Tag Archives: Saving Money

How I learned about money

I learned about money from my Grandmother.  I was a precocious kid.  As an only child, I spent a great amount of time with adults.  The adults in my life had the tendency to try to have dialog with me as if I too were an adult.  Friends from school would come over to my house to play quite often, but I remember spending a great amount of time with my Grandmother.

My Grandmother owned her own small business.  She was a seamstress.  She worked for a few different bridal shops.  She also worked for a men’s clothing store.  Most days, she would pick me up after school and take me to her shop.  She would watch me until my Mother would pick me up on her way home from work.

It did not take me long to catch on to the theory of commerce.  Her customers would drop off cloths to be altered.  She would make the alterations with her sewing machine.  The customers would pick up their cloths and pay her.  When I earned good grades, she would take me to KB Toys and buy me Star Wars action figures.  Even though I was only 5 or 6, I understood this process.

There were also times when I would ask her to buy me a toy and she would say that she could not afford it.  She would explain that business was slow and she did not earn much money that week.  She said that she only had money for food, gas for her car, and other needs.  She taught me at a young age that if you want money, you must work to earn it.

That was a complex theory to comprehend at such a young age.  I was only in first grade.  I do not have a psychology degree.   I can, however, see that my frugal ways and entrepreneurial spirit were shaped by her teaching me how business worked.

The second lesson that she taught me was equally as profound.  She and I would sit together in her shop.  I would do my school work and she would be sewing.  I would spend about one hour per day with her.  We would have conversations.  She would ask what I learned at school that day?  She would tell me about her work and other stories.  She would talk about her life when she was growing up, her church, and money.

Money was her favorite topic.  She once told me that she invested in CDs that had paid out an interest rate of 13%.  She would double her money in 6 years.  She was so excited.  I am now referring to the early 1980’s when inflation and interest rates were sky high.  She explained that she would let the bank borrow $1000 from her and in 6 years they would give her $2000 back.  I found that fascinating.  Now remember, I did not understand compound interest.  I was not introduced to multiplication yet.

This first blog post is a tribute to my Grandmother.  Looking back, she truly shaped my view of money.  If you want money, you must work for it.  Also, if you have money, you should invest it.

In case you might be interested, my Grandmother is still alive.  My parents take care of her now.  She is 94 and ran her business until she was in her 80s.  She had to finally give it up because her body was breaking down.  Sewing was her passion.  At the end of her career, she was just doing alternations for her neighbors.  I don’t think she even charged them.  She just liked them coming over to talk with her.

Occasionally, my Grandmother will call my wife and ask her to come over for a visit.  She wants to teach her how to use her sewing machine and pass on her legacy.  Maybe she will also share some investing tips with her too.  We have never consistently earned 13% returns on our portfolio.

How did you learn about money?

Sirius XM: Getting Past No

Yesterday, when I was checking the mail to see what type of junk the postman delivered, I noticed a letter from Sirius XM Radio.  When I opened the letter, it was for my subscription renewal.  I have the Sirius XM All Access Plan.  The total that I owed was $273.  That was for the base price of $239 and $34 for a music royalty fee.

Wait, I know what you are thinking.  This guy has a blog about personal finance and financial Independence (FI), but he pays to listen to the radio in his car.  Many people are trying to find ways to reduce expenses like cutting the cable cord at home to eliminate a monthly bill?  Paying to listen to the radio in your car is just a waste of money when you can listen to terrestrial radio for free.

Yes, those are all valid points.  Before you judge me, please let me explain my situation.  My job requires that I travel in my car often.  I spend many hours in my car each week.  My journeys take me to Northern New Jersey, rural Pennsylvania, and the Southern Tier of New York.  Except for New Jersey, the traffic is not bad, but the driving is boring and the radio channels are terrible.  Having Sirius XM makes my traveling much more enjoyable.

Even though having Sirius XM adds pleasure to my weekly trips, I was not willing to pay $273 for the yearly subscription.  I knew that I did not spend that much the previous year, so I went and looked up my credit card statement from last summer.  It was only $136 after taxes and fees.

As of late, I have been reading many articles on different finance blogs about trying to reduce your bills.  Many authors simply suggest calling and asking for a price reduction.  I decided to give that a try because I do not want to have to shell out $273 to listen to Sirius XM.

When I called, I spoke with a Customer Service Representative named Daniel.  I told Daniel that I enjoy listening to Sirius XM.  The new price, however, was too expensive.  I asked if he could lower it.

Daniel informed me that Sirius XM had a new price structure.  He first offered me the price that I paid last year, but said that it did not come with the two Howard Stern channels or the NFL channel.  That offer was unacceptable because I enjoy those channels.

His second offer was a price of $199 for my current plan.  I told him that I like the programing that Sirius XM offers.  It makes my drive to work more pleasurable.  Never the less, it was just too expensive.

I asked him if I could have the same total price of $136 that I paid last year.  Sirius-XM must get many calls from customers who want to lower their bill.  They also seem to invest in some negotiation training.  Daniel asked what I would do if I could not have that price.  His response reminded me of the books Getting Past No and Getting to Yes by William Ury.  He was searching for my (BANTA) or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.  That is a theory made popular William Ury created as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Getting Past NO, William Ury

Getting To Yes, William Ury

Even though I was impressed with his negotiation skills, I told him that I would not be able to afford the new price.  It was too expensive.  If I did not receive the price that I paid last year, I would have to cancel my subscription.

He was hesitant at first and said that my new price was almost half of what the new price was.  After he thought about it for a few seconds, he agreed to the total price of $136 after taxes and fees.  He did not want to lose me as a customer.

If this approach works with Sirius XM, what other bills can I call about and try to reduce?  I am now motivated to find out.  It was worth the little bit of effort to make the phone call.  The worst they can say is that they cannot reduce the bill.

The customer truly has the power during these negotiations.  The customer has the power to say no.  The customer has the freedom to simply walk away and take their business elsewhere.

Do you have any experiences of calling a company to have a bill reduced?