November 2009 - Posts - The Dollar Stretcher
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The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.

November 2009 - Posts

  • Finding Black Friday Bargains

     I was just asked about how to get the best"Black Friday" bargains. So I came up with the following 7 Do's and 4 Don'ts for Black Friday shopping.



    1. Check the Ads and compare prices on Thursday. Do remember to include an online search for low prices. 

    2. Know what you want and where you expect to buy it before you leave home. This is a search and capture mission. Know what your target is and head straight for it!

    3. Check product reviews before you leave home. There may be a reason that this particular model is so deeply discounted.

    4. Know how much you expect to pay for the item. No reason for surprises.

    5. Know when the doors open. Black Friday opening hours vary all over the place. Some are even starting on Thanksgiving. Read the ad, check online or call the store to know when your target item will be available at the sale price.

    6. Get a gift receipt. You want to make sure that the recipient can return the gift if necessary. (you're not the only person shopping Black Friday - his sister Susan could be buying him the same item)

    7. Only shop the deals. Don't get carried away with the excitement of the hunt. Bag your game and get out of the woods. (ok, analogy overload)  Get your item and get out of the store.


    1. Buy on impulse. A great price doesn't make a great bargain if you don't need the item.

    2. Don't assume that the Black Friday price will be the lowest this holiday season. Retailers are under tremendous pressure. For some this holiday season is essential in surviving into next year. That could mean even deeper discounts later in the season.

    3. Don't spend beyond your budget. No matter how good the deal is, if you can't afford it, you can't afford it.

    4. Don't look at it as a contest. The person with the fullest cart is not the grand prize winner of Black Friday. They will not show up on YouTube or gain name recognition on Twitter.

    Hope that you have a safe, sane and affordable Black Friday.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!



  • Are Goals Magical?

    They might be. No, I haven't lost my senses. Just consider this before you come to a conclusion (about either the magic or my sanity). I've noticed that we're much more likely to achieve our goals if we tell someone about them. If you think about it, you'll agree that it's true.

    So what's the deal? Certainly the act of telling someone about our goal didn't move us closer to successfully reaching it. So is it magic?

    I think not. It's probably just that by telling someone else we've crossed a line in our minds. We've really committed to our goal. We've given that goal power to affect how we live our life. We've even put ourselves in a position where the friend that heard our goal could ask us whether we achieved it.

    So I don't think that goals are magical. But, I do believe that telling someone else about our goals increases our odds of success. So I think that I'll tell a close friend about my current goal.


    This blog entry originally appeared in "Financial Independence" a daily email that helps people to achieve their financial goals. To begin to receive this free daily encouragement click here.

  • Hope for a Spendaholic

    I have been married 40 years, I am 59 and am a spendaholic. I have been following Dave Ramsey's plan and trying to get my credit cards paid off. We have no money and no retirement. Is there any hope for us?


    Yes, there is hope for B. It might take awhile and may not be easy. But just because she didn't overcome her spendaholic tendencies in the past doesn't mean that it cannot be done.

    Let's tackle the problem on two levels. First, the things that she can do to get the problem under control today. Second, the longer-range things that she can do to uproot the source of the problem.

    B. says that she's using the Dave Ramsey plan for paying off her credit cards. Good for her. Dave's plan is very workable. It's one of two common plans for paying off debt that are very similar.

    Both pay the minimum on all accounts. One pays off the smallest balance first and pays accounts off from smallest to largest. The idea is that you get re-motivated every time you close an account.

    The other, ranks them in terms of interest rates. They pay off the highest rate first and works down from the highest interest rate to the lowest. This is the fastest way to pay off a group of accounts. But, you'll need to keep yourself motivated.

    Depending on how much debt she has, it may take B. awhile to pay down all the accounts. She'll need some patience and determination. It took awhile to accumulate the debt. It will take awhile to pay it off.

    At the same time that B. is reducing the debt level, it's important that she stop her spending. She can't get out of debt if she keeps spending. So that has to stop now.

    Based on past experience, her willpower and good intentions cannot be trusted 100% of the time. So until B. can control her spending urges, she'll need to use some physical means to assist her will power.

    That means recongizing where she's vulnerable. Is she more likely to be spending cash? Using credit cards? Ordering over the internet? Or by phone?

    Whatever the vulnerability, B. will need to devise a plan to protect her when willpower is not enough. That may mean limiting the amount of cash she carries. Or freezing her credit cards in a block of ice so she has to wait before charging. Blocking certain internet sites or TV shopping channels.

    Once B. has made it hard to succumb to her spendaholic urges, then it's time to try to find what's causing her to spend. I'm no psychologist. But I have worked with many people and their finances. Money is generally not the root of the problem. It's most likely to be a symptom of something else. Often people spend in an attempt to make some emotional hurt feel better.

    B. will want to look for a pattern to her spending. Is there a particular emotion that she's feeling when the urge to shop is strong? Knowing what emotion goes along with her spending will allow B. to watch for the emotion and when it surfaces she can guard against spending. A little like an early warning system.

    She might also want to seek outside help. Many places have Debtor's Anonymous  meetings.

    Or B. could find professional psychological help. Either to help her find the source of her spending or to deal with the source once it's found.

    There's no reason for B. to give up hope. She can make it almost physically impossible to spend. That alone will solve most of the problem. And if B. is able to identify the emotional root and deal with those issues then she can be free of her spendaholism forever!

  • Small Steps = Big Goals

    Part of accomplishing any goal is the daily discipline to take the next small step. So don't let yourself be talked out of doing the small things. Successfully doing the small things will guarantee the success of the big things.

  • Finding the Positive

    Trying to change our behavior is often a challenge. Especially if it's a long-standing habit that's been repeated thousands and thousands of times. But, just because it's a challenge, doesn't mean that it can't be done. In fact, when you stop to think about it, even behaviors that you've had for years can be changed in a month or so. That's pretty remarkable.

    How many people do you know who always seem to find the negative? Whether it's the dessert at a restraurant, the guest list at a party or the present they received from Aunt Mary, they'll always find something to be unhappy about. No matter how good everything else was. I admit that I find it tiring to be around people like that. It's almost as if the negativity has completely drained their life force and is now going after mine!

    One good thing does come out of hanging around them. It's a great reminder for me to check my own attitude. Have I become negative? Do I always look what's wrong? Are my words often critical? If so, it's time to change my perspective. Because that negativity will quickly begin to sap my energy and color everything I see. Noticing what's happening gives me an opportunity to get back on track. And, hopefully I'll be smart enough to take that opportunity!

    ps: I know that it's harder to see the good if you've just lost your job or there is sickness in your family. There's no denying that's true. But, it's equally true that those are the exact times that it is even more important to find some positive things to think about. Being able to see the positive is great medicine. And medicine is most needed when times are truly tough not when the going is easy.

    This post originally appeared in Financial Independence. FI is a daily message designed to help people take control of their financial lives. To find out more check out the Financial Independence page.

  • Red Minivans

    Finding things to be thankful for is a bit of an art. And, unfortunately, an art that many of us are unfamiliar with. Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new, red minivan that you'll notice all the red minivans on the road? The reason is that we're looking for them. There aren't any more around than yesterday. You're just of a mindset to notice them.

    I believe that the same thing is true of things to be thankful for. Our life is probably no better or worse than the day before. But if we're looking to find good things, then we're more likely to see them. So instead of looking for red minivans, how about looking for the good things that will happen in your day today?

    This post originally appeared in Financial Independence. FI is a daily message designed to help people take control of their financial lives. To find out more check out the Financial Independence page.

  • Positive vs Negative

    Today we begin a new goal for the month of November - working on being thankful. We selected that goal for a reason. When we're looking for a reason to be thankful we're looking for things that are good. We're focused on the positive. Not the negative. So no matter how you feel right now, spend some time today looking for something that you're glad exists in your world. You'll be a happier person for it.

    Finding something to be thankful for tends to focus our mind on the positive. Why is that good? Because the mind cannot hold two opposing thoughts at the same time. One after another, yes. But at the same time, no. So if you're positively thankful, you cannot be negative for that moment. And, sometimes, especially when we're feeling low, to escape from the negativity even for a few moments is a real relief.

    What methods do you use to find items to be thankful for? Why not share them with us?

    This post originally appeared in Financial Independence. FI is a daily message designed to help people take control of their financial lives. To find out more check out the Financial Independence page.

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Gary is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who edits The Dollar Stretcher website <www.stretcher.com> and newsletters. You can follow Gary on Twitter.com/gary_foreman
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