One of the best things about blogging is starting conversations, and then watching all your smarty pants friends chime in with clever ideas of their own ;)
I’ve been collecting a handful of them over the months, and thought today was as good a day as any to share them around so that you guys can steal them too.
Hope they help!
Idea #1: No more gifts please, 529 only!
I have been searching for a LONG LONG time to come up with a (polite) way to stop getting gifts from family and friends without making it awkward for anyone. Some years are better than others, and it has been getting better over time (for example, now at Christmas we only focus mainly on the *kids*), but I have yet to find that magic bullet that not only pleases the givers (since, after all, they get joy out of it too) but also satisfies my minimalist/essentialist ideals too.
Enter Paul’s idea, which I’m beyond excited to try! (He left this in response to my slacking on our kids’ 529 plans without even realizing I was in desperate need of a better form of gift giving too :))
I have relied a lot on my family to help with 529s. I basically just tell them not to ever get me a present because it will be something that I don’t want and will end up sitting in my basement till I get around to donating it one day. Just tell them to give to your kids 529s instead. Strategy has worked so far. My 9 year old has close to 50K, 7 year old close to 40k, 3 year old has about 10 and my new born has less than 1k…
Some people institute a no gift policy to avoid collecting clutter, I simply took it a step further and asked for a specific gift or nothing… Family tends to be more generous in giving doing this as well.
It’s so brilliant, isn’t it? The givers get to give and know it’s 100% not only what you *want*, but also *need*, and at the same time their grandchildren/nephews/nieces/pals/whatever they are to you get helped too! And you can still buy them toys as well since the gift was for you technically and not for them ;)
Totally trying this with the next holiday – will report back!
Idea #2. Spend something, save something!
This idea comes from Stefanie O’Connell who dropped it on our post the other week about being able to save more if you’re spending everywhere. Here’s her idea:
I’m not totally against lifestyle inflation. I think some sensible improvements are reasonable, but it is SUCH a slippery slope. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to find the balance. Somewhat similar to this reader, I’ve toyed with a system of matching any new expenses with additional savings before upgrading. For example, if I’m going to start getting a massage once a month. I won’t consider myself able to ‘afford it’ until I can build both the cost of the massage and match that with an additional contribution to my savings, into my budget. TBD on how this method works out.
TBD or not, I think that’s awesome. It gives you full permission to spend and enjoy yourself, while at the same time doing the responsible thing! The more you spend, the more you save, and the less you spend the more you STILL save! (I think I got that right? ;)) I’ll have to go xfer out $2.60 now which I just spent on this delicious Starbucks coffee I’m downing, haha…
Idea #3: “Do I want to clean this thing?”
I loooooove me some self-reflecting questions whenever you’re about to buy something. We’ve covered a lot of them here on the site (I’ll list them below) but here’s a new one that I’ve never heard as yet – by fellow blogger ZJ Thorne:
“I’m a big fan of asking myself if I’d like to clean/maintain the item before purchasing it. So much is not bought this way.”
YES!! And not only with “stuff”, but with pets too. Sooooo many people pick them up on a whim without even thinking or realizing the level of responsibility that comes with it – myself very much included back in the day :( I can’t even imagine how poorly I treated those poor guys looking back, ugh…
But, a great question to ask yourself for sure. Not only to save some money, but to avoid any stress and clutter down the road the item might bring too! Here are similar questions we’ve posed over the years too that might help:
- “Would you go out and buy it again?”
- “Would I wear this out of the dressing room right now?”
- “Would you rather have this, or straight up cash money?”
Idea #4: Separate out your recurring expenses with your variable expenses
Here’s another idea from the same Paul above (how come he doesn’t have a $$$ blog yet??), which he left on our article on how avoiding debt is much more important than your credit score (true fact):
“Instead of going the credit route, I have thought about opening a second checking account specifically for non recurring and variable expenses (i.e. groceries, amazon, walmart, etc…). That way I could make certain I had enough for recurring bills (i.e. mortgage, phone, internet, etc…). Then if my wife or I went to walmart and got declined because we weren’t paying attention, it would have no effect on the mandatory bills we pay. Also, in the event our card number was stolen it wouldn’t mean our mortgage went into default.”
So smart! Most of your necessities would be covered with checking account #1 (recurring) making you feel pretty comfortable, and then whatever’s left over in account #2 you can do with as you please – knowing when it’s gone it’s gone. It also saves you in the event of a hacking too, as mentioned, which at some point *will* occur of course because people are complete a-holes out there…
Hiding money from yourself is one of my favorite tricks, and one of the only reasons we’re at over $600,000 these days. They go right into our retirement accounts which are completely separated out and only checked for net worth reporting once a month! No way I’d be able to look at those #’s in our checking account and not be tempted to spend any of it, haha… I certainly wouldn’t be a personal finance blogger anymore, I can tell you that much ;)
Now hurry up and get your own site up and running, Paul!
Idea #5: Share your failures at the dinner table
Okay, so this one actually comes from Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, and not someone who reads our site (although you never know?), but it was really good and I thought you’d like it.
Business insider ran a story on how her dad taught her a bunch of business lessons growing up, and one of the ones that really stuck with her was around failure.
Here’s a clip from the article:
From a young age, Spanx founder Sara Blakely was encouraged to take risks… Blakely said her dad used to invite her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table. Instead of being disappointed or upset, he would celebrate their efforts. “What it did was reframe my definition of failure,” Blakely said of the tradition. “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome… I’m already having that conversation with my 7-year-old. I talk to him all about, ‘What have you tried to fail at this week?'”
This is so good on so many levels. First, it encourages you to DO STUFF vs thinking about it all the time! Secondly, it helps you get over the fear of failing in itself. And third, it teaches you to take risks and learn before you’ve got gobs of responsibilities and money to worry about messing up ;) I mean, you’re just a kid!! And when better to fail and learn – and then fail all over again – than when you’re so young and nubile? No wonder why she’s so successful these days… She’s failed a ton!
(Reminds me of a quote I recently read from Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s – “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.”)
Idea #6. “How much would I pay for this?”
Lastly, here’s one more question you can ask yourself when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy something. This time by Sarah Von Bargen over at Yes And Yes Blog.
“Think about how much you’d be willing to pay for it before you look at the price tag.”
This is great because it places YOUR value on the item before you actually find out the true value! Or, I guess, the price tag, but still – same thing if you’ve agreed to exchange money for it, right?
If you guessed close and it *excites* you, great. At least you know you’re getting what you feel it’s worth. If it’s way out of the ballpark, though, you better stop for a hot second and really be sure it excites you enough. After all, you have to want it MORE than cash money, and that’s one helluva tall order! ;)
So there it is friends! A handful of new ideas for you to run off with and steal too. Please continue to spill all your secrets here, and I’ll do my best to continue making you famous :)
See you smarty pants in the comments…
Want more? Check out other tips our community has shared over the years:
- 29 Quick Money Tricks
- Some Tricks That Help Me Be Better at Life
- More Inductions To The Saving Hacks Hall of Fame!
- More Tricks to Accomplish Your Goals Faster
Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!