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.

  Poverty

    * 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

Allowance

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?

Job-Stress-Workers-Biggest-Complaint

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?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sir Spam-A-Alot

Checking my spam folder over the weekend and it looks like I've come into a bit of money. Of the many e-mails claiming I've won cash, this was the biggest of the prizes. What I could do with $5.3 Million.

FROM THE DESK OF: GOVERNOR CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA.

CBN COMPLEX, GARIKI ABUJA,NIGERIA

P.BOX 2356478.

Attn:
I am the newly appointed governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.You are hereby
advised in your own interest to stop further contact with the former Governor
Prof. Charles Soludo and his deputy, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia. They are no longer
with central bank of Nigeria as their tenure has expired, anybody doing business
with them in the name of CBN or Government of Nigeria is doing that at his own
risk. On assumption of office 4th June 2009 I discovered that you are being owned
contract/inheritance payment of $5.3 million (United State Dollars) as unpaid
contract fund in Contractors Category [A] Record file.Therefore you required to
reconfirm your informations for verification and immediate payment within 24 hours.

1. Your full name________________________

2. You Full Address______________________

3. Age, date of birth and gender___________

4. Occupation______________________________

5. Telephone number mobile__________________

6. Home Telephone___________________________

7. Office Telephone_________________________

6. Copy of your identification_____________

7. Mode of payment________________________

We shall not entertain impostors and you must proof that you are the rightful owner of this fund before final payment, note that it is no longer business as usual Moreover, you are to submit all these information to our paying bank below.

BANK NAME: UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA NEW YORK

ADDRESS: 1 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA, 8TH FLOOR NEW YORK,NY10020

CONTACT PERSON: MR DAN MANGLIO

You are to forward your response to MR.DAN MANGLIO for him to let you know how
and when you are going to receive your fund without any further delay.
Sincerely,

Dr.Sanusi Lamido
Governor Central Bank of Nigeria.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

For all of us here in the United States Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer, but Labor day is a federal Holiday celebrated by all 50 states. It was adopted in 1894 to celebrate workers. In the earlier years of the holiday street parades were held followed by a festivals for the workers and their families. Today the holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties. So enjoy your day off because it's back to work tomorrow!

 Image from one of the first Labor Day Parades.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 2, ouch!

Only 2 days into our 30 day challenge of keeping track of all our spending, expenses, etc. and smack a nice punch to the side of the face. A $255 bill for repairs on my car. Totally unexpected, but needed to be done. I needed breaks and rotors. I commute about 50 miles round trip each day to my job in regular traffic. So the money needed to be spent.


Now the kick in the shines. All 3 children had eye exams as they are preparing to go back to school. No worries we have insurance. Exams are covered after a low $10 co-pay. My oldest son and daughter both need glasses, again no worries. Our insurance covers up to $120 for frames and lenses are covered. After the $120 we get a 25% on anything about that. I figured we'd be able to stay close to that amount when picking out frames for the kids. Well my wife and I were not on the same page. We ending up spending $163 above our $240 of coverage for 2 pair of glasses. So day 2 was a $400 day for us. Not a way to start a month. It really reminds me that we need to communicate on each and every purchase.

How do you handle unexpected cost?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

30 Day Challenge

I have decided for the month of September that the family and I will track every expense, purchase, cash transaction, etc. I have my excel spreadsheet set up. I really want to get a sense for where our money is being spent. Don't get me wrong I have a monthly budget with a breakdown of all my current bills, and what each payment is.


It's the variables that I'm really looking to get a better handle on. Food, gas, cash, etc. I'm hopefully that this will give us some ideas on where we can trim so fat from the budget and use it for saving or possible more debt repayment. I think the biggest challenge is making sure everybody does their part and collects receipts when spending. My fingers are crossed and I hope we can do this for 30 days.

Do you know where your money goes each month? Have you ever tracked all spending for any length of time?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

State of the Blog Update

I'm a little over 2 months into my blog and want to share some of my stats since we just complete the month of August.  August saw a 20% growth in views to my blog. Not bad. I had 228 new visitors and 135 returning. Visitors from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland and India to name a few.



The top referring site were:

www.facebook.com

www.punchdebtintheface.com

www.getrichslowly.org

www.blogger.com

gailvazoxlade.com

www.networkedblogs.com

www.budgetsaresexy.com

A number of these are blogs I read and comment on. I really like to know of the people visiting my site what the like / dislike. How come there haven't been more comments? Really would like to keep improving the blog, so feedback would be great.