Should I Save or Should I Go?

Piggy Bank with Hammer photo

Did you get The Clash reference? If so, definitely pat yourself on the back! It’s this phrase that zips around my brain far more than I’d really like.

I’m a saver. I was brought up as a saver and it’s how I roll. CycleGuy has left the dark side and after almost 24 years together is a pretty good saving jedi. Except when it comes to experiences. When it comes to things though, it’s taken awhile but they don’t catch his eye as much as they used to.

CycleGuy was raised by the yoda of spendthrifts. Mama-San could probably convince a homeless man to give her a dollar. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother in law very much. I even like her a lot. But when it comes to the spend – save dichotomy we’re like BP and the Louisiana Gulf Coast. And while I respect her need to spend, I’m not sure if she respects my need to save. To her, I’m more of a hoarder.

So nearly a quarter of a century of togetherness has allowed both CycleGuy and I to gain both the respect and understanding for the other person’s spending habits that are needed to avoid making money a point of contention.With money issues being one of the leading causes of divorce, it’s easy to understand that it takes a lot of work by both people to maintain common ground. I’m determined not to let money be an issue, even when it’s because of my crazy saving habits.

Where am I going with this? Well, it’s about experiences. What if you’re invited to go somewhere that is not an everyday occurrence? What if you had been invited to the inauguration? The royal wedding? Would you go? Think back to high school and how we begged our parents to come up with the money for an out of town trip.

I think of the kids who spend a year fundraising so they can march in the Rose Parade. Pay money, lots of money, to be hot and sweaty. And yet so uplifted. So uplifted that 20 years later they’ll tell anyone and everyone they were in the Rose Parade. Heck, they’ll be 50 years old watching the Rose Parade with their grandkids and telling them about the time they were in the Rose Parade.

Sometimes there is no next time. It’s a now or never option. Kind of like the spring trip to Italy BabyGirl and I will take. There isn’t an option to wait and save and think and ponder and work the numbers. It’s a question of are you in or not. And thanks to CycleGuy’s belief that life is to be experienced, it was a no brainer for him. Me? Well, that’s probably going to be weeks, if not months, of therapy right there!

As I hemmed and hawed over the weekend about a travel opportunity, for CycleGuy there wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. Go! Then there was me and my personal game of 20,000 questions. It’s the reason I never could get a Magic 8 Ball. Because I’d just be shaking that crazy thing until I finally broke it open and got the answer I thought I should get.

Theoretically, I know life is to be lived and experienced. Unfortunately, sometimes I can’t break out of my savings paradigm and throw caution to the wind and just go. In my mind I can do that. And I can encourage other people to take the leap. But when I comes to me, I can find every reason not to do something.

Fortunately, I, too, have learned something in the past 20-plus years with CycleGuy. Life isn’t about being able to tell stories of ‘what if’ or ‘I almost’ or ‘I could have’. Life is about being able to share stories of living, doing and experiencing. No amount of money when I’m 60 will make up for not having said yes when my savings account is telling me no.

This weekend I realized that sometimes Someday is staring me in the face and I’m not wearing my glasses!

Do you ever ponder, weigh, evaluate and think and rethink whether you should do something? How do you feel when you’ve passed on an opportunity but deep down really wanted to say yes?

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Sara

What Does Saving Mean?

Blue Piggy Bank

So here I’ve been, blogging about my life and my somedays for the last year. As the calendar turned to 2011 quite a few friends (both in real life and online) began talking about getting a handle on their budgets so the could save money.

One of the first places people often start looking to save is on their grocery bill. But what does saving really mean? Does it mean putting money into a bank account or save a little each day in a piggy bank? Does it mean spending less so you have money for other things? Does it mean cutting out things and making due?

Saving means different things to different people. And my hope is that however you define it for you and your family that you find helpful and encouraging information here. I want people to know that however you define saving is all that matters.  If saving means spending less at the store, I’m thrilled if you’re able to use coupons and pair them with the weekly deals so you can walk out of the store with all you need for a fraction of the retail price.

If saving means being able to buy your child a new toy because there is a coupon code, that’s fantastic too! And so is buying groceries based on the sale and not dealing with cutting coupons but instead downloading eCoupons to your store loyalty card.

For me, saving is a little bit of all these things. I may need to buy a gift and can’t wait until some great super holiday day sale, so a coupon code giving me some savings (even if it’s just free shipping) is a welcome way to save a few dollars. Of course I head to the CVS and Grocery Stores weekly to take advantage of deals on items I normally use. Some weeks I know I’ll need those funds to go to lunch with a friend. Other weeks I keep the saved cash and use it for the next weeks budget. There are even times when BabyGirl gets a few dollars for being such a great shopping partner!

What does saving mean for you?

Sara

Saving A Little Each Day

Personal finance
photo credit: alancleaver_2000

Saving money isn’t as fun as spending it. Especially since watching your savings grow is probably as exciting as watching grass grow. But as with all other things that grow — babies, plants, animals — it takes time and nurturing and attention. Rarely do growing things prosper if left alone to its own devices.

Savings is no different. To grow your savings you need to nurture it, feed it and believe in its possibilities. Sure, it sounds hokey. But the reality of saving is that it’s more like the tortoise than the hare. Remember that story from childhood? The one where the rabbit thinks he’s all that and takes off and then thinks he has a sizable lead to lose it to the tortoise who moves slowly but focused and purposefully.

If you give your savings a little attention each day, it will grow. Did your dad have a jar he’d dump all his change in? Did your mom let you have all the coins she got as change from the grocery store?

I lived with my grandparents and they had this giant plastic container they’d put their coins into. It was about 3 feet tall and I have no idea where they got it. Probably in Europe somewhere because my mom said she remembered when she was a kid. Every night when they came home from work, my grandparents would put all their coins in this bottle.

The hollow sound of the coins plunking against the plastic when the bottle was empty seemed sad. How could this giant thing ever get filled up when coins were just so small. And, really, how much could this thing hold? And how long would it take? Probably years, I thought.

But it didn’t. Some days it was only 3 or 4 coins. Other days it was a hand full. Regardless of how much, there was always something to deposit. Each. Day. Every. Day.

It was a little at a time. But slowly it would fill up until it was so heavy my Grandpa would have to get the hand truck to move it. I remember it usually took about 5 or 6 months to fill the bottle up. And for days I’d sit at night helping my grandparents roll coins. My grandma worked at a bank so I had to be especially careful because I didn’t want her to get in trouble if I miscounted. To this day I’m a champion coin roller! If only there was Coinstar back then!!

The giant plastic bottle wasn’t just a place to collect coins. It was filled with my grandparent’s dreams. On the outside of the bottle they’d tape a picture of their vacation destination. My grandparents loved to travel and every 4 or 5 years they’d pick a new destination. Greece. China. Israel. Egypt. Russia.

My grandparents would go for 3 weeks on these amazing excursions. In the non-travel years they might visit relatives or friends, but nothing elaborate. They had a goal and they did what they needed to make sure they’d be able to get there.

Baby steps. Nurturing their growing mound of coins. They’d also put away larger sums of money, kind of like a Christmas Club account. But it was this giant plastic bottle of coins that left an impression with me.  Over a 4 year period of time my grandparents were able to save several thousand dollars just in extra coins. This was long before credit cards. And debit cards were unheard of. Your choice was cash, check or store credit.

So what to do now in the days of plastic money? Is it really worth it to use cash. I know many people feel that if they have cash it’s as good as spent. But, give it a try. Now, while it’s not as exciting as plinking coins into a giant plastic bottle, there are online options. You can set up an account with ING or your bank or credit union and have a specific amount transferred every week.

Just a little bit, consistently, will make a difference! If you save it, it will grow!

Will you join me in saving a little each day?

This post is linked to Robin’s Mingle Monday at Our Homeschool Home. Every Monday 20+ bloggers link up to share posts and friendship. Check out Mingle Monday.

Our Homeschool Home

Sara

Bubbe Says: Save For a Rainy Day

We’ve all heard the old adage that we have to save for a rainy day.  Most financial planners encourage you to have a rainy day fund.  And, well, no matter where you live you know that one day it is going to rain (both literally and figuratively!).

Whether you rent or own, live with a roommate, have your own car or ride the bus you know that something will always come up that you didn’t originally plan on having to pay for.  It could be a medical situation that requires hospitalization or even a few rounds of antibiotics that set you back a considerable amount of money.

My bubbe always told me that even emergencies can be planned for if you anticipate that some day something might just go wrong.  Bubbe comes from a time where being prepared was a way of life.  And she’s continued with a variety of different ways to keep that going in her life.

Now that many health care plans have high deductibles, we could be saving a small amount each month ‘just incase’. There are also doctor and prescription co-pays that need to be paid.  Sure, we never intend to use them but what if?  By saving a few dollars along the way, you can be a little more prepared if the unintended happens.

But how do you save for a rainy day?  Here are three ways to get you started and help you be prepared.

1.  Save all your change every evening – At the end of the day take all your coins – even if it’s just the pennies, nickels and dimes – and put it in a jar.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly change can add up.  No, it won’t magically multiply into thousands of dollars over night but you’d probably be surprised at what you’ll have at the end of a month.

2.  Set up an automatic transfer with your current account – Even transferring $5 a week can give you $20 at the end of each month (on average).  You can use an online bank such as ING or HSBC if you want to keep the money from your immediate temptation.  Of course you can open up an additional account at your local financial institution too.  Just make sure you set up a weekly or monthly automatic transfer or keep a reminder to make the transfer.

3. Pay with cash – if you normally charge routine purchases to your credit or debit card, you may be spending more than you really want.  If you allocate a set amount for the week, you are more likely to stay within that budget.  Anything left over at the end of the week can be put in your savings jar.

By taking small steps, you can give yourself peace of mind knowing that there is a rainy day fund ‘just incase’.  And, of course, Bubbe has insight about making your savings tangible.

Do you have other ways you save for a rainy day?  I’d love to know, and I’m sure others would too!

Sara

Some Things Are Not Meant To Be Saved

Fine China

This title begets many ideas, but what I’d like to share with you is the thought that some things in our house are ‘sacred’ and are saved for special occasions.  As with many women, when I got married I registered for all kinds of fancy things.  This was my new life and I wanted to have all the niceties that I’d seen in every bridal magazine.  I read every page and every article soaking up information.  I needed fine china and sterling flatware.  And it wouldn’t be complete without the crystal stemware.  Oh, and I’ll need some gorgeous china and crystal and other serving pieces.  Then there were the linens and the towels, not to mention every possible appliance I could click the scanner at while filling my time with the lady  in the registry department.

That was 15 years ago and I still remember most of the things on the registry.  It was such an exciting time and I truly felt like a kid in a candy store.  Growing up my mom didn’t use the fine china very often.  The lace tablecloth and the beautiful linens spent nearly every moment neatly folded in the closet.  I would take out a cup when my mom wasn’t home and I’d pretend I was having a fancy tea.  And I’d do everything I could to make sure she never knew about it.  Then I broke a cup!  I quickly glued it back together but my 8-year old glue skills were not as precise as they needed to be on that day.  She quickly found my attempt at fixing her china.  It was never discussed other than I was told never to touch them again.  So here I was, left with only the few special occasions each year when the family would all gather at my grandparents house and we’d have our festive meal on the ‘good dishes’.

I never understood why we had this giant cabinet with all these beautiful dishes on display but we never used them.  My grandmother had several sets of china and crystal, some of it I have never seen used.  So why do we have this stuff if we’re going to save it?  Why do we spend the money if we’re only going to look at it.  It’s not the Mona Lisa!  Sure, it’s beautiful.  But it’s made to be functional.  It has a purpose.  And, interestingly, fine china will become brittle and deteriorate if you don’t use.  But, still, we put it in the big beautiful china cabinet and let it sit there.  And we look at it and occasionally drag it out as if it were obligatory.

Continue reading “Some Things Are Not Meant To Be Saved”

Sara

Why Is Saving So Difficult?

Blue Piggy Bank

When I was growing up, if you wanted something you had to save for it.  Sure, I’m dating myself back to the 80’s with my big hair and new wave music.  But, the reality is that credit cards were not ubiquitous and most people didn’t buy things on credit.  If you wanted to fly and see grandma you had to have the money when you bought your plane ticket.  Going out to dinner meant you better have cash in your wallet or a check that wouldn’t bounce come Monday.

About the only place you would get credit was at the local furniture store or a loan at the bank.  I remember going in with my mom looking for a new couch.  I was 7 or 8 at the time.  I also remember going in there every week and dropping off money to pay for our cool new couch that doubled as a trampoline when Mom wasn’t around.  There was always this urgency each week to go pay Mr. Daw at the furniture store.

It seems that there was no such thing as instant gratification.  Or maybe the definition of ‘instant’ has changed.  We now live in a 24/7, text-message, twitter, cell phone, all news-all the time kind of world.  We can’t even wait for water to boil in a kettle any more, thanks to the microwave.  Forget voice mail, that’s so 1980s.  We have two-way paging and texting and instant messaging.  People answer their phone when they are in the bathroom — is it really that important that it can’t wait a few minutes?

As a kid, I just had to wait.  Even now, as a parent, I’m trying to instill in my daughter that we can’t always have everything right now.  So when did it change?  When do we go from it being OK to wait to needing it right now?

Ah, yes, College!  All you needed was a student ID and they’d give you a credit card.  Job?  Uh, no!  Paycheck?  What’s that?  But the credit card companies were out in full force handing out free credit cards and T-shirts.  Who doesn’t need a free T-shirt?

But not everyone goes to college, so they’re great savers, right?  Not always.  Maybe they joined the military or got a job right out of high school.  Our soldiers are told they need to establish their financial history so credit card companies hand over the plastic as easily as saying ‘Yes, sir!.’  Soldier = job security, so why not.  New job at 18 means you qualify to get a credit card.

What no one ever really taught any of us newly minted credit card holders was what it meant to have a credit card and what responsibilities we had.  Of course you had to pay the bill when it came in, but they were so nice to let us pay in easy low monthly payments.  I’m establishing my credit history, right?  Wrong.  Debt, here I come!  Instant gratification is my BFF!

No one ever taught us about the value (and virtue of saving).  It’s not an intuitive process.  Our brains are not programmed to desire saving.  We want instant gratification.  We’re born that way.  Ask any child if they want one M&M now or a bag of M&Ms next week, what do you think they’ll tell you.  Yep!  One M&M now please (they use their manners because you taught them!).  But, a whole  bag of M&Ms next week is so much more.  Not to our brain.  Our brain wants it NOW.  And we’ve all seen the child having a fit because they can’t get what they want RIGHT NOW.  No matter how much mom and/or dad cajole the child or bribe with some sort of delayed gratification mechanism, the child wants what he wants and he wants it NOW!

So, we’re born not wanting to save.  That doesn’t mean that’s how it should be.  Saving is important.  We’ve all hear the saying about saving for a rainy day.  Most of us know that it’s sunny right now and that’s all that matters.

Add to this that saving is a drag.  Saving takes effort and work  Clipping coupons, watching sales, rebates, where to buy gas — that’s a lot to keep in our brains.  Yes, there are places we can get help and guidance (like right here at Saving for Someday).  But that takes time away from doing something cool and fun and buying stuff and hanging out with our friends.

Inflation and the job market and the ‘Great Recession’ have all contributed to the belief that saving is difficult.  They have also contributed to the reality of saving being difficult.  Prices have gone up faster than salary.  Our money just doesn’t go as far as it used to go.  Which is an even more compelling reason to look for ways to save.

Every year manufacturers and retailers spend billions (yes, with a B) of dollars on consumer promotions.  They’re trying to drive people in to the stores to buy more stuff.  Still, less than 5% of all coupons and promotions are redeemed.  It may seem like the whole world is using coupons and holding up the line at the grocery store.  But, truth be told, it’s only a small fraction of shoppers who are dedicated couponers.  It takes time and scouring ads and websites and clipping coupons just isn’t as fun as, say, playing Wii, going to the movies or out to dinner.  It’s not quick and easy, so we don’t want to do it.

The great thing is that we can change this mindset of needing immediate gratification and thinking saving is a drag.  By setting SMART saving goals, savings can become easy and natural.  Here is how you do it:

Set a SPECIFIC goal

Make it MEASURABLE

Make it something you can actually ATTAIN

Your goal should be REALISTIC

And it needs to be TIMELY, give yourself a target to work toward.

Saving goals are often HUGE and overwhelming.  It’s great to have lofty goals like owning your house outright or paying for your child to go to college.  They seem so large and out of reach, though, that after a short period of time we just give up.  Don’t give up!  Just set smaller goals so that when you reach them you’ve trained yourself to see saving as something rewarding.

We need to retrain the brain to believe that saving isn’t so difficult.  We need to impress upon ourselves that saving brings instant gratification.  We’re all Saving for Someday.  We just need to start now by defining what that ‘Someday’ or however many ‘Somedays’ you have really is.

We no longer live in caves and hunt/gather.  Food and shelter is not that scarce.  We don’t have to worry about not eating for weeks if we can’t find an animal to kill.  We are living in 2010.  We have evolved!  And now is the time for our feeling about saving to evolve.

Save Today for Freedom Tomorrow!

I’d love to know what you think.  Please share your thoughts and/or comments.