The Cost of a Random Raccoon Attack

So after a busy weekend full of moving, and a busier week at work, today I have a somewhat interesting story. As you can probably tell from the title of the post, something obscure happened to my parents house over the course of the last week. A raccoon attack.

The Persistent Raccoon

To give this story some context, the house is in the process of being sold, and my parents obviously want to keep everything in working order, lest the buyers come back and say they want to negotiate because of x, y and z.

So when my mom discovered shingles from the roof on the ground outside her bedroom window, she became a little worried. It turns out that a raccoon had been crazily digging at the roof, trying to get inside to the attic. This was not good news, at all. We had never had a raccoon problem the entire fifteen years of living there, so why now?! Of all times, this was possibly one of the worst.

The raccoon has been making its way all around the house, and more shingles have been falling every night. The entire last row of shingles that borders the gutters in the back of the house is gone, and in the front, the section over where my room used to be is also gone. My mom was able to get a raccoon trap, but they have been unsuccessful in catching it thus far. Today I was informed that my dad stayed up until 4:30 in the morning trying to catch the thing. My mom put marshmallows with peanut butter in the trap, and somehow the raccoon evaded it and got its treats anyway.

Evaluating the why behind this: apparently our house is easy access for the raccoon because we have a tree with branches that hang over the roof. We aren’t sure if its paid any other houses on the block a visit, but if it keeps coming back night after night, it’s doubtful.

Evil Raccoon
Ah yes, my plan to destroy your roof and take over your house is well underway…

Plan of Action

My dad is still going to try and hunt it down, and my mom hopes that it will eventually get caught in the trap, but for now they have established a plan of action. Everyone is pretty thankful that this incident happened AFTER the inspection took place, so there is no pressure to fix it right away, and then risk having the raccoon come back and having a cycle of waste where we repair the roof, and then it gets torn down again.

My mom has a co-worker that does roof repairs as a side business, and very generously told her that as long as we get the supplies, he will fix it for free. We should be able to get a discount on the supplies, as R works in the construction industry and his company sells them, so this is all good news for a cost-effective solution.

Overall, the total cost should be less than $200, provided the raccoon doesn’t find a way to tear up more of the roof.

This got me thinking though…it was a very odd and unexpected event. Thankfully, it won’t cost a lot, but it’s still a decent amount when my parents are trying to pay off debt and fund a new house purchase soon. But if this had happened at another time, on a larger scale, who knows? It could have been more costly, and as a result, more stressful. It is always good to have connections, and a cushion of cash JUST in case. Always try to plan for what you least expect, because apparently a raccoon could randomly ravage your roof!

What’s the oddest thing that’s ever happened to you, or someone you know, that made you dip into your savings?

Photo Credit: www.midtownmonthly.net

The Mindset of Saving

Photo Credit: weheartit.com
Photo Credit: weheartit.com

Hello everyone! Since we discussed why saving is important in my previous post, I wanted to continue with the mindset of saving. Obviously, not everyone saves or wants to save, and some find it difficult. It’s not enough to tell you saving is important – you need to know why for yourself. I can talk all day about how saving benefits you, but until you make the connection, it’s probably useless. Hopefully you already have this figured out, or you can use the last post for some ideas!

Always Have A Goal

Let’s face it: you need motivation, determination and dedication to save, and having something to save for makes it easier. If you contemplate purchasing something, you might pause and ask yourself, “If I spend X amount on this, then I am giving up X amount toward this goal.” For example, you might want to get an iPad, which could cost you $600. But, you know you should be saving for a car in the future. That might be $600 out of your car fund. Is it worth it? Weigh the options next to each other, and you’ll probably realize you should continue saving for the more important purchase of a car. However, if you didn’t have this goal to think about, you might mindlessly click the “buy now!” button and have a shiny new toy in a few days. Similarly, maybe you just want to save for an emergency fund. Ask yourself if you’d rather have the money in the bank, or a new toy. Will this purchase matter in a year or two? If not, keep saving! If you have absolutely nothing to hold a possible purchase against, you might be inclined to think “why not?” Therefore, it’s always good to have something you’re saving for in mind when spending on things other than necessities, which brings us to our next point.

The Infamous Wants vs Needs

There’s definitely a lot of discussion on PF blogs about defining the difference between wants and needs. It’s all about perspective. A few weeks ago, one of my coworkers stated that she needed her daily Starbucks coffee and was suffering from withdrawal. Our coffee at work is pretty disgusting so she didn’t want to drink it, and she seemed pretty upset. When I was in college, you could rely on the same people to arrive to their early morning classes with a $4 latte in their hands every day. It’s definitely a habit a lot of people have. There’s been lots of posts about how certain spending habits can add up significantly over time, so I’m not going to bother emphasizing that fact. I just want you to take a moment to reflect on purchases that you don’t think you can go without. I’m betting that you can. Humans are resourceful – you would find a way to adapt to life after Starbucks/the gym/cable. You just need to believe in yourself! Here is where having a goal comes in handy again – have something that will motivate you to stop spending so much. And of course, start slowly if need be. Celebrate your victories no matter how big or small (preferably in a free way) to keep yourself going. If you really need something, hopefully its importance to you will be enough.

Thinking About Saving?
…or spending? (credit: futurity.org)

I personally consider the basics as needs: food, shelter and clothing (in moderation and on sale, when needed). I never understood having a closet full of shoes, and I have six dress pants I wear faithfully each week. While my coworkers may be showing up in new outfits often, I don’t compare myself to them because I’m happy with the clothes I have. I’m a good worker and the clothes I wear aren’t exactly going to express that (we are business casual). For food, I eat very small portions, so a half a meal for a normal person is usually enough to make me full. I have been cutting down on snacking and only buy what’s on sale. I try to get the most out of my purchases and plan them out. I have seen people randomly decide they want a snack in the middle of the day and promptly go out to the nearest store and buy it no matter what. That’s definitely not necessary, and by planning ahead you can prevent this. I bring a bag full of food to work every day and it’s always enough.

Be Happy With What You Have

I am plenty happy with brown bagging it to work everyday, cooking a meal instead of going out, renting movies from the library, and generally avoiding the temptations to spend needlessly when I can. How? I stopped caring so much about what other people thought of me and I realized that I have control over most things that happen in my life, especially where finance is concerned. I’d rather have that money to save or get my student loan debt down.

No one is telling you to go out and get the latest phone, and if you think Facebook posts about other people enjoying their purchases count, they don’t. You are you and other people’s situations don’t apply. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s been said before but it bears repeating: you probably don’t know what’s going on in everyone’s life, and their situation can be a lot worse than it appears. Consumerism is constantly telling us we need the latest stuff; that we need to get in on the next big thing that everyone else can’t stop talking about. Stop listening – these phases will pass, and you won’t even remember them in a few years. Be smart, and take the reigns of your finances. You can choose to do whatever you want with your money, and hopefully you will make a wise decision. You could end up paying off your debt, investing, and reaching financial independence. Or you could end up in a vicious cycle of never ending debt, living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to make ends meet. Which sounds like more fun? Financing things through credit is only TEMPORARY – you get a temporary feeling of happiness with a new purchase. Is it worth it?

Just remember that you’re in control, and no one cares about your money more than you do. You get to decide its fate. Are you going to use it to kill your debt, invest for a comfortable future, buy a house, or to fulfill instant gratification that most people seem to be stuck on?

Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve had an easy or difficult time saving, and why! Also, what needs or wants do you have, and do you find yourself spending on wants a little more than you’d like?

Saving Your Money: Why It’s Important

The topic of today: saving. This is largely what this blog will be about. A little background: I mentioned before that I have always been focused on saving, or at least getting the most out of my money. My parents were decent examples, as my mom will never buy anything not on sale, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad purchase clothing (he can safely rely upon gifts for that). If something is full price, I immediately stop considering it. It doesn’t exist anymore. This helps narrow things down easily when I’m shopping, and it’s just one way I save money on purchases.

However, I wanted to start this off with why it’s important to save, instead of how to save. Some people don’t even save; they just use credit cards to live on. This is obviously not ideal. It’s important to establish a goal when trying to save, this way you know why you’re putting money aside, and not doing it just because you know you should. If you’re not a “natural” saver, looking behind the scenes first may give you more motivation to actually start. If you’re not sure if you can actually find any money to save, analyze your budget, crunch numbers, question your needs vs wants, and take baby steps. There will be more on this in a future post.

For every person, their reason for saving will be unique to their situation. This is why I decided to source some answers from R, my parents and one of my close friends. The responses aren’t extremely diverse as I tend to befriend those with similar beliefs and values as myself. Keep in mind R and my friend are in their early 20s, and my parents are over 55. I’m hoping that you can connect with one or two of the responses.

For each person, I first asked them if they thought saving money was important, just in case. They all answered yes.

Even if it looks like this!
Even if it looks like this!

R’s Response

Saving is important for situations that require a large payment such as emergencies and for the future. Saving toward a goal is also important.
What are you saving for in the future?
Retirement, and a house.
Why aren’t you saving toward a goal right now?
Currently, saving is not useful due to debt. It’s hard to save when I have a lot in student loans that I still owe. It’s looming overhead. Saving is kind of pointless when you’re in debt. Only a small portion should be allocated to saving for emergencies. Otherwise, everything should be going toward your debt.

My Response: I completely agree with R for the most part, but I wouldn’t say saving is “pointless” when you’re in debt. I think he amended his view when he said to save a little just in case. I think this is really important – you never know what can happen. If you have things that need to be maintained, you should probably have some money in an emergency fund in case they break. If you’re in serious debt, even putting $5 aside is important. You need to develop the habit of saving.

Student loans are pretty depressing, especially when you’re not making as much as you thought you might out of college. But, we will get there! It’s important to always keep your head up. Be focused and motivated with paying debt off! Remember that every payment you make is technically saving you money in the long run.

Mom’s Response

First of all, she laughed when I asked her if saving was important. “Duh” was basically her answer.
Saving is important for retirement. It’s also important so that you don’t have to worry about bills coming in every month, and wondering how you’re going to pay them. You should always have a cushion for emergencies. If you don’t have the money to afford things, you will get into debt!
If you could give financial advice to your 20-something self, what would it be?
Never get into debt. Invest early so that it grows – not all companies offer a 401K. Pay bills off in full right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t invest until it was too late, but thankfully I have a retirement plan through work. Don’t spend on frivolous things. I also recommend setting up an auto-transfer of money to a savings account, so that you never see that money. You don’t even have to think about it.
This prompted her to mention Christmas Clubs, which I had never heard of. Kind of interesting.

My Response: I definitely think my mom has good advice. Both of my parents are still in credit card debt, and they are looking to move to a more affordable area so they can work on it a bit more. I am trying not to follow in their footsteps here, and want to start investing within a month or two. My job doesn’t offer a 401K plan, so it’s definitely important for me to take care of my own future.

Dad’s Response

Saving is important in case you’re fired or laid off unexpectedly, and also for retirement, so hopefully your future will be taken care of. Or in case a tree falls on your house and insurance doesn’t cover it.
Thanks for the illustrative point of “emergency fund,” dad! I also asked him what advice he would give his younger self.
Not much would have changed if I told myself anything. I let my term-life insurance policy lapse because I couldn’t afford the premium, which was a mistake. I had a profit-sharing plan I took a lump sum payment of instead of rolling it over to an IRA, but we needed the money at the time. The only thing I wouldn’t have done is run up my credit cards. Be responsible with them, check your balances and statements when they come in, and communicate with your spouse on purchases concerning the cards you use together.

My Response: So true! If you and your spouse have joint credit card accounts, you should communicate about purchases being made with them. Don’t live in denial – I know a lot of people that get into debt don’t want to look at their balances, but the first step in taking control of your debt is to face it and know it fully. How else can you make a plan of attack?

Friend’s Response

Saving is important to me primarily for peace of mind. People argue and worry about money a lot, and having something saved up can help avoid that. Saving also gives you flexibility and options – if you want to get something within reason, you can buy it. Saving actually makes you money over time as you can more easily avoid things like loan interest, especially the dreaded payday loan, and bank overdraft fees.

My Response: As far as I know, my friend does not have any debt, so his perspective is a little different as he mentions actually spending the money you save. I was surprised, and clarified that it should be a meaningful purchase, not an impulse buy of some sort. I was glad to hear that! Peace of mind is also very important – debt causes a LOT of stress, even if you don’t realize it. Almost everything we deal with in life is connected with money in some way, and if you’re constantly questioning whether or not you can afford something, it wears on you quickly.

Summary

Everyone I asked said saving was important, and retirement as well as not getting into debt seem to be good reasons to save. For me, I think saving is important for retirement as well, and also because it allows you freedom and security/stability. I’m currently saving with the goal of paying off my student loans, and putting money aside for an IRA.

Now it’s your turn! Why do you think saving is important? Are you currently saving; why or why not? What motivates you, or what goals do you have?