Before Keeping Up With Them, Ask Who Are Your Joneses?

Keeping up with the Joneses.  We’ve all heard it.  We know what it means.  Hopefully we don’t do it.

Keeping Up With The Joneses: Who Are Your Joneses, Anyway?

But, since most people that you start comparing yourself to probably aren’t actually named Jones (though, some might be), I wonder who your Joneses are.  Meaning, who are the people that, when you see them, make you want to ‘keep up’?

For me, I don’t have actual people, but the people who fall into these groups are definitely my triggers.

People who build brand new houses

mb-2016-10-construction
People who build brand new homes always bring a tweak of jealousy. What about for you? Who are your Joneses?

I remember when my parents went through the process of building a new home back in the late 1980’s.  Although even then I knew that it was a stressful process (I remember more than story of my dad getting into near-shouting matches with the builder), it was fascinating to me to see ideas on paper and a piece of land get transformed into a home, and was something I wanted to do someday.  So far, I haven’t had the opportunity, so when I see people that are going through that process, it definitely strikes a chord.

People who remodel their kitchens

I’ve never had a granite countertop in any place where I’ve lived.  It’s been all laminiate counters for me.  Our home has a decent enough kitchen, but it is a late-1990’s kitchen that was, even then, fitted with the basics.  It’s functional but it’s nothing fancy. Although we’ve replaced the sinks, faucets, and dishwasher, it’s still very much a basic 1990’s kitchen.  Although we have no plans to replace it, I have to admit, when I see the photos on Facebook and such of people that do a kitchen remodel, I ‘want one’!

For me, these are the big groups that bring out the most longing, even if it is fleeting (which it is).  It doesn’t bring out the desire to go out and build a new house or start a new project, but more the thought process of ‘if only….’.  Eventually I realize that we have a great house and, compared to many I’ve seen, our kitchen is just fine.

So, just curious, readers, who are your Joneses, and to what level does it strike you?  How do you go about moving on when your trigger points bring out that feeling?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Money Blahs And Blessings

I’ve had the money blahs where everything with money and finances seems just meh.  That probably explains why I haven’t posted too much.

There’s nothing in particular that’s bumming me out, but just sort of a collective theme that is part boredom and part feeling like I’m spinning my wheels.

Why The Money Blahs?

I’m all about making progress.  Moving forward and getting things done are great!  I love making lists.   I love setting and reaching goals.  Lately it just feels like with regards to money, things are not really moving or moving too slow to see.

  • We have a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but we haven’t really done a cosmetic update of any substance (beyond painting) in years, and things are starting to show their age and in some cases, are looking pretty shabby.
  • We keep an overall emergency fund and a car repair fund.  However when something like t he recent transmission problem pops up, it takes a big dent and it doesn’t get restocked overnight.
  • Our cars are both at or near 10 years of age.  We certainly save, but even after being car payment free, we’re still well short of being able to pay cash for one, let alone two, outright.  We’re actually starting to have conversations about what to do here, and realizing that we sort of failed on being able to cover the replacement costs is a bit of a downer.
  • Our camper is thirteen years old, and as much as we take care of it and as much as we get a lot of great use out of it, the fact is that it’s starting to come up with a lot of problems that a 13 year old camper that sits out in the Michigan elements for 365 days probably would.  We just spent a few hundred dollars getting some weather sealing done and fixing a few problems.  I don’t mind this so much in the grand scheme of things, because we haven’t put more than $100-200 per season into it in about five years, but when the bill hit during the same month as the transmission repair, the cost stands out more than it otherwise would.
  • We contribute toward retirement, which is great.  But as I look,  my retirement age seems to be getting a bigger number.  So, we make progress but not the progress I’d like.

Now, I’m done having my pity party.  I know I have a great job that offers me a lot.  I’m blessed to have been here for 10 years, and that it affords me a short commute and time with my family.

We could make different choices.   I could look for a better paying job.  My wife could start looking at jobs.  We could forego traveling and save money.  Trust me, I know there are options, and I’m by no means saying that we’re in trouble.

Seeing Blessings In Many Ways

See, I know that in spite of all the ‘problems’ (and I know that many would consider themselves lucky to have them) that I listed, that in the end, we’re still very blessed.  We have a great house that protects us.  Our cars run.  We have a camper that allows us to vacation many nights a year in a way that’s pretty affordable comparatively.  We’re able to save to do a more extravagant trip every few years.  We have enough saved to weather most emergencies.  Plus, we have enough retirement money saved that at least I can say ‘someday’ instead of ‘never’.

My wife and I had a great conversation the other day.  She could tell that I’ve been down for awhile and couldn’t mb-2016-09-cloudsfigure out why.  I tend to internalize things like this, not even intentionally, because I think that I often split our family roles with her as the nurturer and me as the provider, and I’d not been feeling like I’ve been pulling my weight on my end.

Voices That Need To Be Heard

Just talking seemed to work things out a bit.  It helped unravel some of the knots that I couldn’t figure out how to undo on my own.  I just talked.  We didn’t find a pot of money.  Still, I felt better.  Overall, I came away remembering the importance of being on the same page, being supportive, and lifting each other up when needed.  A gentle reminder that my wife had my back was what I needed to part some of the clouds.

Movie Analogies To The Rescue

In the end, just talking with my wife turned my focus from the negative back to the positive.  I’d been suffering from what I call ‘Mikey Syndrome’. In Swingers, one of my favorite movies, the main character is feeling sorry for himself.  His best friend scolds him: “You don’t look at what you have…you only look at what you don’t have.”

The conversation is an eye opener.  After he admits to himself that his friend was right, he starts approaching things differently.  Things wrap up with his newly found positive outlook helping lead to more positive things in his life.  It’s amazing how that works!

That conversation with my wife was an eye opener in the same way.

So, here’s hoping now for better things ahead!

Readers, how do you get over the money blahs?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Good Sales Pitch Makes All The Difference

We’ve lived in our house for nine years now, so I was at first a little surprised when, a few weeks ago, my wife told me that she wanted to learn how to cut the lawn.  There are very few hard and fast responsibilities on who does what in our house, but taking care of the lawn was one of few that existed, and I had no problem with that.

At first I was bewildered, though I quickly came to a conclusion about why she was asking: Her new Fitbit.  I’ve had a Fitbit for a while now, but my wife recently got one just several months back.  While we’re not cutthroat about it, there is a little bit of competitiveness between us as to who can get the most steps daily and over a running seven day period, both of which are readily available on the app.

Cutting the lawn adds about 7,000 steps, so her cutting it instead of me could swing the difference a full 14,000 steps in her favor.

When I confronted her about her motivation, her quick blush told me that I had hit the nail on the head as to why.  So, I pretty much just ignored the request.  It helps that I actually enjoy cutting the grass.  It’s one of the few chores that really doesn’t seem like a chore.  It’s good exercise.  It lets me listen to music.  And after I’m done you can see the difference.

She asked a few more times, and each time I sort of deflected it with different reasons.  I pointed out how busy she was or how I was already dressed to go out and do it, or some other way of getting to go outside and just keep doing it myself.

It all worked until she finally came up with….

The Perfect Pitch

One day I was heading out to go cut the grass and she asked me again if I’d teach her.  I gave her my standard chuckle and comment about Fitbit steps when she stopped me with a new angle.

She commented that I should teach her because it gives us more options in case I couldn’t do it or if we were restricted on time.  She even used examples of when we had to do it before a vacation and rain had stopped us or made it where I had to do it at a really weird time (I think once I was outside around 7:45am getting started).

This made sense.  It was, in essence, the perfect pitch!

I realized that she had me.

So, I told her to go get shoes and socks on and an hour or so later, she had cut the grass.   I even had her fill up the mb-201403mowermower with gas before she got started.  After all, preparation is everything!

It reminded me that, sometimes, you can’t just sell the idea that you have and point out how it will benefit you, but you have to point out how it will help the person you’re pitching it to.  Once she did this, she had me!

Applying The Perfect Pitch In Life

Think about it, this principle applies in many areas:

  • Applying for a job
  • Applying for a promotion
  • Making an offer on a house
  • Proposing a new purchase

The list goes on and on.

So, because of the perfect pitch, my wife knows how to cut the grass.  Some might wonder if I’m worried that she’ll now start doing it regularly and take control of the Fitbit steps.  The answer to that is, of course, no.

Why am I so confident?

Well, I can always hide the gas can.  🙂

Readers, have you ever failed to convince someone of an idea until you changed your strategy?  Have you ever tried to highlight how it would be of benefit to the other party?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Have You Ever Had A Financial Freak Out Moment?

Have you ever had a moment where you just flipped out about something money related? That happened last week, and the bad part about it is that it turned out to be a total false alarm!

Costco Rewards Time Is Almost Near

Around the beginning part of the year, holders of the Costco American Express card receive a paper certificate, on the last page of which contains your certificate for the rewards you’ve earned by making purchases on the card throughout the year.

We use the American Express for a lot, so the 3% rewards on gas is usually a big driver, plus 1% on everyday purchases.  This year, we got a big boost because travel purchases receive 2%, and so we put the entirety of the trip to Disney World on the trip, earning a nice chunk of change.

All told, our reward for the year was over $350!

The Paper Statement Memory

We also have a couple of other cash back reward cards, both through Citi Master Card.  We use these cards as they often have rotating categories of up to 5%.  Both of the cards that my wife and I use had amounts over the $50 threshold for which you can request a redemption.

I decided to submit the claim for the rewards around the same time, so we would have the full amount of all of our rewards available around the same time.

Even though I logged into both of our accounts, my wife still got the e-mail verification about her card, and commented about it.  I told her the plan to get all three rewards piled together, at which point we could decide how to use the funds.

I remembered that a week or two prior, we’d gotten a statement from American Express. Since we do everything electronically, I imprinted a memory that it was probably the statement with the rewards certificate, as that’s the only time they ever send us a paper statement.

I casually mentioned to my wife that she just needed to take the certificate in next time she went to Costco, and get it redeemed for cash, which we could then deposit.

My heart kind of sank when she said “What certificate?”

I mentioned that it was with the statement that we had received a couple of weeks ago.  I reminded her that she had even pointed out that we had a statement.  I also pointed out (by this time, my voice probably raising a couple of octaves) that she always takes mail that I need to keep and sticks it in a little organizer that we use.

I went to the organizer and it wasn’t there.  She had no recollection of putting it there.

Not A  Good Five Minutes

After that it was a pretty chaotic few minutes.  I was blaming her for not putting the piece of mail in the right spot where she usually puts all mail.  She claimed that she didn’t remember even seeing the statement.

It wasn’t a very fun conversation (if you could even call it that).

I looked online about what to do if you lose a certificate, and the answer was not good.  I found a few forums that said that they don’t re-issue the certificates if they’re lost.

Basically, you’re S.O.L.

This didn’t help the tone of the conversation.mb-2014-12stressed

Confusion On Multiple Ends

My wife decided to find out for herself if this was correct. By now, we were past the yelling stage and trying to figure out what to do.  I was even debating going out to the recycling bin and seeing if it was in there.  But, she called American Express and asked what would happen if it was lost or we didn’t receive it.

The agent on the end was a bit confused and said that it hadn’t been mailed out yet.  It was scheduled to be mailed out with our February 24th statement.

I got a bit confused.

But at least we calmed down.

Presenting….My Brian Williams Moment

Then, the next day it hit me.  It all came down to the paper statement.  See, I knew we’d received one.   We received a statement because we closed a different card, and apparently they send you a final statement in paper form.

So, I had my Brian Williams moment.   My financial freak out moment.  Luckily for me, my ‘conflation’ didn’t cost me my job or reputation, and it didn’t even cost me any money.

Though I did have to eat a bit of crow as I apologized to my wife…who was right all along!  As they usually are, of course!  A lesson I just need to remember….

🙂

Readers, what financial freak out moments have you had, and have you had one recently where it was all for nothing?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.