*** the title initially had the wrong number of balls; it’s now corrected.
My father has always loved to golf. For those unfamiliar with golf, it is best described as “a good walk spoiled.” It’s a sport in which rich old men waste away their time, money, and sanity chasing the ever elusive perfect round of golf.
In my teens I worked at a little 18 hole par 3 golf course within walking/biking distance of my home. I got paid to drive around in a golf cart. I got 50% off food at the clubhouse (probably around $2/meal after discount if I remember correctly). I got to golf for free. It was a pretty good deal.
Golf is as addictive as cocaine. This, I believe, is why it appeals to the best athletes from all sports. One of my parents’ best friends in college was a star QB who went on to play in the NFL and even win a super bowl ring (which I got to try on as a kid; a fun memory). The dude is as avid of a golfer as I know.
Over time, I become less interested in the game. It’s expensive. It’s frustrating. And it takes up your whole day. As a single dude it didn’t matter much, but as a father of many children I can’t justify being away from the family for an entire day to hit a white ball in a hole.
Costco is within walking distance of our home. They received a special shipment of Kirkland Signature (their generic brand) golf balls the other day, which are currently out of production due to litigation from Titleist. These Costco balls are apparently as good as Titleist’s well known ProV1, a ball that sells for 3X the price.
I spent $1,322 on 41 boxes of them (984 balls total). And might go back for more. Why? I present a few possible explanations.
1.) I am insane.
Plausible. I won’t rule this out.
2.) I wanted to use this as an experience to teach my 10 (and 9) year old daughters how to make money.
One of my favorite parenting tactics I’ve learned/developed is to empower my kids to make financial decisions. Want that toy or special treat? Then buy it with your money. Don’t have money? Either 1.) make the money yourself or 2.) put it on “the Christmas/birthday list”. Our kids have long ago learned not to whine when they see something they want. They simply deal with the fact that if they want something that they will either have to “put it on the list” and hope to get it later or buy it with their own money.
I have never done retail arbitrage before, nor do I think it is a particularly worthwhile endeavor. But I thought that this could serve to be a useful teaching moment for my oldest kids. The balls currently sell for 2X Costco’s price on eBay. After selling and payment fees, there is probably a $5-10/box potential profit there. As a 10 year old kid, $5 is not a trivial amount of money. Especially if they made that $5 themselves through the magic of entrepreneurship. My oldest daughter put in $200 of her own money on the deal. I’m excited for my daughter(s) to go through the process and see how to 1.) list something, 2.) decide on an appropriate price, 3.) calculate profits after fees, 4.) understanding the value of having capital for investments.
3.) Given how much my father likes golf, yet manages to lose a dozen balls per round, why not make it a less costly endeavor for him?
The man buys regularly buys golf balls at $3/piece. The Costco ball is roughly 1/3 the price. So when he loses 10 balls per round, why not help him to minimize the cost of his hobby?
I’m not sure the exact reason why I spent $1.3k on golf balls over the past few weeks, but I think it’s a tie between #2 and #3. Worst case scenario I call it a gift to my father, which perhaps indicates that I’m crazy (#1).
Speaking of opportunism, I passively monitor deals and think you should too. I use two tools: RSS and CamelCamelCamel.com. If I’m looking for a used bike on Craigslist, I’ll place an RSS feed on the product (for a given keyword men and “mountain bike”, for example) and have it show up in Feedly whenever a new bike pops up. If I’m looking for something specifically on Amazon, I set a price alert on CamelCamelCamel.com and wait for them to email me. Just this morning I purchased a smart irrigation controller that was 35% off. It was a deliberate purchase, one that I have been considering for well over a year. Last month I purchased 25 quarts of full synthetic motor oil for $13/5qt after rebate. I found out about this deal through the site SlickDeals.net. My specific query at that site was “0W-20″ rebate. Here’s the URL to the query: https://slickdeals.net/newsearch.php?q=%220w-20%22+rebate&pp=20&sort=relevance&previousdays=-1&forumid%5B%5D=all&forumid%5B%5D=30&r=1 and the corresponding URL to import into Feedly: https://slickdeals.net/newsearch.php?rss=1&q=%220w-20%22%20rebate&pp=20&sort=relevance&previousdays=-1&forumid%5B%5D=all&forumid%5B%5D=30&r=1. Most sites, such as CraigsList and Slickdeals have RSS links. Simply perform your query, then locate the RSS link. Copy the jibberish URL it produces into Feedly, and Wham, you’ve just created yourself a passive way of monitoring deals. The only active effort required on your part is to sort through the listings that come your way. If you want less junk in your RSS feed, lean to develop more pointed search phrases. One of my favorite querying techniques is using quotes around exact phrases, such as the “0W-20” in my motor oil query.
For those thinking I’m irrational for changing my own oil, I have a few responses. 1.) It’s dirt cheap to do it yourself (< 1/3 the cost of having it done), 2.) It’s easy to do yourself, and 3.) It’s time efficient to do it yourself. You don’t have to drive across town, leave a car somewhere, etc. You just do it in 30 min at your home.
Speaking of bulk purchases, we have 5 kids and it seems that they are often invited to birthday parties. I think it was after our first child was invited to her second party when we realized that frantically shopping for birthday presents before a party sucked. Since then, we’ve methodically hoarded cheapish presents we liked. A few days ago we purchased seven “Loopin’ Chewie’s” from Walmart for $9/piece, not because it was a particularly good sale, but rather because we simply didn’t want to have to deal with this again for a while. For the board game nerd, this is a well made knock-off of the cult classic “Loopin’ Louie.” For the non-board game nerd, the original game was written about in the WSJ a few years back: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-looping-louie-found-new-life-as-germanys-favorite-drinking-game-1415833949. It’s a fun game for kids and adults of all ages. But it’s this little life hack that greatly simplifies our lives. Birthday party? No problem, we’ve got the gift covered. No thinking. Just grab the box, wrap it in newspaper, slap a home made card on the sucker, and there you go. No panicking. Life simplified.
Sorry for the unintended rant on the Frugal Professors purchasing behavior. If you can take anything away from this rant, I hope it’s the following:
- Use RSS readers. Seriously, this is perhaps the biggest life hack I employ. It’s often the highlight of my day. I probably have around 50 feeds I’m subscribed to, some of which only publish once per year while others publish daily. For my own blog, I’m shocked that email subscribers outweigh RSS subscribers. If you don’t use RSS, sign up for Feedly today. The wonderful world of RSS awaits you.
- Buy items you use in bulk when the price is right or simply to not have to worry about it. Motor oil, birthday presents, laundry detergent, etc. If it’s not perishable and you have room for it, stock up.
- Automate your life. I don’t actively search deals. I simply create systems for informing me of good deals and I act on them when they pop up. It’s way better than looking at weekly ads and being induced to buy crap you don’t need in the first place.
- Give financial responsibility to your kids. Have them buy their own crap. It is of the best parenting decisions we’ve made.
The Bank of FrugalProfessor
One more Easter egg in the blog post. The below is how we manage our kids finances. If they get birthday money from grandma, or a dollar from the tooth fairy (none of that multi dollar nonsense****), then it goes on the sheet. If they buy a toy at the store, the expense goes on the sheet (with sales tax, of course). It’s fun to see the history of their financial decisions. My oldest daughter is old enough to recognize that most of her past purchases are junk toys now (kind of like me reviewing my purchase history at Amazon). I’m hoping that this teaches her to purchase less in the future; we’ll see if it catches on. Oh yeah, they earn 8% interest (compounded annually) in the bank of FrugalProfessor. A hilarious entry occured in May of 2017 and is noted as “room swap” for Megan and Emily. The two were sharing a room and it was a disaster. We ended up doing a major reshuffling of children in our house and we imposed an ultimatum. One of them had to leave. The one that stayed had to pay the one who left. I started the bidding off at $5, then $10, and so on. The first one to accept the offer would receive that amount from her sister in exchange for changing rooms. The final price that Megan accepted was $20, a net $40 swing for her (having avoided paying $20 in the process). Is this maniacal? Perhaps. I’ve spent far too many years in college learning about economics to not try to implement a few ideas in my home. Another funny entry is in March of 2016. I think 3 or 4 of my kids pooled together their money to purchase Jelly Bellies at Costco in bulk. It was a brilliant maneuver on their end, since the cost of infinite candy is really cheap. It was of the few times in my parenting life that I lamented the fact that my kids got a good deal. I’m not sure why this feat hasn’t been repeated in recent months, but I hope they don’t remember their genius plan. Oh yeah, the other time I lamented my kids smart shopping was when they realized they could purchase infinite stuffed animals from thrift stores for almost free. And now these near infinite stuffed animals are overtaking our home, but we can’t get rid of them because they are beloved family members.
**** Our oldest daughter recently went to the dentist, who told her that he’d have to pull a tooth if she didn’t lose a baby molar in the next few weeks. Apparently the adult tooth was coming in and it was going to be problematic if the tooth didn’t come out. I don’t know the exact cost for professional tooth extraction, but I made a rare exception this time and tried to incentivize my daughter with $2 extra dollars ($3 total) for pulling out her own tooth. Well, the tooth came out two nights ago. Not sure if the incentive had anything to do with it, but I’m happy to not be paying the dentist for an extraction.