How to Save Money on Vacations

Everyone wants to save money on vacations. Why wouldn’t they?

For a variety of financially-driven reasons, only 51% of eligible American employees utilize their allotted vacation time, according to MarketWatch. Many respondents expressed that they couldn’t afford to take vacation, did not want to return to piles of unfinished work, or did not trust a colleague to complete their work in their absence. Among other reasons, perhaps Americans are just stuck in the grind, suffering DINGOs who cannot afford a vacation, or are naturally poor savers.

In October, Mrs. Superhero and I will enjoy a guilt-free vacation getaway and spend four days in Las Vegas. It has been fun to research, plan, and discuss all of the activities that we would like to include during our stay, as this will be our first trip to Vegas. I admit that I am overwhelmed by all of the options, but I am choosing to think positively. We will just have to return to Vegas another time – which should be very possible considering the money we will save on this vacation!

How to Save Money on Vacations

 

STEPS TO SAVE MONEY ON VACATIONS

While there are many ways to save money on vacations, I recommend the following steps because they are tried and true. They have helped me and my wife save money on vacations, and we believe they can help you, as well.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

In the midst of our planning for our vacation to Las Vegas, there is one thing my wife and I haven’t had to consider: how we are going to pay for the vacation.

A few months back, I opened a Digit account in order to satisfy our goal to save money for vacations automatically on a regular-basis. So far, our account has swelled to nearly $900, and we haven’t missed the money one bit. That money will cover the costs of our package deal, which includes airfare and resort stay. We will address our plan to cover the costs of food and entertainment below.

Recommended Open your own Digit savings account for free today!

Many people only pause to consider how they are going to pay for their vacations after they’ve already swiped their credit card. When you consider the fact that credit card interest rates may range anywhere from 12 to 26 percent, on average, we have discovered how not to save on vacations!

With a minimal effort, you can create a plan for paying for your vacation in advance. Remember – if you fail to plan, plan to fail!

Book Your Vacation As Far Ahead As Possible

Generally speaking, a common way to save money on vacations is to book your trip as far ahead as possible. Airlines and hotel chains have a simple mission: strive to reach full-capacity for every flight and individual hotel at all times. They are unlikely to achieve this goal, of course, but they increase their odds of doing so by offering advantageous savings far in advance of travel dates.

We recommend consulting a variety of websites, such as ExpediaTripAdvisor, and Airfare Watchdog to monitor prices. On most of these platforms, you can create and save itineraries and opt to receive price alerts. You can also utilize the option to name your own prices on Priceline.com.

When planning our Las Vegas vacation, we found the best deal for our preferred resort on Expedia.

One word of caution when booking in advance: Be sure to read the fine print regarding cancellation policies and purchase cancellation protection/insurance if you feel there is a chance you may need to cancel your vacation.

Consider Last Minute Vacations

If you are unable to book your vacation in advance and can accept flexible travel dates, you may save money on vacations by purchasing last minute deals.

When Mrs. Superhero and I were planning our first wedding anniversary vacation several years ago, we were able to find a deep discount on a hotel room in Traverse City, Michigan. We found this deal despite the fact that our stay coincided with the National Cherry Festival. Vacationers who have flexible calendars, and in particular those who are educators, can take advantage of similar last minute deals to save money on vacations.

Plan Your Meals, Too

In most vacation budgets, the third-largest line item after airfare and hotel costs, respectively, is often food. You have to eat on vacation. If you’re like me, you like to eat well and try new foods. Fortunately, you can do this at a reasonable cost.

At breakfast time, avoid eating at your hotel or resort unless the meal is free or included with your stay. Typically, you can save money on vacations by walking a block or two to find more affordable breakfast options. You may even opt to enjoy a light breakfast in your room by eating food purchased at a grocery store.

Most tourist attractions aim to pad their bottom lines by preying upon the impulse of unsuspecting vacationers. They know how to take advantage of your unexpected hunger and thirst. This is why theme parks can charge $10 for bottled water and $12 for a hot dog. By planning ahead, you can save money on vacations even within your food budget. Aim to stock up on snacks and beverages at a grocery upon arriving at your destination. If you are driving, purchase these items before leaving home.

We recommend avoiding tourist hot spots. To save money on vacations, strive to eat and drink as do the locals. Once again, TripAdvisorGroupon, and Restaurant.com can provide direction as you plan. In a pinch, you can also find last-minute deals in this manner, so be sure to download the appropriate apps for these platforms on your mobile device.

Additionally, opting to eat a larger lunch and smaller dinner can help you save money. Many lunch specials feature dinner entrees in smaller portions, but they are still large enough for lunch. When dinner time arrives, eating slowly and savoring a smaller meal can make it seem larger.

I am unconcerned about food and entertainment costs during our upcoming Las Vegas stay, as we will likely use Groupon and Restaurant.com as much as we can. Our normal budgeted funds for food/entertainment will cover the remaining costs. We will also loosen up the purse strings for one or two nice meals.

Stick to Your Plans

We will certainly face our share of unexpected expenses while in Las Vegas. However, most of them will be opportunities which we may choose rather required expenditures. We will need to exercise discipline and control in a land of many rich opportunities; of course, this is a well-known best practice which should be implemented in order to save money on vacations.

As budgeting guru Dave Ramsey often says, “Adults devise a plan and follow it; children do what feels good.” The power of suggestion and advertising can be very strong, especially on vacation. But if you remain in tune with your goals and values, you will not fall victim to impulse.

Find Free Events

You can find free events in virtually any vacation destination on any given day. This only requires a small effort to save money on vacations.

Apps such as Yelp, Eventbrite, and LikeALocal can help you to find free or cheap events. Again, plan ahead and download these apps on your mobile device prior to leaving on vacation.

Travel During Off-Peak Seasons

Despite my above example about the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, traveling during off-peak seasons is the best way to save money on vacations. If at all possible, avoid travel to child-friendly locations during March and April (spring break time) and June-August (summer vacation). Also strive to avoid vacation travel during holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. Airlines and hotels often charge holiday premiums during these peak times.

How to Save Money on Vacations
Avoid crowds by traveling during off-peak times

Concluding Thoughts

While vacation costs can put a strain on budgets big and small, you can take steps to save money on vacations. You work hard to earn your income and vacation time, so maximize every opportunity you can to rest and recharge without breaking the bank. Even if you truly cannot afford a vacation, consider an affordable staycation as a method to avoid burnout.

Finally, do not forget to take advantage of web sites and apps such as ExpediaAirfare WatchdogPriceline.comTripAdvisorGroupon, and Restaurant.com when planning a vacation. With any luck, they will help you save money on vacations!


What shows, restaurants, etc., do you recommend we check out in Las Vegas? What other tips do you recommend to save money on vacations? 

 

 

 

The Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 4

As part of the qualitative shift and related goals I established in my July Blog Report, I launched a new weekly feature in August here at FinanceSuperhero:

The Legion of Super-Posts

Published one day later than usual, this post chronicles number of posts which piqued my interest due to their uniqueness, insightful analysis, or emotional impact. I hope to share articles which you may not have read during the week while enhancing a sense of community and promoting other bloggers.

You can review previous issues here:

Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 1
Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 2
Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 3

In this week’s issue:

Making Smart Decisions – A Short Version of the Process! – Vicki at MakeSmarterDecisions.com

I find myself returning to this pillar-like post by Vicki from time to time when I have decisions to make. Though I haven’t encountered too many difficult decisions lately, I anticipate several will arise in the next year or two – as a result, I am aiming to prepare myself to undergo the process that Vicki has so eloquently explained. If you haven’t read this oldie-but-goodie, what are you waiting for?

1500 Days: Bringing Out the Worst in People Since 2013! – 1500 at 1500days.com

A short excerpt is all that is needed to convince you to check out this outstanding and hilarious piece:

My buddy Jim wrote a post last Tuesday about trolls. He was inspired by an article about us that went viral and showed up on Yahoo!. Like every other personal finance success story, the trolls came out in force. No bother, seasoned bloggers know not to look at the comments.

While I don’t entertain their vitriol, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the trolls. I mostly feel sorry for them. One of my goals for the blog is to inspire people to live a better life. However with some people, I’ve only succeeded in inspiring them to reveal the ugliest parts of their personalities. Most of the trolls are probably OK folks, but the anonymous nature of the internet brings out the worst.

The Problem with Simple Living – Kallie at PretendToBePoor.com 

Kallie writes:

Simple living used to be a euphemism for resisting over-consumption. Living on less certainly makes life easier. Cutting the stuff we don’t care about, like pedicures and elaborate birthday parties and toddler tee-ball, saves so much time and money. “Simple living” in this sense allows us to be a one-income family and do volunteer ministry.

Recently, the terms simplicity and minimalism seem to encompass all of life—your time, experiences, relationships, possessions, work—everything. I agree with so much of this thinking. Cultural trends to over-schedule kids in lots of extracurriculars, stay hyper-productive at all times, or work crazy hours to pay for crazy stuff are bogus and need to be challenged.

But why do I leave the simplicity articles feeling frustrated by my not-so-simple life?

Our 5 Favorite Money Saving Travel Tools – Greg at ClubThrifty.com

Mrs. Superhero and I are currently deep in the planning stages for an October trip to Las Vegas (our first!), so when I came across the above headline in my inbox, I was very intrigued. I have checked out all of Greg’s suggestions and am happy to share that his words of wisdom will save us money on our trip!


Have a great Sunday, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get 100% More For Free

Today’s article, How to Get 100% More For Free, is a guest post by FL at FinanciaLibre. As FL explains on his site, FinanciaLibre is here to help you bridge the gap between the wealth you have and the wealth you need to for optimal freedom and maximum life awesomeness. An economist by training with an MBA from a top-5 business school, FL has written several economics research papers, had his work presented before the Supreme Court (Note: an earlier version incorrectly indicated that FL has testified before the Supreme Court), and advised Fortune 100 companies. Prior to reaching age 35, FL achieved and financial independence; he will never again have to participate in mandatory work.

Note from FinanceSuperhero: I wrote the introduction above; it is not a self-congratulatory bio from FL.

How to Get 100% More For Free


To get 100% more of something, you usually have to pay twice as much.

Yeah, you can sometimes grab a bulk discount, but that only gets you a little more for “free.” Say, 15%. And it mostly applies to stuff like toilet paper and peanuts.

Which is great but not exactly life changing.

It turns out, though, that really, truly valuable stuff – things like personalized help getting a better job, or even tax-free cash – are available at discounts that make cheap TP and legumes look downright caro.

By which I mean the good stuff’s free.

You just gotta mind your pints and quarts to get it.

Twofer Tuesday

Someone out there’s saying, “Shucks, FL, I got me six tacos for the price of three last week. Ain’t hard to do.”

Ok. It’s agreed that tacos are nice and can be had for half-off. But they pale in comparison with career growth or cash. They’re more like peanuts. And getting fat at the Taco Hut doesn’t tell us much about how to score 100% more good stuff in life.

So, instead of chowing down on Tex-Mex, let’s listen to a story about two dudes we’ll call Rico 1 and Rico 2. Despite their names, they aren’t rich. And they aren’t real smart.

The Ricos can’t nail down the finer points of an effective cover letter. So each emails a rough draft letter to a bunch of different contacts and asks for their help. A few people respond to their respective Rico with redline comments and vague encouragement.

To this point in the story, Rico 1 and Rico 2 are identical. But now they diverge just ever so slightly.

Both Ricos reply to those who provided assistance, and both ask for yet more help on yet another cover letter. (Like I said, not real smart.) But Rico 1 is expressly grateful for the assistance provided on the first letter. And Rico 2 is expressly neutral about the help.

So how does each fare going forward?

Well, neutral Rico 2 gets about 32% of the initial respondents to help him again. Which ain’t bad for a dunce.

Grateful Rico 1, on the other hand, gets 66% of the original helpers to help some more.

A 100%+ better result for Rico 1…simply by saying “thanks, bro.” Which is free.

The study summarized here exposes a super-profitable truth. Saying “thank you” can work for us wily Luchadores big time.

Exhibiting gratitude is an incredibly powerful motivator that causes people to do the things you want them to do. And in many cases to do those things eagerly.

Unlike so many other levers we can pull to get better personal or professional results, saying “thank you” is costless and, even without an external payoff, makes the thank-er (e.g., Rico 1) happier and healthier.

Which makes “thanks” pretty good stuff.

Sunday Brunch

“I’d rather get me some free tacos than a durn’d redline cover letter,” you say.

All right, so it’s hard to put a dollar figure on career help, and some might prefer lunch to life coaching. But depending on the people you’re emailing, cover letter revisions are probably a lot more valuable than chicken wrapped in fried cornmeal.

Nevertheless, to sate your need for numbers, the power of “thanks” has been subjected to other, more economically geared studies that sketch out a rough financial value for gratitude.

These more quantitative studies also reveal additional insight into how we can turn tiny gestures of gratefulness into a whole lot of rich and creamy goodness in our everyday lives.

Maybe the best series of economic inquiry into the value of “thanks” investigates servers’ tips at restaurants.

Ever wonder why your waiter writes “Thanks!!!” along with seven smiley-face drawings on the check at Sunday brunch? It’s not just to torment your last bits of hangover with unbridled enthusiasm.

It’s because that scribble is worth around 18% in additional tips.

More personalized gestures of thanks (that are also essentially costless) are associated with even higher incremental tipping rates.

Which is not only free money. It’s also tax-free free money. Which is even better than picking a winning Powerball number or striking it rich with pink sheet stocks. Neither of which is riskless or cost-free like throwing out a gracias. And neither of which is worth trying unless you’re a masochist with a burning desire to be broke.

From one of the studies, this quote nicely summarizes the economic power of “thanks” when it’s scaled up to industrial levels:

“Inexpensive and personalized gestures of gratitude…could mean millions of dollars in extra income annually…”

Boom.

Monday Morning

By now you’re probably furiously scrawling out thank you notes onto stray Post-Its and shouting your appreciation at random passersby.

That’s not the worst possible way to go about your business. But it’s not the best, either.

The research on “thanks” implies a handful of practices for putting gratefulness to use for maximum Luchadorian profit and life awesomeness:

1. Be Honest

As a species, we’ve developed highly attuned bull-dars and crap-ometers. If we get a whiff of BS or saccharine-sweet-overkill, or if we suspect someone’s being less than 100% genuine with us, we aren’t going to do anything to help. We might even try to punish the bad behavior.

So don’t bother thanking people with a less-than-earnest emotion behind the gesture. They’ll see through you faster than chicken tacos give you indigestion.

As illustration, recall Office Space character Bill Lumbergh, Peter’s passive-aggressive boss. He thanked the crap out of people. But he was less-than-earnest. So they smashed his Porsche and burned down his office.

Be honest. You’re thanking somebody for something you genuinely believe they deserve thanks for.

By being honest, you light up the part of the thank-ee’s brain that makes them feel needed and socially valuable. Which they like. And which they like you for doing. It doesn’t work if you’re a phony like Lumbergh. Or if you drive a Porsche (probably).

2. Be Timely

Before I retired I used to do a fair amount of interviewing – I’d chat with candidates for jobs or placement into b-school.

Most of the time (but not all… really?!), people sent follow-up thank you notes. And most of the time they were very nice. And they more or less hit all the right notes.

But a handful of times I got an email and honestly wondered who the hell the sender was: Do I know this person, or is this some souped-up version 2.0 Nigerian inheritance scam?

I’d eventually figure it out: Oh, I interviewed this sloth two weeks ago. For the position we filled last Thursday.

Get on it. If the “thanks” isn’t there at the right time, the window for profit’s already closed. Can you be too eager beaver? Well, sure. But early is almost always better than late.

3. Be Specific

To get the most out of people around you and make your “thank you” currency buy as much as possible, you’ve gotta be specific about the thanks.

This is different from being honest. “Specific” means you’re detailing why the person you’re thanking is valuable and appreciated.

If Rico 1 says, “Thanks for being great!” that’s way less powerful than saying, “Thank you for the thoughtful revisions to my boneheaded cover letter.”

By being specific, you link the “thanks” reward with a specific behavior that’s valuable to you. And which might benefit you again in the future.

For example, staff shown gratitude for their work efforts by The Man are more engaged, work harder and are way less likely to jump ship than employees who aren’t shown appreciation.

That kind of gratitude works well for The Man because it’s tied with specific actions that benefit The Man.

4. Make It Actionable

Something that makes advertising ineffective is the absence of a call to action. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do. Or else you’ll have gotten everybody hot and bothered for nothing.

Same thing with “thanks.” To be really effective at parlaying a thank-you into a return, it has to be obvious what you’d like that return to look like. And the return has to be manageable and realistic; asking for a pair of Ferraris won’t get you far.

For waiters, it’s implicit and doable: “Here’s the bill. That line next to the word ‘Gratuity’ is vacant. Please fill it with a large integer.”

For Rico 1, it was explicit and more or less reasonable: “I’m a colossal dunce. Please help me with another cover letter.”

If you do this, you’re more likely to get what you want. In some cases, 100% more likely.

Thank You

All of which can be tough to do artfully. So let me summarize here:

Thank you, excellent reader, for enjoying this beautifully crafted piece of artisan econ-awesomeness.

I’m super-pumped you enjoyed the ride, and I hope our time together has left you wiser, happier and one-step closer to financial independence.

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d really appreciate your help with something: Could you work regular stops at FinanciaLibre and Finance Superhero into your daily routine for making your every waking moment the absolute best ever?

That’d be rad.

Thanks much!

Your bud,

FL


How have intentional-yet-unexpected gestures of gratitude impacted you? Do you strive to exhibit thanks to others on a regular basis?

Also, check back here on Sunday for a delayed version of The Legion of Super-Posts.

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 2

Today’s piece, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 2, is the third installment in the Lessons From the Gridiron Series. It follows the first installment, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1, which presented lessons from the the life of University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh, and the second installment, The Truth About Money and Happiness, which chronicled lessons on the link between money and happiness from the life of O.J. Simpson.

Uncommon financial lessons


Discipline and Routine

Each morning, Jim Harbaugh takes an uncommon and disciplined approach to getting dressed. He pulls on a pair of khakis and a long-sleeved shirt featuring the maize block M, and he is ready to begin his day.

For as long as his wife, Sarah, can remember, Harbaugh has maintained this simple wardrobe. When she attempts to throw away his $8 khakis, he visits Wal-Mart and buys more.

Say what you will about this practice, but Harbaugh is a man of routine and discipline. He wisely spends little time on trivial matters like choosing clothing. He is focused on football.

In 2014, the San Francisco 49ers senior manager of digital and social media experienced Harbaugh’s disciplined routine for himself. Consider the following noteworthy bullet points from a day with Harbaugh:

*Harbaugh was already awake, dressed (in khakis), and at work before sun rise.

*Before heading to meetings with assistant coaches, he took out the trash, watched Judge Judy, brought his kids to school, and played with his young son. He still arrived to the practice facility very early.

*Harbaugh drove a used Chevy Silverardo.

*During lunch, Harbaugh sits with his players. Discussions are rarely football-related.

Discipline.

Routine.

What if the average person applied similar discipline and routine in managing his personal finances?

Learning From Failure

As quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1990s, Jim Harbaugh had his share of run-ins with then coach Mike Ditka. In 1992, the two engaged in a famous fight after Harbaugh called an audible to a pass play and promptly threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown. Ditka berated Harbaugh on the sidelines, and the Bears lost the game, 21-20.

One year later, Harbaugh’s stint with the Bears was over and his confidence was crushed. Yet, Harbaugh would go on to earn the nickname Captain Comeback with the Indianapolis Colts after leading the team to an unexpected trip to the AFC Championship Game.

uncommon financial lessons
Harbaugh with a Mike Ditka jersey at 2015 Big Ten Media Days (Credit: Freep/Paul Beatty/AP)

Many people in Harbaugh’s position would prefer to forget about the fallout in Chicago and focus upon his success with the Colts. Not Harbaugh. He still keeps a framed note from Ditka in his office. The note reads,

“I am still — believe it or not — your greatest fan.”

At Big Ten Media Days in July 2015, Harbaugh brought — you guessed it — a Mike Ditka jersey. The scar from 1992 has clearly healed. Deep in his soul, Harbaugh knows that his hardships with his former coach have led to his successes. He prefers to embrace his previous failures rather than seek to erase them.

In fact, it is quite possible that Harbaugh does not believe in the existence of failure. After his 49ers lost the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, he famously quoted Hemingway, “A man can be destroyed, but he can’t be defeated.”

What if the average person applied similar resolve and learned from his financial failures?

1% Mindset

“Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

This has been Jim Harbaugh’s mantra for years.

In a February 2016 Player’s Tribune article, Harbaugh explained that the mantra started with his father back when Jim and his brother John were kids.

When I was growing up, there was a local car dealer in Ann Arbor that had a program where the coaches got to drive the extra dealer cars. We didn’t have much money, and we didn’t have a car of our own, so my parents shared the dealer car. Sometimes my dad, brother and I would walk outside and the car would be in the driveway. Other ties, if my mom was out, it wasn’t.

“Hey Dad, where’s the car?”

“No car today, guys. We’re walking … Grab a basketball: 100 with the right, 100 with the left. Let’s go!”

So we’d dribble down the sidewalk, dad leading the way, yelling: “Who’s got it better than us?!”

Me and my brother trailing behind, chanting: “No-body!”

For a boy who moved almost constantly, Harbaugh has never once failed to appreciate his position in life. In his mind, the answer to his father’s question wasn’t just senseless parroting; he meant it.

What if the average person understood and appreciated his many blessings?

Wisdom in Stealthiness

Last fall, Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines embarked on a journey. Harbaugh informed the media in typical fashion:

Just to let you know, we’re into a submarine, and you won’t see us for a while. You won’t hear from us. You won’t see us. We’ll be working. We’ll be in a bunker . . . until we decide we’re not.

During the days which followed during the team’s fall camp, Harbaugh did not give a single media interview. Practices were closed to the media and public. Players lived in dorms and spent their time strictly with their coaches.

One can easily surmise that talk is cheap to a man like Harbaugh. He would rather let his team’s performance on the field speak for itself than praise his players for the media.

As an added benefit, the stealthiness of the team’s “submarine mode” provides every possible advantage on the playing field. No lineups, formations, starters, or plays are divulged until the last possible moment.

What if the average person embraced stealthiness and opted to live a modest life of anonymity and simplicity?


In all likelihood, volumes could be written about lessons learned from the life of Jim Harbaugh. Which themes resonated most with you?

8 Personal Finance Issues Millennials Face

Like many other millennials, I enrolled as a college freshman in August 2005. Though I was riding a high bolstered by youthful optimism, much of the rest of the world was holding on tight, collectively bracing itself for another sucker punch to America’s economic gut.

In the previous year, both of my parents had lost their jobs; my mom’s department was slowly eliminated and my dad was laid off despite his 15+ years of seniority and superior evaluations.

Though they never showed it, I’m sure my parents were very scared, as were countless other Americans who faced similar circumstances.

Like many other millennials, I entered college during a time of economic downturn, and four years later, I graduated with the same level of excitement and optimism which had accompanied me as a freshman still intact. Call it youthfulness, naiveté, or foolishness, but I believed that I would most likely have my pick from a number of music teaching vacancies at some of the top schools in the Chicago suburbs. In fact, I established a goal to sign an employment contract prior to my commencement ceremony.

After sending out two dozen applications and sitting through another dozen interviews, I still hadn’t found a job in mid-August. Suddenly, I could relate to the fear my parents likely felt just four years earlier. The next week, I was fortunate to accept a position teaching music in an elementary school. After I was hired, I was told that over 300 other people had applied for my position.

The next few days that followed were a whirlwind: moving, training, and paperwork. Staring at a group of wide-eyed kindergarteners on the first day of school, I thought:

Welcome to the real world.


To read the rest of this piece, head over to TheMillennialBudget; while you’re there, be sure to check out the rest of Stefan’s excellent site!

Finance Superhero - Guest post logo

 

The Truth About Money and Happiness

Today’s post is the second installment in the series, Lessons From the Gridiron. It follows the previous post, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1.

This piece first appeared as a guest publication on Dr. Wise Money.


I will never forget the evening of June 17, 1994. I can vividly recall sitting on my living room floor, watching the action unfold. I was watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks when NBC interrupted the programming with a breaking news corner-cut in. A white Ford Bronco raced down the 405 freeway and was chased by a convoy of police vehicles. Oddly, as time passed, it became clearer that the chase wasn’t really much of a chase.

When I awoke the next morning, I asked my parents about how the chase ended. They told me that OJ Simpson had finally stopped running after two hours and gave himself up to LA police.

O.J.: Made In America (Credit: ESPN)
O.J.: Made In America (Credit: ESPN)

All of my memories of this experience came flooding back to me recently when I watched the recent ESPN series, O.J.: Made in America.

As I watched the five part mini-series, I observed that Simpson’s happiness came from all the wrong places: fame, possessions, people, even alcohol and drugs. After being mired in controversy, Simpson’s fall from the throne was predictable. Like many celebrities before and after him, O.J. became addicted to alcohol and drugs later in life when money, notoriety, and women ceased to provide the happiness he craved.

In my opinion, it was his preoccupation with seeking happiness in all of the wrong places that led to his ultimate arrest and imprisonment on kidnapping charges in 2008.

The Mindset of More

Most of us will never know what it is like to a football star. We won’t experience the life of a film and television actor. In fact, few people, past or present, can claim to understand the life of Orenthal James Simpson. His nation-wide fame began at USC, where he played football and won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. It only escalated as Simpson moved on to the NFL and the big screen.

O.J. Simpson appeared to have it all. Yet, in his mind, he was never satisfied, trapped in a race and perpetually seeking more. In his mind, the widening gap between his expectations and reality lead to unhappiness and discontentment. In his mind, chasing happiness and hoping to find it in people, possessions, and fame was akin to running toward an end zone that would always remain a few yards out of his reach.

It was a losing proposition.

How to Live a Life of Simplicity Instead of Enslavement

Like O.J. Simpson, the average person is destined for an unfulfilling life the moment she chooses a life of enslavement to possessions. By perpetually seeking more, she is likely to live a far less satisfying life.

It is no secret that money provides varying degrees of security. When utilized properly, money can meet the physiological, safety, belonging, and even esteem needs proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” It can be leveraged to meet our most basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – as well as satisfy our vain ambitions – status, friendship, romantic relationships, employment, and socioeconomic status.

Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs (Credit: Wikipedia)
Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs (Credit: Wikipedia)

Yet, despite our human instincts which seek to convince us otherwise, there is not a linear relationship between money and happiness. Researchers have not yet established solid proof that money can or cannot buy happiness; in fact, a quick review of the research over the past ten years reveals that behavioral psychologists may be more divided on this issue than ever before.

Furthermore, it can be argued that possessions do not contribute to increased happiness. At a basic level, we value possessions based upon their utility. If we do not or cannot utilize our possessions, they cease to provide value or retain a maximum level of importance to us. For example, if I gifted you a pair of Wave Runners but established the conditional precedent mandating that they sit on blocks in your garage on a year-round basis, they would not increase your happiness. In fact, their presence might even lead to unhappiness every time you drive by the beach and lament their lack of utility.

Perhaps the link between money and happiness does not lie within how much money or how many possessions one possesses, but instead lies in purposefully managing the money  and possessions which pass through his hands.

A UCLA study revealed that those people who would prefer having more time rather than more money also reported being happier. Respondents in the study frequently indicated that when life offered time/money “trade-offs,” more time led to greater happiness. Among the reasons cited for choosing time over money:

*Working 50 hr a week, with 2 hr of commuting a day, leaves only a few hours to spend time with my children and wife.

*I want to enjoy the pleasures of life and have artistic projects I want to complete.

*Because all I ever do is work. I just want to enjoy myself.

Seven Action Steps to Increase Your Happiness

In accordance with your values, strive to live a life of relative simplicity rather than enslavement to money and possessions by following these seven steps:

  1. Identify your values and spend accordingly. Spending money can make you happy when it aligns with your values.
  2. Give 10% of your income (gross or net is up to you) to a worthwhile charity, religious organization, or research fund each and every month. In doing so, you will gain emotional and psychological control over your money and practice good stewardship. The joy of giving money is unlike any other feeling, and it is often contagious!
  3. Wait 30 days before making unnecessary purchases. Write down the desired purchase and reasons for making it, and if you still want the item after 30 days have passed, then make a decision which aligns with your values. A majority of the time you will discover you no longer want the item as badly as you once thought.
  4. Dream big, but do not allow your happiness to depend on the achievement of your dreams. I have made this mistake and paid dearly for it.
  5. Slow down, unplug, and cherish experiences with loved ones. Relationships are the real treasure in life.
  6. Do not allow the fear of missing out to influence your spending. Social media envy can easily incite jealousy and lead you to believe that more possessions or experiences will increase your happiness. Do not yield to those desires!
  7. Spend money on other people. Spending generously on others will make you happier than spending on yourself. After all, there is a reason that Warren Buffett is delighted by his own plan to give away 99 percent of his wealth.

In 2008, O.J. Simpson’s improbable run of good fortune came to an end. At his sentencing, Simpson offered an apology, telling District Judge Jackie Glass he was “sorry, somewhat confused, [and] apologetic. I just wanted my personal things. I was stupid. I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was doing anything illegal. I thought I was confronting friends. I thought I was retrieving my things. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody, and I didn’t mean to steal anything.”

These were the words of a man desperately clinging to the hope that once again, his charm and charisma could rescue him. In a moment of opportunity, Simpson squandered his chance to take responsibility for a lifetime of seeking happiness in all the wrong places and damaging countless lives in the process.

Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown-Simpson, offered a much more succinct and sincere assessment of all that had transpired.

“It is very sad to think that an individual who had it all, an amazing career, beautiful wife and two precious children, has ended up like this. Allowing wealth, power and control to consume himself, he made a horrific choice on June 12, 1994, which has spiraled into where he is today,” she lamented.

May we all strive to develop a healthier attitude toward wealth and never allow money to control our happiness.

The Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 3

As part of the qualitative shift and related goals I established in my July Blog Report, I launched a new weekly feature in August here at FinanceSuperhero:

The Legion of Super-Posts

Each Saturday, I will chronicle a number of posts which piqued my interest due to their uniqueness, insightful analysis, or emotional impact. I hope to share articles which you may not have read during the week while enhancing a sense of community and promoting other bloggers.

Related: Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 1 and Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 2

In this week’s issue:

This One Simple Act Gave Me Control of My Finances (and Left Me Debt-Free) – Francis John at MyBreadMoney

Francis John writes:

Many of us have taken the backseat in our financial journey and have placed money (the unconscious driver) in control, to manage itself. Can you really get to your desired destination with this approach?

55 Fun and Fabulous Fall Date Ideas that Cost Less Than $15 – Becky at FrameToFreedom

In a recent goal setting post, I set a goal of spending more time with my wife and being intentional about taking her on one date per week. I was thrilled to find a notification about Becky’s post in my inbox this week and genuinely found her recommendations to be unique and interesting.

What My Orchard Teaches Me about Investing – Preston at TheDrunkMillionaire

Preston shares the four lessons he has learned about investing from starting an apple orchard.

Work-Life Balance – The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the Banker – Jon at BeNetWorthy

I’m not very good at work-life balance. I tend to tip the scales heavily in favor of work. Reading Jon’s piece led me to pause and think about my choices, and ultimately showed me that I am doing what is best for my family. He writes:

Parables are not about real events, but merely stories intended to illustrate an underlying truth or to provoke thought. In the context of a business school setting where people are making major life choices, this parable was particularly relevant and I think it’s relevant to any discussion of personal finance issues.

The fundamental issue it raises is, how to know when you have enough and can start to focus more on family, friends, and community instead of just focusing on your career and making another buck. There’s no easy answer and many people have gotten it wrong.

Money, Achievement, Fame, & Suicidal Ideation – PhysicianOnFire

PoF crafted a fascinating examination of Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time. He writes:

The comeback story is impressive. His talent and resolve are remarkable. But to me, the victories and medals aren’t the story. It’s where he was two years ago, and how he ended up there.

5 Simple Rules We Live By To Stay Debt Free – Mr. CBB at CanadianBudgetBinder

In response to an e-mail he received from a reader, Mr. CBB provides a shot of motivation and clarity. He writes:

You can take a large debt and turn it into a debt free empire that will free you from the number one worry most people in this world are slaves to, money.

When you become debt free you automatically have created money rules that you’ve lived by over the years and know they work so you will continue to live by them. Why change something that isn’t broke, right?

Take Advice From People Who Have What You Want – J. Money at BudgetsAreSexy

J. Money, in his usual style, offers straight-up, non-sugar coated advice:

You gotta surround yourself with people DOING the stuff you want to be doing! And *actually* doing it too, btw, not just talking or blogging about it 😉

$2 Worth of Plastic Bags are Teaching Me about Breaking Bad Habits – Emily at JohnAndJaneDoe

I read many, many blogs each week, but Emily has clearly emerged as one of the most introspective bloggers I have encountered. In this piece, she shares how she made meaningful changes in response to a small mistake that many of us would easily gloss over without much thought.


Enjoy these posts, and have a great weekend!

 

 

From Zero to Hero: Skills to Advance Your Life

Happy Friday, readers! The fact that you are reading this post means I have survived the first few days of school. The first few weeks are always a whirlwind of excitement and chaos for students and teachers, but they are fun, as well.

While I ease back into the school year and keep a pretty full slate with my side hustles, I am happy to host yet another excellent guest post.  Today’s piece comes from the one and only Mr. AE at Apathy Ends. If you haven’t checked out his site, I recommend you do so today. You can also follow Apathy Ends on Twitter and Pinterest.

The ApathyEnds logo
The Apathy Ends logo

Take it away, Mr. AE!


As you wade through life you move from the bottom of the ladder to the top. The kicker is, you are only on top long enough to enjoy the move for a brief spell before tumbling back to earth and starting from the bottom again.

The typical cycle looks something like this:

Freshman -> Senior ->Freshman -> Senior -> Entry Level Job -> Senior -> New Title -> Senior New Title

Rinse. Repeat.

The last two iterations can go on for 40-45 years; that sounds exhausting.

We have decided to break the above cycle and are pushing our way to the top of ladder, but plan on staying there for the majority of our adult life. Putting job titles, income, awards and acknowledgments in a bin labeled “crap I don’t care about” is the dream.

I don’t plan on looking back and saying “I was the Senior Master VP of Made Up Job at POS Corporation for 15 years.” I want to say “From this day forward, we will make our own decisions.”

To do this effectively, we need to be Financially Independent. Those words may mean different things to every one, but to me, they mean – Money does not dictate our decisions, we are not dependent on work to fund our lifestyle.

The irony is to accomplish this feat you need to be on your A game in many different areas, and unfortunately a traditional job is the vehicle of choice for most of us. Even though I do not enjoy my job, making more money is the fastest way for us to accomplish our goals. I am going to outline some skills that have increased our salary, cut our spending and paved the way for happiness.

Some Skills to Help you on Your Path

Solve problems

Be a problem solver, not a problem avoider, or worse a problem creator.

Remember that the easiest solution/method might be the right one. Organizations tend to overthink simple procedures and processes and make them way more difficult than they need to be. Install simplicity whenever possible.

Bring a solution to every problem you identify. I can’t emphasize enough how huge this is for your career and personal relationships. Employers don’t promote people that point out issues and don’t think about potential solutions. Effort will not got unnoticed and it is OK to be dead wrong occasionally.

Think Critically

The majority of my peers are Millennials, and critical thinking is not a widely used skill in our generation. Its not that we don’t posses the intelligence, it’s that we want to be told the answer now. This is a downside of the information age, we don’t take time to set out our options and weigh them against each other or potential outcomes.

Use fact or probability based evidence to support your outcomes whenever possible.

Learn To Live With Less

I know first hand how much “stuff” can start to clutter up a home. We went through a Decluttering Challenge and got rid of over 231 items that we simply did not need.

  • Hobby Equipment – Is there a pile of sports equipment in the garage going unused?
  • Square Footage – Have 3 of your 5 bedrooms turned into a glorified storage container?

An interesting thing happens when you rid your house of a bunch of stuff that cost money at one time. Whenever you go to buy something, your brain visualizes everything you got rid of and you second guess your purchases.

Seek Happiness – Destroy Stress

Money is a contributor to stress, the longer it goes unmanaged the deeper the hole you have to eventually dig out of.

One of the most ironic things I have observed is people will spend money on things that don’t make them happy and compound money stress by having less of it.

Try flipping the equation to only spending money on things that TRULY make you happy. It can be anything, I like craft beer, good food and a day on the lake. That means I cut out fast food lunches at work to eat 2-3 good meals at a new restaurant and a 12 pack of craft beer in the fridge at all times.

Don’t Care What Other People Think

Excluding your significant other and family/friends (I go back and forth on them some days) don’t waste time caring what other people think of your decisions. It is not a productive use of your time, energy or brain power.

Do what makes sense for your family and your goals. Don’t feel pressure to spend time or money on anything you are not interested in.

Take Away

There are a lot of things working against you and you may be working against yourself just as hard. You need to manage your money, time and resources effectively to get on top of the ladder for the long haul.

Take some time to separate what brings you joy and strategically cut out the rest. I don’t like Big Bang events, avoid cutting everything in one day. Spread it out over a few months and make sure your changes take hold.

Thanks for hosting today Mr. Superhero!

Thanks again to Mr. AE for his willingness to share a guest post, and be sure to check out Apathy Ends!

The Media Will Destroy Your Finances

Today’s guest post is by Stefan over at The Millennial Budget. Stefan recently graduated from college with his MBA and is sharing his journey towards financial freedom. If you are interested in investing and personal finance make sure to check out his blog!

Note from FinanceSuperhero: Special thanks to Stefan for not only his willingness to share a guest post, but also for doing so during my first week back in the classroom!


The media is one of the most powerful forces of the modern era. It has the ability to influence the way we perceive certain items, made celebrities the “gold standard,” and shapes the way we spend our money.  If we listened to everything the media says I could almost guarantee that you will never retire and live the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle for the rest of your life. That is a hard pill to swallow but sadly it is the truth.

In my opinion, the media worries only about the short term. Personal finance on the other hand has a very long term focus.

To drive home this point let’s explore three different ways the media can potentially destroy your finances.

Today's media is a far cry from the days of Walter Cronkite.
Today’s media is a far cry from the days of Walter Cronkite.

Psychological Influence

The media has mastered the art of psychological influence. Many people turn their TV on and skew their perception of wants into needs.   We are bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of advertisements these days that it sometimes becomes hard to figure out what we want in life versus what we need.

When watching a car advertisement, we distort the purpose of a car. Cars are meant to get us from point A to point B. However, this is far too simple of a task. Rather than focusing on what we really need a car for we want to have a high end brand, reverse sensor (I must admit this is very handy), radio satellite, and so much more. But do we really need all of these added accessories, not to mention higher payments, if we choose to go with a lavish brand?

Let’s be honest, television is focused on one thing, their ratings. When we turn the TV on and see everybody driving fancy cars, living in a big house, and going on vacation a couple times a year, we perceive this as the way we should live. Rather than recognizing that these are all wants rather than needs we attempt to mimic this lifestyle as we associate it with success. While many people do attain this lifestyle, far too many attain it through debt and the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle rather than improving their quality of life slowly over time based on their current financial situation.

The Celebrity Lifestyle

The Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world. Elite athletes gather every four years to show off their talents in a true spectacle. At least, this is what it should be. In recent years this sporting event has become an advertiser’s dream.

I am not sure if anybody saw the gear Michael Phelps wore during his races but he wore a cap with his brand MP on it. This subtle advertising has a major impact on the swimming community and those trying to emulate the greatest Olympian of all time. Being a former competitive swimmer, I can tell you that his cap will have little to no impact on the average swimmer’s times but it will cost them a few dollars more. So why do people buy it? Simple, the psychological influence added with the face of celebrity as a brand ambassador turns a want into a “need.”

Olympics aside, think about some of your favorite shows or celebrities. I was watching Chopped two nights ago and a contestant said that if he won the prize money he would spend it on purchasing clothing similar to the judge’s since he associates the judge’s style with his success. People often try to emulate celebrities “television lifestyle” that it leads to the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.

Short-Term Mindset

Last but not least is something that irks me as an investor. If you do not understand investing properly I highly recommend that you invest in index funds or in a service such as Betterment that offers low-cost diversification. However, if you are willing to take on more risk, like I am, then I strongly urge you to take nothing the media says seriously.

Brokers and the media have one goal in mind: Generate commissions and ad revenue. One month they may say that Stock X is a great hold for the future and should be in everybody’s portfolio. A few months later you will hear the analyst talking about the grim prospects for stock X and that they are selling their position in the company.

Here is the problem with this. If you are using a broker such as Motif, a personal favorite of mine as they have low trading fees of $4.95 a trade, then you will pay $4.95 when you buy the stock and another $4.95 when you sell the stock. On top of this you will have to pay any capital gains at your regular tax rate as you held the stock for less than a year. These can be costly mistakes that add up over time and put a significant dent in your retirement savings.

Here is my suggestion if you are going to invest in individual stocks. You need to have a long term mindset and ensure that the company is in an industry that will be growing in the future. They should have a competitive advantage and management that can execute their vision. Do not focus on the day to day events in the market but rather the future prospects of each individual company. If the market crashes stay calm and find some extra money to invest as history shows that the market has positive returns over an extended period of time.

Final Thoughts

The media has it pros and cons but if you take it too seriously it can destroy your finances. If we focus on our personal lifestyle and goals rather than other people’s own we stand a much greater chance of breaking free from the financial shackles. Start by stripping down your spending to the bare necessities and build your budget around this. I am a big believer that living life at all stages is important for our happiness so I like to include an account in my budget for travel and other luxuries. Be responsible with your money and your financial goals will be achieved.


Readers, how has the media influenced your spending? How do you block all the advertising we see today? What advice would you give to people easily influenced?   

My Motivation to Achieve Financial Success – Legacy

Before today’s post, I wanted to share that I recently took part in the Behind the Screen Interview Series at FamilyMoneyPlan. You can check out my interview with Andrew here.


My Motivation to Achieve Financial Success – Legacy

A brand-new home with every amenity.

Freedom from stress and the day-to-day rat race.

Full control over your life and your finances.

When it comes to money, we all are motivated by different factors. Those motivating factors can also change over time based upon our formative life experiences.

However, for as long as I can remember, my motivation to achieve financial success has always been about one primary factor:

Legacy.

MY MOTIVATION TO ACHIEVE FINANCIAL SUCCESS

My Model of Motivation

I have written extensively in the past about the impact my Grandpa had on my life and my outlook on work ethic, success, and money. Since he passed away just over three years ago, a day has not passed in which I fail to think about him and the incredible legacy he left behind.

While many people do not aspire to leave a legacy or make a profound impact upon their loved ones, my Grandpa knew exactly what he and my Grandma were doing. I learned this at a very early age.

As a young child, I vividly recall the long walk to the lake one warm July 4th evening. As was customary, the entire extended family – Grandpa and Grandma, several aunts and uncles, and far too many cousins to count – had set out well before dusk to stake out our seats for the evening firework show.

To be clear, I cannot recall if my memories of what happened next are firsthand or simply recollections of the story; strangely, time has a way of clouding memories. Regardless, I will always remember the words my Grandpa spoke to my Grandma and as they walked side-by-side and lead the way to our usual seats.

“Look what we did, Mother,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at our entire family.

We were Grandpa’s proudest accomplishment. We were his legacy.

With my Grandpa in 2012
With my Grandpa in 2012

I think back on that story often. In many ways, it ranks as one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. In that moment, I learned a valuable lesson on what is truly important in life.

In my eyes, my Grandpa had it all: a long, relatively-healthy life; a beautiful home; considerable, though undeclared, wealth; and the freedom to do as he pleased. Yet, his family meant far more to him than all earthly possessions.

Yes, my Grandpa loved money. In fact, when I spoke at his funeral, I shared the true story of the time he opened his wallet and a moth flew out. Like a typical, hard-working Dutch man, he was not in any hurry to spend his hard-earned money. But he had his priorities in order. He was generous and kind when it mattered most, especially to family and friends.

I often wonder if my priorities, too, will stand the test of time.


On the surface, I have no doubt that many of my friends and loved ones completely misunderstand my money motivations. To many of them, I am sure I appear to be greedy, miserly, or a workaholic. Some may even think I must be self-obsessed and vain.

However, I believe short-term sacrifice is worth the long-term gains waiting to be realized. Over my lifetime, I have learned that it is the motivation behind one’s actions, not the actions alone, which deserves scrutiny.

My wife and I aren’t working hard to inflate our current lifestyle, live it up in the present, and run the risk of burn-out. No, we are sacrificing in the short-term in order to build our ability to focus on what is truly important to us five, ten, and twenty years from now. In a culture which places the highest value on instant gratification, we are embracing the opposite.

Once in a while,  when it feels like I’m burning the wick at both ends, I like to hit the streets for an evening run and clear my head. Invariably, my thoughts drift and I begin to form visions of the future: our future kids playing in the yard, sending them off to college without any debt, walking my daughters down the aisle on their wedding days, and taking the entire family, grandchildren included, on a two-week getaway to Disney World. Those thoughts are the magical panacea for my weariness.

In the present, those visions represent a future worthy of current sacrifice and hard work.

Those thoughts – my future family and the experiences I hope to provide for them – will be a significant part of my legacy.


What motivates you to achieve financial success?