Delayed Gratification

I work daily to raise my kids to be more financially responsible than I have been.  One of the most difficult pieces has been to explain the benefits of delayed gratification to my children. It’s hard enough, as an adult, to take delayed gratification to heart.  For a child?   It seems to be almost impossible.

My son wants an XBox 360 Elite.   Good for him.  He wants to renegotiate the terms of his allowance to get it faster.  Currently, every other time he gets an allowance paid out, it goes into his bank account, to be mostly untouched.  The other times he can do as he pleases with his money.   We are enforcing a 50% long term savings plan. Now, with a medium-term goal in mind, he wants to keep all of his money, and only put gift money into the bank account.

Should we let him tap his bank account for a shiny new bauble?  It’s been building for a while, so it’s delayed, right?   I don’t think that would accomplish much. Like any other 10-year-old, his interests change often.

Should we let him change the terms of our agreement, speeding a medium-term goal at the expense of his long-term savings?  My wife and I haven’t had a chance to discuss this, but my initial reaction is not to allow it.   His savings has the potential to turn into a decent car in a few years, if he wants.  That would be a car he knows he earned.

Last week, when we were at the store, he asked if he could borrow some money to buy a game.   I don’t expect him to carry his money around everywhere, so I would have allowed it, if he would have had the money at home.   He didn’t.   His plan was to pay me what he did have as soon as we got home, then work his butt off for a few days to earn enough extra to pay it back.   I won’t be a credit agency for my kids, so I said no.  He was disappointed, but, by the time he had earned the money, he no longer wanted the game.   I consider that a win, but I don’t know that he learned any lesson other than “Dad’s a jerk.”

Someday, when his life launch is smooth due to a lack of debt-dependence, he’ll look back on these lessons and smile.

I hope.

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5 Ways to Reduce Temptation and Have a Peaceful dinner

It never fails: you send the kids off to the salt mine babysitter for the evening, cook a nice dinner and light some candles. Then, just as you sit down, the phone rings.

Now you have 2 choices, you can do like me and ignore the phone if it’s inconvenient to answer or you can ruin a romantic dinner.   The telemarketers know that, statistically, you are home at dinner time.  They don’t care if you are celebrating an anniversary or just trying to connect with your loved one.

Why not preemptively stop the irritation? While you’re at it, stop the junk mail, too. It’s not as hard as you’d think.  It’s a simple, almost free process that will not only eliminate the frustration of pointless calls and sorted junk mail, but will also cut down on the temptation of seeing something shiny to buy.

Here are the four steps to a leaner, greener and romantic dinner-making you:

1. Get on all of the Do Not Call lists.

  • You can get on the federal list by visiting www.donotcall.gov or calling (888) 382-1222.  The tele-sales weasels will have have a month to clear you out of their systems.
  • If you still get calls–some calls are still allowed, including political calls, non-profit fundraisers, and surveys–they are still required to maintain an in-house do not call list.  Tell them to put you on that list.
  • Many states have a Do Not Call list that is entirely independent of the the federal list. This is redundant, but the more roadblocks you put up, the better you will be.

If you are still getting calls, report them to the FTC at:

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
1-877-FTC-HELP
www.ftc.gov

2.  Opt out of junk mail. The Direct Marketing Association manages a list of people who do not want junk mail.  This list only applies to members of the association, but most mass-mailers participate.  Go to www.dmachoice.org to enroll.  It costs $1 to get on the list and will stop most junk mail for 3 years.

3. Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers. Go to  www.optoutprescreen.com to remove your name from the lists generated by the major credit bureaus to sell to marketing firms.  You can put a halt to this breed of junk for 5 years or forever.

4. Ask them to stop. If you are getting catalogs from a company with which you have an existing relationship, ask them to knock it off.   Virtually every one will stop sending you garbage to ensure a continuing business relationship with you.

5.  Guerrilla Warfare. If none of this works, there are still a couple of options.

  • Keep an airhorn by the phone.   They won’t call twice.
  • Take everything you receive from a company, stuff it all in the prepaid return envelope they helpfully included, and drop it back in the mail.   They only get charged for the prepaid envelopes when they are used, so use them up.  It’s illegal to alter them to send mail to other people, but it’s not illegal to mail them all of their own garbage.  If you cost them enough money, they will eventually back down.
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Is Your Budget Doing More Harm Than Good?

Do you stress over your money?

Is your spouse under the impression that you are constantly fighting over money?

Are you constantly fighting over money?

Have you completely eliminated your quality of life?

Do you spend hours each week analyzing where your money has gone?

A total budget can have a negative effect on the other parts of your life. If your spouse isn’t 100% on board, maybe he/she needs some “blow money” that doesn’t need to be tracked.  If you aren’t spending enough time with your children because you are tracking expenses and adjusting your budget every day, you need to automate something, or at least loosen your standards.  Maybe tracking every penny isn’t the right method of budgeting for you.

Don’t let the perfect budget destroy the rest of your life. If money is still a fight, you’re going to need to compromise on something, now, or you’ll end up compromising with the help of a divorce attorney.

Don’t forget, you are living now, not in the future.   Plan for the future, but live in the present.  There is a balance there, somewhere. Find it, or you and your loved ones won’t be happy.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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Budget Lesson, Part 6

It’s been a month since I’ve written a post for the budget series, so I’ll be continuing that today.  See these posts for the history of this series.

This time, I’ll be reviewing my non-monthly bills.  These are the bills that have to be paid, but aren’t due on a monthly basis.  Some are annual, some are quarterly.

  • School Lunch – This could be cut by sending a bag lunch.   We pay about $1.25 per day for school lunch.   At that price, I don’t think I can beat the nutrition, let alone the convenience of the meal.  We pay this whenever the account gets below $10.
  • Property Taxes – We pay this semi-annually.  This bill goes up every year due to the ****** ***-******* ******-******* who don’t care about their constituents making ends meet.  ******* ***** ******* *******.   Huh.  Who knew WordPress came with a censor?  I could move, but I’d have to get out of commuting distance to get this down much.
  • Life insurance – I’ve got two quarterly life insurance policies.   I can’t get these much cheaper, but I should be able to next year.  The questions asked if I’ve smoked in the last three years, and that will be up on Halloween.
  • AAA   – It’s only been recently that I’ve owned vehicles reliable enough to avoid paying my AAA dues for me.   I could cancel this, but for $80 per year, the hotel discounts make it a wash.  One vacation per year comes close to making the difference.
  • Vehicle Registration – The only way to cut this would be to get rid of a vehicle.  I don’t think that’s possible for us.  We work in opposite directions and, for at least one quarter per year, spend too much time chasing around for activities.
  • Daycare – We’ve been using our current daycare provider since my oldest(10) was one.   When my youngest turns 2 in June, our costs will go down.   Without one of us quitting our job, this bill can only go down as the kids grow up.
  • City Bill – This bill combines our garbage, water, and sewer.   With three adults, three kids, and 5 animals in the house, reducing our garbage level is difficult.  We do try to manage our water usage in the summer, to keep that down.
  • Web host – I have a few domain names and a hosting package to handle my side hustles and miscellaneous projects.    This is a deductible expense.  I have been allowing my domain names to expire if the project isn’t being actively pursued.
  • Memberships – I have annual dues to two organizations.  I’m making payments on lifetime memberships, so these will be going away in about 18 months.

Reviewing this list, there doesn’t seem to be too much I can cut and accomplish any meaningful savings.  Am I missing something?

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