Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who said it?

Find this quote:

Now, I believe sincerely that one of the principal causes of the distress that exists among us—and I believe the same thing will apply almost universally throughout the land—is that people have gone beyond their means. They have borrowed largely, mortgaged their homes, their farms, and nearly everything they possess, to keep pace with their neighbors, competing one with another in putting on appearances and in carrying on their business on the credit basis that is so much in vogue in the world. …

Interesting how some counsel hardly ever changes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Talking About Money

Here's a great article from the New York Times:

Four Talks About Money

I especially like the section about "desired level of affluence", and how important it is for both spouses to agree. Things have worked out well for us financially partly because neither of us had strong expectations of affluence.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That Your Burdens May be Light - Elder L. Whitney Clayton

Elder Clayton of the Seventy gave a talk during conference about the burdens that we face in life. The temporal difficulties related to "provident living" are definitely addressed by his talk.

That Your Burdens May be Light

As I read it, I really thought about the things he mentioned about burdens caused by others. Often, we can have temporal difficulties that are caused by others:
  • Robbery, theft and vandalism
  • Mistakes of children or other relatives
  • Unfair treatment at work
  • For children, parents can make mistakes that make their lives temporally much more difficult
In addition, some of our problems may be caused to some extent by others:
  • Never having learned self-reliance from parents or other caregivers
  • Feeling compelled to offer assistance to chronically needy friends and relatives
These types of burdens pose a double risk - more than just the temporal risk, it can be very easy to hate or despise the person causing the difficulties.

Elder Clayton gives the following advice that I think is especially important in this situation:

Burdens provide opportunities to practice virtues that contribute to eventual perfection. They invite us to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.”2 Thus burdens become blessings, though often such blessings are well disguised and may require time, effort, and faith to accept and understand.

I was reminded especially of one of the times when I didn't handle this type of situation well. While on my mission, one of the Elders that I worked with had never learned how to manage money. Every month, he ran out of money halfway through, and we'd have to request more. Feeling guilty about it, I began trying to spend less and less, so we wouldn't have to request so much extra. During this process, I got angrier and angrier at him, until we couldn't work together effectively. We honestly wasted a great deal of time when we should have been serving the people. Thinking back, if I'd forgiven him and had a better attitude, I'm certain it would have been more than worth the few hundred extra dollars that we used. I can think of a dozen different better reactions I could have had to his poor financial skills. Though he certainly made plenty of mistakes, I can't help but wonder if perhaps mine were greater.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Developing Sales Resistance 101: Technique # 3

It might seem obvious, but sometimes we forget how hard marketers work to implement this next technique.

Sales Technique #3: Make it as appealing as possible

Marketers have used this strategy so heavily, and often dishonestly, that they have changed the way we see ourselves, our bodies, our homes, and our possessions. Not only have they set an impossible standard, they have also done much to skew our priorities.

If you haven't seen this Dove time lapse ad, you should. It says a lot.

Keep in mind, they have their own products to sell. But I like their approach a little better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Photography and Money

I'm just starting out, but I love photography. This is one area where I would be tempted to spend thousands of dollars on equipment. Occasionally, I need a dose of perspective. I read a great blog post today that gives 10 suggestions for becoming a better photographer. It isn't about what you buy. Check out

10 Ways to Improve Your Photography Without Buying Gear

Most of these suggestions can be applied to any hobby. Sometimes we get the idea that if we are committed to something, we should be spending a lot of money on it. For photography, we need six lenses. For running we need the latest technology clothing. For scrapbooking we need every stamp and scissor known to man. The truth is, all of these hobbies are more about the time, love and effort we put in than anything else. We show our real commitment by what we do with what we already have.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Developing Sales Resistance 101: Sales Technique #2

Marketers have a lot of tricks to get us to buy (see Sales Resistance 101: Introduction). One of the most essential is

Sales Technique #2: Play off of our sense of identity

They give us messages, both subtle and overt, that tell us if we want to be a certain way we need their product. As a mom, I see ads pointed at me all the time. In these ads there are a million suggestions, things like:

Moms who care about their kids safety/health/learning buy this product.
Quality time with your kids looks like this (insert heart-warming visual with the product).
Your kids will know you love them if you use this product.
Savvy parents use this product to handle their crazy lives.
Moms deserve a break; see how everything else goes away when you use this product.

Of course I care about my kids. I want to spend time with them and show them I love them. I wish my crazy life was a little easier sometimes, and I value the times when I get to take a break. Does that really have anything to do with buying a particular safety product, toy, or food?

Some products make sense. Others are all about image, fear, or guilt. Before you buy, ask whether you are trying to prove anything with the contents of your cart.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Potatoes, Now Available in Handy Single Serving Size!

Here is a recipe that is often taken for granted: Baked Potatoes. They are cheap, convenient, and nourishing. Leave off the foil, and they will have better flavor and texture (really!). Here are instructions for baking from the instructor of my introductory cooking class at Utah State.

Baked Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash potatoes, pat dry, rub with a little vegetable oil, and then sprinkle with salt. Pierce each potato with a fork several times. Place potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake for about an hour.

You can also bake these in the microwave. Follow the same instructions for preparation, but cook in the microwave on HI, turning potatoes over every couple of minutes until done. In the microwave, they only take a few minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Developing Sales Resistance 101: Introduction

In college I took a course in persuasion, taught by Dr. John Seiter. In it, we covered all sides of persuasion, both positive and negative, wholesome and slimy. One of the lessons I took away from this class was that many things influence how we behave-- rules of politeness, a need for our actions to match our beliefs about ourselves, fear, ego, guilt, and a sense of generosity. People looking to sell us things know these well, and they have an arsenal of strategies to get us to buy.

The key to sales resistance is to get to know some of these strategies so we can counter them. With these "Sales Resistance 101" posts, I am going to write about a few of them.

Sales technique #1 Make it urgent.

We all know the infomercials that tell us to "call within the next five minutes and we'll throw in a...." Department stores use this strategy too. Sales are usually limited to a couple of days, and sometimes even a few hours. Come in before noon and you can buy these sweaters for only $12, and those pants for only $29. Suddenly we find ourselves thinking, I need sweaters. It's such a great deal. I better get in there while it lasts.

How to resist? Take a deep breath. Think about it. There is always a sale going on somewhere. Even on a regular day you can find all sorts of things marked down. If the item you want isn't on sale, it probably will be soon. So, the real question is, do you actually need the new sweater? Is it really worth the price? What kind of difference will it make in your life/wardrobe? If you are unsure, just leave the sweater there. There will always be clothes to buy and great deals to be had. That is one of life's constants.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Working Hard

A great quote from President Monson yesterday, that I hope I remember correctly:

"Retirement is not part of the Lord's Plan of Salvation."

He focuses on how we shouldn't ever take breaks from our spiritual responsibilities - that there is no way to "earn" some time off from serving the Lord.

I also found an interesting (temporal) article about unemployment. It reminded me of something I wrote in June about Volunteer Work.

Hard Work, No Pay

I still think this is great advice. As pointed out in the article, if we work for free, then we have a lot more choices about what we want to do. We can pick opportunities that will look great on a resume and teach us valuable skills - rather than just fill out resumes and field rejection letters all day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Best Reason for a Budget

Jacob, the Book of Mormon prophet said this of wealth:

Before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-- to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted.

Jacob 2: 18-19

Sometimes when we get so used to saving money, cutting out expenses, and looking for good deals that we forget the reasons we have a budget in the first place. We hold our wallets so tightly closed that we cannot let go. Are we in this so we can endlessly enlarge our net worth? Of course not.

Having a budget allows us to amass money, yes, but we all plan to spend it some time. The goal is to spend our money on things that are truly important to us-- like helping people in need.