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August 2010 - Posts - The Dollar Stretcher
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The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.

August 2010 - Posts

  • Frugal? Or Deception?

    My daughters seem to think if a product is off brand, it is not as good. This is not always so. To keep form listening to them complain, I keep a name brand bottle and pour the off brand product into the name brand bottle. They have yet to notice this difference!! This has saved me no telling how much money!

    Vicki 

    I agree with Vicki. Often so called "off brand" products are just as good as their "brand" competitors. In fact, we've been told from people inside the plants that package food products that often it's just a matter of changing labels on the canning machine. So, at least for some products, there's no quality difference. Just a difference in taste. 

    But, I wonder if misleading your family is a good way to teach them proper money management. I've generally favored telling them the facts and let them make intelligent decisions.

    Vicki doesn't say how old her daughters are, but assuming that they're old enough to understand, I'd be tempted to tell them that if they want to use money from their allowance to make up the difference to buy the name brand that would be acceptable to me. If not, and they want to continue complaining, they should do it silently. Since they made the decision they can complain to themselves! In either case they'll learn a lesson about how to manage money.

    But, I'm curious as to what you do in your family. Are little deceptions acceptable? Drop us an email or comment below. We'll find a way to share interesting responses.

     

  • Not a Lawyer

     Do you pay attention to disclaimers? Especially those on radio or tv commercials? Recently I heard one on the car radio. It was for a legal firm. One that does personal injury work (you know - "if you've been injured in an auto accident call 1-800-I-Want-My-Money..."). It was like dozens of others I've heard, but this time for some reason I paid attention to the end of the commercial. That's where they included this disclaimer: "Spokesperson is not a lawyer."

    Now I know as well as the next person that disclaimers are meant to keep us from misunderstanding the commercial message. Most of them are pretty lame. But this one struck me as particularly useless. First, even children today understand that professional actors are used to read radio commercials. But, even in the unlikely event that I did make that mistake and think that an actual lawyer was reading the script, what harm would it do? I can't imagine that people would base legal decisions on what they heard in a 30-second radio commercial.

    But, as the light turned green and I drove off something else struck me. What would happen if all commercials included an appropriate disclaimer? For instance, the ad for the hot sports car would have to include the fact that buying the car would not necessarily get you the 20-year old blond beauty or solve your mid-life crisis. Or that the bigger house wouldn't prove to your relatives, friends and neighbors that you'd arrived financially. You get the idea.

    So what disclaimers would you put on commercials? Seems to me that we'd all have fatter bank accounts if every commercial had relevant disclaimers. Shoot us a quick email with your best Ad Disclaimers. We'd love to share them with everyone.

  • Frugal Spotlight

    Recently I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Paula Sirois. Paula's path and mine have crossed many times over the last ten years or so. I consider her to be a friend. She was starting a series of interviews for her "Frugal Spotlight" blog and asked me to be her initial interview. You'll find it 4 or 5 entries down the page. The interview runs about 15 minutes. Even if you don't want to listen to me, take a look at Paula's blog. She's done a very nice job with it.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

    Gary

  • Friday the 13th

    Today is Friday the 13th. A day traditionally said to be unlucky. A quick wiki search is fascinating. Evidently there are some who believe that Friday is generally a bad day. Hard to believe that there's anyone who doesn't like Friday, but to each his own!

    And the number thirteen has been considered bad for centuries. If twelve is taken to mean complete (as in months in a year, number of apostles, signs in the zodiak, etc) then thirteen is unbalanced. And, therefore not good.

    Now I'm not out to prove or disprove any of this. But I would like to throw out an idea. That much of what we consider bad luck is not really luck at all. But rather the natural outcome of choices we make.

    For instance, there was probably nothing I could do to avoid getting laid off. But, having a car payment while being laid off isn't unlucky. The reason I have a car payment is because the car I wanted cost most than the cash I had. So I chose to use my credit and make payments to buy the car.

    Now, the goal here isn't to judge anyone. Whatever decisions you made in the past are just that - in the past. If you can learn from them, that's fine. If not, let's just move on and concern ourselves with the decisions that we have to make today. Whether we were right or wrong in the past won't help us today or tomorrow.

    But, at the same time, let's not lie to ourselves. Some choices that we make today put us in a position where bad things can happen to us. Yes, there are times when all of our choices are bad. You may be borrowing to keep a roof over your head or food in your kids' tummies. That's a bad choice, but if the alternative is to live in your car, then you're choosing the best option available to you.

    On the other hand, sometimes there is a better choice. We can take last night's leftovers to work for lunch today,  eliminate our entertainment budget or keep our current car or house longer. Borrowing to support a lifestyle is a choice. And, if later that choice comes back to bite us we shouldn't act surprised and blame it on Friday the 13th, bad luck or anything else.

    So I won't wish you good luck on Friday the 13th. Rather I'll wish you good choices!

  • Rites of Passage

    Awhile back a friend and I were talking about rites of passage. How in some societies, boys went through some ritual/event. At the end they were considered to be men.

    Here in the modern U.S. we don't do that. That can pose a problem for young men. Although they're biologically ready to be men at 13 or so, the modern world is so complex that they really aren't mature enough to fully take care of themselves for a number of years.

    Just recently another friend told me what he was doing for his son David. He was arranging for his son to spend some time with 52 different men. The goal was for David to be able to ask questions and learn a little of what these men had learned through their own lives. He would blog about his experiences.

    Recently I had the pleasure of spending the best part of a morning with my new friend David. He's an inquisitive young man with a bright future. Based on his blog post, I wouldn't be surprised if he became a writer of some type.

    You might enjoy reading the post about our time together.  I did. It's interesting to see the world through the eyes of a young man again.

    Two cautions before you read the blog post. First, I'm much better looking than the pictures. For whatever reason cameras always seem to have trouble making me look as good as I know that I do. Guess it's just a curse I'll have to live with.

    Secondly, despite what David thought they weren't old shorts. They happened to be fairly new shorts bought on sale just a couple of months ago. Don't want anyone to think that I've taken frugal living to an unfortunate extreme.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

    Gary

  • 2nd Notice Again

    Like most people, I get a lot of spam email. My normal mode is to separate it from my real email as efficiently as possible and then to dispose of it. That's what I usually do.

    But sometimes, I can't help but notice the 'from' address or the subject. Once subject caught my eye the other day. "2nd Notice Again"

    Being somewhat literal I couldn't help but think that must really make it a '3rd notice'. Ofcourse that doesn't sound so important and clearly they wanted this email to sound important, whatever it was.

    Giving it a little more thought it occurred to me that sometimes we get 2nd notices more than once in life. Especially in our finances.

    For instance, a late fee is a 2nd notice. So is an overdraft fee. I think you get the idea. We get 2nd notices that remind us that we missed (ignored?) the first notice and did not the necessary action. So now we're being reminded again.

    It could be that we missed the first notice for the same reason that I tend to tear through my email. Life is busy and I want to get to the important stuff quickly. But, sometimes that means that I overlook something that could be important.

    Whatever the case, I hope that you catch the 2nd notice before you get a 2nd notice again. Because one of these days they'll quit sending 2nd notices and send you a final notice. And, that might not be a nice thing.

    This originally appeared in Financial Independence a daily enewsletter helping you achieve financial independence. To subscribe click here.

  • Little Known Grocery Shopping Fact

    We get a variety of questions at our Ask The Dollar Stretcher address. This week we received the following query: "How much money does the average consumer spend each minute they are in grocery stores?"

    Pat Veretto, who most of you know through the forums, found an answer. According to the Food Marketing Institute, it's about $2.17 per minute.

    While it's an interesting statistic, I'm not sure what to make of it. Normally you'd say that the less time spent in the store, the less spent from your wallet. And, if you were talking about the mall I'd say that was true.

    But, at least in my case, the opposite might be true at the grocery store. You see I'm the stereotypical male shopper. Shopping is like a hunting trip. Know what prey you're going for. Find it. Capture it. Go home.

    So I tend to be pretty quick in a store. Especially a grocery store. But, sometimes when I slow down a bit I realize my rush can cause me to miss a better choice.

    Don't get me wrong. I do most of the shopping stuff right. Comparing per unit costs, stock up on sale items, etc. But I'm probably not going to check the ethnic food isle to see if there's a less expensive equivalent.

    So what do you think? How would spending more or less time in the grocery store affect your bill? Send us an email and share your thoughts.

     

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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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