Personal Finance, Canine-Style

No matter how many excellent books you read, or how many experts you consult, sometimes the best advice comes from beast out fertilizing my yard.  My dog is pretty smart.  At middle-age, she’s got no debt, no stress, and no possibility of being fired.    I asked her what her secrets are, and she gave me 5 rules for managing her finances.

  1. Sniff around. You never know when or where an opportunity will present itself.  Keep your eyes open and look in some unusual places and you may just find the golden opportunity you’ve been waiting for.   Jacob and Susan D’Aniello have a multi-million dollar franchise called DoodyCall.   They have turned themselves into millionaires, starting with a shovel, a leash, and a plastic bag.   Never be afraid to look your future in the eye.
  2. Don’t be afraid to sniff a butt. It’s important to know who you are dealing with, especially when your are making life-changing or expensive decisions.  If it doesn’t smell right, bare your teeth and back off.   Seriously, in most situations, you can trust your gut instinct.  Especially if that instinct is telling you to run away.  Read everything you sign.  If you don’t understand it, find someone who does.  Know what you are getting into at all times.   Get referrals.  Call the Better Business Bureau.   You are in charge of protecting your own interests.
  3. Lick your own butt. Watching your emergency fund grow is nice, but not everything is.   There are some aspects of personal finance that are downright unpleasant, but ignoring them is worse.  You can’t ignore an upside-down budget forever, or it will never get fixed.   Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and do what needs to be done, no matter how distasteful.  But keep the mouthwash handy.
  4. Bury a bone. Minds out of the gutter, please.   Save for the lean times.   You may have two bones today, but what about tomorrow, or next week?  What if the bone-fairy never comes to visit again?    Make your surplus last, because you never know when life will whack you with a newspaper.  If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one.   Today.   Now.   Go set up an automatic transfer of $10 per week.  Now.   If you don’t have an emergency fund, everything is an emergency.
  5. Wag your tail. Don’t be afraid to enjoy the good things.   When you make progress on your debt, congratulate yourself.  Take credit and take pride in what you’ve accomplished.  It’s more important to be happy than rich, so don’t obsess over the little things, or the material things.   Enjoy your family, enjoy your job(or find a job you can enjoy), enjoy your life.

Maybe I shouldn’t write while watching my dog poop at 5AM.

Update:  This post has been included in Festival of Frugality.

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Effen Carpets, Effen Pets

We’ve got pets.  Lots of pets.

Chinese Food in Minutes

Chinese Food in Minutes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • 4 cats
  • 3 kids
  • 2 pythons
  • 1 dog
  • 1 hamster

And yours truly.

I count, I make a good mess.

Pets have hair.  Well, except for the python and the horrible abominations of mis-evolved Chinese food known as bald cats.

Pet hair gets every-damn-where.

A few weeks ago, we watched our friend’s dogs for a few days.

Those things pee.   Not in the backyard like good dogs, but on the girls’ bedroom carpet.

I hate pee.

Not my own, of course.

I really, really hate animal pee in my house.

So we got the carpets cleaned.   Linda told me it would be a bit more than normal, since we were going to get the air ducts cleaned at the same time.  I was fine with that.  Animal hair gets everywhere, and in the ducts, it makes the furnace and air conditioner work poorly.

Then, I got an email alert from Capital One.

Seven hundred freaking dollars!

That’s about $400 more than I was expecting.

Not flipping thrilled!  < —-Understatement.

Thankfully, we have money tucked aside for crap like this, but if stuff keeps coming up, we’re going to be hosed.

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Negotiating Superstar

Recently my son asked me for some money.

This isn’t rare.

He asks me for money on a regular basis.  He’s kind of greedy some days.

This time, however, he asked what he can do to earn some money.  Now, since I live in Minnesota and have the dog and we had the sixth snowiest winter ever this year, all my dogs little shoe-bombs have been buried for the last six months. It started snowing in early November and  as of this writing, on March 25, I still see two inches of  snow covering every thing. Last week, we had a thaw and got to see the grass.  We also got to see the dog’s business all over the yard.

I told him that I would give him $10 to clean up the yard.  He asked if a friend could help.  I said yes.  Then he asked if they would have to split the money or if I would be paying them $10 each.  I said that I’d be getting the same amount of work done, so they should split the $10.

He didn’t like the plan, so he negotiated his way up to getting seven dollars each.  Originally,  I was planning to pay $20, but got talked down by a friend.  I’d still be willing to pay $20.  What I’m trying to do is encourage him to start negotiating.  I am a lousy negotiator.  I want my kids to have better financial skills than I do.  I want them to grow up knowing how to negotiate and being comfortable negotiating.  That will make him a better financial adult.

So I encourage him. Sometimes I offer a lowball number and if he gets so upset walks away I ask him why he didn’t give a counter-offer.  If he just accepts a number that’s way too low,  or if his grandma offers him a shiny nickel to mow her yard, I tell him no. I tell him to reject it and offer something that he feels is more in line with what he would actually be doing.

Now, if I’m going to keep up these lessons I need to work on my negotiating skills too, so this is also a self-improvement game.

How do you teach a kid to negotiate? What resources are out there to teach yourself?

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Let’s Talk Pets and Other Unexpected Expenses

The following is a guest post by Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff in between.  (Ed.  Thanks, Crystal!)

I’ve been complaining on and off about the cost of my poor Pug’s allergies, so I thought I’d do a little post to let all of us vent a little about unexpected expenses. 🙂

Here’s how much Mr. Pug has cost in vet bills and medicine alone since he developed major allergies to meat proteins and dairy in February 2010:

  • February 4, 2010 – Mr. Pug licked off some hair, so we visited the crappy vet I will never go to again – $185.29
  • May 11, 2010 – Mr. Pug stopped eating and his eyes looked cloudy, first visit to new vet for dry eye – $177.78
  • May 12, 2010 – Dermatology Exam, Skin Scraping, Ear Check, and 6 medicines – $254.00
  • May 18, 2010 – Check-Up on dry eye – $53.34
  • June 2, 2010 – Check-Up on Ear Infections, Skin Infection, and medicine refills – $134.00
  • July 8, 2010 – Check-Up on Skin Infection, 2 new medicines, and 2 refills – $146.80
  • July 8, 2010 – Antibiotics – $60.60

AND we’re scheduled for another $105 check-up this coming week for his hopefully healed ear infection. So, between February 4 and this coming week, we will have paid at least $1116.81 for vet visits and medicines alone. That doesn’t even take into account the $45 bags of vegan dog food that only lasts about 6 weeks or the $500 we spent last year on 5 tooth extractions. 🙁

Thankfully we didn’t get pets until we had excess cash flow, but DANG! He’s an expensive little boy! I love him and we’d pay it again, but I wouldn’t suggest pure breeds for anybody not willing to lay out major dough for something as “simple” as allergies. We would totally let our dogs go if they needed chemotherapy or something (yes, I have my lines), but allergies…well, how do you turn down treatment that can make a pet 99% better? I’m a sucker for his big Pug eyes…I mean, look at him:

Have you had any unexpected expenses pop up? If so, what have they been and how are you dealing with it?

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