Pick Up the Phone and Call

Pick Up the Phone and Call

The Power of Human Interaction

Before my first semester of college I was dealing with all the paperwork and details of my HOPE scholarship that would pay for the bulk of my tuition. HOPE is the state-run program that gives scholarships to students who stay in-state for college. As with most large programs, there was a lot of bureaucracy to be taken care of. Two days before it was time to start enrolling for courses for the semester I received a notice from the college that my bill for the upcoming had not been paid. After many hours of phone calls I realized that there was an issue with releasing the funds from my scholarship to the school and I needed to fill out YET ANOTHER form to make this happen. I realized hat there was no way this would be processed before my bill to the school was due and I therefore wouldn’t be able to enroll in the classes that I wanted to enroll in.

What did I do?

I drove to the school, walked into the Bursar’s office and explained the situation: I was approved for the HOPE scholarship but the money wouldn’t be released for a few days, at least. I walked out with a deferred payment date and a way to enroll in my classes even without my tuition bill not paid. While discussion my situation with the nice man in the Bursar’s office he mentioned, “It’s so great that you came in and spoke to us about this problem. So few students do that”.

My life experince has taught me that so few people are aware of the resources available to them and aren’t even aware that they can find out whether resources are available to them. Maybe it is cluelessness? Maybe it is a distrust in authority? Maybe its a feeling of hopelessness based on life experience, before they even try? Maybe its a feeling of embarrassment that keeps them from asking?

I have realized that very often, those who ask do receive. Even if they don’t receive the outcome they want, they receive information they need. At worst, they can often encounter a human being who can use some discretion to help them out of a pickle. The problem is that so few people ask!

This is why I often give this advice: Pick up the phone and call.

Stop in the office and ask to speak to someone.

Many companies and offices have online chats, emails, and online forms for you to fill out if you encounter difficulty. These can be great sometimes and very easy but if these don’t work then you have not run out of options. There are still people who can answer a phone, or who work in an office that can help you in a way that an internet bot cannot. Don’t underestimate the power or discretion that a human being can apply.

Whether it is a tuition bill that needs to be paid, a medical bill that seems insurmountable, a credit card application being denied, a utility that will be shut off, a government benefit that should be given to you but isn’t. Pick up the phone and call.

This isn’t a magic solution that will cure all your ills. No credit card company will automatically forgive all your debt even if you call and explain your situation. But they can, and sometimes do, offer you a bit of grace or a little help in getting things figured out.

Don’t be afraid of getting turned down or rejected. It might happen but you won’t be worse off. You will still be in the same situation- just this time knowing that you exhausted all your options.

5 Tips to get the most out of a phone call:

1. Be Honest but Don’t Overshare. Honesty is good and you definitely shouldn’t;t lie. But don’t share your whole life story or give too many details. People often get bogged down with the details and don’t emphasize the important facts.

  1. Be Polite. Remember, the person on the other end of the line is human and being nice to them will only help you, even if they are not being nice back.
  2. Ask to Clarify. If you don’t understand something don’t pretend that you do. Ask. Ask again. If there is a word you don’t understand- let them know. Repeat back what they said so you can be sure you understood it.
  3. Ask for Confirmation in Writing, if possible. Get the person’s name and ask them to either email you a confirmation or a transcript of your conversation. Alternatively, you can even ask them for an email address so you can confirm with them what you discussed in writing. Some companies may be reluctant to do this.
  4. Ask for Something Specific. Be clear in what exactly you are asking for. Are you asking for an extension? Are you asking to know your options? Are you clarifying something? The clearer and more specific you are- the more you can be helped.

5 Tips Pinterest Image

The Liars and Dirty, Dirty Cheats of The World

There are some companies that will flat out lie to you and attempt to device you. There is not much you can do to if a company is determined to lie or cheat. Here are some options if you have been treated wrongly by a company or institution:

  1. Report to the BBB. The Better Business Bureau keeps track of complaints made by consumers about a company. Filing a report will probably accomplish nothing but it will help have something in writing.
  2. Record if you can. One party consent recordings may not be admissible in a court of law in many states but it can be helpful to have recording of the conversation regardless. You can also inform them that you are recording the conversation which may also help them be inspired to stick to the truth.
  3. Make notes. After each phone call and email interaction take notes about what happened. Try to include as many relevant details as you can such as: time, date, name of person, contents of conversation etc.
  4. Make a Stink on Social Media. Many companies are more reactive on social media (especially Twitter) as the reach is so incredibly vast. This can also help you get in touch with others who may have had the same issue and can give advice on how to handle the situation.
  5. Hire Legal Counsel. If it’s really worth a lot money, time, and hassle to you and you have exhausted all your other options: then it’s time to turn to the professionals. See if you can find a lawyer who can help you navigate the situation.

Good luck!

My $12 Vanity Trip and How I Bought Myself a Kid’s Toy

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The struggle of raising kids with a balanced approach to money and materialism

So vacation was pretty awesome!

We got to our Airbnb and after we set down our stuff we headed straight to the beach. We had brought some sand stuff for our kids to play with but as soon as we got there we noticed that the beach was crowded with families and most of the kids in the water had various inner tubes to play with in the water. We hadn’t brought anything for the to play with IN the water- just for outside the water. My son, pointing to a bright purple inner tube, asked “What is that kid playing with?” We responded that it’s a fun thing to float with in the water. My other son, “We don’t have anything to play with in the water”. I looked at my husband and my heart sank. I saw on his face that he was thinking the same thing. We felt so bad that our kids were in the water with all these other kids who were having so much fun with their floating toys. We put a bright face on and played in the water and on the beach- we don’t need stuff to have fun!!

Beach trip

The next day we hung out in the pool and then decided to head to the beach again. After a hurried consultation with DH, we decided to try to find a store to buy the kids inner tubes so there wouldn’t be a repeat of the previous day. If the tubes were affordable, say under $20, we would buy one so our kids wouldn’t have to stare longingly at other kid’s toys the whole day. We both grew up in large families and there wasn’t money for “extras”. So many times in my childhood I had gone without those small extras and I was determined that for this vacation at least my kids would have even this small thing.

We live frugally because we have to, and because we consider saving for our future and staying away from any debt to be a priority and there are many times I feel so bad for my kids. We don’t do so many things that other people do and even though they are still young, I wonder if they ever feel the pinch and feel badly or even resent us for that.

We didn’t want to spend any more money on this vacation than we had to but we decided to buy these tubes or some sort of floaty toy. On the way to the beach we stopped at a small store and I jumped out without telling my kids what I was getting. I ran inside and saw these fun inner tubes with a unicorn head attached for only $6. I immediately grabbed 2! Not only would my kids have the fun toys but they wouldn’t even need to share! I good barely contain my excitement as I paid and headed back to the car. The kids would be so psyched especially as I hadn’t indicated that I would buy them anything.

I reached the car and casually handed them each the box, “I bought you each something”, I said and grinned at my husband. We stared at them excitedly as they looked at it. Their response was… well, underwhelming to say the least. “What is it?” “It’s a floaty!” I said, “You know like all the kids had yesterday!”. “Oh” they said, “For, us?” “Yes!!!” we practically screamed “We bought these for you so when we go in the water today”. “But did we bring the sand toys?” “Both! You get to play with both!”. There excitement was palpable… not. As soon as we blow them up, we reasoned, they will realize what they are and they will get super excited. It’s hard to see what they are when they are still in a box, and the kids are still so young they can’t visualize it. Suffice it say, the excitement level just got lower as we blew them up. One kid flat out refused to carry it to the water from the car, “I don’t want to play with it”. The other brought it to the water and promptly left it next to the towels. We convinced him to play with it for a total of 30 seconds. AS we realized that they were supremely uninterested, I began to look at the whole incident with different eyes. Maybe the trip to the beach hadn’t gone as I thought it had?

Could it be that it wasn’t the kids who were jealous of the other kids, but me?

Was I projecting my disappointment on my children?

Was it possible that I was the one giving longing looks at the fun of the inner tubes, not them?

Was it possible that the “game face” I had put on was totally and completely unnecessary and my kids were enjoying themselves perfectly fine?

Was I regressing to my childhood and it was really child me who wanted an inner tube and couldn’t have one? Was I buying the inner tube to baby me who wanted what she couldn’t have?

Was I projecting my own insecurities about what I can and cannot buy and give to my children to things that I assumed that they wanted as opposed to things that they actually wanted?

Is it possible that maybe my kids don’t feel as deprived as I think they do? Click To Tweet

Maybe I should have actually spoken to my kids and found out what they wanted instead of trying to play mother of year to them?

Did I actually go and spend money to make myself feel like a “fun” mother instead of finding out if my kids wanted inner tubes? If I wanted to treat them, maybe they would have wanted something else?

The money I spent wasn’t really the point, thankfully it was only $12 and although it’s not returnable I’m sure that we will eventually get some use out of them (maybe next year!) but it really got me thinking about the things I buy for my kids and why I buy them. There are some things that I buy because they need them but maybe there are some things I buy because I think they “need” them but they actually don’t? Maybe sometimes I buy things for them to feel like a “good mother” or because I am projecting my own insecurities onto my own kids without addressing their actual insecurities and needs?

I’m not sure exactly what the answer to all these questions are. These are questions that I am assuming most parents grapple with as we want to give our kids the world, not spoil them, well maybe a little, but not enough to ruin them. We want them to have everything but also work for it, feel loved and taken care of but also not be entitled. It’s a tall order!

What are some of the issues you face when buying things for your kids? Am I the only one who feels this way? Tell me I’m not alone!

We’re going on Vacation! (On a budget, of course!)

Tales from the not-so frugal trenches.

Our Vacation on a Budget

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We still have a few more weeks until school starts after Labor Day, so it’s time to plan our vacation.
I say this as if this is a yearly occurrence which it is most definitely not. This is actually the first time since my oldest was born that we are in the financial position to actually GO SOMEWHERE on vacation. We have visited family throughout the years for holidays and family celebrations like weddings but I don’t count that as vacation!

Even though I am tempted to go all out for this vacation, alas, financially we are a bit constrained. So a budget vacation it is!

The most important thing for me at this point is going somewhere where my kids can run around, go swimming, and just chill outdoors. Living in an apartment building in a urban area there is not much chance for us to do that and we are all feeling a bit cooped up.
The two biggest expenses for us are the lodging and the rental car. We don’t have a car so in order to easily (or at all) get to a destination is to rent one which usually ends up being quite pricey. We have a local place where we rent from that usually ends up being the cheapest and we put the rental car on a credit car that gives CDW coverage so we save on insurance.

Everything else we do as cheap as possible. We go on cheap or free hikes, swim in the pool, and bring our small portable grill to BBQ. No fancy trips or eating out for us! I find that if the place we stay is nice and pretty, we don’t need to spend money on entertainment or food. We do try to factor in a small amount for ice cream or other small treats along the way.

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