Do You Compare Your Finances to Others?

I belong to several Facebook groups, and recently, a woman in one group asked the seemingly innocent question, “What do you pay for cell phones and car insurance?”  She added, “We pay $180 a month for our cell phones and $345 a month for our car insurance.”

Say what?

When you read that number, you automatically think one of two things–“Wow, she’s paying a fortune for cell phones and car insurance!” (that was my initial thought), or, you think, “Sounds about right.”

Comparing FinancesA few of you may even think she’s getting a good deal.

My husband and I each carry a cheap cell phone from Tracfone that is for emergencies or occasionally checking in with one another.  We don’t spend any more than $10 to $20 a month on them.  Our car insurance is about $55 per month.  (We only have one vehicle.)

After reading how much this woman spent, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  But why?  I really don’t know her situation.  Her cell phone plan might include cell phones for the whole family.  Her car insurance is likely for multiple cars.  Maybe she has teenage drivers, or maybe she or her spouse has gotten a ticket recently.

Besides, I have no idea how much money she makes.  These bills might not be that extravagant in relationship to her income.

There’s really no point comparing my situation to hers.  To do so would invite complacency toward my own budget at best, and a loosening of the purse strings at worst because, hey, other people are spending a lot more than me.

The Only Time You Should Compare Your Spending to Others

Generally, I try not to compare my spending or budget to others.  Circumstances vary widely, and knowing another person’s exact financial situation is difficult.  Too often, especially online, we get a snapshot of someone’s finances and think we see the whole picture when we don’t.

We make assumptions of our own financial situations based on others.

Ultimately, we need to strive to do the best we can do with our own budgets.  To beat ourselves by spending less and/or saving more than we did the month before or the year before.

The only time it makes sense to look at someone else’s finances and spending is when they are doing considerably better than you, and you want to learn from and emulate them.  For instance, I knew my husband and I were spending too much for groceries.  One blogger I read has grown a large garden and planted fruit trees so that she can feed her family of 9 for less than $300 per month.  (Yes, you read that right.)

I know I won’t  ever have a grocery budget of $300 per month, but reading her techniques and strategies has encouraged me to cut my grocery budget and try to spend less.  It’s even inspired me to try out once a month shopping to reduce costs.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t compare our finances to others, but if we’re going to, we should only compare to those we wish to emulate.

Do you look at other people’s spending to make you feel better about your own or to motivate you to improve your finances?

Will My Homeowner’s Policy Cover Damage to My Friend’s Belongings?

Homeowner’s insurance is a necessity for anybody who owns a home or has a mortgage. The policy will protect you in the event that your home is damaged from any number of factors beyond your control, including storms, fire, falling trees, wind damage, and more.

Your home is a huge investment, and it’s important to protect its value. If a storm damaged your home so badly that it would cost you a fortune to fix, not only would you have lost the value of the home to the storm, you’d still have a mortgage on a property that is no longer worth what you owe. For all of these reasons, it’s important to have homeowner’s insurance.

An HBF homeowner’s insurance policy not only protects the physical structure of your home, but also its contents. Policies differ on what they cover—you always get what you pay for—but for the most part, your home’s contents are covered in the event of a storm or similar event damages the home so badly that valuable possessions inside are also damaged. For instance, if a tree smashed through your roof and allowed rainwater to pour in, damaging expensive electronics, you would likely be covered.

So your homeowner’s policy would be pay for a new roof, new flooring, and a new TV to replace the one that got washed away. Insurance companies encourage the insured parties to keep a detailed list of valuable items in the home along with receipts so there’s no question about what is in the home when it comes time to file a claim.

But does your homeowner’s insurance policy cover the belongings of visitors to your home while they are staying with you? Let’s say you have friends or family staying with you for the weekend, and a burst pipe floods the guestroom soaking everything on the floor, including your brother’s brand new laptop. Can you get your homeowner’s policy to pay for a replacement? In general, yes, your brother’s computer is covered under the policy and is eligible for a claim.

However, to make sure there are no hiccups in the claim process, it’s important that you contact the insurance company to request this coverage to begin with. Some policies may include coverage for guests and other visitors by default, but many policies will need to have this coverage added to it as a separate rider.

So you’ll have to decide if visitor and guest coverage is worth it to you to pay a little bit more. If you frequently have guests over that tend to bring expensive items like electronics or jewelry, it might make sense to make sure you have the proper coverage. Covering your visitor’s possessions would certainly put your mind at ease if you’re worried about theft, for example. However, it might also be redundant if your guests already have their personal belongings insured by their own policy. Your choice depends on how frequently someone visits your home and what they tend to bring with them.

5 Tips to Make Black Friday Shopping Work for You

I’m not a big shopper.  Never have been, never will be.

However, I do love scoring a great bargain, which is why I do some shopping on Black Friday.  However, I always remind myself that even the best deal isn’t a deal if I’m buying something I don’t need.

If you want to snag some great Black Friday deals, but you want to be mindful of your money (and your spending), trying using these strategies.

Make Black Friday shopping Work For YouMake a List of What You Need

Notice I didn’t say, make a list of what you “want.”  There are lots of things you might want looking through the Black Friday ads.  You might want the electric blanket that will keep you toasty all night long, but do you really need it?  Your son might want the latest gizmo toy, but does he already have so many toys that he doesn’t have room to put them all away?  Move on.

Make a list of things that you truly need.  Last year, my  husband and I noticed that our kitchen pots and pans were getting scraped up at the bottom and the non-stick coating was coming off.  We bought a set from Kohl’s on Black Friday, and after the sale and rebate, we got the pans for less than 50% of the retail price.  I was also tempted by the deal on a Kitchen Aid mixer, but I didn’t need the Kitchen Aid mixer, I just wanted it, so I passed that deal up.

Think Beyond Toys and Electronics

Many people think of toys and electronics when they think of Black Friday deals, but expand your horizons.  If you need new towels because yours are ragged, Black Friday is the perfect time to look.  Look around your house at anything you think you may need to replace in the next year and consider taking advantage of the Black Friday sales.

Shop Online

Thanks to the Internet, there’s no need to go shopping on Thanksgiving to score the deals or to fight with the hordes of people flocking to the store.  Most of the time, the stores only stock a limited supply of an item that will likely be sold out before you get to the right aisle.

Shop online from the comfort of your home, and you’ll find almost  everything you want in stock.  Better yet, many retailers offer free shipping, so it can be delivered right to your door.

Capture Additional Savings

If you’re shopping online, make sure to take advantage of additional savings.  Use a site like Ebates to get cash back for some of your purchases.  You can also shop online codes to get free shipping if the store doesn’t already offer it.

Learn When the Sale Starts

Now that Black Friday sales are so popular, retails are trying to extend the Black Friday shopping season.  First, they began opening their stores late on Thanksgiving night.  Last year, many retailers offered their Black Friday sales online during the entire week of Thanksgiving.  I think we scored our pots and pan deal on Monday, four days before Black Friday.

Find a deal blogger to follow, if you don’t already, to get the latest scoop on when the sales will start.

Use these tips to score the best Black Friday deals, keep your budget intact, and enjoy your time with family on Thanksgiving.

Do you shop on Black Friday?  What other tips would you add to this list?