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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Instead of a Rant about TIAA Reps, An Uplifting Story About Small Frugalities Adding Up

I just got off the phone with TIAA, where 3/4 of my net worth resides. Two out of three reps made me upset (with the first, I cried). They must have terrible training scripts!

But instead of writing about that experience, I will share a happy story about small frugalities. I am a pennywise person. I don't think I'm pound foolish, but I'm definitely not poundwise. Every time I try to save on a big ticket item (insurance, for one thing), I end up confused and frustrated.

Generally it's hard to figure out what effect these small frugalities have. Sometimes I feel like I'm nuts: I will NOT spend that for a jar of peanut butter! That kind of thing. Finally, though, I have some evidence of how things add up. Miss Em graduated last May. She just got her final settlement check from her university. Yes, a check FROM her university. It was pretty hefty for a recent grad.

$1600 of the check was for Dining Dollars. Each semester, students are required to buy $300 in Dining Dollars. This is mostly for coffee and snacks at the campus Starbucks, but can be used in the dining halls and at some off-campus venues. Miss Em reports that many of her friends blew through the money in a few weeks. Miss Em obviously spent some--out of $2400 (8 semesters), she spent $800. She said, I used it to go out with friends, not to get caffeine. She pointed out that--in addition to her dorm room where she had a coffee and teapot--she had access to the free coffee in various organizations and offices, in her case, the Honors College, the University Fellows Program office, and Creative Campus. She also carried her little thermos everywhere. In fact, the Starbucks was rather out of the way for her so the thermos was a time- as well as a money-saver for the most organized and time-efficient member of my family.

You go girl!

P.S. The check covered her new laptop and she still has some left over.

P.P.S. Should I move my money to Vanguard when I retire?


Shelley said...

I know what you mean about the big purchases being harder, though I generally feel I figure most stuff out. I do think the small things add up if done consistently; your daughter has obviously proven this. I hear good things about Vanguard, but don't know much about them. I'd definitely move my money away from people who make me cry!

SewingLibrarian said...

I'm moving my Tiaa-Cref out now, at least as much as I can. I have quite a bit in traditional Tiaa, and I can't take that out all at once, as I'm sure you know. We have a new finance advisor, and I like being able to sit across the table from him (and his female partner) rather than going through Tiaa's phone tree. Our advisor did say that Tiaa is one of the hardest companies he's ever dealt with for his clients.

Lily Lambeth said...

I am sad to hear you had a bad experience. Thinking about retirement should be fun! Will you share the kind of teapot your daughter had in her room? I want to get one but I don't know the best solution. Thanks so much and I have learned so much from your blog and book.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley--A lot of time I CAN'T figure it out--ugh.

@SL--Hmmmm. Maybe I'm not the only one with these issues. I like traditional TIAA--many people who don't have access to guaranteed funds envy those of us who do. So I will probably never leave totally. I am thinking of moving the bulk to Vanguard--of course, I may dislike their customer service too.

@Lily--She had one of those electric kettles (the kind with auto-shut-off). They cost around $25.00 and are safe in dorms. In addition, she had loads of tea accessroies--a glass pot, various straining devices etc. Tea is her thing. She loves the ritual. The only necessity is the kettle!

Thanks for the kind words about our book! I would love to get more details! So glad it helped.

Unknown said...

We transferred to Vanguard several years ago and have never regretted it. Their customer service will not make you cry.I am pretty sure that you can call and talk to them about transferring and planing it out.

Unknown said...

Whoops,sorry meant planning not planing.

Lily Lambeth said...

Details about what I have learned:
*I try to eat healthy but the pantry items recommended in other books is overwhelming. I am glad to know that I can get so much variety from a reasonable number of items.
* This may sound dumb but I did not know that kielbasa is fully cooked when you buy it so all you have to do is heat and eat it. I am still careful but I know that Hillshire Farms is fully cooked so I don't just pass by it in the grocery store. As a matter of fact, I got it for 1/2 price tonight!
* I bought the pairing knife you recommended (I believe it was for graduate gifts) and found out it also makes a great picnic knife because of the cover included with the knife.
*Before I read your blog, I would not consider buying food from Big Lots. I would have been unsure of the quality. Since you sometimes purchase food from there and are still alive to upload blog posts, I am much braver to consider the beans from there. :-)
These are just a few things I have learned from you and your family. I look forward to every blog post.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Unknown--I may do that--or at least divide my stash between the two.

Frugal Scholar said...

@LilyLambeth--Sorry for the delay in responding. Thank you for the thoughtful comment--we worked so hard putting that info together and are so glad that you find it useful.

Tami said...

I love Vanguard and it's very easy to speak with someone and get answers readily.

I'm so glad we don't have to deal with requirements for our sons' college expenses.

Fortunately, both live off campus, have scholarships and modest expenses. Neither have debt.