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

December 2009 - Posts

  • A Blank Screen

    Even though I don't get to spend much time writing anymore, it's still one of the hats that I get to wear. There's something exhilarating about having a blank screen in front of you and being responsible for putting something useful on it.

    But, I'd be dishonest it I didn't also say that there's something a little terrifying about it. Here you are alone with your thoughts at the keyboard. What if you get a case of writer's block? What if you don't have anything valuable to put into words?

    I think that facing a new year puts us all in a similar spot. No, it's not a completely blank slate. You still have last years' debts or savings. And, your boss probably won't become suddenly nice at the stroke of midnight (although that WOULD be a Cinderella story!).

    But you do have an opportunity to say what you want 2010 to be for you. Your future has not been predetermined. Think of it as having a blank screen to write on. What would you want to write on this new year? Something personal? Something financial? Something relating to your spouse or children?

    One other thing about writing. Generally you have to revise what you've written. Change a word or two. Maybe add or drop an idea. Done well each change brings you closer to the finished product you want.

    The same is probably true of our blank screen for 2010. We'll probably will want or need to make some improvements as we go along. Changes that will move us towards the ending we want.

    So don't hesitate to write on the new year. In fact, I'd encourage you to do so. My hope is that whatever you do write on 2010 will bring happiness to you and to your loved ones.

    Keep on Stretchin' those Dollars!



  • Why New Year's???

    Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the new year. It's just an arbitrary date that acknowledges that the earth has circled the sun one more time. And, as an excuse to party it's really unnecessary. People who like parties really don't need more than the rising or setting of the sun to throw one. So what's the big deal about Yew Year's day?

    Clearly the attraction is not just limited to the United States. Societies have been picking a date to celebrate the new year for thousands of years (think of the Jewish and Chinese new years). And, today the new year is celebrated at one time or another in very many societies around the globe. Why is that?

    I think there are two reasons that people mark the new year. One, is that we instinctively know that periodically it is good to have a time of reflection. A time to evaluate what has come into our lives and how we handled it. A time to compare what we've done to what we hoped to do. A look at the road that we've travelled.

    I also think that we also know that sometimes we could use a fresh start. An opportunity to put the past behind us and mentally look at today as the starting line. A new starting line. That's probably why so many people make New Year's resolutions. They want to say that today is a new day and a new chance to be what I was meant to be.

    So even though I'm not a big party person, come midnight on December 31st I'll raise a glass in a toast and kiss my favorite girl. And, spend a little time the next day looking forward to what I want to accomplish in 2010.

    Hope that your New Year is a happy and prosperous one!


  • Perserverance

    Perserverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

    - Newt Gingrich

    Admittedly Newt Gingrich is a controversial character. But, we're going to step away from that controversy to focus on what he said. And, that rings true no matter what your politics.

    We all get tired working sometimes. Nothing at all surprising about that. The decision you make at that point is the critical one.

    Will you focus on your fatigue? And quit? Or will you perservere and continue to work towards your goal? The choice is your's.

    We're about 60% through the month of December. We've been focusing on our financial transactions. But it's a busy month. With a lot of financial activity. You're tired. Just like everyone else. It's crossed your mind to quit. So now the choice is your's. You can say that you've put in enough hard work. And quit. Or you can say that you're tired, but your goal is worth pursuing. And continue to focus on your finances today.

    So what's it going to be? Your call.


    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

  • A Blessed Christmas

    Merry Christmas to all my Frugal Friends!

    This is a very busy time of the year so let's keep this short and sweet. Naturally my hope is that you and the ones that you love would have a truly blessed Christmas and all that comes with it.

    I'd like to take a moment to ask a favor. The holiday season is meant to be a happy time. And, for most it is. But, not for everyone. Many have a heavy heart as the holidays approach. We've lost a father, mother, spouse, child or someone else who was and is still dear to us. It will be hard to face the holidays without them.

    If you're that person, please don't stay stuck in despair. I doubt that's what your loved one would want. Be honest with yourself. Part of the reason that you miss that person is that they wanted good things for your life. So as a way of honoring their wishes have a happy holiday. And, when you smile take a moment to remember a happy time with that loved one.

    If you know someone who is grieving, please take the time to do something to encourage them. It probably won't cost much (if anything) and could be the best gift that you give this year.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!



  • With Apologies to Mack the Knife

    I suspect that a little daydreaming is healthy. Letting the mind meander where it will is probably a good way to let your creative side emerge. But you wouldn't want to let that creative side make important life-changing decisions alone. That would be too dangerous.

    And so it is with our finances. It's fine to dream of a new ride and think about how great you'd look behind the controls. In fact, it's probably helpful if your goal is to save money to buy a car. But it would be a bad idea to follow that daydream into the dangerous waters known as an auto showroom. The moment a sales-shark gets a whiff of your daydream you are just a bait fish.

    The only way to protect yourself is to think about your finances before you head off for an appointment with Jaws. Hopefully you'll be smart enough to know that you don't swim with sharks and decide to stay out of the water.

    And, it's not just the great white shark that's dangerous. We need to focus on the smaller financial items, too. Even a little shark can kill you if it gets enough bites!


    Keep on Stretchin' those Dollars!


     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.

  • What Is Focus?

     My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.
    - Bill Gates

    I looked up the dictionary definition of 'focus' with the help of dictionary.reference.com. They had 9 different definitions. Among them were:

    noun - a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity

    verb - to concentrate

    I think that both definitions are relevant to what we're doing. By focusing on our financial activities we're making them a central point of attention, we're concentrating on them. That concentration separates our financial activies. It gives them a special importance.

    So I encourage you to take a moment to focus any time that you take any financial activity this month. You might be surprised at what you learn about your finances and yourself.

    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.

  • Just a Second

    We do so many things automatically. And, that's probably a good thing. Can you imagine if you thought about every breath before you took it? Thankfully there are many things in life that we don't need to think about. That we can just do.

    But, just as there are things that don't require any thought, some other things should be considered first. Spending money is one of them. Yes, I suppose that paying toll on a toll road (especially if you use one of those passes that allow you to just drive through) shouldn't take a lot of thought. But, even that expense should be recognized. And, the other expenses in our day, too.

    Why should we consider those expenses? Because by recognizing them we learn about ourselves. Who we are. How we're going through life. We might also learn that we've taken on some unnecessary expenses.

    So take a moment to recognize what's happening today when you spend money. You don't need to go into deep, trance-like thought. Just a few seconds to notice what's going on with you and your finances.


    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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