5 Tricky Spending Traps

This was actually a pretty good movie, in a "girl's night" kind of a way.

This was actually a pretty good movie, in a “girl’s night, drinking wine while gossiping over the dialogue” kind of a way.

I recently took an online quiz called, “Are You a Shopaholic?” Thankfully my results were negative, but it might only have been because it was fairly obvious which answers the compulsive shopper would choose and I consciously avoided them. If I was an honest quiz-taker, I might have had to change a few of my answers because I do go shopping “just for fun” or buy things sometimes “just because they were on sale.” Obviously there’s a big difference between me and a compulsive shopper; my bad retail habits are occasional and mostly harmless, whereas their’s are habitual and life-ruining. But I think we all fall into the “spend more than you need to” trap retailers set for us every now and then. So here’s a reminder of a few common retail gimmicks to look out for:

1. “CLEARANCE!” = “Buy it!” -  Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean it magically becomes a necessity. How often do we grab stuff we don’t need off the sale rack just because we think we’re getting a deal? If you don’t need it at full price, you probably don’t need it at sale price either. Avoid the clearance rack unless you’re on a specific mission.

2. BOGO - A.k.a. “buy one get one free.” BOGO is awesome if you were already planning to buy an item because you’re getting more bang for your buck. But if you weren’t going to buy just one of the item, why on earth would you buy two? Retailers know the power of a “bargain,” and they’re using that psychology to tempt you into buying stuff you don’t need just because it’s a good deal.

3. Multiple Purchase Price - You see this trick a lot at grocery stores. “Get 10 yogurts for $10!” or “2 bags of chips for $3.00.” Sometimes there really is a discount to buying in bulk, but not always. Check the unit price (or the price of buying just one of the items) before you grab multiples. Maybe the yogurt retails for $1.50 each, in which case the 10 for $10 deal will save you $5. But maybe each yogurt retails for $1.00, so you don’t need to buy all 10 to get the best price.

4. Point of Sale Add-Ons - Gum. Candy. A magazine. We’ve all made that impulse buy while standing in line at a register. That’s why stores strategically place those small, luxury items at the check-out. I don’t really need that issue of Comso magazine. If I did I would get a subscription. But when I’m stuck in a long grocery line and I spot it, I always end up buying it anyways. And doing that each month adds up to a lot of extra money spent. Think twice before grabbing that check-out line treat!

5. “FREE Shipping” - Free shipping is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but there’s usually a catch. “Free shipping when you spend $75 or more” encourages you to spend more than you planned just to save $4.99 on shipping. Similar to a lot of the “deals” listed in this post, free shipping is a great bonus if you were already planning to meet the spending requirements, but you should never buy extra stuff just to get the deal.

4 Things Nick Miller Taught Us About Money

If you don’t watch New Girl religiously every Tuesday like I do, you might not be familiar with it’s lovable curmudgeon Nick Miller. Nick is a 30-something every-man who dropped out of law school to work at a bar. But despite not having a lot of money, I think we could all learn a few lessons from Nick about finance. He might not know how to do a load of laundry or how to express his feelings, but Nick does know how to live life on the cheap. Here are 4 things Nick Miller taught us about money:

1. Don’t Pay for Things You Don’t Use.

wiffy

If you, like Nick Miller, are unsure what wifi is then why bother paying for it? Or say you have a gym membership but you never go to the gym. Or maybe you pay for cable but you only ever watch Netflix now-a-days. It’s not being cheap to stop paying for things you don’t use, it’s actually super smart.

2. Eating Out Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive.

nick dinner

One time I ate a $30 baby-back ribs at a fancy, hipster restaurant and they were no where near as good as the $14 ones at Applebee’s. The point is, if you’re more of a chain-restaurant-eating-with-your-hands kind of a guy like Nick, embrace it! You’ll save a few bucks.

3. “Wealth” is a Relative Term.

Nick Miller gas tank

We can’t all be Bill Gates. And Bill Gates certainly didn’t become a billionaire over night. Accumulating wealth takes time so it’s important to set realistic money goals for yourself. Maybe it’s filling your gas tank all the way up or maybe it’s buying a new car; whatever your goal, make sure it’s achievable on your budget.

And finally . . .

4. Money a complicated thing.

nick money

 

Money can control so much in our lives. Where we live. What we do for work. What we eat. How we spend our free time. But what is it really? It’s just paper and numbers and stuff. Obviously money has value, but it’s important not to give it too much value. If anyone is proof that you can be happy without being rich, it’s Nick Miller. And yes, he is a fictional character, but you get what I’m trying to say. Think of money simply as a tool to get you where you want to go – it will make managing it easier.

 

 

 

Save a Sweater: Easy DIY Patches

Sweater Patches

I have a favorite cardigan that I wear 24/7. It’s gray, so it goes with almost everything. It’s not too bulky, so it’s easy to cram into a bag or carry around during a night out. It also fits just right. And it’s comfortable. I have had it since college and have worn it approximately 2,367 times. I love that cardigan!

So when it started to get holes in the elbows I was devastated. It was starting to look worn-out and old. It was borderline not work appropriate. But I am emotionally attached to that cardigan and the thought of replacing it was just too much.

And that’s when I had a brilliant idea – instead of spending $30 on a new cardigan, why not patch up my old favorite for free! I have more exercise t-shirts than any one person could ever need (You know, those baggy unisex t-shirts they give you at 5Ks and other sporting events? I own 300). So I used an old t-shirt to create elbow patches and sewed them onto my cardigan. It only took about 15 minutes for my favorite sweater to look brand new.

Here’s how you can DIY some patches for your favorite sweater or sweatshirt:

1. Find an old t-shirt you don’t mind cutting up.

2. Measure the size of the hole you are trying to cover up. Hint: Make sure you give yourself and extra 1/2 inch – 1 inch on each side of the hole to work with. If you make the patch the same size or smaller than the hole it will be impossible to sew it on.

3. Use the measurements from Step 2 to trace on and cut out patches from your t-shirt fabric. I made heart shapes but you can do anything you want like squares, circles, animals, flowers . . . go crazy! Hint: If you’re bad a cutting out shapes, draw or print something on paper first to use as a paper stencil. Then you can trace your shape onto the fabric lightly with a pencil to make cutting out a clean shape easier.

4. Pick a fun colored-thread that will go well with the t-shirt patches you made. Then hand-stitch each patch over your elbow hole. Hint: Here’s a great video on how to hand-stitch if you’re a beginner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2mfJweh8a0.

5. Viola! You’re ready to wear your sweater.

As you’re getting your fall/winter clothes out of the closet, I hope this helps you bring some older sweaters back to life!

Can We Have Your Number?

What’s the most important number your credit union or bank can have on file for you? Your account number? Your social security number? Your date of birth?

It might actually be one you wouldn’t think of right away – your current phone number. Does your financial institution have the best phone number to reach you at on file? Because it could be super inconvenient for you if they don’t.

can i have your number

It’s not that your credit union or bank just wants to call you to say, “Hi!” And it’s not that they want to make solicitation calls to your number. Your financial institution needs your up-to-date contact information so they can reach you in the event that there’s an issue with your account. If we have your correct contact information on file, most likely we will reach you in time to deal with any problems that might arise promptly. If we have your grandmother’s phone number from when she opened your kiddie savings account in 1985, then things don’t go as smoothly.

Say, for example, that we’ve detected fraud on your debit card. The first two things we will do are freeze your card and give you a phone call. If you answer, we can determine whether or not the transaction is really fraudulent and then we can deal with it accordingly, right then and there. If you don’t answer or we leave a voice-mail at a number you don’t check any more or the number we have on file for you has been disconnected, you likely won’t find out what happened to your card until it gets declined. And, depending on how long it takes for you to notice that something is wrong, it might not be as easy to fix as it would have been in the early stages of fraud detection.

Lesson learned – always alert your financial institution(s) to any changes in your contact information. If you get a new number, give them a ring to make sure they update that information on your account. Your credit union and your wallet will thank you!

My Dog is Better than Yours

Today is National Dog Day. And although my 12 year-old yellow lab lacks the ability to read, what he does have is a keen sense of sarcasm. So what better way to honor him than by writing a post detailing all of the reasons why he is, in fact, the greatest dog to have ever lived?

10 Reasons Why Bode is Cooler than Your Dog:

1. He’s photogenic. Just look at his face. LOOK AT IT. If you could snuggle this photo, you would. Don’t lie.

Hello, friend.

Hello, friend.

2.He’s a creep. And he embraces it. Bode is always lurking somewhere, just casually staring you. Like you’ll let him outside, won’t see him for a while, and then you’ll just look out the window to see him staring at you like this . . .

Here he is just hanging out in the woods. With devil eyes. Casual.

With devil eyes. Casual.

3. He loves my mom. Bode has an undying loyalty to this woman. His only goal in life is to be as close as possible to her at all times. He will do whatever it takes to succeed.

She went in this room and closed the door. This is how he waited until she came out.

She went in this room and closed the door. This is how he waited until she came out.

4. He enjoys a good cuddle! Bode will snuggle with you any time, any where. Probably even if you didn’t want to snuggle. Most likely even more so if you’re afraid of dogs and you tried to resist him. And 100% if you sit on the floor, you will cuddle with him. You have no choice. Why would you sit down there if you didn’t want him in your lap?

"Love me." - Bode

“Love me.” – Bode

5. He appreciates a good fort. Bode’s hobbies include eating, sighing loudly for no reason, and squishing himself under furniture. I’m not really sure how he fits under my parent’s coffee table. He just does. And it’s adorable. But the real hilarity ensues when he tries to get out. How he moves is best described by the word “scuttling.” He looks like a crab.

Under the table, where the spooks can't get him.

Under the table, where the spooks can’t get him.

6. He looks good human clothes. Slippers? Don’t mind if I do! Hats? Certainly, good sir. Bode looks dapper no matter what accessories you force him to wear. But I think it’s the slight look of, “Must you really, with the clothes and the photos? Psh, humans,” in his eye that really pulls his looks together.

Bode Hat

He looks like a train conductor.

Shoes.

Shoes.

7. He’s sassy. As a puppy, Bode once ran up behind my mom and jumped a solid 3 feet into the air, just so he could nip her on the bum. Then there was the time that my sister tried to give him a treat and he rejected it. He took the treat in his mouth, gave her the hairy eye-ball, then actually tossed his head and released the treat back at her. He’s always judging and always dolling out the sass.

Throwin' shade.

Throwin’ shade.

8. He’s surprisingly good at catching things. One time, one of our neighbors free range chickens roamed a little too far down their driveway, and Bode caught him. He picked the chicken right up in his mouth, but gently so he teeth didn’t dig into him. And then he came running towards us all proud, showing off. My mom saved the chicken and brought him back to his home, but he might have died from a heart attack shortly afterward.

One time I threw a ball for Bode and he came back with this pear.

One time I threw a ball for Bode and he came back with this pear.

9. He’s majestic. Most of the time he’s a total goofball, but every now and then he will catch you off guard and look like one of those dogs in the lab calendars we’re always buying my mom for Christmas (she likes those, right?).

Gazing off into the distance.

Gazing off into the distance.

10. He’s just an all around good boy. And that’s all there is to it. As much as I may complain that he smells or licks my face while I’m sleeping or gets little white hairs all over my clothes, he is the best dog in the world. And I love him.

Love Bug xoxo

Love Bug xoxo

In conclusion, your dog is probably pretty great, but my dog is better. Happy National Dog Day, to all my four-legged friends out there.

5 Things You Don’t Need to Buy for Back-to-College

They say the hardest part of college is getting in. But I think it might actually be the packing. Right now, around 20 million college students are preparing to head back to campus and there’s no shortage of retailers out there telling those students just how badly they need this or that to make their dorm room complete. Some things, like flip-flops for the shower or duct tape, are actually integral to surviving life in the dorms. Others are just a drain on precious funds that could be used for books or late-night pizza deliveries (to help power your studying of course). Here’s 5 purchases you can skip to save some money in your back-to-campus budget.

  1. Memory Foam Mattress Topper - I feel like almost everyone I knew in college had one of these on top of their dorm-room bed, as if the 2 inches of foam makes a crappy twin mattress magically softer and more luxurious. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve slept in dorm beds with the memory foam and dorm beds without it and you can’t tell the difference. Save yourself the $30-$100 by skipping the memory foam and investing in good pillows and a cozy comforter instead.

    This one from Target also claims to have a "fresh scent." Does that creep anyone else out?

    This one from Target claims to have a “fresh scent.” Because that’s not creepy at all, Target.

  2. Iron and Mini Ironing Board – I never ironed anything in college. Not once. Because sweatshirts do not need to be ironed. Unless you’re a business major who has to dress up for class or maybe a hipster who has decided to bring Perler Beads back into fashion, you won’t use an iron again until you have a real job.

    I used to love Perler Beads! Maybe I'll bring them back . . .

    I used to love Perler Beads! Maybe I’ll bring them back . . .

  3. Shoe Organizer, Pencil Organizer, Organizer Organizer – The retail industry truly believes that college kids are unorganized. And while they’re probably not wrong, in my experience none of the myriad of different plastic contraptions they have come up with to help students be more organized actually work. Instead of buying expensive organizers, invest in those big plastic storage bins, especially the rolly ones that can slide under a bed. You can stuff them with whatever fits when you need to pretend your room is clean for parent’s weekend.
    This you will fill with all your stuff you don't have a space for in your room. It's worth the $8 you spend on it.

    This you will fill with all your stuff you don’t have a space for in your room. It’s worth the $8 you spend on it.

    This you either will never use or will cram with so much stuff that it will be impossible to find anything and will be too heavy to hang.

    This you either will never use or will cram with so much stuff that it will be impossible to find anything and will be too heavy to hang.

  4. Mini Fridge – What? No mini-fridge?! Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you skip out on this dorm-room staple. Just that there are cheaper options to buying one new, which can cost as much as $300. Many schools now participate in mini fridge rental programs, where students can rent a fridge for the school year at a fraction of the cost of purchasing one. Check online to see if your school participates in a rental program. Additionally, plenty of people have a mini fridge in their garage or basement from their college days that they no longer need. Before you buy, ask relatives or friends if you can borrow theirs or hunt around yard sales to see if you can buy a used fridge for less.
  5. Television – Not gonna lie, I was definitely a kid who thought a TV in my dorm room was a must. What else am I supposed to do in my spare time? Read? It’s not like I was an English major or anything . . . oh wait. But as a reminder, I headed off to college way back in 2007 when streaming TV online was very new, very blurry, and mostly illegal. Now-a-days every student has a laptop, which means every student has access to unlimited television 24/7 (and no commercials). So skip the TV and invest in a Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription. Your wallet will thank you.

Best Weekend Ever

I did 2 AMAZING things this weekend.

Amazing Thing #1 – I baked banana bread without eggs. And it was still delicious. Here’s how it went down:

chocolate-chip-banana-bread

My roommates and I have approximately 10-15 old bananas frozen in our freezer. I have trained them both to throw bananas that are over-ripe into the freezer because they make the best banana bread. But we reached a critical point where there were so many bananas that at least one fell out every time you opened the freezer door. So when the mood to bake finally struck me this weekend, I stopped off  for some chocolate chips, thinking that I had all of the other ingredients to make banana bread at home.

Wrong. We had no eggs. For once we actually tried to be normal human beings and cleaned out our fridge. Which meant that someone tossed my 1/2 dozen eggs that had been in there since Christmas. I’m not sure how long it takes for eggs to go bad, but I think mine had reached the limit and then some. The only thing is, I am a naturally lazy person. And this whole no egg situation meant that I either had to leave my house to get eggs or make the sad decision not to bake banana bread that night.

Wrong again! Using the magical power of the internet, I googled “egg-free banana bread” and found this delicious recipe. I was worried at first that it would taste weird because I am generally skeptical of anything that claims to be “vegan” or “healthy,” but the bread proved to as yummy as ever. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Egg-less Banana Bread w/ Chocolate Chips

**Note: if you add in ample chocolate chips (which is the only way to make banana bread), this recipe is no longer vegan.

1/4 cup canola oil

1 snack-sized container of applesauce (about 1/3 cup if you’re an adult who doesn’t eat applesauce out of to-go containers)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 very ripe mashed bananas

1 cup chocolate chips (again, optional, but c’mon . . . you know you want them)

_________________

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×4 inch pan.

2. If your bananas are frozen, place in microwave for 1-2 minutes on defrost. It’s okay if they get mushy, this helps you mash them. 

3. In a large bowl, mix the canola oil, applesauce, and sugar. Then sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Finally, blend in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips. Stir well. 

4. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until not batter sticks to a toothpick.

5. EAT YUM YUM!

And now that I’ve shared this easy banana bread recipe, onto the more important event from this weekend . . .

Amazing Thing #2 – I went to a One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer Concert. Judge me if you want! I don’t care. It was glorious. And I loved every minute of it. “And we danced all night to the best song ever . . .”

1D collage