to me how many people have good paying jobs, but they have no savings. My friends are always telling me about the next cool thing they are going to buy, but (from an outsider looking in) I can tell it’s probably not the smartest thing for them to do. Here is my question to you: When is it appropriate to help (give advice to) your friends on their purchasing habits and to what extent? I’ve felt like slapping a few of them across the back of their heads when they tell me what they’ve bought. I know everyone’s different, but there is no way they can think buying a project car is a good idea when you can barely pay your bills. The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing at all, but it’s hard to sit back and watch people you care about make terrible financial mistakes. I’ve tried explaining personal finance management to them, but it rarely changes their minds. We all want our friends and family to make smart financial choices, but how do we force them to do so when I know we can’t.

When the topic of smart purchases is talked about, most people start thinking about big purchases like a new car or a house, but I think it’s harder to manage your micro purchases. If you’re going to buy a house (hopefully) you’ll spend a lot of time researching it so you can make a smart, informed decision. On the other hand, when you go to the grocery store how many times have you added items to your cart that you didn’t plan on buying? Dealing with micro purchases is definitely one of my weaknesses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the store for a few things and ended up with a whole cart full. None of the items were things I needed. I just wanted them at the time (which is why grocery shopping while being hungry is bad!). After doing the math, these small items add up. People always talk about the importance of a shopping list. While I think they have value, I think it’s more important to be able to use self-control while you shop. You can pick up extra items every time you leave the house (stopping by Starbucks, or buying a candy bar at the gas station) and you won’t always have a list. Being able to tell yourself no is a crucial part of having a successful financial future.

There are tons of examples of the importance of frugality, but what’s the best way to stop these unnecessary purchases? Here are a few things I do (this isn’t expert advice by any means, just a few things I’ve found that have helped me):

1)      Turn on your blinders: When I go shopping I try to already know exactly what I’m going to buy. This way I don’t need to look around (less temptation) the store. I’ll walk right up to the sales person and ask them where the item is. I especially use my blinders at the cash register. I try my hardest to focus on the cashier so I don’t see the delicious candy bars sitting right next to me!

2)      Limit the time you have to shop: I like to go shopping when I only have a limited amount of time. One way I like to do this is go shopping before I have an appointment. If I only have an hour to shop and return home to drop the stuff off, you bet I’ll stick to the list. Another creative idea (if you have a dog) is to not take them potty before you leave to go shopping. This way you’ll be in a hurry to return home, because no one likes to clean up accidents!

3)      Make Yourself Feel Guilty: Before I buy something, I like to think about all the bills I have to pay. I find that the guilt I feel for buying things I don’t need will usually prevent me from making the purchase.

4)      Take away the excuses: One of the reasons we used to eat out a lot was because I could justify it by not having food at home. We used to wait until we had eaten everything before going grocery shopping. I’ve found we eat out less if we go grocery shopping more often. We still buy the same amount of food over the month, but we just make sure we are stocked up. I no longer have my favorite excuse to eat out.

Do you have any advice on preventing unnecessary purchases?

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Secret Advantages to Living in an Apartment- Save Your Money

The housing crisis has forced a lot of people out of their homes and into rentals. I have friends that couldn’t even stay in a house, and had to move into an apartment. As I’ve mentioned before, we decided to stay in our apartment for another nine months instead of moving into a duplex. I dislike living in an apartment (noisy neighbors, no yard, drug dealers living next door). I would much rather stay in a house, but apartments do offer some ways to save money (besides cheaper rent).

1)      Money Saving Contests– Help your personal finances, and pay attention to contests! When we decided we wanted to re-sign our lease we were invited to a lease signing party. They had a raffle type contest that offered a bunch of different prizes (gift cards, free pet rent, free rent). Once I heard that we would be guaranteed to win something, I knew we had to show up. We ended up winning the grand prize, which was one month of free rent! The thing that bothered me about this situation was that we didn’t know about the party until two hours before it started. We could have easily missed it. They sent out a letter about the party, but we threw it away without reading it (then we’d be paying rent this month L). They also have another contest where you can be entered into a raffle to win $100 off your rent if you pay before the 1st of the month. Just by paying attention to what the front office offers we saved $650.

2)      Free Food– I’ve never been the type to read anything the front office leaves on my door. After learning about the free food, I read everything they give me! Apparently it’s common for apartment complexes to offer free dinners on certain nights of the week. At our complex we get free tacos on Thursdays and waffles on Sundays mornings.  By offering 2 meals a week, every resident could save $40-$60 a month. When we went to taco night I noticed that there were only a handful of people there. This was great because they give away free food, cook the meal, clean up after it’s over, and there aren’t any lines (we did have to bring our own plates. Ha)! It’s a great way to save money and meet the neighbors.

3)       Use the Amenities– Almost all apartment complexes offer some sort of amenities. They aren’t always the nicest, but they are free. I paid for a 24 hour fitness membership for months while living in my apartment. I know that if I was doing it, others must be doing it too. My reasoning was the gym at my apartment complex sucked (but the pool is great). I decided to suck it up and go with the free gym. I miss my old gym, but my savings is thanking me.

 Living in an apartment isn’t always the most pleasant experience, but if you are living in one you might as well make the best of it. You can do that by paying attention and saving money. The apartments want all of their residents to take advantage of these offers. They want to build a relationship with you so you live there longer. That’s the big secret behind all this free stuff. So keep your eyes open, and nourish your personal finances.

 Does anyone else have advice for saving money in apartments, or just a really good story about apartment living?

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Long Term Investment- Why Are Facebook Shares Doomed?

It’s rare that I talk about individual stocks on here. I try and stay away from this because I’m a firm believer that it’s more important to have a good investing strategy than having a good stock pick (since no one really knows if it will actually be successful or not). That being said, I have two reasons I don`t think Facebook should be part of your portfolio.

 1) They might not be around in 5-10 years.

 2) If they are around, they will be too big to function successfully.

Some of you might think I’m crazy to say that Facebook won’t be around in 5-10 years. What I mean is they won’t have the gigantic presence they have now. Facebook is a household name, but I can remember when Myspace was a household name. I never dreamed they would disappear, but they did. I’m currently taking a social media marketing class (inbound marketing, personal branding), and we get to talk to experts in social media from all over the USA. Most of them agree that the social media industry is changing fast. They either said Facebook won’t be around in the not so far future, or they won’t be as influential as they are now. Either way, it makes Facebook a bad long term investment.

Jump forward 10 years, do you see Facebook? If you do, here’s what you’ll see. They will most likely be a carnivorous machine that buys up new start-up companies to expand their market/services. Ok, move back to present times. Their growth has already started to slow down. New competition is popping up every day. It’s inevitable that they will start acquiring other companies. As they grow into new markets/services, they will become less efficient. We always hear the saying too big to fail, but I think it’s too big to function. The buzz around the Facebook name will eventually disappear, and their inflated stock price will fall flat. I don’t think this scenario is far-fetched. It’s happened to many companies in the past (Bank of America is a good example). More and more people/companies are starting to see the power in social media, but as that power grows the major players will change.

I have little doubt that their stock will do well at first. Speculation will drive the price up. The richest 1% will make a killing. Heck, maybe even a few of us could make a quick buck if we get lucky, but we should be thinking about the long haul. There is a fine line between a quick buck and a big loss. Am I completely insane? How do you feel about the future of Facebook?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Pick a Safe Online Pet Pharmacy: Follow Up Post

I wanted to write a follow up blog post on:

Research, Pets, and Personal Finance- How Are They All Relevant?

  I had a comment (which I really appreciated) that shook me up a bit. I was raving about 1-800-Petmeds in my previous post. I saved 50% by buying my pet’s medication through them instead of going to the vet. I had already done my research on 1-800-Petmeds, and I knew they were safe; however, I don’t want anyone to think that ANY online pharmacy, that sells pet medications, is harmless.

I went to the FDA website, and they have great information on finding online animal pharmacies. You can click the link below to see all their remarkable content. I have pulled out the information I thought was useful. The most important steps you can take to help you pets and personal finances is to stay A.W.A.R.E.

A. Ask your vet about the website.

W. Watch out for red flags:

      -The website doesn’t require a prescription.

      – They don’t have a licensed pharmacist you can contact.

      – The website isn’t based in the United States.

      – They aren’t licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy 

      – They don’t protect your personal information.

      – They prices are too cheap (I never thought I’d say those words!).

      – The med  look different from the ones your pet has taken before.

A. Always Check the their accreditation (Vet VIPPS accredited).

R. Report problems and suspicious websites.

E. Educate yourself on online pharmacies (just like you’re doing now).

 Most of us consider our pets a family member so it’s understandable to not feel comfortable buying medications online. If you don’t feel at ease with this you have other cheap options. My sister’s fiancé is a veterinarian, and he says that they price match 1-800-Petmeds all the time. Before you buy the medication from the vet, go online and look up the prices. Print them out, and show it to the vet. They want your business so they are more than likely to price match.

I would also like to share one more piece of information that I found to be interesting. Many of us use online pharmacies to purchase heart worm pills for our pets. It turns out that even if you give them this medication on a regular basis, it’s still important to get an annual heart worm test done. There have been cases where the preventative pills were ineffective. Let’s take care of our pets and save a little money while doing it.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Can Do-It-Yourself Videos Actually Save You Money?

I verified something this weekend that my friends have been doing for years. I went to visit my family in Sacramento, and when I got there my car started bogging down. Of course something like that would happen when I’m so far from home. Now, I love to drive, but I hate cars! It seems like something is always going wrong with them. As soon as one thing is fixed another thing needs to be replaced. It’s times like these I wish I had a mechanic as a role model growing up. I managed to get my car over to my mom’s house. I popped the hood and found one of my belts shredded (I wasn’t sure which one).

When something’s wrong, I do what most people do, I Google it. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was dealing with the alternator/power steering belt. It didn’t look hard to get to, but I know nothing about engines. At this point, I started to think about what my friends (who are car guys) would do in this situation. Once again, they would Google it. I was successful in finding a five minute video showing how to replace that belt on the make and model of my car. A few years ago I would have called a mechanic, but being a little older and wiser I decided to try and tap into all my resources.

I was successful in replacing the belt, and nothing has gone wrong since. I guess I didn’t do a bad job. This experience has shown me the power of do-it-yourself videos online (which is what my friends have always used). There are tons of them! I’m sure some might not do things the right way, but for simple tasks they work great. At a mechanic I would have spent $150 getting this fixed. Instead it cost me 10 minutes of research, $20 for the belt, and 10 minutes to replace it.  

This gets me to my main point:

 1) If you have a problem, see if you can fix it yourself. You might not have any knowledge of the topic, but you’re never too old to learn.

 2) If it’s clear it’s something you won’t be able to do, call an expert. I’ve tried to fix major problems myself and I’ve always made things worse.

3) If you aren’t sure, Google it.   

Have you had good or bad experiances from doing projects yourself?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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