I’m generally not a fan of talking in terms of savings rates. There are just too many variables to make fair comparisons. I do, however, still urge people who qualify to take advantage of a foolproof method to save over 50% of their income. [Read more…]
We have have 3 young kids (all of them still younger than 8) and have followed some simple rules over the years that have helped us to save a bunch of money raising them. These rules must be common sense for many of you, but I have found that they are surprisingly foreign to some parents of young kids. [Read more…]
A baby that is. We are expecting a baby. Like a real live little person. But what’s one more, right? It’s only a 33% child increase. I’m trying to convince myself that it will all be fine. [Read more…]
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my dumb-phone-ness. And to celebrate, I am officially joining the 21st century with my recent purchase of the Moto X through Republic Wireless. [Read more…]
“Well, I guess everyone has their thing.”
I inevitably hear that phrase at the end of some of the conversations I have with Amanda. It’s sort of a way to explain away behavior or opinions of others that don’t quite seem to fit with the rest of the picture.
Though we all think we are the normal ones, even you probably have “a thing.” Let me explain. [Read more…]
Last year I wrote an article called The Power of Asking, which is still one of my all-time most popular posts. I gave examples of how we have received thousands of dollars’ worth of free stuff (and partially eaten hamburgers) as a result of simply asking.
There have been several things we’ve asked for just this month that will save us well over a thousand dollars. I will discuss in order of awesomeness.
It is possible to waive flight change fees
We are meeting my parents, my 3 siblings, and my 9 nephews and nieces in Yellowstone next week for a family reunion. I am super excited. Ping pong with the bros, my kids get to play with their cousins, late nights laughing about all the stuff we used to get away with, and food! I’ll be done with my 30 day no-sugar diet and ready to eat my mom’s amazing home cookin!
Because of scheduling conflicts, we had booked our flights to come home one day earlier than the rest of the family. I was bummed not to get the extra day since we are traveling all the way across the country. But due to a change of plans, our schedule was freed up. The only problem is that United charges a $200 flight change fee per person, and there are 5 of those in this family.
We’re talking ONE THOUSAND dollars, just to change a flight. Generally I fly Southwest, which makes it so easy to change flights, so the fact that United wanted me to pay ONE LARGE just to move the flight really irritated me. I scoured the web to see if anyone else had successfully gotten one of these other airlines to waive flight change fees.
After a while of searching, it seemed like the answer was a general resounding no. Airlines might give exceptions for things like funerals or death-bed sickness, but I was not very encouraged. Nevertheless, I dialed up the old United Airlines customer service hotline.
The customer service rep answered, and I tried to sound as friendly as possible. I told him that the 5 of us were booked to return at 5:50am on a Tuesday but that we actually wanted to come home at 5:50am Wednesday. I told him I knew there was a change fee associated with this and asked if there was any way to waive it.
He repeated my question to me to make sure he understood what I was asking, and he told me that he’d see what he could do. Hey, I’ll take it! I was probably on hold for 7 or 8 minutes during which time I literally said a prayer.
He came back on and said that he would grant me a one-time courtesy waiver of the change fee and that in the future I would have to pay. What!? What a total surprise! The internet said it couldn’t be done, but I just did it…for 5 people! And I didn’t even have to fight or ask twice!
I don’t think it’s common, but at least I know it’s possible. So what is the secret? I really have no idea, but here are a few of my best guesses.
How to (try to) get your flight changed for free
- Get a friendly rep – Had I not, I probably would have called back until I got an answer from somebody who sounded like they didn’t hate their life.
- Flight time – I really doubt that they would have waived the fee if I were trying to fly home on a Friday at 6pm. I imagine there is much less demand for Wednesday at 5:50am flights.
- Ambiguity – I didn’t come out and say that we accidentally booked our flight on a Tuesday at 5:50am rather than Wednesday, but I didn’t do anything to stop him from making that assumption. Usually if you do make a mistake like this and catch it within 24 hours, they will waive the fee. But we had booked the flights weeks ago.
- Kindness – I was as polite and friendly.
- Getting ahead of objections – I acknowledged the change fee before he could tell me no .
- Prayer – Seeking for higher power will never hurt.
So there you go. It is possible to have your nonSouthwest flight change fees waived. The stars might have to be perfectly aligned, but I’m proof that it can happen…times 5.
Free little person soccer
Similar to how we asked for and got free cello lessons, we finally thought to ask our homeschool partnership if they would cover our soccer season fees that we’ve purchased for several seasons now. (We are part of a county home school partnership that pays for some community classes.) The lady sent back an email saying that would be fine. Send me my refund baby!!
We recently had to get a prescription filled, but insurance only covered a certain quantity over a 30 day period, which would not be sufficient. We read online that buying the extra quantity out of pocket would likely cost hundreds of dollars and that many people had faced a similar problem. Amanda talked to the pharmacist, and she actually turned out to be very helpful and is in the process of working with the doctor and the insurance company to see if she can hook us up. I think it will come through.
I have not gone out to eat much this month due to my temporarily restrictive diet. But the first time I did, I asked them if they would replace the rice and beans with salad & avocado for the same price. The avocado is usually extra, and those things are not cheap. No problem. Done!
Food is one of the easiest things to get for free. A little bit of small talk and courtesy go a long way for someone who is used to dealing with impersonal or even rude people all day. Just the other day at my work cafeteria I smiled and said “How’s it going Susan?” She lit right up and piled on those side dishes. Everyone comes away feeling better from interactions like that.
As you can see, simply asking can yield you a whole spectrum of benefits, from the substantial to the simple.
One of my readers turned me on to a book called The Aladdin Factor. It talks about this very thing and teaches everything you’d ever want to know about the right way to ask for something.
How has asking been going for you? Have you ever gotten your change flight fees waived?
The other day my brother sent me this diagram of body types. I’m probably a borderline Ecto/Mesomorph, while he is a definite endomorph. When I did P90x for the first time a few years ago, I gained some muscle and a lot of definition (which has since faded). When he did it, he gained some definition and a ton of muscle. While it’s not a perfect analogy, the principal of body types can be applied to the personal finance realm. [Read more…]
After holding out all this time, I finally feel like I found a good reason to justify letting a smart device into our household. It finally makes more sense financially for Amanda to own a smart phone rather than a feature phone (aka basic phone, dumb phone, etc.). I started really considering it after an unfortunate miscommunication last year via said dumb phone which caused me to show up to a girls’ night out. (For new readers, I am not a girl.) [Read more…]
I help Mark edit his posts, so whatever he publishes is partly my side of the story by default. However, with this one I had gone to bed early and woke up to find it posted before I approved it. Mark convinced me to give my side of story.
Mark and I are opposite. He shares a lot through his writing that he doesn’t necessarily say in person (one of the reasons his writing convinced me to try again at the dating thing—I never realized how much he cared until he gave me those letters). On the other hand, I am more comfortable sharing my thoughts in person rather than in writing, especially on the internet. Suffice it to say, if you read the last post before I discovered it, you’ll find that it was a bit different than it is now 🙂
Mark and I are also opposite in that he is incredibly mentally organized about money (and most everything) and I was/am not. It’s true I was raised to be frugal. I put myself through college, undergraduate and graduate, coming out with only $3,000 in student loans (which Mark paid off for me—but hey, I helped pay off $10,000 of his MBA loan). I was not a complete disaster, I just poured most of my energy into doing well in school.
A new way of thinking
I never kept track of my money. I worked lots of jobs, put the money in the ATM, tried not to spend anything, and hoped that it would cover my expenses each semester. It almost always worked. When I reached the last week of my freshman year, I ate fake potatoes for every meal in order to pay for my recital accompanist (I was a violin performance major). In relating this story to my mom years later, she asked me why I didn’t ask for money, but honestly that thought never occurred to me.
With my financial head-in-the-sand attitude, meeting someone who wanted their $3.00 receipt was quite mind-opening. I was incredulous. “What in the world is he going to do with that receipt?” I thought. “Did he do that to try to impress me?” No, he didn’t.
I’ll never forget the day we went to the store together to buy groceries a few months after we met. I usually knew where either my checkbook or my debit card was located, but that day I had no idea where I had placed either one. Actually, both had been lost for a few days, and I was out of food. I was searching like crazy to try to find one or the other and had almost given up when I realized my debit card was in the pocket my sweatshirt. Maybe this is how I went through college without spending much money! Mark doesn’t ever say a lot, but that day I remember him expressing disbelief that I didn’t know where my stuff was. Apparently I was mind-opening to him as well.
We don’t argue about money
Now we are married, and Mark definitely makes our financial life run smoothly. In the past 8 years we lived in 4 cities, and been through a lay-off in the middle of a recession, MBA school, many MBA job interviews, pregnancies with health problems, and 3 kids. And while most of that time we were making a modest, single income (or almost no income), we have not had to worry about money for our basic needs and bills. Not because we had plenty, but because Mark budgeted carefully months in advance and let me know when we needed to hold back so we would never get close to running out.
Money matters in marriage
So what is my Valentine’s takeaway? I didn’t realize that money matters in marriage. While dating, I didn’t realize that one of the greatest blessings Mark would bring to a marriage is his financial sense. Finances can be a huge source of stress in marriages. Of all the things we have to disagree on (and there are many), we rarely argue about money or finances. So thank you Mark. My Valentine’s day gift to you is this post so you don’t have to write it.
And if you were hoping that this post would actually be my side of the love story, rather than my side of the financial story, sorry! Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable sharing more to the world. But those letters, they were good!
After putting together my personal profit plan for this year, I can really tell a difference in my mentality. I can tell I am more frugally minded and have a clearer vision of my financial goals. I’ve saved over $300 and received over $200 worth of extra perks within the last 2 weeks, and it all required minimal effort. [Read more…]
I started skateboarding in middle school. I enjoyed it because it never got boring. The more I practiced, the better I got. Around the same time, snowboarding was rising in popularity among my peers. Many of my friends would buy season passes to the ski resort each year for $300-$400! What a bunch of suckers, I thought. I could skate for free. Turns out the joke was on me.
The other day I had to make a run to the grocery store for medication. My wife had been fighting a viral cold for over a week. I only go to this particular grocery store (which shall remain unnamed) for convenience. I dislike almost everything else about it. In only a handful of circumstances does the convenience outweigh driving 10 extra minutes to the grocery store we are much fonder of. This time, however, it literally paid off. [Read more…]
Christmas music is playing, wrapping paper is scattered on the floor, my kids are totally absorbed in their presents, and my wife is taking a bath. It’s the perfect opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
I ate cereal for breakfast growing up. We usually had cereals like Wheaties, Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, and Shredded Wheat on hand. But once a year for Christmas, each kid got to pick out whatever sugary cereal his or her heart desired to eat on Christmas morning!
We started that tradition this year at my house, only I made them all choose the store brand, of course. They loved it! Win win!
So Merry Christmas! Enjoy time with loved ones, and check out Ariel’s big eyes and big hair!
Today is my 8th wedding anniversary…and my son’s 7th birthday…and it’s 3 days before Christmas. It’s the perfect recipe for a financially disastrous December. This year, though, we spread them all out to help us at least feel more frugal. We celebrated our anniversary in nearby Chicago last month, we threw a simple party for our son in August, and we tried to keep Christmas spending reasonable.
Accomplishing things in a frugal way gives most of us satisfaction. Giving – a big part of the holiday spirit – essentially enables others to live more frugally. But what about lending? It also encourages frugality. Just don’t let it come back to bite you like it did us on one occasion. [Read more…]
My 5 year old daughter told me she wanted a Princess Elsa doll for Christmas. Not just any Princess Elsa doll but a baby Princess Elsa doll. I didn’t anticipate my online search to return any results, but it turns out they actually do have baby Princess Elsa dolls. And they cost $38 flippin dollars! So I came up with an innovative solution that saved me over me 60%. [Read more…]
This post is a follow up to my “How can they afford that?” post in which I showed you how I paid for going back to school with my family in tow. Part of the formula for making it work was borrowing $45,000 dollars for tuition and another $5,000 for a minivan (come on, I got a sweet deal!).
Coming out of grad school debt-free would have obviously been preferable (and probably possible had I been more creative), but we had decided that the overall life experience would be worth the cost to us. So I ended up with $50,000 of debt upon graduation that I wanted to get rid of as fast as possible. This is how we did it. [Read more…]
Free food. Who doesn’t love it? I know very few people who turn it down. I even know some people who ask for it, and often times they’ll get it. The following story might be considered extreme, but it is hilarious and demonstrates a point. [Read more…]