Friday, July 30, 2010

Final Day of Vacation

I took the kids to the library in the AM. We need to pick up new cards for the 3 of them since theirs were misplaced. Cost a total of $3.00. We each pick out some books, DVDs and some CDs. They also spent some time on the library's computer playing some games. This afternoon we went to a BBQ hosted by a friend. Overall it was a great week a lot of family time with enough events mixed in to keep everyone happy. Of course not you not stop typical vacation at an amusement park or resort, but we still had fun.

Day 4 total expenses $3.00

5 day total = $84.86

Now our plans this year before we ran into a little debt issue were to fly to California for a week to 10 days to visit family. Average cost per ticket when we priced our flight was $465 round trip per person. $465 X 5 =$2325. We would have needed to rent a car as well. Average price for a week rental $750. So our original plan would have cost us $3075 just to get to CA and we would have not done anything yet. We would have stayed with family and did a lot of low cost things while we were there, so even if I tack on an additional $425. Our trip would have cost $3500 on on a credit card. Sure the down side is we didn't get to see our family this summer, but we didn't add $3500 to our overall debt. We still managed to have a great vacation week and spent quality time as a family for under $100. Not to bad.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vacation Week Day 4

I broke my my own rule for vacation / staycation on day 4. See my earlier post on the topic. Vacation or Staycation It was a rainy day so we just stayed home and did some errands. Never mix everyday chores while on a staycation. So not a bad day for my bottom line, but not a classic fun vacation day. I work with my oldest son on his punting and field goal kicking for his upcoming football season. Yes laces out!

University of Alabama placekicker Leigh Tiffin...Image via Wikipedia
I also worked with my youngest son on the finer points of riding his new bike. My wife and daughter had some returns to make and a post office run.

Day 4 total  expenses $0.00

4 day total = $81.86

More to come.........
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vacation Week Day 3

Today we spent the day at a local aquarium. We were  lucky enough to score free admission tickets via my brother. The regular cost is $18.50 for kids and $21.50 for adults.. We had a great day taking in the sea lion and penguin shows. Visiting most of the exhibits. I believe the shark tank was the favorite. We feed sting rays. There was cost for the food. We purchases 3 portions @ $2 each for total cost of $6. We also purchased ride bracelets for each of the kids @ $5 each for a total cost of $15. With this we also got a coupon for a free $5 arcade game card. The kids went on the Submarine Simulator and Discovery Tower ride several times and use the arcade card to pick up some tickets which them redeemed for prizes. We packed a lunch again. At the end of the day we had a snack of ice cream. 5 small cones cost a total of $20.45 see my post on ice cream. Ice Cream But this is vacation week so we went for it. Total expense for the day 2  -$41.45.

3 day total = $81.86

More to come.........
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation Week Days 1& 2

I'm on vacation this week and I think it's my first official stay-cation. I figured I post the list of activities and cost associated with them as our week progressed. At the end of the week I'll give you the grand total, what we past up vacation wise and what we saved by staying home.

Day 1 - As posted in my Millionaire Update , I traveled into New York City. Cost $25 for train fare, $5.41 for a sandwich. Rest of the family went to a pool party - no cost. Total Day 1 - $30.41

Day 2 - The 5 of us went to the beach. We package a lunch form home. $10.00 fee to enter / park at beach. Good time had by all $0.00 Total Day 2- $10.00

Here's some photos from our day.

2 day total = $40.41

More to come.........

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Do You Want To Be a Millionaire Update.

I journeyed into New York City today for my first ever game show audition. It was at the ABC building on 66th street. I arrived earlier and there were a number of people lined up outside. I checked in with a woman with official  headset and clipboard. Then the wait began. There was a buzz about the line as people shared stories about there millionaire experiences. People walking and driving down the street asked what was going on. ( If you are in the NYC auditions are on going over the next 2 weeks) I waited in line and overheard theories about how you get picked for the show. You needed to have a big personality, you had to get all the questions right on the test, you had to have luck, etc

My group was finally called in and we went through security, metal detector and all. Then we where sat in groups of 4. We were all handed a package and on the table were those high school scan tron multiple choice answer forms and a #2 pencil. After everyone was seated it was explained that we'd be taking a 30 question multiple choice test in 10 minutes. They would then be graded and 10 people out of the group of almost 200 would be selected for an interview. The rest were free to leave and try again. After all were settled we were off. The questions were all over the place from what sport did Zac Efron play in the High School Musical movies to what breed of dogs does the queen of England own.

I thought I fared well, but as they read off who advanced to the next level my dreams of eliminating my debt clean in once afternoon faded away. I did not make it. I was left with a Millionaire souvenir magnet and a long walk back to the train station. Better luck next time.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Extra Income

My wife and I have been trying to figure out the best way to add some income to help repay our debt. My wife currently takes care of our 3 children ages, 11, 11 and 8. She has worked part time jobs in the past, usually working when I get home from my job and on weekends when I'm home. My job is not so flexible that I can be home every night at a given time. The kids are not at the age were they can get themselves off to school and be home in the afternoon by themselves.

So here lies our problem, finding a part time job for my wife that could be done Monday through Friday and basically between the hours of 9 AM and 2 PM. It also needs to be flexible enough to deal with days off from school, sick days for the kids, snow days, etc. Not so easy to find. We have also looked at work at home, Internet opportunities but have not found any as of yet. This blog certainly could be a source of income if the ads are used. I'm wondering how other deal with part time job / extra income. Any good ideas out there I've missed?
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Financial Talk

I recently had my first of many planned financial lesson over lunch with my oldest son and daughter. It's the summer time and they are constantly asking can we go to the movies, can we go get ice cream etc. I wanted to make sure they understand that mom and dad are not just saying no to say no, that there are financial reasons why we can't go to the movies every weekend. Also the fact that they need to clean their rooms and do all their other chores around the house. I started with a topic I thought they might relate to and have an interest in, cell phones. I asked if the knew how much my wife cell phone cost a month. I figured this would hook them in, since they both want cell phones. The were all over the place in their guess from $25 to $100. I explained the cost of the one phone and if we added 2 more what would that do to our bill? They both agreed it would go up.

We had a great conversation that lasted about 20 minutes. I explained my salary and all the different bills we pay each month. After the money discussion was over, I said you see why we can't go to the movies all the time and why we can have ice cream out everyday. They agreed. Later in the day I was retelling the story to my wife, when my 8 year old son interrupted and asked. "Can we go to the movies?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Millionaire Update

I'm in! I have an audition for Who Wants to be a Millionaire next Monday. Wish me luck! To be honest I haven't been a viewer of the show recently. The fact that it is now on mid day while I'm at work creates an issue for me. I used to watch it when it was in prime time and Regis Philbin hosted.

I've been setting my DVR and doing my homework. The games is basically the same, they have added a few little additions to the life lines.  In the few shows I've watch the minimum I seen someone win has been $5K, not to bad, Winning any amount of money would be a nice little boost to the debt repayment.  I'll have an update after next weeks audition in New York City.

So has anyone else ever been on a game show?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cutting the Credit Card Cord

Well it's done. We have closed all our our credit cards today. I have to admit it feels kind of good, knowing that I won't be adding to my families overall debt anytime soon.  We still owe a pile of debt on said credit cards, but the pile will only be getting smaller from this day forward. It has taking many years to build up the courage to go it alone, solo.

I guess you can say my Debit card is a loner now, because he's the only thing in my pocket with the Visa logo on it.  It is certainly a step in the right direction. It's all about the cash method now. We need to keep the budget on track.

So how do you manage your credit card debt? How do you travel with no Credit cards?

Friday, July 16, 2010

E-bay, the Civic and the No Armed Man

One of the ways to help bring in extra income to pay down debt is to sell items on E-Bay, Craigslist, etc. I have read this tip on a number of blogs, debt web sites, etc I have done this often to bring in a little extra cash over the years. Before I ever throw anything out I ask myself, can I sell this on E-bay. Electronics are always good items to sell. Anytime I upgrade an item video camera, digital camera, cell phone, video game system etc I always sell my old ones on-line. You can sell just about anything, just run a quick search and you'll find just about anything. I might have one of the top ten E-bay stories of all time to share in my humble opinion.

About 6 year,ago I listed my wife's 1992 Honda Civic for sale on E-bay. I was hoping to use E-bay as an advertising tool and have someone locally buy it. I live in the NY area.  I had the car listed for $1500 it was a 12 year old, but it ran great, and was in good shape. I had a number of inquires about the car. The auction continued to progress and it was finally ended and won by a guy name Caesar. He contact me and set up a date to pick up the car. He want to know what airport was closest to me. I asked him were he lived. California. I explained that this was a 12 year old car and I really wasn't sure if this would be the best investment. I asked how did he plan on getting it home, and he said he was going to drive it. I tried, but couldn't talk him out of it even with a number of potential local buyers. He was determined to purchase this car. Caesar was going to take a red eye flight from CA to NY, pick up the Civic and then drive it cross country. The story even gets better. So the day he was to arrive I get a knock at my door at 7 AM, I open the door and there stood Caesar a man about 5 feet tall with no arms.  He also had a friend with him. I was surprised but walk outside. After a test ride they purchased the car. Caesar called his brother on his cell phone, using his foot to hold the phone. His brother transferred the money for the car via PayPal and off they drove. I contacted Caesar a few times about a week later to see how his trip went and how the car did on the long ride. I never heard from him again. To this day I'm still not clear how he knocked on the door.

Anyone else have any interesting E-bay stories to share?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


So I just sign up for a possible audition on the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. They are holding auditions in NYC for the next few weeks. Why not? What a better why to fund my debt repayment then with some possible game show winnings boost. At least If I make the game show I control my own destiny, better odds then the lottery.

If it really does happen I need to starting think about my phone a friend. Okay I’m off to brush up on my over all knowledge as well. Anybody out there ever been on a game show?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Debt and Death, no they are not the same.

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the passing of my Dad. He has been on my mind a lot lately. I was thinking back to the things I helped my mom with when he passed, and there it was another item about debt and credit cards. My Mom and Dad has a few credit cards with some balances when he passed. The accounts were all in my Dad's name. I was put in charge of calling them all, letting them know of his death and seeing what could be down with the outstanding balances. To my surprise all but one of the companies were looking for payments. Since everything was left to my Mom, it was now her responsibility to pay this debt. My Dad had life insurance, and they has a sizable saving account so there was money to cover these. I spoke with each account and had to provide proof of his death (a copy of his death certificate) I spoke with each to see if there was anything that could be do to reduce the balance. Most companies, if the account could be settled right away would offer a reduction in the overall debt. Similar to the way debt reduction programs work today, the key to these programs is you can play let's make a deal, but you need to have the cash to settle. I was able to settle all accounts for less then what was owed. All but one of the accounts had to be closed because the had been open in my Dad's name. I now had to sit down with Mom and explain everything. That she need to, if she chose to establish he own credit by opening her own account. I also asked her why they were carrying this debt when the had money in savings? I explained the interest rates to her. So here I was giving her a financial lesson.

The keys here are:

If you carry debt and pass away the estate inherits the debt, it's not wiped clean. It will vary by situation, so check the laws within your state.

If you have the available fund to pay these unsecured debt off, do it. Don't find yourself paying interest when you don't need to.

I miss my Dad.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Cost of Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Talk about sticker shock. $30 dollars round trip for train fair today into New York City. Wow. I don't have to travel into the city often for work, but had to today. It got me thinking of the cost of transportation in general. Gas prices, air fare etc. Why do these things cost so much. I did a little research on gas prices. Each state applies different tax rates to gas as well as a Federal tax. See the link for you states info:

Wouldn't you know, my state NY has one of the highest tax rates.

We were recently planning our summer vacation. We were planning on visiting family out of state and need to fly and then rent a car when we arrived. Family of 5 traveling. Cheapest air fare I could find was $450 round trip per ticket. So $2250 before car rental. I never looked up the rental, because we can't afford $2250 just to get somewhere for vacation. Say $300 for a car for a week. We'd be in over $2500 for our trip and we haven't done anything. I love my family and all, but one can not spend that type of money just to get somewhere to visit them.

I wonder how others deal with travel costs? Car pools, take vacations where you can drive? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grass not always greener?

I'm fortunate to have a nice job with a good company. I have been interviewing candidates recently to fill an open position within my department. They interviews have been going well, there are a lot of qualified candidates out there. 90% of those I interviewed have lost jobs over the last 2 years do to down sizing at their former companies.

It really made me wonder how these people are surviving without that income coming in. How would I survive if I lost my job. certainly makes building a emergency fund a priority. Having a saving enough to cover bills for a period of time if there is income lose, or if the car breaks down etc. Does anyone out there have any good survival tips when they've been out of work?

This is really going to make the decision an even tougher one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Time to call the Real Estate Agent?

I heard on the news today the my county is the most expensive to live in my entire state. At first I didn't believe it. But after doing a little research it turns out to be true. I found that each State produces a Self-Sufficiency survey, which defines the amount of income necessary to meet basic needs (including taxes) without public subsidies (e.g., public housing, food stamps, Medicaid or child care) and without private/informal assistance (e.g., free babysitting by a relative or friend, food provided by churches or local food banks, or shared housing). The family types for which a Standard is calculated range from one adult with no children, to one adult with one infant, one adult with one preschooler, and so forth, up to two-adult families with three teenagers.

The detailed reports can be found at:

There is a lot of information included in the report. Sure enough looking over the New York state report I live in the county where a family of 5 need to earn the most money to be Self Sufficient. It might be time to move.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot Dogs a Good Source of Income?

I believe I found my 2nd source of income this weekend that will help me pay off my debt off even faster.

Well maybe competitive eating isn't for me, but it got me thinking. What's the best way to increase income to have more to pay down debt. Having 3 children makes it tough to take on another job and finding something flexible enough for my wife to be home when the kids are is a challenge. Putting the kids in daycare would just offset her additional income. I know many parents struggle with this, some work different shifts to not incur the daycare cost. If you can't increase your income, you can certainly look to decrease spending. There are some easy ones like packing a lunch instead of buying, swapping out old light bulbs to the high efficiencies ones to help reduce energy cost, stop using another banks ATMs and racking up ATM fees.

So what are the tricks and tips you use? Are there any real work at home jobs out there?

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Cost of Entertaining Kids

With school out for the summer it's time to keep the kids busy, but at what cost? I'm about to sound like my Dad, but when I was a kid, we typically went on a family vacation during the summer. A week or 2 long trip somewhere camping or visiting an amusement park. The rest of the time I was out in the neighborhood figuring things out to do with my friends. Baseball, football, swimming, computer/ video games, riding bikes, etc.

Today parents seemed to be more of a social / event coordinators when it comes to activities, then parents. I don't think my mom or dad ever use the words play date when I was a kid. I know times have changed and the freedoms that were true for me as a child are not the same for my 3 children. So planning is more part of the day and age we live in. I think about my birthday parties growing up. Most of mine were at my home, we invited my friends over for some cake and ice cream, played a few games and that was about it. As I got older I took 2 or 3 friends to the movies. But that was about the extend of it. Today's Birthday parties have created an industry. From a number of business who's sole purpose it to host your child's party. I been invited to a 9 year old's party that had a DJ and catered food. I have hosted parties for my children at parties locations and in my backyard. Both types have at the same result. Good time had by all, but each cost very different price tag.

Summer time offers so many ways to spend money on your children. Daily camp, sports camp, music camp, movies, water parks, beaches, pools, summer toys, water guns, water toys, ice cream, etc.

Activities don't have to be grand to keep the kids interested or occupied. Pack a lunch and hit a park or beach. Hit the pool, plan a game day. Could be indoor or outdoors. Get a group of their friends together and plan a Olympic type event with several events basket ball, pool diving, volley ball, etc held at several different homes

I read a friends Facebook post recently which said something like I just had to punish my son. I had to take away an aisle from Best Buy and when I was a kid all I did was get sent to my room. He posted a picture of a laptop, cell phone, Nintendo DS, and x-box 360. Technology has sure changed. The handle held games of my day had a 9 volt battery and a few dashes on screen. Children have more technology at their disposal today them we did at there age. Challenge them with this technology. My son always wants to use the video camera to make videos. I told him to come up with a video idea, write it down and I will help him shot and edit it.

The bottom line is, the price tag doesn't make the experience. You and your children do. Keep it fun, stay within your budget and enjoy.

If all else fails, just buy them a pet.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

School's Out...time for a financial lesson

I have no complaints about my childhood. I grew up in a large family, we had great holidays, and summer vacations. My parents supported me and were always there for me. Cheering for me on the slide lines as I played sports, clapping for me at my high school graduation and helping me finance my College career. Looking back on it now it was great, but if there was one thing I could change I would have had my parents give me some financial advice /education.

I mean they showed me around a check book and answered any questions for me, but never really sat me down and gave me any financial advice. Having a pile of unsecured debt now I wish I had a better head start. No worries for me I'm doing my part now to dig out of my situation. My plan for my children is different it  will be a series of sit downs to explain bills, credit cards, savings and checking accounts.

Having 2 children getting ready to enter middle school and wanting their first cell phones, the cell phone bill is a great place to start. Letting them understand the cost of the phone usage, texting, etc. The date / deadline that they money is due, the taxes and additional charges they come with owning a phone.  Cell phones / texting are common place for young adults and I'm sure that most not paying for them, but they should understand the cost / value.

I think the next lesson can easily be the Cable / Internet bill. Something my kids use frequently. Again breaking down our monthly bill so they understand the cost and the responsibility of paying it on time. As well of the consequences of not paying on time.

As I look over my monthly budget I see a number of lessons to come:

Income - breaking down the pay stub and all the taxes and deductions.
The electric bill - they can finally understand why I'm always yelling to turn off the lights.
Food - understand the cost of waffles
Credit cards - interest and the pain in the stomach the cause

Some many lesson to teach, so little time.

I'm wondering how others feel. Did your parents ever sit you down to talk money? Do you have a plan for you kids?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lottery - How much coinage do you need?

I have often dreamed of winning the lottery. I don't play on a regular basis, but typically play when the jackpot reaches over $100 million. I play on my own and usually chip in with co-workers. I certainly don't want to be the guy left out at work who didn't get in when they win.

I day dream about what I do with the money, paying off all my bills, helping my family with theirs, being able to drive any car I want or vacation where ever I want. All great things, but when I snap back to reality I realize I don't need $100 million. If I won just  $100,000 things would be so much different. That winning a $100K would be a spring board to paying off my debt. It makes thing easier day to day, work wouldn't be so stressful.  Just think of your life if you didn't have you monthly rent, mortgage payment or credit cards bills. What would you do if you won the lottery? What's the dollar amount the you'd need to win to make things easier for you?