Archive for October, 2007

Sales Techniques from a Mall-Cart Shopgirl

You know those carts in the mall selling everything from mini plants to beauty products to children’s toys and outfits?

This last weekend marks the first time I’ve actually bought from one.

What happened? Well, I have to say, amazing sales technique. Follow:

1) Getting me to stop. A sweet girl with a slight accent stopped me with lotion in her hand. It was a dry night and the lotion did smell yummy so I stopped to try some.

2)Getting me to listen. Then she said, “Can I ask you a question?” Since I was standing there, I couldn’t think of any reason why she couldn’t. I didn’t have to answer but she could ask any question she wanted.

3)Getting me to try the main product she was trying to sell. She asked me “Do you take care of your nails?” I didn’t see any harm in the question though I knew she going to sell me something. So I said “No” signaling that I didn’t care for any product she was selling.

4) Getting me to reluctantly listen even after indicating my disinterest. Before I could walk away, she put out a hand and said “Show me” So, I showed her. My nails were kind of gross that night. She showed me her product, a 3-step buffing block, and proceeded to demonstrate on just one of my nails so I wouldn’t freak out.

5)Getting me to love the product. The buffing block was amazing. I had never seen my nails look so pretty with so little effort. What got me to actually pay attention now was that she wasn’t lying, the product did what it was supposed to, and it made me feel good about myself.

6)Getting me to think about buying the product. She let me try for myself meaning that I could actually imagine myself using the product. Then she showed me the product, beautifully packaged. Then she told me all the nice things that came with the product. And finally, she told me the price.

7)Getting me not to run away after hearing the out-of-my-range price. She told me to think of all the people I could give that gift to. Then, she threw in the deal: two boxes for the price of one. I don’t know if that was already the deal but the fact that she threw that in after telling me the before price of one box made me consider her offer a bit longer.

8 ) Getting my boyfriend not to interfere. She looked into my eyes and talked directly to me and when my boyfriend made objections, telling me to think about it, she ignored him completely and kept talking directly to me saying I had to make the decision myself.

9) Getting me to consider buying it right then and there. She told me that she was only offering this to me, right then because the cart was going to close in an hour and they were trying to finish up the day well. She told me they might not be offering it later on at that price. And she told me that we couldn’t buy the package anywhere else for that price. She reminded me that by the time I really wanted to buy it, the price would probably be raised for the holiday season.

10)Getting me to actually buy it. Then she dropped her last offer on me. One box for half price so I wouldn’t have to buy both boxes. By then, we had invested so much time listening to her talk and she had invested to much energy into selling this to us and the price was half that from before and we were feeling a bit guilty and rushed and she was so nice about it, that I just gave in and bought a box.

After going home, I researched it online to see if I had just been cheated. Yes and no. From the main website (I was relieved it was a legit store), the product was more expensive than the original out-of-my-range price. However, on amazon and ebay, I could buy it for cheaper than the price I bought it for.

So, next time you’re selling something whether it is your product, services, or ideas: think about these techniques. It really works.

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Getting suckered (or was I?)

I was window shopping this last weekend with my boyfriend. It was really just to spend some time with my boyfriend and not really about buying anything. I was just satisfying myself with some fashionable eye candy to mull over later in my mind.

Then, these two young women come up to us, arms clutching a load of small stuffed animals. They told me they were selling stuffed animals and/or accepting donations because they were raising money for some children’s halloween party. Usually, I’m pretty good about looking through these people asking for donations and turning them down. However, I just couldn’t help but donate some money to them. I was probably suckered in by their sad tale but really, I don’t feel too bad about it considering a few things:

-They were well-dressed and well-spoken. Since I could only judge them on my first impression on them, they seemed respectable.

-Their story seemed true just from their physical and verbal cues. I’m not an expert in these things but they really didn’t seem shifty at all.

-They had all those stuffed animals in their arms which is quite different from the whole selling newspapers/magazines/candy bars spiel that I’ve grown immensely tired of. And really, those stuffed animals were quite cute. The only reason I didn’t get one is that I really have no need of a halloween stuffed animal and they were probably a little more costly than I was willing to donate.

So maybe I was suckered into donating but maybe I wasn’t, and that possibility makes me feel good.

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Everytime I receive my paycheck, the first thing that comes out of it is 10% for tithe. Then the rest is meant for various accounts and purchases.

Why do I do this?

Because it enables me to keep perspective on my money. Each time I write a check out for tithe, I realize yet again that my money isn’t in my own hands. Yes, I worked hard for it but it’s not just about me. God gave me this money too. My job pays me to do what I like to. I am in good health so that I can do my job. My family supports me in my sometimes crazy schedule. I have to be thankful.

So, in order to show my thanks, I give my money away. This way, my money can go toward helping others (oh, and a nice tax deduction of course but that’s not the main reason). It makes me feel good that my work can go toward others in more need than me.

So, I think tithe is a good thing. You don’t have to give it to a church. Give it to a charity, a foundation, or even just another person down on their luck. I believe that helping others will bless us a hundredfold in the long run.

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A High-schooler’s Mentality toward Money and Retirement

In some ways, my sister has been abnormal for her age in her quest for money. When she was 5 years old, she discovered how to extort money out of her own family by setting up a lemonade stand in the middle of the living room and not letting anyone pass until they by her lemonade. When she was 8, she refused to let us wrap our own gifts, insisting that she would do it for us for a fee and they would be much better looking. They were not. When she was 12, she decided that she wanted to go to business school and she’s never wavered from that path. When she was 16, she discovered the joys of working part-time. Now, that she’s in her senior year of high school, she’s looking towards college.

I admit, my sister tries to save her money each time she gets a paycheck. She tries to buy clothes on sale. She even knows what the stock market is (sort of).

However, when it comes down to it, she’s like a typical girl her age.

-Even when she doesn’t need that jacket that everyone had, when she spys it on sale, she suddenly desires it like no other (even when she didn’t care for it a week ago).
-She doesn’t look at her bank statements and only saves it because Mom makes her.
-She has absolutely no concept of retirement because she simply cannot imagine herself older than 25. So, she gives me blank looks when I suggest a retirement account for a portion of her paycheck.
-She doesn’t understand that frozen yogurt everyday (admittedly delicious frozen yogurt) is the exact same as paying for a larger pricier item in the long run.
-When I talk about anything financial that don’t involve dollar signs, her eyes glaze over.
-Everything she buys has to be a brand name, even if the generic is the exact same product.
-She’s picking a college based on whether it has a business major and its proximity to the beach without any thought towards financial aid or grants.

But, when you get down to the nitty gritty, she has a good foundation to build on and a decent financial education from various members of the family. So, I won’t worry about her for now and I hope her business major will give her the push to taking on her finances in a smart, responsible way. Also helps that I’m there to nag at her right now.

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I admit it: I love to do my taxes

From my last post, you could probably tell that I like to research taxes and you were probably thinking to yourself “What a freak? She does this on her own free time?”

It’s true. I love to do my taxes. Now, granted they haven’t gotten too complicated yet and I do it on TurboTax but there’s just something so satisfying about putting in the right numbers and searching for deductions. There’s just something so fulfilling about taking out a file folder full of meticulously ordered tax documents and fitting them like pieces in a puzzle to the right places on the tax return. I even offered to do my sister’s taxes for her pro bono (mostly because if I charged my own sister, my parents wouldn’t be too happy about that).

It’s why I’ve decided that I must take a tax course sometime soon. Who’s with me?! *crickets chirp in the background*

It’s ok. I’ve accepted that I’m a freak of nature and revel in it.

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Being Dependent

I like being a dependent. Why?

1. My dad gets a deduction when he does his taxes.

2. I get a fat return at tax time because I get all the money that was withheld from my paycheck back.

Now, that I have a degree and am working full-time and taking classes part-time, I was wondering what my tax status was.

After some research, I learned that in order to be a dependent, I had to fulfill the following requirements:

1. I had to be under the age of 18 OR under the age of 24 if I’ve been a full-time student for more than 5 months of the year.

2. The person claiming me as a dependent must have paid for more than 50% of my living expenses.

3. I must have lived with the person claiming as a dependent for more than 50% of the time.

**note: only one person at a time can claim you as a dependent or the IRS will get pissed at you.

Considering that I’m still livng at home and (yes, I admit it) pretty much mooching off my parents in terms of rent and food, all I have to do is be a full-time student for more than 5 months of the year.

Considering that I graduated in the middle of June, that pretty much counts for my 5 months right there. I’m also going to take more classes each semester in order to attain full-time status as a student at least until I’m 24.

This means that I get a fat return at the end of the year but a LOT less sleep since that’ll push me into being a full-time student as well as working full-time. But, it’s worth it for the few years before I turn 24. Besides, I’m young so I should be able to work through it for a few years before tapering off as I get older.

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Allocating my 401(k)

Keeping to my post from yesterday, I thought I’d share my process of choosing how to allocate my money in my 401(k).

I knew I couldn’t just leave it in cash. Though this is certainly the easiest way, it is also the most pointless since my money won’t grow enough to keep up with inflation.

I have been excited about Vanguard funds and had been looking forward to getting in them once I finally had a 401(k) without a minimum limit. However, I pulled up the website and looked at the choices available to me and recognized none of them. This depressed me a bit.

There were managed plans in which I could just stick my money in it based on my risk level. The managers would then invest for me and reallocate my money for me in exchange for a small fee. Unfortunately, I’m too cheap to pay a fee when I could just DIY with my money.

I tried figuring out how to invest in Vanguard but according to the website, I would not be able to invest in other mutual funds or stocks without opening another account linked to my account and paying fees for every trade as well as sticking to the minimum limit (which I had nowhere near enough in my account to do).

So, I resigned myself to the funds accessable to me and decided to research them and see which ones were the best. I turned to Morningstar and looked up each fund. I knew I wanted to keep it diversified and I wanted about 3 funds. When I researched the funds, the first three things I noticed was:

1. They all had low minimum limits (not that it matters in a 401(k))
2. They all were rated pretty low in Morningstar
3.They all had ridiculously expensive expense ratios

This didn’t make me feel any better naturally. So, first, I just cut out anything lower than 4 stars in Morningstar which left me about 4 funds. Then, I just compared them by how much they’ve been earning (or losing) over a year, 5 years, and 10 years to see their long-term potential. Then I looked at their top holding and noted the ones that were holding stocks that tended to have solid returns year after year. Finally, I looked to see what categories they were in so that I could properly diversify.

In the end, I chose 2 pretty solid long-term funds (allocated 35% each) and 1 more risky fund for a little thrill (allocated 30%) for a total of 100%.

Now, I just need to watch over the funds and reallocate about once a quarter just to make sure that my funds are doing all right and I’m not bankrupt.

Any other advice you can offer?

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Financial Freaking Out

One of my coworkers came in today utterly freaked out.  Why?  She couldn’t figure out her 401(k) allocations. All she knew was that she had to allocate it.

She said that she had no idea what to do and where to put her money and even if she knew where to put her money, she wouldn’t know whether her investment was doing well or horrible and where exactly her money was.

Thankfully, 401(k)s often have managed categories based on risk in which you put the money in there and the managers decide where to put your money for you. Since she was young, we recommended that she put it in the moderate to aggresive profile or even just in the aggresive profile. There’s a fee that has to be paid for this service but it’s worth it if you really have no idea.

However, what scares me is that she would have no idea how well her money was doing. I applaud her on putting money in her 401(k) but she won’t even know if she’s losing money left and right.

That’s why, I wish there were more financial education in school especially high school so kids could learn the basics before they get out on their own and have to make their own decisions about money. Maybe, then, we wouldn’t have this epidemic of people in so much debt, they can’t even breathe for fear of leaking more money.

Hopefully, today was a wakeup call to my coworker to learn a bit more about her money. But, sadly, I don’t think it really was.

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Getting Gum Out of Clothes

One of my friends called me up and the first thing he says is:

“I sat on gum.  How do I get it out of my pants??”

I did a little research and here are the top 3 ways to get gum out of clothes using normal everyday items you should already have around your house.

1. Stick the gum in a freezer for about an hour or until hard.  Use a butter knife and pry the gum off and scrape the residue off.  Wash normally.  Note: may not work for clothes that are thin because it may cause holes to form from the scraping.
2. Warm up some vinegar  and soak the gum in it for a bit. After the gum is soft, it should come right off with a little scrubbing.  Wash normally.  Note: this can get quite strong smelling so have good ventilation.

3. Take some creamy peanut butter and rub it on the gum.  The oils in it should loosen the gum allowing it to be scraped off.  Wash normally.  Note: don’t use on clothing that you don’t want peanut butter or potential oil stains to get on (though the oil stains should wash off).

Any other ideas?

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Deducting from my already paltry paycheck

I’ve gotten my first full-time paycheck for a complete 80 hours worked in 2 weeks (actually, it’s closer to 110 hours…if you’re counting the completely useless hours I sit in traffic trying to get to work).

I was so excited, already budgeting and figuring out how to siphon my money into my different accounts and savings. Until I got the paycheck. Now, I understand taxes and deductions were going to be taken out of it but SO MUCH! I mentally started reshuffling all my finances and lengthened my savings goals.

Then I looked closer. What the heck was FICA, FIT, and SIT? It sounded so innocuous but they were drinking my hard earned money away. So, I looked it up:

FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contribution Act. These are usually a flat percentage for your Social Security and Medicare.

FIT is Federal Income Tax and SIT is State Income Tax. These are based on the W-2 form you filled out when you were hired.

Fortunately, if you qualify as a dependent and someone actually claims you as a dependent (sorry, only one person can do this at a time), then technically, no taxes are supposed to be withheld from your paycheck. If you’ve already signed the W-2 form, just report it on your taxes and you should get a big fat refund check.

And hopefully, all the money they withheld for Social Security and Medicare actually shows up after I’m retired. But, I’m not holding my breath for that.

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