Mistakes We Make and the Courage to Fix Them

My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Migaki, taught us it’s important to learn from history so we don’t have to repeat mistakes made in the past. He made that lesson real when he said that last year counts as history, and so does last month and last week.

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Mr. Migaki said that something is only a mistake if you can’t fix it. Sometimes he would let us retake our tests to fix our mistakes. We got do-overs! He’d grade our papers with a red pen, but if the do-over fixed the original mistake (he never, ever gave us the right answer) he would applaud the success by crossing through the bad grade, turning it into an A.

I couldn’t help but recall this wonderful teacher and give thanks for that life lesson when I got this message from Jenny …

Dear Mary: I have to tell you, in response to 3 Simple Ways to Beat Retailers at Their Own Games, how I fell victim to a good salesman the other day. Fortunately, there’s a happy ending.

I was shopping for groceries and the announcement was to gather around at the end of Aisle 2 in two minutes for an unadvertised giveaway—if you got there right away, you got an eyeglass cleaner cloth, which was promised to be your ticket to something special later, as it was first-come, first-served. You know the drill, I’m sure!

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My Shopping Addiction Rehab Program

Shopping is my thing. I love the thrill of the hunt, that feeling of discovery and the joy of a bargain. I find it satisfying in ways I can’t fully describe. I want to experience the feeling as often as possible. Shopper’s high is no joke. It’s real, it’s palpable and it’s addictive.

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Shopping got me into a lot of trouble. In just 12 years I ran up more than $100,000 in consumer debt—most of it on credit cards. Eventually all of it came crashing down and nearly took me with it. Thankfully, that crisis became the catalyst to turn my life around.

It took 13 years to repay all of the debt. I learned a lot about myself in the process but mostly that the satisfaction I got from shopping was short lived. It was fake because it vanished in less time than it took me to get the stuff to the car. But that just set me up to do it again and again because the small bursts of  joy I got from shopping were worth the pain that always followed. Crazy I know, but absolutely true.

I could so easily go back to my old ways, and that’s scary. So, what keeps me on the straight and narrow? It’s you! You’re my shopping addiction rehab program. Paying off that monstrous debt and these past 25 years of writing, researching and communicating with you on a daily basis have become the best maintenance program I could hope for. And the best part? I get to use my shopping skills nearly every day, now in a constructive way.

A few days ago I got an email from Jeannine who asked simply, “What is the best inexpensive Bluetooth speaker?” Just like that, I flew into shopping mode—that thing I love to do because it brings me uncanny satisfaction. But here’s the deal: I’m not shopping for myself. I’m not spending my money or creating a bit of debt. I’m researching for Jeannine and that frees me from all of the personal negative stuff. I get to experience the joys of shopping that I love so much without any of the remorse or regret, guilt or shame. That’s authentic, lasting satisfaction. I love my job.

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3 Simple Ways to Beat Retailers at Their Own Games

Retailers work hard to get our money. They offer special promotions and put other tactics into play, even hiring human behavior specialists to figure out our shopping habits and how to get us to spend more.

By having a few tricks of your own, you can be a smart consumer, foil those plans and save big.

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GRAB THE LOSS LEADERS THEN LEAVE

A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheaply, they’re willing to lose money just to get you through the door. Once there, studies show that half of all of your supermarket purchases will be unplanned. That means this store is doing all it can to help you go nuts with unplanned spending—grabbing anything that looks good.

Know this going in. Concentrate on getting only the loss leaders and grocery-listed items you need, then make a beeline for the checkout so you can get out of there as quickly as possible.

BUY SEASONAL ITEMS AT CLEARANCE PRICES

Retailers are in the business to make big profits on full-priced items. And they know you can’t resist new items to decorate your home or outfit your family.

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Your Best Money Year Ever

For years (and years), I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive for Allianz Insurance Group reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang onto our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

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We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then by consciously applying them over and over again those principles will become automatic responses—financial habits.

Are you ready to make 2017 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence—and take control of your money.

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Stuff Grandparents Need

As people age, certain activities of normal day-to-day life can become challenging, not that I know anything about this from personal experience or anything. I’ve only heard, got it?

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Take ordinary floor cleaning for example, known to many as “mopping.” Or how about your basic can opening. Both can become challenging for grandparents and other seniors, so I’ve been told.

I’m pretty excited to let you know about some solutions to these and other similar dilemmas and when I say solutions, I’m also referring to gift ideas. Do not assume that your grandparents would be anything but overjoyed  with any of the following.

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To Shred or Not to Shred?

Can someone legally dig through your trash looking for tasty credit card receipts, account numbers, or even your Social Security number? In the decision California vs. Greenwood, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public… is unreasonable.”

In other words, when you throw something in your trash and then drag that container to the street for pickup, it is available to anyone willing to overlook the disgusting smells and textures of your trash can or dumpster.

Think that doesn’t happen? Well, think again. It has, it does and sadly, it will continue.

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WHY SHRED

In 2015, more than 13 million people fell victim to identity theft felonies in the U.S.

Identity fraud is a serious issue as this band of thieves have stollen $112 billion in the past six years. That equals $35,600 stolen per minute, or enough to pay for four years of college every four minutes.

Some of these victims could have prevented this from happening by simply shredding their uniquely identifying documents.

If you do not know how to effectively shred your most important documents, it’s time to learn. 

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7 Places to Look for Free Money

Recently, I read about a guy who has a hobby of looking for money in gutters, parking lots and other public places—and keeps a running tab. He routinely goes over $100 in a year. Not bad! Just imagine if he knew about other places that harbor free money just for the taking.

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VENDING MACHINES. Start paying attention to vending machine coin return compartments. Luckily, most of them are clear plastic so you can see into them without getting down and reaching to feel around. Winter is the best time to clean up on coins as people are often wearing gloves and don’t feel the coins they leave behind.

JUNK JEWELRY. Toured your jewelry box lately? Gather up all of the broken chains, mateless earrings, bracelets, rings—all of that gold from the ‘80s that you don’t wear anymore. If it’s at least 10k gold, it’s like cash. Go in person to three jewelry stores to see what they’ll pay you for it, then go with the highest bid. Never mail your junk gold to a “gold dealer,” and be wary of the popular gold parties.

PENSION FUNDS. If you or a family member worked for a company with a pension plan and were terminated because the company went bankrupt or was bought out by another company, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Last year, PBGC held $133 million in unclaimed benefits for 32,000 people. That averages nearly $4,200 per person. To see if you have anything coming your way, search the PBGC database, https://search.pbgc.gov. “Finding a Lost Pension,” may also be helpful.

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Get the Maximum Burning Hours from Candles Plus Other Great Tips

Am I the only one who didn’t know that there’s a definite protocol for how to burn  jar and pillar candles? I’ve made an ugly mess of so many candles in my life—only to toss them out long before their time.

But no more because I’ve learned the secret to keeping large candles looking good and  functional right down to the last bit.

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HOUR-PER-INCH RULE. Although it is absolutely counterintuitive, the fact is that burning a pillar or jar candle for at least one hour per inch of diameter each time you light up will give the candle many more burning hours over time. This way, the flame has enough time to melt the wax all the way to the outer edges so the whole candle burns down efficiently. Each time you cut short a burning session, the flame only burns the wax in the center, which wastes the outer wax at that level.

HOTEL TRAVEL TIP. If you’ve ever left something behind in a hotel room, you are going to love this tip. Make this the first thing you do when you walk in your room: Take a hand towel from the bathroom and spread it out on the desk or other counter top in the room. This becomes the de facto place for all of your things that you have a place for at home. Put your room key on the towel, your car keys, sunglasses, rechargers, wallet—everything. Now every thing is visible in one spot, rather than scattered about the room. As you come and go, return these items to their place on the towel. When you’re ready to check out, no searching, nothing left behind.

NONFOOD BARGAINS.  Do not buy nonfood items at the grocery store. Items like paper goods, garbage bags and cleaning supplies can all be purchased for lower prices at discount stores like Target, Walmart or Kmart. Grocery stores only sell them thinking the convenience of buying these items at the same time you buy your food will make you not mind spending twice as much.

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