Posted by Dave on May 14, 2013
This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.
As I come up on my mid-30’s, I seem to be attending fewer and fewer weddings every summer. With fewer weddings to attend, I seem to enjoy the festivities much more. I tend to split my time at these events catching up with friends and family members that I don’t see enough because of a lack of weekends to see everyone. Besides catching up with people, I do dance – well, more jump around for a few hours until I’m exhausted, since I have no idea what I’m doing.
For most weddings, there are three major things that we have to budget for when we get an invitation:
Clothes - I don’t really buy new clothes for a wedding, but my wife uses a wedding invitation in the mail to buy a new “fun” dress. The good thing about most of the dresses she finds is that they are generally (but not always) cheaper than a guy’s tie, which is how the dress is a “justifiable” purchase, since you can’t wear the same dress twice (apparently).
Presents - We used to try to give really cool presents that we put a lot of thought into, and still do. Last summer, we gave a particularly injury-prone friend a super heavy duty first-aid kit, which we thought would be useful and potentially lifesaving, given his injury history. Mostly though, we give cash – it’s less thoughtful, but more useful, and we feel better “paying” for our own dinner.
Travel - Last summer, we had a wedding in Nova Scotia, and decided to drive out, taking a tour up through the Eastern seaboard and the Maritime provinces – taking 4 days to get out there from Ontario and (not well planned) a long 2 days to get back. We know we’re going to be spending money on hotels, gas, meals, maybe some booze (realistically, probably too much booze), and other stuff that we wouldn’t have to buy if we just stayed at home.
We look at going to weddings (now) as a fun weekend activity. It’s nice that people send out invitations months in advance to allow us to budget our summer activities. I don’t really like the idea of huge, expensive weddings (because I can see a number of better things to do with the money that gets spent), but I do have fun at them.
Do you budget for weddings? Do you have a busy summer season ahead of you? Do you ever turn down invitations?
Posted by Robert on May 13, 2013
Last week, I wondered if money can buy happiness. It seems that people with more money are generally happier, especially if they spend it on others. It’s hard to say that the money causes the happiness, but it’s helpful to know what we can do to be happier. What if we want kids (ours or the ones we’re going to be working with when they graduate) to get good grades? Would it make sense to pay kids to work harder and be more likely to succeed in school?
My initial reaction is to be skeptical. Part of the reason is that I inherently dislike any form of incentive that I see as manipulative. As an example, in looking at happiness, we saw that it wasn’t just spending, but meaningful spending that made people happy. Learning, too, should be meaningful, and if we’re asking kids to do work that is pointless or repetitive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they don’t value the assigned busywork. The other part of the reason derives from an anecdote that I read in Freakonomics by Steven Levitt. He tells the story of a daycare that begins charging parents for arriving late, only to find that parents begin to arrive late more often, in proportion to their ability to afford the new fee. What they lost was the moral and social expectation that parents arrive on time. If we pay students for good grades, will they devalue learning and fail in proportion to not needing the money?
Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy, explains that in America, the thinking that properly applied cash incentives can cure an ailing school system is gaining popularity. He relates a study that found that cash incentives could improve attendance, but not performance on standardized tests. Paying seven year olds $2 per book to read more, in Dallas, did improve reading comprehension. He doesn’t say, though, whether any of those kids grew up hating reading, thinking it was something you would only do if someone paid you enough. Even offering teachers incentives for raising their students’ test score had little effect.
Dan Pink may hold the clue. In his book, Drive, he explains that there are two different types of work that people do: physical tasks or thinking tasks. Physical tasks that can be done quicker or more accurately seem to respond well to rewards and punishments (incentives). Thinking tasks, on the other hand, don’t respond to incentives. In fact, performance might even suffer due to added pressures.
Have you experienced incentives at work? Were they effective? Should kids in school be bribed to perform?
Posted by Sheryl on May 8, 2013
This is a guest post from Sheryl in Ontario, who is 41 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.
Why do we like to believe that we are somehow the exception to the rule? Almost everyone I know does this in some way.
From the first time I went into debt, I wanted out, and that was over 20 years ago. From the first time I gained extra weight, I wanted to be rid of it. The principles are the same for both. Spend less than you earn, or eat less (calories) than you burn. I listened to the media too much. Everyone promised a way out. Everyone had a way of making it easy, or so they claimed. Over the last 20 years, I think I have tried every budget trick, and weight loss diet in an attempt to change my life. That was the problem though, I changed things (temporarily) but I didn’t change me.
I started thinking more about this recently. I am now managing my money better than I ever have in my life, and for two months now, I have made a change to my eating habits and feel that I am securely on the road to achieving a healthy weight.
There are a few people in my life that have debt problems and are overweight. Over the years, we have tried doing several tricks to get us out of debt and thin. When I started saying no to spending, I was asked about what I was doing, I explained about the concepts or spending less than you earn, and being happier with what I buy. A few people started clipping coupons, but still showed up to work with a take out coffee that sat on their desks and eventually got thrown out. When I started to lose weight, I was asked, and I explained what I was doing. Counting Calories. All of them. Weighing and measuring my portions. Tracking calorie intake and exercise expenditure. I do it all online for free. The others joined me, lost a few pounds, but then what I interpret as their need for special treatment kicked in. “I can’t do this because I have lots of social eating things to go to”, or “This shouldn’t be working because it is too easy, I need to eat –xxx– and I can’t do that on this program”, or “I can’t not spend because I’m (insert life excuse here)”.
I get it. I used to be that way.
I used to believe that simple math wouldn’t work, that somehow, when Saturn aligns with Venus, while soaking in the light of a new moon, if I froze my credit cards in Cabbage Soup while only eating fruit before noon and boiled chicken breasts at night, the universe would implode for just long enough to create a magic bullet that would solve all my problems.
Reality is boring. Repeating the habit day after day can be mind numbing IF THAT IS ALL YOU THINK ABOUT. It took me a while to learn to just set up a system, and let the system work for me. On any given day or week, I can eat X # of calories, and spend Y dollars. That is all. It works, but it required a change in my belief system to make it happen. It is hard to describe what that change was. Maybe it was a shift to concentrate on what made me truly happy instead of the bandaid solutions that I used to employ. Maybe it was disconnecting myself enough from the circus of social expectations to realize who I am and what really matters to me. Maybe it was caring enough about myself and my future to fully comprehend that when I feel rebellious and try to cheat the system, I am truly cheating myself.