About J. Shane Mercer

I am the digital marketing specialist at The Village Family Service Center. Keep up with Village news and events at https://www.facebook.com/thevillagefamily and on Twitter at @VillageFamily

Valentine’s Gift Ideas That Won’t Blow Your New Year’s Financial Resolutions

By Alicia Kellebrew
The Village Financial Resource Center

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about financial New Year’s resolutions. Now, here we are, just a few short weeks away from Valentine’s Day already. Well, if your financial New Year’s resolutions are in danger of being wrecked by Valentine’s Day spending, I have some alternatives to traditional gift ideas that might just help save the day.

Traditional gift: One dozen long-stem red roses.
Cost-effective alternative:
Make a few adjustments. If live flowers are a must, consider other, less expensive alternatives such as carnations, daisies, tulips, etc. Or scale back on the number, and send a red solitaire rose instead of a large group of them. Also, consider delivering the order personally. Not only will you save on delivery costs, but you’ll get to see your recipient’s reaction to your gift.

Traditional gift: A piece of diamond jewelry
Cost-effective Alternative: Trying something less traditional, or (gasp!) make your own jewelry. If jewelry is a must on your list, consider alternative metals or stones to keep cost down. You could also buy supplies and have a crafty friend show you how to make something yourself. The best part of this method is that your finished product can be personalized to your reflect the unique personality of your recipient.

Traditional gift: A heart-shaped box of chocolates
Cost-effective alternative: Create a homemade candy bouquet. Craft your own candy bouquet made with your sweetheart’s favorites. Or, you might consider making your own candies! If cooking/baking isn’t your thing, call on that friend who’s a culinary know-it-all and who might enjoy helping you surprise that special someone.

Traditional gift: Greeting Card
Cost-effective alternative: A homemade card. Again, this one gives you the chance to get creative. Although on this one if you do decide to go the traditional route, be sure to include a personal message. That turns a simple card into something they will treasure for a long time. One thing I started doing was to write the year I gave the card inside it. It’s fun to look back on them through the years.


And here are a few bonus non-traditional ideas for cutting costs without breaking hearts:

Non-traditional gift idea #1 – Put how you feel into writing: This could include an old fashioned love letter, filling a sticky notepad full of messages for your one and only (such as reasons you love them, words that describe them, your favorite memories of them, etc.), and finding fun places to hang them. Or if you are feeling really daring, try a love poem (such as a haiku or a Shakespearean Sonnet – complete with Iambic pentameter).

Non-traditional gift idea #2- Plan a month’s (or more) worth of dates. If you are like me, you hate deciding where to go eat or what to go do for a date night. In an effort to help with this dilemma, why not write up ideas on pretty, colored pieces of paper and put them in a decorative box or jar? You could even color code them in relationship to how much they cost (Ok, maybe that’s only romantic to financial counselors!). For example, one might say, “Watch your favorite movie out of your private collection,” which could be on green paper because it doesn’t cost any money.

Non-traditional gift idea #3 – Make the ordinary extraordinary. Maybe you plan to just stay in for the night and cook dinner at home. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat by candlelight with mood music playing in the background. You may decide to wear your best dress or a sharp-looking tie. You could even end up doing an impromptu waltz in the middle of your living room. The idea is to set Valentine’s Day apart from just a standard day.

Non-traditional gift idea #4 – Give the gift of self. This could mean offering up an act of service for your loved one such as filling up their gas tank if you notice it is running low or offering to do the dishes or laundry while they go take a nap. Another idea is to simply plan time together, doing one of their favorite activities or something that you both enjoy such as playing board games or working together on a home or craft project.

Bottom Line: The most important piece of the Valentine’s Day equation is that you let those around you know how special they are to you (This goes for anyone that you hold dear). What you spend to do that is not as important as the love and thought behind your gesture.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






New Year’s Resolutions For Your Finances

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

With a new year staring us in the face, many of us take a look back at the previous 12 months to celebrate our successes and take inventory of things that didn’t go quite the way we planned. We also often welcome all the promise and possibility that a fresh start brings with some New Year’s resolutions. If financial resolutions are on your radar this New Year, what kinds of resolutions could or should you make, and what steps can you take toward achieving them? Here’s some help:

  1. Make a plan to reach your financial goals: Just like you can’t get to an unknown location without directions, you can’t get where you want to be financially without a plan. It’s a good idea to follow the SMART criteria: specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
  1. Create a budget: Now that you have some goals set, you need what I like to call a “budget blueprint.” Even if you have to estimate the figures for this initial budget, it helps you to see how all your expenses fit together and gives you something to compare your figures against later. Throughout the year, you can check your progress and see where you may be able to make adjustments.
  1. Be more aware of where your money is going: I will be the first to admit that this is probably the least fun step, but it is eye-opening and essential part of the process. The best way to do this is to write down everything you spend for at least one month – two or more months is better, because there is bound to be one month where expenses may stray from the norm. Writing everything down will help you become aware of where your money goes instead of staying on “spending autopilot.”
  1. Stick to a budget: This tends to be the hardest part of managing one’s money. It is easier to make the plan than to implement it. Ideas to help stay on track include finding an accountability partner; using a cash envelope system where cash for each category is put into an envelope and when it is gone, spending for that category is done; or updating the balances available for each budget category daily.
  1. Save more money/Start or add to an emergency fund: Many people know they should save and really want to, but they find themselves falling short of the goal. Remember that while it is recommended to have at least 3-6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund, you have to start somewhere. Many people get so overwhelmed that they simply never start. Instead of getting overwhelmed, get excited about doing what you can! Decide on a set amount to save each month and write it into the budget as if it is a bill. It’s just like the old saying: “Pay yourself first.” This is more effective the waiting to see how much is left at the end of the month.
  1. Knock down debts: The first thing to do is stop creating new debt immediately! Do some work with your budget and find areas that you can trim in order to free up funds to be able to pay more than just the minimums required. If you are feeling extra motivated, you may decide to take on additional side work or a part-time job and devote the extra money that comes in to debt reduction.

Bottom line: A brand new year is the perfect time to start some positive new habits that will have a major impact on your financial future. Money management is kind of like a muscle – the more you work on it, the stronger your abilities will be. So don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t go smoothly at first. Just as your financial situation didn’t develop overnight it will take some time to get where you want to be. I, personally, believe that with a little work, 2016 can be your best year yet! If you need some help getting your finance in order, contact us at The Village Financial Resource Center at (800) 450-4019.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center (www.helpwithmoney.org).






The True Value of the Gift of Time

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

The holidays, with all their gift-giving and stocking filling, are rapidly approaching. But, you know, the older I get (not that I am getting old!) the more I realize that it’s not the things I receive that mean the most to me or that I remember. It’s the time I spend with my family and friends and the things I do. I’ve also noticed that many gifts I’ve spent a lot of time and effort hand-selecting end up in corners collecting dust – not because they were bad gifts or people didn’t appreciate them, but because we all have so much stuff!

The gift of time has a tendency to be one of the most underutilized gifts out there, but it is often the most meaningful. So what are some ways that you can break away from the “Buy and Give” holiday mold? I can think of a few.

  1. Think outside the box (literally!): Instead of simply buying something so you can cross someone off your holiday list, consider a different, time-focused approach such as proposing an afternoon of crafting, cooking, baking, movie watching, or playing board/card games. Maybe offer your time and talents as an act of service to someone; this might include cleaning, car maintenance/repair, babysitting, or giving a lesson on something that you know how to do that they don’t.
  1. Focus on experiences rather than things: This could be something as simple as a gift card to a favorite hangout spot or a new place you would like to encourage someone to try (which would be risk free for them since you paid!). Other ideas could be tickets to a movie, concert, or sporting event or planning and paying for a getaway (even if it’s just an overnight stay somewhere close to home or impromptu road trip). The idea here is that the memories you make while doing something with someone will long outlive any item you may purchase.
  1. Consider going homemade: If you are a crafty person, consider using your crafting abilities to make something to give away as a gift, such as personalized jewelry sets, knitting hats or scarves, or baking up some of their favorite treats. If you are not as crafty, you could enlist the help of a crafty friend or could even get other family members in on the action, which is especially fun when kids are involved.
  1. Rethink your position on gift cards and find a way to make them more interesting: I am one of those people who always hated buying gift cards for people because it felt like the easy way out. If this is you, use the gift cards as part of a larger gift. For example, you might combine a gift card to a nice restaurant with a new tie for the gentleman to wear and a new accessory like a scarf, shawl, or piece of jewelry for the lady to wear. This allows you to personalize your gift while keeping it pretty functional. The two will have a lovely evening (on you!) and will think back to it whenever they wear the pieces that were part of your gift.
  1. Consider making your gift something that will benefit others: There are a few really neat ways to do this. The obvious one is to make a charitable donation in someone else’s name to an organization or group they care about. You could also be on the lookout for donation drives set up to collect gifts and necessities for those in need. But, keeping with the time-focused theme, another way to do this might be to propose a day of volunteering together, whether that is at a soup kitchen or the Humane Society. Or you might consider checking on the regulations for visiting in local assisted living facilities or senior citizen centers. My parents used to take me to do this when I was younger, and it is amazing how much the simple act of just sitting and talking with residents means to them.

Bottom line: The whole point of the holiday season is to spend time with family and friends and show them how much we care about them. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, but it never hurts to explore some new ideas. And, of course, it might just save you a dollar or two.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






Personal Finances for Hockey Fans

FRC Hockey Blog PicBy Alicia Kellebrew,
NFCC Certified Financial Professional, The Village FRC

In case you hadn’t realized it just yet, hockey season is once again upon us. Those who know me know that hockey is one of my very favorite things. And hockey, like every other sport, has its own unique lingo and terminology. So is there anything we can glean the terminology of the rink to apply to our financial lives? I think so.

  1. Power Play – When a team has one more man on the ice than their opponent due to a penalty. The idea is to give one team the advantage over the other one. Let others in on your goals so they can be your “extra man” on the ice. Having an extra person to offer encouragement and/or hold you accountable can go a long way. This may come in the form of a significant other, your family or friends, or even a professional.
  2. Interference – A penalty called when a player interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who doesn’t have the puck. In real life this could be any kind of “noise” that is affecting your ability to be successful with your personal finances such as behavioral issues (compulsive spending), thoughts or attitudes about money or your ability to handle it well, or people who encourage/enable the negative or discourage/block the positive.
  3. Deke – To draw your opponent out of position while maintaining possession and control of the puck. A fun fact is that it is an abbreviation of the word “decoy.” You can “outmaneuver” your bad money habits by recognizing them and staying in control in whatever way necessary to stay on track.
  4. Offsides – When a player on the attacking team enters the offensive zone before the puck. Similarly major expenses like to hit us when we aren’t prepared. The way to combat this is to be proactive and set aside even small amounts each month consistently so that “dark horses” like car maintenance won’t happen before we have a chance to set up our own plays.
  5. Plus/minus – A statistic used to measure a player’s impact on the game represented by the difference between one team’s total scoring versus their opponent’s. Players are awarded a plus when they are on the ice for a goal scored for their team and a minus when they are on the ice when their opponent scores. Personal financial management is much like a plus/minus rating because at times you will get to take credit for when things go right and sometimes you will have to own up to mistakes that are made along the way.
  6. Overtime – Additional time that players must play if the game is tied at the end of regulation. Anyone who has ever played sports (and even those who haven’t) can appreciate how tired players must be at the end of the game, and overtime means pushing themselves even further. Sometimes in life, as we work towards our goals, it takes much longer than expected. This requires us to dig in and put in whatever additional time or effort needed to be successful.
  7. Shorthanded – When one team has a one-man disadvantage because they have a player in the penalty box. The idea is that the team taking the penalty has to work harder to make up for the fact that they did something improper. Sometimes in life we find ourselves a little shorthanded whether it’s by way of reduced income or unexpected expenses. The key is to continue to stay on our game until the situation passes and not let it discourage us to the point that we give up. Just like a penalty eventually ends and the team returns to full strength, the events that set us back will pass. We just have to hang in there.
  8. Five-hole – The nickname for the space between a goalie’s leg pads. This particular space is vulnerable because the usual goalie stance leaves this area pretty open, and an opponent can shoot the puck through and into the net. In order to close this space off, the goalie often goes into the butterfly position (down to his knees) which then shifts the vulnerable area to above his shoulders. Finances are often like this in that as we cover our bases in one area, it could leave us lacking or vulnerable in another area. So we have to take careful inventory of the effects a single action may have on the big picture and proceed with caution.


About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






Baby Steps to Better Finances

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

I have recently started the process of trying to navigate toward more healthy habits, and I’ve found that having a few “baby steps” to focus on has really helped me bust out of the rut of inaction towards my goals. This got me thinking about what those “baby steps” might look like when someone is working to get back on the right financial track. By implementing a few basic first steps you can get the ball of financial fortune rolling in your favor.

  1. Define It: First you must define what the issue/situation is and what your goals are in relationship to said issue/situation. For example, rather than saying “I never have any money,” you may define the issue as “I do not set aside money to help cover unexpected expenses” with your goal being to work towards saving more. The more specific you are, the easier it is to work on.
  1. Own It: Once you know what the issue is, you have to take a hard look at what caused the situation in the first place. What role did you have in the situation? There may have been factors beyond your control, but did you do all that you could with the situation? Could you have handled things differently? What thoughts, behaviors, and/or attitudes may you need to change in order to improve the situation?
  1. Decide It: Now that you have defined the task at hand, you must decide what you are going to do about it. How do you determine what your options are? List any and all possibilities. Which ones move on to the next round? Consider making a pros and cons list and going from there. Sometimes we narrow down the field by eliminating the options that just won’t work at all and going from there.
  1. Do It: Don’t sit on all this information – take action! It is far better to choose an action and then have it turn out to be the wrong one, than to take no action at all. One of my favorite sayings is “If it is to be, it is up to ME!”
  1. Review It: After choosing and executing a plan of attack, you have to pause to reflect on how effective it has been and whether or not adjustments have to be made. Sometimes you may determine that the option you selected isn’t working and try out a new one. The best case scenario would be, you would discover that your efforts are moving you closer to attaining your goal.
  1. Seek It: If you are having difficulty with any of the above steps, ask for outside advice or assistance. I have found that having someone that knows your goals is helpful because they will encourage you to stay on track. This could be family or friends or professionals that work with money management such as the Village Financial Resource Center. You can find out more by visiting our website helpwithmoney.org or calling (800) 450-4019.
  1. Cut Yourself A Break: We are often our worst critics, and we’re only human, after all. So mistakes are bound to happen. Don’t let those define you. You can’t change the past but you can affect the ending.
  1. Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Even if you don’t execute all of the above steps perfectly or get to the exact outcome you want right away, give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing the issue and working toward a solution.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






WTP – What Is It and How Can It Change Your Financial Life?

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

Have you ever noticed that no matter what your college degree is in, what your professional is, or what industry you work within, that each comes with its own set of special “lingo” or “jargon?” For me, my degree is in Banking and Financial Economics and my industry is consumer credit counseling and education. This means I am full of fun acronyms like APR, HELOC, PITI, DMP, ARM, etc. But by far my favorite one has always been WTP or “willingness to pay.” And no, not because I probably heard that phrase about a million times while in college but because it plays a vital role in my day to day life.

Thoughtfully setting your own “willingness to pay” can help you identify financial priorities and stick to them. And, in the long run, that translates into meeting your financial goals.

WTP is defined as “the price or dollar amount that someone is willing to give up or pay to acquire a good or service.” So if you think about it, we deal with WTP over and over again each and every day. “You want how much for THAT?!?!” “I am NOT paying full price for that. I will wait until it goes on sale!” “I would rather spend my $50 on this rather than that!” All those statements are about WTP

Fortunately for me (and maybe unfortunately for the businesses where I shop!), my willingness to pay is usually pretty low. I determine what the maximum amount I want to pay for something is, and, if I can’t get it for that price, I walk away and wait for another day when the price is more to my liking. That means I’m in control of how much I spent — not someone else.

There are three keys to making this work. First, you have to know how much you value the item in question. Second, you have to know what the absolute maximum amount you are willing/able to spend. And, third, you have to be able to stick to your limit. Let’s look at each key in more detail.

  1. How much do you value the item, good, or service?For each of us, there are things we value more than other things. For example, imagine your favorite musician/band is coming to town. If they are coming to play a show and they don’t usually do that, you may be willing to pay more for that than you would to see a band that you don’t know or don’t really like. So what you would be willing to pay in the former case would be relatively high.
  2. What is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for the item, good, or service?You have to know what your limit is so that you can be a “price maker” instead of a “price taker.” What does that mean? You work to do all you can to get the price where you want it — use coupons, wait for sales, ask for discounts, etc. — rather than just take the price as it is. A good method for keeping this in perspective is to sit down and calculate how many hours you have to work in order to pay for something. I have done this many times and determined that the cost of a particular item wasn’t worth that much of my hard work!
  3. You have to be able to stick to your limit which requires determination, discipline, and patience.Sometimes this means waiting to purchase until the price is right. I have found quite often that if you show that you are willing to walk away, the price or terms have a tendency to become a little more favorable pretty quickly as they would rather lose out on a few dollars than the entire sale. And sometimes you find the terms don’t become more to your liking but that the value you thought that item, good, or service had isn’t as high to you as you initially thought.

Bottom line: Knowing and sticking to what you are willing to pay requires a little reflection and insight into what you value as well as the ability to delay gratification. But in the end you may surprise yourself at how good you get at it over time and how beneficial it can be in the long run.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.


How to be a Social Butterfly Without Breaking the Bank

By Alicia Kellebrew
The Village Financial Resource Center

You can maintain your budget and still have fun socializing with friends.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite the social butterfly. I love spending time with others and hearing their stories. After spending a weekend with my friends, it reminded me just how much we have a tendency to use eating out as our socializing time/entertainment. Unfortunately, as we all know, this can become expensive quickly. So what is a person to do?

Fortunately, I am the type of person who is not afraid to suggest an alternative because I figure that I am not the only one on a quest to keep my budget intact. I am always on the to do things the most economical way possible and would like to share some of my ideas in the hopes that they may spark some others. This is only a short list of ideas and suggestions based off my own experiences – but the possibilities are endless.

  1. The “What Do You Have in Your Fridge/Freezer?” Get-Together- There have been many times when my friends will say that they want to get together but then follow that up with “But I really can’t afford to eat out right now….” Our solution became calling each other up and asking what they had in the fridge or freezer. For example, they may say that they had burgers that they were going to grill up but no sides. So I would find some sort of side/dessert/drink to bring along with me to round out the meal.
  1. The “Let’s Relive Our Childhood” Get-Together – For this one you call up your friends and ask them to bring over their favorite game from their childhood. Chances are we all probably have at least one of them hanging around somewhere. I always found it fun to see what everyone else’s favorite was when they were little and every now and again you discover a game you didn’t even know existed. This would also work with games geared towards adults if that were preferred.
  1. The “Bring Your All-Time Favorite Movie and Have a Marathon” Get-Together – With this one, you may find out that one of your “tough” or “serious” friends has an interesting movie choice that may surprise you. You may also discover a hidden gem that you wouldn’t have given a second thought. Just don’t fall asleep like I always do!
  1. The “I Can Cook/Bake Better Than You Can” Get-Together- Maybe you have friends that like to showcase their talents and introduce a little competitiveness to an activity. Ask everyone to make their best creation, and then everyone in attendance can vote on their favorite. You could pool funds to offer a prize or could compete for bragging rights within your circle.
  1. The “I Am Sick of Eating the Same Thing” Get-Together- This one is similar to the one above but encourages the group to cook one of their favorite “outside of the box” dishes and bring copies of the recipes along so that a little taste testing and recipe swapping can happen. It may even help you break out of a food rut you have been in for a while.
  1. The “Let’s Get Creative!” Get-Together- Ask all of your friends to bring a project idea and part of their craft supply stash along and then co-create together. Maybe your friends can help you figure out just how to complete the craft if it’s complex, or maybe they will have supplies in their stash that you didn’t.
  1. The “Let’s Expand Our Knowledge” Get-Together- This one can be done a couple of different ways. First, you may ask your friends to teach the group how to do something they don’t know how to do such as some sort of craft or other specialized hobby. Or, you could have everyone show up with their favorite book and do a (temporary) swap. Again the idea is to expose yourself to something new that you might not have found on your own.
  1. The “Let’s Dance/ You Probably Don’t Want Me to Sing” Get-Together- Everyone has a favorite (or least favorite!) song or dance move. Why not share them with the group? You can spend your time together evaluating each other’s talent levels or reminiscing about favorite memories stirred up by what is shared. It could even lead to dance lessons or the forming of a band!

Bottom line: Maybe it is time to think outside the box when it comes to socializing and entertainment. Besides think of all the cool stories you will have to tell about these activities later!Watching your money doesn't mean you can't have fun .

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






‘Small Personal Finance Changes = Big Results’ or ‘What a Billionaire Can Teach You About Personal Finances”‘

Magnified Chart

By Alicia Kellebrew
The Village Financial Resource Center

I’m always on the lookout for an inspiring story or good advice. Here’s one that supplies both. Sir Richard Branson is known as one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, but I had never heard the story of how his success began. Branson was traveling to Puerto Rico when his flight was cancelled, leaving him and many other passengers stranded at the airport in the middle of nowhere. At that point, he tracked down a private chartered plane, divided the total cost of this flight by the number of seats available, and offered the seats to the others at a price of $39 each. Even though he had no money to rebook his own flight, he managed to sell all the seats on the chartered plane which made his new flight free! This is the story of the humble beginnings of the Virgin Group, which, today, is made up of over 400 companies, including Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic. And, to think it all started with an inconvenience and a little problem-solving!

There are a couple of lessons in this tale. First, don’t let a lack of money (or other resources, for that matter) stop you from trying. And, second, the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem (but I would add this can work for yourself as well).

How do we apply these ideas to our everyday lives especially when it comes to our personal finances? Well, for starters, it’s human nature to sometimes feel overwhelmed to the point that we don’t know where to start in facing a difficult situation. So we do nothing at all – which is always the worst possible solution. Clients often tell me that they don’t have enough money to have a budget, save, or knock down debts. But you have to start somewhere even if that means starting small. By starting small you are putting the wheels into motion and taking control of what you can do rather than focusing on what you can’t do. Sir Richard Branson could have just decided to wait on the airline to get another plane there for free (who knows how long that could have taken!). But, instead, he took the initiative to seek out another solution and try to make it work.

The second lesson from this story is that the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem. This can be applied in many different contexts in life. The first one that probably comes to mind for most people is being as valuable as possible to your employer, which will hopefully translate into a higher salary and/or promotion – a sure boost to your personal bottom line. Another way to look at it, though, is that there are problems we can solve for ourselves and “make” some cash either by saving existing money or generating more money. For example, tracking expenses draws our attention to where our money is going and makes us evaluate whether or not certain expenses are really necessary. By becoming aware, we can reduce costs that are not high priorities to us. Or maybe you find yourself in the situation where you can’t find a babysitter or dog walker so it may spark the idea to start providing that service, or something similar, in order to generate cash or use it to barter for your own similar needs. You’ll be solving someone else’s problem as well as one (or maybe even two!) of your own.

If a multi-millionaire can create his empire out of one difficult situation why can’t you?

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






The Art of Bartering in the Modern Age

By Alicia Kellebrew, NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

I have been accused of being somewhat of a “throwback.” I can’t help but see a lot of value in the way our parents, grandparents, and beyond used to do things and feel that some of those old practices could serve us well in the present age. By far, my favorite one of those is the barter system.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term barter as “to exchange things (such as products or services) for other things instead of for money.” Back in the times before established currency forms, people would mostly trade a good or service that they specialized in for another that they didn’t specialize in (but needed). Unfortunately, somewhere along the line this fell out of popularity especially in modern times. I, for one, would love to see it make a comeback in a HUGE way. In fact, there are many facets in my life where I use the barter system, and while initially it may be met with some weird looks or comments, everyone is usually happy with the end result.

So what are some of the most common goods I barter with? Well, the commodity that I find to be the most popular is homemade baked goods. Baking is something that I enjoy, and it’s a good way to get out of my own head for a while. But, of course, having too many baked goods on hand can be pretty dangerous! So trading extra baked goods for things I need help with really works out nicely.

I started developing my bartering skills in college. When I first started at UND I couldn’t afford a car so I had to take the city bus to and from work. Even though it meant I had to leave an hour before I had to be anywhere, I really didn’t mind because the fare was drastically reduced for students. The only snag was that the bus didn’t run on Sundays, and I would always work a full day. So in order to convince my friends to drop me off and pick me up, I would offer to bake them a dozen of whatever their favorite baked treat was. Fortunately for me, baking is another somewhat lost art form in our times. So that offer was usually met with enthusiastic agreement.

Although baked goods are my primary form of bartering “currency,” there are many other things a person could use such as babysitting services, dog walking, house cleaning, errand running, snow shoveling/leaf raking, car or home maintenance/repairs, prepping or cooking meals, hair cutting/styling, crafting, etc. The key is to stick with something that you have a knack for and to find someone who has a knack for something else and politely propose a swap. After all, none of us is good at everything.

A few other situations where I have engineered barters include trading babysitting services for dinner that night while watching the parents’ extended cable package, swapping a craft lesson for a baking lesson, or even a customized handmade jewelry set for tutoring in college.

This could also work nicely if you are planning a wedding or any other party. If you have talented friends (and who doesn’t?), you could ask them to provide a good or service as their gift (instead of a purchased item). Examples could include help with invitations, flowers, photography, cooking/baking, etc.

Bottom line: It doesn’t hurt to think outside the box and propose a swap. The worst thing that can happen is the other person will turn down your offer, and the best thing that can happen is you find a lifelong bartering partner and friend — all without having to open up your wallet. Sounds like a win-win to me.


About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.


10 money habits that are robbing you blind

How to Quit Ten Bad Money Habits That Rob You Blind

Dropping bad money habits makes it easier to power up your financial life. Following are 10 bad habits, and tips for ending them.

1. Carrying a credit card balance
High interest rates on credit cards make plastic one of the most expensive ways to borrow. Build a better habit: One approach to erasing the card balance is to devote every spare penny to getting rid of it. If you have other pressing debts, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with all of them. Keep the balance from building again by making it a new habit to pay off the entire bill every month—no exceptions ever.

2. Failing to fund a retirement plan
How much should you save? “Ten percent is the minimum [monthly contribution] for anyone in any situation,” Arlington, Virginia, financial planner Claire Emory tells Women’s Day. Build a better habit: Imagine yourself at age 70 or 80. Picture concrete details—how you’ll look, your surroundings, how you’re spending time, and who’s with you. The more real your future self is to you, the more likely you’ll care for her or him today.

3. Not shopping for monthly services
Hopefully, you comparison shopped when signing up for insurance policies, and phone, Internet, and cable service. But you may be missing savings if you’re not checking prices again once a year. Build a better habit: Be willing to put some energy into improving your financial life. Once a year, spend 30 to 60 minutes price shopping for monthly services.

4. Paying for cable and landline
Cable prices are going nowhere but up. Free and cheaper alternatives make experimenting worthwhile. But will you get out of your rut and try something new? Build a better habit: Before trying a change, just observe yourself and your habits. Record your viewing habits for a week or two to see how and … (Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.)

–Reprinted with permission from partner site Moneytalksnews.com