Category Archives: Cents and Sensibility

St. Valentine is not the Patron Saint of Debt

Awwww new love!

Editor’s note – this is a “from the vault” release that never stops being relevant for you, your loved ones, or Valentine’s Day…enjoy!

Here we are again. Valentine’s Day has come back around and if you’re like me, the status of your love life is directly proportional to how you feel about the holiday. Lucky for me, I’m now happily married to a great guy. This year I have some conversation hearts in a jar on my desk, a pink and red wreath on my office door, and heart wallpaper on my cell phone. Heck, I will probably even wear red on the actual day. Love is grand! But this hasn’t always been the case. If I were stuck back where I was eight years ago, single and somewhat bitter about love (when I spent Valentine’s Day with a guy friend eating wings at Hooters), I’d probably be tempted to pelt a few snowballs at any happy couple that wandered into striking distance. I will sheepishly admit that in my “loveless” years I may have crudely referred to the holiday as VD.

I’ve heard many times that Valentine’s Day is just a made up holiday to line the pockets of candy and card makers. I can understand why people would say that but I also think they’re missing the point. Is there anything really wrong with taking one day to focus on telling our loved ones how we feel about them?

The key is not to get carried away with overspending and to focus on the point of the holiday, which is to show someone that you love and appreciate him/her. Choose carefully how you share the love. According to my friend Carla, her husband had better not even consider getting her that footed pajama thing she keeps seeing ads for. Apparently, she is not buying the claims that “it feels like a hug”. Even if you can’t afford a giant stuffed bear, Godiva chocolates, jewelry, and two dozen roses for your sweetie, there are still ways to show that you care without going into debt.

Continue reading St. Valentine is not the Patron Saint of Debt

Predicting Your Financial Future

As a kid, I loved to play with a Magic 8-Ball that was supposed to hold legendary fortune telling power. I’d sit around for hours asking it exactly what the future would hold for me. Would I be rich? (Outlook not so good). Would I marry the man of my dreams? (Reply hazy, try again). Would I be happy? (You may rely on it). I think we have all wished that something or someone could tell us exactly the type of future that we can expect. Amazingly, some of those magic powers possessed by the 8-ball must have rubbed off on me because I am about to accurately predict your financial future. I won’t even charge you $8.99 per minute or speak in a bad Caribbean accent. Are you ready?

Your car is going to need repairs and tires every few years. You will need to buy new clothes for you and your family. Your air conditioner/appliances/roof will need replaced or repaired. The cost of living will rise. Your pet will need to go to the vet. You may lose your job. You or a family member will get sick and need medication. Medication will continue to be outrageously expensive.

So, am I really psychic? (Don’t count on it). However, my predictions are right on the money. Most of us go through life with our fingers crossed, hoping that nothing goes wrong. Even if you are the luckiest person alive, something has to go wrong sometime. When it does, it’s probably going to cost you. If you just accept the fact that something is inevitably going to happen that wasn’t planned, you will be able to deal with it much more effectively. Here’s how: Continue reading Predicting Your Financial Future

Little Green Lies: Fibbing for Budget’s Sake

**Editor’s Note: I chose this for another “Throwback Thursday” post ~ great reads from last year I’m not ready to archieve w/o one more pass. Enjoy!

I’m an honest person. In fact, I hate lying and am usually terrible at it. I’m the kind of person you should never ask “if your butt looks fat” in those jeans. While I wouldn’t be heartless about it, I’d probably say that we “can find a more flattering style.” So knowing this about myself, I was shocked and appalled by my recent behavior on a shopping trip to a local specialty store.

My friend Cristy at work has the coolest little loose leaf tea pot. I fell in love with it as she kindly made me a cup of tea one afternoon when I was feeling under the weather. So, after some internal deliberation about spending money for something that I wanted but did not necessarily need, I knew that I simply had to have one, too.

Before I went shopping, I estimated that I would probably spend about $30 on a tea pot and a couple of ounces of tea. I knew from the moment the sales clerk opened his mouth that my carefully planned budget had met its match. This guy knew more about tea and tea accessories than Bob Barry knows about Sooner football.  He was simultaneously incredibly helpful and terrifying.

I was firm on only spending a set amount in this store and he was the czar of cross selling. I picked out the tea pot and then moved on to tea. I already knew which type I wanted so I asked for two ounces. He reminded me that you ‘get a better price break if you buy four.’ I was still feeling strong at this point and stuck to my guns. “No, I’ll just start with two ounces, thank you,” I said.

Then, he threw the first curveball my way. “You’ll need a tin to store it in. Otherwise it will rot. Would you like the small one or large one?” My mind started racing. Rotten tea? Well, I can’t have that! I had no choice but to buy the tin, right? So, I weakly said, “I’ll take the small one.” Score one for the tea king. Continue reading Little Green Lies: Fibbing for Budget’s Sake

Going to Plan Z: When the Last Thing You Expect to Happen Happens

Mom and dad during their dating years.

My dad, George, has always been the hardest working person I know. I remember getting up every morning for school when I was a kid. My mom, Sue, would do everything she could to wake me up nicely: play music, talk softly, and turn on the bathroom heater for me so I wouldn’t be cold. She’d always end up practically dragging me out of bed because I just didn’t want to get up. I’ve never been a morning person. My dad was never there on those mornings.

He was already at work, leaving before the sun came up while I was still nestled snugly in my bed. I don’t ever remember him missing work for any reason. Ever. Snow, sleet, sunshine, sickness- nothing would keep him from working hard for his family.

My parents looked forward to their retirement years. They had always wanted to travel. When they got closer to retirement, their plan was to work a few more years, retire and see the world together. This was the “Plan A” they envisioned. They were only a few years away from this anticipated retirement plan and were really on the downhill slope when suddenly, in one single moment, everything changed. Our entire immediate family’s lives were irreparably altered.

I will never forget February 7, 2005. It was the morning after the Super Bowl. I was a little tired on the drive to work because my brother, Keith had hosted a family watch party the night before. Just as I arrived at work, my cell phone rang and it was Keith, who never called me in the mornings. He said they were taking dad to the hospital. He had passed out at work, had not regained consciousness, and they didn’t know what was wrong. Continue reading Going to Plan Z: When the Last Thing You Expect to Happen Happens

When Divorce Turns Prince Charming into Attila the Hun

When I was a 23 year old college student planning my first wedding, I knew exactly what my bridesmaids would wear, the color of the flowers, where we would spend our honeymoon, where we would live after the wedding, and what our dishes would look like. What I did not plan is that we would be divorced eight years later.

Several years were spent building a “we” life, enjoying time with our couple friends, merging bank accounts, buying a home, and eventually beginning a family. When it became apparent that we were not right for each other, there was nothing left to do but to deconstruct that life and go back to a “me” life. It’s a delicate surgical process that doesn’t come with anesthesia.

This deconstruction process was by far, the lowest point in my life. The “we” that we had carefully built was ripped into “yours” and “mine.” Friends who I thought would always be in my life, chose sides and many walked away from our friendship. Thankfully, I had maintained good relationships with my closest girlfriends and they became my rocks (Thanks Marcy, Carla, Alison, and Amy). Divorce is definitely a time when you find out who your true friends are. Bank accounts were separated. The home we had so carefully decorated and landscaped was sold. A joint custody arrangement was reached for our 2 year old. My ex took the stuff that he had entered the relationship with, I took mine, and we evenly divided the rest. I have never felt more lonely, sad, scared, confused, or hurt than I did as we dismantled the dreams we had started together. Continue reading When Divorce Turns Prince Charming into Attila the Hun

Financial Ed 101

There she is, in all her high school senior Glamour Shot glory, in desperate need of "Financial Ed, 101." Champagne taste and a caviar budget!

When I was a teenager, I could not wait to get my driver’s license. I had glorious visions of myself: sunglasses-clad, stereo blasting, out on the open road with the wind whipping through my hair, free at last from the confines of Mom picking me up and dropping me off. However before I was allowed the luxury of driving, I had to take Driver’s Education Class. Our dauntless high school football coach would load several of us into the car each week, put his life into our sweaty palms and let us practice our lane changes and three-point turns. Of course, if we started to swerve out of our lane, he was there with the brake on his side of the car to keep us from crashing. I was forced to read driving manuals and watch graphic movies about the horrific results when bad driving happened to good people. Finally, after hours of practice and study, I made my way to the DMV to take the ever-important driving test. My examiner was kind and I was well prepared so- except for a failed parallel parking attempt- I passed. All of those hours of learning to drive left me pretty well equipped for whatever came my way.

Not too long after I became master of my driving domain, I started receiving credit card solicitations in the mail. I had glorious visions of myself: sunglasses-clad, stereo blasting, out on the open road to the mall with the wind whipping through my hair, free at last from the confines of having to pay cash. To my relief, there was no Credit Education Class that I had to take. No manuals to read. No movies to watch about the unfortunate souls on the brink of financial ruin. No coach to put on the brakes before my spending swerved out of control. No ever-important credit education test. No examiner to make sure I knew when to park my credit card. I had a license to charge and I had never been taught how to avoid crashing. Continue reading Financial Ed 101

N.U.T. #3 – I live below my means.

In the not too distant past, there used to be a fairly tried, true, and tested piece of advice for financial stability. If you wanted to be financial stable, all you had to do was live within your means. Or, as my favorite double negative phrase of all time says, “DON’T BUY CRAP YOU DON’T NEED WITH MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE!”

Just a few short years ago, this timeless piece of advice was enough to keep just about anyone in just about any financial situation above water if they were willing to put it into practice. Sure, sure… there were and still are other more sophisticated financial axioms for people who really wanted to get ahead, but if you just wanted to be financially responsible, all you had to do was live within your means.

And up until sometime in late 2008, that was good enough. But then the markets crashed here in the U.S. and around the globe, and like most pieces of conventional financial wisdom, the idea of living within your means went from being a great financial axiom to being not quite enough. In fact, after 2008, most people (myself included) stopped believing in the idea of financial stability completely.

With the events of the last few years as context, I (likely along with millions of other people around the world) started reevaluating my finances a little over a year ago. Continue reading N.U.T. #3 – I live below my means.

How Buying A Car is Like Watching “The Bachelor/ette”

Chris Harrison accompanying "The Bachelorette" Jillian Harris to her next scene.

When the Bachelor/Bachelorette started all those years ago, I tuned in just out of curiosity. Well, that and because I went to college with the host Chris Harrison and wanted to check out his new project. Over the years, I have watched every season. Some were obviously better than others. I cried along with the fairytale of Trista finding her Prince Charming in Ryan. I laughed at Bob’s goofy antics but was pretty grossed out as he mugged down with every female in close proximity. I was bored to tears as Prince Personality searched for his princess. I wanted to gouge out my eardrums as Wes sang his “special love song” to Jillian for the 437th time. I screamed at Jake through my TV and begged him not to pick Vienna but he wouldn’t listen! Now, with Brad in his second turn as the bachelor, I am firmly hooked once again.

If you untangle yourself from all of the drama and take a step back, you will see that the Bachelor/ette concept is also a pretty interesting social experiment. During the Bachelorette, the men are certainly no angels. They remind me of the many National Geographic shows I’ve watched about animal behavior. You know the ones where the little tiny bird puffs up and swaggers around, his magnificent feathers on full display as he proudly and somewhat desperately struts around, trying to get the attention of the female.

Continue reading How Buying A Car is Like Watching “The Bachelor/ette”

The Truth about Santa (Spoiler alert)

Kyle at age 2 and "some strange old dude"

Editor’s Note – Because this is a holiday week, our Relationships post has been written by our Sense and Centsibility author, Jenn Wallis.  It’s a Christmas parenting story. About Santa.

For years, we went to great lengths to make sure my oldest son Kyle kept believing that Santa is real. After he would go to sleep on Christmas Eve, my husband Justin would get out one of his Doc Marten’s boots from the 90’s (that he still wears – but that’s fodder for another blog) and imprint the sole into the fireplace ash and on the hearth, as proof that Santa had come down the chimney.  Justin would even go out into the driveway and make a few muddy reindeer hoof prints.  We’d take bites out of the cookies and pour out a little of the milk to look like Santa had sipped it (it had been sitting out for hours, after all).

Continue reading The Truth about Santa (Spoiler alert)