Monday, December 23, 2013

Tis The Season

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

Tis the season to spend money! Christmas is only 20 days away. According to the National Retail Federation shoppers spent an average of $407 over the Thanksgiving weekend. We have not done much shopping as of yet. Like we have done in the past my wife and I will be taking a day off from work in the next week or two to tackle most of our shopping. We have done this in years past and have found store less crowded mid-week. We take advantage of that as well as having our three children in school. I am fortunate to receive an end of year bonus that funds our Christmas shopping. I know this is not the smartest plan, that the bonus is not a guarantee, but it has worked for us as we have focuses our monthly income and budget on debt repayment. This will change for us in the future as we become debt free before next Christmas. Our budget is high for our children for Christmas due to the fact that there have been many “No” handed out during the year while in debt repayment mode and the fact that the bonus is not factored into our over income. We still do try and attack our shopping with a plan and here are some of the tips that have served us well over the years.

 
tis the season

Set a budget or spending limits

This is really your first step understanding what your overall budget is going to be for your Holiday Shopping. Thanksgiving might be the good family opportunity to discuss spending limits with immediate family members. We often would set a $25 limit for the children in the family (nieces & nephews) and often would not exchange gifts with sibling.

Have a plan

Once you know what your overall budget is or spending limit per person you can begin a list. We always make a list, yes we do check it twice. We include everyone we plan on purchasing gifts for and note gift ideas as well. I typically keep it in a excel spread sheet as I can easily edit, color code etc.

Research

Now that you have your budget and list you can use the internet to do some homework, compare prices, products, find stores that have the items you want, and sign up for rewards. You may even purchase some of these items online. Many offer free shipping this time of the year. If you have a $25 limit for a person by find the gift for that person on sale for $20 you now have $5 to buy them something else or move over to someone else.

Bottom Line

Following these simple steps have kept us from aimlessly walking around the mall purchasing random items. Only to come home to fine we had totally spend more money then we had intended too. If true tight on money you might want to consider making gifts, there are so many inexpensive things you can do with digital photos these days. I made a photo book for my mom for her birthday for under $20. She loved it and know has a nice way to show off her grandkids to her friends when they come over. One other tool I found recent is a Dave Ramsey’s My Christmas Budget. It’s a great online tool that will help you keep track of your holiday spending this year. How do you manage your holiday budget?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Support

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

I recently attended an alcoholic’s anonymous anniversary for a good friend. It was an open meeting and all were welcome. It was great to support my friend and his journey to recovery. As I drove home from the anniversary it occurred to me that love and support shown to him and the other members at the AA meetings was truly amazing. That this type of support is crucial to their success, attempting to quit drinking on your own would be difficult, but surrounding yourself with people with similar stories, problems, and goals helps make it easier. I by no means am attempting to make a comparison between quitting alcoholic and getting out of debt, but I’m about the overall support concept. Personal finance blogs offer those similar stories, problems, and goals we all face when trying to get our financial house in order. Can the support group format work with personal finance?

support

Motivation

 

We have been repaying debt for over three years, 3 long years. We are roughly 11 months away from being debt free. I want to look at the things that keep me motivated in the pursuit of my personal finance goals. Writing post for my blog keep me thinking about my personal situation all the time. I read many other blogs and books looking to increase on knowledge. I try and help family and friends with their personal finances if they are willing to listen. I listen to a number of podcast as well. I can’t help but smile ever time I hear someone on the Dave Ramsey show tell their story about how they became debt free and yell they are debt free. I can’t wait for my family to experience that feeling. Last, but certainly not least is teaching my children not to make the same mistakes my wife and I have made. They will have such a head start making better decisions at a young age with money. As you can see a lot of these are done on my own or with immediate family, but still keep me highly motivated.

 

Masterminds

 

The concept of a mastermind group is fairly new to me. I first hear about them on a recent podcast. I now understand they were developed over 75 years ago by author Napoleon Hill. I’m truly fascinated by the idea, couple with my recent support experience at the alcoholic’s anonymous anniversary I think a mastermind group would be a great experience. I’ve looked locally and have not found any groups near by. I have been thinking of starting my own. Overall I think the support, accountability, and brainstorming, possibilities of a mastermind group could be endless with the right mix of people. Could a personal finance mastermind group work?

What keep you motivated? Have you ever been a part of a mastermind group?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Side Order of Public Assistance

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

Over the summer a number of fast-food workers staged protest to demand higher wages. I stumbled across a number of articles on the topic recently at Business Week and Bloomberg. It’s an interesting debate and if not familiar with the topic you’ll be surprised to find out what type of side item is being served to these workers, public assistance. The problem stems from the fact that your average fast-food worker is no longer the teenager living at home. Over 60% are single or married adults who are not in school. 50% of families of fast-food workers are enrolled in as least one public assistance program. McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are two of the biggest offenders. McDonald’s has gone so far as setting up a resource line to help workers apply for aid. Looking over both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s recent profits shows that both are successful. The median salary for a fast-food worker is $8.69 an hour in 2013. These companies are simply taken advantage of tax payers and some outdated laws.

public assistance

How to Solve

The easiest way would be to raise wages. This could be done slightly over time to eliminate the need for workers to rely on the public assistance. This would possible increase cost of goods and decrease profits, but reduce the burden on tax payers. The other option would be to charge back the company the amount of public assistance an employee receives. I’m not sure how much support this would receive in Washington.

Bottom Line

Something needs to change. A full time worker making the average of $8.69 an hour will make just over $18k a year. This is just above the poverty guidelines for a family of two. Do the math, after basic needs this is hardly enough to live on. Companies need to provide better opportunities for these workers. If they are dedicate, committed they should have the chance to early high wages to provider for themselves and their family, not relying on public assistance to survive.

Were you aware of this practice by business? How would you solve this problem? Would you trade a more expensive Big Mac for lower taxes?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Would You Do?

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

In a story that you might see on ABC’s “What Would You Do” television show, a Connecticut man recently found $98,000 in cash stashed in a desk he purchased on Craigslist for under $200. Rabbi Noah Muroff and his wife had to dismantle the desk to be able to fit it into the office in their home and when they did they discovered a plastic shopping bag filled with stacks of $100 dollar bills. They called the original owner who had hidden the cash, her inheritance in the desk but had forgot where she placed it. Rabbi Muroff returned the money and said the most important thing in life is to be honest. I have never found anywhere near this type of money. If I recall maybe $10 is the maximum I have found. I have seen people drop money and made them aware. My son once found $40 on the floor of our bank. We turned it in. I thought they might give it to him if no one claimed it after a certain period of time. The bank didn’t even take our name. So faced with finding a large amount of cash what would you do?

Would you follow in Rabbi Muroff foot steps?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Change

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

It’s that time of year again when most companies open their annual enrollment period for employee benefits. The time when the employee has the ability to change his/her benefit elections for the upcoming year. Things like medical coverage, dental coverage, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, etc. Now with the affordable care act in place I believe many of us will be facing changes in the way of cost increases in our medical benefits. Those benefits package should be arriving shortly, it not already and you will be able to see just how big of an impact it will make in your finances. Now depending on when you receive a merit increase these changes could actually reduce your take home pay come the New Year. Keep this in mind as you plan ahead.

change


Grass isn’t Always Greener

How many times have you heard this phase as it relates to the workplace? Often I’m sure, I know I have. All jobs and companies are not created equal. Some require travel, being on call, working extra hours, working in dangerous environments, etc. Company benefits vary as well, number of paid days off, cost of medical coverage, perks offered, bonus, etc. There are a number of variables that go into the company’s ability to offer you the employee these benefits, their size, their revenue, the position, the job responsibilities, etc. So is the grass greener on the other side? It’s difficult to say because most positions don’t equal one another.

Managing By Fear

Change is inevitable, I get that. My family and I will adapt to possible changes in cost or coverage in our medical benefits in the coming year. What frustrates me about the changes is the spin that is put on them internally at companies. Statements like “no other companies pay as much towards benefits as we do.” Well this is simply not the case. I have done a quick informal survey of some family and friends and found a wide range of benefits cost. Some better, some worst. It varies widely, so to make a statement and claim it as fact is dishonest. I would much rather hear the facts. There will be changes this year, we expect increases in cost, depending on your benefit plan cost increase will vary. As the workplace continues to evolve and employers look to do more with less pushing employee boundaries it’s important that “you’re lucky to have a job” attitude doesn’t rule the workplace.

What’s your current state of benefits at your job? Are you expecting big changes in 2014? Do you ever fell like you not getting honest answers at your workplace?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Money Songs

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

I have been inspired by some recent posts over at Budgets are Sexy outlining some lyrical lessons from two recent pop song hits. It got me thinking about other songs about money that might help motivate and inspire you. Here’s my list money, business, work songs come to mind:  

Money for Nothing – Dire Straits (1985)
Best lyrics:
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it You play the guitar on the MTV That ain't workin' that's the way you do it Money for nothin' and chicks for free
Takin’ Care Of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive (1973)
Best lyrics:
You can get to work by nine And start your slaving job to get your pay If you ever get annoyed Look at me I'm self-employed I love to work at nothing all day
Gold Digger – Kanye West (2005)
 
Best lyrics:
(She gives me money) Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger (when I'm in need) But she ain't messin' with no broke n…… (She gives me money)
Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) – Pet Shop Boys (1985)
 Best lyrics:
I've got the brains, you've got the looks Let's make lots of money You've got the brawn, I've got the brains Let's make lots of money
Money – Pink Floyd (1973)
 If the cash register and coin sounds effects were not enough.

Best lyrics:
Money, get away Get a good job with more pay and your O.K. Money it's a gas Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I'll buy me a football team
She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer (1983)
Best lyrics:
She works hard for the money So hard for it honey She works hard for the money So you better treat her right
U2 – Silver & Gold (1989)

No real tie to money within the song lyrics, as the title would suggest.
Just one of my favorite bands of all time and I have some cool pictures to share. money songs money songs

What’s your favorite themed money, business, or work song?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Frugal money habits to incorporate - Tips on planning a budget and getting out of debt

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

[Guest author today – Michelle Blackmore - Freelance Financial Writer]

So, are you up to your eyeballs in credit card debt? With credit cards easily available, credit card debt is too commonplace. There are different circumstances that lead to debt and one of the most common reason behind this is irresponsible financial planning and financial ignorance. They say ignorance is bliss but when it comes to managing your finances, this is not at all true. Most debt situations can be rectified with effective financial planning and intense effort through a long period of time and hence if you stay focused towards your debt reduction efforts, you can easily remain on the right track. Although it is possible to consolidate credit card debt yet this is certainly not the ultimate panacea to your soaring debt woes. Without adopting a frugal life, it is never possible to save money and accumulate enough funds to repay debt. So, have a look at the ways in which you can adopt a frugal lifestyle and stay out of debt.

Systematize your debts

You should make a chart of each and every outstanding credit card debt in order from the smallest to the largest debt amount. Then you shouldtry to snowball your debts by repaying the smaller amount first and then concentrate on repaying the next debt with the second highest principal balance. As you see the smallest debt amount being repaid first, you will be motivated to repay your debt even sooner.

Stop using your credit cards

If you don’t want to keep incurring debt time and again, you should close all ways of incurring further debt. Make sure you stop using your credit cards as without this, it is almost impossible to control your expenses. Credit cards are the main reason behind the soaring financial worries among the consumers and hence you should avoid using your cards as much as possible. Instead of carrying your cards, you can carry cash in your wallet so that you stop shopping when you exhaust your cash.

Pay more than the minimum monthly payment

The credit card company might tell you that it is okay with making just the minimum monthly payment but you should be aware of the fact that the longer time you take to payoff the principal balance, the more will be the interest rate that you will accumulate on the debt account. So, try your best to save money and pay more than the minimum monthly payment so as to get rid of debt sooner.

Delay all those unnecessary purchases

If you don’t want to fall further into debt, you should delay all those unnecessary purchases which you can certainly do without. Make a list of all those expenses that are necessary for you and all those that you simply can’t go without. Postpone all those unnecessary expenses so that you may have enough to save and get out of debt with. Therefore, when you’re wondering about the ways in which you can get out of debt and also lead a frugal lifestyle, you may follow the above mentioned steps. Stay on the right track and get out of debt without having to file bankruptcy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Time Management

This is an original post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

I’m in a leadership role at my day job. I have direct reports and responsibility for staff reviews, feedback, coaching, time management, etc typical things that you might expect for some in a role like this. The group I run is a 24/7 operations group. I recently had a staff member give me his two week notice. After many years with the company he was moving on to a new role with a new company. He thanked me for his time. I wished him well, explained that we never want to lose anyone, but would not want to hold anyone back from a better opportunity. I also explained the process of leaving the company. The exit interview and what to expect as far as last pay check, unused time etc. This was a general overview on my part and I explained that our human resources department would go over these in far greater detail. He handed me his official letter of resignation and he left. Reading over the letter I realized that he was not giving the company full 2 weeks notice, more like a week and a half. I was able to work it out with other schedules to cover, so all in all not a big deal. On his final days, 3 hours before his shift he sent an e-mail stating that he has unused personal hours and would be taking them for his last shift. Not a huge deal as we have other coverage, but didn’t leave a good last impression with me or others in the group. This event got me thinking about the overall balance between work and personal life.



Time Away from Work 


 My company offers a variety of paid time off during each year. He’s the breakdown.
  • Vacation Time – as many as 4 week or 200 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • Sick Time – as many as 10 days for 80 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • Personal Time - as many as 3 days for 30 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • FML – as much as 3 month or 120 paid based on circumstance.
  • Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability – based on length of employment you are entitled to % of your pay.
As you can see there are many options to cover time away from work given any number of reasons. Vacation time is the only time at my company that is allowed to be carried over year to year, Unused Sick and Personal is lost and reset each year. These 3 are accrued monthly during the year.

Balance 

I usually do not use all of my accrued time within a given year. I often give sick time back and carry vacation time over year to year. I try and be flexible with staff with their request as I understand that life happens, and unexpected things will pop up from time to time. I myself will occasionally take a sick day or as I like to call them a mental health day when I need a break to reboot myself for a day. I have experienced staff that always seems to come up with the last minute, need to leave early, or day off request. When these request become patterns that is when I begin to question their validity. I have no idea at what rate I accrue my vacation, personal or sick time, but I have seen staff members who do, down to the hour. Who will put request in for vacation in advanced of having the hours banked already. When I would question it they would say oh by that time I will have enough hours. This type of work ethic makes me questions ones dedication and make we wonder if they have ever heard of the term career limiting move. My job provides for my family, and my salary is the biggest wealth building tool I have. I do try and maintain a health balance between work and personal life. The concept of using ever bit of time and counting your hours to your next vacation is foreign to me on a personal level. Even more so that I’m in a leadership role I’d much rather have dedicated staff members than someone who counting their hour to the next day off. If you are truly that unhappy, why not go find something else to do?

How many paid days off do you receive from your job? How do you maintain a health balance between work and personal life? Have you ever been so unhappy with a job that you use every bit of vacation, sick, personal time once you had access to it?

Friday, November 1, 2013

What I've Learned About Personal Finance

This is an original post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

We started to clean up our finances some 40 months ago. We had hit rock bottom and I realized this over vacation planning for our summer family trip in spring of 2010. We had no cash savings and had basically maxed out four credit cards and a line of credit. We were unable to borrow any more money, so I broke the news to the family that there would be no trip that summer, instead we would stay local and enjoy our first staycation. This was probably the best thing that ever happened to us, because if we didn’t hit bottom we would have continued to live beyond our means. We enjoyed our week of day trips and made the best of it. After that week we began our journey of paying off $109,000 in consumer debt. This is what I’ve learned about personal finance.

Personal Finance Blogs

I first hit the internet to begin researching information on how to get out of debt. I was hoping to find some secret that I had overlooked for years. There had to be some get out of debt fast scheme that after graduating high school with honors and picking up my B.A. in communications that someone failed to let me in on. One of the first personal finance blogs I came across was “Punch Debt in the Face” I read as many posts as I could that first night stumbling across this blog, from there it lead me to “Get Rich Slowly” and “Budgets are Sexy.” These blogs gave me so much information in the first few days of my research. It was very clear that there was no secret or special plan, just some simple common sense rules.

Moved on to Books

After reading as many personal finance blogs as I could, I moved on to books on the subject. One name that was very popular on the blogs was Dave Ramsey. I picked up his book the “The Total Money Makeover” at my local library and read it cover to cover in about 3 days. I felt very stupid after finishing the book. At 40 years old I realized I had really made bad decisions with money for most of my life. The principles for staying out of debt were right in front of me and I didn’t need to have a college degree or any special education for that matter to make better decisions.

Getting Organized

I quickly got our budget together and began to apply the debt snowball technique to our outstanding debt. My wife and I reviewed the plan and agreed on it. It wasn’t just that easy; it took some time for my wife to fully come on board with the plan. I explained to her if we made the short term sacrifice, what it would mean for us long term. It would mean a lot of saying “No” to our children, family and friends for now, but eventually being able to say “Yes” to just about anything we wanted. The first year was tough, but we have managed to survive, so far paying off over $80,000 to date.

Motivation

There are times when we want to go back to our old habits, but we keep the end goal in mind. Having $2k worth of surplus cash each month sure does sound appealing. That is one big motivator. We stay sharp by reading personal finance blogs, and listening to Dave Ramsey podcast. Hearing other people’s stories of debt repayment is totally motivating whether you like Ramsey or not. I started this blog as a form of motivation, in hopes that I could help someone else get on the right track with their money. I have given out many copies of Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” I’ve lost track.

In the End

Personal finance is just that, personal. We all have our own story, that’s why there are so many different blogs with so many different points of view and great ideas on how to manage your money. The general concepts are universal, build a budget, live within your means, use a debt snowball, have an emergency fund, etc. You have to find those blogs that fit your style, share that common ground, find it interesting, make you laugh, etc. I hope that our story does some of that for one of you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Debt Discipline - Our New Blog

Our new blog is live at Debt Discipline. Please join us there for updated posts on personal finance.
We feature 3-4 new posts each week.

You can join us on Facebook  or Twitter

@DebtDiscipline


Please find us on YouTube:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Blog - Debt Discipline

Our new blog is live at Debt Discipline. Please join us there for updated posts on personal finance.

You can join us on Facebook  or Twitter

@DebtDiscipline


Please find us on YouTube:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our New Blog!

I am happy to announce we have taking the plunge and have started a full .com blog @ Debt Discipline.

We will be posting more often and hope you will be reading and commenting with us. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.