Well, making Rice Krispies treats is easy! And frugal, too!

My daughter’s “love languages” are gifts and quality time.  I think I do all right with the gifts, but I can do better on the quality time part.

I had planned to stop at Sheetz to pick up a large-ish Rice Krispies® treat for my daughter. Somewhere along the way, though, I decided instead to stop at Walmart and pick up the ingredients to make them. Surprising as it sounds, I had never done this before.

I remembered that I needed marshmallows. Oh, and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, obviously. I forgot that I needed butter, but we had some at home.

So easy a beginner can do it

The recipe is really simple.  I got it right on the first try with my highly limited food-preparing skills.

My daughter and I got our hands gooey with buttery marshmallow cereal, and had a great time.  We even did a small little bit of math mixing it up.  (I snuck it in before she noticed hehe.)

completely-unassistedThe leveling of the rice at the top is more World War I minefield than it is finely-polished mirror, but … this doesn’t affect the taste, and we can say that the topography is uniquely ours.

And … it’s inexpensive, too!

The cost of this?  The 18-ounce box of Rice Krispies was $3.34.  We used only eight ounces or so.  The bag of marshmallows was under a buck.  The three tablespoons of butter was less than a quarter.  So we’re looking at maybe $2.50 for a full pan of Rice Krispies treats, plus about ten minutes’ prep time with my daughter, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Compare this with the $1.29 for a single square from Sheetz (about an eighth of the size of the pan).  So our treats are about a quarter the cost of the store-bought ones.  (I can’t get them for free every day, after all.)

There are only so many opportunities to do these kinds of things

This past weekend, I attended FinCon 2014 in New Orleans.  I don’t need to travel a whole lot for my job (thankfully!) but I’m realizing that my daughter is growing up really, really fast and that my days to do these kinds of things with her are severely numbered.

Making these treats with her took time, and the savings were probably less than minimum wage, effectively.  But wishing that I had done more of these things with her now, when she’s left home, is no bargain at all.

What recommendations do you have for what I should try my novice hand at making next?

It pays to be a reasonable customer

I’m an oddball in a lot of ways.  And I’m on my way tomorrow to rub elbows with a whole bunch of other personal finance oddballs at FinCon14 down in New Orleans.

I’m also an oddball because of my feet.  I have a clubfoot.  Thankfully I’ve been able to go for nearly 25 years without any operations, and in the grand scheme it’s a very, very minor problem.  I’ve known people with this problem that would never be able to walk.

The small price I pay for my odd feet

Around a year ago, I was tagged on Facebook to share seven things about myself.  Since I’m a Level 47 troll aspiring to become Level 48, I answered, but only really ended up sharing one fact about myself:  that I had two different-sized feet.  The other facts were deducible from that one fact.  Some cried foul, but I don’t care (hehe).

The last of the seven, which I’m sharing here, gets to the small price I pay — and also to the motivation for this post:

Compared with most other people, I spend about twice as much on shoes. The store employees still feel the need to make it clear that I have to pay for both pair. Almost as if I would expect them to hold the non-fitting pair until a guy with the opposite problem — my “evil shoe twin,” if you will — happened into the store, happened to need shoes, and happened to like exactly the same style that I have. “Why, Mr. Laceheel, have I got a great pair for you!!!”

For a long time, I used to get a pretty good discount on the second pair: about a third off.  Then the stores stopped discounting them at all for a while.  So I stopped asking.  And I ship the shoes I don’t wear off to the National Odd Shoe Exchange, which has the acronym NOSE.  No, really.

Then I got the statement again …

We were at the mall this weekend, and we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to get my New Balance 623’s, which I’ve been wearing for years.  I told the store employee the sizes (plural) I needed.

“You know I can’t mix the sizes,” she said.

“You can sell me two pair though, right?  I mean, I didn’t expect you to keep the other pair for someone with the opposite problem I have!”  And I laughed.

… but I found out why they say it

Of course she could sell me two pair.  When she brought the shoes back, she explained why she had to make it clear that they wouldn’t mix and match.

Another customer came in and had made a freakin’ scene when the store didn’t sell him one pair with two different sizes.  Called over the store manager and everything.  I imagine the guy left mad because they didn’t do it for him.

That’s just plain unreasonable.  No, actually, it’s tacky.  The mismatched pair is of no value to the store.  It’s unreasonable to expect that they would sell the shoes, likely at a loss, to an occasional customer.  (Now, if Dick’s actually did this for me, I would be sure to give them a whole lot of business.)

When I heard this, I sympathized with her, and told her that it was unreasonable, and made it clear that I wasn’t that kind of customer.

She came back with  a $10 coupon.  It pays to be reasonable.

The one person responsible for your financial decisions

There is no shortage of personal finance advice available. I’ve been known to produce a bit myself here and there.

There are recurring themes like “buy vs. rent,” “spend less than you earn,” “the magic of compounding,” and so forth which are the cornerstones of personal finance, saving, and retirement planning. They’re cornerstones because there’s a lot of wisdom behind them.

Checklists and more checklists

I ran across Richmond Savers today, which is run by a couple of CPAs in my part of the country.  The community is local to Virginia’s capital, but they have a list of financial guidelines that they try to live by every day.

If you’ve read lists like these before, the themes are very familiar.  They’re the important financial issues that most of us deal with at one point or another: credit and debt, big expenses like automobiles and houses, health and wellness, and investing.

The points they list pass the reasonableness test.  None of them are that off-the-wall.  Lists like these are rarely off-the-wall.

What “reasonable” and “not off-the-wall” are not

Some of the items get pretty specific.  Here is a flavor (check out the website for the rest):

  • “Do not buy a house if you’re planning on moving within 5 or even 10 years….”
  • “Make regular contributions (we suggest twice a month to coincide with your paycheck) to your investing accounts….”
  • “Always automate as much of your financial life as possible, including your contributions to savings and all your bills….”

Are these and the other few dozen points reasonable?  Of course they are.  To the first point: There are a number of reasons why buying and quickly selling a house costs a lot of money.  To the second:  By making regular contributions you can reduce the effects of market timing.  To the third:  You’re less apt to miss a payment if it’s done automatically.

Reasonable advice, though, is not universal advice.  We moved from our first house in less than ten years, but we kept it, and rented it out.  It’s less than four years from being completely paid off now.  Making regular contributions to an investment account, or automating your finances, puts things on auto-pilot, but auto-pilot may not work for you, because it allows you to become complacent and forget about those monthly withdrawals.

It’s still up to you to determine what to do!

Every website that gives this kind of advice should have a disclaimer.  Richmond Savers does (at the bottom of the pages) and this site does on the sidebar.

Website owners put disclaimers to protect them from liability in the case that someone follows their advice, and bad things happen as a result.  Richmond Savers can say “[b]uy a reliable car, such as a Honda or Toyota, and drive it for 200,000 miles[,]” but if you stretch to get that car (which run a bit more expensive than some others) or if you pour a lot of money to keep the car running 200,000 miles, and fall into financial hardship as a result, then perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to follow that advice.

In fact, even if you pay someone for this kind of advice, it’s still up to you whether you follow it or not!  Setting aside that there may be criminal intent, advice is still just that: advice.  Not a command, not a sure thing:  just advice.

There’s always context.  No one knows that context better than you do.  Which is good, because you are the one responsible for your financial decisions.  As Tim McCarthy went into great detail in his book The Safe Investor, not only do you need to look at your own goals, but you also need to verify what your paid advisers are telling you.  Extending this to the free advice you get from this blog and everywhere else, it’s up to you to verify the sources and cast the advice in the context of your situation.