Hello amigos, I am still alive! It is time for a much overdue post-summer update. Lots of big things happening. I started a new job, we finally opened bank accounts for the kids, we’ve earned hundreds of thousands of hotel points, and we had another baby.
Oh hello. I’m still here. Question. How would you like to be trained for a new job by someone who’s just been laid off and told that you are replacing them…and for more pay? Anyone?
That’s what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks.
There have been many things happening in the bare budget guy household, and for the past few weeks, blogging has not been one of them. For starters, I got a new job. It came out of nowhere. I’ll just start from the beginning. [Read more…]
Today’s post comes from Chris at Eat the Financial Elephant.
Mark and I first started sharing e-mails about exchanging guest posts after I linked his post about tithing 10% of their family’s income. I used his post to help refute some of the many myths in mainstream thinking about why it is difficult to retire early.
Put down that pencil! Before you go and solidify your goals for the new year by writing them down, take a minute to think about what you really want.
Goals may only theoretically reflect things that are important to us. I say “theoretically” because when we take more time for further introspection, we may find that our goals don’t actually line up with what we consider to be our core values. So that begs the question–what are your core values? [Read more…]
All of us have likely experienced some degree of financial pain. But only some of us have experienced extreme financial trouble which leads to what I might call chronic financial pain.
I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced debilitating financial pain. Sure, it hurts when we realize we bought something that we could have gotten for half-off online or that we have to pay the most expensive car insurance rates in the country, but these aren’t things that necessarily prevent us from meeting our basic needs or eventually reaching our financial goals.
A little pain every once in awhile is actually a good thing. We learn from the small mistakes, and they encourage us to take action to avoid future pain.
But that pain becomes destructive when it lingers and eventually finds a way to negatively impact every aspect of our life.
This type of chronic financial pain has been something we’ve luckily been able to avoid. We’ve definitely had financial challenges such as experiencing a layoff and being $50K in debt, but we’ve never had the level of financial stress of wondering where our next meal would come from.
We have, however, experienced other types of chronic pain. As a result, we have sympathy for those who experience any type of chronic pain. It’s also given us insight into the amazing power of support groups.
Pregnancy Support Group
Amanda’s first two pregnancies were relatively simple. They consisted of what most people would imagine– morning sickness, fatigue, odd food cravings, and even some mandatory bed rest.
The pregnancy for baby #3, however, was nothing like the first 2. She was very sick. She had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is a complication that affects about 1% of pregnant women. Unfortunately, we didn’t even realize what it was, or get much help for it, until it was over. Had we been able to identify what was causing her so much misery, we would have sought out better support instead of suffering through it alone.
Some people she spoke with about her experience made her feel as if her sickness was just part of the normal pregnancy experience–something all pregnant women go through–and some just handle better than others. This only made her feel like more of a failure and more depressed. Even after the fact, she never felt understood.
There is a high incidence of recurrence of HG with subsequent babies, so we had decided that we would probably not have another one. But surprise! Four years later, turns out we are getting one. We were excited for the baby, but nervous about Amanda’s health.
She immediately started searching for resources, and she became an HG Warrior. That is to say she joined the facebook group HG Warriors. In an instant, she had a network of almost 1,500 women who understood exactly what she had gone through and what she might go through again and who occasionally post memes like these:
This is what HG moms call “being crackered.” Crackers and Ginger Ale is one of the most commonly suggested remedies to morning sickness. This well-intentioned suggestion is only evidence of how misunderstood the severity of the condition is.
All of the sudden she did not feel alone. She had a group she could turn to with questions about meds and dealing with the sickness. In this group, she feels like she is not misunderstood. And at the beginning of this pregnancy it gave her more courage to face whatever might come.
Ankle Support Group
Last week I had my 3rd ankle surgery in 3 years. I broke my ankle skateboarding when I was 16. The break healed fine, but there was a complication in my ankle joint known as an osteochondral defect (OCD). It Is something that affects about 15 out of every 100,000 people as a result of either genetics or physical trauma, and it is very difficult to treat.
Although I’ve had increased physical limitations, I’ve been lucky over the past several years to still be able to participate in daily activities and even sports with minimal problems. It all finally caught up with me 3 years ago, when I started dealing with daily chronic pain whenever I am on my feet.
I am now a member of not one, but two support groups. I found and joined an online forum of other individuals going through the exact same thing as I was. For the first time, I was interacting with other people going through the same frustrations and disappointments. I even ended up talking to some of them on the phone, and some of these people are super depressed. But I understand why.
In addition, after seeing Amanda really benefiting from her facebook support group, I decided to see if there was an OCD facebook group. It turns out that there is one, and it has over 700 members. I instantly felt like I belonged.
I’ve received answers to questions and have been able to make suggestions to others based on my experience. In the process, I have received wonderful support and total acceptance.
I also get to read sympathetic and occasionally humourous memes & pictures.
Being understood is incredibly gratifying. My friends and coworkers often give me a hard time for taking the elevator at work, and I play along, but the fact is that I have a minor disability. Sure, I can walk (sort of), but that’s been about all I’ve been able to do over the past 3 years.
Oprah said that “the single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking every single day to people, was that there is a common denominator in our human experience. Most of us don’t want to be divided. The common denominator that I found in every single interview, is we want to be validated. We want to be understood.”
We ALL want to be understood, and it is very frustrating and disheartening when we feel like we aren’t.
Financial support groups
So what does my wife’s pregnancy and my gimp foot have to do with finance? Everything!! Regardless of the source of chronic pain–physical, emotional, mental, financial, etc.–there are certain steps anyone can follow to at least take the edge off.
1. Identify the problem
Are you depressed, stressed, or angry as result of a really tough financial situation? The first step in the right direction is to make that connection. Not all people know that the source of their frustrations might be largely financial.
2. Join a support group
There are many forms of support groups out there. It could range from an in-person meeting at a local church to an online facebook group or forum. Below are just a few active online forums with large and supportive communities.
There are also websites dedicated to helping others get out of debt such as Steve’s blog at Getoutofdebt.org.
3. Seek Solutions
Once you find a group, don’t just read and listen. Engage! Speaking up will allow others to help with your specific problem. You may find there are others out there who have been in your exact situation.
4. Share your experience
After finding support and making progress in overcoming your financial pain, you will likely have the desire to help others. Doing so will not only motivate others but also help to motivate you to continue forward on your path of financial recovery.
If you have some type of chronic financial pain, you are likely suffering in silence. Everyone thinks you should be okay because you look like you should feel okay. That only makes the problem worse. But you can put a stop to that through understanding that you are not alone and talking to someone who has been in your shoes.
I included only a small sample of free online resources. Please let me know in the comments if there are others you think I should add, and I will update this list!
Have you ever been part of a financial (or any other) support group?
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…]
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?
If you’ve never browsed the posters at despair.com, you are missing out. The site’s tagline is “the cure for hope.” Though hope is something I generally try to instill rather than cure, I still laugh every time I think of my favorite demotivater phrase: “Defeat: For every winner, there are dozens of losers. Odds are you’re one of them.”
There is always someone out there who is better than us at something, and that will always be true. We often forget, though, that it goes both ways. [Read more…]
A few days ago, we had a $5,000 surprise in the mail. It was a check from my 92-year-old grandmother (my “Rich Grandpa‘s widow”) with my name on it. Having never had experienced anything like this before (except for the one time I received a big wedding gift that ended up losing half its value during the financial crisis), I had to stop and think about what we were supposed to do next. [Read more…]
Today we get to hear from my younger and stronger (though not as good looking) mesomorph brother. He’s the proud new father of a beautiful baby boy! Let’s hear it for Steven!
I’m the perfect example of someone in need of Mark’s financial advice.
I work in the public relations & marketing department for a large healthcare organization, so I’m used to contributing to blogs, but usually on topics like meditation, pregnancy, listeria, and kidney stones.
I don’t claim to have any special financial expertise, but I can pass a long a few insights I gleaned from a recent conversation with my dad during a game of tennis (if I remember correctly, Mark has told you a bit about him). [Read more…]
The main inspiration behind building this blog was my arguably nosy curiosity about other peoples’ personal finance lives in combination with my desire to help people with their finances. I built a tool to accomplish both of those things. You can bare your budget, and can ask me anything you want. You can see some of the questions I’ve answered here.
I can’t very well ask other people to put their finances out there without me being willing to do the same. This means sharing all of the normal financial stuff that you could probably guess anyway if you put some thought into it, like how much we spend on food, the cost of our kids breaking stuff, etc.
But along with all of that transparency comes the disclosure of something that is fairly personal. That thing, my friends, is tithing. [Read more…]
I was feeling particularly overwhelmed the other night with the idea of having to work the 9 to 5 for the next 30 years of my life. Reading blogs like Go Curry Cracker, Mr. Money Mustache, and Y Travel Blog are incredibly inspirational, but the fact is that I haven’t made the same choices over the past 10 years that have positioned me to do what they’re doing. Combine that with reading about how Pat Flynn made over $150K last month, and I allowed all of that to lead me to wonder if I should be doing something differently in my life. [Read more…]