Monthly Archives: March 2011

Investing in Women

I try to keep videos I share short, as knowing your time is precious. But today I hope that you’ll take the time to watch this moving TED talk on why we need to invest in women to solve the world’s greatest injustices. It’s heart wrenching and you may tear up, but it will be worth the inspiration.

This video was shared by Kiva, and a partner organization that just launched called Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. 

Do you have a daughter? 
Do you expect that she’ll have the opportunity to get an education?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Priceline Bidding

So I’m a bit more of a novice when it comes to priceline , but I know that my savvy traveling sister is a fan of the site. If you wonder if it is too good to be true, you aren’t alone. There are great deals to be had, but there are good tips and guidelines that my sister has been kind enough to share.   I’ll be using these tips to get a rental car for Denmark, and report back on how the experience goes.

Here are a few tips for getting good deals on priceline:

  • If you don’t know anything about priceline, the basics are that you give the price you’d like to pay for travel (car rental, hotels, flights, etc), and then if someone takes your bid, you pay that price. If you bid too low, you have to make some adjustment to your bid or wait 24hrs.  
  • Start in advance if possible. Priceline makes you change your bid or wait, but if you bid early this works to your advantage. Last minute deals are also there, but easier if you are flexible.
  • Know the market. Depending on what it is you are looking for, know what price you’d like to be paying.  Look to see what it would cost you outright, so you know if you are getting a deal that is worth it.
  • Make sure to go to the Name Your Own Price section, otherwise you can be suckered into their standard offers.
  • Car rentals are the no brainer, since one brand is comparable to others. I’ve gotten as low as $14/day on week long rentals, and $50 for a weekend trip.  This depends all on where you are traveling.
  • Hotels are a bit trickier. This is done by location and rating level. Depending on the city and how they break out the zones, this can work for or against you. For instance in say the Dupont Circle area of DC, it would be a safe bet to bid on a three or four star hotel and know you would come up with something fine, since you can look at the list and make sure there aren’t any sketchy options. However in Portland, Oregon they include the whole city in one zone. Bidding on a three stars wouldn’t be certain to get a sweet spot in downtown. Whereas bidding on a four star hotel it was guaranteed to be one of three hotels. We were able to get one of the best hotels in Portland, the Benson, for $100 and then we were upgraded for our honeymoon. My vote is to go for a better hotel and bid lower.
  • Flights, I haven’t tried these. My vote would be that it isn’t worth it unless you have the flexibility.
  • Bid Lower. The site always tells you, geez, you’ve bid really low, you’d be much more likely to get it if you bid X amount.  Take this into consideration, but don’t fall for this.  For example, they will tell you that $22 a day is reasonable for a car rental, when in reality you can end up getting it for $16 a day.  Find a happy balance.

Do you have tips for Priceline?  Have you gotten any good deals?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Scarcity & Finances

When I reviewed the Energy of Money book last week, I forgot to mention an important topic that really resonated with me: personal perception of scarcity.

Scarcity is all about your outlook and often has little to do with your actual situation. Over time your sense of scarcity becomes so ingrained that it almost becomes part of your personality, like being perpetually optimistic or pessimistic. This personal view of life tints your entire financial scenario and reflects your perceived scarcity or abundance

One of the first book exercises asks you to reflect on is your family’s financial circumstances at the time of your birth and when you first remember learning about your family’s financial standing. Personally, I grew up quite poor , but always felt like we had enough and knew others who had less, so I felt well taken care of even though we often lived paycheck to paycheck. Hubby grew up in a pretty affluent family, but he didn’t think about it much either way and mostly took his family’s financial status for granted.  Some people in the book remember thinking their family was really poor until they found out they were actually well off, but their parents simply feigned scarcity constantly.  It made me wonder what early lessons our kids are learning about scarcity.

I realized after our last “money honey” talk, where Hubby was exclaiming about how “we’re hemorrhaging money“, that we simply have two different perspectives on scarcity. Based on my family background, I don’t panic unless we don’t have enough to pay the bills. Hubby’s family finance experience says that if we’re not saving/investing quite a bit more than we are making, then something is wrong. Obviously there is a big difference. It’s not that I wouldn’t prefer for us to be getting ahead rather than treading water, but we clearly are coming from different places on the scarcity spectrum.

Upon more reflection, I realized that food is an area where I often “feel” scarcity. My family never was hungry growing up, but we did live a forty-five minutes from a big shopping center, so we only did a big shopping trip once a month. So even though I can walk to a supermarket in 10 minutes, I still shop as though I need to have enough to feed our family for two weeks. It’s partly because I have the habit of shopping at several different specialty stores, where I buy certain things at each one – so I know if I go to TJs that I’m going to buy cereal for the month! The verdict is out as to whether this actually saves us any money or time, but I do love my weekly organic delivery. And even though he had plenty growing up, Hubby seems like my perfect match, because he gets anxious when we start to run slightly low on food. Likewise, it used to be a pet peeve of mine when we got low on something he would say that we needed to use it up (so we could buy more), but my thought was always that we should make it last as long as possible before replacing. 

But I am guilty of feeling scarcity when it comes to kids clothing. I have this sense that suddenly they’ll outgrow stuff and I’ll be stuck shopping in season at full price. So, my habit is to buy in advance for the season or year ahead on sale. I’ll buy a whole bunch twice a year and almost nothing in between. Our Big Guy is a big grower, and early on was growing out of clothes in no time flat. So I rightfully felt like he always needed new clothes. On the other hand, Girly’s growth is more average and she’s actually in clothes sized for her age. Out of my shopping habit, last fall I bought Girly clothes in the next size up thinking that she would grow into them in a few months. Consequently, I realized the other day that she probably has enough new clothes in her closet to last her another year! Obviously, we have no true scarcity in the clothes department, but my perception is driving our purchases. I also realized that I’ve felt the need to buy almost all new clothing our kids because Hubby’s family was always very well dressed, and I want him to feel a sense of pride and wealth in seeing our kids in nice clothing. With this enlightenment, I’m committing myself to buying more used than new and not buying more clothes until they truly need them…a big personal revelation 😉 

What’s your view on scarcity?
Does it differ from your partners?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Potty Talk

Our Girly is growing up fast, and I’m proud to report that this weekend every poop went in the potty! She’s had three successful weekends of consistent potty use…so I’m finally ready to share without feeling doomed to jinx our good fortune. Now we’ll just need to practice some patience until she transitions to a classroom with a potty (although her teachers are willing to try potty visits). 

After two years of washing two loads of poopy diapers every week , I am more than ready for her ditch her diapers!

But as you can see by her proud smile, we can’t claim too much credit for her potty readiness…it really is her choice. We also give my parents full credit for potty training Big Guy, we called it potty boot camp: he went to visit for five days and he never went back to diapers!

I do have a few pointers thought for parents who haven’t been through potty training yet:

  • Splurge and buy a true potty and a toilet seat ring – some kids highly prefer one over the other, and you just don’t know until they try them out. Plus, if you have a second bathroom, buy a second set – chasing after a potty is the last thing you want to do with a ready/willing potty user!
  • Stickers aren’t exactly eco-friendly – I think they sure beat the options of buying/washing diapers. We sure don’t scrimp on stickers and always put one on the potty chart and one on their hand to remind them of going potty.
  • Potty books are a big must, and we have a few in each bathroom. I bought a few new, but I’ve found several more at the Goodwill for $.50! There are lots used online too. These are my favorite potty books:
  • Buy second hand – like everything, potty training is a phase that won’t last (we all hope!), so splurge on books and stickers instead of a new seat if you can avoid it.
  • T here are a few eco-friendly potty options now too: who knew you could buy a Bamboo Potty Seat? It’s also nice to see that the Eco-friendly 3-in-1 Potty  and “Natural” potty  are quite a bit cheaper than the conventional plastic potties.

We do use disposable diapers on between diaper washes and on trips, and I prayed the last time I went to Costco that it would be the last pack I would ever buy!!

Lastly, while not a prerequisite to potty training, both our kids are still enamored by our new water friendly Toto toilet. The high efficiency flush is certainly more impressive and the slow self-closing toilet lid seems to work like magic!

What are your potty tips?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.