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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.

cheerful elementary school teacher and student high five in classroom

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!

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.

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. 

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.

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.

group of candles for the holidays

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.

5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters. This is true for a child managing a five-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a five-thousand dollar-a-week salary.

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For many years of my life I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decision.

An allowance teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

Make Every Day Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front row seat on the very best time of the year. I love all of those things. What I don’t love is the idea that Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that we give thanks. Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the last Thursday of November.

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Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things, and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

And just as strong is the belief that stress can make us sick. It’s linked to heart disease and cancer. Shockingly, stress is responsible for up to 90 percent of all doctor visits. Just think about the financial costs associated with stress-related maladies. The antidote for stress is gratitude, as it calms our minds and lowers our blood pressure. Then, we are able to see our circumstances in a fresh, new light.

Even in the face of tremendous loss or tragedy, it’s possible to feel gratitude. Adversity can actually boost feelings of gratitude, a phenomenon that many of us experienced immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, as we saw the tremendous loss in light of what we still possessed.

A Homemade Christmas Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers and others with a jar of your own signature hand and body lotion this Christmas will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good.

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Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Here’s the routine: Purchase the specific ingredients, mix them together, divide between your choice of small containers, apply a label or gift tag, embellish with a ribbon and there you go. Done and in no time flat.

To make this lovely hand and body lotion you’ll need: