MONEY Savings

How I Saved $36,000 With This Simple Trick

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Do this, and you’ll never look at a $5 bill the same again.

Pull up a chair and get comfortable because I’m about to tell you a story that may seem hard to believe — but it is the absolute truth. Around 12 years ago, I made a decision that forever changed my relationship to money: instead of spending every $5 bill that passed through my hands, I started saving them.

At the time, I had two daughters in private colleges and, to put it mildly, my husband and I were financially stressed. But I found that socking away each and every $5 bill I received as change in a cash transaction was one way I could stay in control of what little extra money I had at the time — and the strategy has paid off. The girls are out of college and both are married now. And I’ve saved almost $36,000, all in $5 bills. Wowza!

The best part about my plan is that you can do it too. All it takes to get started is a commitment to save and one $5 bill.

The number one reason most people don’t save is that they don’t have a savings plan. Not me. From the moment I wake in the morning, I’m thinking of ways to get back a $5 bill. That’s one reason I do most of my day to day living by spending cash, because let’s be honest, you can’t get a $5 back if you pay with a debit or credit card.

And once you commit to saving your fives, you’ll never look at a $5 bill the same way again. Once you see them accumulate, you won’t be tempted to spend them. It becomes an addictive habit, a fun game to see how fast you can grow your stash.

One of Warren Buffett’s ideas about investing that I really like is that we should invest in ourselves before anything else. What better way to invest in ourselves than committing to a personal savings plan?

The way I see it, people everywhere are yearning for a simple way to put aside some extra money, to pay for a wedding or a vacation, a new car or a house; to pay off school loans or help put a child through school; or maybe the ultimate savings goal — retirement. Some people throw loose change in a jar, while others are way more ambitious and disciplined, setting aside 10% of their monthly income as savings before paying their bills.

But loose change never amounts to any significant money and most people can’t save at all, much less 10% of their salary. So I started a blog to help people get started on the saving their fives idea, and hope you will become a faithful reader and a follower. For more information on my nest egg saving method, please visit Save Money Fast With Fives.

Read next: How Do I Set a Budget I Can Stick To?

Marie C. Franklin is a former member of the Boston Globe staff and today a journalism professor at Lasell College in Auburndale, MA. She publishes a personal finance blog at

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14 Ways to Fail at Investing and 5 Ways to Succeed

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Fear, greed and an inability to admit past mistakes could be holding you back.

There are many reasons why people don’t succeed in investing. Whether it’s information overload, impatience, a lack of necessary tools or simple bad luck, plenty of things can derail a good plan.

In most cases, though, it’s the investor who’s responsible for his or her own failure. We make decisions based on emotions and character traits that steer us in the wrong direction. The field of behavioral finance tries to make sense of the thoughts and feelings that compel us to make financial decisions that are not in our best interests.

The Academy of Behavioral Finance & Economics identifies more than 100 traits and tendencies that can lead to poor investment decisions. Among the most prevalent:

  1. Greed, or a desire to get rich.
  2. Fear of change.
  3. Failure to admit past mistakes.
  4. Preference for avoiding losses rather than making money.
  5. Fear of making the wrong decision.
  6. Overconfidence, or believing we know more than we actually do.
  7. Herd mentality — the tendency to mimic others in order to conform, coupled with the belief that a large group could not possibly be wrong.
  8. Failure to focus on relevant data while concentrating on minutiae.
  9. Belief that past experiences or outcomes, positive or negative, will occur again.
  10. Unwillingness to wait for a bigger payoff later, preferring to settle for whatever we can get now.
  11. Overreliance on the most recent information.
  12. Assumption that previous success was due to our own knowledge rather than simply a rising market.
  13. Looking only for information that validates our decisions or choices.
  14. Confusing familiarity with knowledge.

Since we as investors may not be aware of our own tendencies, how can you avoid these pitfalls?

One way is to put a structure in place for investment decisions — clearly defining what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. With a solid framework, the mind games that impair decision-making won’t sabotage your investing. Here are five steps to build such a structure:

  1. Know your investing goals.
  2. Create a written plan that spells out exactly how your investments will be managed. This plan is also called an investment policy statement.
  3. Design a portfolio that uses prudent methodology.
  4. Regularly monitor that portfolio.
  5. Rebalance the portfolio (as needed) based on the investment policy statement.

Having a structure like this to rely on when making decisions — even when tempted by irrational tendencies — can help improve the outcome for many investors.

So, have you been sabotaging your own investing success? If you’re not sure — or if you’re sure that you have been — a professional advisor can help you put a stop to unproductive behavior. If you choose to get help, look for a fiduciary investment advisor who always puts your interests first.

But even if you don’t work with an advisor, make sure you have a clear structure in place to help you make investing decisions and avoid the behavioral pitfalls that plague many investors.

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MONEY consumer psychology

What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Money

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Money can be spiritual or divine, by powering whatever positive activity you want to engage in.

Buddhism, which holds that wealth is temporary and no path to happiness, might not sound like the best source for money wisdom.

Not so, says Ethan Nichtern, the prominent Buddhist teacher, who has written a new book, “The Road Home,” on self-awareness and spiritual seeking.

Money is unavoidable and it is people’s attitude to it that causes worry and stress, says Nichtern, who sat down with Reuters to discuss how money fits into a spiritual approach to the world.

Q: Can we escape our connection to money — or should we?

A: We need to have some kind of system for measuring how we consume, produce, and share. So there will always be money in any complex society. And any human who wants to pay the rent has to learn the rules of budgeting.

But it’s not just a necessary evil. Money can also be spiritual or divine, by powering whatever positive activity you want to engage in.

You were raised in money-centric New York City. Did that shape your views?

Growing up on the Upper West Side and in the East Village, I certainly realized how important money was. It determines so much of the structure of our world, and it also brings so much stress along with it. Especially in New York, people feel burdened by the need for the security and status that money brings. That’s why we all need to open up and have this conversation. I’ve never had the (billionaire) Koch Brothers in my class, though – that could be awkward.

Why is money seen as the solution to all our problems?

In life, we are all wandering around in circles, thinking that our next stop will be exactly what we have always been looking for. But we never arrive – it’s an illusion of an oasis. It is the same thing with materialism: The idea that ‘If I get the right stuff, I will finally feel at home.’ But we can never acquire enough stuff.

Why are we so dependent on something so abstract?

First money was gold coins, then it was paper, and at a certain point it just became computer files. Money has become more and more abstract, and we are basically just agreeing that this is the way things are. But that doesn’t make it any less powerful. Even though it is abstract, we cling to it as part of our identity.

People’s foremost money worry is retirement. How can we deal with that anxiety?

Buddhism teaches about cause and effect. So by all means, prepare for retirement. There is nothing wrong with that. But the other way to look at it is, if the mind is insecure, then no amount of money will ever make us feel safe. Even if you saved $50 million, you would just worry about something else, like getting cancer or having a car accident. Just try to remember that everyone else on earth has a similar anxiety. Then you won’t feel so alone. So plan well, and then let go.

How can people use money as a positive tool?

We are taught to use money in ways that isolate us. But money is an exchange. If there was only one person in the world, you could be a trillionaire, but it wouldn’t even matter because all that money would be worthless.

Think about how money connects you to other people. From a Buddhist standpoint, you should think about how to use that money to empower others.

Any final messages about the possibilities of money?

You can be an awakened human being, and also make a living at the same time. When people say money is dirty, then they are just leaving it all to people who don’t have any spiritual practices or values. That is an abdication of our responsibilities. Those of us with compassion actually need to go deeper into these arenas. With money, we can empower some very meaningful things in the world.

MONEY consumer psychology

Why Risk Is Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy

Eric Van Den Brulle—Getty Images Car accidents kill 32,000 people a year, but make the news much less often than terrorism and the avian flu -- which kill much fewer people.

Risk's greatest fuels are debt, overconfidence, impatience, a lack of options, and government subsidies.

Risk fills in the gaps between your plans and the relentless power of chance, accident, luck, and misinformation. It sits over your shoulder while you’re planning the future and whispers, “Hahaha, that’s hilarious!”

Here are a few more things you should know about it.

People have an amazing ability to discount risks that threaten their livelihood. That’s dangerous because people who should be the most experienced experts in a field may be the least able to objectively assess their industry.

Risk has a lot to do with culture. Europeans and Canadians are generally wary of the stock market. For Americans, it’s a pastime. The French prefer raw milk. Americans are warned against it. Canadians are banned from it. Europeans are terrified of nuclear exposure. Americans couldn’t care less. Walk through an international airport and you’ll see one person wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of illness and another letting their kid crawl on the floor. Everyone wants to believe they’re thinking objectively, but most of the time you’re just reflecting the cultural norms of where you were born.

Success is an underrated risk. Jason Zweig once wrote: “Being right is the enemy of staying right — partly because it makes you overconfident, even more importantly because it leads you to forget the way the world works.”

Risk’s greatest fuels are debt, overconfidence, impatience, a lack of options, and government subsidies.

Its greatest enemies are humility, room for error, and government subsidies.

Nothing in the world can give a damn less than risk. Risk doesn’t care about your political views or your morals. It doesn’t care what your view of the market is, or what you were taught in school. It’s an indiscriminate assassin and a master at humbling ideologies.

Risk masquerades as your best friend. It tells you you’re doing the right thing and making the right decisions before turning its back on you and making your life miserable.

You can create risk by trying too hard to eliminate it. Dutch psychologist Adriaan de Groot showed that amateur chess players drive themselves crazy trying to calculate the perfect move, while chess masters look for a pretty good move within a broader strategy. In a lot of fields, the smartest people don’t have the most sophisticated models. They have the wisest rules of thumb.

Risk feeds off neglect and belittlement. The more you point and laugh at it, the stronger and more dangerous it becomes.

We’re not very good at communicating risk. No one wants to hear that there’s a 20% chance of a recession in the next year; they want a buy or sell recommendation. No one wants to hear about the prevalence of false positives; they want to know if they have cancer or not. Communicating in certainties for something that works in probabilities makes us dumber.

The more familiar we are with something, the less risky it feels. But the opposite is often true. Car accidents rarely make the news, but kill 32,000 Americans per year. Terrorism, fracking, shark attacks, and swine flu kill relatively few, but dominate headlines at the slightest event.

The more the media is talking about a risk, the smaller it probably is. If something’s making headlines, people are already preparing for how to deal with it and anticipating its downsides, which goes a long way in making something less risky.

There are two parts of risk: How severe it is, and how long it lasts. In investing, there’s too much emphasis on the former and not enough on the latter. A 30% crash that rebounds in a year or two probably isn’t a big deal. But above-average fees left unchecked for decades can be devastating.

Learn how to manage risk, taking the right amount of it and handling it when it wants to fight you, and it can be your best friend. It is the seed of opportunity, and necessary to get ahead in almost every field.

Do yourself a favor and learn about risk vicariously through others. Other people have screwed everything up that there is to screw up. Learn from their mistakes rather than figuring it out the hard way.

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MONEY consumer psychology

6 Types of Money Bullies and How to Handle Them

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Confessions of a recovering Money Bully.

If you’ve ever asked a question about money only to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or defensive at the response, you may have encountered a Money Bully. Money Bullies come in a wide variety, but they all share the need to make other people feel small to make themselves feel important about their financial knowledge.

I know this because I’m a recovering Money Bully. (It may be an occupational hazard of writing about personal finance.) As I get older, though, compassion has started to replace judgment and intolerance — good news for everyone around me.

Money Bullies can be anywhere. Some people are married to Money Bullies. They may lurk in your circle of family and friends. The Internet is bursting with them, especially in comment sections. Here’s how to spot them (and perhaps detect if you’re one of them).

The Unsolicited Advice Giver

If you accuse the Unsolicited Advice Giver of being a bully, she likely will be baffled — and probably deeply wounded. Self-appointed experts may genuinely believe they’re being helpful, while ignoring that little spark of superiority they feel every time they set you straight.

A cheery “Thank you!” and a change of subject may be enough to derail unwanted advice. Repeat offenders can be met with etiquette’s secret weapon: the unsmiling, wordless stare until they blither to a halt.

If you’re the one tempted to enlighten someone else, ask yourself how you feel when someone offers unrequested advice about your kids — or your appearance, or anything else that’s important to you. If that’s not enough to stop you, Google the phrase “unsolicited advice” so you can see how the rest of the world feels.

The Shamer

Are you in debt? Did you lose your job? Have you fallen victim to a scam artist? In the eyes of The Shamer, it’s always and entirely your own damn fault. To this person, there is no bad financial outcome that couldn’t have been prevented if you’d just been smarter.

Shamers aren’t just trying to put you down. They’re trying to convince themselves that nothing bad will ever happen to them because of their superior acumen. Bad luck, bad economies, and bad health happen only to others — or so they desperately hope.

Engaging with a Shamer is a no-win situation, so get away as quickly as possible.

The Know-It-All

None of us were born knowing everything we needed to know about money. Some had good teachers early on, but all of us make mistakes and learn through trial and error. The Know-It-Alls pretend otherwise, and because other people couldn’t possibly know something they don’t, they can get pretty aggressive and obnoxious if they feel contradicted. Their overconfidence may be their downfall, since they either don’t seek out good advice or don’t follow it when they get it.

Deal with The Know-It-All the same way you do with any other boor at a party: Excuse yourself and find a better conversation to join.

The One-Upper

Did you negotiate a great price on a car? The One-Upper insists you overpaid, and knows someone who got the same vehicle for thousands less. If your investments returned a solid 8 percent, The One-Upper is getting twice that.

One-Uppers are the ones always crowing about their great stock picks (or their kids’ achievements). Braggarts can be socially tone-deaf, so the only response may be, “Wow, that’s amazing. And how about them Yankees?”

The Puritan

It’s not just credit card debt that’s wrong to these folks — even having a credit card is a moral flaw. They want you to operate outside the modern world, paying cash for everything (including houses) and ignoring the role credit scores play in everything from insurance premiums to getting an apartment to the deposit required for utility service.

Puritans don’t understand that credit is not synonymous with debt or that millions of people use credit cards without carrying balances. Puritans aren’t interested in updating their worldview, though, so it’s probably best not to try. Haul out the best all-purpose response to end an argument — ”You may be right” — and move on. (Note that you haven’t said they ARE right. You’re just refusing to fight anymore.)

The Scrooge

Any convenience or luxury is suspect in the eyes of The Scrooge. How can you think of taking a vacation when you’re not fully funding your retirement account? Why are you paying for haircuts when you could do it yourself? And how dare you suggest turning on the air conditioning?

Sometimes Scrooges live painfully frugal lives themselves. Other times, they simply feel they deserve comforts that you don’t.

The Scrooge is fairly easy to dismiss unless you’re married to or employed by one. The best approach may be convincing Scrooge that spending a little money now could prevent spending a lot more later.

The boss who doesn’t care about uncomfortable working conditions, for example, might care more if you point out the high cost of employee turnover. The spouse who balks at a vacation or couples therapy needs to hear that it’s an investment in your marriage — which could prevent the massive and unnecessary expense of a divorce.

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MONEY Shopping

10 Things Millennials Buy Far More Often Than Everyone Else

For real, snakes?

Roughly a year ago, we at MONEY rounded up a fun list of 10 things millennials won’t spend money on—at least not to the same degree as older generations. Cars, cable TV, and Costco were all on the list, as were houses. A freshly released Pew Research Center study indicates that a larger-than-expected percentage of young people are still living with their parents rather than moving out and perhaps buying a place of their own.

Yes, millennials are stingy when it comes to spending in certain categories. Yet even as they aren’t following in the footsteps of their consumer forebears in terms of embracing big-ticket items like houses and cars, millennials spend far more freely on certain other items compared to older generations. Here are 10 things they buy more often—sometimes a lot more often—than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, including a few big surprises.

  • Gas Station Food

    Customers line up for their free Slurpees in a 7-Eleven store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    Millennials have been referred to as the grab-and-go generation, with 29% saying that they often purchase food and drink while on the run, compared with 19% of consumers overall. You might think that Chipotle or perhaps Starbucks would be the biggest beneficiary of this habit. But according to the NPD Group, Gen Y restaurant visits are actually on the decline, particularly among older millennials who are more likely to have families. What’s more, in terms of drawing millennial food and beverage visits, the fast-casual segment is handily beaten by an under-the-radar retail category: the gas station.

    Whereas fast-casual accounted for 6.1% of millennial food and beverage stops in 2014, NPD researchers point out that 11.4% of such visits took place at convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, and Sheetz, where the hot to-go offerings include salads, wraps, healthy(ish) sandwiches, pizza, and wings alongside old standards like hot dogs and microwaveable burritos. Some even have espresso and smoothie bars, which is probably news to most older folks. “If you’re 50 or over, you still think the convenience store is primarily a gas station,” the NPD Group’s Harry Balzer explained to USA Today.

  • Same-Day Delivery

    FedEx Same Day delivery truck
    courtesy FedEx

    Patience is not exactly a virtue among consumers who grew up with smartphones and social media. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow sums up this mindset as “I want what I want, when I want it,” and points to a survey indicating that millennials have been twice as likely as other generations to pay extra for same-day delivery of online purchases.

    Earlier this year, the New York Times took note of a surge in same-day delivery, in particular among services supplying alcohol directly to the customer’s door. “It has not hurt that millennials, who are used to ordering food for delivery on their smartphones, have come of legal drinking age,” the Times noted.

  • Hot Sauce

    Sriracha bottles on shelf
    Patti McConville—Alamy

    Sriracha is everywhere. It is spicing up potato chips and croutons, adding some extra kick to Heinz ketchup, and offering a strange twist at Pizza Hut. Heck, it’s even in beer. And the overwhelming reason Sriracha is ubiquitous is that it’s evolved into the go-to condiment of the all-important millennial demographic. More than half of American households now have hot sauce on hand. Sriracha specifically is stocked in 9% of them—and in 16% of households headed by someone under age 35.

    The hot sauce craze has translated to a constantly changing roster of ultra-spicy items on fast food menus. Part of the reason that millennials prefer spicier foods is that they were exposed to different tastes at fairly young ages. “Millennials like hot, spicy foods because of their experience with more ethnic foods, like Hispanic and Asian,” said Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic.

  • Snakes

    snake collar
    Luca Gavagna—Getty Images/iStockphoto

    This past spring, an odd extension for Google Chrome was desisnged to allow users to sub the phrase “snake people” in the place of “millennials” on screens. It was a fun goof that now seems like ancient history. But it turns out that millennials really are snake people, in the sense that they have more interest than other generations in buying and keeping snakes—and all reptiles—as pets.

    “This age group, 15-35 years old, is the generation that is most active in reptile keeping and searching for related material online,” Keith Morris, national sales manager for the reptile product site, told Pet Age last summer. Data collected by Pet Age also indicates millennials are more willing to splurge on their pets with luxuries like custom beds: 76% said they’d be likely to splurge on pets rather than themselves, compared with just 50% of Baby Boomers. Yet another survey indicated that millennials are far more interested than Boomers and Gen Xers in pet healthcare as a job benefit. So the big takeaway is: Millennials really love pets in all shapes, sizes, and species.

  • Athleisure

    Yoga Pants
    Kirsten Dayton—Alamy

    The demographic that overwhelmingly gets the credit for yoga pants replacing jeans as the mainstream go-to casual bottom of choice (and even coming to be seen as legitimate work clothes at the office) is of course the millennial generation. Yoga pants, hoodies, sweatpants, and other leggings are lumped into the “athleisure” or “leisurewear” clothing category, which has been most warmly embraced by millennials—and in turn inspired retailers ranging from Ann Taylor to the Gap to Dick’s Sporting Goods to ramp up their selections of women’s exercise wear that’s not necessarily for exercise.

    “When I look at athleisure bottom business—the yoga pant, sweat pant, sweat short—it has displaced the jean business one to one,” NPD Group retail analyst Marshal Cohen said recently. Sales of such clothing rose 13% during a recent 12-month span, and now represent roughly 17% of the entire clothing market, according to the market research firm. “For every jean we are not selling or used to sell we are selling an athleisure bottom. It has become as important to the market as denim would be.”

    Side note: Yoga pants aren’t the only skin-tight garment getting a boost from millennials. During the 12-month period that ended in May, spending on women’s tights was up 24% among millennials, who now account for 45% of all sales in the category.

  • Organic Food

    Organic produce sections in The Whole Foods Market in Willowbrook, Illinois
    Jeff Haynes—AFP/Getty Images

    According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 45% of Americans actively seek out organic foods to include in their diets. Millennials are a lot more likely than average to feel that it’s important to go organic, however, so the preferences of younger consumers skew the overall average up. Whereas only 33% of Americans age 65 and older actively try to include organic foods in their diets, 53% of Americans ages 18 to 29 do so.

  • Tattoos & Piercings

    Millennial with the words "Hustle" and "Money" tattooed on each leg using his iPhone
    Petri Artturi Asikainen—Getty Images

    It’s been estimated that 20% of Americans—and nearly 40% of millennials—have at least one tattoo. Surveys conducted for Pew Research several years ago indicated that about 30% of millennials had piercings somewhere other than their ears, which is six times higher than older Americans.

    Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos simply by way of them becoming mainstream, millennials remain somewhat cautious about getting one because it could hurt their chances of being hired. Or at least they’re careful when deciding the placement of a tattoo. In a recent University of Tampa poll, 86% of students said that having a visible tattoo would hurt one’s chances of getting a job. It’s understandable, then, that 70% of millennial workers with tattoos say they hide their ink from the boss.

  • Energy Drinks

    Monster brand energy drinks on sale in a convenience store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    American parents, likely exhausted by nighttime feedings, hectic schedules, and such, understandably feel the need to resort to energy drinks. A recent Mintel survey shows that 58% of U.S. households with children consume Red Bull, Monster, or other energy drinks, compared to just 27% of households without kids.

    Meanwhile, millennials are even more likely than parents in general to throw back energy drinks: 64% of millennials consume them regularly, and 29% of older millennials (ages 27 to 37, who are more likely to be parents themselves) say they’ve increased the number of energy drinks they consume in recent months.

  • Donations at the Cash Register

    signing electronic bill at register
    Juan Monino—Getty Images

    Some shoppers feel annoyed and put on the spot when a store clerk asks if they’d like to make a charitable donation while ringing up a purchase at the cash register. This isn’t the case with the typical millennial, however.

    According to a report from the consultancy firm the Good Scout Group, of all generations “Gen Y likes being asked to give to charity at the register the most.” What’s more, millennials say that they donate at store cash registers more often than any other generation, and they also felt “most positively about charities and retailers once they gave.”

  • Craft Booze

    Growlers on a table outside Faction Beer Brewery, Alameda, California
    Silicon Valley Stock—Alamy

    More so than other generations, millennials have demonstrated a distaste for mass-market beers and spirits—and a preference for the pricier small-batch booze. In one survey, 43% of millennials say craft beer tastes better than mainstream brews, compared to less than one-third of Baby Boomers. As millennials have grown up and more and more have crossed the age of 21, craft beer sales have soared at the same time that mass-market brands like Budweiser and Miller have suffered. A Nielsen poll showed that 15% of millennials’ beer money goes to the craft segment, which is impressive considering the limited buying power of this college-age demographic. By comparison, craft brews account for less than 10% of money spent on beer by Gen X and Baby Boomers.

    Millennials are also given an outsize share of the credit for the boom in craft spirits over household brands handled by the big distributors. As with craft beer, researchers say that millennials like craft liquors partly because it’s easier to connect to the back story of the beverages, and there’s an air of “inclusive exclusivity” and uniqueness about them. For that matter, millennials seem to care more in general about liquor brands. In one survey, 64% of millennials said that including the brand of spirit in a menu cocktail description was important or very important, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers who felt that way.

MONEY Spending

When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

Dave and Les Jacobs/Kolostock—Getty Images

"It's a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life."

When Stan Calow was growing up, frugality was a way of life: “You spend as little as you need to, and then save everything else.” So, the 58-year-old engineer and U.S. Army veteran from Kansas City, Missouri always hated spending money.

It took his financial planner, Cindy Richey, to drill the point into him that it was actually okay to enjoy his savings once in a while.

After much prodding, the message finally got through. Calow and his wife just returned from a trip to France, touring the chateaux of the Loire Valley, just like they had always dreamed.

Says Calow, who learned about the fragility of life by serving in Kosovo: “I wanted to live life while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”

It’s a tricky dilemma for many of us. As much as pundits tell us to scrimp, and save, and sacrifice for the future, when is it actually okay to spend a little on yourself and enjoy this life that passes all too quickly?

Indeed, according to a new survey, many of us are not enjoying it enough.

When Wells Fargo asked affluent Americans about what they regretted most about their finances, 15% said “not having enjoyed their money more”.

It is an honest answer that you do not often encounter in financial surveys. After all, splurging on yourself is typically seen as selfish and gauche.

But as some planners point out, it’s your money, and you should not be made to feel bad about enjoying it occasionally.

“People are so nervous about outliving their money, and sometimes they shoot too far in their saving,” says Joe Nadreau, director of innovation and strategy for Wells Fargo Advisors. “You don’t want to come to the end with $3 million saved, but having sacrificed your whole life along the way.”

Of course, leaving an inheritance is still an important consideration, according to 57% of affluent Americans in the Wells Fargo survey.

But just remember that once the will is read, you are six feet under, and no longer around to witness your family enjoy that wealth.

A Bank of Memories

So try thinking of the concept of ‘inheritance’ a little differently: Instead of purely in terms of dollar bills, consider it as a set of memories, which you can create together as a family while you are still alive.

“We have recently noticed a sizable uptick in clients who are more interested in sharing their wealth in the form of experiential gifts,” says John Fowler, a planner in Keller, Texas.

“It might mean taking the entire family on a cruise, or paying the airfare to fly in to see grandma and grandpa in Arizona, Colorado, or Florida. At the end of the day our clients realize stuff is just stuff, but with a little effort, they can create a memory for their families that will last a lifetime.”

Keep in mind that splurging on yourself doesn’t mean you become miserly with others. It is not an either/or proposition; You can treat yourself once in a while, and also be generous with charitable causes that are meaningful to you.

“People call me all the time to get permission to enjoy their money, which I heartily give them,” says Dave Ramsey, a popular radio host and author of “The Legacy Journey.”

“Often the thing that breaks it loose for people is to increase their giving. Because the more generous you are, the more you get permission to spend on yourselves.”

As for Kansas City’s Stan Calow, he looks forward to traveling the world with his wife, and enjoying future grandchildren. It was hard to get him to enjoy those savings, but now he’s making up for lost time.

This thought, in particular, came to mind when he was walking the streets of Paris recently:

“It’s a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life.”

Read next: When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

MONEY Shopping

How Summer’s Black Friday Is Like the Real Black Friday

Some Prime Day deals are terrific. Most are nothing special.

From the beginning, Amazon has been comparing Prime Day to Black Friday. On the surface, Black Friday and Prime Day—a big sales event being held today, July 15, if you somehow haven’t heard—are quite different. Today’s sales are online-only, whereas Black Friday remains dominated by the in-store shopping experience. Only Amazon and a handful of competitors are offering special sales today, whereas virtually every retailer offers deals for Black Friday.

Yet there are many similarities between Black Friday and what’s being billed as the summertime Black Friday. That includes many of the criticisms about Black Friday, which has been losing shopper interest for years due to a wide range of factors.

Shoppers should take the following into consideration before buying things on a day pumped up as “Black Friday”—no matter what time of year this day takes place.

There are some truly amazing deals. According to the deal trackers at, some of Amazon’s Prime Day prices for specific items like printers, video games, Blu-ray movies, and TVs indeed beat the best Black Friday prices offered on the day after Thanksgiving last year.

But the vast majority of deals are meh. The hashtag #PrimeDay is trending on Twitter today. Glance through the comments posted, and you’ll see multiple mentions of words like “disappointing,” “underwhelming,” “boring,” and “meh.” There are also more colorful comments that demonstrate people are hardly amazed by Amazon’s offers, like that Prime Day is “not the risk to my wallet I thought it would be,” and “like a dollar store going out of business sale,” with deals “so random and bad that hipsters couldn’t even buy them to be ironic.”

For the most part, the same can be said of Walmart’s “Rollback” sale timed to coincide with Prime Day. Some deals seem terrific—think $13 for a video game that retails for $30—while most are random and underwhelming. How excited can anyone get, after all, about a plush puppy toy that’s marked down from $12.50 to $10.91?

Best deals are selling out very quickly. Many customers trying to get in on Amazon’s “Lightning” deals have expressed frustration that the items are sold out and they’re being put on a “waitlist.” The limited quantities and rapid sellouts are not unlike the doorbusters regularly offered on Black Friday, which some customers feel are tantamount to bait-and-switch because few get to actually purchase the items at the advertised prices. You’d think that Amazon would have an endless supply of it own products, but even they are selling out. As of 11:30 ET, Amazon’s Fire HD 7 deal—priced at $79, down from the usual $139—was 98% sold out.

Consumers are under pressure to buy right away. Prime Day lasts only one day, and with the exception of a somewhat vague sneak preview of deals released yesterday, shoppers didn’t know what exactly would be on sale today. Many of the deals will be exceptionally short-lived and can sell out, disappearing soon after they’ve surfaced.

The net result is that shoppers have very little time to assess each deal, compare prices with other retailers, or think things through much at all. It’s similar to what we might call “Black Friday brain,” in which the crowds, limited quantities, and frenzied atmosphere conspire to pressure shoppers into buying whatever’s in front of them, regardless if it’s actually a good deal—and regardless if it’s something the purchaser actually wants. Speaking of which …

You probably don’t need any of this stuff. Amazon created Prime Day out of the blue, in order to manufacture shopper interest at a time it didn’t otherwise exist. In other words, people aren’t shopping today because they need anything in particular; they’re shopping today because it’s Prime Day. Yes, you might find some stuff that’s fun and remotely useful, at a good price. But don’t kid yourself: You’re probably not shopping out of a genuine need. As a Detroit Free Press columnist put it, “Don’t get so overwhelmed by the hype that you buy stuff now that you really don’t need.”

Read next: 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money and Take Control of Your Stuff

MONEY consumer psychology

Millennials Will Pay for Something That Used to Be Free

opening velvet rope at red carpet event
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Gen Y is cool paying to join loyalty programs

It’s almost impossible to overstate how much marketing types have written about millennial consumers. They’re finicky, they want everything instantly and just-so and uniquely customized for the individual special snowflakes that they are.

They drive brands bananas.

But new research shows that there’s a big potential payoff for companies willing to cater to this high-maintenance crowd.

Marketing consulting firm LoyaltyOne finds that a surprising 77% of 25-34 year-olds say they’d be happy to pay for the privilege of being part of a loyalty program, compared with just over six in 10 consumers across all age brackets. Three-quarters of younger millennials—those in the 18-24 age bracket—say the same, and just under 80% of consumers in that age group say it would be worth paying for loyalty rewards if the perks offered fit their needs.

If you’re a member of an older generation, that might sound crazy. You probably came of age with the understanding that a loyalty program is a kind of trade-off in which a company gives you rewards just for spending money on its products. The idea of pay-to-play programs turns this on its head completely.

“To millennials, loyalty programs are not just about freebies, but being part of a special club or experience,” explains Jason Dorsey, a millennials researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics. “Members are willing to pay to get the extra benefits and feeling of being special.”

And they’re more likely to feel they deserve those benefits if they’ve put down money up front. “With dollars invested, customers inherently use the benefits they’ve already paid for to improve their payback,” says Jeff Berry, senior director of research and development for LoyaltyOne. “Free shipping, exclusive perks, and big discounts can be persistent mental reinforcements of a good decision.”

Companies love this because it creates a positive feedback loop that gets members spending more—and makes it less likely that they’ll take their business elsewhere, Berry points out, since they’d have to forfeit rewards if they walked away.

Amazon Prime, while not exactly a loyalty program, was the game-changer in how people think about customer perks. “The concept created the expectation that it makes sense to pay to get a slew of instant benefits,” Dorsey says. While traditional programs made loyal customers wait until they accrued benefits, Amazon Prime promised something new: rewards without waiting, and with an admission price.

Berry says customer fatigue also is responsible for the trend. The number of people who sign up for loyalty programs but never use them is growing, mostly because we just don’t think it’s worth the effort to participate. “Accruing small, delayed monetary rewards feels like a one-sided exchange for loyalty,” he says. Charging people to join lets companies offer bigger and better perks.

With millennials accounting for an ever larger percentage of consumer spending, expect to see more pay-to-play loyalty programs. “While the idea of paying to join a loyalty program may be shocking or even offensive to older generations,” Dorsey acknowledges, millennials think differently. “It’s a fast way to get status, access, and benefits that they might otherwise not be able to get.”

Read next: 10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On

MONEY groceries

This Grocery Shopping Habit Could Be Making You Fat

Katrina Wittkamp / Digital Vision

What's good for the environment might be bad for your waistline.

Eco-friendly grocery shoppers beware: Toting a reusable bag to the market can be a diet destroyer, new research finds.

The study, conducted by Harvard and Duke business school professors, suggests that when people do something that feels noble, they’re then subconsciously motivated to seek out a reward—often in the form of junk food.

“Grocery store shoppers who bring their own bags are more likely to purchase organic produce and other healthy food,” write the authors, “but those same shoppers often feel virtuous, because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way. That feeling easily persuades them that, because they are being good to the environment, they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips or some other product with lots of fat, salt, or sugar.”

This effect seems to be stronger on non-parents than parents, perhaps because people with children are more influenced by what their kids want than what they themselves want, the authors suggest.

Generally speaking, these findings seem to support the classic wisdom that grocery runs are best done with the aid of a shopping list to keep you on track. Other studies have found that shoppers are easily (and intentionally) led to buy extra groceries because of carefully engineered store layouts, among other retail tricks.

And—in any case—there’s some good news: Those lightweight plastic bags at the grocery store might not be as bad for the environment as you thought, after all.

Read More: Here’s How to Save Hundreds on Groceries

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