Archives For Brent Pittman

Each year I pick my Lent. Gross! No, I’m not talking about belly-buttons.

I’m talking about the traditional 40 days of fasting before Easter. Fasting is basically giving up something for a period of time and sometimes involves reflection and prayer.

I don’t practice Catholicism, but I’ve learned to embrace this ancient tradition each year. Why is that?

Why I Practice Lent

1) Helps me focus on what is important: faith, family, friends, fitness, finances.

2) Shows me how I rely on the material world much more than I ought.

3)  Lent has been practiced by many historical role models, who accomplished  much in their lifetime.

4) Teaches me about delayed gratification and saying “no” to myself.

Delayed Gratification

I believe the ability to give up something for a short time, in order to have something more or better in the future is an invaluable skill to develop.

Did you hear about the Stanford marshmallow experiment with kids? Watch a video of the recreated experiment. What would you do?

 

What I’m Giving up for Lent

I’ll share one ‘vice’ I often give up for Lent. Coffee. It is a ritual steeped in mysticism. Some would even call coffee a miracle drug.

Drug indeed. I find that I sometimes get a headache and moody if I don’t get my ‘fix’ in the morning. It is something that I come to rely on. I don’t want to rely on some liquid in a cup. That’s why I give up coffee each year during Lent.

Will I go back, probably so, that smell is intoxicating…the aroma, the foam on a Peet’s latte…ah must focus!

*I’m substituting chocolate in 2015 since we just had a newborn and I foresee sleepless nights ahead.

Ideas for Fasting During Lent

What can you give up (fast) for Lent? A few ideas to spark your imagination:

  • Time- What do you spend a lot of time on each week? Facebook, TV, News, Angry Birds?
  • Energy- Is there something that sucks up a lot of energy from you each week? Perhaps giving that up for a time period? No, you can’t fast your family.
  • Creativity- Is there an activity that limits your creativity and ability to think deeply?
  • Stomach- This is the easiest and most common activity to give up. Coffee, Chocolate, Butter, etc.
  • Health- Do you endanger your health by doing something each day? Perhaps another candidate for Lent.
  • Relationships- What is keeping you from your important relationships and times of connection to God?

Lent may not be for everyone. If you come from a religious Catholic background, you might have even been forced to practice Lent.

I encourage you to revisit this practice and see if it can be a time of refocusing and reflection for your life.

Will you practice Lent this year? What does Lent mean to you? 

Photo Credit Professor Bop (Creative Commons)

Remember those signs that read, “If you break it, you buy it!”? They were usually in those fancy shops where your mom took you when you were a kid. Didn’t you want to touch EVERYTHING in the store?

Of course you couldn’t because they were made of glass or porcelain or some other fragile substance unsuitable for slippery little fingers.

What if you actually picked up one of those little shiny figurines and…oops! CRASH!

If You Break it, You Own it

Now, what do you do? There are several options:

  1. Run and hide.
  2. Make excuses and blame someone else or the circumstances.
  3. Own up to your mistake and confront the not so happy shop keeper.

Will you actually own up to the fact that you broke something as the sign in the shop says and “own it”? Yes, even the little broken pieces on the floor.

This isn’t rocket science, but a gut check on moral responsibility and a reflection of character. Will you do the right thing when the time comes and own up to your mistakes?

The Pottery Barn Rule

I was reminded of this when listening to Colin Powell’s biography It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership in my daily commute.

He is attributed with the Pottery Barn Rule- You break it you own it. (they really don’t have such a rule, but the name stuck) Powell was referring to the Iraq war, when the invasion (breaking) involved a much deeper commitment to the country and region (own it).

The Pottery Barn Rule and Personal Finances

When applied to money, what does the Pottery Barn Doctrine infer? I believe that of personal responsibility for our actions and–yes even mistakes.

  • Paying back our consumer and personal debts even if it takes years.
  • Not easily declaring bankruptcy, not until we’re forced to after a long hard fight.
  • Not engaging in strategic walk aways of homes without having tried to pay back what we’ve committed to pay.

You get the idea. Take responsibility for your actions and mistakes. Clean up your mess. Pay for what you’ve committed to buy. What happens after a mistake is a test of moral integrity and a revelation of our character to the world.

What are your thoughts about the Pottery Barn Rule? How have you applied it to your life or personal finances? 

 

New Year Resolutions

New year resolutions. I’ve never been a fan. I don’t keep them because I don’t make them. I don’t make them because I don’t keep them either.

New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. ~Mark Twain

Most new year resolutions are about how to loose weight and how to manage your money. Why is that? Probably because Americans and Brittans spend and eat too much.

We all need improvement and a new year is a great chance to make these changes.

Make Goals for the New Year

2014 is almost over and you want to change. You want 2015 to better than 2014. Twenty Fourteen has been a tough year for many of you economically, relationally, spiritually…in short its be hard and you’re tired of crying, going backwards, and being hurt. It can be a better year.

This year make goals instead of resolutions. You might have heard this before, but have you actually done it? Have you taken the time to sit down and actually write down goals?

If you choose not to make goals, then you are actually choosing not to achieve and be better. Not deciding is a decision.

5 Easy Steps for Goal Setting

  1. Get away to to a quiet place with a pen and paper or use your I-pad if you are techie for a few hours.
  2. Reflect on the past year. Read a journal (aka your Facebook page), look at your pictures, and journal about the past years pain and triumphs.
  3. Pray (talking and listening) and think about what you need to change. This might included adding or subtracting things, people, or activities.
  4. Write down those things that you are going to change. Yes, write them down and put them in a place where you’ll see them every day. *Bonus Make your Goals SMART
  5. Tell a friend who’ll keep you accountable and help you reach that goal.

SMART Goals

S- Specific 

M-Measurable

A- Attainable

R- Realistic

T- Time Bound

Action: Write your goals and share with a friend or you can share below in the comments. Happy New Year!

(Photo by Rob & Jules)

Does Warby Parker Accept VSP?

I’ve been a secret fanboy of Warby Parker glasses. I dig that they are helping others by providing glasses….The “Buy a pair, give a pair.” has a very TOMSesque appeal.

So hey, I’d like support their mission and look hip at the same time. Then my frugal side wakes up and remembers that I actually pay for vision insurance.

VSP to be exact–the #2 vision insurance provider in the country (54 million) behind #1 Eye Med Vision Care (159 million) according to an study from businessinsurance.com.

So Does Warby Parker Accept VSP?

I started out by searching and found this video:

I was disappointed that Warby Parker doesn’t work directly with insurance providers and I’d have to request a receipt to submit to VSP and wait to get reimbursed.

My motivation for jumping through multiple hoops is generally fairly low–I’m sure i’m not alone.

I’m glad they responded and cleverly with a video too, but it’s the same answer and doesn’t tell me HOW to go through this seemingly complicated insurance process.

It seems overly complex, so I thought I’d help others who also have VSP Insurance and want to wear Warby Parker glasses.

How to Request a Receipt from Warby Parker for Insurance Purposes

You can call Warby Parker at 888.492.7297 (Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. ET) or you can email them for a receipt at help@warbyparker.com.

I called up a friendly WP rep and they said they are able to create a special receipt that has lenses and frames on the same line for the $95.00 price, but they don’t break down the lenses and frames into separate line items.

Of course she recommend that I speak with VSP to ensure my plan will cover out of network–which Warby Parker is.

How to Submit an out of Network Receipt to VSP?

You have 12 months to submit an out of network claim if your plan allows.

Login or call to ensure your VSP plan will reimburse you before you go all Warby Parker hipster crazy. Below is my plan provided through my employer.

VSP Out of Network example

 

You’ll need need to log on to the VSP platform. On the left click on Claims and Reinbursement and then you’ll be directed to start a new claim.

 

Start an out of network claim on VSP

Why Does VSP Hate Warby Parker and other Online Retailers?

I get the impression from this string of comments on the VSP site, that they dislike hate Warby Parker and other online retailers.

1. VSP and Warby Parker are competitors:

“Unfortunately, we can’t add WP to the network because they are a competitor, but we are hoping to have new online solutions soon.” -David, VSP from here.

2. VSP also thinks online retailers have inferior products and “minimal quality standards.”

They even quote statistics from this study in the comments when people asked VSP to add Warby Parker to their preferred vendors:

“Nearly half of prescription spectacles delivered directly by online vendors did not meet either the optical requirements of the patient’s visual needs or the physical requirements for the patient’s safety.”

Just a little about this study…it’s horse poop. How did they determine the top 12 online retailers to test the prescriptions?

“In early 2010, we identified 12 of the most visited Web sites for ordering prescription spectacles online, based on rankings provided by Alexa® Traffic Rank service7 (San Francisco, California) and Google PageRank™ checker8 (Mountain View, California).”

Sounds fancy, but Internet saavy folk know that Alexa can easily be gamed (I’ve done it) and that the PR checker does not determine the amount of traffic, popularity of brands, nor the amount of online orders.

AND this study was in 2010–that’s 60 internet years by my calculations. They also don’t identify the 12 which they drew samples from in this study, so it just seems like a bit of self-serving pseudo science based off old outdated metrics.

Warby Parker Vs. VSP Conclusion

I started out this journey a little disappointed in Warby Parker, but in the end I have a bitter taste in my mouth for VSP.

May upstart companies like Warby Parker continue to disrupt the marketplace. WP, I’ll have to save up for your cool hip glasses since it seems I’ll have to float some out of pocket costs until/if I can get reimbursed.

I’ll also keep my cheap VSP plan and squeeze every dime I can out of it–at least another year until Open Enrollment starts again.

Anyone had success or tips reimbursing your out of network Warby Parker glasses from VSP? Please share below! 

In honor of Halloween, I’ve made a top ten list of the Scariest Financial Products. Mind you this is my list and using these products could be dangerous to your financial health.

Coffee Art: Skull

Are you scared yet?

  1. Viatical Settlement- Care to make some money on someone’s death? Buy a viatical and you get the leftovers from their life insurance policy. Basically you get more money if they die early. How morbid!
  2. Gold Futures- Want to loose sleep for 3 months and become a walking zombie? Investing in gold isn’t a great idea, but gold futures are one the riskiest investments around. Play this game and you could loose your sleep and your shirt!
  3. Zombie Insurance- Need protection against the undead? Look no further…ok this one is a gag, but great idea!
  4. A.R.M.- Want to loose your arm, a leg, and your house? Well, these Adjustable Rate Mortgages will scare the life out of you when the interest rate adjusts beyond your paycheck. Be sure to get a fixed rate mortgage and avoid loosing your body parts.
  5. Post Apocalyptic Insurance- Think you’ll need to eat after the apocalypse happens? There is a solution: Food insurance.  I find it funny that all the pictures on the website are of smiling people.Wipe that smile off your face! The earth is destroyed and almost everyone is dead, but smile because you bought food insurance and you’ll live to see another day.
  6. Whole Life Insurance- This product is scary indeed, especially with all the low cost of term life insurance. You might roll over in your grave when you realize your whole life insurance policy was terrible and you could have bought much better coverage for a cheaper price.
  7. Pay Day Loans- The interest rates you’ll be charged will make you think they are bleeding you to death.
  8. 401K Debit Card- You’ve been saving for retirement for years now. Great….now can I get a card that lets me spend all that money I’ve been saving and investing? What? I have to pay it back with interest? When I leave my job I have to pay it back in full ASAP or I’ll get charged huge tax fees? Yes! This little piece of plastic could make your retirement years a living hell. You’ve been warned.
  9. Any insurance company whose main mascot is a lizard or duck….these talking animals just creep me out. (Some of their products are legit and some are unnecessary)
  10. Tax rates when I “retire“- O.K. this isn’t a financial product, but who knows how high our tax rates will be in 30 years? This one is the most frightening of them all, especially since our national debt keeps growing.
(Photo by Alice Carrier )