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!