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October 2010 - Posts - The Dollar Stretcher
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The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.

October 2010 - Posts

  • Holiday Savings

    Now that we're nearly into the last two months of the year we turn our focus on the holidays. For many of us who are struggling to make ends meet this is a tough time of year. Seems that every time you turn around there's something else that requires spending above your normal budget.

    We'd like to help. We know that we have some wonderfully inventive readers. We see that each week in the comments and readers' tips that you send in. So it seemed like a good idea to put our heads together and try to collect some of the best ways to reduce the costs of the holidays.

    We selected four areas to focus our attention: holiday decorating, gift ideas, recipes & entertaining and holiday baking. Please send us your favorite frugal ideas. We'll combine the best ones into pages for the site to share with everyone. We'll also use some of your ideas in our enewsletters over the next month or so.

    So please send your emails and help all of our readers have a happy, frugal holiday season

    for "Holiday Decorating"

    for "Holiday Gift Ideas"

    for "Holiday Recipes and Entertaining"

    for "Holiday Baking"

    Keep on Stretching those holiday Dollars!

    Gary

  • Will Baby Boomers Have a Busted Retirement?

     Will baby boomers have a busted retirement? USA Today thinks that's a real possibility. And, they may well be right. Baby boomers were never known for their saving habits. And the current economy has hit them hard. Many of them counted on socking away some cash after their kids graduated from college. But now many boomers are under or unemployed and find that they have to help support their kids post-college. 

    Check it out and let me know what you think.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

    Gary

  • You Deserve It!

    "Go ahead. You DESERVE it!" It's a common theme. One that we all buy into occasionally. And, I don't deny that sometimes it's true.

    But, I do question whether the particular reward suggested is good for me. For instance, McDonalds used to have a slogan "you deserve a break today". Perhaps I did. But was I  really rewarding myself by going to the local Mickey D's and buying a burger?

    The local car dealer would like me to believe that I deserve a new car. Preferably one loaded with extras. It wouldn't take much to convince me that they're right!

    My guess is that too often we choose the wrong reward for ourselves. Specifically things that are not healthy for either our bodies or our wallets. At least that's been true in my own life.

    What's been true for you? Have you generally chosen rewards that were healthy (physically or finacially) for you? Drop me an email  and let me know what your experiences have been.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

    Gary

  • Slip Slidin' Away

    Recently I saw a DVD of a concert that Simon and Garfunkle did in Central Park back in the 1980's. I admit to listening to a lot of their music when I was a teenager. They always had a very melodic sound and lyrics that went beyond "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" (not that the Beatles didn't do other things that were more lyrical).

    Part way through the concert they did a song that I always liked called "Slip Sliding Away". The final verse goes like this:

    "Whoah God only knows, God makes his plan
    The information's unavailable to the mortal man
    We're workin' our jobs, collect our pay
    Believe we're gliding down the highway,
    when in fact we're slip sliding away."

    Sometimes I think that our financial lives work the same way. We're so busy meeting our deadlines (credit card, car and mortgage payments, etc.) that we don't get to save for things like retirement. And, just like my work projects, we get to the end of the year and realize that we didn't do anything to help reach our long-term goals this year.

    I recently did an article about someone who lost almost all of their retirement savings about 15 years before they want to retire. Obviously it's easier to save when you have 30 or more years to do it. To be fair to the questioner, they did have some retirement savings and lost it due to various circumstances. But I can't help but wonder how many people are 40, 50 or even 60 and are waking up to the fact that much of their financial life has just slip, slided away.

    To quote another verse in the song:

    "I know a woman, (who) became a wife
    These are the very words she uses to describe her life
    She said a good day ain't got no rain
    She said a bad day is when I lie in the bed
    And I think of things that might have been."

    Are you at all like that woman? Wondering about the things that might have been? Please drop me an email and let me know what your experience has been. Hopefully some of you will be able to tell me how you avoided that road.

  • Happiness vs. Joy

    Many people probably think that there's not much difference between happiness and joy. Two sides of the same coin. If you're happy then you have joy. If you're joyful, then you have happiness.

    But, I question that assumption. In fact, I'd go so far to say that in pursuing happiness, we could be preventing joy. And, if that's true, then happiness could actually be an enemy to joy.

    First, let's define both happiness and joy. Perhaps these definitions won't pass a strict dictionary test. But, they'll help us to think things through. I think of happiness as being a momentary event. Something that makes me happy for a short time. 

    On the other hand, joy is more of a state of being. An attitude that can last a lifetime. Or at least for more than a short time. Some people I know are joyful even when the days events are not bringing happiness to them.

    So how do I arrive at the conclusion that happiness could be the enemy of joy? I begin with advertising. So many ads attempt to convince us that purchasing their product or service will bring us happiness. From restaurants to clothing to pick-up trucks the pitch is generally the same. You can't be happy without us.

    If you think about the ads, you'll notice something. The happiness they're promoting is generally short lived.  You buy the fast food meal because you're hungry now. You're not concerned with tomorrow. It's all about putting a smile on your face this moment.

    Nevermind that your waistline doesn't need another super-sized meal. Or that you could make your own sandwich for a fraction of the cost. It's not about whether your body or bank account is healthy years from now. It's just about today's happiness. 

    But, if you do choose today's happiness often enough, there is a good chance that your health and your financial well-being will suffer. And that lack of health or finances will translate into a lack of joy in your life.

    I may be splitting hairs in my definitions of happiness and joy. But I believe that the lesson holds true. When we consider a purchase or a course of action, not only should we question whether it will bring immediate happiness. But, if we're wise, we'll consider whether that choice will add to our long-term joy. In that way we can maximize both the happiness and joy our decisions will bring to our life. 

    What do you think? Am I on to something? Or should I let people be happy whenever they can be and quit bothering them about tomorrow? Drop me an email and let me know what you think.

  • Getting Back Up

     Fall seven times, get up eight.
    - Japanese Proverb


    Today's quote seems particulary apt. Just this week I had a situation where it was important to get back up again. I won't go into details, but I was reminded that it's easier to get up the seventh time, than the first. That probably sounds wrong, but let me explain.

    Most people think that it's harder to get up the seventh time because you're already tired. Worn out. Looking for a reason to quit.

    I think that the opposite is true. You've already proven six times in the past that you can get up. Plus you've built in a habit of getting up. Your instinct is to get up because you've done it time after time.

    Perhaps I'm wrong. Or maybe just too simple to understand it. But I figure that if you create good habits (in this case getting up after you fall down) that they'll stay with you.

    Drop me a note and tell me what you think.

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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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