Lazy Yet Productive

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My days off were split up this week so instead of resting the first day and working on my house the next I was forced to get creative.

My challenge was made even worse when I woke up on my day off feeling lethargic with a scratchy throat. I’ve pushed myself far too hard these past few weeks and my body was paying the price. I still had stuff to do, however, so I decided to power on.

My first order of business was to eliminate distractions. I turned off the Internet and disconnected my gadgets. I did not want or need the temptation to go online to distract me.

My next order of business was to create my task list. I noticed with a tired sigh that it was a long one. I’ve let things slide around here lately.

I picked one small item on my list and did it. I still had a bit of energy left so I knocked out a few more of the simpler tasks. Satisfied that I had made some progress, I read for a while and then took a short nap.

I repeated the process all day. Complete a couple of tasks, read, rest, repeat. I made the deliberate decision to postpone several energy-intensive tasks but I accomplished quite a bit nonetheless. Even better, my slow, deliberate pace allowed my body to recover a bit while teaching me an important lesson:

It is possible to be both lazy and productive if you use your time wisely.

While I didn’t tackle the physically intensive tasks on my list I was satisfied with my progress just the same. I could have powered through and worked through the entire list but I would have suffered for it the next day. I see no logic in being deliberately stupid. I have to pace myself.

Have you ever had to force yourself to slow down? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Hate Modern Furniture

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on I Hate Modern Furniture

I detest modern furniture with a white-hot passion. I’d rather set my money on fire than to buy the worthless crap that they call modern furniture these days. When I was a kid, you bought a piece of furniture with the knowledge that it would outlast you. My parents bought used furniture back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that would still be here today if a flood hadn’t destroyed it. I’ve still got an old coffee table that I salvaged from that flood and it’s still going strong!

Modern furniture isn’t designed to last. Unless you buy hand-crafted furniture from the Amish or at a flea market (or can afford an artesian piece), the rest of it is all mass-produced, composite-wood crap. It’s more glue and plastic than anything!

I’ve spent the past few months in a continuing debate with some friends over my furniture preferences. They posited the argument that I would be better off (and have nicer-looking stuff) if I allowed them to take me to a furniture store to search for a new bed or another couch to replace the one the kid traded me out of since my current bed sags in the middle.

I grew madder and madder as I examined the selections at this “high end” store. Every single piece was cheaply-produced garbage that wouldn’t hold up for a year, much less a lifetime, and these idiots wanted a fortune for it!

Metal bed frames? Forget it. The metal was so thin it would warp if my kid jumped on it or more than one adult sat on it. Wood was a complete joke. The pieces that used “real” wood used wood that was so thin I could snap it over my knee. There is no way in hell that crap would survive more than a year in an active household and I told them as much.

The salesmen were offended but I didn’t really care. I didn’t even feel bad for my friend. It was her idea to go there to prove her point–and her point failed miserably upon examination. I had tried to explain in advance that I’ve purchased modern furniture in the past but she wouldn’t listen. It was gorgeous when you first put it together but if you actually try to use it you will watch your hard-earned cash go to waste when it starts to sag or breaks entirely.

I’ll never forget the two-hundred-dollar chest of drawers I purchased for my kids back in the day. In less than six months they had it destroyed, while the used chest of drawers my parents gave me during my childhood is being abused by my grandson to this day. It is being used by a third generation after miraculously surviving a flood while I owned it!

I’ll never forget the $1,500 sectional my cousin purchased a few years back. She was so proud when she had it delivered. It was going to be the last couch she ever purchased.

Four months after she bought it they heard a loud snap as one of the kids sat down on it. A piece of the frame had broken. She tried to keep using it but it continued to deteriorate until she was forced to replace it. Fifteen hundred dollars straight down the drain.

To my friend’s immense annoyance her trip proved to me that I was right in hating modern furniture. I’ll just go to a lumberyard and have a thick piece of plywood cut to the size of my 1960’s-era Roll-Away bed frame. It’s not only cheaper but it will last a helluva lot longer than the furniture on the market today.

Do you detest modern furniture? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Missing the Boat

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Missing the Boat

One of the first stocks I researched happened to be the company that originally owned the store I work in. Since they had sold my company off I decided not to buy, but since the owners of my franchise happened to also own another store that was involved in the company, I set up some news alerts just to keep abreast of how they were doing.

The other day my inbox started buzzing. The trading volume on this stock was insane! I loaded a live chart of the action and watched the price of the stock climb higher as new 52-week highs were reached. This stock that originally traded for around $13 in March at their 52-week low was now selling for over $20 a share and going higher!

By the time it was done the company in question had been bought out by another company at over $32 a share. If I had purchased 100 shares of this company at its 52-week low, I would have netted a $1,900 profit.

But I missed the boat.

So what have I learned so far with these two experiences? I’ve learned to always wait to make sure that a stock has bottomed in price before investing. I’ve learned that, while cutting dividends to pay down debt or grow a company may be a good thing that investors don’t agree and the price drops drastically as a result.

I have learned the value of patience and research.

I’ve also learned that I am on the right track. I can invest in dividend-producing companies at their 52-week lows (after checking into why the stock dropped to make sure it is a good investment), hold onto the stock until it reaches a new 52-week high then sell at a profit, receiving dividends while I wait.

I’ve also learned that there is an odd chance that I might get very lucky and make a mint like the one I lost out on. I’m not going to count on that, however. Stumbling upon a coup like that is kinda like winning the lottery, in my opinion.

I’m finally starting to form a game plan. The proof will be in the pudding, however. It will take about a year before I learn if this method will work or not.

I can wait.

A Stock Market Ouchie

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on A Stock Market Ouchie

While I was digging through the bargain bin at the Stock Market I stumbled across a company with a LOT of potential. This media company, while it has its fingers stuck in traditional media sources like television and radio stations, not only creates its own content but has been slowly transitioning to embrace the new way people receive media. I dug through their financials. They had a lot of debt but were otherwise doing okay. Even better, they had realized that the times were changing and, unlike other companies I’ve researched, they were adapting.

Due to the significant dip in their stock price, the dividend was very attractive, enough so that I continued digging. I realized that this company had something in the works to not only reduce its debt but to continue the transition that I’d discovered. I didn’t know what the plan was but I decided to buy in. I scrounged up every penny I could and bought 191 shares, planning to round it out to 200 shares as my finances allowed.

This stock was trading around $5 a share. I ended up investing close to $1,000 in it. Satisfied, I sat back to see what would happen next. Considering that this company, in the years it had been on the exchanges rarely traded for less than $9 a share I figured I could hold it a couple of years and then sell for a tidy profit while receiving dividends for my trouble.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks later to discover the stock price completely tanking. My pulse went through the roof as I stared. What the hell? I hit the news feeds. As I had predicted, this company had taken some drastic steps to reduce its debt. It had not only written down the value of some assets in order to save money on taxes by reporting a loss for the quarter, it had used that legal jiggery-pokery as an excuse to slash the dividend payout. The money saved would be used to aggressively pay down its debt.

Oh, the financial reporters were screaming! I could almost see them shaking with rage as they ranted against the dividend cut online. This stock had been considered a staple in dividend portfolios yet the company had the nerve to actually slash it–how dare they! Retirees had been counting on that dividend!

As I watched the value of my investment tank I ran the numbers on the new dividend amount. At the price I paid for the stock the return was still a reasonable 5%, yet people were ditching the stock in droves. I watched as the value of the stock dipped lower and lower, debating. Should I sell and then re-buy when it finally bottomed? I’d already lost over $150 in value when I’d discovered the mess. What should I do?

I sat back, took a deep breath, and let it fall. When last I looked the stock was trading at $3.49 a share. It has lost almost $250 in value since I purchased it. I’ll finish up my lot and perhaps buy even more once it hits bottom, if only because I can tell even now that the company is a scrapper. They are paying down their debt while they work out the best way to navigate the challenging media landscape. While I’ve no idea how this will pan out I’ve got faith.

I cannot believe that I am taking this so calmly. Maybe I have what it takes to be an investor after all.

Making Changes

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Life has been a whirlwind since I made the conscious decision to stay in this little house. The past seven years had been a holding pattern so I hadn’t invested much of anything into making this house look more like a home. There wasn’t any point in spending the money if I was planning to move, after all.

Along with the changes my old friend fear has raised its ugly head. Every single time I purchase something it rises, screaming at me to stop. What if you spend too much money? You’ll be broke! and What if you decide to move after all or get flooded there? All of the money you spend will be wasted!

I’m dealing with it. There is no point in shoving it to the side or burying it deep. I have to own it in order to move on. I’ve made the decision to live here, period. At most I’ll end up moving perhaps one or two more times for the rest of my lifespan; there is no sense in doing without the things I love and miss if I can afford them.

The first major task was to reorganize my computer area. It took up far too much space in my living room for the amount of storage it provided. I searched long and hard for a computer desk, one that would serve my small-space needs and be durable enough to last the rest of my life.

That was a bust. The commercially-available computer desks were either made of cheap composite wood that would fail in a few years or die miserably in a flood. The metal options had glass tops that would not hold up to long-term abuse…or my rambunctious grandson.

I decided to get creative. I located a wire metal pull-out shelf that could be mounted on my current wire shelf for sixty dollars and went to work. I pulled everything off of my gigantic shelf, rearranged the shelves, and converted it into a computer desk.

It’s absolutely perfect. My CPU is close at hand but out of danger and I now have space for my router and those annoying piles of paper that I allow to build up until I get around to scanning them for permanent storage.

Even better, I can shove my keyboard and mouse out of the way when I want to write something by hand.

Once that was complete I ordered a corner shelf to make up for the lost storage space. I made a mistake with that one; instead of ordering the heavy-duty NSF shelf that I intended I accidentally ordered a lighter-duty version of the shelf I wanted. It works but it doesn’t match up exactly and definitely doesn’t hold as much weight as I like. Since it was my mistake, I plan to use it until it dies and replace it with the shelf I originally intended to purchase. I see no point in returning something I ordered when it was my fault for not paying attention.

The kid decided she wanted a larger bed so we decided to save a bit of money in that area as well. Instead of the kid buying a full-size bed we just swapped out the sofa sleeper in the living room for her twin-sized bed. She gets to have a larger bed, and I get something new to sleep on. I placed one of my shelves at the head of it and plan to use it as a makeshift daybed/chaise lounge. In time I’ll locate some of those pillows that support you while you sit on a bed, but that will be farther down the road. In the meantime the kid gave me a few of her extra pillows since she has quite a collection. I pile them behind me when I want to sit up and read.

new bed

I’m rather exhausted at all of the changes so I’m currently taking a break. I’ve yet to clear off the table that I had used as a desk for many months. Since the table is smaller than the big plastic table on my front porch I gave the big table away so that I can shift the smaller table out there.

It will be nice to have more space on the front porch.

I’ve one more major purchase that I plan to make in upcoming weeks. I’m going to invest in one more shelf to hold the library of books I am rebuilding. I’ve missed my library so by golly I’m getting it back. I can’t count how many times I’ve kicked myself for eliminating it when when I minimized my possessions. While it made sense at the time (I moved six times in four years, after all) I miss it terribly. Ebooks and Internet sources cannot compete against just pulling a book off of a shelf to look up a word or reference something you’ve read in the past for this old-school girl. While I intend to limit my library to what I can comfortably store in the space I will assign to it, I’m getting it back. Period.

I’m including some pictures on this post to show my current progress. I am so thankful that this place is finally shaping up. I’ll be glad when I finsh with the big purchases, however. Despite the fact that I’m buying for long-term use, I really hate spending the money.

What changes have you made in your home lately? Please share your stories in the commenbs below.

stop button

Moratorium

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Moratorium

Everyone’s needs change over time. You may slow down or stop using an item, or you may start to use something else instead. It’s just a part of life.

For instance, I was a big fan of pencil and paper. I not only write copious lists, I also composed my book/blog drafts and kept a journal in paper format. To save money I stocked up on pencils and notebooks the other year when I caught them on sale.

Since then my needs have changed. My journals are now stored electronically, written in plain text format and stashed on my computer. I save photos, scanned papers, and other relevant items in an annual folder with the file names sorted by date. While I still use pencil and paper for my lists, my usage of these items has went down drastically.

While I’m delighted at the lower cost of maintaining electronic records, the change in my habits left me with a small stockpile of pencils, pens, and notebooks. Instead of having a year’s supply on hand as per my plan, I have a tote of supplies now that won’t get used up for several years.

Since the items will get used eventually it doesn’t make financial sense to eliminate them. In fact, I’m sure my daughter and grandchildren will make a dent in them over time even if I don’t. Even so, it would be stupid for me to add to my stockpile this year. A stockpile is only worth the time and expense when it actually gets used in a reasonable amount of time.

As a result I have now instituted a spending moratorium on certain office supplies. No more paper, pencils, or similar items will be purchased until we use up what we have.

Period.

It doesn’t matter if we stumble upon a cute little notebook with a funny little saying or a crazy-cheap sale during Back To School Season. I refuse to buy what I don’t actually need.

Spending moratoriums can apply to all areas of your life. If you have a sizeable collection of books, music, movies, video games, or whatnot that you haven’t used, it makes sense not to purchase any more until you’ve actually enjoyed what you already have.

If you have food in your pantry that is in danger of going bad, don’t buy more until you use it up.

If your closet is overflowing, stop buying more clothes!

That’s why we stay broke, folks. We spend money on crap we don’t need when we have more than enough already. It’s one thing to stock up on stuff we need and actually use, but when it gets to the point where we have more on hand than we can use up in a reasonable amount of time, we need to stop.

Buying for the sake of buying is stupid.

What areas of your life do you need to impose a moratorium on? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Living Large on a Shoestring

Published / by Annie

I might live cheap but I do live well. I like to take advantage of sales in order to enjoy life as much as possible. One of the major ways I do this is on food.

I am a huge fan of quality meat. I enjoy a nice steak as much as the next person but I rarely treat myself to them.

Unless I catch them on sale, that is.

The other day my store offered T-bone steaks at $3.99 a pound. In the year I’ve worked there I’ve never seen such a bargain. Normally the steaks cost around $9 a pound though occasionally they offer them on sale for $4.99 a pound.

After work I looked over the selections so we could have a treat. I purchased two thick steaks and carried them home to surprise my daughter.

It was a simple meal. We marinated the steaks and served them with mashed potatoes. We even had enough for leftovers the next day and the mutts got some bones to chew on. Life is really good.

Have you scored any serious bargains lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Evaluating My Possessions

Published / by Annie

My daughter and I make a point of going through all of our possessions at least once a year. This allows us to refresh our memory about the items we own, reorganize these items to better accommodate our current life, and to figure out what we need to buy (or not buy) for the coming year.

As we were sorting through one section my daughter held up a tennis racket. “Where did you get this?” she asked.

“I thought it was yours,” I replied.

Katie chuckled. “Me, play tennis? You’re joking, right?”

I thought for a moment. “Maybe Little D brought it over to play with when he spends the night,” I suggested, naming my grandson.

“If he did, I’ve never seen him use it,” Katie replied.

“Fair enough.”

With that, we eliminated the mystery tennis racket from our life. There’s no logic in keeping something that never gets used!

Regardless of how much or little you own, everyone should go through their possessions occasionally to make sure that they aren’t holding on to things they don’t need or use. Why store something if you don’t have to? Owning things for the sake of owning them is just plain stupid. Why spend your precious time and money hoarding useless crap?

This week’s challenge is simple. Go through one area of your home and eliminate everything you don’t need and use, then share the story of your success in the comments below.

Have a great day!

Why I Won’t Invest in Index Funds

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Why I Won’t Invest in Index Funds

I’ve had a lot of recommendations concerning Index Funds as of late. It seems that many people believe that they are the way to go.

I happen to disagree, especially with current market trends.

An Index fund is a business that buys shares in some (weighted funds) or all of the companies listed on the stock market. As a result, the value of your investment goes up and down in relative sync with the stock market itself. These have become famous in recent years as Warren Buffett and others began recommending them for folks who don’t know much about the stock market.

I have a big bone to pick with them, however. When you purchase shares in an Index fund, you don’t own a piece of the individual companies. Instead, you own a piece of a company (or fund, whatever you want to call it) that happens to own pieces of individual companies. You don’t actually own a bit of the individual companies themselves.

I prefer to cut out the middle man because I’m ornery like that. Why pay someone else big bucks so they can buy and benefit from the stocks? If I wanted to go that route, I’d simply start collecting shares on my own (which I might do someday).

My primary concern at the moment isn’t quite that nitpicky, however. My concern is with the fact that the stock market seems to be on the verge of a bear market. As a result, the value of Index Funds could drop dramatically. It’s gotten to the point that Vanguard no longer allows its employees to invest in their own product, the S&P 500 Index Fund.

When a cook refuses to eat their own cooking you need to run for the hills because something is seriously wrong.

I believe I know what it is. Here is a screenshot of the S&P 500 Index:

See that slow, downwards trend? That’s the value of an S&P 500 Index Fund starting to go down around mid-January of this year.

Here’s another one:

This is the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It’s been trending downwards as well this year. Like the S&P 500, the trend is gradual, but it’s still there. In fact, the only major one still trending upwards this year is the Nasdaq:

The Nasdaq is very tech-oriented, so its gains are doubtless tied to the FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). I suspect that upwards trend is about to change. Look at this:

This is a long-term view of Amazon’s stock rise. See how steep the trend is? If there is one thing I’ve learned during my research, the steeper the trend, the less sustainable it is. Amazon is the darling of the stock market but you can bet your buttons it won’t be able to sustain that momentum forever. It will tank, and tank hard. The only question is when. If you look very closely at the chart (just click on the image to see it full-size), you can see that the top is already beginning to round out. This may very well signal that the price is about to drop, though it is a bit too early to tell at this point.

I read somewhere (I really wish I had saved the link), that it is the FANG stocks currently supporting the stock market averages. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google (now called Alphabet), and by extension Apple, Microsoft, and Intel are providing around 85% of current gains on the stock market. As a whole, over 60% of the stock market is down, so when the FANG stocks plunge, those invested in Index funds will see their nest eggs wiped out.

The worst part is, that plunge is already starting. Here is a screenshot from Facebook’s stock:

See that big drop, like the stock fell off of a cliff? It will take them months, if not years, to recover. I suspect that the price of the stock will fall even lower before it’s done since they usually do.

Here is Netflix:

Netflix is on its own roller coaster ride downwards.

Google (Alphabet) is the only one of the primary FANG stocks that seems to be in a stable trend upwards:


So out of the four primary stocks fueling market gains, only one of them seems to have the ability to continue to move upwards for the long term.

In addition to this, as I look through what I call the “bargain bin” I am noticing that many of the stocks there began a major downtrend in January, coinciding with the start of the downward S&P 500 trend that’s starting to appear. My guess is that these companies are the “canaries in the mineshaft”–more sensitive to change than the overall market. I’m seeing stocks that traded for $5, $10,  or more a share prior to that time taking a sudden drop–and staying down despite the fact that nothing within the company has really changed.

I may be far from an expert but to me the warning signs are significant enough to pay attention. We may not be in what is called a Bear Market right now (I don’t even think they are calling it a correction yet) but I highly suspect that one is coming. Those who are heavily invested in high-flying stocks like the FANG group or so-called “safe” Index Funds will be hurt the most if I’m correct. Vanguard has apparently seen the writing on the wall but since they will make money on their Index Funds regardless of how well (or poorly) they do, they will continue to market them to the unsuspecting general public as they protect their employees by not allowing them to invest in it.

In conclusion, as a result of my research, my answer is a firm no. No, I will not invest in Index Funds at this time. If Vanguard doesn’t even recommend for its own employees to invest in their product, I refuse to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

I hope you understand my reasoning now. This is why I firmly believe that my best bet is to scrounge around the “bargain bin” for companies already suffering from the downtrend. For the record, all of this could very well blow over–if it does and my concerns are eased, I will consider the investment.

For Further Reading:

Top Economist: Get Ready for a Stock Market Drop

Why the 1929 Stock Crash Could Happen in 2018

‘A storm is brewing’ in the US economy, says economist Diane Swonk

The Challenge of Investing in the Stock Market

Published / by Annie / 17 Comments on The Challenge of Investing in the Stock Market

One of the major challenges of entering the stock market on a shoestring is brokerage fees. These are fees that you have to pay any time you buy or sell a stock. While there are a number of discount brokerages out there, many of them require that you open an account with anywhere from $500, $1,000, or even more. When you live on minimum wage, saving up that sort of money can be daunting!

Once you open a brokerage account the challenge doesn’t stop there. In order to reap a profit you have to factor in those fees. For instance, the last I checked, a popular Dividend Aristocrat, Proctor and Gamble (PG) was trading at $79.28 a share with a quarterly dividend of $0.717.

Think about this. You work minimum wage. If you’re lucky, you might be able to save up $100 to invest every month or so. That means you will only be able to purchase a single share of the stock at a time. Using my brokerage fee of $6.95 as a guideline, in order to purchase a single share of Proctor and Gamble at $79.28 a person would actually have to spend $86.24 for the privilege. If you were just investing for dividends, it would take you over 27 months just to recoup the fee you paid to buy the stock! I’m not including the potentially increased value of the share itself since appreciation is not guaranteed. In fact, the value of your stock can tank overnight so in reality, when one invests for dividends the safest attitude to have is that you might very well lose the entire price you paid for a stock if the market turns. Even if the market didn’t turn against you, in order to receive a profit from that single share you would have to wait until the stock sold for over $93.19 simply to recoup the amount you paid to buy and sell it!

With that sobering reality, it would be better for the shoestring investor to stash their cash in a savings account.

So how do these big dog investors make money then? They buy in bulk, that’s what they do. It costs the same whether you buy one share or 100 shares so they leverage that to reduce their trading fees to an acceptable level.

Using Proctor and Gamble as an example, if a person bought 100 shares of the company the trading fee works out to seven cents a share to buy, or fourteen cents a share to both buy and sell. The first round of dividends would be $71.70, an amount that completely covers the brokerage fee to purchase the stock and netting a $64.75 profit. Every quarter after that would be pure profit. When the stock increased in price just fourteen cents a share, the brokerage fees would be covered even if you didn’t hold the stock long enough to receive a dividend.

There’s one major problem with that scenario, however. Folks on minimum wage generally don’t have $7,928 to invest at one time. While you can adjust the numbers to accommodate purchasing a smaller amount of shares, one has to be very careful. The goal here is to make a profit–not give it all to the brokerage firms!

My goal here is not to just feather my nest. I want to work out a way that an average person on minimum wage can invest in the stock market and receive a profit. With that in mind I am going to rule out the big dogs as an investment option. While I’m good at saving money I have no desire to save up an entire year’s wage before I could invest.

There has got to be a better way. I have noticed that there are a lot of companies who have seen their stock prices tank starting back in January of this year. I am going to sift through this “bargain bin,” searching for quality companies to invest in. To minimize my trading fees I intend to purchase no less than 50 shares at once, though if at all possible I want to be able to acquire a minimum of 100 shares per purchase.

Is this risky? Yes, it is. I could very well lose every single penny I invest in the stock market using this method but that’s okay. The very worst that can happen is that I have to continue working until I die. Considering the fact that I’d have to do that anyway, the fear doesn’t bother me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve risked everything. When I left my husband, all I had to my name was a ratty old mobile home. I didn’t even have a job when I started but I made it work. I risked it all again when I decided to become a full-time writer. I managed to live on my royalties for several years as a result of that leap.

As for this? This is about more than just me. If I can pull this off, if I can figure out how to play this game and make a profit, I can figure out a way to distil what I’ve learned and teach others how to escape the rat race. I’ll not only achieve my own personal financial freedom, but I’ll be able to help others do it as well.

I’ve got to try.

 

How I Made an 82.82% Investment Return on $7.56

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on How I Made an 82.824 Investment Return on $7.56

One of the smartest decisions I have ever made was to take business classes in high school. I learned how businesses save a fortune simply by buying the items they use in larger quantities instead of as they use them. Unfortunately, this teaching runs counter to how many people manage their finances. They only have so much money until payday that they need to spend on A, B, and C. While they’re at it, they also want to eat out a time or two so instead of stockpiling something they use every day (like bathroom tissue) they purchase just enough to last until their next paycheck arrives.

This is why so many people stay broke. They think short-term instead of long-term in regards to their purchases.

The truth is this: when you purchase items in bulk you can save a small fortune. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do this, either. All you have to do is select a single item that you use regularly and purchase a larger quantity when you run low. Eventually you will amass a stockpile that will save you a LOT of money in the long run.

For instance, I am a big fan of melamine sponges (magic erasers). Add a little water to these beauties and you can clean almost anything without a lot of scrubbing or unhealthy chemicals. Despite the fact that they tear up easily, these little sponges are an essential part of my cleaning arsenal since my time is limited these days due to working a public job, volunteering, and writing.

A two-pack of these sponges costs $1 if you purchase the generic brand at my local Family Dollar so I usually stock up whenever I make it to WalMart since they cost 88 cents for a two-pack there. I realized that I might be able to apply the bulk buying principle to these erasers. I went online and discovered that I could purchase 100 of these sponges at Amazon for $7.59 with free shipping.

I saved almost a day’s wage just by buying them in bulk! If I were to purchase 100 of these sponges at my local Family Dollar I would have spent $50 before tax. If I had bought them at WalMart I would have spent $44. I saved $42.44 and $36.44 respectively as a result.

I don’t know about you but I love having an extra forty dollars in my pocket. I would rather have that money to spend on other items instead of spending it on a single item. This one purchase earned a whopping 82.82% return on my initial investment. Considering that you’re lucky to receive 1% interest on a savings account these days I consider this a major win!

While it might take several years for me to use up that supply of sponges they neither eat nor drink so they will cost nothing to store on my shelf. Even better, I won’t have to worry about the cost of these sponges going up for some time in the future.

Today I have a challenge for you. Instead of spending seven bucks at your local fast food dive for a bunch of unhealthy junk food, why not invest that money by buying something in bulk that you use on a regular basis instead? Shop around for a good deal on an item you use regularly and stock up to maximize your savings. When you’re done, calculate how much money you saved and share it in the comments below.

You will save a fortune.

The Luxury of a Vehicle

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A few weeks ago a friend asked for some help. He needed to locate a vehicle that would start and run for $1,000 or less–in two weeks.

Considering that my days off rarely match up to the friend in question I considered this an almost impossible task. Not only can it take months to stumble on the perfect deal, the absolute best bargains are on vehicles that need immediate repair before they can be driven.

My friend vetoed those outright.

As we inched closer to the deadline I found myself having to reject vehicles that I would personally buy if I were shopping for myself. Vehicles that need some work can be bought for a song if you know how to do it. That was how I acquired the last van I owned. I paid $500 for it when the transmission went out and had a rebuilt one installed. For $2,000 I ended up with a vehicle that blue-booked for twice that amount and drove it for many years.

"You know, you may not be able to afford the luxury of a vehicle right now," I consoled after the last round of inspections failed to locate something suitable. "You could always walk to work and save up some more money while you look for something you like. It would be tough but you live close enough to your job to manage it."

He gave me the look that one reserves for the crud on the bottom of their shoe. "Cars are not luxuries," he sniffed. "Not if you actually go places."

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted. While I understood that my friend was scared, what he didn’t understand is that in some cases a car is a luxury. When you live in town within walking distance to work and stores you can live without a vehicle, especially in this age of Internet commerce. I know; I’ve done it for years.

Unfortunately, most people have been brainwashed into believing that a vehicle is a necessity regardless of circumstances. I’ve seen folks go without food or hit up charities just to make their car payment.

"Well unless you get really lucky you might just have to," I countered gently.

Fortunately for my friend a few days later we struck paydirt. We located a car being sold for a song that was in desperate need of some tires and cosmetic work. We limped the car to a repair shop, scored a used set of rubber, and went on with our lives.

"You know, you should really buy yourself a car," my friend counseled when he caught me walking to work in the rain several days later. "It makes no sense to walk in the rain when you can afford not to."

"I’ll think about it," I replied as we said farewell. I would rather save money for the future instead of spending it on repairs, insurance, and the myriad other costs that come hand in hand with vehicle ownership. While I might buy another car some day, for the moment I am content.

What is the one thing your friends consider essential that you do not? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Bargain Food

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One of the ways I stretch my dollars is by taking advantage of the fact that I work in a grocery store. Every single shift I look around for good deals and take advantage when I can. For instance, when my employer issued coupons for a free 24-pack of bottled water with a purchase a while back, I bought some groceries and squirreled away the water in our assigned area so I would have something to drink on my breaks–completely free.

One major way I save money is on milk. I wait until we mark down the ones that are nearing the expiration date to buy as much as possible. Since a gallon of milk costs $2.49 here that saves us quite a bit! I keep our refrigerator on the coldest setting so that the milk doesn’t spoil before we use it.

We do the same with eggs and other items. 

This is one reason why I am very thankful that my daughter and I work in grocery stores. We both do this routinely in order to save money. While I’ve not calculated exactly how much we save doing this, I’ve no doubt that we manage to pare down our expenses by a couple hour’s wage at the least. Over time that adds up.

Does your current situation allow you to save money on things you need and use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Evaluating my Decision to Stockpile

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I had a bit of a panic attack the other day while I was cleaning my house. As I was rearranging the stockpile of food and supplies I’ve acquired over the past few months I froze in shock over the sheer volume of what I had acquired. Oh, my goodness, I thought in dismay, have I become a mindless consumer?

I’ve preached against mindless buying for ages so the thought was more than a bit disturbing. I tore through my house, evaluating all of the purchases I’ve made over the past year to discover the truth of my actions.

I found:

  • Bathroom tissue
  • Paper towels
  • Soap
  • Vinegar
  • Pinalen (like Pine Sol, only cheaper and actually smells like pine)
  • Odoban (the best disinfectant and deodorizer I have ever found)
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (I don’t always use baking soda to wash my hair)
  • Toothbrushes
  • Pet supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Books
  • FoodfoodFOOD! My pantry is stocked and my chest freezer is full.

Those were my major acquisitions over the past year. Every single one of these items will get used in time. None of it will go bad before I use it.

I do need to curtail my spending on groceries but other than that I can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not mindlessly consuming things, I’m doing the exact same thing I did for years before I started my hard-core minimalism experiment.

I’m stocking up.

The primary way I’ve managed to survive during the hard times of my life was by stockpiling the things we use when money allowed. Since we don’t switch brands or products frequently (if at all), we don’t have to worry about switching brands before our supplies run out.

Fortunately I’m nearing the end of my stock-up phase. That means I’ll be able to save even more money towards my goal of building my savings account.

Even better, by stockpiling items that we use when I find a really good deal I’ve saved several weeks’ worth of wages that I would have otherwise been forced to spend on these items.

For the record, however, I’m kinda glad that the stockup phase is almost finished. I’m tired of spending so much money.

Do you ever evaluate your purchases to see how you’re doing financially? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Panic Attack

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Earlier this month after paying expenses I decided to get a jump on my new goal. Instead of absorbing my current round of royalties into my life I decided to transfer the amount into my brokerage account instead. While I had planned to start next month, I was anxious to begin. I sat down at the computer and logged into my accounts. After calculating exactly how much royalties I had received last month, I started setting up the transfer.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart beat a staccato in my chest and I started shaking. What the hell? I stood up on wobbly legs and staggered out to the front porch. I needed to breathe, I needed to stop trembling, I needed to think, dammit–what in the world was wrong with me?

It took several moments of deliberate breathing for my mind to function again. It dawned on me that I was having a panic attack at the thought of saving the source of money I had relied on for several years. The reaction made no logical sense; I’ve ran the numbers so I know for a fact that I can afford to live exclusively on the income that my public job provides, especially now that I’ve gotten the bulk of my house sorted for the long haul. To make things worse, I’ve spent the past couple of decades relying on every single penny I could manage to earn.

I closed my eyes and just breathed. I knew that the reaction was illogical. I wasn’t blowing the money; I was simply shifting it into another account. I would have it available to use should a need actually arise. In the meantime, that money would earn a bit more money for the future.

Bit by bit I regained control of my body until, still trembling, I went back in the house, sat down at my computer, and finalized the transaction. Wiping away the tears from my weakness I finished getting dressed and headed to work.

My boss was confused when she saw my upset and promptly gave me a hug. We talked for a moment about how the mind can play games with us before I clocked in to work. I forced my emotions aside and focused on my duties.

Guess what? I lived. I not only lived, I arranged for the transfer to be as automatic as I could make it in the future. While I’ll have to manually transfer the money some of my distributors pay (since they only pay by PayPal), the bulk of my royalties will be automatically deposited into my brokerage account each and every month. In the meantime I am growing accustomed to having a lower balance in my checking account.

Sometimes you have to face your fears head-on in order to grow.

What fears have you faced lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Lesson in Silver

Published / by Annie / 13 Comments on A Lesson in Silver

My silly little silver investment has paid off, not in dollars, but in knowledge. I’ve not only learned how to read price charts now but I’ve also realized that there is a big difference between investing in precious metals and the stock market.

While silver, gold, and other precious metals might go up in price you never know exactly when that is going to happen. It is also something of a chore should you decide to sell. If you don’t sell it locally then you have to arrange for a sale with an online broker, package it all up, ship it to them, then wait for them to pay you.

That alone is a pain in the tukus.

The stock market, on the other hand, is a whole lot easier. You buy your stock, wait a bit for the price to go up, then press a few buttons to sell it. You’ll get paid within minutes. I learned this after making a few experimental trades with my new brokerage account. I made a $40 profit just playing around in the past couple of weeks, while the value of my silver has essentially remained flat.

Even better, I’ve learned that certain stocks issue dividends. Buy these stocks and you will receive a small amount of money every one to three months (depending upon how they do their accounting). They are like buying a cow and then selling the milk!

If I can learn how to combine the two methods of investing for dividends and harnessing stock price increases, I should be able to grow my little nest egg into a tidy profit over time. It won’t be overnight, especially with the current stock market fears, but it’s something to look forward to.

In essence, my silver investment may have ended up being a short-term bust, but it taught me more than I would have learned had I not experimented. I’ve even gotten a little memento to keep in my pocket to remind me of what I’ve learned.

What have you learned from your mistakes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Owning Your Issues

Published / by Annie

This old broad is sad to report that she is quickly becoming a toothless crone. The other day I had two more teeth pulled and my dentist asked if I would consider getting dentures. I informed him that I had been exploring my options for quite a while.

I could blame my current dilemma on the doctor of my youth. When my parents expressed concern at how skinny I was the gentleman recommended that my parents encourage me to eat junk food and drink lots of soft drinks to add weight to my slight frame. I could blame my parents for following his advice, creating a bit of an addiction to sugary soft drinks and junk food that I’ve battled for many years.

I could blame the soft drink companies for designing a drink so harsh that there is an actual term for what I’m suffering from called “Mountain Dew Mouth.” While most soft drinks contain some sort of acid that eats at your teeth, Mountain Dew seems to be the biggest culprit in my area.

I could even blame my genetics since my Auntie informed me that our family has always had weak teeth…

…Or I can simply suck it up and move on.

This is me, moving on with a few less teeth in my stupid head. One of these days I am going to have to bite the bullet on a pair of dentures but today is not the day. I’m dreading it. With money being tight I’ll have to go around completely toothless as I wait for the gums to heal before they can fit me with a plate but who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and my book royalties will increase so that I can afford a better option.

What issues do you have to own? Please share your stories in the comments below.

My Silver Has Arrived

Published / by Annie / 10 Comments on My Silver Has Arrived

The fruits of my very first investment have arrived. The mailman delivered the package just a bit ago. My hands shook as I opened the box.

I cried as I held that silver in my hands for the very first time.

I’ve done it. I’ve made my very first step into the big leagues. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. All of my life I’ve been told that you have to be rich in order to have investments yet here I am, living on minimum wage, holding ten silver rounds – my first investment – in the palm of my hand.

The big dogs might laugh at me for my paltry purchase but I don’t care. My tiny little paycheck might not be much but that’s not going to stop me! I’ll invest and I’ll keep investing until I achieve my goal of true financial independence. And once I figure out how to do it I will stand on the rooftops and shout it out to all of my friends. You don’t have to remain poor, even if all you have to your name is a minimum wage income. For far too long the realm of building wealth has been the domain of the Big Dogs; let’s see how they like it when us scrappers enter the ring.

Unlike those rich farts I don’t need a lot of money to live on. That gives me a big advantage. It may take me a while to do it but I know how to save money and I’m learning how to make it work for me. They’ll be no stopping me once I figure it out.

But for now I am going to sit here and play Scrooge MacDuck. I’m going to close my eyes, play this silver through my fingers, and imagine what it will feel like as my safety net builds. After that I’m going to march my happy butt down to the bank and stick nine of these coins into my safety deposit box. I’m keeping one in my pocket for inspiration.

Getting Serious About Finances

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on Getting Serious About Finances

While many of the so-called experts are crying, I’ve discovered that my decision to enter the stock market could not have come at a better time. The US Government has decided that inflation is out of control so they’ve started to raise interest rates to “cool off” the economy.

According to my research, every single time the Fed raises rates, stock prices take a hit as emotional investors panic and others move out of the stock market into safer investments like government bonds.

This is very good news for me, because it means that I’ll be able to buy stocks at bargain basement prices.

In order to maximize my long-term profit, I need to take advantage of this dip. The more I can invest now, the better off I’ll be in the future. That means I have to get really serious about my finances.

I picked up a copy of Your Money of Your Life in hopes of some pointers. The book is filled to the brim with helpful information, but one thing I gleaned from the text was the fact that I need to account for every single penny I spend in order to learn where I stand financially and keep track of the progress that I am making.

I tried to do this on the computer at first, using my knowledge of Excel, and I fell flat on my face. I spent more time trying to use the darned program than actually entering information. I switched around to several free finance applications, only to run into the same issue. I ended up being so frustrated that I was ready to toss my computer against the wall!

So I went back to what I know. I understand the basics of paper accounting. I used that method to keep track of my budget for years during the early days, until my budget became so low I didn’t need to bother. I invested in a ledger and got to work.

Every single penny I spend is documented accordingly. It’s a bit of a chore, but it has made me more conscious of how I spend money. For the first time in my life I’m actually documenting how much I spend on food, books, and other items. I intend to use that knowledge to target areas where I can save in order to maximize the amount I have to invest while the market is in this slump.

Once I have a few months’ of numbers available, I’ll even go into parts of my budget that I’ve never discussed before–like groceries. Perhaps that will help you learn a bit more about controlling your finances, as well as show you a bit more about how I spend my money on a daily basis.

If you’re interested, that is.

Have you ever kept track of every penny you spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Bit of Holiday Fun

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One of the things I am thankful for is that I have the freedom to do little things for fun at work. It started out during Halloween last year when the manager in charge of decorating the store gifted me with some spider pins for my smock. I ended up being the only other person who dressed up for the holiday. I donned a geeky bandanna from my collection and added a few other touches from my wardrobe to become a geeky pirate. Here I am with one of my bosses in a silly picture captured by a coworker.

My daughter got in on the fun by dressing up for her shift at the store next door. Here is a pic of her with my grandson when he came to visit us.

I started something that day. As each proceeding holiday rolled around both coworkers and customers began to ask if I planned to dress up again. My boss has even started gifting me with silly little hats and headbands for the season. I’ve donned reindeer antlers, Santa hats, bunny ears, and a myriad of other items designed to give the world a chuckle.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to have a bit of fun as you go through your day. Most of my acquisitions cost less than a dollar if I purchase them myself and will be used for many years. The smiles I receive in exchange are a priceless return on my investment.

While I still don’t bother decorating my home for the changing seasons, I have realized that doing these little things at work not only makes my day more enjoyable but lightens the mood of those around me as well. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when your cashier is sporting a goofy hat.

Here in a few minutes I will need to dress for the holiday and head to work. I’m rather looking forward to it.

Do you wear silly things to celebrate the holidays? Please share your stories in the comments below.