Archive for November, 2008

Power To The People: Wesabe’s New T-shirts!

November 24, 2008

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The Wesabe Community has been buzzing about T-shirts for some time now. So, when our newest designer, Magera, jumped on the chance to come up with a logo that had a high coolness factor and embodied Wesabe, the Wesabe team was psyched. Many hours later, Magera presented a design that we couldn’t wait to sport.

When I asked Magera how she settled on this design, she answered that she was, “inspired by the immediacy and motivational quality of propaganda posters.  The fists full of money symbolize the power of working together towards a goal, which is one of the inspiring and invaluable qualities of Wesabe.  We share our experiences and advice on how to save money and time, and together we all create a better life by doing so.”

We made a bunch to use for Wesabe promotions. For example, right now anyone who is taking part in the “No Spend Month” or the “30 Day Challenge” and wants to answer a few questions about their experiences over email will receive a free t-shirt (to take part send me an email at allese@wesabe.com). Additionally, though we’re not set up to sell them right now, we are playing around with the idea. So, if you’re interested in buying a shirt, again, you can shoot me an email at allese@wesabe.com.

Breaking Up With Netflix: It’s Not You, It’s The Economy

November 20, 2008

Dear Netflix,

We’ve shared a lot of laughs and even some tears. You’ve always been there for me, which makes breaking up even harder to do. I remember when we first met five years ago – I was pregnant with twins and confined to bedrest. I relied on your daily red envelope even more than I did my Ben & Jerry’s.

But Netflix, things have changed. With the foundering economy, it just doesn’t feel like the right time to be in this kind of a committed relationship. We’ve been drifting apart for a while, and yet there you are every month, taking a bite out of my checking account. Before you even ask, this has absolutely nothing to do with Blockbuster Online. I admit, I have checked out Hulu.com a couple times, but that’s not why I’m ending things with you.

It’s a crappy time to be a discretionary spend and I don’t mean to kick you while you’re down, but I need to start looking out for myself. And so 163 rentals and nearly a thousand dollars later, I’m calling it quits. This really is good-bye, so I hope you don’t cheapen what we had by sending me perky “one month free” emails or flyers.

Good luck, Netflix – I honestly do wish you the best.

Your friend,
Debbie

Where Does Frugal Become Cheap? When Does Carefree Become Careless?

November 19, 2008

As community manager, I frequently get asked which topics cause the most controversy in Wesabe’s group discussions. Though no one subject is responsible for igniting debate, the most common clashes occur between the very frugal and the not so frugal.

The all-popular theme, “it’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save,” suggests that a hard dose of discipline coupled with a decent financial IQ leads to security and, what’s more important, peace of mind. Still, for many people, things like pets, multiple cars, and dearly loved hobbies can be worth debt, little to no savings, and less financial security.

Now crisis situations, like home foreclosures or loss of a job usually eliminate some of these “necessities.” However there is a chunk of people who aren’t in dire circumstances, and who are looking for a better relationship with their money, but are unwilling to change their behavior for it. Maybe they have some debt, don’t really budget, or have minimal savings, but nothing that pushes them into crisis mode. Granted, many of these people would consider their situations to be financially unstable. For them though, lifestyle and material comfort is worth financial insecurity.

Consider for example, the 32-year-old who is unwilling to forgo luxury expenses – cell phone, cable, car, restaurants – to max out his 401K.  Or the 27-year-old who chooses some debt and depletes her hard-earned savings to travel. While ideally we would pay off our credit cards each month, fully contribute to retirement and have an six-month emergency fund, there seems to be a decent number of people who are pretty responsible with their money but sacrifice some degree of financial security for more enjoyable day-to-day experiences.

As personal finance is, well, personal, and reflects what an individual wants out of their life, I am interested in where you draw the line between lifestyle and experience, and total financial security. Where does frugal become cheap? Or, on the flipside, where does carefree become careless?

11 Easy & Cheap Homemade Gifts Sure to Make Mom Cry

November 17, 2008

Looking for a great, inexpensive gift for your mother or someone special in your life? Following are 11 sure-fire winners. The catch? You’ve got to channel your sensitive side and put a little time in, but the results will be a gift people can’t stop talking about.

1. A Book Of Quotes. During my senior year in college, I was virtually penniless but wanted to give my then boyfriend, now husband, an amazing, thoughtful gift. He always loved my habit of collecting quotes on note cards. So, I bought a journal and filled each page with quote I loved and water-colored over each. He absolutely loved it.

You could make this gift cheaper by buying a bunch of index cards and hole punching the right corner. Paint each card (nothing fancy, just wipe some paint or paste colored paper to get rid of the index card look), write a quote on each and then loop a ribbon through the whole thing to tie all the cards together.

2. Personalized Memory (or Clutter) Boxes. This is something I did a lot as a kid. I would go to Michaels and buy a number of cardboard boxes. I would spend time collecting photographs, quotes, and images that reminded me of the person. I would then shellac these over the box. These can be used as display or simply put on a shelf or in the closet as a place to save memories or hide clutter.

3. Make your own recipe book. Does someone you know have a shoebox filled with cut out recipes from magazines, newspapers and the web? Steal the box and paste all of them into a journal. Voila! You have just made them their very own personal cookbook filled with all of their favorite recipes.

I did this for my mom one year… she loved, loved, loved it. And yes, I got some serious tears.

If you know someone who loves to cook but lacks a shoebox full of recipes (or you lack access to it), you can also browse recipe sites on the web, print out your favorites, and build the recipe book yourself.

4. A Positivity, Productivity or Inspiration Box (or any other theme that might fit). Here how it works:

Find a cardboard box with a lid. Find a few pieces of pretty paper or construction paper. Cut these up into one inch by two inch squares or rectangles.

On each write, something that has to do with your theme. If it’s productivity, put a tip on each (you can find some great ones by browsing Zen Habits or Dumb Little Man). If it’s positivity, put a happiness tip on each (browse the Happiness Project for some great tips). If it’s inspiration … well, you get the idea. Fold them in half and toss them in the box. Aim for somewhere between twenty and forty of these.

You can either wrap it up and tie a bow around it, or you can theme your box by cutting out images and quotes and pasting them over your box.

5. Personalized Stationary. With the amazing amount of templates provided by most Word and graphic programs, this is almost too easy. However, you can make it a bit more personal by taking a manila folder and using craft glue to cover it with fabric. You’ve now made a personalized folder to hold all that personalized stationery.

6. Coupon books. To make this work, you’ve got to whip out your inner artist. Here are some ideas (these are really good for kids to make for Mom or Dad):
– A car wash
– Spa day by you (manicure, pedicure, facial, lunch, Sex and the City viewing party, etc.)
– Dog walking services
– Two hours of complimentary house cleaning
– Ice cream sundaes
– A homemade dinner

Check out this Wesabe discussion “What Makes You Feel Rich While Being Frugal” for coupon ideas. All are things people love to do – transform them into a coupon and you’re giving a wonderful experience as a gift.

Think about any talents or special skills you have and use these as a gift. After you’ve brainstormed what you want to do for your friend or family member, cut up construction paper to coupon size and then write/draw your gift of time.

7. Make your own frames. You can pick up cardboard frames at craft stores for less than $10. Shellac pretty paper, quotes or pictures over them and slide in a good photograph.

8. A Music Book. Have a friend you care about who plays an instrument? Head to the music store and buy a book of blank sheet music. Write a letter to them on the first page telling them how much they mean to you and urge them to start writing their own music.

9. A Personalized Journal. If you don’t have the $10 to buy a journal, buy a black and white notebook from the drug store and shellac with pretty paper (link), magazine cut outs, photographs, newspapers (this can make for a really cool look), or quotes. Write a little note in the cover and then wrap that bad boy up.

If you want to get even more personal, you could write a quote or unfinished sentence every few pages or so, to prompt some inspirational writing.

10. A Memory Collage or Scrapbook. I made this for my best friend my senior year in high school and then for a boyfriend in college. I made a list of special memories we had together and found pictures, pamphlets and quotes to describe them. I think each book was about ten pages. I wrote my memory of the event and then added pictures, quotes, stickers, movie/airline tickets.

11. Frame A Favorite Quote. This one is super easy. Take a favorite quote of a friend or family member. Buy a cheap frame. Or if you don’t want to buy a frame, you could take a piece of tag board and cover it with nice paper. Use your best handwriting or favorite font on the computer to write it up. Put in the frame or paste on the tag board. Wrap it up. My best friend framed my favorite line from Robert Frost’s poem Birches when I was 12 years old and gave it to me for Christmas. It still sits on my desk today.
Still stumped? Check out these discussions on Wesabe for great gifts that won’t break the bank.

Ideas For A Frugal But Wonderful Holiday
How To Get Friends/Family To Agree On A Spending Cap This Season

Inexpensive Holiday Gifts

Please feel free to share your ideas here!

Wesabe Partners With Telegraph Media Group

November 11, 2008

It’s a big day here at Wesabe. We’re excited to announce that we’ve signed a partnership with Telegraph Media Group, publishers of The Daily Telegraph, the UK’s biggest selling quality daily newspaper. A co-branded version of our site, called the Telegraph Personal Finance Planner – launches today at Telegraph.co.uk (TCUK):

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With 22.9 million unique visitors in September, TCUK is the UK’s fastest growing quality newspaper website.

This partnership will give Wesabe the ability to help millions of new international members better manage their money and reach their financial goals. It also represents much more than a distribution deal – with the Personal Finance Planner, consumers no longer need to head to a bank or finance site to check their balances. They will now have the opportunity to view their finances in the same place they already turn for news and information. There is tremendous potential here – imagine viewing the day’s news through the lens of your financial goals. Seeing your finances contextualized by what’s happening in the markets or the grocery store.

For our U.S. members, it’s business as usual – this deal will not have an immediate impact on you. It does, however, further validate our view that your banking data should be open and free, and we hope it will lead to additional partnerships. And the larger the Wesabe community grows, the more powerful our aggregate spending trend and tips data becomes.

In looking for ways to take Wesabe global and to start helping more people worldwide better manage their finances, we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Telegraph Media Group. Cheers to our new partner, and welcome to our new Telegraph members.

DivineCaroline.com: Community 3.0?

November 5, 2008

Divine Caroline is a community-based website that describes itself as “a place where women come together to express themselves, find answers, and share life through storytelling.” With more than 100,000 members and an average of 2.3 million unique monthly page views, Divine Caroline is clearly an example of a thriving web-based community.

“Community” is a hot-ticket item in the wide world of Web 2.0. Left and right, websites, blogs and a growing flood of major corporations are making space for communities to grow and flourish.  Explaining what exactly comprises and fosters an online community, however, can be tricky. The online component seems to be the kicker; while geographic communities, ethnic communities and professional communities are more or less readily understood, a web-based community is a different type of animal.

Some of the most popular online communities, such as the ever-loud pack at Daily Kos or zealous followers of mommyblogger Dooce, are sustained by content. At Wesabe, community has flourished in the form of an online forum, a place where one can post a question and receive a hearty amount of free financial advice within a day.

Divine Caroline takes online community to the next level. The site sets itself apart not by its endless stream of comments or well populated forums (though it has those too), but its continual output of fresh, well-written articles on everything from parenting to politics and finance to relationships, the majority written by their own members.

By providing a publishing platform for women (the site caterers to women but welcomes men), Divine Caroline takes the ever important “engage your members” to a new high. By enabling women, for free, to easily submit and automatically publish their stories alongside professional content, Divine Caroline empowers women to share their wisdom. As a result, their site is thick with diverse content springing from a wide range of voices and backgrounds. While a quick browse through the Divine Caroline site would attest to this, I have highlighted a few articles that stood out to me:

“Never Satisfied? Try These Six Negativity Busters”

“Everything Is Better Wrapped in Bacon”

“Eight Easy (and Cheap) Ways to Improve Your House”

“Where Are Our Manners?”

In addition to hosting member content, the website encourages community reviews of products, has active forums, and provides rich member profiles.

Wesabe is now a Divine Caroline partner, meaning you’ll see some of Wesabe’s blog posts and other content highlighted in the site’s Money and Career section. Feel free to check out Wesabe’s profile and some of our stories or join Divine Caroline and build your own profile.

Save $1,000 In 30 Days: Can You Do it?

November 3, 2008

Ramit Sethi, blogger of personal finance and entrepreneurship blog, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, has made a challenge to his readers; save $1,000 in one month. Yes, that’s right folks, follow Ramit’s challenge and by December 1st, he’s betting most of you will have an extra thousand dollars in your pocket.

Ramit has never been a fan of promoting frugality tips like, “start a garden” or “just eat soup”, because he doesn’t believe most Americans are good at deferring their immediate wants. However, he was recently inspired by both a CNN article which cited that “As many as 80 percent of Americans are stressed about their personal finances and the economy”, and his readers many requests for advice on how to save money and decided to launch the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge.

Here’s how it works: Each day in November, Ramit will post one suggestion to cut your spending. If you spend time each day working on the day’s post, Ramit is betting that the most of you will save over $1,000 each month.  And even if you don’t get all the way there, saving $700 is sure better than nothing. For the first 15 days he will post tips of his own. For the last 15 days, he’ll turn to his readers and those following the challenge who have submitted their best frugality tips.

We think the 30 Day Challenge is a great idea and fits quite well with another great idea from Wesabe member CymbidiumKelly, the “No Spend Month”. The tips on how to save from Ramit’s challenge and those that have been shared in the Group’s discussion about the No Spend Month, should help anyone who is looking for ways to save meaningful amounts of money.

Many Wesabe members are following Ramit’s challenge and the No Spend Month, and some are planning to write about their experience, which we’re planning on posting here. We’ll also have a new 30 Day Challenge Wesabe Group where members can post their thoughts, ideas and experiences. If you’d like to join the challenge or the No Spend Month and want to share your experience, we’d love to publish them on our blog! Shoot over a few paragraphs about how one or a few of Ramit’s tips are working out for you to allese@wesabe.com.

Join the “Save A Thousand Dollars in 30 Days” Challenge here.