Archive for August, 2007

Pissing On American Express, or, Hot Air into Action

August 31, 2007

The hair that broke.
Oh, I meant pissing off. So sorry. Do I sound angry, bitter, resentful? I am and have been all those things, but the overriding mood is one of sweet, unalloyed triumph. As I mentioned early in August, American Express really pissed us off. I don’t know why. We should really not be so naive. They simply pulled the old bait and switch tactic, 0% followed by two late payments and then whack! 30%. Will we ever learn?! So I wrote of drastic measures. I even mentioned Thunderbirds.

Napalm for debt. Napalm for Chase. Napalm for Amex.
In any case, we converted some of this hot air into some active warfare. We liquidated an asset. We are sad about this. This was not part of the dream. But, as John Lennon sang, the dream is over, time to move on.

Recent payments, made August 3o:

United Mileage: $3207.32

Chase/ Amazon: $5999.24

American Express: $15,770.15

I am ecstatic that we have the resources to do this. Amazingly, we still have a couple grand of debt. But the bulk is paid off. I’m delighted that we didn’t take out a home loan thereby prolonging, and multiplying our debt for 30 years.

Not doing it again!
Now the trick is not getting back into a debt that even remotely resembles this morass. Since canceling credit cards hurts your credit rating we are pondering what do with the couple we won’t ever use again. I said never. Shame on me. Freezing them is not enough. How about preserving them in plexiglass? Or amber, maybe. Another idea is cutting them up and burying them in the back yard. Admittedly, these solutions are more based in poetic justice than any real contingency.

The morass.
This last bit about not doing it again is very serious. We still want to maintain a credit card for airline fares, that sort of thing. But we really need to get into a mindset where that card is literally frozen, is treated like a hand grenade, is kept under lock-and-key, sort of like a firearm that you wouldn’t want your kids to get their hands on. This will be the challenge. I’m hoping we’ll be more than up to it.

The addiction model — a little psychology.
I think debt is a little like addiction. It is, after all, largely a result of compulsive behavior. It creeps up on you. Little mindless impulse purchases, CDs, video rentals, trips to Vegas and then — kablooey — $20,000 in the hole. (I realize this scenario is not as common as some people would like us to believe, thus normalizing large debts. But it is fairly common, nevertheless.) So back to the addiction model. In Alcoholics Anonymous addiction is viewed as a disease. On a charitable day I view this as wrong-headed, perhaps even dangerous.

Biological determinism.
I am familiar with the brain science. Much of it is compelling. But I’m still not convinced that it fits the disease model. And as with much biological deterministic thinking there is the chicken-egg problem. What causes these mechanisms in the brain to activate? Another side to the disease model is that there is a high genetic component to alcoholism. This is undeniably true. But why is it that some become alcoholics and others don’t? What is the mechanism that activates the gene? My point is: We are not doomed to fulfill all the scenarios scripted in our genes. This makes for hopelessness and a willingness to shirk off responsibility.

Behavior.
In Marlatt’s relapse model relapse (in our case, think Doctor Debt shows up at the doorstep, “Damn, you again?”), relapse is viewed as inevitable. This is not fatalistic. It is just viewed as part of a process. Relapse is part of the process. It is not looked upon as being shameful. When it is viewed in this way, it is easier to pick oneself up and get back on track (hey, two cliches in a row!). You are not a failure! Your life is not over. You can be debt-free again. One does not have to return as a newbie and start all over again. Time and again I’ve heard from relapsed AA members that this can be a very shameful, even shaming experience. When relapse is a process it is treated matter-of-factly. And it is dealt with accordingly.

Making it official.
Once the transactions clear I’ll update our debt meter. But I want it to be all, like, official.

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Macroeconomics or bust

August 29, 2007

My sense is that macroeconomics is not a topic that causes spine-tingling curiosity out there. Consider these facts:

  1. What if you were even more squeezed out of the housing market than is likely to currently be the case?
  2. What if a political crisis turned into an economic crisis, China rapidly divested itself of U.S. dollars and the country suddenly found itself in deep guacamole? What if China forced a political crisis on very compelling economic premises?
  3. Did you realize that in terms of consumer debt Americans eat up the equivalent of the GDP or Mexico or Brazil? Brazil, just for point of reference, is the 10th largest economy on the planet.

Here’s a quote from a fascinating article called “Debtor Nation” appearing in Harvard Journal that addresses many of the above-mentioned facts:

The United States, for example, was “the world’s biggest debtor for a hundred years,” Frieden notes, “but the money was used to build the railroads and the canals and the factories and to improve the ports and to build our cities. It was used productively, and it worked. The question to ask now is not, ‘Is the country living beyond its means?’ The question is, ‘Is the money going to increase the productive capacity of the economy?’ Because if it just goes to getting everybody another iPod,” he warns, “then unless iPods make people more productive, there is going to be trouble down the road when the debt has to be serviced.”

Take a look at the article. It makes a very interesting and compelling case for what are the larger consequences of our consumer spending. You can click again, here.

Response Burst

August 25, 2007

Statisitics.
I was looking at our stats — there was a huge jump during the debt reduction carnival, then a precipitous drop and complete flattening out during our vacation and continuing into the present. This looks suspiciously like what is called an extinction (or response) burst. First, I must assert that that is not what it is! Say it isn’t so!
Extinction burst.
An extinction burst occurs after a reinforcement is discontinued. For instance, if you stop picking up the crying baby at night, initially, the baby will cry louder, perhaps even for a longer period of time. But eventually, lacking reinforcement, the baby will stop crying.

‘Correct’ parenting.
(I’m not advocating that you leave your baby crying in the crib. Nor am I saying it’s tantamount to a war crime. For the most part, I think that’s a very personal decision that has as much to do with who parents are and what they can tolerate, in conjunction with who their child is and what she can tolerate. It has more to do with these things than any particular prescribed way of ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ parenting. In other words, it depends. Whatever works for you!)

Back in the saddle.
What was the topic again? Oh, right. Well, there was a huge spike in the stats. And then there was the plateau of death. I’m cooking a Trader Joe’s pizza. There was a comment on the site that I can only ascribe to bad karma — was that a joke? — and any way, we’re trying to get back on the frugal horse. Lady Dough is still in New York. I take the licensing exam next Saturday. We’re a little scattered, but after I shred all these old documents things will be nifty.

Post Aversion

August 22, 2007

Not meaning that we are past the aversion, but we are still getting it in gear. Lady Dough mentioned something very post-worthy (I thought at the time, now it slips my mind) last night as we were conferring long distance.

She’s pounding the streets of Manhattan and marveling how few people are in the city this time of year.

I’m continuing to patronize the local deli near my work, which is nothing special, costing me about $7 a pop.

Back?

August 21, 2007

I am back, sort of. An east coast vacation leaves me somewhat discombobulated, not feeling the frugality. I bought a BLT. I crank the central air — not dealing with jet lag and super-hot house. Just ain’t happening.

Prepping for Vacation

August 8, 2007

As Noma mentioned we’re getting ready to board a plane tonight. I’ve learned my lesson and decided to take today as a vacation day to take care of all those miscellaneous things I need to do before a big trip.

In the past I would have worked at least a half day. Not anymore. There’s just too much to do to prepare for the trip. This includes taking the cat to the kennel, cleaning the house (who wants to come home to a dirty house?), finishing packing and reviewing of our finances. I’ll check Quicken, Wells Fargo, etc and make sure we have enough cash for our trip and make a trip to the ATM. Once we’re back East we won’t be near a Wells Fargo and if we withdraw cash we’ll get those pesky bank fees. 

In addition I’ve leveraged today’s vacation day to have some contractors out today.  The extermination company just left — they came to inspect post fumigation and clean up the frass (termite poop — great new scrabble word) and an electrician coming to replace our broken (for 6 months) porch light.

I’ve already stopped the mail, the papers and bought small gifts for my nieces who we will be staying with….Getting closer.

Our friend will be driving us to the airport which will save us money on parking. We’re also fortunate enough to have family who donated their miles to us…so our airfare was free!!! Yipee! So, financially speaking the biggest cost for us will be the cat kennel fees, entertainment and dining charges, the car rental and money we spent on small gifts.

I feel very saavy about the car rental. We’re flying into one airport and out of another. When I looked into one-way car rental costs for it was going to be like $500 for 5 days! I then played around and found that if we rented a car in the first city for the first 4 days and then returned that car and got another one from a second company just to drive down to the second city that I was able to get the car for about $250. Saving $250 is worth a extra trip to the airport.

Yes, indeed. I can almost taste the sweet New England air.

We’re excited!

Vacation, Blogroll, Aching Desire

August 8, 2007

We’re going on vacation today! Off to the East coast. We’ll be back, perhaps even posting, by Monday, August 20th. I noticed that we’re getting a lot of traffic from the frugal for life blog. Since I’ve always liked the site, I added it to our blogroll. I had an ache to reciprocate… If that’s a non-sequiter, see the last post.

The Crass Construction of Desire

August 8, 2007

Smooth Persuaders: Leveraging Human Nature.

…Would you mind? The pf community is a great place for otherwise scarce information about debt reduction. Pfbloggers are making a public commitment to debt reduction — a powerful motivator. Perhaps you will post something to the next carnival, respond in kind? Since you’re reading this, it only makes sense.

In a brazen and hamfisted way, the opening section of our debt reduction carnival attempted to incorporate many of the common techniques advertisers and politicos use to separate us from our money:

  • I appealed for a sense of commitment, “would you mind?” by making an innocuous request.
  • I mentioned that there were limited resources in terms of debt reduction advice (patently absurd). That’s an appeal to your fear of scarcity, and the tendency to value things that are scarce, or even might be scarce.
  • I stated that other people are doing it too. In other words, why don’t you? Particularly in ambiguous situations, we model our behavior on what other people are doing.
  • I appealed to your sense of wanting to return a favor. Reciprocity is simply one of the foundations of society, and as social creatures we feel a strong desire to reciprocate. A big part of this is that we generally hate to feel we owe others something! (Funny, given the personal finance context of trying to reduce or avoid debt…)
  • There’s a war going on out there — and if you don’t watch out, you and your pocketbook will be the casualties. That’s one of the central thrusts of Dr. Robert Cialdini. His book has sold over 1 million copies. If you think you are largely immune to the ploys of advertising, read on!

    Cialdini on unconscious modes of persuasion.
    I mentioned Cialdini, a social psychologist, in an earlier post. You can find his books in the business section. (A recent New York Times article “Who’s Minding the Mind?” covered the surprising range and variety of powerful ways we can be manipulated — without any conscious knowledge of what is going on. In the Yale study, people’s judgment was strongly affected simply by handing them a cup of coffee.) Cialdini writes about the ways in which human beings respond automatically, without thought. Here are the ways he outlines that we can be easily manipulated: (more…)

    A Debt Reduction Carnival

    August 6, 2007

    Our First Carnival.
    Warning: Many exclamatory statements ahead. I guess we’re just excited, excited, excited about hosting our first ever debt reduction carnival. It certainly has been inspirational to be a part of the debt reduction community, really.

    Would You Consider Helping Another PF Blogger?
    We’ve learned a lot. So, sit back and click. Would you mind? The pf community is a great place for otherwise scarce information about debt reduction. Pf bloggers are making a public commitment to debt reduction — a powerful motivator. Perhaps you will post something to the next carnival, respond in kind? Since you’re reading this, it only makes sense.

    [If the previous paragraph reads like utter dross — please pardon, there’s a reason, to be explained in a later post about marketing that exploits our deepest, largely unconscious needs. Look for it on Wednesday, most likely.]

    For the record, these are in absolutely no particular order! Enjoy.

    Two Investment Mistakes:
    I’m partial to this post, perhaps because it looks into two mindsets, cognitive rules of thumb, heuristics, that can get us into trouble when investing. That’s psychology folks. So read on… It’s hard not to want to spur someone on that has just started a pf blog, whatever the focus — debt reduction, money management, frugality, investment. Check it out!

    Building A Better Snowball:
    Is it possible to resist such a title. This is an awesome post. If you haven’t read it yet, get thee to consumerism commentary and check it out. It’s got Pink Floyd, it’s got a killer financial plan for getting out of debt, it’s got a credit reduction calculator, did I mention it’s got a plan. For my money, setting up the emergency fund is key, this message cannot be crowed off the rooftops enough. Check it out!

    When You Put Your Mind to It:
    Clever Dude is not kidding. He shares his method for destroying $58,000 in debt. There’s hints galore for even the most world-weary debt gladiator. One of my favorites is “We Fix Things Ourselves.” It doesn’t take much — not that I’ve done it — to change the oil in your car, does it? Check it out!

    Free Credit Reports, A Cornucopia:
    Hustlerama offers no less than 15 ways to get a free credit report. Not that I’ve actually ever done this, but this could be the inspiration that finally puts me over the edge. I’m actually kind of worried that some of our behavior has led to some nasty credit comments. Maybe not. An important step in reducing debt: Know where you are, financially. (And for the not-faint-of-heart, scroll down about halfway down his homepage and look in the left gutter — something to roil the emotions of any debt reductionist.) Check it out!

    Alternate Income Streams:
    I’ve ventured into this area, but think it is underutilized. An occasional CD sold on amazon has bought me the occasional lunch. At businesscreditcards, the focus is New Media Ways to Raise Capital. Some tips you’ve probably not considered. If you’ve got a little time, these could really pay off! Check it out.

    David On Finance:
    Has got some well considered thoughts on when to consolidate debt. He also uses the phrase “raw power”, which I think is highly under-used in the pf world. If it was good enough for Iggy… David makes some excellent points about credit unions (not always…) and extra payments (ah, the power!). Check it out!

    Grad Money Matters:
    He calls them myths. I call them heuristics, cognitive shortcuts, rules of thumb. Well, some of them, anyway. There’s a goldmine of good advices and links here. I particularly like what he’s done with the I’ll-never-get-out-of-debt-so-I’ll-give-up mindset. Check it out!

    Mighty Bargain Hunter, Putting Things in Perspective:
    This is a refreshing post that puts a little forest into the viewfinder (rather than trees). Your debt needs the context of your life. Not other people’s lives. An important thing to be reminded of, that. Check it out!

    Sex for $3:
    Can you beat that for a deal? Another whale of a post from one of the funniest bloggers around. If you’re not conversant with the ways of Bianca and Basil, you’re in for a treat. Check it out!

    OOPS: It appears that the Bizarros have “scrapped” their blog. I’m not sure what this means, but hope it’s temporary. The link may not work. Sorry.

    A Book Review. Now I Want to Read This Book.
    Books are invaluable motivators for re-focusing. Get it at the library or one of those great used books sites (I kick myself when I think of all the new books I’ve bought — used books are simply no longer the coffee-stained acid-ravaged items we encountered in less-than-savory warehouses.) And of course, Trish at blogging away debt is a certified maven of personal finance. Check it out!

    Another Lie About Debt:
    Here’s another perspective enhancing article. (Or a link to it.) In the circle of linking, I got this one from blogging away debt. I found it so interesting I broke my goal of having 10 links for this carnival. So now we have a nice prime number. Check it out!

    Am I Really Ready to Get Out of Debt?
    Okay. So Let’s Make It An Even Dozen. NCN submits some interesting points, ready starting points for self-inquiry. I particularly liked the one about being ready to withstand the opinions of others. Let’s face it, turning down lunch because you don’t want to spend money is awkward, in many circles. Check it out!

    Comments?
    We’ve enjoyed hosting this incarnation of the debt reduction carnival. If there was anything you particularly liked or disliked, we’d like to hear about it.

    Privacy? What’s That?

    August 5, 2007

    Reading Lady Dough’s mention of privacy reminded me of something I read recently. Privacy may well be a soon-to-be-antiquated concept, if you use a computer. The article, tellingly entitled Invading Our Own Privacy includes this stunner:

    And now, according to Science News (Jan. 13, 2007), because computer users have “characteristic patterns of how they time their keystrokes [and] browse websites,” researchers are learning how to use “typeprints, clickprints, and writeprints, respectively, as digital forms of fingerprints.”

    If you’d like to zoom in further, here’s the Science News article. It includes some curious facts about code-breakers during WWII.

    On the bright, non-Orwellian side, I’m feeling a little liberated. I took an important practice exam that is supposed to be “highly predictive of a passing score” on the national licensing exam, the EPPP. And I got the score I wanted. Since the woman that teaches the prep class is a statistics whiz, I feel fairly confident that the score is predictive. As long as I keep studying. Now I can do so with some breathing room. Ahhhhh.

    We’ll be going on vacation soon. We may vanish until late-August, but we’ll be back with a vengeance. Up soon: The Carnival of Debt Reduction. Hope you can join us, for the carnival, that is.

    Consumer Itch: If Pigs Could Fly

    August 5, 2007

    Cortez and Mizrahi.
    Just came back from Target, Great Indoors, Lowes, and narrowly avoided a visit to Design Beyond Reach. We got some supplies (plus Isaac Mizrahi top) at Target. The Great Indoors was the only place where we did damage, but circumscribed. We need to get a front porch light for while we’re on vacation. They have a whole line of lighting called “Aztec”. Apparently Cortez was entranced by the small outdoor lamps of the Aztecs.

    Time to cool off.
    We also looked at refrigerators, an ominous category. The average big one seems to run $2000. You can go built-in, but that’ll run you $5000.

    Fake pigs and fountains.
    They also had fake pigs in the halloween section of the store. These could prove useful for a therapist’s office. Perhaps mounted on a wall, as though walking upwards, or, swaying from nylon, as if flying.

    Another item of interest for the budding professional in me: fountains. These are both cheesy and relaxing. One model was called: “in/out joy”. One can only wonder at this. The big fountains run $300. There was a little one called “little solace” or something. It was marked at $69. That I could handle. I wonder. Do therapists unplug their fountains at night? Or do they gurgle on?

    Up next: Carnival of Debt Reduction.

    July Grocery Spend

    August 4, 2007

    I just went through Quicken and looked at our bank statement and calculated how much we spent on groceries in July. We spent $704.92 on groceries in July. This seems like a lot but it works out to $176 a week or $25 a day which is $6 a day for each member in our household (not including our cat).

    This is less than what we had spent in June and May. I think we were closer to $1000. Eee gads.

    I think part of the reason the spend has gone down is that we’re trying to avoid the fancy grocery store and just go to Trader Joe’s, Ralphs and farmers markets.

    The amount may have also gone down because we were out of our house for several days for fumigation. This meant we spent a bit more than usual dining out. Probably $150 in dining out for the four of us.

    I don’ feel like we’ve made real progress. I supposed though that being more aware of our spend is a step in the right direction.

    Carnival of Debt Reduction

    August 3, 2007

    Yikes. We are hosting, by some freak of fate, the next carnival of debt reduction. This seems a little ominous, and underpromoted. But I’ll see what we can do.

    As usual, you can submit your most darling posts to: c o d r m a i l @ gmail.com, (without the spaces). If you read a post that you’d like to nominate, please let us know! The carnival live on Sunday, August 5th — sometime.

    By the way, we’re partial to the humorous, absurd, and heart-breaking.

    As newbies, I feel compelled to mention another place you can nominate a blog: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_100.html

    Cheerio!

    Friends with iPhones

    August 3, 2007

    Do you have a friend with an iPhone? Do you find yourself judging this person for spending so much money on a gadget? Read more here.

    As we set our own financial goals and struggle to meet them how can we let go of how our friends choose to spend their money?

    Blogging for Debt Reduction and Psychological Well-Being

    August 3, 2007

    I stumbled upon an article in Psychology Today called “The Decline and Fall of the Private Self.”

    The article is all about how blogging and online communities like my space have changed our culture’s sense of privacy.

    While I am sometimes shocked and embarassed by the amount of information people can share about themselves online I find blogging anonymously to be immensely therapeutic and helpful.

    A few quotations from the article that I enjoyed:

    • Telling secrets has been shown to have a positive effect on the person who’s doing the confessing, because keeping them requires a lot of mental work.
    • Sharing the secret, though, “unprimes” the information, freeing the mind to focus on other things and breaking the cycle of worry.
    • Recording concerns in a journal or similar medium can be particularly effective. “When people write about secrets, they report feeling better; they acknowledge the events and can organize them,” says Jamie Pennebaker, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. In one study, he asked subjects to write for 15 minutes a day for several days. They showed positive changes in immune function and psychological well-being. Other research shows that when couples are asked to keep reflective diaries in which they write about their relationship, they stay together longer.

    I would agree that blogging about our financial stress has helped us stop avoiding it. I also feel that by sharing the blog with Noma it has strengthened our financial relationship as well as our overall relationship. We’re addressing issues and working on them together.

    A Second Chance with Money

    August 3, 2007

    For years Noma and I were excellent about managing our money. When we met we were both making under 25K and living in NYC (this was a while ago). Noma worked an extra job to make enough money to invest in Microsoft stock, which he later cashed in to help with the down payment on our home. He also ate rice and beans so that he could save 2K so that we could go to Europe together.

    We didn’t have any credit card debt until the last year or two when it seemed to have sprouted up from no where. It was like we grew extra heads overnight. How did this happen?

    The problem was that we were living on one salary with very high expenses and such hectic schedules that I don’t think either one of us even knew that we were carrying so much debt. I knew that we had put some expenses on the cards but I hadn’t been watching it build up. We have only ourselves to blame and yet I do think the credit card companies make it very difficult for a person to see their debt. For instance, I recently had to call American Express to understand what my minimum payment should be…this wasn’t listed on my bill.

    Anyways, my series of revelations this week about our financial situation has spurred us on to action.

    As Noma mentioned I don’t know why we didn’t think of this before…I think the biggest reason we didn’t think about it before is that being mindful about one’s financial situation takes a lot of time and attention. We’ve been neglecting our financial health for too long.

    We’re lucky enough to have invested in some mutual funds a while ago. In looking at our situation we’ve decided to sell these and take the money to pay off our debts. We’ll then be at zero debt.

    I will feel incredibly relieved when we can do this. We will have to save about 3K to pay for the capital gains taxes but even so we’ll be able to pay off our debts and have a bit to put into the emergency fund. Do I feel great? Yes and yet I also do not want to rest on these laurels. From the moment we hit zero debt I want to make sure that we are managing our finances better. I’m hoping this experience will have scared us straight. I can’t say I have 100% confidence because of all of our expenses. We may need to make some childcare changes. We need to make some difficult decisions.

    Once emancipated I want to stay that way.

    10 Tips for How to Survive Birthdays

    August 2, 2007

    Our son is the youngest in his class. All of his preschool buddies are turning four over the summer months. And so birthday season is in full swing.

    Many parents I know (myself included) have overdone it for their kids’ birthdays. I think there are many reasons for this including the fact that so many of us work so much that we want to make the birthday a big deal. Also many parents use their kids’ birthdays as an excuse to have a party for themselves. Even those with the best intentions can end up feeling exhausted and broke once all the guests have gone.

    Every year I seem to do less and less for our kids’ birthdays and the kids are just as happy and my husband and I always feel like much better about the whole thing.

    Here are some tips for how to have a reasonable, affordable birthday party:

    1. Determine your budget — Before you come up with a spiderman theme and invite the whole preschool class figure out how much you want to spend. Once you know how much you have to work with decisions about what to do become easier. If you have $100 perhaps you want to just invite a few kids to the park to have a picnic and blow bubbles. $100 may sound like a lot for a picnic and bubbles but buying groceries and drinks does add up!
    2. Pick your audience — You can’t please all of the people all of the time. My feeling is that when kids are young you need to be sensitive about who you invite. I feel that if you invite a lot of kids from your child’s class that you should invite all of them. However, if your budget is tight perhaps you could ask your child to just have one or two friends over for a special dinner. Or you could have a family only party. Just try to avoid inviting the entire class, neighborhood friends and family. Pick one audience to minimize costs and chaos.
    3. Have Junior Make the Invitations — Why buy invitations when you have an artist in house? If your child doesn’t want to make them then you could make a collage and then use a color copier or printer to make copies. Getting a homemade invitation sets the tone and feels much warmer than a store bought one.
    4. Make Your Own Food — Why order pizza when you can save money and provide something tastier? I’ve found making pasta and a salad satisifies adults while sandwiches, grapes and/or pirate booty does it for the kids. You can use a cookie cutter and cut out interesting sandwich shapes for the kids too.
    5. Buy Drinks in Bulk — Juice boxes are expensive and create a lot of trash. By the time kids are four they like to drink from real cups. Get some dixie cups and big bottles of juice at costco.
    6. Let the Kids Provide their Own Entertainment — Between seeing their friends outside of school and the promise of getting cake the kids will be very excited. There is no need to provide a Snow White impersonator, a reptile guy or even a bouncer. This stuff gets expensive. If you want to provide activities consider old fashioned games like pin the tail in the donkey or setting up a simple arts and crafts table.
    7. Presence not Presents — This one is tough for a lot of people. As your kids get older they start to accumulate so much junk that they really don’t need more stuff. Consider letting parents know that gifts are not needed. Some parents ask guests to bring canned goods for their child to take to a homeless shelter. This can actually be a great thing for a kid to be part of — in our consumer focused world parents need to look for opportunities to teach kids to think of others.
    8. Limit on Gift Giving — If you don’t feel comfortable showing up empty handed or with a can of pinto beans then at least set a cap on how much you spend on a kid’s gift ($5-15). Or consider having your child make a coupon for a sleepover or a movie and dinner at your house. 
    9. Ditch the Goodie Bags — Goodie bags create a lot of waste. Parents spend money on them and the trinkets of crap end up wedged in the backseats of cars or in the depths of a closet. Why create more waste? Kids shouldn’t expect to get a present when they attend a party.
    10. Don’t Buy Your Own Kid a Gift — Explain to your child that the gift from you and your spouse is the party. This presents a good opportunity for a child to learn abou how a family chooses to spend their money. If your kid starts to whine for a particular toy then perhaps you give your kid a choice about getting a party or a present.  

    For more about birthdays check out these great web sites:

    There’s many more but now I need to work.

    It’s Open Season — Birthday Party Season, that is

    August 2, 2007

    I just wrote a very lengthy post on how to survive being a parent during birthday party season. Unfortunately my 10 tips to creating a simple birthday celebration seems to have been eaten by wordpress. I’ll have to try again tomorrow…it’s midnight and I’m zonked.

    July Round-Up

    August 2, 2007

    Here’s some stuff from July. As I’ve been purportedly studying for the licensing exam, or working on my professional site, or reading some great books — Lady Dough’s been taking up the slack and providing almost all of the inspiration.

    Eight random things about us, two for the price of one. Lady Dough. The other guy.

    We’ve got termites, and Lady Dough is exterminating credit cards. This thing has really knocked us on our collective ass. There’s no food in the fridge, we’re taking cold showers, the cat is back for a week before we take it back for our other, more pleasant, less task-oriented vacation.

    The joy of cheap services. And free lunch. Lady Dough is really challenging the cognitive rule-of-thumb that “expensive is better” and its converse, “cheap is bad.” In the trade, we call these shortcuts “heuristics” and marketers, also known as “compliance professionals” manipulate the hell out of them.

    And way back, a post that contains the words “ass” and “nut” in the title. How can you not read that?

    August plans to be quiet around here, particularly between the 8th and the 17th. Enjoy.

    Search and You Shall Find

    August 2, 2007

    I love that someone entered this search: “Blue American Express best credit card” and got Lady Dough’s post. Love it. Take that. Hah!