A Black Friday Shopping Story

Please take this money, it is for Black Friday Shopping

I cannot believe it but I got caught up in BLACK FRIDAY shopping.  I mean I really can’t believe it.

I have to admit it…it was fun!

Let me share my shame.

I was enjoying a delightful and delicious Thanksgiving meal with family in Southern Maryland.  We do this every year and it is one of our favorite things.  So much so, although we were not due there until 2:30, Mirror Image wanted to leave early enough to arrive at 1:30.  That girl, she is an awesome eater.

Between eating and chatting, I perused the newspaper advertisements that both my mom and Auntie brought.  Sure there were a couple of interesting things but nothing I couldn’t live without.  Although I am not gonna lie, I wanted some of those copper pots everyone and their mother are hawking these days.

So after more eating and family gossip, we packed up the car with leftovers (very important) and turned in the direction of home.  Conveniently, there is a shopping mall on the way home and we stop every year “just to look” at the Black Friday deals.  I fully expected this to be like last year where we came, we saw and we left empty handed.  That was the plan.

The first thing I noticed was that it was almost 7pm and while there were shoppers, there were no crazy crowds.  The next thing I saw was my favorite game from childhood, SIMON, but souped up for the current generation.  I had to have it.  Once I decided on that first item, others seemed to just throw themselves into my arms:

  • 2 karaoke microphones (one for me, one for the office holiday party)
  • 1 Google Chromecast (my room)
  • 1 Roku Express (Mirror Image’s room)
  • 1 Google Home Assistant Mini
  • 1 Decorative pillow (Christmas present for my aunt)
  • Clothes (Mirror Image Christmas presents)

The monetary hit? $162.  I spent $162 on items I didn’t plan on purchasing!  Well it didn’t stop there.  I got up the next day (the actual Friday in Black Friday shopping) and while running errands, decided to go back to the store and get the special make up brushes Mirror Image had asked for as a surprise present.  Well the surprise was on me when I bought 2 sets (because I really needed one, too), and more clothes for her.

The price to play the Black Friday game?  Another $60.

So just over a couple hundred in 2 days for shopping, really impulse shopping.  For some, this wouldn’t seem too bad. For me, I felt almost out of control.  Shiny items hypnotized me (seriously, the karaoke microphone was rose gold in color), my childhood called to me in pretty flashes of color with the Simon game and my daughter, as lovely as she is, right by my side encouraging every purchase – wanting EVERY THING.  I was toast.

Ahh but for grace (and a much needed grace period), I am coming out of the shopping after-glow and have put many of the items in the bag to return.

Gone karaoke microphone! I will keep one for the party gift swap.

Gone make up brush set!  Mirror Image gets to keep hers and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gone Google Home Assistant and Chromecast – I watch too much television anyway.  (Hahaha, just kidding, there is no such thing as too much tv).

I expect to get back around $75.  Good thing too because today is Cyber Monday and I saw something I just have to have…

How were your Turkey shopping days?

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Picking up change

Picked up change

Found money

I love picking up change off the ground when walking.  I pick up dollars off the ground (but that is rare).

I actively engage in picking up coins off the ground when walking.

I incorporate others into picking up coins.  Like Mirror Image.

I don’t simply walk down a street, I scout the area looking for change as  I walk.

Sometimes, I walk simply expecting to pick up pennies.

Yesterday morning, I set about my usual ritual of dog walking.  But…it was Sunday.  I have particular plans for Sunday morning walks.

I live near several convenience businesses.  Take out restaurants,  Dunkins’,  7-Eleven and the like,  Theses kinds of places are useful for change scouting. And scout I do.  But…Sunday mornings come after Saturdays.  And Saturdays seems to have given folks more permission to be a little less careful with their loose change.  People haven’t quite put all their change in their pockets or purses before they fall to the ground.  That is, based on my experience of picking up change many different days of the week.

So off Thrifty Pooch and I went on our walk to start the day and I scouted change in the strip mall where I always have eventual success and picked up…nothing.  Not even a penny this time.  That was surprising but not shocking.  I don’t pick up change everyday.  So I just kept walking.

Down the street, around the corner, back to my street, enjoying the cool(ish) Sunday morning air.

And what do I see winking at me? 52 cents in nickels, pennies and dimes in one square foot radius!  It took me forever to pick up all the change, practically right outside my down yet in the middle of the street.  Good thing I was walking.  And looking down.

I have kept all the coin change I have found over the last 2 years in the jacket I wear during my walks.  I don’t know if or when I will ever spend it.  Perhaps I will just let it get super heavy in my pocket.  I like the feel of money in my pocket.e

The most money I have picked up in the last few years at one time was $16 leaving a Burger King parking lot.  I gave $10 to Mirror Image and took $6 to pay for the burger meal she asked up to stop for in the first place.

The most money I ever picked up was $100.  2 crisp $50 bills at a subway machine.  It was 30 years ago and I was SUPER pumped.

Still, picking up coins is my favorite.

Do you bother picking up change?  What is the most loose change you have ever found?

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!

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To Zillow or not to Zillow

One of the reasons I particularly love using Mint is the property value feature that shows the current value of my home and car.  The car value estimate is provided by KBB and the home value is provided by Zillow – known as a Zestimate.

I have been enjoying my Mint account for about 2 years now.  Every couple of months, I find new ways to learn about myself and my relationship with money through my spending and investing processes.  I am really grateful that this tool exists.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never known the value of my home.  Then I started watching the Zestimate on my Mint overview page.  And it was great to watch!

I didn’t care that the interweb naysayers talked about how artificially high or low the Zestimate was in relation to actual value. I had a number I could look at and hold on to.  Plus, my number was going up!  How could I not appreciate that? (I bought my home at the extreem high of the housing bubble and tumble like a house of cards immediately after.  It was only in the last 3 months that my house Zestimated at the amounted I paid for it – 10 years later!!!!)

Then last month happened.  In the last 30 days, I have lost $22,000 of the value of my Zestimate.  And  with the way the Zestimate is incorporated into Mint, it is actually a $22,000 decrease in my net worth.


I feel like I have been doing so many things right which would build up my net worth.  Yet, to have something upon which I have no influence come along and drag me down is a bummer. My home accounts for 1/3rd my net worth.

The truth is though, much like how my 401Ks rebounded in value after the very painful gutting during the recession, my home value may likely grow as well.  I just don’t like feeling teased.

Zillow – the frenemy.

What tool do you use to estimate your home’s value?  Zillow? Redfin? Another?

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Library liberation

I like to live thrifty.  And I am loving that so many free and inexpensive services allow me to.

For years now, I have been having a mad, passionate affair with the library.  I have always loved the library in general.  When I was a youth, I used to make it my after school hang out with friends.  But really, I was just flirting.  Courting, if you will.

This is  a full-fledged affair.  And I am not giving it up ;).

About 10 years ago, Mirror Image and I discovered our local library during my lay-off period and I have been hooked since.  It is not the biggest or most glamorous place.  In fact, compared to the libraries of my youth, it feels small to me.  But it is awesome, nonetheless.

Books of course, are available for the traditional library user.  But there is so. much. more. Not working at the time, I spent days there when Mirror Image was in Pre-K.  Watching movies on my laptop so as to not have to pay the $1 current movie fee.  $1 for a movie!  The policy has changed now and all movies are FREE to rent.

And the opportunity to catch up on whole television series, domestic and foreign has given me a sense of openness to other types of entertainment and a sense of closure for series that I lost track of over the years (here’s to you CHUCK!).

Oh and the books! Bound books, audio books, books on CD, electronic books.  All for free.  Years ago, I spent sooo much money on books (Devil Wears Prada, Shopaholic, The Next Big Thing, Undead, etc.) And yet, the library had those same titles, at no cost whatsoever.  Well, no more of that nonsense.

I now regularly save the price of going to the movie theater, reading the latest books and attending the occasional community event, compliments of my local library and trust me I take full advantage of it.

For instance, Mirror Image is not a big talker in the mornings and I drive her 45 minutes to school every day.  So I pop in a book on CD for the ride and boy has my book per month average zoomed up.

I have been enjoying new to me authors like Maya Banks, Thea Harrison and my current obsession, Jen McKinlay.  She has a cupcake mystery book series that is delicious (see what I did there?).  I am on book 6, I think – Red Velvet Revenge.

Last week, I even had Mirror Image and I listen to the CD of the book they are reading in her literature class. She didn’t overly appreciate the experience but I really enjoyed knowing the kind of literature she is being introduced to – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  Great book, well written and well narrated but hard to hear considering the subject matter.  Heck, she might even get an A because of her independent work :).

Speaking of the school, Mirror Image asked to go the the library to get the big book of College Majors so she could do some research.  We did and she has decided on Atmospheric Sciences as a major after an hour of flipping through the book.  Now, I am excited.

The public library, I am a fan.

Have you even checked out a movie or book or audio book from your local library?

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