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The Importance of Planning for Fun!

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Planning For Fun

Living a financially fit life means having to make difficult choices on what you can and can’t do. It’s the same concept of living a physically fit lifestyle. I used to be 50 pounds overweight because I couldn’t say no to food and yes to working out. Then I signed up for Weight Watchers, and realized that I needed to make smarter choices in my life. I couldn’t eat 4 slices of pizza AND get dessert. As a financial planner, I frequently have to help my clients make difficult yet smart financial choices so they can live a financially fit life. And I hate the part of my job where I have to tell people “no.” As a middle child who has a need to please others, telling my clients they can’t buy purses or go on trips is not fun. But the way that I work around this “no” is helping them plan for the “fun” in their lives. When you have a plan and you work towards it, then you can actually say “yes” more than “no.” And I not only help my clients with this, but I practice what I preach.

So, last week was my 10th wedding anniversary, and since I knew it was a big one, I knew that I wanted to do something fun and not feel bad about the cost of doing something fun. After a conversation earlier in the year, FB Hubby and I started to put aside extra “cash” into our “anniversary fund.” This was not necessarily part of our overall family budget; however, this was extra money that we had in our wallets at the end of every week that we specifically earmarked for fun. Last week, in anticipation of our celebration, we opened the envelope from our safe and realized that we had $800 for fun!! And boy did we have fun!

If you want to do something fun like take a vacation, buy the newest i-Pad or a new pair of shoes, then make it part of your plan for the year and create a specific fund for the “fun.” You will not only get to have the fun you were hoping for, but you will not have the stress of higher credit card balances or less money in the bank because you had “fun.” We all work really hard to “get by” and just pay for basic living, but without the fun in life, the task of just getting by becomes even more arduous. This week, I hope you think about fun things you would love to do and put a plan together so that you can make it happen. Let me know about your successes!

My First Book!!!

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I am SO excited to announce that after years of working with clients and months of writing, that my first book, Financially Blonde’s Guide to Financial Fitness, is available today in eBook format!! As a financial planner, I frequently witnessed that a person’s ability to achieve their financial goals had little to do with how much money they made or how well their investments performed, but rather a commitment to make smart financial decisions (both big and small) throughout their life. I believe that financial fitness is as important to success in life as physical fitness and just as there are different paths to physical fitness based on body type, there are different paths to financial fitness based on your financial personality type, and I address those in this book. The great news is that EVERYONE can become financially fit as long as you commit to making it a priority.

This book is the first of a series, and it is intended to help people “walk before they can run” when it comes to personal finance. My next books will tackle other topics such as investing, insurance, health care and student loans in greater detail. Don’t let the pink cover or title distract you, this is an appropriate book for men and women and the eBook provides a great way for men to disguise the fact that they are reading a pink book. 🙂 The process of writing this book has been a labor of love, and I am so excited to finally share this with you!

You can now purchase the eBook from the following websites:

1) Amazon

2) i-Tunes

3) Copia

4) Kobo

In the next few weeks, it will be available online at Barnes and Noble. In addition, I plan to sell hardcopy versions through this blog in the near future!

 

 

Music Mondays – Heat of the Moment

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Heat Of The Moment

I am a huge fan of 80s music. Growing up, I frequently tried to avoid my siblings as much as possible, so I holed myself up in my room and listened to my clock radio (it was all I had) all day. The soundtrack of my escape was 80s music. I have fond memories of days spent with Bon Jovi, Journey, and Foreigner. I daydreamed about being friends with Tiffany and Debbi Gibson. This music shaped my life, and it still does.

I have to confess that I’m not the biggest Asia fan, but I am a fan of this song, which was highlighted in a bike escape scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. From a financial perspective, we can all relate to this song. We have all had times where we are in the heat of the moment and make a financial choice we may or may have not planned on making. Impulse buying is a very common habit, and retailers often rely on it. In this article from MediaScope, they claim that 40% of purchases are impulse buys and 90% of people have made impulsive purchases.

While some of these purchases are not financially troubling on their own (i.e. gum, i-tunes songs, magazines), they can add up to problems over time. The same article states that the average person spends $114,293 in a lifetime on impulse spending.

So how do we prevent ourselves from spending a college education on impulsive buys? Here are some tips to help you from getting caught up in the “Heat of the Moment.”

1)   Stop and ask yourself why you are buying it before you buy it. If it is not life or death or you have not planned for it, then you probably shouldn’t buy it.

2)   If you forget to stop yourself, then keep your receipt and don’t take tags off. You will likely get buyer’s remorse after the fact, and you want to make sure you can get your money back with no issues.

3)   ALWAYS ask about return policies especially for larger items. If there is not an “easy” way to return the item, then walk away and think more about if you really “need” or “want” that item. It is easier to deal with the disappointment of not making that purchase on the spot rather than the buyer’s remorse and inability to reclaim your money after the fact.

Here is the video for this song.  I LOVE videos from the 80s! They are truly ridiculous. I love how they chose to shoot a VERY literal interpretation of this song. Too funny!  Enjoy!

Top Ten Movie Wedding Scenes

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Top Ten Movie Wedding Scenes

Today is my 10 year wedding anniversary and I thought I would celebrate year 10 of marriage through my blog by posting a Top 10 list every Friday for the next year. I also thought it would be a fun way for my blog followers to get to know me better. With weddings on the brain, I thought I would start this new blog series with my Top 10 Movie Wedding Scenes. I hope you enjoy this and your weekend!

10 ) Wedding Crashers – The concept of this movie was brilliant, and I love the montage of weddings crashed during the song Shout. It is hysterical to see the two of them bond with the family and friends of complete strangers.

9) My Best Friend’s Wedding – I actually did not enjoy Julia Roberts for most of this movie. I mean, she does spend the majority of the movie trying to sabotage her best friend’s wedding. But this scene in the end is so touching that it made me forgive her for all of her shenanigans throughout.

8) Father of the Bride – Steve Martin’s angst over his daughter’s surprise engagement and wedding were fun to watch throughout, but it was really moving to watch him “give” his daughter away and fight the emotion of the moment.

7) My Big Fat Greek Wedding – This was a very funny movie with great moments throughout, but I really enjoyed the Greek family spitting on Toula while she is walking down the aisle and the look of disgust on her in-laws face over the tradition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2bPpvY_T3Q&list=PL5CAC3AF16E6472B5

6) Tangled Ever After – Tangled is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, and I love that they created a short film to show Rapunzel and Eugene’s wedding. I particularly love the chameleon flower “boy”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXJt0HraEd4

5) Love Actually – This is probably one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the few movies that followed a number of different couples and yet you were attached to all of them. I love the surprise rendition of All You Need Is Love with the pop-up instrumentalists throughout.

4) Sixteen Candles – This movie is another one of my all-time favorite movies and Ginny walking down the aisle hopped up on pain pills because she got her period is one of the highlights. I particularly love her saying “love the teapot” about her guest’s hat.

3) Old School – This movie was truly a showcase for Vince Vaughn and Frank’s wedding scene is classic. My favorite line is “Well Columbus wasn’t looking for America my man but that seemed to work out for everybody. Didn’t it? You’re here you know what I mean.” And because it completely changed the way I heard the song Total Eclipse of the Heart, I had to add the other video as well.

2) Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 – I am a self-confessed Twilight fan. I got into the books before the fourth one, Breaking Dawn, had been released. So I was beyond excited when it finally came out and Edward and Bella got to have their wedding. I thought this book and movie were the weakest of the series, but I did love the wedding scene. I particularly loved the fact that they recreated it for the movie almost exactly as it was described in the book.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCYpTtBg5PU

1) Sex and the City – Like many fans of the show, I was hoping that when this movie came out that Big and Carrie would get married. So, like most people who saw the movie, I was beyond devastated that Carrie’s “perfect” wedding was an epic fail, but when they finally do get married, you realize that this was truly the perfect ending/beginning for Big and Carrie.

Lessons from the Grocery Store

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Saving money on food shopping

So, I have never been good with couponing and planning in advance to save money on food shopping, and quite frankly, the last few years, FB Hubby has been doing the majority of the food shopping. But food is a large expense in our home like many others and I have recently taken on the task of food shopping. My usual shopping location near me is Stop and Shop. It’s not always my favorite grocery store, but it is convenient and they have what I think is one of the greatest inventions ever, the self-scanner. The scanner allows you to shop for your food while you go (similar to a wedding registry scanner) and pay in the self-check out lane when you are done. This shopping experience requires more time; however, it also saves a lot of money. And as I mentioned in a previous post, we work hard for our money so we should make it difficult to spend it.

Last week, I was on a mission to buy a number of items, and I was shocked by the results of my trip. One of the first things I had to buy was plum tomatoes. Of course the store was out, so I just grabbed some other tomatoes. I weighed them and noticed they cost $5. I am not a shopping pro, but I thought this seemed rather high for tomatoes, so I tried another brand of tomato, and this took my cost down to $2. I experienced something similar when looking at apples. It was amazing the total cost difference between two types and no one in my house is that picky, so I went with the cheaper apple and saved another $3. I then moved on to the meats. I needed to buy ground beef for taco night and FB Hubby told me to get 85/15. As a food shopping novice, I didn’t know what this meant, but I knew what to look for. I went to scan the 85/15, but accidentally picked up an 80/20 and noticed that it was half the cost of the 85/15. For 5% more fat that I am going to drain anyway, I decided to save the money and buy the 80/20, which led to another $4 saved.

Self-Scanners are awesome for saving money

A great feature of the self-scanner is the running tally it shows you while you are food shopping. On this particular trip, I had a number of “needs” and then a number of “wants” that I could have purchased. However, as I was nearing the end of my trip, I noticed that my shopping total was approaching my weekly budget for groceries, and I decided to hold off on some of those “wants” that I had not added to the cart. I proceeded directly to the check out and realized between the meats, produce and a few dry goods along the way, I had saved $15 while shopping!!! How exciting is that?!

If your store has self-scanners, I highly recommend using them. Not only does it make you more mindful of your charges along the way, but also it makes it harder for you to spend your money while food shopping and groceries are one of the largest expenses in a household. It takes more time and focus to use the self-scanner, but it is time well spent when it means more money in your pocket!  If your store does not have the self-scanner, then I challenge you to be more “mindful” of your shopping. Try to refrain from haphazardly putting things in your cart without weighing the true value or comparing with alternative options. Taking the time to be mindful while food shopping is an easy way to save money and prevent wasteful spending.

 

Music Mondays – Payphone

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I actually remember using a pay phone

I actually chose this song not for the message within the song, but for the title of the song itself. It cracks me up that they use a payphone as the centerpiece. Can anyone even tell me where the nearest functioning payphone is located within a 5 mile radius of where you live? I often wonder how many people under 30 really know what a payphone is and if they have ever used one. I can in fact say yes to both of these questions. I remember going to the mall when I was 12 and having to find a payphone to call my mom and let her know what bus I was going to be on to get home. When I was in high school, cell phone usage was almost non-existent. I didn’t have a single friend who owned one. The only time we spoke was via our home phones and instead of texting during the day we passed notes.

Now cell phones eat into our budgets

The interesting thing is that the days of payphones actually helped keep us financially fit. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the average family spends around $100 a month for their cell phone usage. In addition to just the basic usage (i.e. minutes, data, and texts), we also spend money on apps and games. I think I spent $10 last month on Candy Crush alone. I picked this song to make us stop and think about our cell phone usage.  Is your cell phone a problem area for you? How frequently do you scrutinize your bill? Are you paying for minutes or texts that you don’t need? How do you manage data charges? Your app purchases? A payphone was very easy to understand. Posted directly on the phone were the charges for calls or instructions on how to make collect or operator calls. My cell phone bill is 20 pages front and back. How long is yours?

I think we all fall under the misconception that our cell phone costs are a necessary evil, and we can’t avoid the costs that we are paying. I challenge you this week to pull out your cell phone bills from the last few months and do an in-depth analysis of what you are paying for and why. I bet you will find wasted money or areas where you can save going forward. In a 20 page bill, there has to be excess money to be found! Can you commit to a month or two of no new app purchases? Can you cut back the amount of data you are consuming? If your average cell phone bill is $100, and you can find $10 a month in savings, you’ve saved 10%, or $120 in a year.

Make It Hard!

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“That’s what she said.” In all seriousness, you should make it hard to spend your money. One of my favorite stores is TJ Maxx. It wasn’t always one of my favorites. My husband’s grandmother would frequently find things for me and my husband at TJ Maxx, and I would say, “Well of course Nana could find something; she has nothing else to do but spend all day sifting through the store.” I used to hate going there because I felt that it was too difficult to navigate, and it took too long to find anything. Once I learned patience, though, I realized that I could buy amazing quality items for prices that were less than Wal-Mart or Target. That is definitely Financially Blonde! I frequently advise clients to try shopping at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, or Nordstrom Rack, and I get the response that I used to provide, “It’s too difficult to shop there.” Well, that is the point. We should not make it easy on ourselves to spend our money. We work hard to accumulate it; however, with technology, there are so many opportunities that make it easy for us to spend it with online shopping, apps, Groupon, etc. I challenge you to make it hard for you to spend money. Instead of giving yourself an “easy” shopping experience where you can find your size and clothing style with speed and ease, try sifting through racks of clothes at TJ Maxx. It will not only take you longer to spend your money, but it is also a great work out too. If you are concerned that this may be too time consuming, then schedule the time for yourself (your wallet is worth it) or bring a friend and divide and conquer. You will be amazed at how much money you can save by just making it hard to spend it.

Music Mondays – Living on a Prayer

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Those who know me, know that Bon Jovi is literally my favorite band ever. I have loved them for 30+ years now. Since they have been around almost as long as I have and have been producing new music the entire time, they truly have provided the soundtrack to my life.

Despite the fact that I love all of their music, the song I love above all others is Livin’ on a Prayer.  Every time I hear it, I want to scream “OHHHHHHH WE’RE HALFWAY THERE!” at the top of my lungs.  This is not only a great song to listen to, but it provides a great analogy for how a number of us feel financially.  Many of us are literally living paycheck to paycheck.  We are living on a prayer. No matter how awesome this song is to sing, it is not awesome to live it as a reality.  If you can relate to this, then I challenge you to stop, take a deep breath, and look at your finances.  Find your problem areas and strategize on how to fix them.  If you can’t find the problems, then ask a friend (preferably a non-judgmental one) to look them over with you and find what you’re missing.  A change of perspective can be a great gift.  If you are too embarrassed to ask someone you know, then reach out to me, and I’ll help you sort it out.

The primary reason why I see clients living on a prayer is lack of focus and planning around their finances. I know we all lead busy lives, but when we don’t take the time to focus on our finances, we create more problems that will only compound with time. Schedule time at least once a month in your calendar to look into your finances in great detail. I am sure with this focus, you will find ways to save and improve your financial well being. Hopefully before you know it, you’ll be singing this song and not living it.

Enjoy this video straight out of 1986!!  LOVE the hair and tassels on the leather jacket!  Yes!!