Posts Tagged ‘lincoln’

Would You Pay For Your Grocery Bags?

April 23rd, 2010

Last week I went to Washington, D.C., with my wife and mother-in-law.  As a political science major and later law school graduate, surprisingly I’d never been to our nation’s capital.  I had a wonderful time, and hopefully came up with a few blog posts about my trip.

Waiting In Line

There’s no getting around it — when you go to Washington, D.C., you’re going to wait in lots of lines for tickets to enter museums and tours.  On the last day of our trip, I was in line at 9:00am to see the Holocaust Museum, which opened at 10:00am.  We were cold and hungry, and luckily there is a cafeteria next to the museum, so I went inside to grab some coffee and bagels while my wife held our place in line.

You Want Me To Pay For A Paper Bag?

After getting two coffees, a bagel, a doughnut, and a cookie (I know, I know.. not the healthiest food to eat when you’re out of town!), I realized I needed a bag to carry all that stuff outside.  When I asked the clerk, she said she had to charge me 5 cents for a paper bag.  Seeing the perplexed look on my face, she further explained that D.C. had become the first American city to institute a bag fee.  The effort would help reduce waste, and the money collected by the fee would go to help clean up the nearby Anacostia River.

Rationally Irrational Behavior

Instinctively, I declined to pay for a paper bag.  Why on Earth would I pay extra for it?  But once I realized I couldn’t physically carry two burning hot coffees with sketchy lids plus our snacks, I decided to have a moment of clarity and decided to drop a nickel on a paper bag.

Behavioral Economics

It is funny how even the smallest monetary charge deters us from a purchase.  Reports have D.C.’s plastic bag consumption down 60%!  This means people have gone with reusable grocery bags or just try to carry their groceries out by hand.  Of course, it also can have negative economic consequences — there are some people who have chosen to pick up groceries in nearby Virginia or Maryland, with possible higher sales taxes, just to avoid paying 5 cents for a bag!

I find it fascinating that the deterrence has nothing to do with the amount of the charge, but in confronting citizens and forcing them to choose to accept an additional 5 cents/bag on each transaction.  Similarly, we are manipulated when we use plastic over cold, hard cash.  Plastic is painless to swipe, but cash is more of a physical & mental transaction, and you are likely to spend less money when using cash.

Point is, we are all human beings, and subject to subtle manipulation in our financial habits, which have an effect on our lives in different ways.  If this new bag tax doesn’t affect D.C.’s economy, I think it was a great way for the District to promote conservation & recycling.  Of course, it’s a bit IF, so we’ll see how it shakes down.

What about you — would you pay 5 cents per bag?  Are there other instances of ‘behavioral economics’ where you are encouraged/manipulated into making certain financial choices?

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#013 — Lincoln, Darwin, Superstition & Romance

February 13th, 2009

This is quite a Thursday-Friday-Saturday combination of events.  Thursday was the 200th birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.  Today is Friday the 13th.  Saturday is Valentine’s Day.  Let’s get a personal finance quick-hit on each!

Abraham Lincoln:  Preserve the Union

Lincoln knew that ultimately for the nation to succeed, the Union and it’s ideals needed to be preserved at all costs.  In his judgment, both the Civil War and Reconstruction of the South were necessary to move forward.  Nearly 150 years later, our Union remains solid.

In our own lives, we have many trials.  Money mistakes, family break-ups, fights, competition, recessions — they all take their toll.  Take Lincoln’s advice and preserve your ideals.  What fundamentals are  you willing to fight for to preservation of your financial Union? Is it preserving your marriage by communicating on money issues with your spouse?  Paying down debt to enable you to weather the storms that lay-offs and recessions bring?  The tenants of your faith which prompt you to help those in need?  Teaching your children financial responsibility so the fundamentals of your Union are passed on to the next generation?

Charles Darwin:  Survival of the Fittest

Darwin was instrumental in documenting the theory of natural selection.   Favorable traits are passed on as a need for survival, while unfavorable traits die off as they can’t compete.  We don’t need to have a debate on the theory of evolution to take away one huge concept:  the world is vastly changing, and we need to adapt or we’ll be left behind.

So what are ways you are adapting to survive in these tough economic times? In our household, I do contract work, so I’m working as many hours as I can to bank up money.  These project-based jobs do not last forever, and who knows when another will come up?  With the sacrifice of longer hours comes extra income, which we can use to pay off debts, build an emergency fund, and overall reduce risk to our household should our household income take a hit.

Americans are saving more.  It seems that with this credit crunch crisis, we’re getting back to the basics of getting rich slow, building wealth moderately, and saving money.  Get prepared — put aside those unfavorable traits and survive!

Friday the 13th — my 13th Post!

Well it’s my 13th post, and it falls on Friday the 13th!  I wish I could take credit for the stunning coincidence, but I can’t.    So is having a 13th post on Friday the 13th the digital equivalent to crossing the path of a black cat, breaking a mirror, or stepping on a crack?  Stick around and find out!

Do you have any superstitions?  Share them in the comments below!

Valentine’s Day

Yes, I made that heading red on purpose :)

With the big day of romance tomorrow, the pressure is on.  Do you have anything planned for Valentine’s Day?

Actually, the Lovely Miss H is taking a few single friends out to hang with tomorrow.  She’s a great friend, isn’t she?  Also a great wife, because I’m off the hook for coming up with plans!  We’ll have dinner out tonight and keep it low-key.  Besides, every day is Valentine’s Day with me, right H?

Any Valentine’s Day plans?  Do you feel like your significant other places unhealthy expectations on this holiday?

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