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Tag Archives: personal finance

The Easiest Way to Save Money- Just Ask

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of examples of the power of asking for something. My girlfriend’s father loves the quote, “The answer is always no unless you ask.” I can admit that I’m very introverted when it comes to this topic. For whatever reason, I don’t like to ask people I don’t know questions, and I frequently assume the answer will be no, and I know I’m not alone in this. I would even go as far to say that most people hold themselves back by assuming the answer will be no. This is such a huge mistake! There is a lot of power in asking people for something. I think this is true because the majority of people won’t ask. If 100 people want something, but only 10 ask for it, the 10 that asked will receive whatever they wanted before the other 90.

 I was recently reading a blog post (which I can no longer find) where the woman swears she gets discounts just by asking for them. What a neat thought. I would have never had the guts to just ask for a discount. I would just assume that if they wanted to give a discount they would have already attached a huge 10% off sticker to the item. I never ask about special discounts so I never receive them. There was another guy I saw on TV that tries to completely avoid spending money. Instead of using cash, he tries to barter with companies. Now I can’t see myself doing this very often, but he has great success with it! He’ll write you a poem for a doughnut, or pick up trash for a meal. Most of us won’t go out and do these things, but if companies are willing to trade a song and dance for their product I guarantee they’ll give a small discount.

 Why don’t most people (myself included) like to ask for things? I think it’s because it makes us uncomfortable. I personally feel dumb when I ask for something and the person tells me NO. We as a society don’t like to be told NO so we avoid it all together. Depending on the situation, there are different techniques you can try to change a NO into a YES:

1) The Power of Reciprocation- Do you get something for free? Give it away as a gift in the hopes that it will benefit you in the long run. When I worked in a restaurant, I would have definitely given a customer free drinks or an appetizer if they gave me a gift. The urge to reciprocate is very commanding.

 2) Talk Yourself Up- Companies are constantly giving influential people free things to help market their business. If you can persuade these people that you can help them they will most likely want to make you happy. I’m not saying go out and lie to people or scam them. All I’m saying is that if you’re at a book store, and you want a discount, you might be able to mention that it’s your turn to pick the book for your book club. You have 25 other people that would buy that book, but your book club rules state you can only spend $15 on a book and the one you want is $20. It’s worth a shot!

3) Don’t Ask for Too Much- Asking for a 10% discount might not be a big deal, but demanding 50% off is pushing it. If you asked your boss for a raise you would probably have more success asking for a $1/hr instead of $10/hr. Just keep it reasonable.

4) Give a Valid Explanation- Most people like to deal with reason. If something makes sense it’s hard to say no. If you want to purchase something that is a little damaged ask for a discount. I love the items that have exterior damage but work perfectly. They are always worth asking about.

 It’s time for me to get over my fear of the word NO. Please share any successes/failures you’ve had by asking a simple question. I think that hearing examples of how you saved money would help me with my fear.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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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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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?

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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

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Almost a year ago my girlfriend and I decided to buy a puppy. We were on the fence for a long time about whether or not it would be a good idea. There were just so many things to consider: Did we have enough time for a puppy? Did we have the money to support a puppy? Do we really want to give up sleep to take care of a puppy? In the end, we decided just to run out and get one.  I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sure it can be rough at times, but once you get used to the lack of sleep, and spending all your free time at the dog park, it’s actually really fun. The thing that worried me the most about the whole situation was paying for its medical supplies. What happens if he gets sick and we can’t afford the vet bill? Luckily for us we’ve only had to take him to the vet a few times, but there has to be a way to save money when your pet gets sick. When we got his shots we went through a clinic (which was way cheaper). They only do it once a month, but if you can time it right it works out perfectly.

I still haven’t been able to find a way to get cheap vet visits. Maybe someone out there has an answer for me. The first time we took him to the vet it was just a checkup. He ended up prescribing us some heart worm tablets to give our puppy. They were $60 for 6 months worth. I didn’t think that was too expensive, but all the costs of a puppy definitely add up. Once we ran out of the pills I wasn’t sure about how to get them again. Sure I could have gone back to the vet, but I was worried they would charge a $50 checkup fee. I didn’t want to pay a fee when my puppy was perfectly healthy so I decided to look them up online (and I’m glad I did). I went to 1800petmeds.com and found the same pills for half the price! I was skeptical at first. Wouldn’t it be hard to buy prescribed medications online? As it turns out it’s really easy.  I just needed to enter hits veterinary’s information, and they call them to get the new prescription.  The tablets were delivered to me a few days later (I did pay a $3 shipping fee).

I just find it interesting how much money we can save if we just put a little time and effort into researching something before we buy it. I’ve always liked to just run out and buy something as soon as I needed/wanted it. I’m starting to think that’s not the way purchases should be made. I had no idea I could save money on pet medication, but I did. It makes me wonder how many other things I’ve bought without knowing I could get a better deal. I think we can all save a lot of money with just a little bit of research. I know I don’t want to be the person that pays full price for everything, do you? 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Five Key Things to Check BEFORE Renting a Home

So I’ve mentioned in a few posts about me looking for a new place to move into. I have no experience in deciding if a home is in good shape or not. After getting approved for the duplex I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing from here on out. I guess I was naïve to think that if someone was going to rent out a property they would make sure everything was in working order before they allowed someone to live in it. Luckily for me, my girlfriend’s parents happened to come up and visit us the weekend before we signed the lease.

Her father deals in real estate so he has all the experience I’m lacking. When we walked into the duplex he immediately started combing through everything. As he went through the places we made a list of over 15 problems that needed to be fixed before we could move it. Some were minor, like one of the electrical outlets was missing a cover. Then we found some major issues, like where the plumbing in the bathroom leaks into the wall. I would like to give the owners of this property the benefit of doubt that maybe they didn’t notice the leaks (but I’m sure they had). The things that really blew my mind were the tricks the landlords had used to hide major issues. For instance, instead of replacing the bathtub they decided to paint it. Well it looks ok at first, but after a while the paint peels away (sneaky, sneaky). Also, they painted the ceiling to make it look nicer; however, to cut costs they didn’t use primer and the whole ceiling was starting to peel off. After seeing what type of people we were dealing with, I knew we couldn’t move in.

I wrote this blog post because I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned to others so you don’t make the same mistake I almost made. Here are the main things:

1) Take Your Time And Look Through EVERYTHING– When we first found this place the only thing we looked at was the floor plan. It’s so important to look at all the little things to make sure everything works. Check things like the toilet, the shower, the fridge, the stove, the furnace/water heater, the air vents/filter, and especially look for water damage.

2) Don’t Be Shy, Talk To The Neighbors– We talked to the guy living next door to the duplex, and he filled us in on some very important information. He told us the roofers that built the roofs in this neighborhood were cut rate and did a terrible job. We also found out that the area was really windy and the siding of the houses tends to fly off. We wouldn’t have known about any of this if we hadn’t been open to chatting with the neighbors.

3) Never Trust the Landlord– It’s sad. The older I get the more I realize you can’t trust anyone (except a select few) when it comes to money. Never assume the landlord will have made sure everything is in working order before you move in.

4) Ask For Repairs Before You Sign The Lease– There are two main reasons it’s important to catch all these issues before you sign the lease. A) Their might be too many problems and you don’t even want to move in anymore (like in my case). B) You have way more leverage to get them to fix things before you’re already locked in to the lease. If you tell them you won’t move in until everything is fixed you will have a better chance at getting them to do it quickly.

5) Do All This Before You Fill Out The Application– We didn’t do a good job at checking the duplex before we filled out the application. If we had, we wouldn’t have wanted it and saved ourselves the non-refundable application fee.

Does anyone else have more advice for people that are looking to rent?

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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3 Reasons You Should Celebrate Holidays Late

Ever since I was 15 I’ve worked in a restaurant. It is a great job for students trying to get through school. It allows you to work for a few hours, and then leave with a substantial amount of cash. The thing that has always really bugged me about working in a restaurant is having to work holidays. While everyone else is spending time with their families, I had to work. After a few years of this I became numb to the holiday spirit. This reminds me of my grandfather’s birthday. Every year when his birthday would come around he’d say, “when you get to my age it’s just another day.” At the time I didn’t understand it, but I think he was right. Every day is just another day, and we have the option of what we want to do (or celebrate) on that particular day. After working more and more holidays, I decided that just because most people celebrated that holiday on a particular day didn’t, mean I can’t enjoy it on a different one. After trying this a few times I decided it’s actually better to go this route.

1) Holiday Items are 50% Off: This year my girlfriend and I celebrated Valentine’s day on February 15th. I waited until the day after V-day to go shopping for her gifts. Normally I wouldn’t want to buy her the normal cheesy gifts because I would feel like I was getting ripped off,  but this year I was able to buy her a lot of presents because they were all on sale. If you wait to buy holiday themed gifts until after the holiday, you’ll normally get at least 50% off. Who doesn’t like a good sale?

2) Going Out = Better Service: I’ve always been amazed with how many people actually go out and eat on a holiday. When I was growing up, we always had big family events that involved a home cooked meal. I guess some people just don’t like to cook. If you’re going to celebrate a holiday by eating out, go the day before or after. Every holiday I’ve worked has been a cram fest (how many people can we cram into this room without them complaining). Even if you have a reservation you’ll end up having to wait for a table. Once you finally get sat, your chance of having a problem with your food is higher due to the amount of orders coming out of the kitchen. Also, it’s a lot harder to get the proper amount of attention from your  server because they are busy. You’ll have a better dining experience if you don’t dine out on holidays. Also, if you have a family tradition that involves going out in public (like going to the movies), it will always be crowded on holidays. Increase your odds of having a pleasant experience by celebrating your holidays a little earlier or later.

3) Coupons/Discounts Aren’t Valid– Because of the poor economy, many establishments are giving out a ton of coupons and discounts. Most of these bargains won’t be valid on holidays (or any other busy day). If you plan your entertainment around these days you’ll be able to save money.

I think it’s important to remember that the best part of the holidays is spending time with the people you love. Working in a restaurant has shown me that it really doesn’t matter if it’s celebrated on the actual holiday or the next week. So why not try to save a little money and make your activities, whatever they may be, a little better.      

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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