Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bucket List

I have tackled my financial bucket list, now I want to list my true bucket list. The things I truly hope to accomplish before I kick the bucket. Still the first step is having my debt and finances in order because as you will see with my list there will be some funding needed if I want to cross off some these items. Here it is in not particular order:

Take my children to their first NFL football game - I have been to many with my dad

Attend a Super Bowl

Take the family to Niagara Falls - I've have been there as a kid with my family




Teach my son's how to Scuba dive

Swim with dolphins

Write another screenplay - I have complete 5, but have not written in years

Director a feature film - was my goal out of college to work in the film industry

Take the family on 7 day or longer cruise - we've been on a 4 day and it was one of our greatest vacations

Drive cross country and sight see - have done this before, just the driving part.

Take my wife to Hawaii - we never really had a honeymoon

I'm sure that I will add more items over time, but wanted to get these down to start with. What your bucket list look like?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Financial Bucket List

Since the 2007 movie The Bucket List With Jack Nicholson, and Morgan Freeman there are a number of web sites and blogs that offer tips / suggestions to help you compile your list of things to do before you kick the bucket. I will be putting one of those types of list together in the weeks to come, but first wanted to get my financial bucket list complete. Really the same idea but I choose to look at it as a list of financial items I'd like to complete way before I'm kicking anything.


I think a list like this serves as motivation, goals that you should continue to work towards. Without a list you can get caught up in everyday life and never get anything accomplished. So here's goes:

Pay off all unsecured Debt in less then 5 years

Establish Emergency Fund - save $15,000

Establish vacation fund - save $3,000-$4,000 yearly for family vacations

Build sizable college fund for my 3 children - college ain't cheap

Pay off Home Mortgage - will make the next 3 easier

Save 1 million dollars for retirement

Retire at age 55

Buy Retirement home with Cash - No Mortgage

After writing my list, it almost came out in chronological order. Tops are my list is paying off my credit card debt, once that is complete it makes many of the others easier to accomplish. Do you think I'm missing any major items? Sure it's my list, but I don't want to miss out on anything. What's your list look like?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Purpose?

I have had this blog up and running for a little over 2 months now. I was thinking about the reasons why I decided to set it up in the first place. The first one that came to mind was that I was going to make a ton of extra cash as people surfed and clicked on the Google ads on my site. I now realize it's not about making money, it's about staying on the the path that my family and I decided to take right before I started the blog. To get our debt paid off, and get our finances under control. To educate our children so they don't make they same mistakes we made.


The blog posts for me are a nice why to vent, but as I look for topics to write about I'm educating myself as well. I'm reading so much more information about debt, budgets, and experiences from others on a daily basis now I can't wait to write my next blog post. 60 days ago I was surfing the Internet, checking e-mail, etc. Now my computer time has more of a purpose. There are so many web sites and blogs out there dedicate to the same topic, a number with great information, and some just a simple recap of ones owe story.

 I wonder what is the purpose of your blog? Web Site? What inspired you to start it?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Boo-yah Credit Card Debt!

TransUnion report that credit card debt has dropped to it's lowest level since 2002. Average credit card debt on bank issued card dipped below $5000. The delinquency rate fell as well, card holder who were late on payments over 90 days is under 1%. Consumers are also getting fewer new cards. Nice Job!


The full article with which states have the highest and lowest debt averages can be found here:

 The Hill
 
This is really some great news, it seems we are getting our finances in order or are we? Is this just a knee jerk reaction to the current times? The cloud of financial instability that we have been in over the past few years, just has us tightening our belts only to be let out once things get better.

I don't think so. I'd like to think we've turned the corner. We are better prepared now that we have ever been. With the number of big businesses in the spotlight and their financial troubles out in the open for all of us to see, the bonuses, the bailouts, and the demise of some. We have filed that all away for the benefit of our personal budgets.

Thoughts on this good news?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's your Confidence?

According to the latest Gallup poll our economic confidence has dipped a bit in the last few weeks. Overall we are feeling less confident about the economy today and think things are getting worse. Workers worries about job and pay cutbacks continue to be high compared with prior years. Roughly one in four workers is worried about being laid off in the near future. Consumer spending is down as well off by a few dollars in August, even with back to school shopping. These facts all gleamed from Gallup's recent polls, and can change on a weekly basis. Are you worried about the economies state? I not overly worried on a personal level because I'm taking care of my budget. I have a plan to repay my debt. I have a job. There's the rub. The job. What's the back up plan for job loss? Emergency fund you say? Sure, but for how long?



I have been trying to fill an open position at my job and have interviewed a number of candidates who have lost their jobs over the last year. Downside as they put it. I have found it difficult to fill that open position, just not finding the right fit. When talking to some co-workers about it, one suggest it's because all the good people still have jobs. I may have to agree. Just like you do in a budget crunch you trim the fat, make sacrifices and only spend money on the things your truly need. I'm sure companies have made those same choices with their work force, trimming back those who were meeting job requirements, but not a true need for the money being spent during tough times.

With the economy not recovering as quick as many had hoped, how would you handle job loss?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School

It's almost that time for my 3 kids. I know parts of the country are already in school. In years past this would be the time of year that we would be out shopping for new clothes, shoes and supplies. Typically ringing up $200-$300 per child and paying for it all on credit.


This year we are taking a different approach. We are going to prioritize their needs and purchase them as we have the cash to do so. Supplies will be first, but with the supplies we are not picking up every item on the teachers list. Over the years we have found that often not everything gets used. So we'll purchase it as it is needed, instead of all at once. Some of the items, we have from years past (folders, colored pencils, etc) Shoes are next as these take a daily beating, and then clothes. A simple approach and remembering to stick to needs verse wants when shopping.

What are you tips and trick when sending the kids back to school?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Final Credit Card Phase in Effect

If you didn't know the final phase of the Credit Card Act of 2009 went into effect yesterday. The act is a federal law passed by the United States Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on May 22, 2009. The goal of the act was aimed at limiting how credit card companies can charge consumers but did not include interest rate caps.


I'm sure you notice early this year changes in the format of you credit card bill, it now will show you the pay off in years based on minimum payments and some payment above the minimum, the years it would take and the amount of interest you would save.

Here's a link with the information of all they changes that when into effect earlier this year:

Credit Card Rules

Yesterday changes focused on late fees, inactively fees, and explanation on why the credit card companies changes your interest rates. All of the information for yesterday changes can be found here:

Credit Card Rules 2

So with all of these new rules in place. How has your use of credit card changed?

Friday, August 20, 2010

How's the Water Cooler Budget?

You balance a budget at home, but do you have any financial responsibility outside of your home? You may not realize it but you probably do to some degree at you job. I'm sure if you were over budget there, there would be consequences. There is no credit card to make up what you don't have in cash at the end of the month in the office, well at least not where I work.


My job has a budget component to it, and for as long as I can remember I have always been under budget with spending each year. How is it that I can be so disciplined at work and so undisciplined at home? Here are some of those work related budget items:

Office Supplies - order them and have a spending guide line

Labor hours /Overtime - have direct report and have to manage their time and how much OT they work?

Software/ Hardware / Equipment purchase - need to keep cost to a certain dollar amount?

Projects - overall budget sending tie to a projects.

Budget Planning - projecting cost for future projects, purchase, years


All the above things happen everyday in business. If you are successful with these at the office, can they help you at home?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Family Vs. Food

I have seen and read a lot recently about who has the best burgers, and fast foods both online and on TV.

Here is one such article -fast-food-survey-results

It got me thinking about my families favorites, and then it got me thinking about the cost. My children are at they age where kids meals are becoming a thing of the past. It brings a tear to my eye, not because they're growing up, but because of the amount of food they are eating and the dollars I'm dropping. Subway is one of their favorites, which is good because it's one of the healthier ones. But if the 5 of us go there for lunch or a quick dinner we can easy spent $30-$35 a trip.



Our average dinner out has jumped $15-20 with kids meal now going to regular meals. I try and take my lunch to work everyday because a typical eat out lunch run in the $5-7 dollar range each day. Brown bagging it saves me $25-$35 a week. We don't eat our frequently, to help cut cost and so when we do make it that much more of a special family event.

What are you tips for cutting cost when eating out? What are you favorite fast foods?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SS your only retirement plan?

Again I was surprised by reading the following article.

clear-majority-plan-to-rely-on-social-security-in-retirement-survey-finds

75% of all young adults plan on relying on Social Security for retirement! That's a big percentage. The article isn't clear if it's their only source, but I really hope it's not. There will be no guarantee at what level of benefit will be available when you are eligible to collect social security.  Here's the some info from the SS web site:

If your full retirement age is older than 65 (that is, you were born after 1937), you still will be able to take your retirement benefits at age 62, but the reduction in your benefit amount will be greater than it is for people retiring now.

Here's how it works. If your full retirement age is 67, the reduction for starting your benefits at

    * 62 is about 30 percent;
    * age 63 is about 25 percent;
    * age 64 is about 20 percent;
    * age 65 is about 13 and 1/3 percent; and
    * age 66 is about 6 and 2/3 percent.

As a general rule, early retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits as full retirement over your lifetime, but in smaller amounts to take into account the longer period you will receive them.




I have read on many blogs and web sites about people making sure that they are getting max match contributions on their 401Ks from their employers and a lot about Roth IRAs. So I know people are thinking about retirement and saving beyond SS. You need to have a plan and understand how much you need or want to support you live style when you retire.

So what's your retirement plan?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Priority, Priority, Priority

I recently came across the article online.

Foreclosure

I was surprised to see foreclosure rates are still on the rise. It got me thinking about my bill priority and how when money is tight how I choose to pay my bills. Not all debt is equal. I think you can classify them into essential and non-essential debt. For me having a roof over my families head is essential and I make that a priority when paying my monthly bills. Making a credit card payment each month is non-essential. Sure it might affect my credit score and I might get a phone call or two, but if I had to choose between my mortgage or credit card. I'm paying the mortgage. Some bills my vary by your personal situation.

Car Payment - essential if you need to to get to work, non-essential if you don't

Medical Insurance - essential if you are currently under medical care, non-essential if you have a good bill of health.

Utility Bills - essential if you don't have heat, water, electricity that could be a health risk

Home Phone - non-essential if you have a cell phone, essential if you don't

I'm certainly not recommending that you not pay your bills. If you suffer a lose of income you need to make a list of your bills and understand what category they fall into. It may be drastic, but knowing your options and educating yourself about the consequences of not paying your debts is key. Organizing bills in this way and cutting those corners may give you enough time to get back on your feet.

What are you essential and non-essential bills?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Houston We Have a Job

My wife heard back from 3 of the 5 perspective employers she applied to. Target e-mailed and said they had no open positions at the location she had applied. Toys R Us/ Babies R US asked her in for an interview as well as they local supermarket / grocery store. As suspected both are looking to fill day time hours now that summer is coming to an end and high school / college kids are returning to school. Both interviews went went. My wife has previous experience in customer service and retail.


She was offered position with both companies at the completion of each interview. Within a week she went from looking to having two offers and a decision to make. After some discussion my wife accepted a position with the supermarket / grocery store. They offered what the called the mommy shift. Day time hours while the kids are in school and seemed much more flexible in case of a child being home sick, school vacations, etc. Best of luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Online Banking

Where would we all be without online banking? I can't imagine managing my money without being about to log on and check the status of accounts. Just tonight I had to move money around before my wife went to the store. We have so many tools at our disposal.  There are online pay, automatic payment options, direct deposit, bill reminders, e-statements, etc.


I have used on occasion the online pay feature for some bills to avoid being late on a payment.  I also use direct deposit.  It is just very valuable to be able to at any moment log on and get an update on where you stand financially. With all of these tools today, why is personal debt at all time highs? How did our parents manage their bank accounts years ago? Salves to the check register and the monthly statement? Is simpler, easier?

I like to know what tools if any you use to help manage you finances.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh Canada!

As I have been reading many debt, budget, finance blogs I have noticed that many are from Canadian bloggers. I wondered if Canadian's in general had more debt then American's. I did some research to back up my observation. What I found what that the average credit-card debt per household in Canada is a little over $3000 and in the U.S. it's a little over $8000.



So fear not my Canadian friends I stand corrected. This also made me think are American's less willing to share their information on their debt or were my own person blogs search just off. I couldn't find much information related to reporting of debt by consumer in the U.S. or Canada. So I'll ask you, are you unwilling to share you debt information? If so why?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Part Time Job Update

I know I've mentioned that my wife is in the hunt for a part time job. We figured this would be a good time to start with college and High School students returning to school. The type of flexible part time job she is looking for would open up. Since we have 3 school age children who are not quite ready to be left alone the job needs to be on the off hours when I'm home from my job or during day while they are in school. So here's where is has applied:
Starbucks
Target
Toys R Us
Best Buy
Local Supermarket Chain




We both have been surprised at that all have offered online applications process. This allows the company to ask more question then a standard paper application. Most have been filled with ethic questions and go beyond just your person information and previous employment history.  I'm still a little skeptical on this online process for these types of jobs.

Has anyone had any luck with these companies and this process?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's all in a name.

I started my blog as a way help keep track of our progress for paying off our debt. I decided on the name because the debt was accumulated by the whole family. No the kids don't have there own credit cards, but do factor into our spending. It was something my wife and I talked about before getting married and having a family. That finances would be one of our marriages biggest challenges. I had no idea there was a TV show on CNBC with a similar name: "Til Debt Do Us Part" 




It's a show that my wife and I watch regularly now. It helps keep us focused on our goal. It quite often shows couples that are not communication about their budgets or re not clear what the other one is spending each month.  To echo my post from yesterday communication is the key.

I wonder what resources you use, other blogs, web sites, shows, books etc to keep your eye on your prize?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Communication

I've read a number of articles and blog posts over the last week or so, regarding marriage and finances. Some take the approach of keeping accounts separate, some don't. All agree that communication is key to keeping your finances healthy. I have to agree. But isn't that true is any relationship? Keeping the lines of communication open, when dealing with a spouse, partner, friend, employee, sibling, etc.

 

My wife and I started a budget years ago, well at least wrote one down, we didn't really stick to it until recently. When we revisited and realize things were much worst we put a plan in action. We have never communicated more about our budget and finances then we have over the past 3 months. We talk openly with our children about money, helping them understand our situation and educate them. Communication is key when things are going good or bad, problems big or small. I think that is sometime easily forgotten. How do you communicate your finances with your spouse, partner?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Luxury Expenses

Reading this article and seeing a story about it on the news got me thinking about luxury expenses.

Dumpster Pools

Why a dumpster made me think of it I'm not sure, but if I had the money I'd park a few of these in the back parking lot at work for my staff to enjoy a mid-day dip.



I starting thinking of things I spend money on that are not necessaries like food and water.

Here's my short list.

Satellite radio - really nice to have, commercial free, makes drive to work much more enjoyable - funny thing here is I've been trying to cancel for awhile now. Last time I tried they gave me 5 months free.

Starbucks coffee - I don't drink coffee - but this is my wife's weakness

Internet game subscriptions - pogo, club penguin

We have recently cut back on a lot of things. I happen to work for a company that provides my Internet/cable so I didn't list it. What does your list look like?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Moving to Nebraska

I was doing some research on the Internet last night and came across this bit of information about per capita debt for U.S. states.

Lowest per-capita debt
50. Nebraska: $15
49. Iowa: $73
48. Wyoming: $77
47. South Dakota: $135
46. Arkansas: $312

Highest per-capita debt
1. Connecticut: $4,859
2. Massachusetts: $4,606
3. Hawaii: $3,996
4. New Jersey: $3,669
5. New York: $3,135

Source: Moody's Investors Service. Data are for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009.





I was surprised to see see 4 of the top 5 states were all on the East Coast, I figured CA would have been in there. Based on the Bottom 5 list I got to only guess that cost of living really drives the overall per capita debt for individuals living in these states. I know that Long Island, New York area has on of the highest cost of living. So does this mean I need to live in the mid-west to be debt free? I'm sure there is a relationship in here, all assumptions but East Coast salaries are higher, cost of living is higher, you spend more and rack up more debt? Mid-west you make less salary, cost of living is cheaper, you spend lest and have less debt? Am I way off here?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gift Giving

The family and I are looking at all ways to reduce spending. Gift giving quickly comes to mind, certainly with the holiday season not being far off and it being a big spending time of the year. This can be managed pretty easy but setting limits and sticking to them. I started to think about the other gifts that we give during the year. Birthdays are another top one. As adults my wife and I have no problem skipping exchanging gifts, but always provide for the kids. I really started to think about all the Birthday parties that the kids get invited to for classmates that we spend money on. Birthday parties are not your typically come over to my house for cake and some games these days. The parties themselves carry a big price tag and we often give gifts in the $20-$25 range.



There is also all the gift giving to just about everyone these days, teachers, teachers aids, bus drivers, garbage men, mail carriers, etc I'm not sure when this changed but it seems like these days during the Holidays they all get gifts and always at the end of the school year for the teachers and bus drivers. I don't recall when I was a kid my parents giving as many gifts to these people as I do today. The gifts are usually cash or a gift card. I'm more then willing to chip in, but if I'm looking to save money and struggling to pay debt why should I feel obligated to get gifts for people who are already being paid for their job. I hope my contribution or lack there of doesn't affect the education or service I receive.

I wonder what your thoughts are on gift giving for the likes of teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers, etc

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DMP or Debt Settlement

I been trying to figure out the best way to pay off my unsecured debt. I've been reading many blogs, books, online information, etc trying to get hands on as much data as possible. Really trying to make sure there isn't some secret way to pay off your debt that I'm just not aware of. Unless I've missed the special hand shake or hidden door at the library, it does not appear to be any magic trick to paying down your debt. There seems to be two programs out there, other then increasing your income and increasing your monthly payments (snowball payments) to pay down your debt.





The Debt Management Program - DMPs which you don't hear much about and the Debt Settlement programs, which your hear about almost every commercial break on the Radio and often on TV. Here's what I know about these programs.

The DMP is basically an assistant program offered by a agency most banks or credit unions have associations with reputable ones. Some will waived their fees if you go through your bank or credit union. The agency will work with your creditors to reduce the interest rate on your accounts and work out a repayment plan in 3-5 years. You in turn send your money to the agency and they paid your creditors. With the reduction in interest rate you can pay down you debt faster, applying more money to your principal balance each month. They key here is this is typically done with no additional income. You may be required to take some credit counseling. It may appear on your credit report that you are being assisted, but your accounts are paid on time and there is be on ill effect on you credit report.

The Debt Settlement program is offered by an agency who will negotiate with your creditors to reduce your overall debt by a percentage. How much may vary on how well they can negotiate, there claim is up to 60%. You must pay the creditor back in a lump sum. You will pay the agency a monthly payment and they will build it in a fund until you have enough to pay off the first creditor. The process will be repeated for each. The downside is that as they build that fund for the lump sum payment, you are not making your regularly scheduled monthly payment and that is reported on your credit report. The agency also charges you a fee in some cased 15% of your debt settlement. They will also work out a 3-5 year repayment plan.

This is a very general, quick overview of the two programs. Has anyone had any direct experience with either of these type of programs? Any other tricks, tips I've missed?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wasteful Spending

Its garbage night, so my wife and I decided to clean out our freezer. I can't believe how much money I just bagged up and took to the curb. We filled four bags up from our freezer with old vegetables, steak, chicken, fish, and ice cream. All money down the drain. I guesstimate we just threw away about $300. Not a very fun experience, but will certainly prompt a change it our shopping and freezer habits. It did get me thinking about other wasteful spending, things that we spend extra money on out of convenience. Here's a few I came up with.



ATM Fees - using another banks ATM instead of yours and pay 2 or 3 dollars just to get you money.

Eating out - in general it cost way to much compared to make the same food at home.

Milk/Bread run - hitting the local convenience store instead of the super market and paying way to much for everyday things.

General Laziness (this can apply for so many things) - not shutting off lights, TVs, electronics, unplugging cell phone chargers and running up the electric bill.

What do you wastefully spend money on?
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