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08/04/17 Personal Finance , Travel # ,

5 Things I Love About How Europe Deals With Money

5 Things I Love About How Europe Deals With Money

My family recently returned from our home exchange in the Netherlands for most of July, and even though we saved a lot of money by not having many hotel bills to pay, we still needed cash each day on our vacation.

Cash is just a lot easier to deal with, especially with small merchants, and businesses seem to appreciate using cash instead of a credit card. The good news was that our travel savings account was pretty full before we left for Europe, so paying for our food, a few hotel nights and incidentals was easy. It was easy, however, until we had to find an ATM to withdraw money.

I’ll get to that mess in another post, but first I want to go over the good things I discovered about how Europe deals with money. Here are five things I found to be smart in France, Belgium and the Netherlands in how they deal with money:

Tax and tip included in the price

This was one of my favorite things about buying anything during our vacation: The price you see is the price you pay.

If the price says €7, you pay 7 Euros. Not €7.63 or some other odd amount because tax is added later. The price includes tax. At restaurants, it includes tax and tip.

You don’t have to do any math at a restaurant table to figure out a tip because it’s included in the price of everything in the menu.

The effect may be more psychological than anything, but it made reading a menu or seeing the price for anything — such as a €75 two-hour boat rental on a Dutch canal — easier to accept than seeing €60 and then adding €15 in taxes. At €60, I’d have my mind set on that price and would be unpleasantly surprised when it was upped to €75 after taxes.

No digging for pennies

There were a few exceptions to the above rule, and I never did figure out why. A few times I bought a bottle of water at a convenience store and the €1 price would become €1.09 at the cash register. I’d have to dig for pennies in my pocket when this happened.

But this rarely happened because most businesses didn’t add taxes at the cash register. Almost everything I bought didn’t require change because it was priced at the nearest Euro. Instead of €2.20 for a soda — orange Fanta was popular — it was €2 even. Continue reading

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10/12/16 Personal Finance #

What I’m Doing With a $250 Windfall

What I’m Doing With a $250 Windfall

 

I won $250 in a contest recently, and while it’s not exactly a windfall that will change my life like a lottery win could, it was enough to get me daydreaming about the possibilities with it.

It was a simple contest, which is my prerequisite for entering any contest: Take a photo of myself wearing the hat of a Clark.com, a sponsor at FinCon, a conference for financial bloggers that I attended in late September. Then put it up on Twitter, with #ClarkCash and #FinCon16 in the tweet after following @ClarkHoward on Twitter.

The free hat was in a swag bag given to attendees, with a business card attached to the hat giving instructions on how to win $250:

“The 4 most creative entries will each win $250 in cash for a total of $1,000! Winners will be announced at Clark Howard’s #FinCon16 keynote speech Thursday at 4:30 p.m.”

I noticed the hat in the swag bag after an afternoon walking around a tent full of sponsors that I wanted to meet, with the hope that I could either write for some of them or have them advertise on my personal finance blogs. I went to my hotel room to rest for a bit when I read about the contest on the free hat, and decided to give it a try.

I pulled some cash out of my wallet and took two photos and tweeted them out:

 

And this: Continue reading

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10/03/16 Retirement , Saving # ,

Think You’re Bad With Money? Take This Quiz

money

Image: RomoloTavani

Americans are financial dunces, and we may be getting denser. When the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) asked 27,000 adults to take a five-question financial literacy test, only 37% could answer four or more questions correctly. That’s down from 39% in 2012 and 42% in 2009. The quiz asked people questions about compound interest, inflation, and investing.

Our financial ineptitude has serious consequences. Many survey respondents were spending more than they earned, had little money in savings, and were only making minimum payments on their credit cards. Over time, those behaviors can put someone in a financial downward spiral from which it’s hard to escape.

Even worse, many of us may be unable – or unwilling – to recognize our own bad money habits. If you have a steady job and pay your bills on time, you might think your finances are under control. But if you’re frequently surprised to discover you have almost no money in your bank account or are carrying a balance on your credit card, chances are you’re secretly bad with money. In the long run, your careless ways will catch up with you, as you discover you can’t afford to buy your dream house, send your kids to college, or retire. In a worst-case scenario, a financial shock, like unexpected medical expenses or a job loss, could force an unpleasant reckoning.

The good news is you can avoid those consequences if you change your money ways. The first step to good financial health is assessing your financial fitness today. Take this five-question quiz to find out if you’re a financial whiz or really, really bad with money. Continue reading

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09/14/15 Children # ,

Why My Kid’s School is Teaching Her to Shill Cookie Dough

cookie dough

It’s a simple sales formula that would make any door-to-door salesman proud: Play on a customer’s emotions and you’ll likely get a sale. It works with magazine subscriptions, Girl Scout cookies and even cookie dough.

Cute + cookie dough = sale. It’s automatic.

If cookie dough, cheap jewelry, Oreo churros and expensive candles, among other junk from Believe Kids, are making the rounds in your neighborhood, you know that summer is over and kids are back in school. Forget falling leaves and cool winds when looking for the start of the fall season. Cookie dough for $17 is for sale, marking the start of fall.

My daughter’s school started its fall fundraiser recently, and while she and her classmates are told not to sell items door-to-door, they are expected to push their cuteness and fundraising goals upon their families. If you can’t sell a $16 pumpkin roll to Grandma, then you aren’t cut out to be in sales.

Is shilling a life skill?

I’m all for giving extra money to schools. I wrote my daughter’s school a big check before school started this year. I understand the need for raising money for extra activities and supplies that the school can’t afford on its own.

Where I lose it is in trying to understand the logic in teaching my kid to shill for cookie dough to her friends and family. The school has all kinds of prizes — which I’ll detail soon — to encourage kids to sell things for which they have an astronomical chance of winning a prize for, and the kids don’t get a cut of the profits. Even in the name of charity, which I don’t think the Parent-Faculty Club is anyway, that isn’t much of an incentive to sell. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.