Am I really a 'sucker' for helping another human being?
As I walked home from doing errands on Monday, I saw an older man standing near the entrance to a shopping center parking lot. He looked wrinkled and weary and underfed, and he held a cardboard sign: "Homeless, anything will help." I put a dollar in his hand and said, "Take care of yourself. I wish it could be more." He replied, "God bless you."
Then a silver SUV roared up, sunroof open to let the summer rays strike the male pattern baldness within. The driver wore pale blue sunglasses so I couldn't see his eyes, but I could read the sneer on his face. "Sucker!" he yelled as he drove by.
Maybe I am a sucker. I didn't know the backstory of the man to whom I'd given that dollar. He could have been a drug addict or a Level 3 sex offender.
He could also have been a disabled veteran, a downsized executive, a laborer who aged out of his profession, an uninsured guy who lost everything after catastrophic illness.
His past didn't matter to me. His present did: He was a human being in need. I had a dollar to give, so I gave it.
It's a good idea to keep a stash of greenbacks handy.
Hidden in my apartment is a slowly growing collection of small bills. I’ve been setting aside ones and fives toward the goal of having cash on hand for emergencies.
Some Smart Spending message board readers do this, too. Whether they call it pin money, bail money, "gittin' out of town" money or just a collection of presidential quarters, having a little ready cash makes them feel, well, ready.
- Bing: How to hide your cash
The U.S. government wants us to be ready. One of the Department of Homeland Security's Web sites, www.ready.gov, recommends keeping some folding green on hand, right alongside the food, water and bucket toilet.
After all, some emergencies mean power failures -- bye-bye, ATMs.
You never know who might be struggling financially.
An old friend recently got a job after being first underemployed and then unemployed. One day at noon her new boss noticed she hadn't left her desk. "Aren't you going to have any lunch?" he asked.
Well, no, she wasn't. There'd been barely enough in the house to make brown-bag lunches for her kids. My friend lied brightly about wanting to work through her lunch hour so she could finish on time for once.
It's bad enough to be on the financial edge. It really stinks to be put on the spot, too.
Some of us don't realize that anybody could be in financial trouble. That well-dressed middle manager might be about to lose her home. That seemingly carefree young co-worker could have two jobs and three roommates and still be sinking under the burden of student loan debt.
Fuel economy is now buyers' top concern.
As the price of gas goes up, many people's desire to own a big honking SUV heads south. And so may be the value of that SUV sitting in your driveway.
A growing number of SUV owners are finding that they owe more on their vehicles than they're now worth. And those folks are going to have a heck of a time getting rid of them at a satisfactory price.
Was it really worth 30 minutes of my time?
This post comes from partner blogger The Dough Roller.
Would you cash a 35-cent check? Two days ago I wouldn't have known the answer to that question. Now I do, and, I'm sorry to say, the answer for me is yes. Yesterday I spent 30 minutes traveling to my bank and back to cash a 35-cent check.
Here's the story and what I plan to do with my spoils.
Prices aren't the only factors to consider.
The result? The items, in total, would have cost $399.47 at Sam's Club and $406.41 at Costco. About a dozen of the items were cheaper or the same price at Costco. Otherwise, Sam's Club ruled. She also notes that Sam's Club has a cheaper membership fee and a clearance section. (Her Costco does not.)
Regardless, she still prefers Costco. Here's why:
Dress warm, turn down the thermostat and watch your bill shrink.
Years later, when hard times hit, we reverted to those frugal ways. To this day, the programmable thermostat never goes above 63 in winter. Do we sometimes get cold? Yes. Do we suffer? No. We know that Kate's advice works.
- Bing: Lower your heating bill
We recently found Kate's blog and enjoy it because it's so real. Unlike personal-finance writers who assemble advice in the comfort of fine homes, she's living a sustainable suburban homestead life.
To put it simply, banks exist to make money off you.
This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.
Credit unions exist to help their members. Commercial banks exist to enrich their shareholders.
You read that right. That's why credit unions often have better interest rates on both loans and deposits. Commercial banks are businesses. Their sole purpose is to figure out how to make more money from customers (you). Interest rates on accounts are often very low (or nonexistent), and they always try to sell you new products.
- Bing: Find a credit union
Credit unions, by law, have to have membership requirements. Credit unions are often tied to a geographic area or particular group, and as long as you qualify you can join. For instance, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union is one of the better-known credit unions, because of its once mighty CD rates (still competitive if you look at terms of three-plus years), and if you aren't active/retired military or work in defense, you can become eligible by joining the National Military Families Association. There are membership rules, but there are ways around them.
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