It’s almost that time. Our mattress is about ten years old.

I shudder to think how we will survive.

Is it time to replace our mattress? “The industry” says consumers should replace a mattress every five to ten years. But “the industry” has a lot to gain from selling me a lot of mattresses over my lifetime.

Consumer Reports has said you can keep your mattress as long as you like. If you’re getting good back support, no sagging, and a good nights sleep then your mattress is doing its job.

Nonetheless the months are counting down to the time we have to go mattress shopping. Also known as “the most useless shopping experience that you hope works out.”

Really, you think laying down on a mattress in the store for 30 seconds is going to give you an idea of what to expect over the next decade? Eesch. I wish we could just duplicate the mattress we have!

I bought my mattress in college when I moved out of the dorms and into a duplex. It was delivered by a nice guy who carried it in all by himself. That’s about all I remember.

I paid somewhere in the $600 to $700 range for a pillowtop something or another. I think it’s a Serta. It’s comfortable. Best mattress I’ve ever slept on.

But now there are $1,000, $2,500, even $3,500 mattresses out there. Are they worth it?

Running the Numbers on Buying a New Mattress

I won’t be dropping multi-thousands of dollars on a mattress. I just honestly can’t believe that there is that big of a difference between a $1,000 mattress and a $3,500 one unless we’re talking the difference between normal springs and fancy, NASA-grade foam. (I prefer the normal springs, too.)

I will argue there can be a huge difference between a $300 mattress and a $750 mattress, but that’s just my experience. If you find a $300 mattress you love, then buy it, sleep on it, and enjoy it.

If you are hesitant to drop $750 on a mattress, even if you find it more comfortable than a cheaper option, let’s do some math before walking out of the store.

Cost Per Day, Month, and Year

Let’s assume there are two scenarios: one where you keep a mattress five years and another where you replace only once per decade.

Now let’s take your target mattress cost and divide it up over the days, months, and years of those two time periods.

Our $300 mattress over five years would cost us:

  • $0.164 per day
  • $5 per month
  • $60 per year

Over ten years the same mattress would cost:

  •  $0.082 per day
  • $2.50 per month
  • $30 per year

Seems like a fantastic value either way if it holds up that long.

Now let’s look at the $750 mattress. Here’s what five years looks like:

  • $0.411 per day
  • $12.50 per month
  • $150 per year

And over 10 years:

  • $0.205 per day
  • $6.25 per month
  • $75 per year

What are you willing to pay?

I’m not arguing the $750 is superior in every way. But if they last just as long and the $750 mattress is more comfortable, you have to ask yourself, “Would I pay an extra 12.3 cents per day to get a better night’s rest? Or an extra $3.75 per month? Or a whopping $45 per year?”

When you look at it in that context the more expensive and supposedly more comfortable mattress is a far better deal. $300 is pretty cheap for a mattress and it probably pretty basic. I’d gladly pay more than double that to get a pillow top from a name brand that I knew would last.

The incremental cost of each day, month, or year is so small that it seems like a no-brainer. We spend 1/4 to 1/3 of our lives asleep in bed. Paying for one that allows for the best rest seems like a smart idea to me.

How much was your mattress and how long have you had it?

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When Frugal is Dumb: Earbuds

by Kevin on March 31, 2014

Every so often do you look back at a decision you made and just shake your head?

What was I thinking? I’m such a doofus.

I’ve been traveling more for work and to maximize the hours in the air I bought an iPad Mini. (The nice one with the “retina” screen.) I’ve loaded it up with podcasts, Evernote, and photos of my family. I could do all of these things with my smartphone, but I need to conserve battery when I travel all day. The iPad Mini’s battery lasts well beyond my needs on the plane.

My guess is the passengers around me wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to listen with me to podcasts from NPR’s Planet MoneyMichael Hyatt on productivity and business leadership, or Pat Flynn talking about making money online. (Although all three would definitely be good for them to listen to!)

I had an old pair of earbuds that a friend had gotten at a conference and pawned them off to me. They were … fine. They didn’t stick in my ears really well. (I’ve always felt I have a weird ear “inlet” and nothing ever really fits into it like a “normal” person.) They were covered in that fine mesh you find on microphones. 

So off I went into the skies with these old earbuds that I had to push back into my ear several times an hour due to the natural bouncing of a plane through the air.

I thought about buying new earbuds, but passed off the idea. “These are fine and do the job,” I told myself. “New earbuds would be expensive or sound worse.”

The weeks and trips went by until, much to my dismay, the black mesh over the earbuds got torn thanks to living in my backpack. Now they really felt weird in my ears and … well… fine. I’ll look to see what I could buy.

I sauntered over to Staples.com’s Daily Deals section. Typically there isn’t anything super exciting in this area, but some familiar earbuds popped up this time: Sony’s MDREX58V. 

How did I know them well? These same exact earbuds were a Daily Deal a few months ago. I purchased a bunch of them to sell on Amazon. I made a small profit and didn’t keep one set of earbuds for myself. (Doofus!)

Thankfully they popped back up on the deal and I snagged a pair for $9.99 plus tax. I passed on buying a bunch more to try and resell because I wasn’t the only one that thought of that last time. I was breaking-even and losing a few cents on each earbud I sold at the end. (The first 20 I sold had high enough margins to cover the losses at the end and still end up with a profit, but I digress.)

I tried the new earbuds on my trip last week and let me just say… they were amazing. Possibly the best $10 I’ve ever spent for traveling purposes. They have a rubber, flexible end so they fit in my ear really well and block out the noise around me. They aren’t noise-canceling by any means, just a great fit that allows me to listen to my podcasts without hearing the stuff around me.

The earbuds were snug, had great sound, and I don’t think I had to push them back into my ear on any of my flights.

All for $10.

Which means I was being the dumb kind of frugal: I ignored significant upgrade in my life because I didn’t want to spend $10. Granted, a $10 set of earbuds could be a terrible waste of money. But with 600+ reviews on Amazon (and a solid 4-star rating) I was just a doofus for passing on them in the past.

When was the last time you were a “doofus” by being too frugal?

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I spent last week in Phoenix, Arizona on a business trip. Whenever I fly for business I have a note saved in my Evernote account with a full packing list. (I tend to forget things these days… I’m told having a baby in the house will do that to you.) 

On that list is everything I need to put in my toiletries bag: allergy medicine, vitamins, shaving cream, and a razor.

I went through my packing list item by item, yet still somehow showed up to Arizona without my razor in my bag.

I discovered the omission around 10:30pm Sunday night. The local pharmacy stores would likely be closed by the time I got there, and I didn’t want to try and find a Wal-Mart.

The hotel was nice enough to bring me a free “razor”… but I’m not even sure you can call it that. It was a piece of plastic with two metal blades that felt like it had been recycled from a lumberjack’s shaving routine.

In other words it was extremely dull and didn’t really do the job. 

I needed to buy a razor despite having a cabinet of them back at the house — frustrating. Nonetheless I looked around online and found a really cool thing that Target does these days: mobile coupons.

Target has two mobile coupon options, and you can use both: 

  • Their new Cartwheel app
  • Text Messages with links to unique website coupons

My deal was on the text messaging side, and this is how it works.

First, you sign up online to allow Target to send you coupons via text: http://www.target.com/spot/mobile/landing

Then you get a text message and are asked to confirm that you actually wanted to sign up.

Next they send you a coupon of what they send everyone.

But if you just stop there you are missing out on some savings. Target releases several different coupons throughout the months and year with a phrase you can text back to them. In return you get another unique set of coupons. 

I was able to text “BAREURHAIR” and got 5 haircare product coupons back. The first one was $2 off a Gillette razor.

I scooted down to the giant red-dotted store and picked up a razor. The checkout experience was very easy. I clicked on the URL that Target had texted back to me, my set of coupons loaded with a giant barcode at the top, and the cashier scanned my phone for instant savings.

It was really slick. 

The Cartwheel app is a little different. It’s like having a coupon wallet on your phone. Except the coupons are from Target, and you can only hold 10 at a time. (There are over 500 available discounts available on the app as of this writing.) I’ve yet to find a discount in the Cartwheel app that I could use, but if you do a majority of your shopping at Target I’m sure you could find something to fit what you need.

In the end I saved a measly $2. But for the effort I put into it, especially for something I was definitely going to buy anyways, $2 is still $2. (And it bought me shaving cream to go with the razor, too.)

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Your Cinderella Finance Story

by Kevin on March 28, 2014

The Dayton Flyers have pulled it off. They entered the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed and facing large statistical odds to advance.

They beat the team that refuses to play them — #6 Ohio State. For that win they were given the privilege of playing  #3 seed Syracuse. The same team that earlier in the year were 25 and 0, not having lost a single game. But Dayton beat them, too.

The Cinderella title was firmly in place. They were overcoming odds, continuing down the tournament, and now faced #10 seed Stanford. From a pure seeding perspective it wasn’t so much an upset as just a quality game.

Dayton is now in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984. Thirty years have gone by.

Are You Cinderella?

What’s your financial story?

Are you the top seed coming into the tournament? Doing everything right, saving for retirement, and sitting on a massive emergency fund?

Or are you struggling to get by, making mistakes, and looking to turn things around?

Here’s the good news: you can choose to be the Cinderella finance story. Today. Now. 

You don’t need to wait for a tournament to come out. There’s no bracket, no seeding required.

You have the capability to say enough is enough, I’m ready to defy the odds and turn this “team” around.

How to Become a Financial Cinderella

Alright coach, how do we defy the odds like Dayton? Start here:

Realize Your Situation

Being aware of your financial situation is the first step in making changes. If you are driving blind you won’t have much success. 

Basketball teams track stats and work to improve them. But they can’t improve what isn’t tracked, so your starting point is gathering all of your financial information to figure out what is going on first.

Grab the Coach’s Whiteboard

Then you grab the coach’s whiteboard and sketch out a plan. 

Cut spending here. Work a little more over there. Get creative with meals here.

Whatever it takes, whatever play we need to come up with in order to win the game.

Successful planning in this stage is based on the data we have. You know your opponent likes to drive to the left to the basket so you set your defender up to block his path and force him to go right. 

You know what your gaps are and you plan to close those gaps.

Execute on the Play

The play is drawn up. The referee signals it is time to break the huddle.

It’s time to execute on the play.

The thing is… not every play works. Turnovers happen. Shots go up and badly miss. 

That doesn’t stop the players from coming back down the court to execute on the next possession. It doesn’t stop them from playing tough defense when the opponent has the ball.

It shouldn’t stop you either.

You’re going to make mistakes along the way with your finances. Get back up, dust yourself off, and execute on the play you have drawn up. Continually call timeout to assess the situation, grab the whiteboard again, and draw up a new play if needed.

This is the path to financial success. You could be Cinderella this year. Don’t wait, the big dance is waiting for you.

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