What’s Your Financial Weakness?

We all have a financial weakness.  That one area where we struggle to do the right thing.  We might even struggle with deciding what the right thing is.  If we remain unaware of our financial weakness, it can wreak havoc throughout our financial life, as my weakness did mine.

However, knowing your financial weakness, your financial Achilles’ Heel, so to speak, can help you become a better manager of your finances.

My Financial Achilles’ Heel

Me?  I like to squirrel things away for the proverbial rainy day, but when the rainy day comes, I don’t like to dip into my stash.

My husband and I have an emergency fund.  True, it’s smaller than we’d like, but we do have one in place.  Considering 28% of Americans don’t have any emergency fund (CNN Money), we’re glad to have our small one.

Financial WeaknessThere are other ways I squirrel away things.  We buy produce in season at lower cost by doing creative things like renting an apple tree.   Then we store it away for the cold winter months.  (It makes me feel a bit like a pioneer.  A pampered pioneer, but a pioneer, nonetheless.)  Right now we have a deep freezer in our basement that is filled with plums, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and applesauce.  If we didn’t have money for groceries, we have enough fruit to easily last us for two to three months.

Having an emergency fund as well as a stocked pantry doesn’t sound like a problem, right?

Right.  I’m being financially responsible and preparing for a time when money will be tight.

Here’s the problem.

I don’t like to dig into my stash.

If I have a financially lean month and I’m faced with a large expense like a car repair, I don’t do what would be logical–dip into my emergency fund.  Instead, my first inclination is to put the repair on my credit card and leave the emergency fund intact.

If I have a month where I don’t have as much grocery money, I’m more likely to put groceries on my credit card than make a significant dent in our food stash.

My behavior makes.no.sense.  No sense.

And yet it took me years to figure out that I do this and to realize that I have to fight the natural inclination to go in debt rather than dip into my reserves.  Part of why my family struggled with credit card debt is because of this irrational behavior.  Now the credit card debt is paid off, and I have a chance to start anew, well aware of my weakness.

What’s Your Financial Weakness

So, what’s your financial weakness?  What completely irrational behavior do you exhibit?  Are you even aware of what it may be?

Honestly, finding the chink in your armor, so to speak, may take years.  I think it took me nearly 15 years to figure out mine, and I made a lot of financial mistakes during that time.  I’m not sure why I exhibit this behavior except that perhaps growing up, I always saw my parents struggle with money.  They never had money to create an emergency fund.  Credit cards were their emergency fund, and they had to use them frequently.

I’m guessing for most of us, the experience is the same.  Financial behaviors we saw in childhood and learned as normal become the basis for some of our adult decision making.

What is your financial Achilles’ Heel?

How to Handle Someone Who Gives Too Many Gifts

First world problems, right?  How can you complain about someone who gives too many gifts?

Believe it or not, that’s something I’ve struggled with this holiday season.  I have one relative who, simply put, is buying too many gifts for me, my husband and my kids.

If this relative was independently wealthy, that would be one thing, but I know that she’s also trying to save money for some home repairs and a trip of a lifetime to Europe.  I wish she would buy each of us just one gift and put the rest of the money in her vacation fund.

Do you also have problems with someone in your life who buys too many presents?

If so, there are things you can do.  (Though you’ll probably want to implement most of these suggestions AFTER this holiday season.)

Too Many GiftsSet a gift giving limit.  Most people buy gifts because they want to be nice, and they want to do something special for you.  However, people can overstep their bounds.  This year between all of my relatives who like to give gifts to our kids, the kids are getting more than enough presents.  Combined with the gifts my husband and I were going to give, my kids were going to have way too many gifts.

I set aside some of the gifts I was going to give; I’ll use them next year.  I also had my mom set aside some of her gifts for birthdays.  I’ve also asked some of the relatives to set a limit of one or two gifts in future years so that our children are not drowning in presents.

Accept and be appreciative.  Another idea is to simply accept the many gifts and be appreciative.  After all, as Trent Hamm, guest blogger on The Christian Science Monitor, points out, “These gifts are given out of love.”  Hamm, who struggles with his family members giving his kids too many gifts, explains, “People give our kids gifts because they love them so much and it’s their way of expressing it.  For me, telling them  not to do so is akin to saying, ‘Please don’t express your love and caring for our children.’”

If someone like a grandparent routinely goes overboard with the gift giving, you can reduce the number of presents that you get your kids and save money.  You can just reap the benefits of saving money, or you can take the cash that you saved by not buying so many gifts and instead give the cash as a present to the prodigious gift giver.  Everything comes full circle this way.

Direct the gift giver’s generosity.  I remember when I was little, my mom’s friend wanted to get me a Christmas present.  I was a prolific reader, and she got me Green Eggs and Ham.  I was well beyond that book.  Too often, people try to be generous by giving a present, but the gift they give is not necessarily what the recipient needs or wants.

You can direct the gift giver’s generosity by steering her to a wish list.  You could create it on Amazon, and then you would be able to keep track of what has been bought, and you could also have some say in the plethora of presents coming into your house.

Do you struggle with well-meaning relatives buying too many gifts?  If so, how do you handle the situation?

 

Have We Lost the Meaning of Frugality?

My grandparents were married during the Great Depression.  Their first few years together were spent in severe economic hardship, and the financial lessons they learned during that lean time never left them.

They always had one car.

My grandma wore the same dresses throughout my entire lifetime.  I think when she died, the dresses she still had were 25 to 30 years old.

They rarely went out to eat, opting instead to cook and eat simple meals at home.

My grandparents did without much of the time, and they were very frugal with their money.

They sold their house when they retired and lived in a 5th wheel trailer parked on the side of our lot, less than 20 steps from our house.  All of their possessions fit in that space, and their home was not cluttered.

Has the Meaning of Frugality Changed?

Lost FrugalityNow, the definition of frugal seems to be different.  People try hard to avoid doing without.

Now, the motto seems to be, “Why do without?”  Live like the Jones’ without spending money like the Jones’.

Whereas my grandparents carefully bought the groceries they needed, today’s frugal zealots clip coupons and create grocery storage spaces out of their garages.  They have rows and rows of processed food that they got for pennies on the dollar thanks to couponing.

Many mom bloggers are making their fortune sharing all the hottest deals available.  Kids’ winter jackets for $8!  Hurry, buy women’s turtlenecks for $4 today only!  Get your child the Barbie princess house for the low price of $48!

Hurry!  Hurry!  Buy the bargain.

Do You Really Need That Bargain?

So many consumers are on the hunt for a good deal that they never stop to ask themselves if they really need the item that is on sale.

What if your child doesn’t need the Barbie princess house?  What if your child has so many toys, she whines about picking them up and doesn’t take care of the ones she has?  Is that Barbie princess house still a good deal?

What if you never even thought about buying that item until you saw it on sale and didn’t want to miss out on the savings?

We’re Overwhelmed with Stuff

Look back at pictures of people’s homes from 60 or 70 years ago.  Their homes were not cluttered.  They were much more like the minimalists’ homes of today.

Now, we take advantage of so many “deals” that our homes are overflowing.  Here in Arizona where there are no basements, and therefore no built in storage, most people can’t park in their garages because they’re stuffed with possessions.

We don’t need all of this stuff.

Snagging a great deal on something we don’t need isn’t a deal.

It’s a waste of money.

Keep More Money in Your Pocket This Holiday Season

We’re entering into the busiest shopping season of the year.  There will be good deals, plenty of them.  You’ll likely be tempted to buy as many gifts for yourself as you will for others.  After all, the prices are so good.

But ask yourself one simple question–Do I need it?  If you don’t, it’s not a deal.

Do you think the definition of frugality has changed?  Do you or someone you know struggle with buying more than you need because something is on sale?