Lofty, Lost Lists

It’s that time of year again.

It’s time to take inventory of all we have accomplished, both good and bad.  The opportune time to make a fresh start, to begin anew.  This is the time of year to resolve to do something that will improve our lives.

Why?  Because THAT DAY has happened!  That magical day – when, POOF!  Everything can change.  We can begin again with a clean slate.  We can envision all the wonderful changes we could make in our lives.  And because THAT DAY has happened, we MUST make a list, and absolutely we MUST write it all down.  Because if you don’t write it down, it doesn’t mean as much.  Otherwise, your commitment to those changes don’t seem to be so, so… resolute.

Or maybe it’s just another day.  Because let’s face it, you can do all of that on any other day of the year, too.

I used to make a lot of lists;  daily, weekly and monthly “to do” lists, grocery lists, school assignment lists, that four-page typed single-spaced list of home improvement projects with goal completion dates within the year 2009 (yeah, we’re still working on it).

Lists are great tools to help organize your thoughts.  The kinetic activity of writing it down often helps with memory.  It often solidifies inspiritation to complete the intended transcribed goals, giving higher chances of success for some people… who are usually nothing like me.

The problem with my lists of goals is that I have rarely completed them, especially within the allotted time I gave myself.  I would write down every idea that came into my head, and then accomplish only a few of them.  Daily goals were quite lofty, and by the end of the day I would transfer most of the list to the next day.  When I tired of writing the same unmet goals day after day after day, I would finally decide that these things must not really be that important, then crumple and chuck the whole list in frustration.  Benjamin Franklin, well known for his personal goal lists, would be incrediblly disappointed.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this???

Then there is the never-ending joke about the grocery lists I make.  They never seem to make it to the store with me.  Without fail, I will write down the food I think our family needs, and then find myself at the store entrance, fumbling through my purse and pockets, never to find the list that is still sitting on the kitchen table, or on the counter, or on the clothes washer, or on the floor of the garage with a shoe print in size 6 wide.

Can you believe this is coming from the same person who has accounted for nearly every penny coming in and out of her life since 1987?

Okay, so lists don’t appear to work very well for me, and by now you’ve probably surmised that New Years resolutions are a no-go, too.  I’m not alone, though.  Apparently, resolutions made at the new year are only successfully achieved 8% of the time.

Maybe the reason that many of us are so poor about achieving our New Years resolutions is because it’s only one day out of the year.  Maybe our resolutions are so lofty that we would never attempt to achieve them on any other day.  I mean, they sound like good ideas at the time, but when tomorrow comes around…

Funny thing, though, is that I tend to bring home nearly everything that has been written on my grocery list anyway.  It doesn’t matter that it is still laying on the garage floor.  Since I have written it down, I seem to remember better, the important items that I have written on the list that is so far, far away.  I tend to come home, check the list that is still setting on the kitchen counter, and sigh with relief because the important things are already there in my canvas grocery bags;  no real need to go back on a second trip.  Whew!

If you feel like you must, go ahead and write down those goals and resolutions. It doesn’t hurt anything, and it might actually help.  You didn’t have to write them down for January 1st, either.  There are at least 364 other days in the year where you can transcribe your dreams for something better. You could write them down on a different day, like.. say, May 23rd, September 26th, or even January 3rd.

But when the inevitable time comes that you discover you have lost your list, don’t fret.  What was important to you will stay fresh in your mind.  Those will be your real goals, your priorities.  Those are the goals your soul is asking you to do, and are what you are more likely to successfully achieve.

Each day that you wake up, you are given the gift of opportunity to make a new resolution.  Life happens, so goals change.  But you will always remember what is most important for you to seek to achieve.

Mother Frugal

You Might Be a Tightwad If…

microphone-13631966862Ef- Your preschool aged children call that part of the house where cars are stored a “garage sale”.

- Your neighbor recognizes you as her neighbor down the street who hangs cloth diapers on the clothesline (Oops – I’ve been outed).

- You finally replace a box of aluminum foil for the first time in 20+ years.

- You still have a box of plastic wrap in your kitchen drawer that you bought 20+ years ago.

- Most of your wardrobe is from a certain designer brand, but you’ve never stepped foot in that designer brand store because your wardrobe was purchased secondhand.

- You take inventory of you home, and your realize that everything was either given to you, purchased secondhand or purchased at a deep discount.

- You finally update your 1970′s era counter top with an inexpensive laminate finish, even though you have two very nice neighbors with their own granite counter top businesses (Okay, I feel a little guilty about this one, but I wouldn’t have felt right choosing one neighbor over the other, either).

- Your mantra with your kids’ requests at the grocery store (other than “NO”) is, “Let’s see if it’s on sale.”

- You come home from the grocery store with your kids, and a year’s supply of non-perishable items that you use regularly, because you found them on sale.

- You bring home a bunch of metal storage shelves from an estate sale, so you will have a place to store that year’s supply of non-perishable, regularly used items you bought on sale at the grocery store.

- You install a huge antenna and tower behind your house, so you can avoid paying for cable television.

- You have read nearly every single book in your local library’s personal finance section (Dewey Decimal Classification: 332.024, Library of Congress: HG179).

- You go to the local mall, noticing all the new stores and renovations, only to find out those new stores and renovations have been there for over three years (It’s been that long since you’ve been to the mall).

- You start a blog, so you can write about being a tightwad!

Mother Frugal


One of My Biggest Financial Blunders Ever

business-graph-failureHe was such a nice guy, and seemed to know more than we did about money matters. So, why not go ahead with what he recommended?


That’s what we thought, at least.

Early in our marriage, my hubby and I were approached by a guy about a “financial opportunity”.

He was a genuinely nice guy.

He met with us at our home several times, analyzed our financial situation, and showed us lots of charts and graphs so we could see how well we were doing.  Then he let us know how we could improve our finances even more with a little known investment vehicle.  We would be insuring our lives and investing money, all at the same time.

Who could argue with that?  I mean, he had spent a lot of time with us.  He was such a nice guy.  He seemed to really know his stuff.  So we said, “Sign us up!” about as quick as you can say “hefty commission”, authorized an automatic monthly bank withdrawal, even gave blood samples for the insurance, and felt very smug with ourselves for being so financially savvy…

For a little while.

Red Flag #1: After we signed up, I asked the guy how I would be able to find out our account balances each month when I made my monthly account tabulations.  He said he would find the contact number for me, but that I shouldn’t expect to see much of anything for the first year.  Most of the results wouldn’t even begin to show until the second year of our “investment”.


Red Flag #2:  Not much later, we mentioned our “investment” to a trustworthy friend.  Suddenly looking concerned, he told us about how he had once trained to sell whole life insurance (what we were buying).  He said the commissions were insane for the salespeople, especially during the first year, which is why it was so heavily promoted.  The investments were incredibly lackluster for the customers, however, due to the high commissions and fees.  He had decided against this line of work because his conscience would not allow him to take such advantage of customers.

You would think we would have started to rethink things after this story from our friend.  But for some reason, we didn’t.  Apparently, we needed a third red flag to really smack us to our senses.

Red Flag #3:  An acquaintance introduced us to his wife, and we discovered that she was making a great income from selling whole life insurance.  What a coincidence!  We just bought a policy like that!

All of a sudden, her demeanor with us changed.  It wasn’t really what she said, since she was still very friendly.  But it was that long, analytical stare at us for the rest of the evening that creeped me out.  I suddenly felt like fresh meat on a platter, ready to be devoured.  It still gives me the heebie-jeebies to think of that look today, many years later.  It was that look, that creepy stare, that really got me thinking.

The next day, I went to the library.  I checked out a lot of books.  I went online.

I started to read all I could about personal finance.

It didn’t take to long to realize that we’d been had.

Out of all I have read about personal finance, I have yet to find any reputable author who says that whole life insurance is a good idea for someone with an average or low income.  They may vehemently disagree on many other issues, but on this one, they seem to be unanimous.  Stay far, far away.

Apparently, whole life insurance (and the various other names by which it goes) is a decent tax shelter for the insanely rich who are in high tax brackets.  But frankly, it just sucks for average folks.  It is a poor vehicle for both life insurance and for investing.   Save yourself from paying these high commissions and fees.  Most of us commoners would fare better by purchasing a term policy, and then investing the rest in a mutual fund or index fund.*

If you already have a whole life policy, it might be a good idea to take a long, analytical (maybe even creepy) look at it.  Most of the commissions occur during the first year or two.  So if you are past that, most of the damage has already been done.  If you think you need help with this, contact a trustworthy, certified financial professional.  You and you alone, however, need to decide whether it is a good idea to continue with or make changes to your policy.

So, after four months, we were out about $1,200 when we finally canceled our policy.  Thank goodness that was all we could afford to “invest” at that time.  No refunds, of course.

Believe it or not, in the long run, I am really thankful for that guy.  Because of him and what he did, I started to think more about personal finance.  I started to read about the topic.  Okay, I read A LOT about the topic.**  I made changes that have benefited our family greatly.  Yes, $1,200 was a hefty price to pay for our mistake.  But because of this big financial blunder, we have learned from it and are much better for it… in the long run.

Really, he was a nice guy.

Mother Frugal

* As you might expect me to state at this point, please read the disclaimer on my homepage.

** And yes, I plan to blog about a few of my favorites in the future.