November 2011 - Posts - The Dollar Stretcher
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The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.

November 2011 - Posts

  • Teaching Our Kids About Money

    Like so many people, I spent part of my Thanksgiving weekend on an interstate highway. In this case I-75 in Florida. I'm a car guy, so spending some time on the highway is usually enjoyable. Especially when we can take the Solara convertible instead of the mini-van!

    A few miles into the trip I noticed an advisory sign.

    Highway Advistory Sign

    About half an hour later I saw it again. But this time the light was flashing! So wondering if there was a wreck up ahead I played with the radio until I was found the advisory. I was surprised that their urgent message was that parents should make sure that their kids were buckled securely. My first thought was that they encouraged me to take my eyes off the road to tune the radio for something that didn't really seem that urgent. Unlike when I grew up, parents don't let kids bounce around in the back of station wagons any more. Everyone knows that you need to buckle up your kids.

    But as the miles wore on I had some time to think about it. If just one child could be helped then the message really was urgent. Perhaps not to me, but to that family. And that makes it worthwhile.

    And, as I sometimes do, I started thinking about how the topic relates to our personal finances. What flashing lights do we have warning us about urgent financial messages for our kids?

    One that occurred to me was the amount of student loan debt outstanding. As a society we currently owe more on student debt loans than we owe the credit card companies! Hard to believe, but true.

    I don't know how we'll unravel the student loan problem, but I do know that if we don't teach our kids more about money we're setting them up for trouble when they're adults.

    That's why I was pleased to learn about and then become an ambassador for KidWorth.com.  The idea behind Kidworth is to get both parents and kids involved in personal finance. The way they do it is fascinating. Kids (with the help of their parents) select financial goals for themselves. Anything from saving for a skateboard or a videogame to accumulating a college fund or a birthday gift for a friend.

    Between allowances and gifts, kids control a surprising amount of money before they're grown up. Allowances, gifts from Grandma and Grandpa, and earned money all add up. Instead of wasting the money, they can experience getting closer to their goals. And, as any financial planner will tell you, setting goals and seeing them achieved is a great motivator.

    With the holidays coming up many of our kids will be getting money gifts. What better time to begin the process of helping your children learn the important skill of money management?  

    Take some time to check out their site (www.Kidworth.com) or their FaceBook page (Facebook.com/Kidworth). You'll teach your children many things before they grow up. Don't miss the urgent flashing lights reminding you to teach them about money.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • Happy Holidays!

    As I write this, it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So I don't know how Black Friday or Cyber Monday went. Based on what I read consumers are being cautious going into the holiday spending season. And, at least from my point of view, that's very understandable. Even those with a predictable income stream are thinking that this is a good time to pay off debt and build savings.

    To that extent we want to do what we can here at The Dollar Stretcher to help you get the most holiday bang for your buck. On our front page  you'll find "A Frugal Holiday" section that's updated continually with new articles. There will also be a sprinkling of other articles on the front page that could be helpful this time of year.

    We've created a special holiday page with links to various articles on how to navigate the season without going broke. That, too, will be updated on a regular basis.

    We also have a whole holiday section in our library for you. In it you'll find info on baking and recipes, decorating, gift ideas, wrapping tips, gift ideas for kids, ideas for homemade gifts, shopping tips and ways to keep the whole season organized!

    Plus we'll be sharing various ideas on Twitter and Facebook. Naturally we think it would be great if you 'followed' or 'liked' us.

    We know that this can be a stressful time of year. All the shopping, baking, travel, entertaining. Not to mention the religious observances central to the holidays for so many of us.

    Our goal isn't to overwhelm you with more stuff to do. Rather it's to provide tools to help you make the most of your time and money so that the holidays are a wonderful time for you and all those you hold dear.

    In fact, if you'll email us your ways to relieve holiday stress we'll share them with other readers. Hope that your holidays are off to a wonderful start!

    Keep on Stretching those holiday Dollars!




  • "New Look" Dollar Stretcher

    Wanted to thank everyone who sent us comments about the front test page. We had so many responses that I probably won't be able to respond personally. But I do want you to know that we've read and considered all of them.

    Generally they were positive about the 'new look' for our home page. Positive enough that we'll begin using it this Monday. If you haven't already commented, we'd like to know what you think. Please visit the front page and then send an email with your comments.

    Obviously we can't promise to do everything that's suggested. Based on past experience I can guarantee that some suggestions will be exactly opposite of each other. That's only to be expected. But we do want to be the best possible resource for as many people as possible. So please do send your comments, suggestions and yes, even your complaints. We'll learn from all of them and incorporate as many suggestions as we can.

    One comment for those of you who were concerned about the download time of the graphics on the page. You might want to check the settings for your internet browser. For instance in Internet Explorer 8 if you look at the toolbar "tools/internet options/advanced/multimedia" you'll find a checkbox for pictures that you can uncheck to eliminate them from appearing. I'm not sure about all browsers, but I'd expect that they could have a similar option that can be found through their 'help' section.

    One other comment for those of you who emailed to say that you hope that we don't change the email version of The Dollar Stretcher. Currently we have no plans to do so. While you never say never, there's no plans to change The Dollar Stretcher newsletter from the same text format that it's always had.

    We understand that for years the trend has been towards html newsletters that can display graphics and tool bars. For those who prefer html we already have a weekly called Surviving Tough Times that comes out every Wednesday. To see the current issue  or to subscribe.

    Thanks for being part of The Dollar Stretcher family.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • Deal Sites and Holiday Shopping

    According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans expect to spend about $715 this year on holiday gifts. That amount is almost unchanged from last year.

    In the current economy it's no surprise that families will be watching their holiday spending closely. Consumers are expected to use every tool at their disposal to get the best value for their shopping dollar.

    Among those tools are the daily deal type sites that offer a variety of special deals, many targeted by city. I use one myself occasionally.

    I wanted to get a feel for how consumers might use these sites during this holiday shopping season. To help me answer that question I spoke with Gary Lipovetsky, president of DealFind.com.

    The first question I asked Gary was do you expect many shoppers to take advantage of daily deals this holiday season? "Absolutely – people love deals and daily deal sites are positioned to help people stretch their money further than ever."

    According to his research, Mr. Lipovetsky expects customers to save around $100 million just during November and December this year.

    He also expects that certain product categories will be more popular than others. "In our experience, the favorite deals for holidays are stocking stuffers, spas or facials. Restaurants and getaways coming in close second - they are great as gifts and a wonderful treat for one-self as well. Magazine subscriptions did very well last year and even useful presents like lost and found security tags for your phone, keys, wallets, etc."

    I also wondered whether there was any way to tell when the best deals would be available. In a tough economy I'd be tempted to wait until desperate retailers were forced to offer above-average last minute discounts. Would that apply to the deal sites?

    So I asked Lipovetsky when would be the prime time for daily deals - Black Friday? Nearer to Christmas? "It has already started, its happening now and will continue through November with the last week of December being most busy. There is always a huge influx of last minute shoppers or people buying additional gifts."

    Finally I asked him what his favorite method for getting the best deal? "We recommend the following tips: Buying deals early, buying multiple deals if the price is great, buying as gifts - you can find so many items that you would otherwise buy full-price or wait for after-Holiday sales."

    Naturally, Lipovetsky is a big believer in deal sites. You'd expect that. But, I agree that for the consumer who knows what they're looking for and what a good sale price is for that item, the deal sites can give them another tool to use this holiday season.

    My warning would be to be careful to avoid a rush decision that hasn't be researched. Deal sites can offer savings. But, if it's not something that you need or want or the price can be beat, you don't want to pull the trigger on the purchase. As always, think before you pull out your credit or debit card!

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


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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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