Archive for the ‘Channeling Wisdom’ Category

Cohabitation: Your Ticket to Financial Freedom?

August 20, 2011

I recently had the privilege to write an article for LearnVest, a great website for women and finances, regarding the potential financial benefits of moving in with your significant other. Since the article that ran was a much-edited version of what I submitted, essentially losing the spirit with which I wrote it, I felt it necessary to post my original submission here. Hopefully this clarifies that my opinion is IF you decide to move in with your boyfriend/girlfriend, it can also significantly boost your bottom line. Read on for my original submission:

 

When my aunt moved in with her boyfriend in 1988 it caused quite a stir in our family. The perception was that she was “giving up the milk for free,” and he was the one gaining while she must be losing. It wasn’t until he’d put a ring on it that my grandmother was able to chill.

 

Nowadays, things are different. My grandmother still isn’t excited about the fact that I live with my boyfriend, but she understands that times have changed. It seems like young women who don’t cohabitate before marriage are the unusual ones now.

 

The thing is, rather than compromising ourselves by shacking up, we’re hoping to avoid divorce by giving it a test-run first. “Paradoxically, more people today value marriage. They take it seriously. That’s why they’re more likely to cohabit. They want to make sure before they take the ultimate step,” said University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg in the May 28, 2001, issue of Newsweek.

 

Over 12 million unmarried partners are living together today according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey: 2005-2007, a number that increased 88 percent between 1990 and 2007. “Today it’s unusual if you don’t live with someone before you marry them,” John Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin stated in Newsweek.

 

The decision to move in with your significant other should obviously be based on your love and level of commitment to one another, but it also offers some financial benefit if you play it right. My friend James* summed it up best when he said, “We moved in together because we simply wanted to be around each other all the time.”

 

Back when Shelby’s boyfriend moved in with her, she found that it improved her financial situation “quite a bit. We were saving his rent payment plus utilities, gas going to and from his place and we were able to cook our own meals more since we were coming home to the same place.” Shelby, who is a CPA, was appointed the CFO of their relationship and took over management of both of their finances.

 

Combining their homes and money also enabled them to become debt-free. “[Sam] did have a boatload of debt when he moved in. Combining our finances definitely helped pay off that debt more quickly. By a lot. Both because we significantly reduced expenses and because I was more aggressive in paying it off than he had been.”

 

Similarly Kaylie, a project manager from Ohio, found her financial situation better than it had ever been once she moved in with Zach. She was able to eliminate credit card and student loan debt and they “had the money to do pretty much everything we wanted to without worrying about whether we could afford it.”

 

The key is to be strategic about what you do with the money you save when moving in together. Like Kaylie says, “When you go from supporting two households (as a couple) to one, there is likely going to be a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to finances.”

 

Rather than increasing your daily latte intake or becoming a regular at Ann Taylor, sock your extra cash away to jettison any long-term financial worries you’ve been harboring. If you’re still paying down credit card debt, increase your payments till you’re debt free. And if you don’t already have an emergency nest egg of six months salary tucked away, get that going. Nothing spells financial freedom like knowing you can take care of yourself if things don’t work out.

 

When my sweetheart and I moved in together, our joint housing costs decreased by almost half. But that’s not the only perk I’ve enjoyed. Sharing a household with the love of my life has allowed me to save more toward retirement, and concern for our joint financial health has drawn us closer while offering us the chance to really improve our communication.

 

Walking through a financial decision together is also one of the best ways to really see someone else’s values in action. The way my boyfriend makes financial decisions shows me what’s important to him and the fact that we make decisions jointly serves to deepen our trust in each other and gives us a greater sense of being in it together.

 

In the end, if you’re considering sharing an address with your significant other, it can also be a great opportunity to change your financial picture for the better. With proper evaluation of the savings realized and honest communication with your partner, moving in together could be the ticket to long-term financial success and freedom for both of you.

 

* All names have been changed to protect privacy

 

 

 

Protecting Your Good Name: Preventing Identity Theft

April 7, 2011

Recently while giving a presentation to college students on making ends meet after graduation for Money Smart Week Chicago, I was surprised by the number of questions the students had about identity theft and how to prevent it.

While I recommend a few general things like shredding any document that has your name and address on it and choosing the ‘credit’ option when paying with your debit card, the Federal Trade Commission has an extensive page with many more specific things you can do to protect your identity. Here is a quick summary of things you should keep in mind.

1. Protect Your Information Physically: This includes things like putting away financial information if you’re having work done in your home, leaving your Social Security card at home in a lock box (I’m surprised how many people still carry it with them), and requesting to use less obvious security measures than your mother’s maiden name to protect your bank accounts and utilities. These days with everyone and their mother on Facebook, it’s pretty easy to figure out the answer to that question!

2. Treat Your Mail and Trash Carefully: Use post office collection boxes or a secure collection box at work to send outgoing mail and try to pick your mail up as soon as possible each day. And when you’re tossing anything with your information on it, including charge receipts, credit card offers and physicians statements, make sure you shred them before placing in your recycle bin or trash can. I’m often startled by the well-dressed man that regularly picks through the dumpster of my building and will confess that I go to a few extra pains to make my trash extra rank to discourage this practice. Gross!

3. Don’t Click That Link: An identity thief doesn’t even need to be in the same country as you to access your personal information if you keep any of it stored on your computer. All it takes is one click on the wrong link and a savvy hacker could have a field day with your info. I save my tax returns on my laptop to save trees, but I shudder to think that the wrong person might find that information, so I am very careful about links sent to me in emails or even on Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, if you ever list anything for sale on craigslist, you will almost always receive a scam email requesting that you “click here to give me some more information,” from a “very interested and motivated” buyer. Don’t click. Only enter your information into websites if you got there by typing the web address in yourself.

I hope that by utilizing these tips and others offered on the FTC site that you’ll never find yourself a victim of this frustrating and truly life-altering crime. If you do, the same site also offers a thorough process for you to follow to work to get your name back to good. And now, I have some shredding to do!

Kelley C. Long, CPA is a Chicago-based financial coach who believes you shouldn’t have to have a million bucks to receive personalized financial advice. Check her out at www.kelleyclong.com.

The Innocent

February 21, 2011

If you’re not already subscribed to my monthly newsletter, you’re missing out on my monthly review of the eight financial archetypes presented in Brent Kessel’s book It’s Not About the Money. For the month of February, I profiled The Innocent, which struck a chord with a lot of my friends and contacts. Read on and see if you maybe see yourself or someone you know.

The Innocent

Innocents, whether they have money or not, have the common thread of being unable to master money. Either they weren’t taught the skills, are confused by money or their natural gifts are not economically valued in our society. Innocents aren’t necessarily against money like Idealists are, they just have a hard time hanging onto it and dealing with it.

Many of the other financial archetypes develop their relationship to money in response to fear, anxiety or frustration. Innocents don’t have a coping strategy, so the pain they feel about their financial situation is often deeper and more obvious for others to see. They might feel like they should have the ability to be better with money, but when it comes down to trying, the response has historically been to shrug and say, “I guess I’m just not good with money.”

Even if they earn a high income, Innocents don’t have the know-how to secure their financial futures, so at the end of the day they find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. Innocents are far more likely to be regular lottery players and fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes, looking for a quick fix. When these endeavors fail, it just adds to their lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy when dealing with money.

Practical Ways to Manage Cash Flow and Budgeting

Innocents usually spend everything they have and sometimes more, without any idea where the money is going. They are often people with no earnings of their own and depend on a spouse, family members or the government for support, which further adds to their financial distress. The first step of getting their financial house in order is to look at the numbers.

If you’re an Innocent and you don’t know how to look at the numbers, get help. Ask a financially savvy friend or hire a financial coach. Find out where your money is going, then start living within your means immediately. Find ways to simplify your lifestyle so that you can become self-sufficient. Prepare a debt pay-off plan and stick with it. It won’t be easy at first, but ignoring your financial situation won’t make it go away.

Many Innocents are women that are divorcing after many years of being financially dependent on their husbands. They know one thing: that they want out of their marriage. But they don’t know where to start when it comes to becoming financially independent. With a little bit of planning and professional guidance, I help these women save their energy for dealing with the emotional aspects of ending their marriage so that financial concerns don’t cloud their options as they move on.

Next month I’ll be covering the Caregiver archetype, someone who regularly subjugates her needs (both emotional AND financial) to those for whom she feels responsible, leading to resentment and poor financial health. Sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss a single review!

Kelley C. Long, CPA is a Chicago-based financial coach who believes you shouldn’t have to have a million bucks to receive personalized financial advice. Check her out at www.kelleyclong.com.

Are You “Making It?”

January 31, 2011

I finally got a chance to watch the Oprah show last month that had Suze Orman putting the smack down on “Octomom” Nadya Suleman. And let me tell you, Suze let her have it. I’m usually not a fan of calling someone on the carpet and making her feel like crap about her financial situation, but in this case it was absolutely necessary.

Suze, Nadya, Oprah

I could go on and on about how the conversation played out (or you can read it yourself here), but what I found most compelling about Nadya’s little “come to Suze” was Suze’s answer to Nadya saying she was “making it” financially when she decided to have eight more babies (in addition to the six she already had).

When Suze asked Nadya what she was thinking when she decided to have more kids, Nadya commented that she was getting by day-to-day just fine. Suze asked if she was “making it,” and Nadya said that yes, she was making it but things were tough. And then came my favorite part:

Suze stopped Nadya mid-sentence to inform her that she was not “making it.” Making it is NOT getting up in the morning and making it through the day to try the next day. Making it is:

  • Having an eight-month emergency fund
  • Not having credit card debt
  • Not needing food stamps
  • Putting money in your retirement

This made me really think about how many of us spend money on things we can’t afford and don’t really need, thinking that just because we are still able to pay the bills and we have a job that we are making and will figure it out in the future. I did this when I first graduated from college – I spent a summer living on my credit card, figuring that when I started my new job in the fall, I would pay off the debt right away.

Little did I know that it would take me more than five years to finally see a $0 balance on that card. And that didn’t come easily either – I threw every little “windfall” that came my way into getting that debt paid. Tax rebate check? Straight to VISA. Work bonus? In the mail to VISA. Raffle winning at a fund-raiser? Hello, VISA. You get the point.

I sacrificed quite a few opportunities to enjoy exotic travel or indulgent spa treatments or even just an extra visit with family because I knew that until that debt was gone, I shouldn’t be spending a lot of money on non-essentials. I WASN’T making it, even if I had a great-paying job, was putting money in my 401k and was still in my 20’s.

I’m not professing that unless your financial picture is perfect, you shouldn’t take a vacation or buy that new couch you need. “Making it” is a goal to be worked toward for most of us and getting there doesn’t guarantee financial peace. Just don’t fool yourself when you’re whipping out that credit card next time you know you probably shouldn’t.

So, are you making it? Please share your story or opinion in the comments.

Kelley C. Long, CPA is a Chicago-based financial coach who believes you shouldn’t have to have a million bucks to receive personalized financial advice. Check her out at www.kelleyclong.com.

Grocery Shopping Tips

January 18, 2011

One of the changes I am working to make permanent in 2011 is to plan ahead with meals and increase my cooking at home, both to prevent mindless nibbling as well as save us a little bit of money on the food budget. I’m also hoping this helps me shed a few of the fifteen pounds I managed to pack on through 2010!

Tuna casserole for grown-ups!


Inspired by my new Jessica Seinfeld cookbook (thanks, Mom!), I’ve done pretty well so far. And Sweet Pea has even expanded his pallet a little to try some new things! But when I look at how the grocery bill has ballooned, I have to think twice about how I’m going about my weekly food shopping.

To that end, I’d like to share some food savings tips from the August, 2010 issue of O Magazine . I hope they help you too with your financial resolutions today and throughout the year!

Fish and seafood: Frozen fish is a great way to save, as much of the “fresh” fish at the grocery has already been frozen (the label will tell you this). If you want to splurge, wild Alaskan salmon is worth the money and is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Baking ingredients: Skip the name-brand sugar — you can’t tell the difference between the much less expensive store-brand. But when it comes to vanilla extract, experts say it is worth the extra money to buy the real deal.

Cookware: Cookie sheets and stock pots don’t require any fancy materials or coatings, so go ahead and buy the cheapest on the shelf. But don’t scrimp on a good skillet that you’ll use for things like searing or sautéing. You’ll appreciate the even distribution of heat offered by a high quality pan.

Liquor: I know this one from personal experience: if you’re going to mix vodka with anything (even olive juice, like my favorite cocktail), no need to buy the good stuff. Vodka is like tofu — it adopts whatever flavor you add to it. Save your money for a delicious bottle of single malt scotch!

Spices and herbs: Most name brand spices don’t offer anything different than generic brands, so go ahead and cheap out there. And when it comes to buying fresh versus dried, Alejandra Ramos advices that the only time you REALLY need to use fresh is when the recipe calls for basil and parsley.

Organics: The rule of thumb for buying organic produce is that if it’s sweet, go organic. But if it is a fruit or veggie with a thicker skin like onions, bananas or avocados, you’re safe from pesticides anyway.

Olive oil: If you’re going to cook with it, regular olive oil will do just fine. And if you’re making a dressing, you can mix two-thirds cheapie with one-third fancy and still enjoy great flavor. If you’re drizzling over food though, go for the good stuff.

Fruits and veggies: If a vegetable is out of season, buy frozen without losing a lot of the nutrients. Not sure what’s in season? Check out Eat the Seasons, a website updated weekly with what IS in season. Brussels sprouts, anyone?

Cheese: I saved the best for last, one of my diet staples. The only time you ever really need to go high-end on cheese is when you’re doing a cheese plate or fondue. Otherwise, go economy when serving with crackers, in meals, salads or even when grating over food.

I hope you’ve found some information to help with your next trip to the local market. Anything I missed? What grocery store tidbits can you offer? Anyone care to disagree with any of the above?

Kelley C. Long is a Chicago-based financial coach who believes you shouldn’t have to have a million bucks to receive personalized financial advice. Check her out at www.kelleyclong.com.

It’s Not Rocket Science – Achieving Goals

December 7, 2010

As we prepare to wrap up another year, many people will once again be setting goals for the year ahead – count me among those people. If financial goals are among your resolutions, then the next logical question is, “How do you get there?” Read on for the answer.

First of all, don’t forget to be realistic when actually setting financial goals. You don’t have to shoot for the moon to make a difference in your finances. And remember that your goal doesn’t have to be about amassing large amounts of money. It can be as simple as putting a little cushion in place for splurge purchases.

Once you’ve set your goal, the first thing you want to do is write it down and post it where you’ll see it frequently. Is your goal to pay off your credit cards? How about a sticky note that says, “Debt-free = stress-free,” stuck to your credit card. The next time you are tempted to stray, you’ll have a solid reminder to make you think twice. If your goal is saving for something great like a tropical vacation, get out that beautiful photo of the beach and tape it to your computer monitor for motivation.

But beyond setting the goal, how do you get there? Once you’ve established a dollar-amount, break it down into time increments. Let’s continue with the credit card debt example.

Say your balance is $2,000 (which is closer to what the everyday American carries than the scary $8,000+ average often cited) and you’d like it gone in a year. Divided by 12, that’s about $167 per month needed to reach your goal. (I know this calculation doesn’t take interest into account, but I’m trying to keep it simple)

So how do you find an extra $170 or so in your monthly budget? There are some great tips in this blog post by my friend Andy, or you could try the standard ideas like packing your lunch, scaling back from a latte to a drip coffee with lots of milk, or cutting back on entertainment spending by ordering the drink special when out with friends instead of your expensive favorite cocktail.

Most important to achieving any financial goal is to make it automatic. Your credit card minimum payment may only be $75, but in your head, it must become $170 until the balance is $0.

If your goal is to save some money, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account each time you get paid. Just like you don’t miss a mortgage payment because it’s automatically withdrawn each month, you’ll find it much easier to save when it happens without your having to click a button each month.

Setting and achieving financial goals is not rocket science, and even the most strapped of us can make them happen. Keep it simple, be gentle with yourself if you get off track and celebrate the little victories.

Now it’s your turn: What are your goals for 2011? Mine include saving some splurge money for our tropical vacation in March and investing in continuing education to keep me sharp on personal finance topics. Please share your goals and any additional tips you have for getting there below in the comments.

Kelley C. Long is a Chicago-based financial coach who believes you shouldn’t have to have a million bucks to receive personalized financial advice. Check her out at www.kelleyclong.com.

Financial Advice for the Ages

October 12, 2010

There are some personal finance rules of thumb that are set in stone across the board, no matter who you are, how much money you have or what your financial goals are. For example, whether you make $1,000 per month or are worth $10 million, you should have an emergency fund that equals a minimum of three months expenses.

But then there are also rules and suggestions that change as you age and (hopefully) earn more money. Depending on your situation, here are a few age-based tips to maximize your financial well-being.

Mid-twenties
At this age you’re probably still single, no kids, making pretty decent money, traveling a bit, pretty career-focused and not thinking too much about retirement. What essential steps should you be taking?

  1. Get debt-free and stay that way. Pay off your credit cards, student loans and car loan to get your credit score in tip-top shape for when you will inevitably want to qualify for the best mortgage rates.
  2. Take advantage of your employer’s 401k benefit. If you’re offered a match, put at LEAST the amount in there to maximize the match. Aim to defer at least 6% of your salary, 10% if you can afford it.
  3. Get your emergency fund in place ASAP. Start with only $25 per paycheck if you have to, but make it automatic, and once the money is in there it stays. You’ll be glad you have it if you lose your job or have an accident.

Mid-thirties
If you’re a typical American, by this time you own a home, have 2.3 kids and are settled into a career that provides a solid income. You probably spend a lot of time at your kids’ events and have a couple of nice cars in the garage. Make sure you’re staying financial healthy by also doing the following:

  1. Keep socking that money into your 401k. Do NOT sacrifice retirement savings to pay for your kids’ education. They don’t give retirement scholarships or loans.
  2. But you should be saving for college if you can. Decide how much you do want to help (some people want their kids to pay for some to make sure they value the opportunity) then open a 529 account for each child with monthly automatic contributions. Also, make sure you’re matching any expensive extracurricular activity costs with college savings. If you can’t afford to save for college AND pay for select soccer or elite gymnastics, reconsider the high-end program. Chances are your child won’t be making a career out of it and while it might be a tough pill to swallow to drop down to a more affordable league, it will be a lesson in sacrifices and choices that won’t be forgotten.
  3. Make sure your emergency fund balance has been adjusted to cover increases in your expenses over time. Once you’ve reached the goal, keep up with the automatic monthly savings into a Roth IRA or money market savings account.

Mid-fifties
You survived toddlers and are now enjoying the final teen years with your kids, who are hopefully college-bound overachievers. You may be considering a second act career or wondering what the heck you’re going to do with your time once the last of your brood flies the nest. What else should you be thinking about?

  1. It’s probably time to really think about what retirement means to you, then putting that story into numbers. Most people these days aren’t really planning to live out their days on a golf course, but would like the flexibility to hit the links when they like while also staying engaged and active. Think about how the cost of your lifestyle will change and make sure you can weather that.
  2. Take a look at how your 401k (you’re still contributing, right?) is allocated. At this point you should only have about 50% of your funds in stocks, so make any updates to put the other 50% in solid bond funds or other fixed income instruments.
  3. Try to get your house paid off sooner rather than later. Your goal should be to retire completely debt-free.

As with all personal finance tips, these are simply general ideas based on what the “average” American deals with through life. Of course your situation is going to be different and you’ll make adjustments as needed according to what’s important to you. Above all, remember that the purpose of all of this is to simply allow you to enjoy life without having money as a barrier to pursuing your calling.

How’s Your Attitude?

September 9, 2010

Do you ever have one of those days when everything just seems to click? Like the stars have aligned perfectly and everything you touch is golden? For example, you’re on your way home from running morning errands when you notice a parking meter open right in front of the coffee shop. Perfect!

You decide to take your chances by not paying and run in to grab a quick cup. When you swipe your loyalty card you learn you’ve earned a free coffee so you don’t owe a dime, and you glimpse the meter maid approaching just as you pull away…a close call! Lucky day! Suddenly it seems you only have green lights and no traffic and you don’t forget anything at the grocery store and you wonder what else you can accomplish on this great day!

The thing is, you probably still sat at a couple red lights. And you might not have forgotten anything, but Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell frozen garlic bread or your special brand of soymilk, so you’re still going to have to go to the “normal” grocery store later. But these things don’t bother you like they might because you have the attitude that, “This is MY day.” Other days you might grump about having to shop at two stores, or notice how many pedestrians walk into traffic without looking, or become annoyed when your coffee drips on the seat of your car. But not today. Hakuna matata!

Sound familiar? Ever have those days? Did you ever examine it just a little more closely and realize that there wasn’t that much special about that day, it was really that you just happened to notice the good stuff? It turns out my mom was right. It really is all about your perspective or your ATTITUDE. It reminds me of the paragraph that hangs on the wall in her office by Charles R. Swindoll:

Attitude
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

So how’s your attitude today? I know I’m keeping mine on cue to notice the good stuff and try not to dwell on the bad stuff.

It All Adds Up!

August 31, 2010

Today I had the chance to engage in one of my favorite activities. It was coin-rolling day – the day my piggy bank won’t allow me to put another penny in, and I break out the paper coin rolls then head to the bank for a nice little bonus deposit to my checking account.

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Call me a nerd, but I love coin-rolling day. Sorting quarters and dimes into neat little piles satisfies my organizational tendencies and rewards me with extra money I didn’t even miss. And it only takes 15 minutes – I kept track! You can sort your change while watching TV, listening to a podcast, or make it a family affair by getting the kids involved.

I had lots of help

I had lots of help

Back in the day when Suze Orman first hit the airwaves as a guest of the Oprah Show, she wisely suggested that one way to save money without even trying is by saving your change. OK, so maybe she wasn’t the first to think of it, but I remember seeing it and have been saving my change ever since. Do you? If not, I suggest you try.

What’s that? You don’t really spend that much cash? Well, I didn’t think I did either but even the little dollars here and there I use to buy coffee have produced enough change to add up. In fact, this little pile totaled $26 and I had several dollars left over that went back in the piggy bank since they weren’t complete coin rolls.

I know that doesn’t seem like much, but if it’s money you didn’t miss anyway, it adds up over time. Twenty-six bucks per month equals annual savings of $312, which is enough for cross-country airfare from most major airports! Think of it as a bonus vacation fund.

For complete disclosure, I have to share that when I arrived at the bank, the teller simply dumped all my neat little coin rolls into the electronic change counter. It turns out the banking centers in Chicago are a little more technologically advanced than those in Cincinnati! At least at my bank… I have to say, I’m a little bummed to learn this, as I actually like rolling my change. (Some banks charge for this service, so don’t toss those paper rolls yet!)

Regardless, my point remains: the next time you use cash for a purchase, use only dollars and pocket the change. You’ll be surprised how much money you “find!”

Note: No animals were harmed in the production of this blog post.

Lessons from Lollapalooza

August 10, 2010

Concert revelers

Last weekend at the ripe age of 32, I finally attended my first music festival, Lollapalooza 2010. I had an idea of what to expect, but also knew that I was in store for some surprises. Besides some fantastic live music (my favorites were Arcade Fire , DEVO and The National), I expected to be hot, sweaty and in close quarters with similarly affected strangers. I was not disappointed.

DEVO in concert

And as is typical of any event that attracts an average of 80,000 revelers per day, we observed our fair share of drunken idiots and had more than our fill of secondhand marijuana smoke. However, as I jostled my way past outlandishly dressed hipsters and dazed-looking frat boys, I also had a few pleasant realizations about this festival that I thought worth sharing.

Dressed for Lady Gaga

Green Music
First, despite hosting a record-breaking 240,000 concertgoers in Grant Park for the weekend, Lollapalooza was actually quite green and clean. How did they do this? Quite simply it turns out, with a genius play on people’s penchant for anything free. There were ‘Rock and Recycle’ tents scattered throughout the grounds, offering participants a free t-shirt and a chance to win a bike if they collected a garbage bag full of recyclables.

Whenever we finished a beer or Diet Coke, rather than crushing the cans and bottles into our backpacks to take home for recycling (yes, I’m that avid about recycling!), we just sought out one of those little worker bees and it was a win-win! I might be alone in thinking this was brilliant, but come on – aren’t we used to seeing people trashing concert grounds rather than cleaning them up? All it took was a measly free t-shirt. I love it.

Money Lesson (You know I had to have one!)
Second, as I observed my fellow music lovers shelling out $7 for a 16 oz. can of Bud Light, I was reminded again of a basic principle of personal finance that is often overlooked when people take an initial stab at budgeting: discretionary spending. Between the cost of public transportation, food, libations, and a commemorative t-shirt or two, the cost of attending Lollapalooza easily ran more than $100 per person for us. And that’s not including the cost of the ticket!

So just a friendly reminder that when you’re setting up your savings goals and establishing spending limits to be sure and build in some extra cash for events like concerts and festivals. They are much more enjoyable when you don’t have to stress over the excessive cost and I find them to be entirely worth the money in terms of living life to the fullest.

Day 3