Category Archives: Habits

Old Habits and New Resolutions

January 1-31 is traditionally a time of making [and breaking] New Year’s Resolutions. Is it  crowded at your gym? Apps and online tools abound. Books and blogs on decluttering, tidying and organizing can easily be found in your inbox. It is said by some that a habit takes at least 6 weeks to create and people such as Gretchen Rubin and Beth Dargis have multi-day programs on offer. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely created  a short program in this  blog post.     To see the results of his research, visit this link from WYNC.

PowerofHabit.book-cover

by Charles Duhigg

Often the calendar can help create structure for you. Bills get paid after payday; retirement plan contributions occur on paydays, etc. If you can itemize on your taxes, you may have dropped off bags in the last week of December at your local thrift store. In my home town, Macklemore helped us out one year. Parents of college bound students have a date with the revised FAFSA; and by the end of January, you’ll have some thoughts about your 2015 tax return. For a quick set of tax facts and limits from Morningstar, check here.

As mentioned in a previous post, Fidelity and others generate helpful suggestions for our annual resolutions. One study indicates that financial resolutions are easier to keep than those about food or exercise.

So let’s begin with the one geared for success! Financial tasks and affirmative statements. What do you want to improve in 2016?

Where to begin:

Meta Topics: There are meta topics, like what you learned from your family of origin about money, and if money represents the same thing to you and your partner (freedom or security for example).

Or

Nitty-Gritty Topics: There are also the nitty-gritty topics such as how to cut spending on meals out or groceries, am I saving enough for retirement,  and the ever popular  “am I spending too much on fill-in-the-blank ?”(e.g. coffee, furniture, clothing, wedding stuff, organic food, books).

This will be a series on how make the incremental changes which can be permanent, instead of the ‘cold turkey’, ‘all or nothing’ ‘you should do this’ framing which is [mostly] guaranteed to fail. Think of financial wellness, and small successes. Avoid binary thinking, see your progress on a continuum, and remember that like the stock market, it is time, not timing, which makes the difference. Ready, set…

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Filed under Be Prepared, Financial Wellness, Habits, January Financial Tasks, Uncategorized

#NotBuyingIt: Anti-Black Friday

During this season of Black Friday, and holiday sales, I’d like to offer some thoughts on an alternative-Not Buying It. Ways to change your behavior so that you can take a step back from consumer culture. This topic has interested me for years and authors and bloggers keep coming up with new ways to…buy nothing. Most recently in 2015, outdoor retailer REI decided to close on Black Friday, pay their employees for the day, and encourage all of us to #OptOutside .

Remember Amy Dacyczyn and The Tightwad Gazette from the 1990’s? In 2009, she was interviewed by New Hampshire Public Television. (5 minute video)

2001 After 9-11, President Bush is rumored to have said just go shopping-he really didn’t say it that way; his statement was more highfalutin’-he suggested ‘continued participation and confidence in our economy.’ It was Mayor Giuliani who actually said go to restaurants and go shopping-on Sept 12th. Then the American public was practicing patriotism at the mall, and the ball games….and then the bubble happened…

2006 was when a funny piece in the Atlantic  by the writer and actress Sandra Tsing Loh, was published.  It was called Cheap Thrills: American Women in Financial Jeopardy. It was about women and money, Individual Retirement Accounts  (IRA’s) and shopping. Tsing Loh wrote about her friend Carolyn, who wanted to lose weight and proceeded to lose 12.5 pounds in three months. She also lost a lot from her wallet. Fees and food from Jenny Craig, some nice running shoes-only $100, a new haircut, a gym membership at $40/month etc. And last but not least, the new $300 distressed jeans in two sizes down-only $300.

It cost her $196.50 per pound.

I can distress anyone’s jeans for less than $300, just sayin’.  By the way, by her own admission, Tsing Loh comes from a very cheap immigrant family-her sister once gave her a library book for Christmas with a time limit on it for return.

2006 Judith Levine in her book,  Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, links her shopping memories to Sept 11th as well-“Buy that big screen TV or the terrorists will have won!”

Not Buying It Judith Levine

Not Buying It Judith Levine (Photo credit: Gauravonomics)

2008: Remember September 15th 2008 when Senator McCain was feeling Presidential and said “the fundamentals of our economy are basically fine, despite tremendous turmoil…just before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. Recession and many people have struggled with their finances-fair, fowl or fun money. Still are-According to Al Lewis’s Emporium WSJ column, the people wrote in to say two words: We’re broke.

“We want to maintain our financial strength, not transfer it to the mass market retailers.”

— “I already own 50 neckties, three cars, four TVs, etc. Why should I blow money on Chinese junk at Target and Wal-Mart when I can save money for retirement?”

2008-2010 For many of us, the Great Recession changed our buying habits, albeit involuntarily.  However, there have been many enlightening stories written in the last 15 years about people’s voluntary changes in their relationship with consumer culture, stuff and even patriotism. Before that it was Voluntary Simplicity, a movement pioneered by authors Cecile Andrews , Janet Luhrs, and Duane Elgin, among others.

In summary, whether you  reduce your things down to 100 for a year, (2012 link to TedX video from author Dave Bruno) or some other number, go cold turkey like Judith Levine and her husband did for one year, stop spending $200/pound to lose weight or some other self-improvement scheme, try something new this holiday season. Maybe you have gotten very good at substitutions (library for bookstore) (brand declines-Nordstrom to Macy’s to Marshall’s to thrifting)  You can observe Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday – and on Thanksgiving.

You and your family could even introduce these ideas around the Thanksgiving table for some lively conversations. I’d love to hear how that works!

What to talk about, besides football and turkey?

What to talk about, besides football and turkey?

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Filed under Be Prepared, First World Problems, Habits

Hoarding: Finding Treasure in Your House [and Inbox]

Are you a hoarder? I don’t mean with pots of gold or stacks of Benjamins  in your house. What about your rebates, Groupons, Living Social purchases, dividends and other financial gifts? Is your entertainment or shopping budget under attack?

Gift Cards Spa Pass Museum PassIt’s October, so now is a great time to look around your home for some of the following items you may have forgotten about. Do you buy these and then forget to use them? Or do you buy things like this because they are ‘such a deal’, and then have no time or inclination to use them at all?

Gift Certificates: Did you receive a gift certificate to a very nice Seattle restaurant as a thank you from someone?

Gift Cards: What about those gift cards you received at holiday time? Have you used them yet? They are not as apt to expire now or have annual or monthly fees attached to them, as in years past. As an example, when I went shopping for a basic wardrobe item – a new cardigan sweater. I realized that I had a gift card that would lead me to a new sweater. (I also shop at consignment stores but this one was from Christmas, so it needed to be spent). I found one marked down 40%. Whew-a definite bargain. If I hadn’t remembered the gift card, I might have spent cash unnecessarily.

Day Passes for museums and attractions: Looking for a new place to visit on a rainy day, or to take visiting relatives? What day passes do you have in your possession that you may have forgotten about? Oops, I have one for the nearest science museum that’s been posted on my fridge for awhile. Will they still accept it? Better find out soon. The Burke is the local holder of some cool mammoth tusks.

Auction/Pledge drive items: Here are some auction items that I have paid for and not used:

Sit in on a local public radio show for two hours and watch the hosts at work.

Guest DJ at the local national award-winning dance radio station (run by high school students).

Salsa party night for 10 at a nearby ceramic painting studio-sigh. Maybe they are not all expired…

Deal of the Day sites. Have you ever bought a class, or a one night wonder event, or a discount gym membership from one of these? Mine was towards a Red Cross certification that I usually get for free. Not my smartest purchase.

I’m curious about why me and others might not use things like this immediately. Are you forgetful; do you think you ‘shouldn’t’ use these gifts; or is linked to the thrill of the hunt instead?

Since the fourth quarter is upon us (I won’t yet mention the names of all the holidays approaching), take some time for yourself and enjoy a past purchase or discovered treasure; or prepare to share ‘found’ items so that others can enjoy them!

Are there past shopping and bidding treasures in your house or inbox?

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Filed under First World Problems, Habits