Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting a Grip on Gift-Giving

image by scottchan
'Tis the season - to be jolly and for general merriment. Yes, it's all quite lovely. Everywhere you look, there's a sense of celebration, of giving, and receiving, and of spending.. but something just doesn't feel right.

Somewhere along the line, we've gotten so caught up with the spirit of the season, that we haven't noticed what it all means, or stopped to consider the consequences of our actions. When did 'giving' equate to giving lavish presents, and multiple ones at that? Or giving presents that are demanded? when did spending equate with spending money?

Call me a Grinch, but I feel we are fueling a sense of entitlement in our kids by spoiling them rotten with our gift-giving. Case in point, a friend of mine by her own words, has barely enough money for groceries because of unexpected and extenuating circumstances. Yet, she signed up with a program in which she gives a christmas present to an economically disadvantaged child. A very noble gesture I have to admit. And I'm very proud of her for signing up. But what irks me is that the child gets to ask for what they want, and this kid wanted an ipod. So my friend has to cut down on groceries so that she may gift an ipod to a 9-year-old she does not know. "Does a 9-year-old really need an ipod?" I ask, and I'm told that if everyone else in his/her class has one, then they might need one too.

Now before you go ahead and question my charity, or lack thereof, please note that even though I didn't sign up for the same program as my friend, I did at the beginning of the school year, spend a considerable amount of money on books and supplies for needy kids. In my world, that makes sense because kids do need books, backpacks, pens, pencils, erasers, and even lunch boxes, etc to better themselves. But an ipod I have to say is frivolous, and I'm angry at my friend for enabling this child to expect things from others in order to keep up with the Joneses. This sort of gift-giving in my opinion is what fosters an unrealistic view of finances in children and helps them attain a false sense of entitlement. That kid will now NOT feel the need to earn or save money for his wants, but feel that he can just ask for them. And I don't see how that will help this kid in the long run.

In addition, my poor friend might feel good about her act of charity, but really, how is she better off, when it came out of her grocery budget, and when she is doing without snow boots that she desperately needs this winter??? Before we open up our hearts this holiday season, I think it is imperative that we not confuse the concept of giving with giving beyond our means, and giving into frivolous demands. By all means, give love, give time, and give your best effort. But remember, our children are watching.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guess who's back?

Well I'm back. Yes it has been a while, and you probably thought that I'd given up on blogging, didn't you? I cannot lie, I did contemplate it. So much has happened since my last blog entry that suffice it is to say, blogging was the last thing on my mind. I wish I could write it all down here as a cathartic measure, you know? But 1) it really wouldn't be relevant and 2) I'd have to write a book! So let's just say, I just learned that life does not revolve around money although it does help. If I can pick and choose, I'd be penniless if I could be content.

It's funny how you trudge through the motions of your life, trying to sock away everything you can for the future, that it becomes a routine. A dull, boring, and sometimes toxic routine. And you fail to realize that as important as the future is, so is the present! The present is a present we cannot save for later. The present should be indulged in now, because pretty soon it becomes the past, and you can never get those moments back, and then there's only regret. Yeah, pretty corny and preachy I know, but that's what I learned, and am still learning.

Money is not important. Life is. Love is. Human connections are. Memories are. So live, love, connect and enjoy the memories!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lessons from the 2010 Winter Olympics

If you were like me, you would have spend the last couple of weeks sleepless, watching the Winter Olympics. Every two years the Winter or Summer Olympics comes along and mesmerizes me with mounds and mounds of sheer athleticism and super-human talent. There's something about diverse individuals from nations big and small, coming together for one purpose that is compelling beautiful. However, the Olympics weren't entirely without hiccups either. Among prodigious talent and coveted medals were stories and lessons for those who were looking for them. Some, even related to personal finance.

1) China's Shen and Zhao win figure skating gold.
One of the oldest if not the oldest pair at 31 and 36, Shen and Zhao paired up on the ice 18 years ago. Competing with those half their age in a sport dominated by the young and the agile, they put on an almost error free routine to win the gold. They aptly demonstrated that starting young and persevering will lead to fortunes, no matter how long you have to wait.

2) Canada's Joannie Rochette wins figure skating bronze.
Just 2 days before she skated her short program, Joannie's mother passed away from a heart attack. If she had withdrawn, her country would have understood. But she did not. Overcoming overwhelming grief,  she skated a breathtaking short program, and 2 days later performed her personal best free skate routine to put Canada on the podium after 18 long years. She showed the world that when faced with an unanticipated turn of events, keeping your focus on the task at hand will bring you great success.

3) Dutchmen Sven Kramer literally crosses the line.
After Nodar Kumaritashvili's tragic death, this was the most poignant event of the 2010 Olympics for me. The uber-talented speedskater would have set a new Olympic record and won 3 medals if he hadn't been disqualified for listening to his coach and making an illegal lane change. It was definitely not his fault, but the rules are what they are. His gut-wrenching disqualification exemplifies that the journey is as important as the destination - so pay attention.

4) Czech speedskater Martina Sablikova wins 2 golds and a bronze.
Many athletes won multiple medals. So what was special about Sablikova? You only need to look at her to see what's special about her. She defies convention. Whereas other speedskaters have a body type characterized by strong and bulky thighs which help them dart along the ice, Martina looks like a tooth pick at 5'7" and 119 lbs. Yet her speed won her 3 medals. Martina Sablikova proves that when it comes to success, stereotypes can be broken.

5) Canada's Chris Del Bosco loses the Bronze.
Ski-Cross finalist Del Bosco had the bronze in his pocket in this dynamic sport's Olympic debut. Then he made a risky jump for gold (yes gold, not even silver) and crashed spectacularly just before the finish line. Del Bosco later admitted that he wasn't content with a 3rd place finish (leading some to point the finger at Canada's 'Own The Podium' campaign - didn't anyone tell him that bronze was a spot on the podium?) His miss demonstrates that unnecessary risks are always a bad idea.

Readers, can you list other moments from the Olympics from which you identified a life-lesson or one related to personal finance?

I'll leave you with one of my favorite moments of these Olympics - kd lang's awe-inspiring rendition of Hallelujah which you can view by clicking here.

Since the youtube video has been taken down, I've also embedded her performance at the 2005 Juno Awards which I feel has better acoustics anyway. Enjoy!

image by mcadooja

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Longer An Investing Virgin:
My foray into the stock market

(I apologize for the somewhat sensationalized title. It was inspired by
this (unrelated) post at Budgets Are Sexy, which I can't seem to get out of my mind!)

I did it! I finally bought some shares of stock. In previous posts I talked about how my natural aversion to risk held me back from investing in the stock market. But several things lined up recently as if to say it's now or never and so, with sweaty palms and a fluttering heart, I finally took the plunge!

What allowed me to risk my hard earned money: Well, I managed to save up some cash specifically for investing, and a company I was following did a stock split and their shares were now affordable to me. By the end of the day I had gained a whopping $4! Not bad for a newbie right? I know markets are fickle. But I'm in it for the long run so hopefully that was a good omen. Wish me luck!

Check out this old stock market photo (by Bourke-White) circa 1936. Can you believe that was less than a century ago?

In other good news, two of my posts were included in carnivals this week:

* SimplyForties hosting the 'Snowpocalypse Edition' of the Festival of Frugality featured some surreal pictures of the recent snowstorm that debilitated parts of the country and also my post on extending the life of clothes.

* Len Penzo hosting the 'Fiscally Irresponsible TV Characters Edition' of the Carnival of Personal Finance wondered how so many of our beloved characters got away with unrealistically expensive tastes and also had some advice for me on my recent post on 5 Obstacles to Financial Success.

Head on over to their sites and check out the great jobs they did compiling some compelling material. Thanks for including me in your carnivals Mary and Len!

image by Katrina Tulio

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thriftygal's Top Ten Money Tunes

Because talking about money all the time can get pretty dull and boring, let's have some fun and listen to some of my favorite money songs! I'll include a brief portion of the lyrics I think is pertinent to money. Without further ado, here's my ten favorites:

1) For the love of Money - O'Jays
Reintroduced to the younger generations as the theme song of 'The Apprentice' (who's star is no stranger to money himself)

Money money money money, money (x6)
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me y'all, do things, do things, do bad things with it
You wanna do things, do things, do things, good things with it

2) She works hard for the Money - Donna Summers

She works hard for the money
So hard for it honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right

3) Money Money Money - ABBA

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain't it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That's too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world

4) Private Dancer - Tina Turner

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do...

I want to make a million dollars
I want to live out by the sea...

5) Money (That's what I want) - Beatles
Kind of harsh, but true:

Your lovin' give me a thrill
But your lovin' don't pay my bills.
Now gimme money (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want)

6) Can't buy me love - Michale Bublé
OK, I know this is originally a Beatles hit, but I like the Michael Bublé version better. Is that sacrilegious?

Say you don't need no diamond rings, and I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of things, that money just can't buy
I don't care too much for money
Money can't buy me love

7) Money - Michael Jackson

I'll never betray or deceive you my friend but...
If you show me the cash
Then I will take it
If you tell me to cry
Then I will fake it
If you give me a hand
Then I will shake it
You'll do anything for money...
Anything for money

8) Opportunities - Pet Shop Boys
How direct can you get? :

I've got the brains, you've got the looks
Let's make lots of money
You've got the brawn, I've got the brains
Let's make lots of money

9)Mo Money Mo Problems - Notorious B.I.G. (featuring Puff Daddy & Mase)

bag a money much longer than yours
and a team much stronger than yours, violate me
this'll be your day, we don't play
Mess around be D.O.A., be on your way
Cause it ain't enough time here, ain't enough lime here
for you to shine here
deal with many women
but treat dimes fair
and I'm bigger than the city lights
down in Times Square

10) Ka-Ching  - Shania Twain

You'd think Shania and ex-husband Mutt Lange wrote this song after the current economic woes, but this single about our excessive consumerist culture debuted in 2003! Boy do I have new respect for her!(although I don't get the symbolism of the three-legged dog)

We live in a greedy little world
that teaches every little boy and girl
To earn as much as they can possibly
then turn around and spend it foolishly

We've created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don't possess
Our religion is to go and blow it all
So it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall

All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before
So take me to the nearest store

Can you hear it ring
It makes you wanna sing
It's such a beautiful thing--Ka-ching!

When you're broke go and get a loan
Take out another mortgage on your home
Consolidate so you can afford
To go and spend some more when you get bored

Hope you've enjoyed them as much as I do. What's your favorite money tune?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ridiculously Absurd Business Ventures

Excuse me while I vent: I’ve heard of some over-the-top business ideas, but this takes the cake!

Miley Cyrus’s 9-year-old sister Noah is launching a lingerie line for children! I cannot decide which is more disturbing – that a 9-year-old is designing lingerie, or that it’s targeted towards children. This has got to be the most asinine, pervse, inappropriate, irresponsible and exploitative idea for which a parent has given permission. Really! A child has no business in the lingerie business!

Tell me, who is going to benefit from this venture except for kiddie-porn enthusiasts? Which parent in their right mind - except for the Cyruses and the few nutjobs who pimp-out parade their daughters at child pagents – is even going to consider buying lingerie for their prepubscent daughters? Seriously, this line is aimed at children from ages 9 – 14. Does breast tissue even start to develop at 9???? As if the alarming rate of teen pregnencies isn’t enough, we don't need to add tween-pregnencies to the mix!

If this is the world my baby is stepping into, I’m going to have to shield her in a place far far away. Am I just too old fashioned or what is wrong with this picture? (That's Miss Cyrus in her haloween costume to your right) Why does common sense and the innosence of childhood need to be sacrificed for the benefit of notoriety fame and making money?

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest (pun intended!) what other totally absurd business ventures have you heard of that made your blood boil?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

5 Obstacles To Financial Success

When it comes to obstacles to financial success, many people focus on debt. But debt is just one roadblock on the path to financial success. Other roadblocks are not as tangible. But as with any good plan, it is important to identify all obstacles that could hinder your success, especially if they are subtle. Once you identify which hurdles are setting you back, overcoming them would become a lot simpler:

1) Lack of knowledge/education - You don't need to register for Personal Finance 101 to get familiar with concepts related to money. If you can't pick up a book at the library, the internet is a vast resource you can use. Knowledge = power when it comes to realizing your financial dreams. Setting up this site and interacting with seasoned PF bloggers is one way I'm making sure I learn about personal finance.

2) Lack of motivation - Living paycheck to paycheck or drowning in debt should inspire you to take control of your finances. But sadly it has the opposite effect on some people and they continue on their downward spiral. If getting out of your rut is a problem, picturing why or for whom you're trying to regain financial control will help motivate you. It is also important to come up with a plan on how you will be proceeding step by step towards achieving your financial goals.

3) Lack of time - This is really an excuse. Unless you were born with a silver spoon, everyone needs to put in some measure of time to achieve their dreams. Start off by limiting or getting rid of time killers like TV. Then dedicate an appropriate amount of time towards your goals like learning about finance or a setting up a side-business. I find time to read or draft a post for this site during my daily commute.

4) Lack of role models - This is something I'm struggling with. From the time I can remember, everyone I knew who was employed had a nine-to-five job. Success was defined as getting a raise or promotion or a better paying job. The few in my family who had tried their hand at being self-employed had failed and therefore, being an entrepreneur had a negative connotation for me. Forget about investments - no one I knew invested in the stock market. This single-salary mindset is a huge obstacle I am having a hard time overcoming.

5) Risk aversion or lack of it - I must have been born without the 'risk-taking' gene. I simply loath risk and try to avoid it as much as possible. This is why I am not yet 'prosperous' even though I have no debt. Being risk-averse has its advantages: when everyone else was buying houses via sub-prime loans, we were saving up for a 20% deposit and avoided the negative effects of the recent housing bust. But while it's healthy to an extent, you don't get huge payoffs without taking big risks either. On the other hand, as any gambler can attest, taking on too much risk is detrimental to financial success. Therefore, the goal is to find a healthy medium. My plan to overcome risk aversion is by starting with baby steps. I'll get my feet wet in the stock market with a minimal amount and see where it takes me.

What other obstacles have you found impeding your success? How did you go about overcoming them?

image by technotr