Month: February 2018

Focus and Goals

Years ago I knew someone who was intensely focussed on the goal of paying off his mortgage very early. This is an admirable goal, but he was so intense about it, his kids were doing without and the family didn’t have any fun.

Goals need to stay in balance. Sure, make advance principal payment on a debt, but also go to the discount movies once in a while.

If you hyper-focus on building up a savings account, there’s a risk you might spend more on the credit cards. If you have to put a bit less in savings to avoid accumulating consumer debt, so be it. Keep the balance.




Ideals are Different From Goals

In a perfect world, Henry, age forty, might have his house paid off and ten thousand dollars in the bank in case he loses his job. Should these be Henry’s goals?

I think not, because unless he earns twenty bazillion dollars a year, they aren’t attainable in a realistic time frame. If Henry set these as goals, he would soon become discouraged. It’s fine to hold these as ideals, but goals should be attainable.

His short-term goals might be to reduce his expenses enough to make periodic principal pre-payments on his mortgage. To have a little money automatically transferred to his savings account from every paycheck. You have to start at the beginning.

Because people are only human, we need goals we can realistically meet, and meet them soon enough to feel successful.

Automatic Savings with Paribus

Paribus monitors the prices of things you purchase online. If the price goes down after you buy it, they ask the merchant to refund you the difference, all without any input from you. I had signed up for this ages ago, and when it stopped working I didn’t follow up.

Thanks to a recent Facebook post by, I clicked through and reactivated my account. It had lost touch with my email account somehow. Soon refunds will start magically appearing in my bank account again. The service is free.



Sunk Costs

Sunk costs is an accounting term, but it has applications in everyday life. The old saying “throwing good money after bad” expresses it well. It means money that’s gone and you can’t recover it, and spending more money on it won’t be smart.

Just because the dead car decaying in your driveway was your first car (read: first love) doesn’t mean it’s financially sensible to repair it. Nor socially sensible to annoy your neighbors by having it in your driveway. This illustrates “the sunk cost fallacy.” This is the concept that says we think we’re being all sensible, but emotional content creeps in and undermines our financial smarts.

There are times when feelings matter more than money, but most times they can be expressed and experienced without necessarily making foolish money choices at the same time.

When you’re keeping something, like that car, for emotional reasons instead of practical ones, deal with the emotions first. Take photos. Write down the special moments the object makes you think of. Ask yourself how you can make similar memories with something else you have that is fully functional. Don’t throw good money after bad.

If It’s Tuesday It’s Probably Cheaper

If you’re flying somewhere and have a choice of departure days, fares are often lower midweek because demand is lower. So many people fly during, just before, and just after a weekend, that the midweek flights are somewhat neglected.

Something similar is apparently true of auto repairs. It’s easier to get my car repaired on a Wednesday or Thursday. Some pizza places have special midweek pricing.

If you have flexibility, ask when the slow days are, and save.

Deep Freeze is Different than Freezer

I’ve seen recommendations for how long various foods will stay good in the freezer. Only now have I realized that it makes a difference what kind of freezer it is. Any frozen food will stay good longer in a deep freezer than in a frost-free freezer compartment in a refrigerator.

In either type of freezer, it’s important to wrap the food well, removing as much air as possible from the package.

Here’s a handy chart showing how long various foods will stay good. Notice the temperature is zero degrees or colder. It’s not that cold in my freezer compartment, so I usually store things there for days or weeks rather than months. The main benefit is being able to cook a large batch of a dish and eat it once a week for several weeks. Sometimes these frozen meals lose a bit of flavor. That’s when I add something when I thaw them: mustard, barbeque sauce, poultry seasoning, gravy, salsa, garlic powder, whatever suits the dish.


Plenty of Fish



No algorithm in its right mind would have matched my late husband and I. On the metrics they use, we were irrelevant to each other. On the metrics that can’t be measured in a questionnaire, we were a perfect match. We met pre-internet, back in the olden days.

Internet dating is becoming the norm. You can pay a monthly fee for the big sites that use computer constructs to find people who will be well suited to you. And maybe they will. On the other hand, for frugal dating, there’s a good, free, site called POF tied for second place in Consumer Reports’ survey.

As with any site, you have to use discernment. Meet at a neutral location such as a coffee shop for the first date. Maybe the second, too, if you feel uncertain. Don’t hesitate to decline a date if you’re uneasy about the person.

You have to use caution on any site, and the frugal path is the free sites.