Money To Live

July 29, 2009

A different kind of bucket list

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

The NY Times recently cut employees’ pay and encouraged them to take extra vacation to make up for it. One columnist chronicled a day off that he spent catching up on his finances.

“A Day to Tackle the Financial To-Do List”
Ron Lieber

I particularly liked one of his tasks, and I asked my parents to fill out the form he references:

WHAT TO DO IF WE’RE DEAD Merrill Lynch gives away a terrific form titled “Organizing your financial life. Critical information at your fingertips.” It’s basically a road map to sorting your financial affairs in case you fall off a large cliff, though Mother Merrill doesn’t quite market it that way. After several years of putting this off, I finally filled out the form on fiscal health day and will send copies to our families soon.

I read this article the day after helping my father fill out some important paperwork. We could not find my mother’s social security number during 30 minutes of searching for it, and I started having images of what would happen if both of my parents died. I would be very, very sad, and I would also be drowning in decades of files and paperwork. I printed this form, highlighted the entries that applied to my parents, and sat down with them while they filled it out.


July 22, 2009

The FreedomFiler

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

This past spring, I made a mistake filing my taxes, which I realized after the filing deadline, of course. With all of my moves in the past year, I lost (or never received due to the wonderful job of the USPS forwarding my mail!) two forms from banks on interest income. I cashed some savings bonds that my grandparents gave me in the 1980’s, on which a significant amount of interest had accrued.

It is easy to remedy most filing snafus using an Amended 1040 Form.

This motivated me to revamp my filing system. I had been using the exact same filing system for the past 9 years. Little thought went into its design, and the last time I pruned my files was 3-4 years ago. I went with the FreedomFiler.

Like every other reviewer of the FreedomFiler, I like the system and recommend it.

  • The tabs look nice – it is very clean, and the tabs are easy to read.
  • It is self-purging. Many documents that I receive today seem important. Though realistically I will never access them again, I am not ready to throw them out. These documents (receipts, bills, miscellaneous Unemployment Commission letters) go into folders that will automatically be purged in two years. In two years, I will not care about most of these pieces of paper. If I still care, I can re-file them somewhere else (i.e., with tax papers for 2009).
  • It has room to grow. Probably/hopefully my filing needs will change in the next few years (i.e., buy a home). Since I do not need any folders for a mortgage/home purchase/ etc., I can leave those out now. It will be very easy to add them in later.

July 15, 2009

Interesting PBS Series

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 1:53 pm

JD at Get Rich Slowly pointed out an interesting PBS series, The Ascent of Money. I watched the first episode last week and enjoyed it.

July 8, 2009

Ask for a no

Filed under: negotiation,spending — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

A friend told me about the idea of “asking for a no,” which means asking for something you do not think you will get when you have nothing to lose. It is great practice for negotiating when the stakes actually matter.

Some people do not like negotiating because it seems manipulating or mean – but it doesn’t have to be either of those. At its best, two people negotiate to find a mutually beneficial solution. It is possible (and usually advisable) to be polite, respectful, and honest throughout a negotiation.

Recently, I “asked for a no” at The Gap. A jacket I had been eying finally came down in price from $78 to $30. I particularly liked the green jacket but noticed that the yellow and blue jackets were marked down to $25.

  • I took the green and yellow jackets to the cashier to confirm I would only pay $25 for the green jacket. She said “no,” they have different prices.
  • I asked if she could match the lower price, and she said “no.”
  • I asked if there was any other discount she could give. She paused and then sold me the green jacket for $25.

The $5 at stake is not a huge amount, and I would have bought the jacket for $30.  By asking for a lower price, I practiced staying calm in a low-stakes negotiation.

Have you “asked for a no” before? I encourage you to “ask for a no” this week and write about your experience in the comments, or email me privately.

July 1, 2009

Dollars, Cokes, and Carabiners

Filed under: spending — by moneytolive @ 5:01 pm

A friend says that as a child he thought of everything in terms of how many cokes it would cost. Instead of thinking about how much money he would earn per hour, he would think about how many cokes he could buy per hour of work. (His mom was anti-sugar.)

Another friend compares all purchases to what he could buy in rock climbing equipment. “Another beer at the bar? Nah, because I could buy a new carabiner with that money.” (I know very little about rock climbing … he probably is not buying new carabiners, but that is the only name of rock climbing equipment that I know).

I wonder how common this behavior is. I would love to get results of a survey with these questions:

  • What % of the population thinks about money in this way (or has in the past)
  • Of people who think about money in explicit, concrete terms, what is their current credit card debt
  • What was their maximum credit card debt in the past?
  • What other types of debt do they have?

My hunch is that these people have below average credit card debt.

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