Monthly Archives: October 2015

Lessons from My Travels

I’ve been a little crazy with work travel lately, and a few small (but valuable) lessons came out of my journeys.  Here are a few things I learned this week:

If you sign up for something far in advance, it could save you money, but at what cost?  Months ago I signed up for a 5K race in Harrisburg sponsored by a Craft Brewery.  It seemed like it would be super fun, and the swag for the racers sounded really cool, so I didn’t mind the higher than typical race fee.  But in between then and race day life happened.  I was traveling a lot for work.  I got sick.  And on race day almost the last thing I wanted to do was drive to Harrisburg and run a 5K.  But the absolute last thing I wanted to do was to lose the money I had paid.  So I drove.  And I ran.  And I had fun.  And I was exhausted.  Waiting until closer to the race to sign up would have cost me more money, but had I waited I would have known that my life wasn’t going to be conducive to participating in this event at that time, so I wouldn’t have signed up at all.  Lesson learned.

When traveling very early in the morning, be sure to split your breakfast/lunch budget into three separate meals.  I had very early flights on Wednesday and Thursday mornings this week.  And both days I found myself starving at about 10 am and purchasing a second breakfast.  More hours awake means more food intake required, so you need to be financially prepared for that.  Lesson learned.

Second Breakfast

Saving money by buying a less expensive pair of shoes will quite possibly cost you more money in the long run when you end up having to buy a more expensive pair of shoes because the cheaper ones make  your feet hurt.  When you have to stand a lot, there is no substitute for really good, comfortable shoes.  While my less expensive shoes are fine for sitting at my desk in my office, they are not suitable for trekking through airports and standing for a few hours at a time.  Lesson learned…and more expensive shoes purchased (at a significant discount on eBay).

Life does tend to throw lessons at you all the time.  What did you learn this week?


Chip and PIN Credit Cards

Credit cards (and the way we use them) are undergoing a transformation.  By now, any cards you have should have been replaced by a new card with “chip and PIN” technology.  You’ll notice a little square chip on the front side of the card:

chip and pin card

In the future, that chip will always be used instead of the magnetic strip on the back to transfer your card information to the merchant. You insert the card into the bottom of the card reader and hold it there, and the card reader takes your info from the chip.  This is significantly more secure than the old swipe the magnetic strip method.  And eventually, the old procedure of signing for purchase will be replaced by the entering of a PIN number.

And while the card providers have done a good job of issuing the new cards to move toward this technology, the merchants are slow to catch up.  Most places I shop are still using the old swipe and sign method.  And those merchants who do have the new “dip the chip” technology in place (so far I’ve only found it at Wal-Mart and Target) are still using signature rather than PIN….and that isn’t expected to change any time soon.  If you happen to travel to Europe, however, make sure you know the PIN for your credit card.  They’ve been using chip and PIN for years.

The U.S. is a bit slow to catch on to this technology, but in the future it should be helpful in reducing fraudulent card use.  And this ultimately protects you.  Change is hard.  But most times it is worth it.

Traveling with Water

Fall is travel season when you work in the law school admissions world.  And as I prepared for my first air travel of the year, I packed my empty reusable water bottle.

water bottle

I usually carry this bottle full of water with me wherever I go, so I always have a drink handy without having to buy anything.  But for air travel it needs to be empty to go through the security protocol.

Thankfully, airports have started to recognize that more and more people are doing this when they travel, and at many airports (including the tiny University Park Airport), you will find these handy bottle filling stations:


It’s fantastic.  You go through security with an empty bottle.  On the other side you fill it at the water station.  Then you are set with water for your flight, without having to drop a few bucks for a bottle of spring water.

When at the hotel at the other end of my flight, I have also found a favorite place to fill my water bottle.  I do prefer filtered or spring water to straight tap water, so at the hotel, I always find my way to the fitness center.  Regardless of whether I’m planning to work out, the fitness center always has a nice water cooler where I can fill up my bottle.

Traveling doesn’t have to mean spending money on disposable water bottles!  Good for the wallet AND good for the environment!

Saving in Your 20s

I recently learned about a viral blog post entitled, “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong,” written by millennial writer Lauren Martin.  To Ms. Martin, I have only this to say:  HORSE MANURE!!!

Ms. Martin says that the need to save money was ingrained in her by her parents (who I believe are wise people), but that she now disagrees with that philosophy.  I am going to go step by step through Ms. Martin’s theories on saving in your 20s and explain why she is incorrect.

“Refusing to give yourself the luxury of enjoying your money negates the whole point of making it.”  Not entirely incorrect.  But Ms. Martin is saying to forego retirement savings in your 20s in favor of more fully experiencing life.   And while experiencing life while you are young enough to enjoy it is absolutely important, doing it at the expense of building a retirement nest egg during the early years is just foolish.  The earlier you start socking money away in a retirement fund, the more time it has to grow and multiply.  Early savers are more likely to be able to retire younger, and less likely to have to work during retirement to be able to meet their expenses.  At the very least, folks in their 20s should be investing enough money into their retirement as it takes to earn an employer match (for those who are not self-employed).  Not earning that match is equivalent to throwing away free money.  And if there is not enough money left over after that investment for an occasional night out, then Ms. Martin has likely made some bad decisions about how much she has chosen to spend on some basics, like housing, clothing, and food.

“When you’re saving for yourself, you’re refusing to bet on yourself.”  Ms. Martin purports that saving while you’re young is tantamount to predicting that you won’t earn enough money to play “catch-up” later on, thus predicting your own future failure.  But why would anyone want to have to play “catch-up” when they have the opportunity to be in a comfortable position from the beginning?  Anyone who has ever watched their favorite sports team trying to come back from behind knows that this is the more stressful situation.  Why choose the more stressful option?

“When you have something to bank on, you have nothing to reach for.”  Ms. Martin seems to think that success comes from need, and that folks with a financial cushion have nothing to strive for.  Having a financial cushion actually just makes that strive a bit easier.  She could strive toward owning a home, having a family, or traveling the world.  All things that are much easier to do if you are financially secure.

Ms. Martin asks, “What memorable experience does money in the bank give you?”  None. But it also helps you avoid such memorable experiences as “that time I couldn’t pay my rent and got evicted,” “that time I had a medical emergency and took on $20,000 in debt,” or “that time I had to work until I was 75 years old because I didn’t start saving for retirement until my kids finished college.”

“When you die, you can’t take your money with you.”  True.  But most people look at their savings as a bell curve.  You save for retirement and watch the savings balance grow throughout the working years.  But then you retire and start living on those savings, and watch that same balance decline.  No…you can’t take it with you.  But it sure is nice to have it there if you’re planning to live PAST your 20s.


“When you deprive yourself, you don’t learn how to TREAT YO SELF.”  And if you never deprive yourself, you will have no appreciation of what is actually a treat, and it will eventually take greater and greater treats to stimulate your sense of luxury.

“When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.”  Ms. Martin, as someone who knows what it is like to be 40 (and older), all I can say is that you are wrong.  When I look at my retirement savings statements for the accounts from my early years…my 20s…I am VERY grateful for the little bit of money that I saved then…and I’m amazed by the size it has grown to.

I remember my 20s being lean years in my early career.  And I’m grateful that my parents, like Ms. Martin’s, instilled in me the need to save money even at that time.  I don’t feel like life has passed me by or that I have not treated myself.  I feel wise.  And I hope that Ms. Martin wises up before it is too late for her to realize just how wrong she has been.