This is part II of a series that started with Confronting Agoraphobia, Part I: Carefully Taught.
My folks have a good friend - we'll call him Doug - who's learned a thing or two about saving money. A wunderkind who made an early fortune in the evolution of microloans, he knows that small amounts add up. He's also learned that to most businesses any sale is better than no sale. Doug haggles for everything. He will walk to the counter at Wal-mart with a $25 pack of t-shirts, toss it on the belt, and tell the clerk "I'll give you $15." He renovates kitchens for a living. He will go to furniture stores and open with a bid at 50% of list price.
You'd be amazed at how often he gets the discounts he requests.
Did you think you couldn't haggle at Wal-mart? Have you ever tried? If you haven't, you're probably not alone, and you aren't entirely to blame. It sounds like a fairy tale because you've been on the receiving end of a lengthy, multifaceted agenda to make you think bargaining is scary, difficult, time consuming and futile. Let's take a look at how outside forces, both intentionally and accidentally, have contributed to the decline of negotiation in commerce. (more…)
Coupons are a world of learning in a tiny piece of paper.
About 2/3 of what I know about being thrifty came from growing up with my mother. The rest is from a particularly stingy boss. (Basically, mom taught me what to do and the boss taught me where the point of "too far" lies.) Growing up I never had an allowance. If I wanted spending money, I earned it, either through chores or actually doing work. Thanks to mom I was paying income taxes for my graphic design work by fifth grade and had the cojones to start a theatre company while I was in high school.
Mom couldn't stand grocery shopping. She always brought me along to help. We would spend the Sunday prior clipping coupons from the newspaper together and putting them in an envelope. Once we got to the Stop 'n' Shop that envelope became my mission. While she made the rounds collecting everything else, I had to go pick up everything in the coupon envelope, taking special care to follow the instructions on the coupons and choose the best of multiple options if they were available. (e.g, one 32 oz of item A for $2, or two 15 oz of item B for $2.)
At the end of the trip we would look at the receipt, particularly to see the amount we'd saved by using the coupons. 10% of the savings (which I had to calculate myself) became my paycheck for the trip.
I learned the value of coupons, I learned how to read them, I learned to calculate basic percentages. My ability to figure out 10% in my head turned rapidly into 15% and 20%, for which I am eternally grateful every time I have to leave a tip. On top of it all, mom got help with her least-favorite chore and I stayed focused even though I was a very small child in a very large and distracting place.
What cool things did your mom teach you about saving money when you were little? Share it in the comments, and maybe I'll do an article on it in the future!