Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Act of Kindness

My wife came home from her part time cashier job at a local grocery store this weekend with a great story to share. During her shift a woman in her mid 30's came to her register to check out, as she did an older woman, probably in her 70's stood in line behind her. The younger woman checked out and paid for her groceries. She stayed at the end of the check out as my wife rang up the older woman's order. As my wife announced the told, just under $25 dollars, the younger woman said I'd like to pay for your groceries. The older woman was stunned. She said but I don't even know you. My wife said to the older woman if she is willing, why not let her. The younger woman handed my wife the $25.00 and left. The older woman was still in shock. My wife handed the change to the older woman who was now crying. Repeating that she could not believe what had just taken place. Just like that a random act of kindness, bringing tear to the woman's eyes. The younger woman didn't even wait for a thank you.

My wife shared the story with me as soon as she came home. She also posted it on Facebook. We both enjoyed the many comments by friends, suggesting to pay it forward, and what a great Holiday idea this was. Truly shows you the power of giving, and even makes it that much more powerful when it's a complete stranger. The story instantly reminded me of the Dave Rasmey's "Great Giving Challenge." We will be doing some shopping this week and I hope to find the right opportunity to pay it forward myself.

Have you ever paid for something for a complete stranger? If so what was the reaction?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cleaning out the Closet

I was preparing my closet for some potential Christmas gifts last night, going through my clothes and getting rid of the stuff I no longer wear or just doesn't fit quite right. I have a bag full of stuff that I will donate. I was making room for some new clothes that I typically receive during Christmas. Practical gifts, because I have a job that requires business casual dress. As I went over the clothes in the closet I realized of the 15 or so dress shirts I own only 5 or 6 regularly get worn, the same goes for the 6 or 7 dress pants, only 3 or 4 get regularly worn. It really got me thinking about scaling back my overall wardrobe. I have read a few blog post about the topic. Scaling back on material things, making your life simpler, and in turn saving money.

I could certainly see the advantage of not having a closet full of clothes, it makes getting ready for work, school, etc that much easier. You don't need to look over 15 shirts by 7 pants combinations to come up with a match. If you make it 6 shirts by 3 pants, if really decreased your decision making time. Depending on where you buy your clothes that's some big saving as well. As Christmas day approaches I hope I get some nice new clothes, but this year they new ones will replace old ones keep my closet thin.

Have you scaled back material items in your life? If so has it make life easier? Has it helped you save money?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week End Round Up

Have a great weekend everyone!

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I am now under 600K. Good Stuff.

Here are some posts I enjoined this week:

Free From Broke - LIFE Has A Way Of Screwing Up Budgets

Budgets Are Sexy  - Tip # 478: Unload your $1 bills every night!

Fabulously Broke - Women who save are sexy

Frugal Dad - 2010 Holiday Tipping Guidelines

Getting Rich Slowly - The Dangers of Store Credit Cards

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Budgeting Tips

Set an overall Spending limit - Holiday budget should come from your current disposable income. If you use credit cards for convenience or to take advantage of rewards, make sure you track your spending so that you don’t go over budget. Cut back on things like eat out, entertainment during November and December to boost you Holiday spending fund.

Count every penny - There are a lot of holiday expenses people don’t think about like holiday cards, postage, gift wrap, decorations, food and drink for parties, shipping cost, etc. All of these items should be in the budget.
• Make sure your gift list is complete - The list should include everyone to whom you plan to give a gift — relatives and friends, teachers, mail carriers, co-workers etc.

• Set Limits – Agree upon spending limits with family and friends. If you bake or are could with crafts you make want to go that route to save additional money.

• Set expectations – If budget is tight, let it be known, so no one is disappointed.

• Don’t shop angry, drunk, etc. - Keep those feelings in check when shopping. Keep your list and budget with you always. Don’t overspend because other family members are. When tempted to overspend, remind yourself of what you owe.

• Shop Smart – Find the gifts on your list on sale and buy it. No impulse buying. If it’s not on your list don’t buy it.

Keep track of spending – keep a record of every purchase and use cash to pay for them. Don’t get caught without cash and fall into the credit card trap.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Realization

December is here. Only 24 days until Christmas. As I sat and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with my 3 children last night I couldn’t help falling into the Holiday spirit. Decorations are popping up all overall my neighborhood. My wife has started to get our house in shape. I’m planning on tackling the outside this weekend. I tried to recall when I found out. When the big Christmas myth was spoiled for me. I can’t remember the exact moment, but I recall seeing some gifts in a bag purchased by my parents and later that Christmas receiving those same items from Santa. I don’t think I had that ah-ha moment, it was more of a slow process piecing little things together. Sometime when I was 10 or 11 years old I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I wasn’t shocked. My 3 children ages 11,11, and 8 still believe. My wife and I plan on keeping the secret alive as long as we can. I have a feeling my oldest son and daughter have started to piece things together for themselves, but have yet to say anything.

When the time comes I have faith that they will keep the secret alive for their younger brother. I think that this would be one of those teachable moments to explain to them about savings and budgeting. Sure for them today Christmas is about getting gifts off their wish list, but as they get older it’s more about spending time with family, friends, and giving to others. Giving my children the understanding to save and plan to provide that Christmas experience each year is a valuable lesson.

When/how did you learn that Santa Claus was not real? If you have kids – have them made the realization yet?
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Week End Round Up

Hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I did and I'm still full from dinner. This year is really moving fast. There are 28 day left until Christmas.

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I am now under 600K. Good Stuff.

Here are some of the most interesting post I read this week:

Budgets Are Sexy - Here a Tip, There a Tip, Everywhere a Tip Tip!

Punch Debt in the Face - Am I a puppy murderer?

Get Rich Slowly - Fantasy vs. Reality: Paving a Path to a Promising Future

Frugal Dad - Black Friday Deals: A Savvy Consumer’s Guide

Free From Broke - Think Long Term When Shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Financial Samurai - Who Are You To Tell Me It’s Not Worth The Money?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks

It’s that time of year again family, friends, food, and football. Thanksgiving is here. Typically a nice four-day weekend, with one big kick off nestled in there to really get the Holiday shopping season off the ground. Black Friday! Our family typically doesn’t partake in Black Friday actively. If there is something on our Christmas list that we can get a deal on we may venture out, but often we choose to sit this day out. Thanksgiving for our us is enjoying a great meal with family.

A Turkey.Image via Wikipedia

We often share they things that we are thankful for in our lives. The childrens list can get interesting and quiet funny. Here are the thinks I’m most thankful for:

My Wife – she keeps me in line. :)
My Children – puts lots of smiles on my face and makes me proud
My Job – Good days/bad days but it pays the bills.
My Health – sure I could lose some weight, exercise more, but overall not to bad
Family & Friends – don’t get to see them as often as I’d like
Recession – forced me to change my financial habits and get things on track

It’s a pretty standard list up until the Recession entry. For me the recession was the bottom, it was the point that I could not refinance any longer, or increase my line of credit. I had to find other answers. It forced me to cut spending, close my credit cards and get my finances on track. So for it, I’m thankful. I know for others it’s not  something they will ever be thankful for.

Happy turkey day!

Will you be venturing out on Black Friday? What things are you thankful for?
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Other Peoples Money

My wife recent came down with a toothache. She made a dentist appointment and was seen. The dentist addresses the pain, but follow up work was needed. The follow up work would take a few additional appointments with a total cost with insurance of roughly $900. Ouch! At the front desk my wife asked what were her option for appointments, payments, etc. She would need 3 follow visits to complete all of the work and payment in full would need to be made at the time of the final appointment. My wife explained that she would hold off making any appointment for now. The woman at the desk asked why? My wife explained that she did not have the cash to cover the work at this point. The woman said why not put it on your credit card. My wife explained that she would pay cash when she had it and would make an appointment at a later date. The woman again suggest that she need the work and she could pay on credit card. My wife explained again that this was not an option and left the office.

I understand the concept of payment must be received at the time of service. I would also like to have my wife's teeth address so she does not have any further issues. We both certainly don't want to finance the cost to have the work done. I was surprise as my wife retold me the story at how quickly the woman at the dentist office was to over advice on how we should spend our money. That a credit card was a good way to cover medical cost. We will make the arrangements to cover the cost and have my wife's teeth address in the near future. Payment will be made in cash!

Have you every been offered financial advice by a complete stranger?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Debt and Social Media

I have recently heard a number of stories about a new weapon in the debt collector arsenal, social media.  Think about all the information that is now shared online via Facebook and Twitter. A great way for that debt collector to find out more information on your current situation, where you going, eating out, buying something new, posting recent vacation photos etc.

Just think of all the status updates you provide and how they could relate to your financial state. If you have outstanding debt and are not current on it, it’s probably not a good idea to be showing off a new purchase on Facebook. It’s a simple rule, that any of us with kids have discussed, be careful what you post online, potential employers may see it, colleges, friends, etc. It’s really about common sense and protecting one's own privacy. Make sure you check privacy settings on any of the social media application that you make be using and think about what you are posting before you click submit.

Have you ever posted something online that you regretted?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week End Round Up

42 days left before Christmas. Ouch. This year is moving fast.

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I am now under 800K. Good Stuff.

Here are some of the post that I enjoyed this week:

Punch Debt In The Face - Does the economy have you down?

Faithful With A Few - 4 THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T PAY FOR't-pay-for/

Free From Broke - Ways To Increase and Improve Your Credit Score Without a Credit Card

Get Rich Slowly - Make More Money: How to Supercharge Your Income

Frugal Dad - Stop Being a Slave to Debt (and Banks)

Have a Great Weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Debt Collector Calls

I received a call from a debt collector this week. It wasn’t for me, but a family member. I explained that they did not live or could be reach at the number dialed. I asked the collector not to call my number again. When I asked her to confirm my request, she proceeded to get rude with me, annoyed that I asked her to confirm my request she stated that she did hear me. After her confirmation I ended the call. 

The family member in question I have little contact with, but assuming that we share the same last night the debt collector is looking for anyway to get in touch to try and collect the debt. This brief call was frustrating enough and it wasn’t even for me, I couldn’t image having these types of calls coming in for me. I’m hopeful that the family members get their finances straightened out. If we were on better terms I would offer what help I could, information on how to get out of their financial trouble. As bad as you may think you have it, someone always has it worse.

Have you ever tried to help a family member with their finances? If so what were the results?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do you need to be Downsized?

A new television show premiered this past Saturday on the We network called "Downsized." It follows the Bruce family, a blended family (kids from previously marriages) who are currently struggling with their finances. The Bruce's have 7 children under the age of 18 and live in Arizona. The full details of their finance woes look to be detailed over the season, but during episode one we learned that Dad, Todd Bruce's contracting business is in bad shape, they have lost their house and vacation home to foreclosure, they have filed for bankruptcy, they are on food stamps, and are having trouble paying the rent. Wow! I would recommend you give this show at try. It is interesting to see how the kids deal with the difficult times and how the parents communicate the financial situation to them. Please see web site for more info on the show:

Did you watch this show this weekend? If so what did you think?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week End Round Up

Another Busy week. I was not able to post as often as I would have like this week or read as many PF blogs. :(

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I started with a Alexa ranking of over 4 million and within 5 weeks I’m under 900K. Nice!

Here are some of the post that I enjoyed this week:

Yakezie - Weekly profiles of great blogs.

Frugal Dad - How To Clean Up Your Financial Indiscretions

Gail Vaz-Oxlade - The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

Have a Great Weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: The Millionaire Next Door

Although the book is almost 15 years old and a lot has change in the economic world in that time, The Millionaire Next door is a must read book. It doesn't name real names, but based on interviews and surveys with real millionaires the book compiles profiles backed with lot of data of your average millionaire.

 The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America' s Wealthy 

Before reading this book my impression of millionaires where something complied from TV and movies of extreme luxury, and extreme spending. This book tells a different story, a story of hard work, and frugality. In one chapter they discuss what makes the perfect Millionaire, or what Business produce the most. One of my favorite lines from the book "...the character of the business owner is more important in predicting this level of wealth than classification of his business." If you haven't already you should read this book.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Candy Land

It's Halloween! What a glorious day. Free Candy! A double bonus because it's a weekend, extended hours for knocking on doors and snagging treats. I reminded my children that it would be 5 years before Halloween would fall on a weekend again, so enjoy it. We stocked up on candy this year, expecting a number of visitors to our home. We spent $28 on 5 bags of candy.

We typically buy the good stuff, no Mary Jane, Bit-O-Honey, or gummy food made in Japan for us. We go for M&Ms, snickers, milkyways, skittles, etc. With 3 kids we are typically pretty busy on Halloween. We hand out candy when home, but often leave the bowl out in from of our house relying on the honor system. We have had good luck and have always returned to find the bowl in once piece and candy remaining. It's good to know there are good kids out there. Happy Halloween!

How much do you spend on candy? Do you hand it out or use the honor system?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Week End Round Up

A Busy week. I was not able to post as often as I would have like this week, but still looking for more guest post opportunities or guest post writers here so please let me know.

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I started with a Alexa ranking of over 4 million and within 1 month I’m under 1 million. Nice!

I wish I had more time to read more PF blogs and share comments. Here are some of the post that I enjoyed this week:

Investor Junkie - Fidelity Review – Opening an Online Brokerage Account

Budgets Are Sexy - The Perfect Credit Card.

Getting Rich Slowly - Waste Less Food, Save More Money

Faithful With A Few - Manage Your Finances Like a Monkey!

Punch Debt in the Face -Domestic Ninja

Have a Great Weekend! Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Name Calling

My wife and I were discussing our finances the other night and it just slipped out of her mouth. She call me a name. I won't mention what she called me, so not to offend anyone, but it went something like "you've been such a budget blank that I didn't know if we had any money to spend." I have been joking with her about it. I guess I should take it as a complement.

 The fact that we have both been tightening our belt and not spending money on wants, only needs is a good thing. We are in a much better place then we were just 4 months ago. We have not added any debt only reduced it, we have began to build an emergency fund, and have increased our overall income. All good steps to getting our finances in order. We will have challenges ahead over the next few months with the Holidays. We will need to stay on course with our plan to survive until the new year. If it means we need to call each other a few more names and then laugh about it, I'm in as long as we don't add any debt.

Has anyone ever called you a name related to your frugal, budget, financial habits?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shaving Cost

Do you have any everyday items that you just hate paying for, or feel you pay too much for? I do. Razors! Why do razors cost so much? Is it the materials that are used to make them? The technique used to manufacture them?  I have no clue, but I 'm really tired of paying so much for them. I typically shave every night. My job requires I look presentable, clean-shaven. I usually use Gillette Sensor razors. I have found that it give me the best shave, with the least irritation of my skin. Here’s a breakdown of my razor cost:

Gillette sensor 5 pack - $12

Packs Per Year – 10.4

Average Years of Shaving (Ages 20-72) 52 years 
(I really started shaving much earlier, but I’ll save that for a different post)

Lifetime number of razor packs – 540.8

Total Lifetime razor cost - $6489.60

Ouch! $6k on razors, there must be a cheaper way. I have tried electric shavers and they do not work for me. I know others have concerns about the cost of everyday expenses, some are building political campaigns around it.

What everyday items do you purchase that cost too much? Could you do without them?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week End Round Up

Another great week. Another guest post for me over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Looking for more guest post opportunities or guest post writers here so please let me know.

My Yakezie challenge continues to make progress. I started with a Alexa ranking of over 4 million and within 3 weeks I’m under 1.3 million. Nice!

Here are some of the post that I enjoyed this week:

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff - Kids & Money – Keep it Simple

Money Beagle -I'm A Mom! (Sort Of)

Budgets Are Sexy - How BOA Made Me Bald

Getting Rich Slowly - Allowance: For Learning or Reward?

Punch Debt in the Face -Beat up debt, but save too

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have you ever been affected by Shrinkage?

Well according to a recent report the North American shopping families were affected by an average of $422.68 during the past year. Shrink is a term used to describe retail theft. There are many types of shrink including shoplifting, organized retail crime and employee theft. These thefts force retails to increase security measures on loss prevention which increases their spending, and raising cost for consumers. The most popular items for of shrink were cosmetics including perfumes, beauty supplies and pharmacy, auto parts, hardware, clothing and accessories. The full report can be found here:

The only shrink situation that I can think of for my family is when my children we much younger and used to sit in the front of the shopping cart. To help keep them occupied during shopping we would give them items to play with. We once walked out without paying for an item they had in their hand. Part of my wife’s training at her supermarket job was about loss prevention. Her single store that she works at typically loses between $10-20k per month on shrink. Ouch!

Have you ever experience shrink? How would you handle if you witnessed someone committing shrink?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Self Realization

I have heard 2 different financial stories over the past couple of days. One of a home mortgage refinance to take advantage of low interest rates, the 2nd about income loss and struggling monthly payments. I offered my advice on what I would do if I were in their situations.  I also presented some information / resources for review. The mortgage refinance will be taking a drop in APR, but not in term. They will be saving money each month short term, but extending their number of years in the long run. The loss of income is a single income family with their backs up against the wall. The loss will force changes in living arraignments, school etc. if it cannot be recouped. The spouse has yet to take on a job to make this family a dual family income to help counter the lost income.

These stories frustrate me, because these might have been the same type of choices I would have may 6 months ago, but I believe I know better now. It also frustrates me because these stories are friends making what I think are bad financial decision. Obviously the refi has less impact then the loss of income because its just adding years of debt repayment compare to possible home loss. I'm hopefully that both stories have happy ending.

Have you ever given advice to someone who didn't realie they were making a bad decision?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paying it forward

Dave Ramsey announced a contest on his radio show yesterday called the "Great Giving Challenge" Dave will give 3 winners $5000 to give away to others. $1000 a day for 5 days. If you are unfamiliar with Dave this is step 7 of his seven baby steps to getting out of debt. Step 7 states: Build wealth and give! This sounds like a great contest that I want to enter. I have never given away that kind of money before and certainly not to strangers. Sure I have bought my co-workers lunch for a job well done, purchased family and friends gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I once bought a TV for some friends for a house warming gift after winning some money in Atlantic City.

The thought of having found money to give to people in need is just plain exciting. Thinking of reactions by people struggling is just amazing. Although I still have a pile of debt in front of me I know there are people, families worst off then me and giving them a lift might be the inspiration they need to get them on the right track. I need to get my video done for Dave's contest.

Have you ever giving away money to some in need?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reward Club Memberships

I'm sure you've heard of at least one of these wholesale clubs, Costco, BJ's, or Sam's Club. I hold memberships to both Costco and BJ's. With a family of five we shop at both clubs often. We have purchased just about everything from these clubs from milk, contact lenses, pet food, to furniture. We have a BJ's club right near our home and I'll run it on my way home from work just to pick up milk because of the saving they offer over a regular supermarket. Typically we save over 1 dollar per gallon. The way my 3 kids drink milk this adds up. We had to renew our membership to Costco this past weekend.

The standard membership is $50 for the year and $100 for the 2% rewards membership. The other clubs off rewards programs as well and are similar to the Costco program. Double your initial membership and you level up to a rewards membership. I'd like to think of it as a way of saving towards my next years membership fee. At 2% you would need to spend $2500 within the year to cover the cost of the extra $50 for the rewards membership. A total of $5000 to cover the total $100 fee.

$5000 x .02 = $100

$2500 x .02 - $50

In years past I have spent in the $2600 to $2700 range per year at Costco, which would earn me a $52-$54 reward check. Just enough to cover the additional $50 to get into the rewards program with a little extra. I renewed with the rewards membership. My dilemma is that there is no guarantee that I'll spend this amount of money this year. I'm still struggling with this decision and the additional $50 I spent. Do you think I did the right thing?

How do you handle club memberships? Did you own any club rewards memberships?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week End Round Up

It was truly a great week. I had my first guest post over at Punch Debt in the Face. Thanks Ninja! This really helped drive activity over here. I’ll have more in the coming weeks and looking to host some guest post here as well.

My Yakezie challenge is really making strides. I started with a Alexa ranking of over 4 million and within 2 weeks I’m under 2 million. Nice!

Here's some of the blog posts I found the most interesting this week:

Punch Debt in the Face –Dancing with Finances

Do No Wait - for all of your retirement planning and a great iPad give away

Getting Rich Slowly – How To Maximize your Salary

Frugal Dad – Five Daily Activities to Improve your Finances

Budgets are Sexy – The Power of 2nd and 3rd Opinions

Budget In the Fun Stuff - If I had the Money I would Replace My Car

Investor Junkie - The Secret to Building Wealth

Have a great weekend and say debt free!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I have to admit I have it pretty easy. I have the ability to check my bank account balance at any moment. Login into any credit card account, (well if I didn't close them all a few months back). Get e-mail reminders to pay my bills. Make payments online when I do forget. Have incredible tools to track spending via a spreadsheet or programs like quicken. Ability to look up information right from home to get answers quickly. I mean I built this blog and published it in a few hours.

How did our parents ever manage a budget with just a check register? With all of this technology at our finger tips, why are some many of us in debt today? Could it be that the first general purpose credit cards was issued in 1966, and we've grownup on credit? I really need to pick my parents brain about how they managed their money before they had credit cards.

What technology do you use to help manage your finances? Did you think having less technology would make things easier?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cash is King

Well merchants certainly think so. Have you ever heard of something called a interchange fee. It the hidden fee that's paid by a merchant's bank to the customer's bank during a credit card transaction. It typically runs about 2% or $2 for every $100 that is spent. These fees are additional monies collected by credit card companies and in 2008 over $48 billion was collected in interchange fees.

How does this affect you? Well it could drive overall cost of good as retailers look to cover these lost costs in a very competitive, slim profit industry. The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit that charged Visa, MasterCard and American Express with engaging in anti-competitive practices. At issue are rules that prohibit retailers from offering consumers discounts or rewards for using less-expensive forms of payment, like cash or debit cards. Visa and MasterCard agreed to a proposed settlement, American Express declined to settle. This could be good news for consumers, and eventually lower prices. I always thought that credit cards charged a flat fee per transaction, not a percentage. Let's hope that this change is for the better and doesn't just turn into a another reason to increase interest rates.

Where you aware of the interchange fee? When you shop do you prefer cash or credit?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I call shenanigans on CNN money. They recently posted an article about what to do if you have $1000 lying around. Give the uncertain economic picture you should spend it. Here are some of those 15 things they suggested you do with it.

#1 - hit the Electronics store
#3 - stock up on coffee and cotton
#5 - buy wine
#14 - hire a investment manager
#15 - join a number of memberships

Shenanigans, shenanigans, shenanigans! I took their advice last night I went to Costco with my new investment manager, liquored up and high on caffeine he helped me pick out a 52 inch plasma TV and 72 pair of tighty whities. They did however have a number of practical recommendations on their list including:

#7 - boosting your college fund
#8 - deposit in a high yield saving account
#9 - invest it
#12 - boost your retirement fund

Overall I thought half of their list was good advice, the other half felt move like a Letterman top ten list. If you want an even better laugh you should see their what do do with $50,000 list. #3 was my favorite - Buy a sweet ride. Shenanigans!

If you where handed $1000, what would you do with it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

My youngest son who is 8 came home on Friday with some recently complete class work. I was glad to see that his class is currently being taught a money unit in school. See his worksheets below.

Bring back any memories? These worksheets show the basics of counting money and recognizing the different values in bills and coins. These exercises are good fundamental skills that he will use throughout his life. My wife and I will work hard to help fill in the blanks about money as he grows up. Saving it, budgeting it, investing it, etc. I realized I may have include similar statements in some of my other post, but it needs to be repeated. I go as far to say that in all the steps, and guides that other experts offer, they should add child financial education as one of those steps.

What have you done to help prepare your children for the financial future?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugal like a Millionaire

That's what I want to be. I'm currently reading the book "The Millionaire Next Door" and it's really an eye opener. Once I finish I plan on review the book in whole, but I was so fascinated but the Frugal chapter I could not wait to post. I guess it's just been a perception that has been drilled into my head from TV and movies over the years that millionaire's are supposed to have luxury items. Call it the American way, but showing off your wealth is what you are supposed to do, when you have wealth.

The Millionaire Next Door 

What this book finds is that most American's spend tomorrow's cash today to appear wealthy. The millionaire, typically spend less on everyday items and this in part is how they became millionaire in the first place. Hard work and determination too, but a majority of millionaire save their money by being frugal. My family is learning to be more frugal these days. We are looking at ways to reduce expenses and increase savings. Here are some of the little things we have done over the past few months.

Packing a lunch - Both for work and school

Eating at home - We have cut out eating out, even fast food when we are on the go

Coupons - clip, clip, clip from grocery shopping to clothes shopping

Are you frugal? Why do you do to try and save money on everyday needs?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Could you get any lower?

I've heard the stories of identity theft, but not until recently did I learn about the growing trend of parents stealing their kids identities. Ouch! Talk about a low blow. If identity theft isn't scary enough on it's owe, these victims of these crimes don't even know it's happening until they are old enough to apply for credit themselves but by then so much damage can already be done. Instead of solving ones own financial issues, they look to destroy their own innocent children. There are a number of articles on the topic, but true data on the number of identity theft that are actual parent/child theft is still unclear.

Things that you can do, check your credit report often is one of the best prevention measures. Any type of credit card / loan mailing to an under age child is another clear sign that something may not be right. If you suspect any unusual you should contact the three major credit agencies and tell them about the potential fraud.

How do you protect your personal information? Hoe often do you review you credit report?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2009 Credit Card Act helping?

Well it would appear so, a recent Consumer Reports survey shows that median consumer credit card debt has dropped by $1,100 since 2009, to $3,793. People that carry a balance of $10K is down 7% from last year. The main factor sighted in the report was the Minimum Payment Warnings that now appear on their monthly bill. Talk about a little motivation.

This warning makes it clear to consumers how long it will take and how much interest you will pay if you continue to only make minimum payments. I would like to think that all the PF blogs and people educating themselves have had something to do with it as well.

How do you stay motivated to keep you finances in order? Do you ever slip and binge spend from time to time?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Holiday Cash

Now with 80 days left before Christmas, can't believe it's been over 3 weeks from my first post on the topic deck-halls there appears to a number of temporary jobs that will be popping up in time to help add the extra money in your bank account to fulfill all of those wish lists. I heard a story yesterday about another interesting way to put a little extra cash in you pocket for the holidays. Do it by taking on odd jobs and using social media like facebook and twitter to advertise yourself. See the Good Morning America story here: plan-hire-holiday-season

Taking on jobs that can be tedious can earn you some quick cash. Completing shopping or holiday wrapping could help others who don't have the time to complete during this busy time of year. This could be a nice advantage for stay at home moms, or people who work off hours, taking advantage when the regular 9 to 5ers are at work. The power of facebook may very easily open up your potential customer base and who better to trust with these types of task then a friend.

Here are some other money making ideas during this busy time of year:

Babysitting -Watching other kids so they can do their holiday shopping

Baking - During the Holiday everyone love dessert

Food/ grocery shopping - with a agreed upon list

What other type of jobs can you think of? Have you every taken on a part time job to fund your holiday shopping?
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Challenge Complete

We completed the September challenge of keeping track of all of our expenses for the month. 30-day-challenge This was an important exercise to help understand where our cash is going and if there is room for improvement. See results below.

The big surprise is out debt to income (DTI) ratio. For our mortgages its over 36%. Our debt repayment, credit cards is our second highest at over 24%. This was not a surprise. This is our biggest issue, and the focal point of our budget right now. We are trying to eliminate this in the next 3-5 years. The was surprised that gas (transportation) was only a bit over 2%, it feels like it should be higher. 16% for food for a family of five I think might be slightly high when you combined the 1% for eating out. The one item we don't have capture in our budget is entertainment. We need to include this in the future. Now that this challenge complete, we look to take on another, turning the excl sheet with our budget around, Instead of just tracking where our money goes each month we will tell it were to go before we spend it. This is just another step in getting our finances in order.

How do you manage your budget? Do you track it? Set limit before you spend it?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week End Round Up

As October begin it's a busy time at Until Debt Do Us Part. I have just joined the Yakezie Challenge. I'm excited about that. In the coming weeks I'll be posting the results of my September 30 day challenge and where all of my family's money is being spent. I will have my first guess post here on my blog as well as be writing my first guest blog post for another blog. Thanks to Ninja over at PDITF. It's truly a busy time around here.

Here's some of the blog posts I found the most interesting this week:

Free From Broke - Should Your Child have a Credit Card

Getting Rich Slowly  - 5 Habits of Highly-Effective Credit Card Users

Gail Vaz-Oxlade - Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Punch Debt in the Face - I had no idea

Frugal Dad -Setting Up a Financial System as a Couple

Happy reading. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Shoes, is not good news

I got home from work last night to a nice little surprise. My oldest son who's 11 had something to tell me. His 4 week only Nike gym shoes were missing from his locker. Ouch. After playing detective with him for a few minutes we come to the conclusion that he may or may not have put them back into his gym locker after class on Monday. He checked the lost and found with no luck. He also spoke with his gym teacher, who suggested he check the lost and found. I was upset with the fact that a new $50 pair of running sneakers just went out the window. After thinking about it for awhile I recalled my time in middle school and leaving a jacket in the locker room which was never to be seen again. My parents didn't get mad at me they used it as a teachable moment to remind me to be responsible for my things. I never left things behind again.

I spoke with my son again and explained that I wasn't mad at him, that he needed to take care of his stuff. Mistakes will happen and material items can be replaced, but when he is at school he and only he can control what happens to his things. I'm not there to help him. He understood and will be wearing his old pair of sneakers for the time being, until a new pair can be worked into the budget. A nice little reminder that my wife and I still have a lot to teach our children about, and real life examples like losing a pair of shoe is a great why to do it.

How do you handle losing items of value?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Houston we have a problem!

The Census Bureau Released their 2009 American Community Survey Data yesterday. Here are some of the highlights or should I say low lights:

Median Household Income

    * Real median household income in the United States fell between 2008 and 2009 — decreasing by 2.9 percent from $51,726 to $50,221.


    * Thirty-one states saw increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2008 and 2009.

   Industry and Occupation

    * Work hours in the United States fell by about 36 minutes per week from 39.0 hours in 2008 to 38.4 hours in 2009.

Home Values

    * In 2009, the median property value for owner-occupied homes in the United States was $185,200.
    * After adjusting for inflation, the median property value decreased in the United States by 5.8 percent between 2008 and 2009.

The full report can be found here: census survey

Wow, so let me get this straight, our incomes are falling, we are working less and our house values have dropped over 5%. If you don't have you budget and finances together you better start now!

How has the recession affected you? Have you made changes in your budget over the last few years due to changes in the economy?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finance Favors?

With my recent car troubles I have had to rely on a co-worker twice for a ride home, in order to save my wife a trip in to pick me up in rush hour. What's the rule on favor like this? I offered to buy him lunch for his efforts. I never look for a hand out and would certainly return the favor if he needed a ride. I have in the past paid this favor forward with other co-work, giving them a ride from time to time. This is about the extent that I go to when asking co-workers and friends for help. You help me and I'll help you. My brother and I use the old fashion barter system. He'll lends a hand with home repairs and I'll give him a hand with computer repairs. This works nicely. We leverage our strengths and we help each other out. This however can get much more time intensive since home repair or computer repair can take a lot longer then a ride to work.

To take this thought a step further I have never asked anyone other then my parents to borrow cold hard cash. Sure I have on occasion asked a co-work to lend me lunch money when we were ordering lunch, only to hit the ATM later that day for the repayment. My parents lent me the money and I paid them back over time. My wife and I had one of our children's classmate's parents ask us to borrow money once. He needed the cash for an appliance delivery because he didn't have time to go to the bank. In the tune of over $400. Other then the fact that our children went to school together I didn't know this guy from Adam and there was no way I was going to lend him the cash. I found it surprising that he would even ask.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you has to ask someone to borrow money or been ask to be the lender? How did you handle it?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

I have to agree with the other PF blogs out there Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" is a must read. The book is a quick read and offers seven baby steps to taking control of your finances. After reading it you might find yourself asking why didn't I think of these steps myself. The steps that Ramsey lays are not rocket science, but are presented in a way that you can relate to. They are also backed up with a number of real life examples throughout the book. I won't lay out the steps because I want you to read this book if you haven't already.

I have only been aware of Dave Ramsey for a short period of time now. I have been listening to his daily radio show for 2 weeks. His show is available on a number of stations and you can listen directly from his web site. He is dead on with his principle about budget and money. What I find interesting is the money making machine in my opinion that is Dave Ramsey.  Everyone has a right to make an income. As I listen to his radio show I notice most of the commercials are backed by him or sponsored by him. His web site has a number of opportunities to purchase his books, programs, in persons seminars, etc. I just find the whole experience tip toeing the fine line for me. He's offers sound finance advice, but seems to want you to spend money at every corner you turn.

What do you think of the Dave Ramsey experience?

Friday, September 24, 2010

I bet you my Serpentine is newer then yours!

Murphy kicked me in the teeth again today. On my drive into work my car broke down. The Serpentine belt snapped. The Serpentime belt drives multiple peripheral devices in an automotive engine, such as an alternator, power steering pump, water pump, A/C compressor, air pump, etc. Looks to be a little over $200 to get fixed. So in the month that I've decided to track all of of expense I've had 3 unexpected expensive twice with issues with my car. Good times!

It was like a scene out of a sitcom after the car broke down. I pulled over to the side of the highway. I called my wife and asked her to call our insurance company. We have towing included. They stated that the roadway was a restricted roadway and proceed to call 911. In the meantime we have Highway Emergency Local Patrols or HELP trucks that patrol the highways. One pulls up, I tell the guy what happened and that I have a tow truck on the way. I then get a call on my cell phone from a sheriff's dispatcher and she's tells me a sheriff is on his way. 2 minutes later he pulls up. He comes to my car and asks me if I need help. I tell him no, and he asked why I called 911. I explain that I didn't and I believe that my insurance company did. I asked him if the highway was a restricted area for tow trucks and he says no. He leaves. After a few minutes my wife shows up. She had called our local auto shop who was on their way to tow my car. A really, really great way to start my Thursday! We called back our insurance company and made sure they had the right information. Turns out the first rep we spoke with gave us the wrong info. Boy I wish I had an emergency fund

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What would you Vote out of your budget?

Survivor is one of our families favorite shows. All 5 of us watch it together each week. Our 3 children have their own survivor buffs, and 2 years ago for our twins 9th birthday we had a survivor theme birthday party. We played several games and challenges that the kids really enjoyed. No, no one was voted out of the party! Watching last nights episode got me thinking about the whole vote someone off or eliminating something. I then made the jump to our finances and wondered if there was something in our budget that I could vote off.

I'm hoping that we will be able to tighten up our spending once we finish up the 30 day challenge (see earlier post) 30-day-challenge but if I had a chance to vote off any once cost from my budget what would it be? I'm taking mortgage and debt repayment off the table since typically they are the 2 biggest payments to make this a bit more interesting. For me I think it would be my monthly food bill.  My 3 children are growing and boy do they know how to eat and drink! This would easily save us $800 more more a month. Okay I've come back to reality.

Humor me for a minute. If you could kick one expense out of you budget, what would it be and why?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Another item I'm trying to work into our monthly budget is an allowance for our 3 children. They as children go are pretty helpful around the house. It does take a lot of asking, and the response is usually groans and moans but they handle a number of chores. Including cleaning their rooms, making their beds, taking care of their pets, (2 rats, guinea pigs, and dog) food, water, clean cages, load, empty dishwasher, do laundry, fold laundry, make lunches, set table for dinner, and take out the trash. At ages 11,11 and 8 my wife and I feel they are doing their part to help out around the house.

In the past we have used a chore chart on a weekly basis, once an item was complete they would get a check. If they earned a certain amount of checks each week they would earn their allowance. It worked for a bit, but often check marks were forgotten and we lost track of chores completed. We are now using the free style method. We are giving each child $5 per week for their allowance. The chores are shared and we are not keeping track of every one complete. This seems to work much better. The children help each other on things like cleaning the table or loading the dishwasher, but take turns on things like taking out the trash. The kids seem excited and have began to plan their own budgets with their $5 stipend.

How do you handle allowances? What's the going rate in your house?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Funny Money?

As often as I have to say no to my 3 children over the past few months, it has made me realize that we need to work a little funny money into our monthly budget. Call it what you want, I heard it referred to as many different things on PF blogs, couples call it the his/her fund, guilty free fund, etc. You need to factor in a little funny money into your budget to be spend on entertainment or a personal purchase each month.

If the budget is truly that tight, then this would be one of the first things that would need to be cut. There are a number of free or low cost things that can be done with a family. Library trips, park trips, etc. If your budget allows sent a limited and stick to it. The money can be used for movies, eating out, gifts, a night out with friends etc. Having it within your monthly plan is the key, it will limit you from the unexpected and from over spending. It will also keep everyone happy.

Do you have funny money built into your budget? If so what's the amount/ rules around it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

What would you pay for an Oompa Loompa?

I want an oompa loompa now! I don't think there is one sentence that better sums up why people have so much debt today. Veruca Salt wanted it immediately and at any cost. Her rich farther enabled her, similarly the way credit cards due to many of us today.

As I read PF blogs and books over the last several months I have learn there are no secrets, magic tricks to personal finance it all about self discipline and sacrifice. If you want an oompa loompa, save your money and once you have the cash the little man can be yours. Don't put him on the plastic and pay for him over the next 20 years. It's a very straight forward, easy concept to understand  a more difficult one to practice. Live within your means, start today, cut up the credit cards and never look back. It won't be easy, it will be like the first week of a diet. Then being invited to a birthday party with a big chocolate cake. It will however be rewarding just like losing those first 10 pounds.

How do you manage credit cards? Do you use them to live beyond your means?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Reading & the Proud Papa

I hit the local Library tonight with my daughter and youngest son, as my oldest son was at football practice. We wanted to pick up some books for the weekend to read. Now that the kids are back in school they should be reading each night.  We are lucky that all 3 enjoy reading and do quite often. Since my oldest son was at football I pick up a copy of "What Color Is Your Piggy Bank Entrepreneurial Ideas for Self-Starting Kids" by Adelia Cellini Linecker.

We have been talking to our children about budgets and debt, and with the recent success of their lemonade sale I thought this would be a good book for him. I'm about half way done with Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" I hope to finish it up before Monday. My daughter and youngest son pick up a few books for themselves and we were on our way back to practice, where my oldest was named captain for this Sunday game. Nice job son! As we walked back to the car and talked about his nice performance at practice I told him about the book I pick out for him. At first he wasn't too excited, but on the car ride home he couldn't put it down.

Looks to be a great weekend. Enjoy yours!

What financial book are you reading or are your favorites?

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial FitnessWhat Color Is Your Piggy Bank? Entrepreneurial Ideas for Self-Starting Kids (Millennium Generation Series)
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Credit Card Blues

It's been a little over 2 months that my wife and I closed all of our credit cards. See my post about it here: cutting-credit-card-cord  At first it was a great feeling, nice that we had let go and have not been adding to our over debt. In the recent weeks we have had some bumps, unexpected car repair, and 2 of our 3 children needed glasses. In the past we would have easily put these expenses on our credit cards. We found the cash to pay for both, but has left us limping towards out next payday, keeping our fingers crossed that nothing else pops up.

The high and excitement of cutting the credit cards up only 2 months ago is clearly gone now. We keep reminding ourselves that we have already made a nice dent in our debt repayment. We are continuing to track all of our expenses this month to see if there are any further changes that can be made. There are moments when it seems like a endless fight.

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep you budget and finances on track?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stock up on the Tighty Whities

Cotton prices are on the raise add it's about to impact your wallet. According to a recent article on CNN Money.

Some of the worlds largest producers of cotton have been hit with bad weather and raw cotton prices have hit a 15 year high. Experts expect a $2 cost increase in your average cotton T-Shirt come January. There is typically a lag in time to market, so you better buy now before prices increase.

After reading this it made me wonder about being frugal about clothes shopping. I have read a lot about people cutting cost with food and variable expenses such as entertainment, but when it comes to clothes, what's the best what to be frugal? Some jobs require employees to follow a dress code, can you stay on budget and still look good?

How do you handle clothes shopping in your budget?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lemonade Sale

Reading some post over @ GRS this weekend reminded of my own story I wanted to tell about my 3 kids and their recent lemonade sale. It was 2 weekends ago.  I have twins who are 11 (boy & girl) and an 8 year old son. They asked if they could have a lemonade sale. I said sure. I had yard work to do, so I would be outside and could help supervise. All three work together to make lemonade, pink lemonade and ice tea.  I helped a little with the pricing since they were having a difficult time decided on the price. Once decided on they set up the table, made some signs, cups, ice, cooler etc., were all in place. The only other advice I gave them was to make sure they had enough change, dollars and coins in their bank. I gave them an example if someone purchased 1 cup and handed you a five dollar bill you need to have change for it. The light bulb went off and they scrambled to their piggy banks for a bank roll.
They pretty quickly had a few of the neighborhood kids come down and had their first sale. They made a few trips to the neighbors house selling door to door and sold a few more cups. I mowed the lawn and watched, they did not need my help.. They handled making change and sales were pretty good for the first 1/2 hour. About an hour in sales began to dip and after a refill of ice, my oldest sone returned from the house with a Halloween costume from a few years ago. It was a pull over shark costume. I asked him what was his plan with that? He said I'm going to stand at the corner with my sign and see if I can attract more people to out sale. 
Well he did. A few people saw him and made the effort to come on by. They hung in there for another hour before shutting things down. I helped them clean up and they counted their earnings. After paying out their initial bank roll they made $20. So they each took their $6.65 cut and were very happy with their work.
I was proud of their teamwork, their money skills, and finally their advertising /marketing flare.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Deck the Halls?

I sat in a meeting this week and a co-worker mention that she has already received 3 shipments of Christmas presents, she does a lot of online shopping. The conference room had a good laugh. There are 105 days left until Christmas from the time of this post. I heard on the news this week that Toys 'R' Us is opening 600 temporary holiday stores. Great more ways for my kids to add to their wish list. It all got me thinking how will I handle the Holiday shopping this year?

I typically always put a portion on my credit cards, and that is not an option this year. I have no Holiday fund saved to date, but can start I do have 91 day left. I am lucky enough to have a job that gives me an end of the year bonus. It will be use to finance most if not all of my shopping this year. I will have to plan carefully to stay within my bonus budget and make sure I accomplish all of my shopping. Some ways I'm considering to reduce cost / stay with budget during this holiday season.

Scaling back my gift buying list - sorry extended family and some friends

Set spending limits with family and friends - set a max spending limit $25 sounds right

Stay on course for my immediate family 3 kids & wife - no impulse items

Bargain hunt - black Friday, coupons, groupon, etc

Any others I missed? How are you tackling your Holiday shopping this year?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Satisfied are you?

Well according to a recent survey most workers are satisfied with their jobs. Stress ranked this highest in over dissatisfaction, with pay following a close second.

Of the 13 areas questioned 7 ranked about 50% on the completely satisfied scale. I'm wondering how stress can be the highest area of concern, but generally work condition are good, you get along with co-workers and boss, you like the hours you work, you have ample vacation time. When looking over the bottom 5 of 6 they are all money/ benefit driven, and affect one another. If you are not recognized for you hard work, your chance for promotions decrease, your overall income suffers, your retirement fund can not be as big because you don't make as much money. If benefits lack and you need to pay more out of pocket cost, you end up sending more of the money your not making from the hard work that did not get recognized, I think you get the point. This is how I think we get to the top dissatisfied bucket being stress. If the above doesn't get you stressed out I don't know what will.

Although we are in better shape today then were were in 2001, it appears that in some areas we peaked in 2007 right around the time that things really when south for the overall economy. Still today job security has lost ground due the the current economic climate.

Are you satisfied with all areas of your job? What causes you stress at work?


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Money Can buy Happiness!

Well at least emotional well-being according to a recent study. The full study can be found here:

 Happiness -Money Report

This report has been all over the news, Internet, and even Howard Stern mentioned it over the past few days. To summarize the study, basically peoples happiness got better as income rose but the effect leveled out at $75,000. The study has much more detail. It goes on to say that with lower income people generally have more stress, health and bad feelings. The higher income that you make the more likely that you are to have good feeling per day, less stress and better outlook. Although the $75k marked a leveling point, people who make more feel a better sense of accomplishment or overall satisfaction in their life on a daily basis.

I have never met anyone who didn't want to make more money. I think it's human nature to rate yourself, evaluate your self worth certainly in the workplace. There are always factors when determining ones wage / salary. Education, experience, external hire or internal. I struggle with the fact that companies can hire anyone off the street at any wage / salary, but employees of that company are subject to guide lines / rules for promotions, raises etc. I had to explain that more then once to some employees. These factors play into the over moral of the workplace and the basic happiness of people. Even if one person isn't happy with his wage/ salary this can easily spin out of control, stirring others to focus on the bad instead of the good. It's a fine line that is walked each day in the work place. I have to agree with the study, money can buy emotional well being at least putting that smile on your face until the paycheck is spent. :0)

Are you happy with your income? Do you think happiness is tied to you level of income?