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?