Category Archives: Money Stories

2 Important Instructions for Prioritizing Earning and Saving

We need to set our priorities when it comes to earning more and saving. What will have the largest effect on our bottom line and requires the least amount of effort?

When I lived in D.C., I told my brother who lives in California to check out Lending Club. Living in D.C. disqualifies me, but I thought he’d enjoy the chance to make some great returns with social lending.

He told me to send him a link, but he never followed up even though he was interested. He got lazy, and eventually forgot about it.

Fast forward to last week, when he asked me if I had ever heard of Envaulted, a site that gives you 1% cashback on all purchases in exchange for access to your credit card transactions. It sounds like a pretty decent deal if you’re willing to let someone else have access to your credit card information, and it’s a passive way to earn a couple dollars a month.

So did I tell that to my brother? Nope! And I’m not letting any of you do it either. Not until you follow my two, very simple instructions (more on that below).

I told him that there are ways to make a lot more money and he shouldn’t worry about trying to make an extra $10 a month. Of course, I brought up the fact that he never signed up for Lending Club and he wants to make smart medium-term investments.

He argued that the two weren’t mutually exclusive and he could do both, but I shot back that he COULD, but the fact is that he DIDN’T.

There are lots of ways to make (or save) a few extra dollars here or there. You can clip coupons and pass on your daily coffee, but there are easier ways to save money.

He still argued, but I sent him another invitation for Lending Club and he signed up.

Here are my simple instructions:

1. Sign up for your company’s 401(k). Start automatically putting away money each month. These are two HUGE things you can do that will make a difference down the road. You shouldn’t feel them much now, but later, you’ll appreciate it.

2. Set up automatic bill-pay, make sure you’re not paying any unnecessary fees, and call your cable, internet, and phone providers to negotiate a better price. The one-time cost of 15 minutes will put more money in your pocket every single month.

If you’ve done the big things, you’re doing great. If you’re able to cut down on expenses without losing quality, even better. If you’re at that point and you still want to save a few more dollars, you have my permission to clip coupons, reuse sandwich bags, or make your own laundry detergent.

How to Use Personal Finance to Make Friends

After leaving my umbrella on the metro on the way home from work, I needed a change of clothes and a new umbrella. I changed when I got home, but I don’t enjoy shelling out $20 for new umbrellas every few months.

Two days later, I saw an awesome deal going on at Gap: 30% off plus they donate 5% of the purchase to one of a few charities that you can choose from. Score! I could get that umbrella for $14 (It’s a sweet umbrella. Automatic open AND automatic close).

I headed to the store during my lunch break and picked out my umbrella. After the cashiers laughed at me for buying an umbrella on a beautiful day was silly, I headed out. But since the coupons aren’t unique and therefore reusable, I knew I could either walk out the door and throw away the coupon or I could hand it off to someone else who would save a nice chunk of money without doing any work.

I turned around and found the closest person to me. There were two girls standing pretty close, so I offered the coupon. They were really grateful, but they were actually on their way out, so I had to find a new target.

Maximize Your Generosity

I tried a new tactic. I found the person carrying the most items, thinking that I could save them the most amount of money. I explained the situation, and happily handed off the coupon.

You should have seen this woman’s face. She was ecstatic. How often are you in the middle of shopping and get an offer to save $30 or more?

Now I know how to get people to like me: offer them a way to save money with nothing to lose. They’ll be amazed at your generosity, you’ll don’t really do any work to help them, and everyone will feel great about themselves.

Readers, how do you use personal finance to get people to like you? Should I try my newfound tactic to try and get girls too?

How Much Did We Spend On Our Honeymoon?

Our plan was to spend $3,500 on our honeymoon, which we took the last week of December. Now that things have calmed down a bit, it’s time to look back and see how we did.

Keep in mind that our financial results have nothing to do with how much fun we had. We went swimming with dolphins, zip lining, and we made some great new friends, too!

We originally booked our hotel room for $1,798 and our flights were $1,332, so right there we spent $3,130 and I knew we were going to go over our planned $3,500. We set our expectations too low, so we adjusted up.

3 weeks before we left, we decided to upgrade to a much larger, one bedroom suite. That was another $567, so even before we arrived, we looked at our planned spending in the rear-view mirror. Our new suite included a kitchen, large fridge, dining area, a larger balcony with a hammock, and another room for us to hang out in. In retrospect, this was a great choice. We did not feel cramped and having a kitchen was a blessing as it gave us much more flexibility.

We brought some staples with us as we weren’t sure where we’d be able to go shopping. As it turned out, there was a little market on site where we were able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and cheese.

We spent 8 days in Cancun and here is how our spending broke down:

  • Hotel: $2,365
  • Flights: $1,332
  • Activities: $545
  • Cash & ATM (spent on activities, drinks, tips, etc): $181
  • Food: $95
  • Travel: $91
  • Random other costs: $36
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $35

For a grand total of $4,680.

In 2010, the average honeymooners spent $4,466, so we came pretty close to that. I thought it would be cheaper, but once we upgraded our room, it was clear we weren’t going to hit our original $3,500 goal and it was also clear that we didn’t want to. We didn’t let any opportunities go by.

We had an amazing time and in retrospect, we made a great choice of hotel and activities. Even when things didn’t go well (we sat in a van with a vomiting boy for a few hour), we made the most of it and had a good time (it meant we snorkeled with just one other couple instead of the 15 person group he was with).