Tag Archive Victor

Questions About Job Losses, Health Insurance, Journaling, Gym Memberships and More

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Stretching food
2. Cancel gym membership?
3. Filing taxes, now or later?
4. First steps after losing job
5. Great time to start journaling
6. Health insurance lost; now what?
7. Real estate investment time?
8. Homeschooling or nothing?
9. Selling used stuff is impossible!
10. Move toward prepping?
11. Don’t listen to MLM pitches
12. Please support local businesses!

During these incredibly uncertain times, my approach has been to take things one day at a time and appreciate what that day gives me. It is giving me time with my kids. It is giving me time with my wife. It is giving me beautiful morning sunshine. It is giving me lots of conversations with my parents.

I am holding onto and appreciating these things as much as possible because, more than ever, it’s clear to me how fragile those things can be.

Appreciate the good that each day gives you.

On with the questions.

Q1: Stretching food

We are trying to stretch food as much as we can so that we don’t have to go to the grocery store often. We don’t have a car so we walk to the store and back and try to fill up our two backpacks.
– James

What you’re looking for are foods that don’t take up a lot of space when you bring them home from the store and expand into a lot of food at home. What you really want is dry stuff, since you don’t want space in your backpacks to be taken up by water, since you can hydrate stuff at home.

You want to buy things like dry rice, dry beans, barley, quinoa, flour, yeast, dry soup mixes and so on. For example, rather than buying a couple of loaves of bread, buy two bags of bread flour, a bag of sugar and a container of yeast. You’ll be able to make eight or ten loaves of bread from that while it takes up about as much space as two loaves in your backpack.

Given this, I’d start by asking myself what I can make at home that I would like using dried beans, grains, flour, pasta and such. What seasonings turn those things into meals I like? Accompany those things with fresh produce as needed.

This will mean a fairly heavy walk home, but you’ll have enough food to last a long while. The key is to just minimize the amount of water you’re carrying. Choose dry beans over canned beans. Choose flour over bread. Choose denser things with minimal water content, because you can add water at home.

Q2: Cancel gym membership?

My local gym has been closed for about 2 weeks. I was about to cancel online but they sent out a message saying all memberships were “paused” until the gym reopens so no one is getting charged. Still considering canceling. I use it in fits and starts and have about 3 weeks paid for out of last month.
– Anna

Given that the membership is paused right now, it makes no direct financial difference to you at the moment, nor does it matter to the bank. What matters is the impact in terms of what will happen when the gym reopens.

If you intend to go back and use the gym regularly when it reopens (assuming it reopens when it’s perfectly safe), then there’s no reason to cancel it. If you’re not sure, and you didn’t have a history of using it enough to make it worthwhile, I’d cancel it now while you’re thinking about it.

On the other hand, if you don’t cancel it right away, it will just become something you put off and likely forget about, one of those subscriptions that you’re annoyed with yourself for not canceling when it automatically renews. My usual approach is that if there’s a membership or subscription that I’m not using at all for a while, I should cancel it.

So, my feeling is that unless you’re dead certain you’re going to return as a regular user when the gym reopens, I’d cancel the membership now. You can always reopen your membership there or at another gym when things return to normal. I don’t know how often you used the gym in the past and whether you’re finding new fitness routines right now, so I can’t really answer that question for you.

Q3: Filing taxes, now or later?

Am I better off filing taxes ASAP or waiting until the July deadline?
– Brian

If you’re receiving a refund, I would file as soon as possible. If you’re paying in, I would wait for as long as possible.

The reason is simple. The earlier you get your refund, the earlier you can put that money to work for you in whatever way makes sense in your life. Even if you just stick it in a savings account, it’s at least earning a little interest for you.

On the other hand, if you’re paying in, holding onto that money for as long as possible is probably good for you. Again, even if it’s just sitting in a savings account, it’s earning a little interest for you.

Time your return so that the money is in your hands for as long as possible. If you’re getting a return, file ASAP. If you’re paying in, file later. It’s that easy!

Q4: First steps after losing job

The furniture store where I worked closed a few weeks ago. The boss gave us all some cash and told us that he’d bring us all back when he reopened but he just called all of us and said the shop is going to go out of business. Don’t even know where to start.
– Julie

The absolute first thing you should do is file for unemployment in your state. The exact rules and requirements for unemployment vary a lot from state to state, so start by simply looking up how to file for unemployment where you live. Google “file for unemployment” followed by your state to see what you need to do.

The next step is to assess what your real financial needs are in the short term. Do you have enough cash to survive for a while, or is everything a disaster? Do you have enough food on hand? Do you have dependents, and if so, are they taken care of at least in the short term (the next couple of weeks)? Make sure that things are stable at least for the next week or two for you and everyone dependent upon you. If you don’t have enough food, contact your local food pantry to make sure you have enough to get through.

If you have any debts, pause them as soon as possible. If you have student loans, log onto your student loan provider and pause them. If you have other debts, contact your lender and look into the possibility of pausing those debts. Many lenders are working with borrowers right now to pause loans of all kinds.

Do the same thing with your utilities. Many utility companies are offering various forms of short term relief to help people keep their lights on and their phones on. Call them and ask for a break.

After that, start considering what comes next for you. What skills do you have on offer that are valuable to others? What skills can you shore up at home during this period?

I’m going to turn this into a longer post later this week, but I wanted to share this basic advice now because I’ve read similar questions from a number of people.

Q5: Great time to start journaling

Just wanted to drop a note and say that this is an amazing time to start journaling. Just write down everything that’s happening each day especially locally and in your life and your own feelings and reactions to it. This is a historical moment and one you will look back on for the rest of your life, and many of us have the time to do this right now.
– Annie

This is a great idea! Plus, all you need to start journaling are things you likely already have. You just need a notebook and a pen if you want to keep a paper journal, or just some app in which you can store text if you want to do it digitally (an app like Day One is great for this).

I’ve been doing this myself. I write in a journal each day for about 30 minutes and my entries for the last month have been very focused on the events of the day and my own thoughts and feelings about them. I usually don’t save my journals, but I think this one will be saved for a very long while.

Not only is it good for preserving history, but it is also a really good way to work through a lot of challenging feelings. As I’ve said a few times recently, all of us are dealing with a lot of stress and a lot of burdens right now — some of us definitely more than others, but we’re all dealing with things right now.

Q6: Health insurance lost; now what?

Worked as a receptionist and just lost my job. No more health insurance. What can I do?
– Nadine

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The first thing to do is to make sure you can’t be added to someone else’s policy. If you’re married, does your partner have health insurance? There’s usually a window after a partner’s job loss during which you can be added to their insurance.

If that’s not available, you can look into COBRA coverage, which basically means you keep your previous health insurance but you are paying for it out of pocket. This is usually expensive, so it’s not really an option if you don’t have other income coming in.

If that’s not an option, you can see if your state’s health care exchange is available. Some states have an open enrollment period right now that enables you to sign up for a new individual plan. This will likely be much cheaper than continuing your old plan under COBRA. Use Google to find if the health care exchange in your state is operating right now.

If that’s not an option, see if you currently qualify for Medicaid. Here’s a list of each state’s Medicaid program to help get you started. If you have children, look into your state’s CHIP program.

Those are the options you should start looking at. It is quite possible that by the time you read this there are additional options available due to the ongoing coronavirus situation. The best place to look for those options is through information about unemployment in your state, which should be just a Google search away.

Q7: Real estate investment time?

Do you think this is a time to buy real estate? Here no one is buying any houses and I have seen some price slashing already.
– Stephen

It depends on why you’re doing it. Are you buying a home for yourself? Are you thinking of buying a place to rent out? Are you thinking of buying property and just sitting on it for a year and then selling it when things return to some degree of normalcy?

I don’t think I would buy developed property right now just to sit on it. That’s kind of a market timing thing and with such enormous uncertainty going forward, I wouldn’t risk it unless you have a ton of money to do so.

If you’re thinking of buying a property to rent it out to others, that might be a good idea in the longer term but in the short term you may have difficulty finding renters or being able to get the property ready to rent.

In general, I think if you’re planning on living on the property or wanting to rent it out, waiting until social distancing is wrapping up and then striking might be a good move if you have the money to easily spare. I would probably not buy property during a period where social distancing is actively in effect, though, as you may find it difficult to actually take care or improve the property. Given the uncertainty, though, I wouldn’t buy finished property to just hold it for a year or two to see what happens.

Q8: Homeschooling or nothing?

Are you guys attempting to homeschool your kids right now? This started as extended spring break for us but now we don’t know what to do and the local district is sending really mixed messages and not much material.
– Jennifer

We’re in the same boat. Our district has been very communicative, but it is clear that they’re uncertain as to what to do next, too.

As for us, we’re strongly encouraging our kids to delve deep into things they’re interested in rather than trying to force them into a curriculum right now. What topics are they really interested in? What skills do they really wish they had? Our efforts are focused on those topics and skills.

For example, two of our kids are really into music, so we’ve greatly expanded the time they’re spending practicing music. Another child is a budding engineer, so we’re trying to help him find online materials that really challenge him and projects he can take on.

We’re also doing a lot of “life skills” type things with them. They’re doing a lot of meal preparation and gardening and things like that.

We’re setting aside a lot of time for reading and really restricting screen time, too.

Q9: Selling used stuff is impossible!

Selling used stuff is impossible right now! Very irresponsible advice!
– Tom

Here’s the truth: a lot of advice, financial and otherwise, that works during normal times is a lot harder to apply right now. Selling used stuff to turn the stuff in your closet into cash is one of those things. It was good advice two months ago and will be again in the future, but right now it doesn’t work.

That doesn’t mean that right now isn’t a great time to purge your used possessions a little. It’s a great time to go through your closets, make a big pile of stuff you don’t want or need anymore, and put it off to the side for later. It’s just difficult to sell it at this moment.

In fact, you can actually take every step short of selling the items right now. You can make a big inventory of the stuff you want to sell, figure out what it’s worth using online tools, figure out where you want to sell it (eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.) and write out your sales pitches. All of those matters can be handled right now. Just save it until the time is right to sell it off.

Q10: Move toward prepping?

Do you think there will be a move of frugal people down the road to more extreme prepping as a result of all of this?
– Victor

I suspect that there will be many frugal people who stock up more than they used to when this is all over. There may be people who go even further and take on prepping as a hobby for a while, but it’s hard to tell how sustainable that will be.

Based on our conversations, I can see us moving a little further down the “prepping” spectrum once things return to some normalcy. I can see us seriously amping up our storage of things like dry beans and rice and flour and yeast and such. We have space for this in our home. I can also see us moving in a direction of being less reliant on the grid, particularly with things like installing some solar panels on our roof (perhaps enough to fully power our home) and perhaps digging a well as a water source (that’s less likely, but we’ve talked about it — the water levels at our home would support this). I feel like that’s the kind of response you might see from people with a frugal bent – things that can decrease their bills even more and make them a little less dependent on the grid, but not full-on “prepper.”

I don’t think you’ll see us on “Doomsday Preppers” any time soon, in other words.

Q11: Don’t listen to MLM pitches

Could you make sure to tell people to not listen to “start your own business” pitches right now? I have seen a lot of people trying to get people to “start their own business” right now and it’s all stuff like Scentsy and Pampered Chef. You have to buy a bunch of inventory upfront and be really annoying to sell it. People are pushing hard right now because others are scared. It’s kind of gross.
– Delaney

I’ve seen a couple pitches like this, too.

Right now is not the time to get involved in selling products to your friends or neighbors. If someone is trying to get you into one of those types of businesses, this is a terrible time for it (not that there’s a good time for it).

Right now, people are being very careful with their nonessential spending. Many people can’t or won’t be able to hear your sales pitches. Not only that, you usually have to come up with quite a bit of money yourself for initial inventory or for joining up. The fundamentals of this type of business aren’t in a good place right now.

Unless you are very financially secure, you should not be buying inventory or paying membership fees for any kind of business, especially one that involves direct sales to people. This is always true, but it’s particularly true right now. “Starting your own business” in this fashion is a huge financial risk, one that you shouldn’t take on.

Q12: Please support local businesses!

I hope that you will tell your readers to please support local businesses right now! Buy a gift card from them if you can and when things start reopening use local businesses. It’s the small local business that is really hurting right now! Many of them are “hibernating” and hoping they survive and when they reopen it will probably be very tight for them. Buying a gift card online, if you can, will help!
– Connie

If you have the financial means to do so, you can make a big difference in your local community by buying a gift card for a local business online right now. It can help that business survive and continue to employ people when restrictions wear off.

Again, only do this if you have the financial means to do it easily. If you are facing unemployment or job uncertainty, you should be focused on building an emergency fund and keeping your own financial state as safe as possible.

We have purchased gift cards from a few local businesses that are currently closed, and we sincerely hope that they are able to reopen down the road.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Questions About Job Losses, Health Insurance, Journaling, Gym Memberships and More appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Mailbag: Questions About Credit Card Destruction, NBA Viewing, Faucet Replacement, Hand Lotions and More!

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Frustrated by advantages of others
2. Social Security reduces retirement fears
3. Family’s takeout when I’m gone
4. Daughter’s 529 is barely growing
5. Finding time for daily routines
6. Destroying replaced credit cards
7. Following NBA without cable
8. Winter hand care is expensive!
9. Collectible investing gone bad
10. Replacing a faucet success story
11. Tax refund when debt free
12. Three book recommendations

This past weekend, I decided to record a family home video that showed what my kids do at their current age when they have free time at home. I actually thought it would be fairly dull, but I was amazed at what I found.

I caught my oldest son organizing a tabletop gaming day with some of his friends, working on his taekwondo skills on his own without any prompting, playing what seemed to be a roller hockey variant with a friend of his, playing a social video game with some of his more distant friends using a headset so they could talk to each other, and reading a book. I caught my daughter painting a picture, playing the piano, doing yoga stretching, doing her math homework (unprompted?!), and making a rather complex scripted home movie with a couple of friends. My youngest son spent a bunch of time reading, making a Minecraft map, building stuff out of Legos, romping with the family dogs and practicing taekwondo stuff with his older brother, too.

The kids are all right. They’re active. They’re creative. They’re curious. They’re social. They get some screen time, but they do a lot of other stuff, too. Best of all, they do all of this without us prompting them. I feel like a lot of the groundwork we’ve laid in terms of being curious, active, creative and knowing how to entertain yourself away from screens has really paid off.

My advice to parents: be who you want your kids to be, all the time. If you want your kids to have less screen time, stop looking at your own phone and stop watching as much TV. If you want your kids to be more physically active, be more physically active yourself. They won’t do everything exactly as you do, but they take a lot of cues from what they see you doing.

On with the questions.

Q1: Frustrated by advantages of others

I have a love-hate relationship with your mailbag and in life, I guess. I feel frustrated by people who have all kinds of advantages that I don’t have. “My parents paid for my college education.” I’m happy if my dad isn’t passed out drunk and he never gave a dime to my education and I haven’t seen my mom in years. “I make $200K this year.” I made $56K this year and that’s more in one year than anyone in my family has ever made. It is so frustrating to see people with so many advantages just wasting them when I would kill to have them and that frustration boils over sometimes.
– Victor

This is a snippet from the middle of a longer message with a lot of personal detail, but this is really the crux of what Victor was talking about.

Here’s the truth: you will always meet people who have advantages in life that you don’t have. They are everywhere. My parents didn’t pay for my college education, either; I paid for everything via a mix of student loans and scholarships. Yet I had a couple of good friends in college whose parents paid for everything. I have friends who make more than I do.

So, how do you deal with the feeling that life’s unfair? Remember that it’s unfair for basically everyone on earth. Everyone has someone in their life who had advantages that they didn’t have. There’s always someone you know whose parents were wealthier, who has more natural charisma, who has a better metabolism, who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

You cannot let that fact of life destroy your plans and progress. Letting the fact that someone in your life has advantages over derail your own choices is a giant mistake because it’s a drawback that everyone has. The only person you’re really competing with in life is yourself. You’re striving to do better than you did before. You’re striving to do better than the previous generation of your family did and set things up so the next generation of your family can do even better (I look at my life in this way quite often, actually.)

Rather than using other people as a metric, use yourself as a metric. Right now, what is your net worth? Your goal should be to beat that number as much as you can a year from now. Then, that’s your new number — beat that number.

Don’t worry about anyone else in that regard. They’re all dealing with their own hand of advantages and disadvantages and it’s essentially impossible to compare yourself to them.

Q2: Social Security reduces retirement fears

I used to be really freaked out about saving for retirement. The idea that having $1 million in the bank would mean that I could only safely withdraw $35K a year in retirement scared me half to death. In 2040 dollars, $35K a year is probably not enough to live on.

The thing I realized recently is that I also have Social Security. That’s on top of Social Security. Honest truth is that if Social Security completely fails we’re having big enough problems that my retirement savings probably won’t help much either and it’s out of my hands. So if I figure another $20K a year from Social Security, suddenly that’s $55K a year and that’s a lot better life.
– Barry

Almost everyone who isn’t significantly wealthy will be helped quite a bit by Social Security in retirement. That’s true for me, that’s true for you, and that’s true for everyone.

You’re also correct in saying that if Social Security completely fails, we’re having big enough societal problems that our retirement savings probably won’t help much either.

I think that everyone who is earning more than minimum wage and is working more than about 35 hours a week should be saving for retirement beyond Social Security. Social Security alone will keep you from outright starving, but it will mean a pretty threadbare existence. You should aim to have savings beyond that, and the earlier you start, the easier it will be (because savings when you’re younger has more time to grow).

Q3: Family’s takeout when I’m gone

I make most of my family’s meals. Whenever I am traveling for work, they just get takeout for every meal and there’s like $700 on the credit card.
– Alex

It sounds like your family just relies on you to cook for them, and when you’re not there, they either don’t know what to do or don’t want to bother, so they pay someone else to do it.

You either need to start encouraging others to prepare meals while you’re around so that they get used to it or have some meals mostly prepped that are very easy to finish while you’re gone or both.

For example, you could have a few slow cooker meals with all of the ingredients in a couple of gallon Ziplocs that they could just dump into the slow cooker. “Plug in the slow cooker in the morning. Add these two bags to it. Turn it on low. Eat at supper time.” Lots of meals can be prepared this way, like beef stew, for example.

You could also prepare casseroles that are literally at the point of just sticking them in the oven. “Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put this in the oven when it beeps, then set a timer for 40 minutes.” You could get some steam-in-the-bag vegetables for side dishes.

While this won’t get them to necessarily stop ordering takeout for meals while you’re gone, I’m willing to bet that this will replace at least some of the takeout, especially if you prepare stuff you know they love.

Q4: Daughter’s 529 is barely growing

I started a 529 for my daughter a bit late and have been putting about $1,000 a year into it. In 2019 it grew only 11% when other investments went up 20% or more. Feels like a ripoff.
– Stephen

Without knowing how you invested the money within the 529, I can’t give you specific advice. My guess is that it’s invested in something that’s more well rounded than a straight stock market investment, probably a mix of stocks, bonds, and cash.

In years where the stock market does really well, an investment like that is going to underperform the stock market because, well, bonds and cash don’t return as well as stocks can when they have a good year.

However, in years where the stock market doesn’t do as well, you’ll be glad your money is invested this way. For example, in 2008, the stock market lost 40% of its value, while cash and other investments largely stayed flat or even earned a little.

Let’s say your investment is something like 40% stocks, 30% bonds, and 30% cash. In a given year, cash will probably return something like 2%, a normal diversified bond investment can be anywhere from -2% to 6%, and a broad-based stock investment can be anywhere from, well, -40% to 30%. If everything has a great year, that investment will return 14.4% overall, which looks bad compared to stocks. However, if everything has a horrible year, stocks would drop 40%, but your overall investment would only drop 16%, which would be far better.

Basically, your investment probably doesn’t rise as much in great stock years, but won’t fall nearly as much in bad stock years.

My guess is that your daughter is probably close to college age, so the 529 investment recommendations were likely oriented toward something diverse like this.

Again, this is all my best guess without actually seeing the 529 account in question, but it fits with my own experience with 529 accounts.

Q5: Finding time for daily routines

I think there is a lot of merit to your ideas about making things into daily routines and focusing just on today but there is a big problem. My days that are just overstuffed with things to do and adding more to that daily to-do list means that something’s going to fail.
– Barry

I think this is a consistent problem for most people. If you add more things to do that take up time, people either have to drop something else from their life that’s consuming the time or something’s going to fail.

You need to ask yourself this: if you want to commit 30 minutes a day to something, what’s the least important 30 minutes you’re using each day right now? What’s basically useless? Is it time you spend in the evenings browsing social media? Maybe it’s time watching television. Maybe you go to the bar for a couple of drinks each night without getting a whole lot of value out of it. Maybe you lay in bed half awake for half an hour after your alarm goes off.

Whatever that least valuable time is, that’s what you should try cutting out of your life.

For me, it was television. I realized that if it wasn’t “appointment viewing” with my wife and family, it was basically wasted time for me. I’d watch stuff like Sportscenter and it would give me very little value in life. I started intentionally dialing it down and replacing it with other things.

Since then, I’ve been pretty careful at watching my daily routines, looking for habits I have that are just filling time and not bringing me value. I’ve become a lot more selective about things like video and computer games, for example.

Look at your time use. Assess what’s junk. Cut out the junk. Then you’ll have time for more important things.

Another strategy that works well for me is looking at behavior. You can change a lot about your life by just being watchful of how you act in certain situations. Did you do your genuine best to keep costs low at the grocery store? Did you do your genuine best to be social and friendly at a particular event? Try to evaluate those questions before and after those situations, and if it’s a frequently recurring thing, think about those questions every day.

Q6: Destroying replaced credit cards

What is the best way to destroy old credit cards, like when you get a new one to replace your old one? Feels like cutting them up isn’t enough because anyone with half a brain could still reassemble them.
– Danica

Cut them into lots of small pieces, making sure to really annihilate both the number on the card, your name, the chip (if present), and the stripe. Then distribute those bits into different trash bags. Put a few into the trash one day, then a few into the trash another day. That will render it basically impossible for someone to reconstruct your credit card.

Another good tip is to use the strongest magnet you have in your home and run it along the strip a few dozen times as well as on the embedded chip (if present).

You can always throw them in a fire. They do emit some smoke you shouldn’t inhale and give off a small amount of greenhouse gases when you burn them.

If you have a card made out of metal, it can be a little harder to destroy it. In that case, you’re better off sending it back to the issuer. Most companies that issue metal cards will also give you prepaid envelopes to send them back.

Q7: Following NBA without cable

Thinking of cancelling cable but I’m a big NBA fan and never miss NBA on TNT. Looking at options but I’m not giving up basketball to save.
– Derrick

Your best bet is probably a streaming package that includes ESPN and TNT as channel options. You have a few options there. Sling Orange gets you ESPN and TNT for $30 a month, which is probably your best bet, especially since you get a free Amazon Fire stick right now if you subscribe and pay two months up front. We used Sling for months after cutting the cord and it worked great for us. Hulu is another option for $54.99 a month that includes ESPN and TNT.

If you want to gorge on basketball, you can also get the NBA League Pass, which lets you stream all games from teams outside your market that aren’t nationally televised for a flat rate for the season. If you don’t live close to your favorite teams, this can be a great way to watch most of their games for a pretty reasonable price.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any good suggestions. There’s not really a single robust streaming offer from the NBA (or any other major pro sport).

Q8: Winter hand care is expensive!

My hands get seriously chapped in the winter and the only way I keep them from bleeding is through the use of a lot of different creams which are pretty expensive. I wasn’t really focused on my money until this winter and I realized I am spending hundreds of dollars each winter on just keeping my hands from bleeding and being rough. Not sure what I can do, just venting.
– Lynn

My hands get pretty rough in the winter, too. The best thing I’ve ever used for my own hands is Aquaphilic, a container of which would last me most of the winter. I didn’t have to apply very much and it really seemed to help.

However, I’ve noticed that if I use any cream or ointment on my hands, my hands tend to get used to the ointment and get really bad if I stop using it, so I gradually weaned myself off of it over the course of a few winters and now I don’t use anything. My hands still get mildly chapped in the winter but it’s not overly bad.

My honest suggestions? Drink lots of water in the winter. It really helps keeping your skin moisturized. Take shorter showers, dry your hands immediately afterwards, and then use your ointment/lotion of choice then, but only use a little. Switch to a more gentle hand soap, like castile soap cut with 3 parts water to 1 part castile soap, and pat dry your hands after washing. See how that goes for a while. That was the routine that gradually got me away from using Aquaphilic over the course of a few years (though the castile soap was a later addition).

Q9: Collectible investing gone bad

In 2009 I got the bright idea of investing in sealed packs of trading cards, buying them at low prices and sitting on them as sealed packs usually rise slowly in value over time as supply shrinks (people open the packs). The thing is you have to buy packs that people are still going to want. I bought a bunch of sports trading card packs that haven’t really changed in value over the last decade and some have actually dropped. Not sure if I should keep holding or not.
– Barry

This isn’t something I’m too familiar with, but I have invested a bit in other types of trading cards and I know that the quality of the set along with the continued relevance of what’s being depicted on the cards is vital. With sports cards, my understanding is that sealed boxes hold their value more if the set contains rookie cards for top players or other highly prized chase cards.

Thus, if I were to invest in sports cards, I would aim for sealed products that contain a lot of rookie cards, buying them very early on and hoping that some of the players in the set had great careers, or sealed products with really interesting inserts that people will want to collect. For example, if I were into baseball cards, I’d probably buy boxes of things like Bowman Draft or boxes of sets like Allen and Ginter.

In your situation, if the packs haven’t climbed in value or have gone down in value and they’re 10 years old or more, it’s likely that the packs don’t contain any rookie cards of major stars or don’t have any premium value due to interesting inserts. Further time probably won’t change that – it’s exceedingly rare that a player would suddenly blossom into a star eleven years after their rookie card came out. If I were you, I’d probably sell what you have, take all that money, and either do something that’s more traditionally sensible financially or think very carefully about how to reinvest it for a good return.

Q10: Replacing a faucet success story

Today I spent two hours and replaced a bathroom faucet all by myself! I got a few tools from the hardware store and bought the faucet from there and did the whole thing myself! Couldn’t be prouder!
– Tina

Awesome job!

The best part? Now that you’ve done this task once, you probably feel confident enough to do it again. If your kitchen sink faucet fails, are you going to call a plumber? Nope. I’m betting you’ll try it yourself.

Guess what? Now that you’ve successfully done it once, you’ll find it faster the second time because you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll probably still use some videos to help, but it’ll all feel familiar. You’ll also have the tools you need to do the job.

Even better, you won’t be scared of similar household chores. What if your toilet is constantly running? It probably won’t seem as scary to open that tank and figure out what’s wrong. You probably have at least some of the tools you need to fix that, too.

All of those things will save you money. You’re not going to need to call a plumber for them now. You can do them yourself, on your own time, without a plumbing bill.

This is a huge win! Congratulations!

Q11: Tax refund when debt free

Since graduation, I have used my tax refunds to directly pay off student loan debt. I do not use credit cards. This year I am getting a return but I am debt free. I have a good 401(k) so no need for retirement savings. Also have a good emergency fund.
– Bev

What are some big expenses you know are coming in the next few years? Are you going to need to replace your car? Are you thinking about moving or buying a house? What about going back to school for more education?

If you see any big expenses like that on the horizon in the next few years, take that money and put it aside for those expenses. Having a big down payment on your next car can be huge. Your return can also be a good start on a house down payment, and it can also be a nice start on a 529 college savings plan for yourself.

If none of those apply, think about your lifelong goals. What do you want to do in your life? What big dreams or ambitions do you have? How can you use that money to help set the stage to fulfill those dreams or ambitions? Since I have no idea what those might be, I can’t be very specific here.

The best thing to do with that money depends a lot on what’s going on in your life and what your upcoming goals are.

Q12: Three book recommendations

Love your Books with Impact. Here are some suggestions if you haven’t read them already. Choose Yourself by James Altucher made me rethink what I was even doing with my life and I ended up changing careers. Can You Learn to Be Lucky? by Karla Starr changed a lot of the little things I’m doing in almost all parts of my life to improve luckiness. And Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach has really helped me not feel inadequate or like an impostor at work and at home as a parent. If you haven’t read these books you should read them.
– Amy

I’ve read both the Altucher and the Brach books and both are on my “to be re-read”, which means that they could wind up as a Book with Impact. I’m probably more likely to re-read the Brach book in the near future, as it has popped up in my thinking more frequently.

I’ve actually not heard of the other book at all. I’ve written about luck before and how to put yourself in luckier positions, but I don’t believe I’ve read a book-length exploration of the idea, so it’s on my to-be-read list.

I love good book recommendations like these, so if you have them, send them my way. The link below will get you there!

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Mailbag: Questions About Credit Card Destruction, NBA Viewing, Faucet Replacement, Hand Lotions and More! appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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