When I Once Helped Somebody To Be Frugal

It’s always nice to help someone, right?  Helping people makes you feel good, and (hopefully) them as well.  Here in the finance world, helping someone to save money is always a goal.  This is a look back when I once helped somebody to be frugal.

A Simple Conversation

Where it started was a simple walk down the hall to a meeting.  On the way, the co-worker I was walking with said something that floored me.  It was simple but humbling when he told me that I inspired him to start bringing in his lunch.

We talked and I found out that he usually went out for lunch.  Making a lunch was something that he had never bothered to do.  So, when he got hungry, he went out. Or he would go to the cafeteria.  Maybe the vending machine.  In any case, he never brought in a lunch.

Watching Me

As it turns out, he was watching me.  We sat nearby so he saw that my lunch was pretty basic.  I normally bring in:

  • Vegetable (carrot sticks)
  • Sandwich
  • Fruit
  • Yogurt

In all honestly, this takes about 5-10 minutes to put together. I do it at night so that the morning is just a grab-and-go.

He watched me and realized:

  • Packing such a lunch was easy
  • It could save him money
  • And, it was healthier!

People Are Watching

I was pretty happy that I inspired someone to make better choices.

Now, honestly, this happened a few years ago.  We no longer work in the same building, so I have no idea if he actually kept up with it or not.  After all, habits are hard to change, and his habit was NOT making lunch.  But, I’m hopeful.

Here’s the thing, though.

Even if he didn’t keep up the habit, maybe someone else did.  I can’t imagine that he’s the only person that’s ever noticed me taking a lunch.  Maybe others have noticed and never said anything, yet tried it out.  Who knows?

But, it just goes to show, you never know who’s watching you.  Hopefully if you’re being noticed, it’s for something positive!

Readers, have you inspired someone to make a better financial choice?  Have you helped someone to be frugal?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

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.

10 Short Term Money Goals That Are Easy

We all know we can do a better job at saving money, right?  I know I do!  Sometimes figuring out where to start is a bigger obstacle than actually making the changes.  If you can relate to that, then this post is for you.  Here are ten short term money goals, things that you can do today and without much trouble, that can really help you out.

Review Your Insurance Policies

Most people could save money on insurance.  You can often adjust your deductibles to lower your payment.  I also recommend shopping your policies around.  If you have more than one type of policy, you can often get a multiple policy discount by using one carrier.  Either way, checking your insurance is something that can probably save you money.  The great thing is that you can do this with just a few phone calls or website visits.

Create A Savings Fund

If there’s something that you have always wanted but don’t have the money for, that can change!  Create a savings bucket and start putting some money aside.  Whether it’s a bigger TV, a new car, or a family vacation, you can start saving for it today.

Calculate Your Debt To The Penny

Most people know the benefit of getting out of debt, or even reducing it.  This is all fine and good, but I wonder how many people know exactly how much debt they have.  Now is the time to figure it out.   Look at everything you owe and add it together.  It might sound like a frightening idea, but knowledge is power.  Once you know your debt amount, it won’t be holding itself over your head.  Now you can start thinking about ways to pay it down!

Create A Christmas Fund

This sounds an awful lot like the savings fund idea, but it’s really a specific one.  If just thinking about paying bills in January stresses you out, then this one is for you.  Stick a little bit aside every month and you can have a good chunk (or all) of the money ready when the bills come due.  I’ve used this strategy for years and it makes the holidays much less stressful.

Look At Your Cell Phone Bill

If you have a cell phone, and who doesn’t, then take a look at the bill.  You might be able to save some money.  These days the plans and offerings change so fast, that you might be able to make some changes and save some money.

Bump Your Retirement By 1%

Most people won’t notice if their paycheck declines by 1% but it can make a serious difference in your savings.  Go in and add 1% to your deductions today.  Bonus tip: Every time you get a raise, bump it by another 1% each time.

Sell Some Junk

It might be junk to you but you might have stuff sitting around that someone else will pay for.  You get money and space.  It really can’t get much better than that!

Track Your Net Worth

This is another one that goes into the ‘knowledge is power’.  Track your net worth, which is simply to add together all of your assets, then subtract out your debt.  Once you’ve figured it out, then re-calculate it every month.  This will start letting you see how your financial story is changing over time.  The thing is you have to start doing it, so do so today.

Check Your Credit Reports

You get a free check of each of your three credit reports every year.  I go in roughly every four months and run a check of my credit report. This is easy.  It only takes a few minutes.  You want to make sure that everything is accurate, and you can use this to identify things that you could do, like close a dormant credit card account.

Think Of Something That You Can Live Without

Indulgences are fine, but chances are there is at least one that you can get rid of and find that you’re perfectly OK with.  If you have premium channels on your cable package, could you drop this? Could you make your own coffee instead of stopping at the coffee shop?  Do you really need that pair of fancy shoes?  When you spend less money, it adds up to money in your pocket.

Readers, what are some easy ideas that you have to meet short term money goals?  Let me know your ideas and what’s worked for you in the comments.  Thanks so much for reading.

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.

4 Reasons Why I Love My Smart Meter

Do an Internet search for ‘smart meter’ and the results aren’t pretty.  Most of the top results are articles or blog posts complaining about smart meters and pretty much suggesting that everybody that has one is going to get cancer.  To that, I say, hogwash.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I love my smart meter.  Yes, I used the word ‘love’ and even if I’m the only person in the world, so be it, but I think as time goes on, more people will find that their smart meter is not something to complain about, but instead something to embrace.

Smart Meters 101

First of all, what is a smart meter?

For those that might not have yet been introduced to the concept, a smart meter is a different version of the standard electrical meter that sits on the outside of your house that measures usage.  The traditional meter has dials that have to be read to calculate energy usage.  A smart meter has a digital display.  In addition, a smart meter transmits this data on a regular basis to the electrical company.

This data transmission is where people seem to have the problem and think that they’re evil.  I’m here to tell you that they’re not.

Here are four reasons that smart meters are good:

Smart Meters Are Automatic

Say there’s a big storm and your power goes out.  You have to let the power company know by picking up your phone and calling them, right?  Not so with a smart meter.  A smart meter, by design, will check in every few minutes, so if the power company sees that a meter or group of meters is not checking in, they’ll know that the power is out.  They’ll also know the size of the outage.

Now, of course it doesn’t hurt to call the power company anyway to report the outage, but if you have a smart meter, chances are they already know by the time they take your call.

Smart Meters Are Accurate

Three times out of the last twelve months, our gas bill was completely off.  Two of those were during the winter months, when snow made it hard for someone to come read the meter, so they estimated our usage.  The other time someone either read the meter wrong or wrote down the wrong number, so our bill was much higher than expected.

A meter that isn't smart.
A meter that isn’t smart.

Although they fixed it, I had to make a call and spend time traipsing outside to get an accurate reading.

With a smart meter, the meter transmits your usage and that creates your bill.  Simple as pie.  No estimated bills.  No mixing up of numbers by someone reading the meter.  Ever since our smart meter was installed a few years ago, we’ve had 100% accurate results.

Smart Meters Save Energy

Our power company offered us a device that allows us real time tracking of our electrical usage.  All I had to do was plug the device in, plug it into our internet router, install an app, spend a few minutes while the device and our meter synced up, and now I can go into the app at any time and see real time usage.

I’ve gone through the house, flipping on and off lights, or turning on and off appliances, and have seen the change instantly.  Data like this can help people make better decisions.  And, I think the possibilities even go beyond that.  We sometimes go away during the winter months.  We can launch the app, while we’re away, and see that usage is taking place so that we know the furnace is cycling on and off at a regular basis.

Say we logged into the app and saw a stop in the pattern, we might know that we’d better call someone so that we can avoid coming home to burst pipes.  This is a localized program for our company in the Detroit area.   I’m guessing that it or something like it will eventually be standard so that we we can individually tap into the smart aspect of the smart meters.

Smart Meters Are Safe

For some reason, smart meters seem to be the one device that people think will give them cancer because of transmitting data.  This is from people that likely have a wi-fi router in their house, who use cell phones, cordless phones, and other forms of wireless communication, and did I mention that all of those devices are on the inside of your house, so they’re the ones that would likely be more worrisome, whereas the smart meter is sitting on your outside wall, therefore providing less exposure to any invisible death rays.  A

Even though smart meters are regularly sending out pings and data information, it’s only actively transmitting around 1% of the time.  All things considered, if you’re really worried about invisible communication waves frying your brains, smart meters are probably pretty far down the list of real, actual problems.

Final Thoughts

One of the concerns that people have is that they actively choose to put wi-fi routers and cell phone routers and other devices in their home, where often they don’t have a choice in whether a smart meter is installed.  The power company just shows up.  While I see this as a concern, I think, again, that of all the things to fret about over which we have little or no control, there are many others things that I think would come up above a silly, old electrical meter.

Readers, what do you think about smart meters?  Would you pay not to use one?  Would you use the monitoring and real-time tools available?

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.

How’d We Get That 20% Off? No Idea!!!

Have you ever gotten money off of a purchase that you had no idea was coming your way?  This exact thing happened to my wife at the grocery store (Meijer) recently.  They have a rewards program called Meijer mPerks, and somehow we got a great deal.

And, the crazy part is, that we still can’t figure out how it happened!

Overlooked Sale

I’m sure you’ve had it happen where you buy something and find that the price is lower than you expect.  That’s a nice surprise, but usually there’s an explanation:

  • “Oh, there’s a sale this week, you didn’t see the ad?”
  • “You must not have seen the sale sign in front of the product”
  • “Yep, you bought so many that you get an automatic discount”

The Sale That….Isn’t?

What happened for us is that my wife got home and noticed that a lot of products were 20% off.  At least 10-15 items all had a discount applied after the price.

She took a deeper look and found that they were all Meijer brand products.

Awesome!  But how did we not know about this? I decided to dig around:

  • Weekly Ad – We looked at their weekly ad and looked to see if there was a Meijer Brand sale.  You’d think this would be front page news.  It wasn’t on the front page…or anywhere else.
  • mPerks Website – Meijer has a rewards program where you clip coupons and such online.  Often, they have percentage off coupons for various thing, so I figured I’d look and see if there was something there that one of us clipped but didn’t think about.  Nada.
  • Matchups – I subscribe to a blog that provides a weekly listing of deals and how you can often stack them with coupons that are available and the like.  It’s a great tool for creating our shopping list.  Again, a deal like this
    Jumping for joy at unexpected savings!
    Jumping for joy at unexpected savings!

    would have been at the TOP of their weekly announcement.  But…nothing!

  • Facebook – I went on Meijer’s Facebook page to see if they announced something or if anybody else was talking about it.  Nope!

So, the whole thing remains a mystery!  We have no idea why we got an extra 20% off on Meijer brand stuff, but we aren’t complaining!  A lot of the stuff was on sale to begin with, and the other stuff (e.g. lunch meat) was stuff we would have gotten anyway, so the savings was 100% unexpected and 100% awesome.

Thanks, Meijer, for the extra bucks that we saved on our weekly grocery trip  It wasn’t a huge amount but every bit helps!  If you want to make this a regular thing, by all means, please feel free!

Readers, have you ever saved money and never been able to figure out why?  

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.