Questions from a reader

Under the Hood of the DVD Player
Image by Manda Mia via Flickr

Today, I’m going to post some questions I’ve been asked, either by email or elsewhere.   I’m not going to post my answers, because I would really like to know what you think.  Please help me answer these questions.

Q1. My DVD player broke recently, just after the warranty expired.   I want to go buy a new one and then put the broken one in the box to return.   Do you think that’s wrong?

Q2. My wife and I fight about money constantly.   She doesn’t see the point in saving, when she can use the money to be happy right now.  I want to retire early.  How can I show her she’s wrong?

Q3. I know I should start bringing lunch to work, but I need to network with my coworkers and supervisors to advance my career.  How can I balance that?

Like I said, I’m not going to answer these questions until you, my readers, have had a chance to weigh in.    I know what my knee-jerk response is, and I know that none of these questions are as simple as they first appear.   What’s your take?

Everyone who gives a real answer to all three questions will be entered into a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card.  Just leave a comment with all three answers and you’ll be entered.   How’s that for a bribe?   I’ll draw a name on Wednesday.  That way, you can use the money to either celebrate or mourn the election results.

Edit: I used to do the drawing and the winner is….mbhunter!  Congrats, email is sent.

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    1. Question 1 – Um, no, you shouldn’t do that.
      Question 2 – I think maybe you are going to need to try a different strategy. Instead of trying to show your wife how she is wrong, start by trying to see her point of view. Get together, maybe with a bottle of wine, and look at your current situation: all income, all debts and bills, etc. Then ask her what she wants in a year, in five years, in ten years. Share your goals with her. You might be surprised at how much you learn from this exercise! Then, figure out a way to accomplish much of both sets of goals. This is going to require some compromise on both parts but it should work if you work on it together. If you can’t seem to find any common ground, you might want to talk to a financial counselor.
      Question 3 – How about starting small, by taking your lunch one or two days a week? Depending on your relationship with your coworkers, they might like to join you around the breakroom table with your homemade lunches. It seems unlikely that you are getting networking value out of 20 lunches a month, and you might be able to accomplish the same thing with half as many lunches out.

      • 1. I agree you shouldn’t do that, but the answer is less clear-cut when it’s just a day or two after the warranty. Who’s stealing from whom at that point?

    2. Q1. No, that would be theft. It’s also not honorable. I wouldn’t suggest it.

      Q2. First you have to realize that she’s not wrong – she’s just not working on the same goal as you. I would try to sit down and logically talk out your future plans together. Where does she want to be in retirement? Does she agree with and respect your goal for early retirement? If you two can work out mutual goals, you can also work out a compromise. Mr. BFS and I have fun money accounts that get $125 a month. He and I know we can spend that on whatever we want and use the majority of our money to save for our mutual goal of retirement by age 52.

      Q3. I would suggest eating with your coworkers 2-3 times a week and bringing your lunch the other times. I was in a similar position and once my coworkers saw me bringing lunch, some of them did too. We ended up eating out 2-3 times a week and eating leftovers together the rest of the time. It was fun. Now my department has been shrunk to just me and one other person, so I just bring lunch every day…

    3. Q1: It’s worth a shot! There are a number of retailers out there that will let you return things if they turn out to be below your expectations. Even if they don’t give you cash back, they may give you store credit. I’ve returned many things in the recent year because they ended up being a poor product or they just didn’t work out (cat litter, cat food, squirrel repellent, a coffee grinder, shampoo, you name it!). Worst thing they can say is no. Could they say ‘yes?’ Absolutely! But you will never know until you ask.

      Q2: Getting on the same page financially with your spouse is not a matter of right or wrong, it’s a matter of communication and compromise. She deserves a reasonable explanation as to why you want to save and how you’d like to go about saving money. Likewise, YOU deserve a reasonsable explanation from her as to why she thinks spending all your money now and saving nothing okay. Talk it out. Make sure each side understands, and then try to meet in the middle (compromise).

      Q3: It’s hard to say without knowing the entire story. Are the coworkers always eating out for lunch and therefore you feel pressured to go with them to socialize? My suggestion: speak through your work. If you want to advance your career, you should do your job and do it well. Show up early, meet your deadlines, and do your job right the first time. You may also express to your coworkers/supervisors to work WITH them on certain projects and/or take on some of their projects. Either way, doing these things will show them you take your job seriously.

    4. Q1: Yes, that is wrong.
      Q2: Your first problem is thinking your wife is wrong. To her, she you’re the one that is wrong. Different people have different ideas of what money is for and how it should be used. You’ve got to talk (not yell and fight) with her and see if you can get an idea of where she’s coming from and also try to explain (calmly) where you’re coming from.
      Q3: Sure, you need to socialize with them. But, not at the risk of your savings/finances. See if you can’t break it up a little. Go with for lunch twice a week and brown bag it the rest of the week and just socialize at the water cooler. Or, see if you can’t get your coworkers to bring their lunches too!

    5. #1 Yes, it’s wrong. It’s dishonest, deceptive, and it’s considered stealing.

      You can get a DVD player pretty cheap, but if the one you want is more than you can afford to pay cash for, then save up for a few months to get it. Maybe even treat yourself to a better model as a reward for doing the right thing!

      #2 Try to meet her halfway. It’s not really that she’s wrong…she just has different goals than you. A good compromise is to set goals for saving, and then celebrate meeting those goals by spending on something that she likes.

      You guys have to talk at a time when your goals are not clashing (like when you’re at the mall or something) and get on the same page.

      #3 Start gradually. Bring your lunch for 2 or 3 days each week at first. You might get them to change their lunchtime habits in the process!

    6. 1) Yeah, it’s wrong. Call the manufacturer or check their website and see if there’s anything they can do for you. You may be surprised what they will do in good faith.

      2) It’s hard to understand why you need to sacrifice for something that may not happen way in the future. Still, talk with here and ask her what kind of lifestyle she wants in retirement. It will be hard to have the lifestyle she’s living now without some kind of savings plan now. You may not have t sacrifice much now to have a nice retirement.

      3) Do you need to network every day? Pick one day a week where you bring your lunch and see how that is. Or network outside, especially if you have a local park. The other person can grab takeout while you have your bag lunch. Or get a group together and organize a bag lunch day so everyone is in on it. Talk to HR. Maybe your bosses will love the initiative you take?

    7. Q 1 – You are not a thief,are you? Don’t do it. It is wrong and I believe in karma.
      Q 2 – communication is the only way to go. You should discuss where you want to be together in ten-twenty years. You also should discuss where you want to be in 6-12 months. Get the numbers on the paper. Sometimes it helps when people actually can see (not just in their minds but actually in fornt of them) what comes in, what goes out, what can be saved and what you can do with savings in the future.
      Q 3 – I have the same dillemma. I picked one day a week when I allow myself to go out and that’s it. Also, if you can combine couple of people at once and go out in a group instead of trying to network with one or the other, it would help too. Good Luck.

    8. Q1 – That is wrong. It is dishonest and illegal.

      Q2 – Start by losing the idea that she is “wrong” and you are “right.” You have different fiannacial goals. You either both need to compromise or find a way to have separate money for you both to use for what you wish. Communication and understanding will get you a lot farther than assuming she is wrong. Find out what she envisions retirement to be like. Find out if she thinks saving something for retirement means saving everything and therefore misery. There is a lot of compromise space here.

      Q3 – Balance this by balancing…there is no job that requires you to network by eating lunch with them out every single day. Eat in a few days a week and network while in the office and focus more on the quality of work rather than fitting into the club. Make sure that your time networking at lunch is actually getting you somewhere, keep in mind that you are with coworkers and don’t treat it the same way you do with friends, make sure you are professional and you will get more bang for your buck even with only doing it a couple of times a week. While eating out, be frugal there, suggest places that have lunch specials, drink water, order a soup only, etc.

    9. 1) Don’t do that. It’s beyond dishonest. It’s theft.
      2) You don’t say if you’re the sole breadwinner or not. If you are, take control of the money — deposit it into an account in your name alone, and give her an allowance, because she wants the checkbook without the responsibility. Don’t give it to her.
      3) You can’t “network” on the clock? Your work should speak for itself. Talking about your contribution to your organization with your supervisor should be in a meeting with him/her, during the day.

    10. Q1 – Sorry, but it’s wrong.

      Q2 – Well, you can divorce her, but I don’t think you should. Rather, you should try to come up with some goals together – maybe you can agree together that some spending is good, while you save more. I’m sure there is a balance in the middle

      Q3 – Bring your lunch everyday, and take it with you when you go out. If that is too “loserish”, bring you lunch and leave it behind if you do go out. You can’t go out everyday!

    11. 1. it’s wrong. I almost considered doing it for a dvd player that was a month old, but then I found out I could return it without any hassles even without the box. Plus, the mfg/retailer can tell if it’s old by the serial number. It can probably make it’s way back to you as fraudulent activity. Do you want to take that risk?

      2. Compromise. Talk.

      3. I’m with the others, you don’t have to do it everyday. Plus, we host potlucks for coworkers all the time. You can do that on the cheap and it might do more to building camaraderie than lunch.

    12. 1. wrong
      2.Use data. Show her income compounding results and retirement calculators.
      3.Bring a snack from home and just order a drink or salad at lunch. Or encourage co workers to bring and meet in conference room to chat and network.

    13. 1 – its wrong ethically, but buy doesn’t it make you mad! I’m sure that they rig the warranty period to expire just when your DVD player does. Its also probably criminal, so not really worth the risk for a couple of hundred bucks.
      2 – I’ve got the same problem. No idea how to fix it. Like to know how you manage it.
      3 – I can’t stand soggy sandwiches and much prefer to buy my lunch. There is no ‘should’ about it. If you like a freshly made lunch – then go ahead. No point in being a financial martyr about it. Also, the social side is definetly worth the few dollars you spend each day.

      • I’m not the person with the lunch issue, but how do you make your sandwiches soggy? Mayo on one slice of bread and mustard on the other–both spread evenly–acts like a good moisture barrier. I also wrap my sandwiches in foil so the excess moisture isn’t trapped.

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