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Just read in Money magazine that the more television you watch, the more you spend. A sociologist at Boston College found that every hour of television we watch in a week, we spend roughly $200 a year. So if I average 14 hours a week (two hours a day is pretty reasonable, right?), I’m spending an extra $2800 (in addition to the outrageous amount I’m already paying for satellite).

Money, always good for a laugh, suggests that if you can’t turn off your TV completely, at least change the channel. “No one ever looked at the PBS anchor and said, ‘I’ve got to get a blazer like that!'”

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My honey and I are in the market for not one but two new-to-us cars. Both of us are pushing 200k miles, and we know it won’t be long before the transmission falls out or the engine explodes.

Our experiences have reminded me of an overused ploy by “marketers” to get us to buy their junk. They act like they won’t be able to sell whatever it is for this low, low price tomorrow. But it’s just not true.

If someone will sell you a 2005 Honda Pilot with 50k miles for $14,000 today, then you can get it for that price tomorrow. Or next week. You just have to be patient.

Typically, a sale is not a limited opportunity to buy something at a reduced price. It’s a clue to what you should really pay for the item.

Read this article about Dave’s thoughts on the economy. I like this in particular:white_house

The healing of the economy will begin and end with you.

A $1000 check from the government is not going to fix all your problems if you think a $1000 check from the government will fix all your problems.

See also this insightfulness from my one and only.

This family was on the Today Show last week and, while I admire their frugality, I was left wondering why their story is news. The big gig idebtfreefamilys that they have five kids and no debt and live debt free on very little. It’s impressive that they live on $44K each year, but I feel like most of us could if we really tried. When you work hard to find good deals – I mean really, really, really good deals – you can get a lot of stuff for very little money.

  • For a very close friend or family member: Buy a blank journal with 25-30 pages at a craft store, along with some fun pens and scrapbooking stickers. On each page, write abougiftt a memory you have with the person you’re making the book for. Decorate with doodles, stickers, or photos if you have them. Estimated cost: $10-12
  • For your mom or dad: Find old photos of yourself and your siblings and put them in a collage frame with a large white mat (these are always on sale at discount stores). On the mat, write a favorite Bible verse, a poem, or a quote about family or home. Estimated cost: $15-20
  • For your spouse: Plan a close-to-home weekend trip doing something your spouse loves like hiking, camping, playing a sport, visiting historic sites, or touring a free museum or art gallery. Atlanta has a great website for searching for free and cheap events; look for a similar site in your city. Estimated cost: $20-30
  • For anyone: Buy a set of white canvas place mats and fabric paint and create custom table linens. You don’t even have to be artistic – find an image or design you like and trace it onto the place mat, or paint basic stripes or circles, or print the person’s name or monogram. Estimated cost: $10-15

I’m not afraid to admit it – I kind of like being a cheapskate.

I have a relatively small budget for buying Christmas presents for this guy (at least, compared to what I see some other people spending at Christmas), so it’s vitally important to me that I get the maximum amount of gifts with the money I have to spend. And you know what? It actually makes gift giving more fun to me when I research and plan and compare prices via an intricate system of spreadsheets.

If I put this kind of effort into maximizing all the rest of the money I spent, I’d be in Italy right now.cinqueterre

I felt like I beat the system at the grocery store the other day. I went to buy ice cream (yum … ice cream) and saw that Breyers was on sale, two for $5. Score! That’s a huge discount on some tasty, tasty cream. But, in a icecreamdouble-take kind of moment, I noticed that the Breyers packages were noticeably smaller than the Publix brand packages. Upon further examination, Breyers sells ice cream in 1.5 quart cartons, while Publix offers a 2 quarts, which translates to one-third more ice cream. Doing some quick math (meaning I grabbed my cell phone and pulled up the calculator), I realized the Publix ice cream was cheaper per ounce than the on-sale Breyers.

That’s how they get you at the grocery store.

By screaming about sales, the stores take your mind off the fact that another brand might be cheaper. Or it might give you more for your money.

Don’t fall for it when a product is advertised, for instance, as “3 for the price of 2!” In most cases, that just means that the product is on sale for one-third off the regular price. You don’t actually have to buy 3. Buy only one and save even more.

I’d heard about a going-out-of-business sale at a store I like and headed over today to try to land some good bargains. The trip has inspired a new tag for the blog: That’s how they get yousale.

Everything left in the store (which wasn’t much) was marked by huge “50% OFF” signs. In small print, the sign also said “original price.” The store which shall not be named isn’t known for being outrageously priced. In fact, I’d consider them in the middle- to low-range of the pricing strata. Yet the “sale” prices weren’t all that impressive.

I realized they had marked up their “original” prices to make the “sale” prices seem more appealing. They don’t expect their shoppers to have any idea what something normally costs – they just advertise an EVERYTHING MUST GO sale and we all flock like lemmings, elbow one another to get to the discounted pillow shams, and revel in the glory of beating the system.

Don’t fall for it, friends. Shop smart. Do some advance research, or at least take a minute to look it up on your iPhone before you buy it in the store. Chances are, you can buy it any day of the week somewhere else for that same “discounted” price.

This past Saturday, my love and I had Family Meeting. May not sound fun to you, but we love it every single time. We discussed our calendars, upcoming commitments, our budget, items we’re saving for, business plans for my self-employment, and potential travel. It is absolutely necessary for us to hold an official Family Meeting at least once each month, mostly so that we keep track of our schedules and our money. Some friends of ours call theirs the “Coin and Calendar” meeting. 

Here are some essential elements to a good family meeting:

  • A great location. We have ours at the best donut shop in north Georgia, which would get me excited about Family Meeting even if I weren’t excited about Family Meeting. And as a corollary: great coffee. You’d be amazed at what the Holy Spirit can do in conjunction with caffeine.
  • An agenda. We begin talking (and e-mailing during the workday) the week before a meeting on Saturday about items we’d each like to discuss. Some things are the same each time, like scheduling upcoming events and looking at the budget, but several things change month-to-month.
  • Fun things to discuss. If you only talk about the boring stuff, you’ll get tired of them really quickly. Incorporate conversations on places you want to visit, fun items to save up to buy (as in not a new refrigerator, but more like a Wii or an iPhone), date night ideas, and birthday/Christmas hints.
  • All parties are involved. We don’t have children yet, so “all parties” is pretty easy. But later, we’ll bring our kids in for age-appropriate parts of the meeting. We’ll talk about allowances, school events, sports practices, family vacations, and other things that won’t make them want to pull their hair out. As they grow up, this will be the perfect avenue for teaching them about effective budgeting.

I really, really, really love my budget. I do understand what this says about me. Namely, that I’m a supergeek and deserve to have my glasses snapped in two by someone taller and older than me. It’s worth it to me.

I got a lot of “to boots” by marrying Mike. I got a man who loves me, and a man who shows me and tells me he loves me to boot. I got a man who is committed to taking care of me and any future children we will have, and a man who does so systematically with a budget to boot. Our budget is a multi-tabbed juggernaut of If-Then goodness and it keeps our family in line and is slowly, methodically preparing us for any financial situation that may come about.

I like to buy things. Whether it’s a girl thing or just a human thing, I enjoy having things and the best part about our budget is that – contrary to what everyone thinks about budgets – having a budget means I can buy anything I want. Literally. If it’s legal (and that’s just a moral thing I have; you may not be bound by such constraints), I can buy it. It may take fifteen years to save for, but I know that if I want to book a seat on the next commercial flight to the moon, I can do it (which I plan to do). Right now, we have saved almost enough to buy two cars outright. Meaning no car loan. Mike bought a hot new GPS on Saturday and 1) he didn’t feel guilty about it, and 2) I wasn’t angry about it. I’m thrilled, in fact. We bought all-new living room furniture last fall and there wasn’t the first angry word spoken about how much we spent on it. Granted, we lived in our house two and a half years before we had new living room furniture, but that’s how it works. If you’re reading this and you want advice on your budget, please e-mail me and I’ll be giddy to help.