Do you ask for discount?

How much does it cost?

My wife thinks I am cheap. She even makes fun of me saying that my motto is this:

Prices are not that bad if you don’t buy anything

Maybe she’s right, because I don’t like to spend money. Don’t get me wrong, I am a boy and I LIKE boyish stuff.

I like motorcycles. I like guns. I like gadgets. I have one motorcycle, two firearms and tons of gadgets.*

Honda XR650L

My little Honda XR650L

But every time when I buy something I feel an emotional pain, because I don’t like to spend that kind of money on stuff. OK, I have to confess, “that kind of money” for me is $20 and more. I know, I know…

I can’t say I am a hog, “Honey, am I?” But for some reasons I resist to pay the full declared price if a purchase costs us at least $50.

Are There Any Discounts?

“Cultures are different” © Captain Obvious

In some cultures you are expected to ask for discount, it’s normal buying routine for people, for example, in Turkey, Emirates and other Middle East countries.

But for some weird reasons in western culture people are afraid to do so. They think it’s an inappropriate thing to do, it is sort of disrespectful attitude to the seller. When I asked my wife why she doesn’t ask for discount, she told me that she would feel uncomfortable.

I created a poll in my twitter and ask if people ask for discount and the results shocked me.  Almost 60% don’t ask for discount, 6 out of 10 people

 

People are afraid to be called “cheap”.

While in some countries you might be called hmm… let’s say “unwise” if you don’t negotiate price, in America we’re afraid to be called “cheap” for doing wise things. And nobody wants to be called “cheap”. I don’t.

To mimic comfort zone when we talk about discounts, bargains, negotiations,  we let’s don’t use this c-word. Let’s use WISE instead. And let’s be counter-cultural and don’t be afraid to get a great deal. Which we all want. And there are some techniques to do so which I’m going to share with you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got 5-10% discount on certain products (even at groceries stores) just by asking one simple question, “Are there any discounts?”

It could be my Russian accent though, and a cashier just afraid to say NO, but I don’t think so 🙂 

Of course, sometimes I get “No” as an answer, very polite but still “No”. I am totally fine with it, sometimes the store might not have any bargains at the time, or a cashier was just brave enough Continue reading

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June 2017 Net Worth Update – $124,365.22

Disclaimer about our Net Worth
We don’t have any deb, non whatsoever. But we use credit cards to earn some miles and get signup bonuses; we pay the whole balance every month. We own a car and a motorcycle, but we do not include the value of these vehicles in our Net Worth. The same for our kids 529s.

June 2017 Update

Welcome to our June 2017 Net Worth update. It’s been three months since I’ve started sharing our financial situation. At first I was scared and uncomfortable, but now I can tell that writing this reports helps us to be more focused and accountable.

June was a great month for our family. Our older daughter finished 3rd grade with great score. The young one came back home from Russia where she had spent 3 months with my parents.

The tomatoes we planted in May has grown from small and tiny plants to huge bushes. I think in July we will start harvesting our first tomatoes.

This person gets the prize for determination, creativity and his or her ability to live like no-one else. I don’t know if s(he) is getting out of debt, saving money for a college or it’s just a small business to supplement household income, but it’s great to know that there are people around who are willing to work hard.  Kudos to you an unknown person.

Speaking of small business. The biggest news from the month of June in our family being my lovely wife started a small online business. She’s in learning stage right now but already got several successful deals. Now we have to learn more about DBA accounts, quarterly estimates and other interesting things about small business operations.

Net Worth Update

I love June, there are a lot reasons to love June: it’s stable nice and warm weather, my wife’s birthday is in June, a lot of plans for summer, and last but not least – 3 paychecks in June (we are getting paid bi-weekly).

Since the last month we’ve increased 401(k) up to the maximum, we also started participating in ESPP program. Remember, you have to pay yourself first.

After that lovely month of June our Net Worth became $124,365.22 (+13,351.62)

Continue reading

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It is the time for ESPP

Recently I’ve already written about one financial mistake I’ve made. Today I would like to talk about another one.

Another mistake

A year after we came to the US I got a job offer from a company I always wanted to work for. It’s a publicly traded company that makes awesome products and has great benefits for employees.

One of the benefits that my employer provides is Employee Stock Purchase Program or ESPP.

This program allows you to buy your employer’s stocks with a discount (usually 10-15%).

There are some restrictions and nuances though that I will explain later.

I’ve been working for three years and haven’t participated in this program. Basically, I’ve been stepping over this “free” money.

At the beginning, we didn’t have enough extra money to buy stock because we were deeply in debt. Later, after we became debt free, we didn’t use this opportunity because I listen too much The Dave Ramsey Show where Dave always says that he doesn’t recommend people to use ESPP option.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Dave’s show. He’s helped more people than any of us, or all of us together. But his advice regarding ESPP is wrong and let me explain why.

How ESPP works

Russian Captain Obvious is watching you

First thing first, you have to work for a publicly traded company. Second, your company has to share this benefit with you.

“Hey, Russian! You’re so smart and… obvious”

Usually ESPP deal works like this:

  1. You have to contribute to ESPP some money, usually it’s percentage from your paycheck. Most of the companies set 10% as maximum limit. The money is taken out from  your paycheck up to the contribution limit. Your contribution is calculated on before tax money but taken after tax.  There’s NO tax-deduction on this money.
  2. There are two purchase periods in a year, 6 months each. At the beginning of a period your employer will start withdrawing ESPP money from your paycheck. This money will be kept in a special account. You can end your ESPP participation any time and get your money back.
  3. At the end of a period all the ESPP money will be used for purchasing company stocks. It will be done automatically by your employer. Your get a discount on the purchase price.  (usually the discount is 15%, but sometimes it could be less or more).
  4. Your employer takes to stock prices: at the beginning and at the end of a period. You get your discount on WHICHEVER IS LOWER price.
  5. You can sell this stocks right away without any restriction. Or you can hold them – it’s up to you.

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It is not about money

FIRE and money

For the last couple of months I’ve read a lot of different FIRE blogs. From new, fresh ones, to pretty old-timers and iconic bloggers.

Unfortunately, almost every post I’ve read was about the same topic. And this topic was money.

Dah… FIRE stands for Finencial Independence Retire Early. What else can FIRE bloggers talk about?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind money. And I definitely don’t mind talking about money. But people tend to forget that money is just a tool for something else, something bigger.

It’s not about money.

Generally speaking the word “retirement” has its own negative aftertaste if you wish. People don’t like it. Plainly it means you’ve worked the whole life and now you’re old. I don’t like this word either.

Don’t live just for money

I’ve been living in Russia for the most of my life and in my motherland this word is even worse than a curse. It means you’re almost dead and living below the poverty level.

Early Retirement in addition to Financial Independence is different. It changes the whole aftertaste of this ugly and unpleasant word “retirement”, at least it does it for me. It changes the whole perspective of my life from “Have to” to “Want to”.

FIRE is not about money, no. Money is just a tool, that gives you FREEDOM. Freedom to chose.

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Smile and wave, boys! Smile and wave

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.
Elbert Hubbart*

I am really sorry but you will be criticized in your life. If you’re planning to do something different there will be people mocking, criticizing and hating you. This is the way of the world.

Some people will never be satisfied. No matter what you do it will be either too much or too little.


Learning from criticism

When I lived in Russia I heard these a lot, “Don’t stand out. Be like everyone!” or “You have nothing to do or what?

As soon as you start doing something different with your life, as soon as you start spreading the word, you will be attacked by critics. You’re a lucky person if the only critics you receive is the constructive one from your family and friends. At least these people have your best interest at heart. But even this can be painful and overwhelming too.

We are all different, and for some weird reasons I can easily deal with criticism coming from my friends and family. Maybe it is a sign of maturity.

You will be criticized and hated by people you have never heard about. Sometimes, even your friends and family get in on the action.

It’s easier, at least for me, to deal with those who have your best interest at heart. And I didn’t say it’s easy. I said it’s easier. Continue reading

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How much time do you spend in traffic?

In Soviet traffic…

It’s been always funny when local people (we live in San Francisco Bay Area) tell us that the traffic is awful. You have no idea how awful traffic looks like. While you’re in traffic here you are still moving and not stuck from bumper to bumper.

When we lived in Moscow (Russia) we used to spend from 1.5 to 3 hours in traffic every day. And I mean IN TRAFFIC, where you car is moving with the speed of a turtle and you have no other options.

45 minutes from home to work wasn’t that bad.

After we got married we rented an apartment in the outskirt of Moscow. Every morning we had to spend 40 minutes to 1 hour to commute to work. And every evening we had to spend the same amount of time to commute back home.

OK, let me explain you something. I don’t know about other cities in Russia, but in Moscow standard average travel time from home to work is 1 hr. It’s an average. That means someone spends less and someone more.

We were average people, spending average time in traffic. There was at least one benefit: we could read a lot of books while we used public transportation. Continue reading

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A story about one financial mistake

I am not that smart as I used to think

Have you been in a situation when you thought you did something smart, but it ended up pretty stupid?

Oh, you have done it as well. Nice, I am not the only one.

When I started working on this post my original plan was to tell you about smart decision we made last February. But after all calculations it turned out to be not so smart anymore. So, I had only two options here:

  1. Delete draft and pretend this has never happened. – Bad choice.
  2. Write a new post, tell you about our mistake, and learn the lesson. – Good, but painful.

In reality though, I had only one option – write this post and tell you the whole story.

Rent in Silicon Valley

We live in one of the most expensive area in the country. Area, where you can see more Teslas on the streets than regular cars. Area, where millionaires usually wear T-shirt and flip-flops instead of a business suit.

We live in Silicon Valley.

You know the rent situation is bad when your colleagues and friends share this video with you.

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Living The American Dream – Millionaire Before 50

The United States has always attracted people from all over the world. It’s been a dream land for many. People come to America every day in hope for better life for themselves and their families. All these families have a unique reason for immigration but at the same time they have a lot in common.

This blog is my story, a first generation immigrant from Russia. But there are also a lot of  other immigrants with interesting stories and  I would like to share them with you.

Today I would like to introduce you Menard a 45 years old immigrant from Philippines.

Menard blogs over at MillionaireBefore50.com and has a lot of stories to share with all of us. My favorite post are What 20 years in America has taught me about money and Rich Mom, Poor Dad: a tribute to my mom who saved us all

I asked Menard if he would like to be the first  featured person in my series of posts and surprisingly he said yes.*

immigrant millionaire

Way to go, Menard! Way to go!

Without further ado then, let’s start our interview.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your blog.

Millionaire Before 50 himself

My name is Menard. I’m a 45 years old software engineer who blogs semi-anonymously @ MillionaireBefore50.com. It’s a blog about getting rich through sound handling of personal finances. My niche is dual-income immigrant families with kids and regular jobs.

I picked the domain name because it’s S.M.A.R.T. — The name is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Being a millionaire before the age of 50 is a realistic and achievable goal for most people.

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Don’t let your past define your future.

What about your future?
Charles Kettering future

Can you answer just one question? What does you future look like? We all dream sometimes about the future and think how great it would be to learn or do something, like learn how to play tennis or a musical instrument. Or something like this, “It would be awesome to become FI in 10 years”.

And then this “but” word comes with all the excuses you can imagine:

  • Yes, but I don’t have these skills.
  • Yes, but I’ve never done it before.
  • Yes, but I have tried and it hadn’t worked, so I will fail again.
  • Yes, but I am not given this.
  • Yes, but etc*.

All this excuses come from our past. Why is that? Why does your past define your future?

Have you ever been in a situation like this: you wake up in the morning, and  just opened your eyes. You see your spouse lying next to you. It’s morning, she is slipping and hasn’t said a word to you but you already feel something to her. And this something comes from your past. You had a great evening and night yesterday; you fall asleep together and it was great – you feel love and tenderness. Or maybe you had a huge fight, maybe you had a big argument last night about something. You open your eyes and see her, and immediately your feeling would be completely different. All these feelings also came to you from you past.

That’s how almost all the people live. They live in the present that came from their past. And their future is nothing but the reflection of their past decisions. Their past defines their future.

Our past controls our present and future

This scheme shows that your present was defined by your past. And your current present defines or forms your future. It’s like sitting on a train that goes from point A to point B and there’s no way to get somewhere else. You final destination is already known and projected at the beginning of your journey. Continue reading

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May 2017 Net Worth Update – $111,013.60

Disclaimer about our Net Worth
We don’t have any deb, non whatsoever. But we use credit cards to earn some miles and get signup bonuses; we paid the whole balance every month. We own a car and a motorcycle, but we do not include the value of these vehicles in our Net Worth. The same for our kids 529s.

May 2017 Update

Welcome to our May 2017 Net Worth update. This is the second time when we are sharing our underwear financial status, and I am still a little bit nervous.

May was a great month for us. The biggest and most important thing that happened in May was my baptism. It was a big a serious decision for me because I had been “baptized” before being a 6 month old baby in a Russian Orthodox church. I’m from a place where evangelical churches (Baptist churches especially) have been persecuted all the time, and word “evangelical” was and still is identical to “sect”, it took me almost 3 years to take this step. And on May 21st, 2017 it happened, I was baptized in the name of the Lord. Hooray.

In April we moved from an apartment to a duplex that has a small, tiny-tiny backyard. It’s really small, but enough to plant some greens & vegetables and we Mrs. FR did. I was reluctant to this idea just because it required some initial investments aka spendings for tools, soil fertilizers and seeds. But my wife, being a wise woman, did it anyway. And now we are growing 5 tomatoes (one of them is volunteer), couple of bell peppers (also volunteers), cucumbers, greens and daisies.

Do you see these tomato cages? I got them for free.

May and the whole summer is usually pretty crazy at work. May was the last month before WWDC. Thousands of people have been working really hard to make the fellow Apple fans and app developers happy and excited about the new features for iOS, MacOS and WatchOS.

And I almost forgot about my 4 years “Ameri-versary”. Yes, it’s been 4 years since I’ve come to the States. You can read a story about my first paycheck in America.

Net Worth Update

And now it’s time for our net worth update. Since April 2017 we made significant progress and our Net Worth became $111,013.60 (+8,676.38) Continue reading

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