Rainbows on the Road

The other day, as my daughter was on her way to the car when I picked her up from daycare.  Along the way, she noticed something on the ground.  In the excited voice of a 4 year old, she said “Daddy!  Look!  A rainbow!”, and then pointed at the spot on the ground she was looking at.  As I got closer, I found that she was looking at a spot on the wet ground where some sort of oily fluid had likely leaked out of the bottom of a vehicle.  Of course, oily fluids, on wet ground tend to separate out into what you and I would probably best describe as an oil slick.  But, to my 4 year old, it was a rainbow on the ground.  As we drove off to pick up her brother at school, I began thinking about what had just happened.

The thoughts were amplified when she noticed another “rainbow” on the ground on the way into the school.  On our way back out of the school, with her brother, she excitedly called her brother over to show him what she had found.  My son is 6 (nearly 7), and so has a slightly more advanced knowledge of the world than his sister.  I fully expected, in the way that only a brother who doesn’t understand a 4 year old is likely to do, that he would quickly dismiss it for what it was, an oil slick on wet ground, and that her excitement would quickly dissipate.  Instead, as she pulled him over and pointed it out, saying “Look!”, he quickly said “A rainbow!”.  He saw it too.

Rainbows on the RoadAs parents, we’re always so excited to teach our children new things.  We’re often quick to correct them when they don’t get something right, or don’t understand it.  They saw a rainbow.  I didn’t.  All I saw was an oil slick.  Obviously, I saw the resemblance.  But, I knew what it really was, so the wonder that my children had for it was lost on me.  But, it kept me thinking.

How often do we take what we know, and use it as a filter for the world.  Surely, that’s what knowledge is for, right?  I know that 1+1=2, and that certain letters spell words, and that drops of oil on wet ground make a oil slick.  Yes, it’s colorful, but it’s an oil slick, not a rainbow.  How many times do we become so certain in our knowledge, and the filtering that we use it for, that we fail to see the rainbow?

How many people out there are so set in the knowledge that a bank is the lender, and use that to filter the idea of peer-to-peer lending as a sham, without allowing for a little of the rainbow to shine through?

The point is this: If you never question what you think you know, how will you ever know if you’re wrong?  Sometimes the formula and constants change.  Sometimes, the environment itself is what has changed.  Heck, look at the newspaper industry.  How long did they refuse to see the emergence of blogs (like this one) as a major change in the dynamic of how people get their news?  Some of them still refuse to see that rainbow.

If you do one thing to improve your personal finance today, question what you think you know.  Most of the time, you’ll still be right.  But, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a rainbow instead.

What are some rainbows that you’ve found by questioning what you thought was true?  What methods do you use to find the rainbows in your life?

Original Image credit:Oil slick. @blackmetalbike by Growinnc, on Flickr

DIY Projects that Sound Scary, But Aren’t

In the world of frugality, there are few things that will save you more money than learning a few DIY skills.  From simple things like replacing the light switch cover, to more difficult things like wiring electrical, the savings of doing it yourself over hiring a professional to do it can mean hundreds and even thousands that remains in your pocket.  It also seems like the more money a DIY project can save you, the more likely you are to find people who think the prospect of attempting it to be scary.

While I can’t advocate trying something that you’re completely uncomfortable doing, and uneducated about, I think both situations are completely solvable.  Learning what you can about a task can make it something that you’re far more comfortable doing.  We live in the information age, with access to so much more information than any other time in the history of our species.  We have the ability to learn things by watching videos on YouTube.  We can access websites that will have all the detailed instructions for a repair project, or new project.  Many of those have step-by-step instructions.  In short, there’s just no excuse for at least attempting to learn how to do the project and then deciding whether it’s something you want to tackle or not.  Sometimes, you decide it’s not something you want to tackle.  And that’s O.K. too.

So, what are some DIY projects that sound scary, but really aren’t all that bad?

  • DIY Projects that sound scaryPlumbing – Ok, I have to admit this is one of my least favorite project types to take on.  I do take them on, but it seems like every time I do, it takes me a few times to get it right.  And a few extra trips to the hardware store.  At it’s core, plumbing isn’t all that complicated.  The water starts in one place, and you place some pipes to move it from the starting place to the ending place.  For me anyways, it’s all the different fittings and fixtures that seem to always give me trouble.  My kitchen sink was a notorious problem project for me.  I redid that mess three times before calling in the big guns (my dad) when we remodeled the whole kitchen.  I was slightly reassured when even he made a few extra trips to the hardware store.
  • Electrical – If plumbing is the project type I dislike but do, electrical is the project type that I dislike and usually don’t do.  For some reason, I just have a really hard time getting my head around the way it works.  Outlets are easy, I suppose, but then you start getting into switches, circuits, and crazy electrical diagrams.  One day, I’ll take the time to do the right research and learning and actually feel confident enough to take a few of these project on.  I know they aren’t all that scary, I just don’t understand them.
  • Appliance repair – With some of the newer appliances, all the gadgetry can be a daunting adversary.  Fortunately, in most cases, the real machinery of the appliance hasn’t changed much over the years.  There’s just new, smarter, brains driving the machine.  Which means, if the issue isn’t with the brains of the appliance, you can easily find and fix the problem.  In the last year, I’ve repaired our fridge, coffee machine, and dryer.  And a little maintenance to your appliances goes a long way.  Sure, the coffee maker could have easily been replaced, but I was able to fix it and we still use it today.  A few spare parts and some time saved us the expense of a repair technician coming and fixing the fridge and dryer and there are plenty of guides to be found online that give instructions on some simple appliance fixes.
  • Tiling – When we remodeled our bathroom, we decided that we wanted to tile the floor and shower splash.  I’d never tiled before, so it was a somewhat daunting task.  I spent a little time going over instructions and videos on DIY Network’s site to get a general handle on it, then went and bought the supplies and did it.  Like many things I do for the first time, there are plenty of things that I would do differently, but the end result was that the floor and splash got tiled, and several years later, it still looks great.

I suppose the point isn’t really to list out all the projects that might sound scary to a DIY homeowner.  It’s really to point out that a lot of the projects that you and I might think are scary to take on really probably aren’t that hard.  A little time spend learning the techniques and basic principles of the project will likely lead us to being able to learn the skills needed to complete the task.  Even if it takes a couple extra trips to the hardware store.

Debt Heroes

Debt Heroes Cover Art
Debt Heroes

By: Jeff Rose & Ben Edwards

Ben and Jeff approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I’d like to read a copy of their book, Debt Heroes.  They released the book as a companion to the Debt Movement that Jeff started back in February.  They even offered it for free on Amazon for a couple of days.  I was hoping to release this review during those days, but I just couldn’t get it finished in time.  Unfortunately, it’s back up to it’s regular price of $2.99 (free for Amazon Prime members).  That’s probably good for me, as I’ll be using my Amazon affiliate links to link to the book here, but I’m a bit disappointed that you won’t be able to take advantage of the free deal.

Ben and Jeff set out to write a book about debt heroes.  Everyday people that you and I, the readers, can look up to as heroes in the fight against debt.  Inside the book, you’ll find profiles of 21 debt heroes that have conquered debt, and some tips from each on how they did it.  What I found even more interesting in each profile is that each debt hero points out what their weakness was.  Not surprisingly, it isn’t the same for each one.  Also not surprisingly, that weakness played a huge part in each of their debt story.

The book is a pretty quick read (about 177 pages if it were printed), and it’s full of inspirational stories about getting out of debt.  It’s not another “get out of debt with these steps” book, but a book to give you inspiration in your own debt battle.  Of course, the hope is that you read it and it gives you the push that you need to become your own debt hero.

I think I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of each debt hero’s story.  Each of the stories is accompanied by a link to where you can read the full story, so it’s accessible; I just haven’t progressed in my kindle reading to be clicking on links and such.

If you’re looking for a little inspirational reading to help you keep on track (or get on track) with your debt elimination, I think you’ll find what you need inside the (electronic) pages of this book.  Also, remember that you don’t need a Kindle to read the book.  Amazon has Kindle apps for Android and iOS phones, as well as for PC and Apple computers, and most tablets.

Pick up Debt Heroes today.

You’ll read about it at the end of the book, but Jeff and Ben have also created a “Debt Heroes Club” that you can join to get more tips and inspiration at DebtHeroes.com.