Category Archives: Money Lessons

Money lessons, door prizes and Chick Fila!

Last night, I dragged took Mirror Image to a Financial Literacy Workshop put on by the local area delegate.

I had us attend because want my kiddo to be much more educated on personal economics and financial consequences than I was at her age (or even 10 years ago).  I also wanted to attend because I was nervous that the attendance would be low and I didn’t want the host to feel bad.

I needn’t have worried.  The place was packed.  In fact, even with 3 false fire alarms going off before and during the event, more people kept coming into the room each time we were allowed back in.

The event was broken up into 3 parts: panel, trade show and door prize selection.  I went for the panel.  Mirror Image wouldn’t let us leave before the door prizes were awarded.  Seriously, she had me waiting there trying to win a flat screen television that we didn’t need.

The panel was composed of several professional speakers directly or tangentially related to the youth/finances market.  2 were from banks, one from the state insurance agency, one from the financial aid office of the local community college and one was an accountant from the area.  They discussed topics such as mortgage payments and how to minimize interest payments, identify theft; personal budgets; college financing and the importance of the credit score.

All of it was good information, if not a little breezily given.  I know this… had I sat in a workshop like this, or 10, when I was a youth, I would have made some seriously wiser choices.

It is a shame personal finance education or heck, even home economics, isn’t taught in school.  We spend so much time saying you need to go to school to learn to have a career to make money but then, our youth are not adequately savvy when it comes to finances to best manage the money.

A couple of things I disagreed with during the panel:

The accountant spoke at length about the credit score and what the interest difference is between excellent, good, fair and poor scores are for several examples including car and house. The car example was a new $33, 000 Toyota, financed.

Nope, nope, nope.

If I were on the panel, I would have required suggested, that all the youths in the room save, save, save the full amount for a gently used vehicle paying around $8,000.  No credit score needed, no interest paid.

Also, I would have added the value of using electronic banking and aggregate site to monitor transactions and net worth during the  talks by the banks. Regularly monitoring finances, tracking spending and cutting out paper are key points when responsibly managing finances.

All in all, it was a good event with a great purpose – teaching our young folk how to make purposeful progress in their current and future finance.  Hurrah!

And the cherry on top?  Chick Fila chicken nuggets.  Food and education.  There is nothing better!

Thrifty Image

 

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul – No Grocery Shopping Edition

When I was a child, I hated grocery shopping.  HATED IT.  I think it was the old ladies running over my toes with their carts.  Or maybe it was the mean auntie I was required to shop with.  I don’t know but I tell you it was not fun for me,  Not one bit.

That was pretty much my attitude for years, even as an adult.  Because of my first job out of college (BEST JOB EVER!) I had most of my meals paid for through travelling expenses. Sometimes fast food.   Sometimes room service, but never home cooked food.

I rarely grocery shopped and when I did, I didn’t shop well.  You know with a list, or a plan or a vague idea of what to eat.

Then one day, I had a daughter. And then the next day (so it seems to me) she was ready to eat meals that weren’t pumped or pureed.  And I had to make them.  And fortunately,  not too long after that I discovered Aldi.  And now, I no longer hate grocery shopping. If you don’t know the joy that is Aldi, you are missing out.  But that is something to share in another post.

So while I do not hate grocery shopping, I am still aware that groceries are a line item on my budget.  About $50 a week on average when I included special activities, family get-togethers and holidays.

I decided not to spend that $50 and instead, feed my family from the pantry and freezer for the week.  Why?  Well at first it was to have the guilt free pleasure of spending about $60 at Madonna’s Seafood at a Saturday date for Mirror Image and me.  My co-worker recommended this place because it has an All-You-Can-Eat steamed crabs menu.  We LOVE crabs.

But that changed.

The same day I made the plans to scrap grocery shopping for the week and made plans to dine at Madonna’s, I picked up a prescription for Mirror Image from Sam’s Club. It was $113 that I was not really expecting. Bye crabs.  It was nice almost eating you.

I decided instead to re-route the grocery money to the prescription expense.  Not because I couldn’t pay both.  I could.  In fact, I could have paid both the restaurant and the groceries to begin with.  What I wanted to do was experiment and sacrifice and claw back some kitchen real estate.

We go grocery shopping every week. I love trying to new recipes and stuffing Mirror Image’s little mouth with all sorts of yummy treats to show her she is the love of my life.  I also take my lunch to work and I don’t ever want to have an excuse to get a burger.  Finally, we are real foodies at my house.  We kind of live to eat, from a gourmet perspective.

So, to help balance out the unanticipated medical costs, we will sacrifice this week.  To show I can step up, I am experimenting with simple meals made from the pantry and freezer this week.  Here is my budget meal plan:

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Bacon & eggs & bagels & canned pineapple
  • Lunch/dinner – Ground turkey tacos & beans; homemade French fries

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Bacon & eggs & pork sausage & canned beans and apples
  • Lunch/dinner – Ground turkey tacos & beans; homemade French fries

Monday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & bacon (me)
  • Lunch – Canned Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo soup (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple (her)
  • Dinner – Pasta and meat sauce (us)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & sausage patties (me)
  • Lunch – Pasta and meat sauce (leftovers) (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple (her)
  • Dinner – Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms (us)

Wednesday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & sausage patties (me)
  • Lunch – Canned potato soup (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple & cookies (her)
  • Dinner – Beef Stroganoff & green beans (us)

Thursday

  • Breakfast – Bagel with cream cheese and salmon
  • Lunch – Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms (leftovers)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple & cookies (her)
  • Dinner – Garlic Chicken and broccoli

Friday

  • Breakfast – Pain au chocolate and banana (me)
  • Lunch – Baked potato (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich (her)
  • Dinner – Tuna casserole & green beans (us)

Snacks

  • Banana bread
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Gelato

I have all of this food (or the ingredients) in my house.  Right now. It really is not a big sacrifice to give up shopping for the week and, it will help me clear out room in the freezer and the cupboards.  Plus, it is a good lesson for Mirror Image and I to keep in mind…gratitude for all that we have.  Especially when there are so many that have so much less.

How often do you prepare meals plans around your pantry surplus?

Thrifty Image

Know When to Hold ‘Em (Part 2 to A Tale as Old as Time)

When I wrote my previous post, I didn’t realize that it would be a part 1.  But here I am today after a couple of days of weird coincidences and I couldn’t resist revisiting the issue.

Today I saw this on msn.com (and you should take a read as well) –

What $1,000 invested in these stocks 10 years ago is worth today.

Ha!  Disney is on the list!

Last night, I went through all of my old financial papers to finally shred them.  I mean OLD papers, bank statements, tax return copies, brokerage house statements, wage summaries, BGE bills and a really cute credit card summary from 2000 from Platinum Plus.  I don’t even remember that credit card but it must have been awesome because I have a cute booklet with all my charges for the year, broken out into categories and accompanied by graphs and value added coupons. Imagine what that cost to put out every year and how much these companies save by getting us to sign up to receive the same information online in real time.

Anyway, I decided to go through those papers to 1)free myself from the paper past and 2) to find the stock certificates that are (hopefully) hiding somewhere among the papers of the past.  And I only decided to do this because the night before that, Mirror Image walked into my home office and reminded me that I had encouraged her to buy stock a couple of years ago as a learning opportunity and now she was ready to buy wait for it…Apple (AAPL).  Why Apple and why now?  I just watched a show and the kids on the show wanted to buy Apple because blah, blah, blah…

I was really excited by her interest and wanted to show her my pretty Disney certificate from forever ago so the next night, after we came home from the gym, I tackled the file cabinet of financial lives past.

It is amazing what you manage to forget if you live long enough.  I was whip-lashed back to my past and some really interesting decisions I made regarding money.  In the papers I found a Merrill Lynch (remember when there was a Merrill Lynch?  Not a Bank of America Merrill Lynch but the true Merrill Lynch?!?!?!) 1099.  Here it is

See anything Familiar?

I still have no memories of this beyond my broker telling me of an exciting opportunity to invest in tech funds.  And even that memory is hazy. And I can’t see why I would have spent so much money buying funds to sell them 3 months later but, in many cases, according to the 1099, I did.  And, it was the beginning of the dotcom bubble burst.  And most interesting of all, where did I get the courage to give someone $15,000 to invest my money?  And where did I get $15,000?!?!?! (I am kinda joking – I have really always been a saver.)

But to the question, do you see anything familiar?  A cute little online book seller perhaps? Priced at around $61.72 per share when I sold it – 3 months after I bought it?  

Admittedly, most of the rest of the stocks and mutual funds appear to be dogs and or non-existent now.  Dell is still around but went private back in 2013.  The rest, I couldn’t even bring most of them up on Google searches.  Or when I could, I found them to be small regional internet service providers.  But AMAZON (AMZN).  If I had held onto those 10 little nuggets, based on last night’s $974 closing price per share, I would have pretty close to $10,000 sitting in my account.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

There is no turning back time and I will not lament on this beyond using it for the lesson it is.  Buy and hold (maybe), understand the stock that you buy (I wasn’t buying books online back then…I had no idea of what Amazon really did beyond INTERNET), pay attention, short-term versus long term tax implications, only invest what you can afford to lose, no one cares about your money more than you and on and on and on.

I tried to share this paper and a look into my life before her with Mirror Image last night but she had already fallen asleep (she has a cold and our personal trainer worked us out good yesterday so I think she just petered out).

When I showed her this morning in the car and tried to share the lesson of buy and hold and gee wow we used to own AMAZON, I saw a glazed look on her face.  So much for sharing the hard learned lessons of my past :).

But seriously, where as I once owned a new online bookseller, I could now own part of Whole Foods.  Shoot.

Thrifty Image

A Tale as Old as Time

This morning, I noticed this article on the The Street

Is Disney’s Stock Toxic?
Disney isn’t a bad company. But it’s a bad stock right now, because sellers are controlling the price action. So, as long as that remains the case, you don’t want to own it.

Briefly, the writer notes that Disney stock has been hard pressed since it’s high in April.  The author feels that it is not a bad company and is doing a lot of everything right but…

I took note because I am interested in most things Disney.  The amusement parks, the awesome movies, the intense focus on delighting kids.  I am also very interested in Disney stock.  You see the author shares that until the sellers stop putting pressure on the stock, it should not be part on one’s portfolio.  Well it is already part of mine.

Disney was my first stock purchase.  EVER.  I had just started dating my boyfriend at the time and he was exotic.  He talked about things like buying stocks and investment property.  I had never heard these things before.  In other words, he spoke the language of wealth creation.

He encouraged me to think about stock ownership and he introduced my to his broker and I was encouraged to buy.  So I did buy. One stock.  That’s right, my first stock purchase was one share of Disney.  One paper share of Disney.

Today, somewhere in my house is a pretty Disnified certificate indicating my ownership of one share of the happiest Corporation on earth.  I should find it to show Mirror Image. Paper shares don’t even exist anymore do they?  Plus, it is worth about a hundred bucks.  That is an expensive piece of paper.

Since I bought that first share in 1993, the stock has split one final time in July 1998 (3-1) and reached an all-time high of about 116. It is now sitting at about 98 as of this writing.  The stock is being treated as an evil step-sister right now (see what I did there?) but, I suspect a motivational song about being down but not out will be along soon to show us the way to the happy ending.

I bought the Disney stock that first time for reasons of sentimentality.  I knew Disney.  It was my first vacation as a child that I remember.  I lived down the street from the  Park when I moved to Orlando for work years later. It was the first place I took Mirror Image for her first vacation (with a Town Car ride from our hotel right up tot he front gate thank you very much.  It was her 5th birthday and I was too excited).  I have almost every Disney animated feature in my collection and I know where I was when I watched the premiere of the original High School Musical television movie.  I know I am not not a hard core fan when compared to others but, I have fondness for Disney that is similar to maintaining a childhood friendship into adulthood.

By the way, when I purchased my first few shares, they cost about $10 a piece.  I have since accumulated 100 shares and get a dividend disbursement most quarters.  Disney stock alone will not make me rich but it is still very much my happy place.

This is a tale timing the market with the bad news.  I am not great at timing the market (is anybody, really?) so since I have bought the stock, I will continue to hold.

Thrifty Image

That Time They Tried to Scam Me

I saw this headline at msn.com this morning:

Ex FBI agent: 2 things you need to know to avoid falling for a money scam

So I tucked in for a read.  The author – Ali Montag – shared the professional advice of FBI agents that could help the reader avoid scams.

This is interesting and timely to me because of an experience I had just last week.

After several days of reading CNET and PC Magazine blog reviews and changing my mind between Hulu and SlingTV (then Hulu ans SlingTV, again), I finally decided to get a Roku to stream Hulu.  Seriously, I believe I read everything there was to read online about these services before jumping in.  So, imagine my surprise when some voice over the phone was telling me I needed to pay $49 to activate the device. Basically it happened like this…

After Mirror Image read the instructions that came in the box, we hooked the cute little $29 Roku Express to the television after a longer than should have been game of find the HDMI plug. We went through the process of entering data on the screen and then got to the part where we we instructed to go to the activation website to enter a code.

I entered the web address on my phone and got a message saying the code wasn’t accepted and that I needed to call this number – 866-567-5581.  I did and a loud rushed male voice answered.  I wish I could remember what words he answered with but can’t.  I shared that I received a message to call this number about the activation error.  He told me that I can’t submit the activation code until I until I pay the activation fee.  I was shocked.

I told him I wasn’t aware of any such fee.  I told him I never saw any mention of a $49 fee on the web site.  He told me – get this – that the website was down.  All of the websites? Really?

By now I was teeth gnashing mad. I told him I would have to think about this before moving forward and hung up. I was perplexed.  How could no site, including all of the reviews and the Roku site itself, ever not mention a $49 activation fee? Maybe because there is not an activation fee. Then I asked Google “tell me about Roku scams”, and she did.

Apparently I was not the first (and probably wont be the last) to have an issue.  Those stories weren’t exactly the same as what happened to me but just similar enough that it was obvious that a scam was certainly a possibility here. In one post, I read that customers had actually returned their units to the stores because of the $49 charges and the confusion over having to pay for something that didn’t supposed to have an additional fee and trust me, it is likely I would have done the same thing.

So I tried it again with the Roku. I got a new code, typed in the activation website EXACTLY as was on the screen, entered the activation code, it was accepted with no issues that time and I merrily binged watched the rest of the evening.

It is frustrating that some people’s jobs is to steal money other people work hard for at their own jobs.  And this would have been a real blow to my finances as the scam likely wouldn’t have ended with a $49 charge but would have wreaked more havoc as my credit card would have been exploited. The whole reason I got Roku/Hulu in the first place was to lessen my financial burden.

I am glad I had researched the process before or I may have believed the grift.

Life – it is always something!

Thrifty Image