th2 Change that changes lives.It was a good year for found money: a $20 bill, two fivers, a singleton, 13 quarters, 47 dimes, 15 nickels and 216 pennies, plus a ngwee from Zambia. (You find the most interesting specie in Coinstar machines.)  

That $41.86 will become a $50 donation to the Alaska Food Bank. As my 8-year-old nephew and I stacked and wrapped the coins, I pointed out that while it’s fun to find a $20 bill even the pennies add up over time. I’d be writing about this, I said, and maybe it would remind them that dimes add up to dollars.  

“Maybe it will remind them to pick money up,” he said. “Or not to drop it.”


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Things I no longer buy.

th4 150x150 Things I no longer buy.Last year I voluntarily downsized my salary, i.e., I decided not to rush to replace all the income lost when MSN Money kicked all its writers to the virtual curb.

Since then I’ve had to make some very conscious choices about what – and whether – to buy. Less money = fewer expenditures.

News flash, right? But what surprises me isn’t that I’m spending less. It’s that I don’t miss any of those things very much.


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th10 Accepting responsibility for our lives.Going on two years ago I read a column on Consumerism Commentary called “Nothing bad is my fault: Toxic financial attitudes.” The author, Luke Landes, urges us to look at our personal philosophies, “to determine how they are helping or hurting you.”

I left a comment (more on that in a minute) and always meant to write about it. Better late than really late.

As a young man, Landes looked for “external reasons” (i.e., excuses) when things didn’t go his way. Ultimately a boss called him out on it, suggesting he examine his own thoughts might prevent him from succeeding.

Landes applies the same principle to money mindsets that might hold us back, such as:

  • “I’m in debt because of a financial emergency.”
  • “I keep getting charged fees by my bank, and it’s due to their policies.”
  • “I lost money on my investment.”

Rather than be stunted by these attitudes, he asks that we examine “the effect your choices have on your success and failure.”

Understand: Landes is acutely aware of the very legitimate reasons some people do not succeed. He’s written about why poverty is a bit more complicated than laziness or lack of motivation.

But he’s also convincing when he calls on us to recognize what we could be doing to help ourselves, even – and especially! – if we don’t know quite how or where to start. This advice applies to life situations other than wealth-building.


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th 8 pointed questions to ask before you buy.A comment on a Get Rich Slowly article got my attention today. In “Four ways to make money with your old junk,” a woman posting as Winterlady noted one of the tactics she uses to prevent overbuying:

“I hold the item and think ‘How quickly will I want to garage-sale this?’”

Having seen more than a few like-new or still-in-the-shrink-wrap items at yard sales, I expect her comment is not particularly flippant.

I also liked another thing she said: “It is easier to control the purchases than figure out how to dispose of them.”

This.

I’m a big fan of informed consumerism, i.e., of asking the right questions before you decide to buy something. In a post on Wise Bread, I described the queries along the lines of, “Do I really need it? Do I already have something like it? Is there a way to get it for free? If not, what’s the most affordable way to get it?”

Yet even after applying this frugal filter, you sometimes just waaaaant something – right now. That’s when you ask yourself a question like the one cited by Winterlady.

I’ve got a few more to add. They’re not all questions as such, but they should encourage a little self-interrogation.


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th7 Want a chance at a decent old age? Have a daughter.When middle-aged sons live with their parents, it’s probably because they’re underemployed or unemployed. But middle-aged daughters are more likely to bunk with their parents in order to take care of them, according to a new survey from Yodlee Interactive.

Men ages 35 to 44 are more than twice as likely as women to receive economic support from their parents, and more than three times as likely than women to live at home.

Oh, and daughters are more likely to provide “emotional” support as their parents age, regardless of living arrangements. In fact, 20 percent of the men surveyed say they do not plan to call or visit Mom and Dad as they grow old. Nice.

Maybe it’s because women are socialized to be caregivers. Maybe it’s because they’re guilted into it. My best friend from childhood cared for her father during a long battle with dementia, and also dealt with her mother’s congestive heart failure, despite working and having two kids.

When she asked her older brother for help he told her that because she was the daughter it was her “duty” to take care of their parents.

I am not making that up. And yes, it happened fairly recently, vs. back in the 1800s.


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