Hope for your financial life and beyond

Customer Service Training Ideas: No Comments on How Much Food I Buy

I love good customer service. When you find a store that consistently provides it for you it’s a thing of beauty. It’s obvious their employees have been through customer service training because they consistently focus on it day in and day out. I find it really makes shopping at their establishment enjoyable.

grocery cart with healthy foodOn the other hand bad customer service turns me off. What’s frustrating is when it happens at stores I frequent because of a) their location, b) their superior products or c) their prices. I intentionally go to these stores for one of those reasons and to shop elsewhere would be inconvenient. So I’m forced to endure the annoying service at times because those other reasons win out.

I took over the majority of the shopping last fall when I quit my job to be a stay at home dad. In the past year I’ve noticed some of the worst people at customer service are the ones I have the most contact with: the checkout clerks. The ones who have me riled up right now are those I find at the grocery store.

“Yes, I Know My Cart Is Full”

It’s a constant chore to manage the food budget, especially for large families. We have four kids so with six mouths to feed each week I’m buying a lot of food. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or try to cut back, my grocery cart is always full – or overflowing – by the time I roll into the checkout line.

And oh, you should see the looks I get.

But the worst part is the comments.

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How to Prioritize What’s Important When You Make a Budget

I remember the first time my wife and I really tried to make a budget. So many expenses were coming to mind it was difficult to prioritize which ones were most important. We messed up many things in that first month’s budget and felt really frustrated at our efforts.

make a budgetIt didn’t deter us however from trying again…and again…and again. We found that after several months of trial and error certain expenses always drifted to the surface first. It was apparent that we were drawn to some expenditures more readily than others because they represented fundamental needs for our family each month.

So what expenses go first when you make a budget? Then how do you determine what comes next? Today I’m going to outline our five-step thought process as we make a budget each month. Hopefully it will give you some direction as you try to figure out how your hard earned dollars will be allocated.

Process to Make a Budget

When you begin the process of putting a budget together, start with the highest priorities and work your way down. It should look something like this:

Budget Priority #1 – Necessities Above All

Put simply, you have to survive. Nothing else can happen in the budget before your basic needs are taken care of.

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How An Expensive Camera Purchase Ended Up Being Worth Every Penny

Like you I enjoy summer vacations and think travel should be a part of any budget. Actually vacations at any time are great. We just end up taking most of ours during the summer as a reward for my wife making it through the busy tax season. Come the first of June we are (she is) ready to head somewhere.

This summer we had our sights set on a brand new destination – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We’ve done Disney before and the beach and the cruise ship – all multiple times. So, with the kids getting older, we wanted to venture into new territory – places with new scenery and new adventures to create new memories.

We knew heading out West (from Georgia) would be expensive. Plane flights for six, rental car for 10 days, hotels, meals, activities…you can see this is adding up quickly. We also knew though the West would provide incredible scenic views – mountains, rivers, wildlife – all of which we would want to capture. However, all we had to use were the cameras on our iPhones and an older Canon PowerShot Elph 110HS.

There is nothing wrong with either of those for capturing basic pictures. But neither of them would do for bringing out the most vibrant color in images nor for when distance from an object or its movement is a factor in the quality of the photo.

So as part of our vacation budget, we saved to make a camera purchase. The one we chose was pricey but as you will see it was worth every penny.

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

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How Do You Respond to the I Need A Vacation Voice?

I need a vacation.

i need a vacationHow many times have you said that?

When work has become a drag…

When school has you worn down…

When family life has become monotonous…

When you’re just plain bored.

In all those situations I’ve found myself daydreaming and saying internally, I need a vacation. Get me on the next flight outta here!”

The question is – how will you respond to that little voice inside that cries I need a vacation so often?

Reactions to the I Need a Vacation Voice

Depending on your personality you may react in one of these ways:

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Technology Is Revealing One Big Flaw That Crushes Our Finances

The world is changing rapidly. It’s moving so fast sometimes it feels like your head is spinning faster than the earth on its axis. You wake up one day and say, “Whoa…what happened? How did we get here?”

technologyThe tough part is when we get the sense we are falling behind the times. It’s as though we are hamsters in a wheel – continually running but never catching up.

This rapid change and our pursuit to keep up is nowhere more evident than with technology. And while it has helped create a great standard of living for us I’m afraid it’s revealing one big flaw we’ve yet to conquer.

A Technological Revolution

I think technology is awesome! It has literally shaped the world, perhaps no more so than in the past 150 years. Just think about the inventions since 1850 that have altered life:

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Secret Advice For Teenagers Who Love to Spend Money

You know who you are…teenager who loves to spend money like it’s going out of style. You spend money faster than it takes a snapchat to disappear. Money comes into your hand one minute and it flows out like water the next.

spend moneyAnd you like it that way!

If that’s you, I have some special advice today. It’s unusual, maybe even secret advice you may never have heard in your life. In fact, I’m actually running a huge risk by even sharing this with you. Your parents may hate me for saying this because it might go against how they have instructed you to handle money. (That alone should excite you to listen up, right?)

But before I reveal this big secret about spending your money, you have to promise me something.

The promise I’m asking you to make is to read this entire post. You are going to love what I have to say about spending money but you can’t take it as stand alone advice without understanding the bigger picture. As they say, the devil is in the details so I’m asking for five minutes of your time to help you avoid failure on this issue.

Ready for the big, secret advice? OK, here goes…

Go ahead and spend money because you’ll never know a time with fewer financial obligations than you have right now.

Now remember that promise to read the rest of the post? Good…because I’ve got some serious cleaning up to do with the mess I just created.

Six Possible Reasons You Love to Spend Money

Have you ever thought about why you love to spend money? Don’t fret if it’s never crossed your mind. Most adults haven’t considered it either.

Based on your age right now (ages 13-19) one of these issues is likely driving you to spend money all the time:

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A Beginner’s Guide to Home Remodeling Costs

The first house my wife and I owned was brand spanking new – right out of the box. We walked in to fresh paint, clean carpets, new appliances and a cute little covered porch right off the back door. Everything was so perfect…so new. We had no home remodeling costs to speak of.

home remodeling costsA few years and two kids later we decided it was time for some more space, so we moved into our second (and still current) home.

While nice, this home was, well…not so new.

The carpet was bad, EVERYTHING in the kitchen was dated, the deck was falling apart and who could forget that rust-toned, orange paint in the hall bathroom.

Of course we were thankful for finding a home to fit our growing family needs. But we knew changes to the home were in order…starting with the hideous orange bathroom.

Once the bathroom paint was satisfactory to our eyes, we set out creating a home projects to-do list. Needless to say it became quite long. In fact, 12 years later several of the projects on that list (like finishing the basement) have not been completed.

But in that time we have incurred some major home remodeling costs for our various projects including:

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How to Enjoy a Life of Guilt Free Spending

guilt freeI would love to enjoy a guilt free life when it comes to spending money. Ever heard the same voice rattling around in your head that I’ve heard in mine. It usually says something like, “Why did you spend that money? That was stupid! You know you shouldn’t have done that.”

When that thought occurs it’s typical to spend the rest of the day kicking yourself and feeling like you’ve done something wrong. That same night might be spent seeking forgiveness from your spouse, while the rest of the month you struggle to figure out how to make the budget cover for your spending decision.

Guilt is powerful. But have you ever stopped to consider why?

6 Possible Origins of Our Guilt

Why do we get so wrapped up with guilt when it comes to spending money?

I think the root of guilt can be traced to several factors, some of which may have started long ago in our childhood.

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Would You Use Cheap Toilet Paper For a Penny?

Would you save money by buying ultra cheap toilet paper? I had an encounter recently at the grocery store that led me to consider it.

Several weeks ago I’m in the checkout line waiting to pay for my groceries. As I’m loading the items onto the conveyer belt a sweet, older lady steps in line behind me. She had only a few items in her hand to purchase so I immediately felt bad that she would have to wait for me – because I had a fully loaded shopping cart.

cheap toilet paperShe began to comment on the size of my haul to which I’ve come to have a standard reply – “Yeah, it takes a lot when you are shopping to feed six.” But then she began to analyze my purchases. Evidently I’d done really well that week, as she was excited to see fresh fruits and vegetables in my cart and the assortment of buy-one-get-one products I snagged.

Then she asked me if I’d got “the penny item” on sale that day. I had a vague recollection of seeing somewhere along the way that my store promoted a penny item but I’d never paid attention to it. I don’t usually coupon so stuff like that is never on my radar.

So I told her, “No, I missed that” to which she proceeded to tell me that it was a four-pack of toilet paper. Not only that but she would go get me one if I wanted it.

Oh boy…what to do?

Should I Let Her Get the Cheap Toilet Paper?

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Finding Balance in the Holiday Gifting Madness

Are you having trouble dealing with the pressure and the obligation to buy presents during the holidays? Please welcome Jacob from Cash Cow Couple as he shares his thoughts and offers some solutions to the matter.

dog with scarf laying on a pillow,

Do you feel pressure to even give a gift to your dog this Christmas?

When I had been dating my wife just a few months, I told her that I sometimes refuse to participate in select American holidays. I expressed my opinion that people shouldn’t feel obligated to spend, buy, or gift things. Ever.

She probably thought I was a little odd at the time (it’s OK, I am), but I explained my reasoning and things worked out for us. It’s not that I refuse to participate in many holidays because we can’t afford it. Or because I think holidays are bad. Or because I don’t enjoy a good celebration with family and friends.

I hate it because much of the practice has become forced. There is a ton of great marketing and artificially-generated pressure to “buy something” or to “do something.”

The result is that many individuals regularly attend family gatherings, birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, Easter celebrations, Halloween celebrations, and a million other celebrations, and feel obligated to give gifts or spend money. That’s the wrong reason entirely.

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Why My Kids Love That We Are Not Buying Christmas Presents This Year

I love Christmas! Giving and receiving gifts is one of the highlights of our family’s year. In my mind nothing beats it for family togetherness and sharing expressions of love.

no Christmas presents As a parent though, I’m often hit with a January hangover. My headache comes from watching the majority of the presents I bought for my children lie dormant in a corner of their room. I would say that over 80% of the toys my wife and I purchase the kids each Christmas are played with a couple of times and then left to collect dust. That’s frustrating considering the money we shell out for them.

So last year we asked them to make a list of the items they wanted. They did. We bought them. Same issue occurred.

I’m not mad at the kids. I guess we just have trouble hitting their toy sweet spot.

So just the other week my wife and I decided to do something different this year. We aren’t buying any Christmas presents. To our surprise, when we told the kids what we were doing, they were 100% enthusiastically behind it.

Our Alternative to Christmas Presents

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