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Barter, Swap & Trade PDF Print E-mail

By Melissa Tosetti

During my interview with Chef Michael Chiarello a few years ago I was blown away by his money savvy.   Although he is now an internationally renowned chef, and is more than financially secure, he is always mindful that there is more than one way to acquire what you need. 

When he was four years old his dad had a stroke and became disabled. He remembers, "Money was always tight, but we had plenty of good food on the table." Although money was in short supply, it didn't affect the richness of their life. To some extent, money was never an issue for his family or those around them. They created a vibrant, beautiful life with what they had available to them.

They would barter and trade everything. This is a habit he continues today. He told me the story about the lighting he wanted for his restaurant Bottega which was outside of his budget. Instead of going the “American Way” and simply going over budget, he bartered with the lighting guy. He did the same for his outdoor tables.

“In Mediterranean cultures, this is what they do. It's built into them to barter and to make what you have go further,” explained Chiarello.

My friend Carla S., mother of two beautiful little girls, worked full time.  When her kids reached the ages of three and four, she decided that she wanted to spend more time with them and started thinking about converting to part time work. 

She hired me to help her reduce her monthly grocery bill and find other ways to spend less.  With just a few tweaks, she was able to adjust her expenditures and Carla began working part time without having to make any major sacrifices. 

The extra time also gave her the opportunity to trade working three hours a week at her yoga studio in exchange for free unlimited yoga.  This time-for-yoga exchange has saved Carla $180 per month.

The next time something you want is just out of reach, try to barter something you own or something you can do in exchange for what you want.

What To Buy In January PDF Print E-mail

By Melissa Tosetti
I was reading the article The Best and Worst Things To Buy in January and something the author said hit me…
Lindsay Saikrada wrote, “…after all that shopping you likely did during the holidays, you may be looking forward to giving your credit card a rest. But January is an excellent month to bag deals like winter apparel or early Valentine's Day gifts.”
Just the other day I told my husband Paul that I had hit buyer’s fatigue and was really looking forward to a break. Between Christmas and my son Dante’s birthday on January 2nd, I was over this shopping thing. 
But, Lindsay is absolutely right. In January, retailers offer some of the best discounts of the year.
What should you be looking out for?
  • Knowing the number one New Year resolution is to lose weight, fitness equipment and DVDs are on sale at 40% - 90% off. 
  • Discounts also begin for winter sports equipment.
  • January is also a great time to purchase furniture with clearance sales at 40% - 70%.
  • As we get closer to the Super Bowl, televisions will be on sale. Just keep in mind that the prices will be even better after the game. 
  • Bedding and linen are a January sale tradition. 
  • Toys are also on clearance. It’s an excellent time to stock up on children’s birthday gifts! 
So, before locking your debit card away for the month, check out the sales to see if there are items out there worth purchasing. 

Habits, Not Resolutions PDF Print E-mail

By Melissa Tosetti
For those of you who’ve attended a Living The Savvy Life presentation, you’ve heard me talk about Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.  In a nutshell, the book focuses on how to replace negative habits and implement positive ones. 
Duhigg also explains why New Year’s Resolutions, on their own, don’t work.
If taking control of your finances is one of your resolutions, then consider focusing on creating a habit that will move you toward your goal.
In my experience of working with clients over the last eight years, the keystone habit that changed everything for them was to Track Their Spending.  Right now you might be thinking…
NO!  That's like counting calories. Not fun!  
I’m not gonna lie to you.  At first, it may not be an enjoyable task.  But a funny thing happens when you start Tracking Your Spending.  As you become aware of where your money is going, you start to spend differently.  You start to focus your spending on what is most important to you – a key savvy habit! 

Also, as the habit starts to take hold, it becomes something you look forward to doing. I've seen it happen with clients that have protested the most.  They almost always become the biggest advocates for the habit.
In order to create the Track Your Spending Habit, consider implementing the “Cue, Routine & Reward” formula Duhigg explains in his book. 
For example, a Cue, Routine & Reward system you can set up to Track Your Spending might be:
  • Cue: Turn on your computer first thing in the morning.
  • Routine: Enter or download yesterday’s spending into your *tracking system
  • Reward: Read your favorite websites for 15 minutes. 
* As for tracking systems, you can use Quicken, Mint.com, an Excel spreadsheet or the paper check register that comes with your bank checks.  

According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.  So, to make your habit stick, Track Your Spending every single day.  Even if you didn’t spend money the previous day, at least log into your bank account to check your balance.  Then, put a check mark, happy face or some other symbol, on your calendar when you’ve completed your tracking habit for that day.  If you start on New Year's Day, on Friday, March 7th, you'll reach the 66 day mark. 
I’m more of a carrot than a stick person and most clients that I've worked with are too.  So, consider giving yourself a reward when you reach your 66 day mark such as dinner at your favorite restaurant.  Just remember to mark the expense in your tracking system the next day.


Unwanted Gift Cards PDF Print E-mail
By Melissa Tosetti
About 10 years ago, my husband Paul received a $100 gift card for a store he didn't have any interest in visiting.  It was an unfortunate waste of money on several levels.
Now there are multiple opportunities to get use out of those unwanted cards.  In her article, What Can I Do With Gift Cards I Don't Want?, Holly Johnson of Get Rich Slowly offers a variety of answers.  Check it out.
Review Your Credit Card Statement PDF Print E-mail
By Melissa Tosetti
One of the most important money saving habits you can adopt is to review your credit card statement each month.  

Back in July, I was charged $95 to renew a subscription for anti-virus protection on a computer I know longer own.  I immediately called the company and asked them to reverse the charge. 

Had I not noticed the charge, I would have blindly paid it, quite possibly for years to come as it was an annual subscription. I can think of many more things I would prefer to spend that $95 on! 

A much more impactful example of how crucial it is to review your credit card statements came at the expense of one of my clients in Virginia.  When we started working together, she discovered that she had been paying $200 a month for a personal trainer that she hadn't seen in two years.  That mistake cost her $4,800!

When your credit card bill arrives, invest the two minutes it takes to review the statement and make sure you're getting billed appropriately.
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