Is a Sou Sou right for you?

Also, what is a Sou Sou?  So some of you may have heard of this before but most of you haven’t.  I first heard about it from Planet Money a few months ago and I found it pretty interesting.  You see, a Sou Sou (or sou-sou) is an informal savings group.  Every month or week or other indeterminate length of time, you and your friends put an equal amount of money into a pot, after which the money all goes to one individual in the group.  The order in which everyone gets the money is already set so you know when you’ll get your money.  If there are 12 people in a group and they each save $100 a month, then that means that each one of them will get at least $1200 during one month of the year before the order starts over again.

I may have rushed that explanation a little bit but seriously, I find this savings method fascinating.  It developed in West Africa and the West Indies ages ago and people continue to use it to this day.  Interestingly enough, while doing a little research on it, I found that most young people use it to help pay for going to Carnival, quite possibly one of the most awesome and amazing looking things ever.


Definitely a good use of the Sou Sou.  Definitely.

Definitely a good use of the Sou Sou. Definitely.

But back to the reason I find this fascinating.  See, one of the main problems most people have with trying to establish their financial independence and even with trying to build good habits is a lack of self control and accountability.  What a Sou Sou does is it makes saving a group activity.  If you don’t put in your payment one month, you let down your friends and family and screw them out of their payday.  You break their trust they have in you.  This guilt alone should keep every member of the Sou Sou from letting bad savings habits creep into the mix.

While you’d be better off putting the money into a savings account or an indexed mutual fund and using compound interest to help build your cash, I can completely understand people utilizing this.  First off, it would be sweet to get a nice lump sum amount every once in a while.  I mean, what if the 12 people put aside $100 a week, instead of a month.  That means that every 12 weeks you would get $1200 put in your pocket.  That lump sum right there is amazing!  And you’ve built a good savings habit.  If you take that cash and sock it away somewhere, you’re good! You may have missed out on the interest but the fact remains, you’ve taken control of one aspect of your life and you’re helping others do it as well at the same time.  That’s not just great, that’s admirable!  One of the things I strive for is to help people get their finances under control and begin to take back their lives when it comes to money.  A sou sou can do more for a group of people than I ever could!

If you want to do a Sou Sou, I suggest getting together with close friends and family and putting one together.  Start out with people you trust.  If you want to really branch out there, there’s actually a website you can check out ( that is a sort of online community to help keep you accountable.  In the long run though, you’d probably be better off sticking with your close friends and family.  Trust is always going to be the most important thing when money is changing hands.  If you don’t trust someone, then you probably shouldn’t do a sou sou with them.  Or do business with them.  And definitely don’t tell them embarrassing stories about that time at that place. You know the one I’m talking about.  Definitely don’t tell them that.

So, in other news, I’m really looking for more interesting and innovative DIY finance tricks and tips, like the sou sou, that can help me and others improve themselves in their financial goals.  If you read or hear about anything, drop me a line!  If you’d like to write about it, let me know and we can absolutely feature you on the site.  Until next time!

Change your own oil and save money

I got my oil changed the other day and I got completely hosed.  It’s a simple task and I know how to do it but ever since I’ve lived in California, I haven’t had a place, the tools, or the means to do it myself.  So I’ve paid for someone else to do it for me.  As you can imagine, this eats me up inside.  This past weekend really killed me though.

I got a coupon in the mail for an oil change that would only cost $30.  Great deal if you ask me and it’s the dealership where I bought my car.  They always seemed legit so I hopped over to do it.  Before they began, I got my quote: $80.  Whoa whoa whoa, that is not what the coupon says sir.  But of course, there was a catch.  There always is.  Apparently the coupon didn’t cover synthetic oil and my car was only supposed to have that.  I negotiate the price down but still, I’m pissed.

The next day I’m talking with a friend at work and he tunes me into this ridiculous contraption: an oil extractor.

It looks simple enough, right?

It looks simple enough, right?

Apparently, you buy this thing, put the tube in where the dipstick comes out, create a vacuum with the pump and your oil drains into the container.  No need to jack up the car, no need to get underneath it and have burning oil sear your hand/face.  Simple.  If you’re just changing the oil, it would take maybe 20 minutes, top.  30 minutes if you also change the filter.  If you’re lucky (and chances are that you would be), the filter will also be on the top and you’ll be able to easily change it.

Obviously, you run into some issues with this.  You still have to buy the oil (consult your drivers manual to find out what kind is right) but that usually will only cost $25 to $30, including the oil filter.  The thing you really have to worry about is getting rid of the oil.  It’s toxic and you can’t just throw it away or pour it down the drain.  I mean you can but seriously, think about the fish.  You’re going to eat them later!

Luckily, recycling oil is actually pretty easy.  Most Jiffy Lubes or other places will actually pay you for your oil, 25 or 30 cents a gallon.  If you live in California, you can get paid up to 40 cents a gallon to recycle the used oil.  The reason for this is that it is actually easier to get usable, refined oil out of your used up oil than it is to get it out of unprocessed crude.  So, more and more companies are popping up to recycle the oil and make a few bucks on the spread between what they pay you and what they sell it for.

Overall, changing your own oil might not seem like much but it can save you some money in the long run.  If you drive your car for 200,000 miles, you’ll save over $1,000 in maintenance costs during that time period.  It might not seem like much but since you’ll be paying closer attention to your car, you’re also more likely to notice if anything is actually going wrong way before someone else might.  This will definitely come in handy down the road!

It looks like I’ll be purchasing that oil extractor up above and probably changing my own oil in the future.  I’d rather do things on my own anyway, it saves money and it would just be nice to be something I get back to! Besides oil, what else can one save money on with their car?  I’m guessing brake pads but at the same time, I don’t quite feel like dying will driving down a hill.  Let me know if you have any other money saving ideas when it comes to car maintenance!