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Cards and consequences.

th-1(I’ve decided to re-publish articles now and again in honor of what the kids call Throwback Thursday. Enjoy.)

On Tuesday I participated in a TweetChat sponsored by Ally Bank, on the topic of “teaching kids the value of money.” One of the responses from another participant frankly startled me.

The question: “When is the right time to talk to your children about credit card debt?”

The answer: “I’d say when they have their own card (and a real sense of consequences), most likely as a freshman in college.”

After picking my jaw up off the kitchen table, I sent out this response: “Waiting till they have their own card is like waiting til daughter gets pregnant to say, “Don’t misuse that thing, y’hear?”

 


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Physics and frugality.

thRecently I had fun trying to recognize the desiccated ingredients of the boiling bag I was emptying into the slow cooker. After a few minutes of frugality CSI (cooking scene investigation), I identified the following:

Onion skins, Asian greens (they’ve gone to seed so I’m removing the last small leaves), teeny-tiny green apples (to avoid stressing our newly planted trees, DF took off most of the fruits), carrot tops and greens, potato peels, and small green tomatoes (jumpers from our greenhouse plants).

Also cucumber peels (from fruits too high in cucurbitacin to eat as-is), red romaine leaves (too bitter after bolting for salads, but fine for broth), green-bean ends, squash blossoms (from our blue Hubbard plant), dandelion greens and a little chickweed (because revenge).

After adding a freezer container of vegetable cooking water – from corn, peas, lentils, potatoes and green beans – I had quite the potage de garbage going. Cooked and drained, it smelled a lot like Campbell’s vegetable soup and tasted even better.

All this recycling reminded me of the notion that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but rather transformed from one form to another. In our home, food gets created – we grow the stuff as well as cook it from supermarket ingredients – but it never really goes away.

 


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th-1On the back cover of “Live Your Life For 1/2 The Price,” prolific personal finance author Mary hunt perfectly sums up my feelings about frugality:

“It’s the money you don’t spend that ultimately gives you the freedom to live the life you love.” 

You tell ’em, girl.

Hunt, who’s written a couple of dozen books and created the Debt Proof Living program and the Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate website, gives readers the tools to do things like reduce costs, get control of spending, avoid fees, retire the mortgage off early and pay a fair sum for the right car. And she does it with her trademark humor, compassion and pragmatism.

In other words, she’s fun to read and she knows what it’s like to be in debt — boy, does she know! — but she won’t let you off the hook for any of it. Instead, she’ll throw you a lifeline.

 


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thI’ve noticed a lot of summer blooms lately. And by “blooms,” I mean “yard-sale signs.”

The hand-lettered, brightly colored notices are tacked to utility poles, taped to trees (really?) or stapled to big boxes that have rocks inside to keep them from blowing away.

Narrowly missed attending a couple of these this morning. My niece e-mailed to see if I’d be interested, but we were entertaining an unexpected guest and then working in the garden, so I didn’t get online until mid-afternoon.

In addition to her e-invite I saw “Tag sales: Don’t buy the fantasy,” a Time magazine column written by my former MSN Money colleague M.P. Dunleavey. It’s a darned amusing (and darned true) story of the ways we sometimes lose our minds in the face of a bargain.

Even a bargain we don’t need. Especially a bargain we don’t need.

 


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FrugalityforDepressives_250Those of you who follow my daughter’s blog already know this, but: Abby has been working on a book lately. You’d also know this if you read my late-March post, “Watching a book be born.”

Happy to announce that “Frugality For Depressives: Money-Saving Tips For Those Who Find Life A Little Harder” is here, and happier still to be giving away a couple of copies of the electronic version.

(Edited to add: Hannah at Unplanned Finance is also giving away a copy. Use the link to find out how to enter; the deadline is May 9.)

(Note: The above link is for the Kindle version. Anyone who wants an ePub or PDF version can check the ad on the right-hand side of this page. It’s the same price – $7.99 –  for all these editions.)

During her post-illness years of poverty and struggle, Abby looked for money advice but couldn’t find anything that worked. Personal finance blogs were popping up like mushrooms after a rain but they all said the same stuff over and over:

  • “Drink one less coffee a day and you’ll retire rich!” (Many days Abby was too sick to leave her apartment – and she doesn’t like coffee anyway.)
  • “Get a second job to help pay off debt!” (Depressives with chronic fatigue sometimes can’t even get a first job, let alone a second one.)
  • “All those toys you bought during the good times? Put them on Craigslist and watch your fortunes rise!” (It took her a year and a half to save up enough rewards points to get herself a basic MP3 player. Toys R Not her.)

She often saw a phrase I’ve come to loathe: “If I can do it, anyone can.” Gah. Basic money hacks do work for a lot of people, but they don’t work for everyone.

Abby tried – oh, how she tried. “Each failure drove the shame and despair deeper. Each new twist focused my mind on my inability to be the good frugal girl I was raised to be.”

[Sorry about that, kid.]

Since she couldn’t become a perfect frugalist, Abby decided to hack the hacks.

 


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