It’s been a little while since I updated all of you on being in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program. So far, so good!
- I submitted a volunteer application in mid-July 2013.
- Over the next 2-3 weeks, I sent in all of the requested paperwork, five of my friends and blogging buddies turned in their reference forms, and I took a 1-2 hour online class and quiz.
- In August 2013, I was interviewed and was officially approved.
- I was officially matched in very late September 2013.
- My Little Bro and I started hanging out weekly in October 2013.
Our Activities So Far
For the first 3 weeks or so, my Little Bro was super quiet. He smiled and would say a sentence here and there, but that was about it. All I knew for sure through most of October was that we both like food, and I was told to keep our time together relatively cheap.
After being matched for 3 months, he can come over to my place, so we can start cooking. Until then though, I’ve really made use of email signups at restaurants in our area so that he can eat cheap or free. It’s pretty easy since he’s 10 years old right now, which is young enough for 99% of children’s menus.
So eating dinner and doing something once a week has become our routine. We keep trying places and specific foods that he hasn’t had yet. No, nothing exotic, but his family doesn’t eat out a lot.
For food, we’ve had:
- Chili’s – He liked it a lot, but likes the buffets below better. Cost $6 for him.
- Hamburgers and Pomegranate shakes – It wasn’t amazing food, but it fit our plans that day and cost about $5 to feed him.
- Cici’s pizza buffet – He loved it and he ate for free thanks to their email signup special.
- Potato Patch (country cooking and they throw the yeast rolls at you to catch) – This was about $10 for him, so it’ll be reserved for special occasions.
- Hartz Chicken buffet – He really loved this place, and it only cost about $6 for him.
Even though he really likes the food part of the evening, he says he’s had fun at all of our activities too:
- Disc golf – free
- Attended a middle school football game – his ticket was $1
- Saw “Turbo” at the discount movie theater nearby – $1.50 per person
- Billiards twice since they were rainy days – cost $6-7 per day total
Overall, our cheapest day has been about $15 total. Our most expensive was around $32 thanks to Potato Patch having a very expensive kid’s menu. I was aiming to spend $20 or less every week, and we are on track there. Money-wise, this is a very affordable thing that we could make even cheaper if we have to. I just enjoy watching this kid eat at places he hasn’t been before. He really just has all of those great kid-like faces when he really likes something. It’s fun.
The Emotional Side
This has been eye-opening. My Little Bro started opening up a few weeks ago and it was awesome to see! It’s been about 6 weeks and his parents are giving me positive feedback. He apparently has started liking school more and wants to sign up for football. That’s the first official team sport he’s been interested in even though he loves sports. Cool beans!
On a different note, our different income classes don’t seem to matter very often. BUT, some things he says makes it obvious that he sees a different between his family and the “rich” people. I think he may see me differently if we hang out at my house too early. We might wait longer than the suggested 3 months. I don’t want him to get jealous or self-conscious with me. Or think of me as his own personal Santa Claus, which the program wants us to avoid no matter what.
Overall, my Little Bro is a sweet little dude who opens doors for anybody and he’s a gentleman. His stories also seem to highlight the fact that he really dislikes bullies and he does stick up for the dudes smaller than him. And his mom says he loves talking about me to his brothers and sister after our outings. I take all of that as very good signs that we can stay matched for the long run.
Have you ever participated in BBBS or something similar? What have been your experiences?
The following is a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, where he helps out with launching something now so that you don’t waste any time in your 20s.
I’ve seen all kinds of shows on TV about strange addictions and odd issues. I myself have gone through phases where I spent my money pretty foolishly. Despite being a personal finance blogger for five years, I can confirm that I haven’t always made the best decisions with my money.
I wanted to thank Crystal for allowing me to guest post again. I’m usually pretty serious or trying to be. Today I wanted to have some fun and write about my financial addictions/mistakes over the years.
Where do I regret spending money over the years? What have been some of my problem areas when it comes to blowing my money?
Am I the only one here that has had a strange cologne addiction? I’ve gone through phases where I just had to have every popular scent. I just couldn’t resist. I would research different types of cologne and I learned all about how cologne works. I always had to have the newest cologne. I even went as far as to not wear the same scent two days in a row.
How did I improve this? I just stopped buying cologne and decided to stick with what I have. If I run out, I look for a sale before I buy another bottle. I still love to smell good though.
Useless Nights Out
I’ve had way too many pointless nights out where I should have stayed home. I would go out just for the sake of not staying home.
I’m all for fun and enjoy myself with friends. There’s just no sense in getting wasted for no reason just because it’s Saturday. You don’t have to turn any little thing into an excuse for going out.
How did I improve here? I cut back on drinking, go out less often, and I pick-and-choose my nights. This is a huge savings in your 20s. If you can go out without drinking or cut back on your nights out, your wallet will thank you.
I went through a phase in between my college partying and working like mad, where I became a voracious reader. The only problem was that instead of hitting up the library or exchanging books with friends, I just bought random books from Chapters. I mean totally random. I would just look for books that seemed interesting or I would ask the staff for recommendations. The staff always had some new book to recommend to me.
I have a whole stack of unfinished books in my room. Did I really think that I was going to read, “The Black Swan?” In the ultimate irony, I still haven’t read, “Getting Things Done.” I also haven’t opened that book on social media marketing. I usually find a book that I really enjoy (“Linchpin” by Seth Godin), read it slowly, take notes, and then read it again. Some books I never plan on even opening.
How did I change here? I luckily now get many books for free since publishers will contact me or I can contact them about book reviews. I also don’t let myself buy a new book until I’ve finished the current one.
Of course I want to get lean in 21 days! Sign me up for five cases of that product.
I’m a very impatient man. I don’t like to wait. So when I started working out, I had to have every workout supplement on the market. I didn’t know what I was buying nor did I care. I fell for the marketing. I knew that the claims were too good to be true, but I didn’t want to believe it.
What changed for me? I realized that you could never supplement training hard and eating well. Just like with personal finance, the fundamentals are key in the fitness industry. I also bought some books on the topic (see above) that opened my eyes on the issues with the supplement industry. Sadly, I never got lean in 21 days, but my wallet sure did lose a few pounds.
That’s how I spent money foolishly over the years. When I started writing about personal finance I was quick to brag about my accomplishments. I’ve come to believe that if you want to take pride in your achievements, you also need to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes.
Now it’s your turn to join in on the fun and share some of the ways you regret spending your hard-earned money. This is a judgment-free zone.
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” — Ayn Rand
Mr. BFS and I hosted a Halloween Masquerade Ball and Potluck last Saturday. It was a fun success! Here are all of the photos you asked for when I mentioned this last week!
Masquerade Ball Costumes
Our Halloween parties are always costume-requested but not required. We want everyone to have a great time. Here were the costumes this year:
Here were the ladies of the group that were around for a photo earlier in the evening. As you can see, the masquerade ball theme was open for interpretation since only two of us went the ball-gown route. I love my friends.
Here were our early evening men of the group. Again, the masquerade theme was fun but everyone hit it from a different angle. Go geeks! And yes, that is a paper bag princess…
Here were our devil’s advocate and cop for the evening.
Here was the broken doll and sad panda.
I thought Dee did amazing with her broken doll look – face cracks and all!
The new plague-masks make me laugh more than anything else…
A party is only as good as the guests and food, right? Well, we weren’t going hungry:
We once again ordered two skeleton cupcake masterpieces from my mother-in-law – Veranda Delights.
Here were some jack-o-lantern cake balls! Vanilla cake, orange sugar, and chocolate faces.
These were our peanut-butter witches fingers, pumpkin patch cakes, and chocolate-dipped pretzels. Oh, and the Chex Mix Crack is in the top left.
These were as yummy as they looked. It is mini-bundt cakes joined together with homemade cream cheese icing and then decorated to look like mini-pumpkins.
Finally, a glimpse at some of the main food. There was tons – here you see Monster Salad, deviled eggs, and cornbread. We also had chili, jalapeno poppers, Spanish rice, cauliflower, and bunches of other dips, sides, etc.
Overall, people started showing up at 5:30pm and the party wrapped up around 2:30am. I consider that a total success.
What are you up to this Halloween?
Remember all of my post’s about my home owner’s association earlier this year? Well, they did.
My husband and I moved into our new neighborhood in October 2012. We knew about the HOA, several people suggested we find a place elsewhere, but I thought we could fit in really well anyway. By February 2013, I was completely frazzled by about 6-7 letters about deed restriction violations that just didn’t make sense to me. But I started attending the meetings, tried getting to know all of the board members through those evenings, and I thought it was all getting better. No letters, so I figured that meant that the board and I were getting to know each other finally.
I also thought that since I was getting more involved with the meetings and even offering to be a one-woman welcoming committee to new arrivers, I could probably take a spot on the board this month since 3 positions were opening up.
Elections Turned Personal
The elections were October 24. I was out of town for blogging business from October 15-20 and was sick October 21. There were 3 open positions on the board and 3 official people running for them, including me. I figured I could concentrate on getting better and then make it to the Thursday meeting.
But I answered the door to a concerned neighbor on Tuesday morning. They let me know that one of the guys running had started going around the neighborhood asking for people to sign over their proxy votes so that they could elect a write-in candidate – a friend of the two guys already on the ballot. He was pointing out some of my blog posts titles and explaining how I would be bad for the neighborhood. Great.
So I had a little breakdown, printed up some fliers, and started going door to door Tuesday and Wednesday night. I knocked on more than 100 doors, spoke to dozens of people, and thought I was making a difference. I learned a lot at least and met a few super nice people that I hope to get to know better.
But the last minute push (and 5-6 hours of walking) didn’t get rid of the proxy ballots. I showed up to the Thursday meeting, got drilled in front of everybody about my HOA-hating posts, more ballots were collected, and the vote came in for the two other guys and the write-in candidate. At that point, I wasn’t surprised.
Hind-Sight is 20/20
Being put on the spot in a negative way in front of others simply sucks. But I handled it the best I could, and I pointed out that all of my venting was for justifiable reasons and happened before I started attending the bi-monthly meetings in February. The super stressed ones were before I met the board members. I said out loud that I was surprised anyone would bring it up since I thought we had moved on. That’s the best I could say to sum up all of my feelings at that moment in time.
With some sleep, I figured out what I wanted to say. I wanted to say that I have 12+ years in customer service, a BBA with honors, and the ability to understand the budget. I would make an excellent HOA treasurer. I wanted to say that I disliked how I was treated and was running for the HOA board to help ensure that others weren’t as sad after moving in as I was, and that disliking an HOA is not disliking a neighborhood. I wanted to ask why I was being attacked just because I publicly state how I feel while everyone else hides it. Wouldn’t that make me a great person to work with? Easy to read, straight-forward, and detail-oriented?
But you always know what to say later. Plus, it wouldn’t have actually mattered anyway since the stack of proxy and absentee ballots far outweighed the 30 people who voted in the meeting. Overall, I lost last week while I was out of town.
Knowledge for the Future
Going forward, I know that at least 3 of the 5 board members generally don’t like me. They may have even deeper feelings about their distaste, but I’ll just sum it up with “don’t like”. Well, I hope that changes. It would make life easier on all of us since we live on the same street, lol. I actually try to avoid drama on a general basis, so I hope there’s none here regularly now.
I also know that you can’t make people accept you. Based on the feedback about my blog from the other home owner’s not on the board, I’ve got at least 3 new readers (welcome!) and 1 lady that had no problem publicly denouncing it and me. But at least she read most of a post and not just the title. The lines she read out loud in the meeting were actually from this post (http://www.budgetinginthefunstuff.com/home-owners-association-bullies/):
I love my house. I really, really do. I also knew that we were moving into a neighborhood with a home owner’s association, but I didn’t realize how annoying that really can be! Ugh. And I feel silly because I was warned. My parents have been in a neighborhood with a crazy HOA for years and years. All of my friends and family were jealous of our last little subdivision since it was HOA-free. But none of that prepares you for receiving stupid little letters and wanting to poke someone in the eye…
I think that post was well-written and stated exactly what I meant. I love my neighborhood, I was warned about HOA’s, and now I have to deal with one that actually doesn’t like me. And it’s not like I’m being paranoid – one or two of the members actively didn’t like me enough to go door-to-door telling people not to vote for me. For an unpaid, volunteer position!
I don’t know why that woman in the front row was offended by the post. I do love this neighborhood and I was willing to volunteer my time on the board. I didn’t see her up there or on the ballot. It’s not like it’s a paid position and I was trying to sneak in and steal a salary from someone. I am very proud of this blog and I like my neighborhood, so I was trying to make a difference instead of just whining.
Meh. It’s all good. I’ll keep attending the meetings since they do keep me up to date on the neighborhood. I’ll keep reaching out to the friendly neighbors that wave back. And I’ll accept for now that I am not wanted on the board. My 449 neighboring households either don’t know me well enough to know what they are missing, or they sincerely want nothing to do with a balancing voice on this HOA. Either way, I can’t change anybody’s mind right this second, so I will just keep on keeping on for me.
Have you ever been in a similarly charged situation? Think I’m handling this correctly? How would you proceed from here?
Hi! I am out of town for the Financial Blogger Conference this week, but I have some excellent guest posts lined up for you thanks to some amazing readers and bloggers!!! Adam Kamerer is a blogger from Florence, AL. He and his wife Crystal (great name, btw!) have just launched their personal finance blog, Stop Worrying About Money. You can follow Adam at @SWAMFinance on Twitter.
When I was 19 years old, I had just moved away to college. Most of my expenses were paid for with scholarships (at least for the first year or so). I had a couple thousand dollars saved up from my summer job, which I slowly chipped away at with Fun College Things like 2 a.m. diner meals, long coffee shop haunts, and pretty girls. I like to think I was savvy with that money — I could make it stretch the entire school year, if I was careful.
The Craved Computer
That year, a little flea market opened up just around the corner. To be honest, it was more of a derelict gas station that someone had dragged a couple of tables into and invited vendors to come sell whatever junk they could muster, but it was a fun place to rummage around in. Most of the wares were unremarkable — rusty garden tools, battered appliances, hand-me-down clothes.
But, on the very last table, there was a computer.
This wasn’t just any old junker computer. This was a computer with crisp blue LED accent lights, sleek lines and sharp edges. It had a special case. The specs shined — this computer was fast, it was mean, it was the kind of computer that a man could get stuff done with and look amazing doing it.
The very nice, very pretty lady selling the computer smiled at me and said, “It’s only 500 dollars.”
The school year was about three quarters over at this point, and I had just a little more than $500 of my summer money left. The smart thing to do would have been to walk away. I did, in fact — I wandered through the rest of the flea market again, and promptly came right back to that beautiful, insidious computer.
I already owned a computer. I had a perfectly functional laptop. It wasn’t top of the line, and it couldn’t run the latest games, but it worked for what I needed.
Good Advice Not Heeded…
I decided that I needed a sensible voice I could ignore, so I called my father. I told him about the computer. I told him about the processor and the graphics card and the RAM and the crisp blue LED accent lights. I told him about the price. I told him how much money I had.
“You already have a computer,” my father said.
“Well, yes,” I said. But I really wanted this computer.
“This purchase will use up all the money you have left,” he said.
“Correct again.” But I really wanted this computer.
“If something is wrong with it, you don’t have any recourse,” he said.
“That is true,” I admitted. But I REALLY wanted this computer.
“It’s your decision,” my father said.
I hung up the phone, pulled out my checkbook, wrote a $500 check to a very pretty lady, and went back to my dorm room with a new computer.
It didn’t work. I plugged it in, hooked up the monitor and the keyboard and the mouse and pressed the power button. The crisp blue LEDs came on, the computer started to boot up, and then there was a pop! and a fizzle and the whole thing went dead.
There was a great big ball of ice in my stomach. I had just traded $500 that I worked hard all summer to earn on what was essentially a massive doorstop. I called my father again.
“Well, that’s not good,” he said. This was my father’s gentle synonym for “I told you so.”
A Little Luck
I packed the computer back into my car, raced back to the flea market, and found the pretty lady. I explained that the computer she’d sold me didn’t work, and I wanted my money back. I didn’t know if she’d agree — in all technicality, she had sold the computer as-is, and I never made any attempts to confirm that it worked before I bought it. She would have been well within her rights if she told me to go take a hike, and I’d never see that money again, with nothing to show for it.
After a little back and forth, she reluctantly handed over the check and took the computer back. I voided the check and went home to sulk at myself.
My father, to his credit, never brought the topic up again, and he didn’t need to. I knew every point along the way I’d gone wrong:
I got caught up in the thrill of making an impulse buy.
I let my wants take priority over my needs.
I spent money that I’d already earmarked for other purposes.
I didn’t take the time to make sure the computer even worked before I bought it.
I didn’t seriously consider the advice of people who had my best interest in mind.
I learned my lesson, but I got lucky. I could have lost that money entirely. Instead, I started watching what I was spending like a hawk, and even ended up ahead after the next summer.
What about you? Have you ever made a big financial blunder that taught you a valuable lesson? Tell me your story in the comments!
The following is a guest post from Taynia (rhymes with pain-ya), a debt whip-cracker and financial peacemaker (also CPA – yawn!).
She blogs at The Fiscal Flamingo, a site dedicated to navigate your journey from big spendah to dynamite saver. Sign up for her free financial resource, The Light. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
It’s the end of the month and you’ve got some extra dough. You sweet budgeter, you.
You’ve been waiting for this to happen. Now that it has, you’re ready to spend. For the sake of this argument, let’s look past saving and investing your riches. Although both smart options, sometimes you’ve just gotta spend, in order to save. Non-stop tightwad frugality leads to grumpiness.
So, where was I? Ah yes, you’ve got two choices:
One: Buy Stuff (aka possession)
Two: Buy An Experience
So let’s chat a little about both….
Oh, the sweet allure of stuff. Sparkly, magical and make-your-heart-swell stuff. You lust for it. You covet it. You must have it. You think, “If only I had this, then I would be that.”
And it’s a quick win. It fulfills the instant gratification that has become the minimum standard. It’s also the perception, although you may not want to admit it. People will think more highly of you if you drive a nice car, wear designer clothing, and have a giant house. They’ll want to be you. You’ll be a member of the inner circle.
Then, just like Bennifer (and TomKat), the allure fizzles. Quickly. The shine loses its brilliance. Your stuff is shoved aside in favor of a newer gadget. It’s now worn and torn and off-trend. And your heart no longer swells when you look at it. In sum, you’ve lost that loving feeling. Sigh.
Its not so instant. You rarely have anything tangible to show for it. And generally, it takes some work. For example, you go for a walk in the park. Yeah, it’s a beautiful day and you’re more relaxed for it, but nobody can see that. And the vacation – you’ll never save enough money. Plus you have to plan your airfare, your hotel, and your entertainment. Time wise, it’s so far away. And the last vacation, the only memento you have is a sombrero. Forget it.
Yet, the internal rewards of an experience are priceless. Whether you have a family and are creating forever memories for your children, or you’re a young single adult, living life to the fullest, traveling the globe soaking up new cultures. While you may not have a shiny new bauble to show for it, those experiences will stay with you for the rest of your life. The bank can’t take them from you if you lose your job. You don’t have to buy an insurance policy because a robber can’t steal them. And they can’t be replaced by the newest version (which you know will be released the second you make that purchase.)
So the next time you find yourself drooling over a riding lawn mower at Home Depot, think about the trip you’ve been dying to take to Mexico. Hint: pick Mexico.
When you spy that luxurious, to-die-for, gotta-have-it, royal purple cashmere sweater in the window at Nordstrom – keep walking. Embrace your surroundings, feel the crisp air of fall, look at the changing colors of the leaves. Stand in awe of nature. And save that money for [insert an experience you’ve been waiting for here].
Mr. BFS and I attended a murder mystery comedy dinner in Las Vegas a few years ago, but last weekend was the first time we actually hosted one at our own home. It was a blast!
How It Started
Our roommates were browsing Half Price Books and found this Murder Mystery Dinner in-a-box. They decided to splurge the $2.50 and gifted it to Mr. BFS and me since they never wanted to host one, lol. It took us a couple of months before Mr. BFS decided to open it up and see what was involved. Overall, it had a 4 course dinner menu with all of the recipes, parts for up to 8 people, little seating name cards, clues, and a DVD to guide us through the different sections of the murder mystery.
This was the box our roommates handed us.
The box came with the parts for everybody, invitations, name placards, the party planner’s guide, and the DVD.
Mr. BFS decided that he would totally host and run the night (including making all of the food), but he didn’t want to participate as a suspect. He opted to be the butler (who didn’t do it). I was in charge of gathering up 7 other interested party suspects to be involved that wouldn’t mind chipping in to cover the cost of the food. That is how our murder mystery dinner got rolling.
Let’s be honest, the costumes and the food made the night! We all were assigned parts randomly, which is how I ended up being the bad girl, Ramona. It’s also how our friend J, 6’2″ and built like a linebacker, ended up in German lederhosen.
There were 4 guy parts and 4 girl parts, but there were 5 of us ladies and only 3 guys. I ended up with Ralph Rottingrape, married to Tiny Bubbles (Anne), but we changed my name to Ramona. We still kept me married to Tiny Bubbles though, lol.
I think J (aka Otto Von Schnapps) spent the most on his costume since he bought the lederhosen off of Amazon. A few of us picked up what we needed from thrift shops to fill in blanks. My outfit was actually made up of a lot of pieces I just bought to wear regularly, so I only splurged about $5 for the gold, trashy shirt and borrowed the wigs from D (aka Bonnie Lass). D also did my makeup and fake tattoos. Isabelle (aka Marilyn Merlot) and Ivy (aka Hedy Shablee) helped me accessorize with whatever I had around.
Here are some pictures along with captioned descriptions for my sight-impaired readers (shout out to one of my favorite commenters and new pen pal, SherryH!).
Here is our friend, J, dressed as Otto in lederhosen complete with the cap! He’s standing with me as I started the night – Ramona in a bright blue wig, tight tops, very tight slacks, and metallic heels.
Here are our friends, N, as Papa Vito, and D as Bonnie Lass.
Here is Isabelle as Merilyn Merlot, all decked out with a tiara, tons of glitter, a really nice gown, and some long, white gloves.
Our friend, Ivy, as Hedy Shablee. She has a flower in her hair, and a great hippie blouse and white skirt.
Here is Anne as my wife, Tiny Bubbles, and the FBI Agent, Bud Wizer (R is Anne’s real husband, lol). Tiny is wearing a very cute polka dot dress and Bud made his own FBI badge!
Otto Von Schnapps again. I thought the lederhosen deserved two pictures in this post, lol.
By the end of the evening, I changed into different shoes and the rainbow wig that D brought.
The menu was intense. Mr. BFS was definitely challenged, but he ended up hitting a home run! Here was what he made, totally from scratch:
- Parmesan and Monterrey cheese crackers – he made the dough, let it sit for the day, rolled it out, etc.
- Californian Avocado salad
- Carrots and Snap Peas with a Vinaigrette
- Herbed Orzo
- Garlic Bread – and we had the just-heat-up Hawaiian sweet rolls
- Grilled, Marinated Cornish Game Hens
- Poached Red Wine, Peppered Pears - OMG. Period.
- Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti (again, please realize that this was from scratch and the first time ever cooking it)
Here’s another picture of Ramona simply since I loved this wig.
The final food bill came to about $110 plus some ingredients we already had on hand. Everybody chipped in about $15 and bought a few things here and there for their costumes.