Be Romanced by the Library

libraryIn my original post about why you should visit the library, I argued that no matter who you are, the library has something for you. Aside from the obvious books, you have newspapers, magazines, movies, internet access, classes and activities for kids. The best part? It’s all free.

We know the library can save us money. But could it make us rich?

I came across a post by Mr. Money Mustache I thought was both entertaining and informative in its description of how libraries can make us rich. In his tongue-in-cheek style, MMM starts off:

A few years ago, I learned the most shocking fact about public libraries:

Not everybody uses them!

“No!”, you may say, “That’s impossible – how else do people get their books?”

The scary answer that I discovered is that some people have developed a habit of regularly buying books which cost them $10 – $30 each, reading them, and then collecting them on an ever-growing series of bookshelves.

The post talks about the excuses people give for collecting books, and the author admits to feeling great when walking past a large collection of books. His collection is large too. But the difference, in his words:

…I have several hundred thousand of them, and a paid staff who roams through my modern curved-glass 20,000 square foot book storage facility, automatically maintaining them and buying more for me constantly. I have so many books that I share them with everyone in my entire city, and we’ve even come to an agreement where we ALL pay just a few dollars per year each for the facility, and yet any one of us can borrow any of the books.

If you haven’t figured it out, they call the facility the “Public Library”. It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking of the library in this way. Instead of each of us maintaining an individual collection of books, why not pool our money to create and maintain something far larger than any of us could achieve alone?

The post ends with a description of all the awesome things his family does in the library. Each family member can indulge his or her interests without taking on extra debt or expense. His family has 30 books checked out at any given time, which is ambitious. But that’s the thing – it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish everything. You didn’t pay for the book, so nothing is lost.

Now that we’re aware of what the library has to offer, think about your current buying habits. How many times a month do you walk into a bookstore just to take a peek, only to walk out with a new title or two? Do you enjoy adding to your DVD collection that never seems to be complete? These things cost real money. Money you’re earning from that dead-end desk job or retail job you hate, day after day, week after week with no end in sight. Have you considered that maybe the reason you’re chained to that job is you’re not visiting the library often enough?

Let’s say each month you buy 4 books at $20 a pop, 2 DVDs at $15 each, and 4 magazines at $4 each. In one year you’ve spent $1,512 and have that much less space in your home. After a decade, that’s over $26,920 compounded at 8%.

Even after 10 years, your collection will be no match for the library. So why compete?

Mr. Money Mustache sums up well the library’s role in our lives:

It romances all of us and sucks us in by catering to every one of our interests.

Be romanced by the library and watch your riches grow.

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Is Black Friday Really Cheaper? The Truth About Why We Wait in Lines

It seems Black Friday countdowns start earlier each year. We were barely into October this year and I noticed them cropping up.

For the dedicated bargain hunters among us, the lead up to Black Friday involves making a shopping list, coordinating with others and planning a route. Then, on Thanksgiving night, waiting in lines in the freezing cold.

Last year I participated in the Black Friday mayhem for the first time. I was in the market for a new laptop, and figured Black Friday was the time to strike. The cheapest I could find was at a big box store for $159.

So when Thanksgiving came I grabbed my gloves, hat and scarf and ventured out. I must have been out there two hours, but it felt like five. When they let us in at midnight the real chaos started. Everyone (including me) was sleep deprived and zombie-like. Manners were apparently left at home, as people bumped against each other and ran over anything in the way.

I made my way to the electronics department and stood in yet another line to get my ticket, which would then allow me to claim my laptop. About a half hour after entering the store I had my prize in hand. After waiting in yet another line at the checkout, I made my exit.

Why do millions of Americans put themselves through this every year? I only went to one store, but some people visit several into the wee hours.

It’s all about the deals, right? Well what if I told you that Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best time of year to find bargains?

That’s precisely what the Wall Street Journal found. In their article The Myth of the Black Friday Deal, they explain that most items are cheaper earlier in the shopping season, while some go down in price as you get closer to Christmas Day. Flat screen TVs, jewelry, watches, and toys are cheaper in October, while stuff that didn’t sell well during Black Friday is discounted closer to Christmas. Household items like blenders and mixers are often in the latter category.

Now that we’ve proven good deals aren’t a reason to stand in line, how else might we justify it? Let’s turn to our brains to find the answer.

After our basic needs of food and shelter are met, we aim to be accepted by others. One way we’ve found to do this is to seek social proof: We stand in lines so others will see us standing in lines.

Because consumption is king in our culture, people who consume are “cool”. We believe that others’ opinions of us will be positive if they see us in line to buy the newest iPhone or a 55 inch flat screen.

Aha! Who knew a basic concept of psychology could explain one of our culture’s most popular rituals? MarketWatch calls it “queue chic”, and explains that waiting in line is a shared experience. This fits in with another basic human characteristic: We are social beings. It’s in our nature to associate with others and share our lives with them. In our quest to gain their acceptance, we want to be seen as making the right buying decisions.

So if you’re going shopping on Black Friday to prove how cool you are or to share the experience with others, fine. But if you’re going for the deals, don’t bother. As the Wall Street Journal says, you’re probably wasting your time.

As for my laptop, it turned out to be a dud. It froze up every time I played a video, so I returned it a week later and bought an iPad instead. Last year’s Black Friday excursion will be my one and only.

Are you going Black Friday shopping this year?

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5 All-Natural Homemade Beauty Products That Will Save You Money

We all want to look good, but some people spend way too much money on beauty products. From wrinkle creams to lotions and potions that promise glowing skin, there is a wide variety of beauty products available today. While it is nice to have a vast selection of beauty products to choose from, many of these products can be quite expensive and can contain harsh chemicals that are bad for your skin. The reality is that many of the beauty products you find on the shelves of stores can be replaced with homemade versions that won’t break the bank or damage your skin. If you want to save money while looking good naturally, here are 5 great homemade beauty products you can create yourself.

1. Yogurt And Fruit. Yogurt and fruit may sound like a yummy treat, but these foods can also give you a great exfoliating facial treatment. A fruit and yogurt facial can be just as effective as an expensive store bought kind.

2. Lavender And Rosemary Hair Oil. If you want to give your hair daily protection while leaving it smelling beautiful, try making a lavender and rosemary hair oil. Simply blend together the lavender and rosemary and rub the oil on a brush before brushing your hair. When blended together, lavender and rosemary makes a nourishing hair treatment.

3. Face Mask. A face mask is the perfect way to bring back the health of your skin. Most store bought face masks can be quite expensive, but it’s super easy to make a face mask at home. For a refreshing apple face mask, simply blend applesauce and wheat germ together and you have an instant face mask. Or, blend together an egg, an avocado, a carrot, and some honey and you’ll have a face mask that is chock full of the vitamins needed for healthy looking skin.

4. Hand Sanitizer. If you want to make a quick hand sanitizer that will leave your hands moisturized and clean, simply blend a little aloe vera gel with some rubbing alcohol and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. This mixture will create a cleansing hand cleaner that is gentle on your skin without costing tons of money.

5. After Bath Or Shower Body Oil. If you want to create a great after bath or shower body oil that will leave your skin hydrated and smelling good, all you need to do is blend olive oil with your favorite scented oil. Almost everyone has olive oil in a cabinet somewhere which makes this soothing after bath or shower oil really simple to make.

Looking good doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. With just a little creativity and imagination, you, too, can create all natural homemade beauty products. Not only are homemade beauty products cheaper than store bought brands, but they do not contain harsh chemicals that can damage your skin or hair. If you want to save money while giving your skin or hair exactly what it needs to look and feel healthy, try creating one of the above listed homemade beauty products.

Gracie Coster enjoys writing about fashion, health, and term life insurance quotes.

[Editor’s Note: Thanks for the guest post, Gracie! As a guy, this is a topic I know nothing about. For anyone looking to save on beauty products, give a few of these a try!]

Spend More Time Doing What You Love: Six Time-Saving Tips

My aim for this blog is to help you find ways to save money. By spending less on things that don’t really matter to you, you’ll have more to spend on things that do. This also applies to something equally important: your time. The way you spend your time is a reflection of what is important to you.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with six ways to help you save time so you’ll have more to spend doing things you love.

1. Watch Less TV. We’ve all heard the statistics about how much TV Americans watch. My wife and I got rid of pay cable last summer and I haven’t missed it a day. Simply put, watching TV is a time drain. It’s so easy to sit on the couch and channel surf that before you know it, an hour has gone by and you have nothing to show for it. In addition, watching commercials could lead to greater temptation to spend.

If you really enjoy watching TV, set a limit for yourself and subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus to see programming on-demand with far fewer commercials.

2. Plan Ahead. For so many areas of life, we would benefit enormously from a little advance planning. When you have several errands to run in the same area of town, try combining them into one trip. If you know you won’t have much energy after work, plan a week’s worth of easy meals so you won’t have to put much thought into it each night. You can even lay out your clothes the night before if you’re not a morning person. The idea is to make it easier on yourself by planning for upcoming needs and activities.

3. Make a To-Do List. This is a great example of planning ahead. A To-Do list helps you focus on things you need to get done. I have a running To-Do list on my desk at work and constantly add to it as things come up. Then, if I have some free time during my lunch hour or after work, I can take care of things from the list. I get a sense of accomplishment as I cross off each item knowing I took care of something important.

You may want to divide your list into things that can be done quickly and those that take more time.

4. Stay Organized. The more clutter you have lying around, the more time it will take you to find something. I’ve always considered myself an organized person. In college, I stayed on top of assignments and always had them done early. Since moving out on my own I’ve developed a system to organize incoming mail, important papers and various other things around the house. Recycling has its own container. Keys go in the basket on the bookshelf. Shoes go in the closet. In other words, everything has its place.

Develop your own organization system and you’ll find yourself wasting less time looking for things.

5. Use Online and Mobile Banking. Mobile banking has made my life much, much better. To deposit a check, I used to have to drive to the bank during lunch, wait in line, and deal with deposit slips. Now I simply sign the back and deposit it using my smartphone without leaving the house.

Online bill pay has had a similar effect. Instead of trying to remember to mail a check each time the electric bill was due, I set it up to be paid automatically each month. My car loan is also paid this way. This prevents me from the burden of remembering when bills are due and possibly missing a payment.

6. Make Waiting More Productive. How much of your week is spent waiting? At the doctor’s office. At the bus stop. At the pharmacy. Is there a task on your To-Do list that could be done during this time? Filling in gaps in your day with things you have to get done is one of the best ways to save time.

Are there any other time-saving tips that work for you?

Could leaving early make you a better person?

At church this past Sunday, I listened to a lady give a talk about service. She spoke of how service to others was an important aspect in her life, and she pointed out an interesting way she sets herself up to serve. She would leave her house about 10 minutes early everywhere she went. Whether it was a doctor’s appointment or an athletic event, she would plan her days so that she could leave 10 minutes early. Why did she do this? She explained that by giving herself more time to get to her destination, she felt less rushed. She would arrive at least a few minutes early anywhere she went. Less rushing around led to less stress, which caused her to be in a better mood.

On several occasions, she was able to stop and help others on the way to her destination. In one instance she passed by some high school kids who had missed the bus. She stopped and gave them a ride, which saved them from having to walk a long way to school. On another occasion, when she had arrived at her destination, she saw someone who looked lost. Because she wasn’t in a hurry, she was able to help by giving directions. Had she been in a hurry, she noted, she probably wouldn’t have stopped to help in either case.

As I listened to her talk, I thought of all the times recently when I waited until the last possible minute to leave the house. I was simply focused on my destination. I hadn’t considered that by doing this, perhaps I was missing out on great opportunities to serve others.

I found her method of daily service to others to be inspiring, especially today when everyone seems to be in a hurry. Her example shows that service doesn’t always have to involve formal, scheduled events. Doing service in small spurts can have the same positive impact.

Circumstances may not always allow you to leave early. I doubt, for example, your boss would agree to let you go home 10 minutes early every day for this reason. But by occasionally leaving early, even the busiest among us can do their part to make our world a better place.