Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Save money with FREE digital prints

As a fairly new dad, I've come to appreciate the value of taking photos...alot of photos. So many though, it's going to be expensive to have any significant portion of them devleoped (and you know how I am about spending money). Yeah, we use a digital camera, and it helps being able to post them or email them to friends and family, but sometimes, you want a hard copy. This deal is going to help.

I was surfing around on Saving Advice, and aneta posted this great deal. Get up to 330 free digital prints. The link she provided actually takes you to Cheap Stingy Bargains ( a new site I'll be sure to look at more closely for future money saving ideas). From there, there is a list of links to various online sources, like Shutterfly, SnapFish, and Kodak, with deals ranging from 10 to 50 free digital prints. Between all the links, you can get up to 330 prints total. That's an avaergae savings of about $30. Not bad.

After this week with the baby and grandma and grandpa, and great-grandma, we'll definitely be putting some of these offers to use.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Just an FYI...

Just wanted to let eveyone know I'm headed out on a little vacation for a week, so postings may not be everyday. Today, we'll be heading out shortly on what is normally an 11-12 hour drive for us, but with a 4 month old and a dog, things could be interesting this time...wish us luck! :D

End of post.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Manna from heaven? No...but close!

I am pretty sure I'm not the only one who has noticed the recent increase in food costs. In addition to being an ice cream addict, I'll admit I'm a chipoholic as well. I LOVE potato chips! And so, this is a pretty easy example for me to give. Potatoes are relatively cheap...potato chips are not. A year ago, I could buy a 6oz bag for $ I can buy a 2oz bag for $0.99, and a the 6oz bag for $1.59. But wait, what is that!?!? The 6oz bag,, is only 4oz!?! The bag is the same size, shape and design, but they've reduced the now I'm paying 50% for 30% less? My addictions are killing my wallet!

Seriously, though, food has gotten more expensive. There are many reasons for this...fuel costs, added taxes, increased labor force costs, etc. There are not so many ways to save on your food purchases. Besides clipping coupons, or playing The Grocery Game, there isn't a whole lot one can do.

Well, you can possibly add one more thing you can do. Get food from Angel Food Ministries. I first learned about them from my mother-in-law, who said her church is a local distribution point. What they do is call food manufacturers, and negotiate low-cost food purchases, or even donations, of food. These are the same manufacturers that provide the foods you find in the grocery stores. You pre-order as many food boxes as you like, at a cost of of $30 a box, and the contents would have an average retail of $60. Each month features a different "menu", so your not getting the same food each month. This is open to everyone, not just low-income families, as the food is provided based on the number of you are not taking a box away from someone who may be in a financially harder place than yourself.

A sample box might contain :

1.25 lb. Bacon Wrapped Beef Filets (5 x 4 oz)
4 lb. Individually Frozen Chicken Leg Quarters
2 lb. Lean Hamburger Steaks (4 x 8oz.)
1.5 lb. Boneless Pork Roast
1.25 lb. Meaty Beef Short Ribs
20 oz. Supreme Pizza
10 oz. Deli Sliced Turkey Breast
3 lb. Fresh Apples
35 oz. Crinkle Cut French Fries
16 oz. Frozen Green Beans
16 oz. Onion Rings
14 oz. Fancy Ketchup
26 oz. Pasta Sauce
16 oz. Pasta
16 oz. Pinto Beans
7.5 oz. Macaroni and Cheese
Dessert Item

Now granted, most of the food is frozen, so you'll need some freezer space to keep it, but it's a great way to make your grocery dollars stretch. They will deliver to central location (you can find the drop-offs on their website) once a month, and you bring a box, or something to carry your food home in, and that's it. For US residents, they also accept EBT (food stamps). Check them out, and see if they come near you.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get MAD!!

I have been re-reading a book by Dave Ramsey titled The Total Money Makeover. It has some great info in it, quite a bit of it from his personal experience from going from millionaire to bankrupt, and back. His examples range from humorous to downright heartbreaking, but they all get you thinking and put a lot in perspective.

One quote that stuck out was "Get Mad!!" I pondered what he meant about that statement for a minute before moving on. Why should I be mad about money? Money is amoral, it does what you want it to. You ultimately control it, by mastering it, or being mastered by it, by the choices you make, but they are your choices!

Reading further, he expounded a little. There are basically two ways to look at your financial situation, especially if it is a bad one, where you are drowning in debt. You can either look at it logically, or emotionally. Which one is the correct way? Most people would say logically.

That obviously makes sense, to look at something logically, because you are being unbiased (logically). True, you need to take a cold, hard, analytical look at your finances, but logic never propelled someone to action, or spurred them on. No, logic doesn't do that. Emotion does.

Everything I can think of that drives great accomplishments, is emotion. That is the fuel for the fire, the "why" that gets you going. It is your motivation for doing what you need to do. Logic will put the NEED into focus, but only emotion will get the train moving, in getting it done. You need to "GET MAD" at the debt you have, and get sick and tired of being sick and tired. That emotion will propel you into action, and will help sustain you, until you reach your goals. Every time you want to borrow money, think back to how much misery that consumer debt has caused much it has robbed you of, when it comes to truly enjoying life.

Get mad, and get free.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

How saving money can buy you a car

Buying a car (or any other vehicle) is almost a rite of passage. In a way, it says, "welcome to the adult world". I still remember my first vehicle was a 1980 Ford F100 pick up truck, two tone red over silver, with an orange pinstripe. I'll always remember that truck. I paid $1200 for it, and I paid with cash, something I had been saving for since I had started my first job. Wish I knew then what I knew now.

You see, I started off right, I bought the truck with cash. I saved my money to buy it, and I saved the interest by not financing it. So far so good, but I stopped there. If I only knew what I should have done next.

Here is what I should have done. If I had continued to save my money, even $100 a month, I would have had a head start down the road, when I needed to replace the truck. But, I was young, and carefree, and I had a truck! I had a whole new world of things to do, open up before me. Well, my truck died, and soon, I was caught in the cycle of car a car, finance it, trade it in, roll the balance into a new purchase, and make payments, and on and on.

What I should have done, is kept putting a car payment every month into some sort of investment account. Let's say a growth mutual fund that is averaging 10% (not uncommon). Let's use the average car payment of $400, and a term of 60 months, as that is the most common here in the US. Let's use a current finance rate of about 7.5% for a used car loan. Well, you look at the payment and the term, and you think, "Gee, a $24,000 car for $400 a month, that's not bad..." Wrong, because of interest, to get that $400 payment, you'll only be getting a car that sold for $19,500. So you just lost $4500 worth of car you could have bought, because of the interest payment. Also, don;t forget, this cost did not factor in sales tax, registration, title and inspection fees, either.

What if you bought a clunker (or as we like to say where I live, a "hooptie") paid in full with cash, and you saved that $400 a month for 60 months. Right off the bat, you've got that extra $4500 that would not have gone to interest. But if you had invested those monthly payments in that growth mutual fund at 10%, you would have about $32,000 at the end of 5 years. There is quite a bit of difference in car you can buy with $32,000, compared to $19,500...$12,500 more.

But, it can get better! What if your still really frugal, and you buy a nice, used vehicle at $20,000 cash (and you can negotiate some great deals when you hold a wad of cash in front of someone). That will still leave you $12,000 in your growth mutual fund. Well, pretend you have a car payment, and keep adding it to the mutual fund each month. In another 5 years, you'll have about $51,000 ready for your next car purchase. What kind of car can you get then? Say you splurge, and buy a used vehicle at $30, still leaves you with $21,000 in your fund. Follow the process one more time, and you'll have about $66,000 for a car. Now, you'll never have to pay for a car again. Why? First, keep buying your cars in the mid $20,000 range (you can get really great used vehicles at that price). If you keep $40,000 in that fund, and never add to it after that, every 5 years you'll be back to about $66,000. Also, keep in mind that you will have a vehicle to trade in or sell, as well, which will bring you several thousand more dollars.

In a nutshell, you've saved tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments you would have otherwise paid the bank, you earned some great returns on your investment, you've had some nice used vehicles, and in 15 years, you would have saved and invested enough money that you'll never have to use any of your own money again to pay cash for a car. And this with money you would have been spending anyway, for something you need. So the next time you go to buy a car, ask yourself if you can wait a while longer, and start putting that money into an account that will make you some money...and head down the road to never paying for a car again.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Legal service plans - are they worth it?

The other day, on the topic of wills, I mentioned that I have a legal service plan, and that is the low cost option route we used for our wills. Today, I'll talk a little bit about them in general, and the reasons I picked the company I did.

First, a legal service could be considered similar to an HMO, but for your legal expenses. Basically, you pay a monthly, or yearly fee, to have access to an attorney or law firm, for defined benefits. Some have no further expenses to them, others have deductibles. Some are worth the money, others are nothing more than scams.

Almost all of them offer some type of consultation services (by phone or in person), letters written on your behalf, wills, traffic ticket defense, document/contract review, and discounts on other more intricate legal procedures. Some will even offer civil, and in certain cases criminal, lawsuit defense, as well as IRS audit help. I know of at least one company that even offers identity theft restoration services.

Now, I'm sure you're probably thinking, why would I need this, I've never used an attorney before. Am I right? Most people think that, not because they did not need one, but because they were priced out of being able to afford one for their situation. Most people have had to make a financial decision, not a legal one. But what would you do, if you could pick up the phone and talk to an attorney about any legal question you had, and did not even have to pay extra for the phone call itself? Would you use an attorney more often? I would think so...I know I have. Take for instance a long distance telephone bill I had, and I KNEW I did not make the call. My phone service would not remove the charge. It was only $14, but it was the principle of the situation. I did not owe, so I wasn't going to pay it. Most people would, because it was so small, and you are not going to pay $100+ for an attorney to handle a $14 problem. It just doesn't make financial sense. Well, I called our law firm through our service plan, spoke to an attorney, and they sent a letter out to the phone company, and the charge disappeared. It cost me nothing extra, other than the monthly fee I was paying already.

"Okay, but I'm sure the monthly fee cost more than the $14 you saved, right?", you are thinking to yourself. True, but remember that will? My yearly cost for the membership is less than what it would cost me for one will, never mind the second one for my wife. So in essence, the other services are free, because the service has paid for itself for at least two years, on the will benefits alone.

Ever signed a contract? I guarantee you have. Whether a lease, rental, mortgage, car loan, cell phone contract, or what ever, you've signed one somewhere. What if you could have an attorney review that contract before you sign it, to make sure you are not being taken advantage of? I did, when I bought our car, and the attorney caught a mistake the lender made, which would have cost me about $2000. Well, that just paid for the membership for another 5 or 6 years.

Traffic ticket defense is another great service. Many times an attorney in the court room, can keep the points off your license, and get a reduced fine or fee (if not dismissed completely). That not only saves you money on the front end, but think about the long-term cost of your insurance rates going up for several years, because of points on your license.

I could go on and on about the benefits of having the service, but the post would be too long. I'll just say having the service has saved me thousand's of dollars since I've had it, and it has paid for itself for at least the next 10 years, in what I've saved. Now I do want to make clear, the law is not always on your side, and you may not like what the attorney has to say (this has happened to me once or twice), but I would rather know where I stand, than wonder "what if...?".

Alright, now you are interested, and want to learn more. Who sells them? Well, most of them are available through an employer as an employee benefit. Some you can buy individually. Some of the companies that sell them are AIG, Arag (the number two legal service company in Germany), and Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., among others.

My wife and I chose Pre-Paid Legal (PPL), for several reasons. Cost, portability, no rate hikes on existing customers, it is a publicly traded company (NYSE:PPD), it covers our whole family at no additional cost, and what is called a closed panel system. The other companies we looked at gave you a list of attorneys to call. You had to pick the ones you wanted. But what if you were the first person under that plan to call the attorney? Do you think the service would be good? Do you think he would give you a lot of attention, especially at a reduced rate, if you are the only one who has contacted them through that service plan? With a closed panel system, PPL uses one law firm in each state, that handles all initial calls. They may refer you to a local attorney (usually at no additional cost to you) for some things like traffic ticket defense. But they control who you talk to, so they can make sure you are getting great service. Not to mention by paying one law firm a yearly fee to serve their members, the law firm has a huge incentive to give great service. Would you rather have the attorney who is giving a discounted rate, and you are his first client through that particular plan, or would rather have the law firm who is being paid MILLIONS of dollars a year (through group buying power), to handle your issue as best as they can? That is why we chose PPL.

I am sure you ave seen this phrase in a few of my posts : SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY. I often tell you ways to cut back on your spending, in order to save your money, so suggesting you look for a service that will add a monthly cost for you, seems out of place, right? I have learned through the years, that sometimes though, you need to spend a little money, to save some money. This service is a great example of doing that. I estimate we have saved almost 10 times more than we have spent, by having this service for the past 6 years. Ten times!! That is huge! And it's worth the peace of mind to know that legal help is just a phone call away.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Love ice cream? Check this deal out!

My wife is a card carrying member of ice cream addicts anonymous. She really tries hard not to eat a lot of it. She is afraid of gaining weight. At 115lbs, I don't see that being an issue. But, alas, her evil hubby, me, is constantly pulling her off the wagon, back into the dark despair and hopeless grip that sweet, frozen confections from cows have on one's soul. But hey, it's ice cream, and it's worth it...especially when there is a great deal on it like this one.

First, you need to be near a Food Lion. This week, they are having a sale on Breyers ice one, get one free. However, apparently the deal will still ring up at half price, if you only buy one. Add to this the printable coupon from here or here, and save $2.

Now, obviously prices will vary by region, but a half gallon of Breyers at my local Food Lion costs about $5. With the BOGO deal, I can get one for $2.50. Add the $2 coupon, and now it only costs me $0.50 (plus tax) for a half gallon of Breyers ice cream!! The second coupon link should give you 8 printable coupons. Make 8 separate transactions, and you can have 8 half gallon boxes of ice cream for around $5, with taxes. Eight cartons for the price of one!!

Time to slip into the dark oblivion of ice cream addiction. Don't forget the toppings!

Thanks to sunset0703 at Slick Deals for the info on the sale.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Recommended Blog : Mommie's Home

There are so many sources of information on the web, it is easy to get lost in a sea of junk, looking for content worth your while. A new feature I'll be adding is an occasional blog or site review, when I feel they have worthwhile content that will benefit you, my loyal readers.

The first one will be a review of a great blog over at Mommie's Home is touted as "... a place for all moms to get together, learn, share or just hang out. So grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and surf away (even if you only have those precious few moments when the kids are sleeping)!" Do not be scared away guys, there are several of us that participate in the comment threads as's not just for women only.

Mommie will post about a wide variety of topics - anything from being a stay at home mom and the pros and cons of using cash or debit cards, to the grocery game and her experience with online surveys. You will also find a mix of personal stories from the adventures of a stay-at home mom raising an infant and a kindergartener (many of which i can and my wife can relate to, as we are new parents as well).

Mommie does a great job in showing ways that she has been able to be frugal, and will get your brain juices going, getting you to think of ways you can save as well. Be sure to check her out, and say hello - you'll be glad you did.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Make the most of your money when buying health insurance

I will admit it, health insurance is expensive, but the alternative is even more expensive. But what are people supposed to do, when the costs keep soaring, but our paychecks stay relatively still? Here's what I did.

The first important step, is to have an emergency fund established. My wife and I currently have a couple thousand dollars saved away. Once this is done, it makes the next step easier (you can skip the emergency fund step, if you want to, as you will probably be able to save money faster, but it does come with a little risk, if you get sick or injured prior to having enough saved up).

The next time that open enrollment comes to your employer, take a good look at the difference in your monthly costs, with a high deductible plan. When I say high deductible, I mean like $1000+. When I started my current job, I looked at each deductible available, and what my employer contributed, and what I would have to contribute. The $1000 deductible caught my eye, as I had nothing to pay for it, as my employer contribution paid the entire premium for me. This was looking good, plus I had the money in savings, in case something big came my way, health wise. But, did it really make much financial sense?

Closer examination showed it did. If I were to take a $250 deductible, I would have had to contribute about $125 a month, whether I ever used the insurance. It was gone, money I would never get back, all for the psychological benefit of having a "low deductible". So here I was, looking at a $1500 expense, just so I could say I had a low deductible...and if I needed to use the insurance, I still had to pay that first $250, so my total yearly cost for my insurance would be $1750.

By having the $1000 deductible, I had no monthly premium to pay, so I took what would have been deducted from my paycheck, and saved that each only took me 8 months to save my deductible. That's an extra $500 a year I was able to save for something else, compared to what I would have paid with a smaller deductible. Add to that the fact that I would not have the additional deductible of $250 as well, so I saved $750. In addition, if I was not sick that year (I wasn't), that extra money I would have paid was not lost to me...I still had my deductible of $1000 sitting in an account, just waiting for me, if I ever needed it. So that second year, I saved $1750, because I did not have to pay anything for my premium, nor did I have to save my deductible up again. I also put that money to work for me. By putting it into a high yield money market account, I also had what would be used as my deductible, should I be sick, working to make me some money as well, in the form of interest earned.

As I mentioned earlier, this is much easier if you already have an emergency fund saved up, as you don't have to worry about coming up with your deductible in the event you are sick. That said, it only took me 8 months to save up the deductible based on what I saved monthly from not having to pay premiums. So if you need to go this route, because you don't have an emergency fund yet, it won't be that long that you go without a fully funded deductible sitting there waiting for you to use it.

I will also mention health savings accounts and medical savings accounts. Both are savings accounts for approved medical expenses (ie deductibles, etc) that you can make tax-free contributions to. MSA's will let you roll over any unused portions to the next year or withdraw unused funds at the end of the year, as taxable income. The HSA's will allow basically the same thing, but tax you on undocumented medical expenses, plus assess a 10% penalty, unless you are over 65 years old. Personally, I figured it was easier to just have it in my emergency fund, where I could get to it for what I needed, when I needed it, without having to worry about whether or not it was an "approved" expense, or making sure it was rolled over properly, etc. I did not mind being penalized for this, in the way of having my emergency fund filled with post-tax monies, but that was a personal may not be right for your situation.

So, the next time you get to change your insurance, take a good look at it, and see if you won't actually come out ahead, by having a higher deductible.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Save money by writing a love letter to your family

How much do you love your family? Most people would say enough that they would probably die for them. So what happens if you do die - are you ready for it now? Have you prepared for it properly. In talking with people, I would say 9 out of 10 have not (and the 10th one is probably lying) prepared for it, by writing the ultimate love letter for their family...a will.

Yeah, I said it, a will. I think most people do not do it, or want to think about, because somehow they think it will jinx them into an early death. I know that's kind of how I felt. "I'm young", "I'm not gonna die anytime soon", "I don't need a will"..."heck, I don't have anything to leave anyone anyway" - all are common responses I get when talking to people about wills.

I can tell you stories for hours, of people whose lives were torn apart by fighting with family members over something as simple as who gets a particular spoon set. Do you really know who holds what type of emotional attachment, to something you would never think would cause problems? People will fight over the apparently (to you) silliest things, which can leave lasting wounds to family relationships...all while dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Another aspect, is children. Not just what is left to them, but who they are left with. The chances of both parents being killed a the same time are relatively small, but the risk is still there. Actually, about three weeks ago, two streets down from my home, a couple was killed, and their 20 month old daughter seriously injured, when a suspended driver crashed into them (the other driver died as well). The parents were just returning from the hospital, where they had their infant treated for a fever. I would be pretty certain in saying, they most likely did not have a will in place, saying what to do with their daughter and other children, should they both die. It's been reported that the grandparents on both sides want custody, and now the state gets to decide who gets the kids, if the kids stay together, or if they even get to go with a relative at all. What if the state ends up awarding custody to a relative you would never want your child(ren) to be raised by? Sorry, you only had a chance to take care of that while you were alive.

What about remarriage? With so many mixed families, who gets what? Does dad's estate go to his biological children, or to his wife? Speaking of wife, is it the current one, or the ex? Don't laugh, a personal friend of mine broke down telling me about her husband, who died in California, on business. His life insurance and estate went to his first wife. My friend fought it in court, and lost. She now has over $20,000 in legal bills as well. What about unmarried partners? How will you know your final wishes are carried out, if you don't have a will?

There are many ways to get one. First, you can hire an attorney, and pay for it. Actually, you can pay a lot for it. Local attorneys in my area charge a flat $800-$1500 fee for a basic will, others charge hourly. A bit steep if you ask me, and that doesn't include services for more intricate planning like trusts and the like.

You can subscribe to a legal service. These charge monthly or yearly membership fees, but include basic legal services like phone consultations, letters written on your behalf, and will preparation. My wife and I went this route (I'll cover the service itself in another post), for other reasons, besides the will. We each got a will, and a living medical directive (gives us each the power to make decisions for the other should we be unable to make those decisions for ourselves...Terry Schiavo, anyone?), and were able to fill out a short survey on what we wanted our will to do. When we had questions, we called and spoke to an attorney who specialized in wills and estate planning, and had our questions answered. We sent in the survey, and received our wills in a week or two. Only thing we had to do was have them notarized. We also get them updated and reviewed each year at no real cost (about $20)

The lowest cost option, is to do it yourself. There are quite a few "do-it-yourself" will kits out there, and I am sure most of them are pretty good. Next time you are in the store and see one though, read the small print. Every one that I have looked at has some disclaimer about the need to still consult an attorney. Remember my friend whose husband died of a heart attack? After marrying my friend, he decided to do one of those "do-it-yourself" will kits. He had the foresight to get it done, and for that I commend him...he wanted to take care of his family. Something happened friend told me that when he finished the will, and had it executed, he only had two witnesses sign it...the state in which he was residing required three witnesses...something the "do-it-yourself" kit forgot to mention, or something he overlooked. When he passed away, because that newer will was not executed properly, the one he had with his first wife was the one still in effect. That is how the ex-wife inherited all of his estate. That is why it is important to consult with an make sure little things like this, do not become big things down the road.

In addition, without a will (and often even with one), an estate will often have to go through probate. This is beyond the scope of this post, and I am sure you can imagine, it is not cheap. A will can protect against this, or at the very least, help minimize the costs associated with probate.

So, now I'll ask much do you love your family?

Enough to write them a love letter?

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Patience, patience, and yes, more patience.

Most of us need it. Very few of us truly have enough of it. Doctors have lots, but not the kind we're talking about. It truly is a virtue, even when it comes to building wealth.

We need patience. It will obviously help us in every part of our lives, but especially when it comes to building a firm financial foundation for yourself. Wishing about being financially free and wealthy, will not get you there. Playing the lottery will most likely not get you there (and if it does, it's been reported the majority of them are broke within 5 years). You need the patience to let the money work for you.

First a disclaimer. I am NOT a stockbroker, or financial planner. I am not telling you to buy any investment product, or a particular stock, mutual fund, or bond. For that, you need to consult a licensed broker and/or planner. What I am trying to do, is show a concept that hopefully you, my readers, might not be aware of...and hopefully put to use.

Let's use the stock market as an example (I know some would argue against this, but that is another topic...this is merely a simple example, and not advice to invest in an index). There is a lot of talk right now about it. The last few days, there appears to be a downward spiral of stocks. There is talk of a recession coming, if it isn't already here. Here is where patience would pay off.

The natural inclination is to sell your stocks (if you have any), before they lose more money. Realize there is an ebb and flow to the market and our economy. There will be bad years, and there will be excellent years, and a lot of years in between...just have the patience to know the long-term average is in your favor, and let it sit.

The S&P 500 averaged 11.8% from 1982 to 2001. If you had invested $10,000 in 1982, and let it sit all the way through, and NEVER touched it, you would have in the neighborhood of $93,000. What if you decided to sell based on a bad year? What if by doing so, you missed some of the BEST performing days? How much money would you have made with that $10,000 investment? If you missed the 10 best days...$56,000. That's a $37,000 difference. What about the 30 best days? You would have about $28,000...or a $65,000 difference. And the best 50 days? Not looking so good...about $16,000, for a difference of $77,000. All for not having that money in there for a relatively few days. Have patience.

Another problem quite a few people have problems with, is letting compounding work it's magic. Ask a kid if they would rather have $1000 a day for 30 days, or a penny doubled everyday, for 30 days, and they go for the $1000 a day, every time. So do most adults. But this shows the magic of compounding. Take the first option, you have $30,000. Take the second, and after 15 days, you have $163.84. Ouch, $164 to $15,000...what was I thinking? But wait, keep going. On day 30, that penny is now $5,368,709.12! Still think the $30,000 was the better deal? The magic of compounding takes time, and happens near the end...but a significant number of people do not have the patience to let it get to that point. Back to the took it 22 days to catch up with the $1000 a day...but it took off from there. In 8 days it went from $22,000 to over $5 MILLION!! That is the power of compounding (remember I always say, SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY?)! Now, realistically, will that happen to you? no, you won't get those kinds of returns, but it is great example to grab you eye, and show how compounding will work for you.

Here is another example ( a VERY basic example). You put $100 into a high yield money market account(MMA), of say 5% annually. At the end of the first year, you'll have $105 and some change (for this example, I'm using rounded numbers). The second year, you will earn 5% on the $105 (you are compounding, because you are making money in the form of interest, on the money you made in interest the first year). At the end of year two, you have $110. Year five leaves you with $135, and year 30 leaves you with $450. Granted this is a small amount, but in my example, other than the first $100 investment, nothing was added to the principal other than earned interest. What if we added $5 a month? Adding a total of $60 a year, would leave you with almost $4600 in 30 years. Want more, just increase your monthly contribution. Ten dollars a month can turn into $8800...$20 a month will get you $17,000. Get the picture? ANYONE can find $20 a month to invest...ANYONE!! You can have any amount you want, if you are willing to cut a few unnecessary purchases out of your monthly budget.

The only other thing you'll need, is a little patience.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Free movie rental

Got this tip from kimmie628 over at Sign up for their newsletter, and be able to print off a coupon on your printer for a free movie rental from Hollywood Video. You can use the store locater service to find one near you, if you are not already a member.

I would guess you could get multiple coupons, with different email addresses. If you don't want to use one of your own, go to for a free disposable email address. Just click the link in the confirmation email, and print off your coupon.

Enjoy the movie, knowing you paid nothing for it. And don't forget the popcorn!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rent a car

Here's something I just saved several hundred dollars on, and thought I'd pass it on. The family and I are taking a trip in a few weeks, to go see my folks for a belated Christmas visit. This year, instead of me and the wife, and one small beagle, we have me, the wife, the new baby boy, the beagle, and a rather rambunctious retriever/dalmation mix...not to mention all the accessories that come with a new baby (stroller, car seat, diapers, etc), that take up a lot of room. Add to that Christmas presents we're taking with us, and gifts we'll be bringing back. Not going to be making a 12 hour drive in our 4 door sedan with all that. Plus, all the wear and tear on our vehicle for a trip like that. What to do, what to do?

Well, we decided to rent a minivan. We found a great deal for a week, with unlimited mileage, and it will hold everything we need. It was kind of pricey though, first looking at the prices (one rental company wanted almost $800...too much!) Anyway, being the frugal, deal minded guy that I am, I started my hunt for the elusive, outstanding car rental discount deal.

I spent a good amount of time searching, and finally found a huge, fairly comprehensive list of discount codes, at Slick Deals. It's broken down by most of the major rental companies. Now, it might take some time to sift through them, but it is well worth it. Also, be sure to read the terms of each company. I found an AWESOME deal on renting a Suburban (that was my first choice), which was less than the minivan...but it only had limited mileage for a select few states, and since we would be leaving those states, the cost per mileage, made it too expensive. Just make sure you look, because some codes give a cheaper price, because of some restrictions like the mileage. Read the small print.

So, we ended up getting the van, after using a code I found, and we saved about $200, and have unlimited mileage. Again, it might take a little leg work to sift through the codes, as some are no longer valid, but you can find that one, that will give you enough savings, to make it all worthwhile.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Turn your pocket change into wealth

We all have it. Loose change. All those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters - even the occasional $.50 and $1 coins - weighing our pant's pockets down. Never mind that all that loose change might make you look like a plumber, but it is not doing you any good just sitting there in your pocket. Put it to work for you!!

The other day I posted about not spending your dollar bills. If that is too much to start with, narrow it down to one $1 bill, or just take your loose change, and put it into a jar. Try to do this everyday. Some days you may have more, some days you might have less, but you should be able to average $30 a month. At the end of each month, pop it into an investment account (IRA, Roth IRA, mutual fund, MMA...something!). There are a good selection of excellent funds out there, that average 10% returns...find them, and use them.

So, what will $30 at 10% get you? Quite a bit. If you are faithful with putting that $30 a month into your account, and you average the 10% return, you'll have just shy of $70k in 30 years, with a total amount actually contributed by you of about $17K. Pretty neat, having that $17k work for you, and make you around $50k. This is the whole idea behind my belief that SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY. The little areas in life that we can cut back on, and save a little bit here, and a little bit there, can then be used to make you more money, helping to secure your financial future.

It doesn't stop you find more ways to save, you can invest more into your accounts. You can invest $60 a month, and make over $130k in the same 30 year period. What about $100 a month? Over $200k in 30 years. Geez, that cable bill with all those premium channels is really looking to be more expensive than you thought, isn't it?

Do the thing today, that others don't, and you can have and do the things tomorrow, that other's won't.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Save some money by switching your car insurance to...

Ha!! I bet you were expecting me to name that insurance company with the reptilian mascot with a really bad Australian accent (Australian accents are way cool, just not the one with the little green guy). Sorry, but I don't want to get sued (definitely not going to be saving money that way, right?). Ok, seriously though, car insurance is something we all need, and in most states, are required to have. So how do you get the most chitty-chitty bang-bang, for your chitty-chitty buck-buck?

There's a couple things you can do. First, be a good, safe driver, and do not have any teenagers in your house that can drive. Those two tips alone will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. But, I see how most people drive on a daily basis, and sooner or later, most people will have a teenager, as they are an almost inevitable by-product of a very popular and enjoyable activity that I don't see anyone stopping anytime soon. So how else can you save some money on your car insurance?

Start by shopping around. Keep in mind though, you want lowest possible premiums, for highest possible coverage. Also, do not go by discounts alone. You might get a lot of discounts from one company, but still get a lower cost from another one that doesn't give discounts. Take some time to shop around online. While you may not get a personalized quote, without giving up some personal information, you can get a rough idea on what the average person is paying at each of the different insurance companies. Just remember, yours may be higher or lower, based on coverage selected, driving history, credit history, claim history, type of vehicle, age of vehicle, and a myriad of other factors. Just use the online quotes as a means of creating a baseline, to point you in the right direction.

Having a higher deductible can save you some significant money (and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!). A lot of people opt for the lower deductible ($250, for example), thinking that if they need to use the insurance, they will pay less out of their pocket with the lower deductible. If you have an emergency fund established, try for a $500, or even $1000 deductible. With a higher deductible, you'll save more - sometimes 15-40% more. If you pay $1000 a year, and you saved 40% by switching to a $1000 deductible, your savings would equal your deductible in about 30 months. By staying with the lower deductible, after 30 months, you would be paying an extra $400 a year for the convenience of only paying $250 out of your own pocket, if you are involved in an accident? That makes no financial sense at all.

Consider the age and condition of your car. Perhaps even have it appraised. If it is older, and well used, it may not be worth having the comprehensive and collision coverage on it. No sense paying extra to replace your car if it's totaled, if it's a $1000 beater.

Check with your employer to see if an insurance company will offer a group plan through your place of work. Also, ask your insurance company if they offer discounts if you carpool, or drive fewer miles per year than the average driver (less time driving, means less chance of being involved in an accident).

Check out companies that offer multiple lines of insurance. If you combine homeowner's/renter's/life/disability/etc insurances with your auto insurance from one company, you may be able to get reduced premiums on all of them.

Finally, just ask for discounts. Find out what they offer. Some companies may offer discounts for no accidents or speeding tickets in a set period of time; students with good grades; completion of a defensive driver course (and not a court appointed course...take it BEFORE you get a ticket); certain safety equipment (air bags, ABS brakes, etc); anti-theft devices and so on. You won't know until you ask, and it just might make your wallet happy!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Save some SERIOUS money - quickly!

I assume we have all heard the old adage, "Watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves", right? Not a bad piece of advice. But there has to be a faster way of getting those dollars, right? Yep, and I actually heard about it from a very unlikely source.

I don't want to talk politics here, as this is not what the blog is about. However, I do listen to Neal Boortz occasionally. Sometimes Boortz has me saying "Right ON!", and other times he makes me want to tear my hair out. But he's almost always good for a laugh, regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on...maybe because he just doesn't care who he offends. Anyway, I digress...

So I happened to catch a few minutes of his show one day, and he talked about some advice he had gotten from someone when he was younger. What astounding, life changing advice was this? Do not spend your dollars. Huh? Say what? Don't spend my dollars? What kind of crazy idea is that. Well, Boortz went on to explain, and that light bulb over my head turned on (albeit, dimly). Simply put, do not buy anything by using dollar bills. Use change, use fives, tens, twenties, etc. Just do not spend a dollar bill...anywhere. If you buy a cup of coffee, use a $5 bill to pay for it, and put those $1 bills you get back as change into a savings account or investment account. If you use a $10, keep the $5 for another purchase, and save the $1's.

I thought about this, and actually realized there is a two-fold benefit to it. First, the actual $1 bills you physically are not spending but saving or investing. The second benefit is you'll stop making unnecessary purchases of "splurge", items if you say disciplined enough to save the $1's. Imagine buying a $1 cup of coffee, and basically putting $4 of your cash out of play for ever, since it will be invested where you can't spend it.

So, to recap, you will end up saving more, by not spending the $1's, plus you'll save more by actually reducing the amount of spending you do on "splurge" items.

That Boortz guy is pretty smart.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Avoid overlimit, overdaft, and NSF fees, with a money bumper

Today I've got a few really quick tips, that are easy to do (but also can be easy to screw be careful). I was responding to a comment from Mariam at Money Relations, and it reminded me of this simple trick.

If you have a checking account, try this out. Just a precaution, you have to be disciplined not to "add" it as money actually in your account. Think of it as "phantom". Put and extra $100-$200 into your checking account, and FORGET it is there. The key is FORGET it is there. I can not stress this enough, FORGET it is there. Did I mention to FORGET it was there? Deposit it into your checking account, but do not record that deposit into your register. Keep it there as a "bumper". On the chance you might make a mistake in your balancing, you will have a little buffer there, to cover any small overage or miscalculation, and it will save you overdraft/overlimit fees, and NSF fees from the merchant end. The problem a lot of people seem to have with this trick, is they "remember" it is there, and end up spending it. They see something they want, then rationalize the fact they "know" they have the extra money in their account, so they spend it, fully intending to pay it back. But, life usually happens, they forget to pay it back, then they overdraw for whatever reason, and their "buffer" money is no longer there to protect them. Just put it there, and forget it...spend your other money as if you DO NOT have the buffer money there. I know a lot of banks will offer a line of credit (usually like $500) that will cover those overdrafts, but almost everyone I talk to, end up spending it like a credit card, then they keep overspending anyway, plus they now OWE more money. Keep the cash in there, you get the same protection, and if you do spend it, it's not debt.

A little tip on saving that extra money as a buffer, is when you make a purchase, make sure you round up to the next dollar amount when you record it in your register book. Say you buy an item for $4.50. When you write the purchase down in your register book, write it as a $5 purchase. It will keep the $.50 in there as a buffer. This will add up fast...I saved up almost $600 in a year, simply by doing this. Not bad for rounding up a few cents here, and a few cents really does add up quickly.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Playing games

Well, I was browsing through some new blogs of like-minded folks, and came across Mommies Home. She has a cool little post called the "Grocery Game". This caught my eye, as I personally challenge myself to save as much money as possible while grocery shopping each week. So, just what is this "Grocery Game"?

Well, I google the site, and check out the Grocery Game website. It's a pretty cool concept actually. For a small fee ($10 every 8 weeks), you get a store list, where they post upcoming sales at your area grocery stores, and then match those sales to manufacturer's coupons. Basically, you are paying for them to do the leg work to sift through the sale and coupon flyers, so you can maximize your savings.

Like I said, a pretty cool concept, and one I'm going to try out (you get a 4 week trial for $1). If I can save 25% off my grocery bill each week, that would be well worth it. But check out an example they give of an actual receipt with savings. To go from a $40 original total, to less than $2 is pretty phenomenal (albeit I assume rare). But still, if you can save $20 every 8 weeks (which you should have no problem doing), and it only costs you $10, that is still a decent savings, and comes out to $60 bucks a year...not a huge sum, but $60 bucks here, and $60 bucks there can add up fast...and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

I'll post in the coming weeks to let you all know how it works for me. Thanks again to Mommies Home.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Do you and your spouse speak the same money language?

Sharing finances...probably the biggest cause of stress in relationships. Why? I would say the two key elements involved - communication and money.

When two people decide to start sharing their lives, money obviously is going to be a central focal point on which the relationship will hinge. If you have two savers, you'll probably be ok from the get go. Two spenders...not looking so good. A spender and a saver, here come the fireworks.

We are all raised with certain views on money. Combining those views with those of another can be a challenge. I'm a spender by nature, and my wife is a saver (she finally brought me to the light a few years back). I would spend, spend, spend, and tell her not worry about it, I had it covered (in credit card debt). When she found out we didn't have it, things were not happy in our household. Especially after I realized I had wiped out her $3000 savings account. Ouch! This caused some stress, to say the least. Ok, it caused a LOT of stress. Our first mistake was not communicating.

What we should have done, is sat down, and had a really thorough, and honest, discussion about each other's views on money. This was not only to find out where we differed, but where we agreed, so we could use that as a foundation of common ground to build on. From there, we really should have agreed, in writing, what we were going to with the money, and how it was spent. Again, this can lead to stress, but it's good, because it will help you work through it, and result in less stress later on in life. Some would say we, I say we had "intense fellowship".

Second, we needed to define what role money would have in our life. Would we master it, or would it master us? Sadly, I have to say, it mastered me most of my life. But when we started to communicate, and I realized I didn't know everything (my wife had been trying to tell me that for years now), especially about money, I realized I was a slave to the benjamin's (I know, a bad attempt at inserting pop culture references into my posts). That was my Spartacus moment. I rebelled against the role of master that money had taken, and led a financial revolution in my house. To quote Darth Vader, "I am the master now..."

Now, my wife and I talk about our finances more openly. We talk of ways and share ideas, on how to save more money, and get better deals. We set goals together, and encourage one another in accomplishing them. We sometimes compete to see who can find the better deal on something we need or want (after saving the cash to buy it, that is). It's actually become fun, and we have very little stress in our marriage, due to money. Why? Because we communicate.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Keep a financial journal

Tonight's going to be a short post, but one I think that will be powerful. Just like good things come in small packages (though my wife would say I'm a good thing that came in a big package, as I stand 6'5"), sometimes powerful words come in short posts.

Today's tip for saving money is to keep a financial journal.

A what?!? Yeah, you heard me, a financial journal. And no, it doesn't have to have a cute little heart on it, with a small locking clasp and really small key, that you have to keep hidden from your nosy little brother.

Personally, I had problems spending money. By nature I just LOVE to spend. I could not for the life of me find anywhere to cut corners on though, when i made the decision to cut back and save where I could, so I could have money to put into savings, so I could invest, and so I could get out of debt.

This is where the journal came in extremely handy. By simply writing down what I spent, when and where I spent it, and what I spent it on, I started to see patterns. I also started to tally the amounts up, and started to see some pretty significant figures. All those purchases were starting to hurt...they felt like a thousand cuts (ok, that was a shameless, gratuitous plug for yesterday's post).

Alright, now I have the information, you say, what do I do with it? Simple...look it over, and find the one spending pattern you can do without (we can really do without most of them, but we think we can't...that's why we spend in the first place), and stop spending that way. Whatever it is, make a small change in your habits, and focus on that one change, until it becomes a POSITIVE habit. When you have control over that spending habit, choose the next easiest one to give up from the remaining list. Sooner than you realize, you will have knocked that list down, and changed your spending habits, and you'll have stopped making your wallet thinner (wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to focus on keeping everything thinner?).

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Death by a thousand cuts!!

Sounds painful, right? You bet it is (not that I know from personal experience, but hey, I've had my share of paper cuts, and just one of those hurts...imagine a thousand!). This was a method of execution in China for hundreds of years. The condemned would be subject to multiple small cuts, none of which by themselves would be fatal, but the combined effect would be lethal. But what in the world does this have to do with saving money, you ask? Good question. And I have an answer for you (whether it's a good answer, is up to you).

My belief is that many people kill themselves financially, by "cutting" themselves in very small, seemingly insignificant ways, that actually add together to finally kill you. Okay, actually your budget, but work with me here.

All these little cuts, are the little splurges we treat ourselves to. A soda here, a coffee there, dinner out here, a new cd or mp3 download, a new pair of shoes, a quick snack on the run, a pack of cigarettes, lottery tickets, and on and on. These little purchases don't seem like much, and normally would not be enough to hurt you financially, by themselves. However, the power of those purchases compounded, will bring your financial heart to a flatline.

Some quick examples, to show you how much they add up to at face value over a year, but also in lost earnings if you had invested that money (figured from a 25 year old retiring at 65, with only investing the first year further contributions for the remaining 39 years) :

  • Starbucks coffee, with say an average of $3 a cup, 5 times a week for 52 weeks equals $780. If you put that into a Roth IRA and earn an average of 9%, that $780 would turn into $24,499. That one years worth of Starbucks actually cost you $23,719 in lost earnings. Starbucks is good, but it's not THAT good.
  • The average meal out in the US costs $32, and figure on dining out an average of two times a month. That's $768, which if invested would be about $24,122, or $23,354 in lost earnings.
  • The average American spends $177 a year on lottery tickets, which if invested would give a return of $5,559.
  • Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, at an average cost of $4.49, with taxes, would be $31.43 a week, or $1,635 a year. That would give a return of $51,354
  • A bottle of water at $1.20, adds up to $8.40 a week, or $437 a year, which would give you a return of $13,726.
Just using these averages, by cutting out these small purchases, and investing them in a Roth IRA, you would have turned $3,797 into roughly $120,000!! And that is if you only saved that first year's savings, and never added any further contributions until you retired. If you added the same amount to the IRA every year, you would have approximately $1.5 MILLION saved in your retirement account. See how SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY?!?!

Does it make sense now? Is the picture coming into focus? These small, daily purchases, that we don't need, but that we want, are bleeding us dry financially. A couple dollars here, and a couple dollars there, add up quickly...have them add up the right way for your asset column, not your expense column!

Roth IRA calculations based on a calculator at DinkyTown , with dollar amount added for first year contribution and zero annual contributions thereafter, at a rate of 9%, from age 25 to 65.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Here's a FREEBIE for ya!!

Today's post is gonna be short and sweet, and I'm going to give you a little present. Whether your a gamer, or you know a gamer, you'll want to take advantage of this offer. Keep it for yourself, get it for your kid, or give it as a gift to a friend or relative, sign-up for a free subscription to Electronic Gaming Monthy

Ok, so you have to fill out a little survey about yourself...have no fear, EasyMoneySaving is here! The biggest hassle is giving your email address, and more likely than not getting spammed. I hate that, and I'm pretty sure you feel the same way (though I have to admit I like Spam, fried, with some eggs and toast). So here's the FREE fix for that, as well. It's called GuerillaMail, and it gives a quick, disposable email account you can use, that lasts for 15 minutes. Just go to the site, and it tells you what email to use, and starts a countdown timer. When you use the address, and receive the mail, it will display it on the screen for don;t even have to log in. This is perfect for stuff like this magazine offer, or just getting an activation confirmation email, or just anytime you think you might be spammed as a result of giving out your real email address.

You'll save about $72 off the cover price, and anywhere from $12-$20 by subscription...but hey, $72 is a nice savings (heck, $12 is a nice savings)...and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

Hat tip to jlvkfyang at for the heads up.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

OK, so what type of budget should I have?

That is a common question I get - what type of budget should I have? That always reminds me of a joke I heard along time ago (and the answer is surprising similar). A parishoner was asking her pastor if it was ok for women to wear make-up. The pastor replied, "I don't know, dear, how bad is your face? If your face needs it...DAB IT ON!!" Same is true with a budget...everyone's situation is different, so the budget needs to be tailored to that specific situation.

If you are like most people though, there are some basic elements you need in the budget. These are things like mortgage or rent, food, vehicle expenses (car payment/gas), clothes, loans/credit cards, and utilities. After that, pretty much everything else is unique to each person or family.

Two non-negotiables before we did anything else, no matter how hard it was financially that month, was we tithed and saved...we paid God first, ourselves second, and everyone else last. I'm not here to preach to you, but something happens when you give...whether through a church (or other religious organization), or some other charity of your choice, if you give, you WILL get back. I can not explain it, but it happens. By paying ourselves, we made sure we saved something every month, in our emergency fund.

After the first two thing, my wife and I started with the biggies...Food, housing, car, debt. We further broke them down into smaller subcategories. Food included groceries and dining out. Groceries included stuff like food (duh!), but other items you would normally find at the grocery store...paper towels, toiletries, plastic garbage bags, pet food, laundry detergent, etc. We became very good at pre-planning our weekly meals based on what was on sale that week. By having a plan before going to the store, we knew what we were spending, instead of just walking up and down the aisles, choosing stuff as we went along (try it, you'll be surprised how much extra you spend on stuff, when you just wing it).

Housing we broke down into our mortgage payment, our property taxes, utilities and home owners insurance. We also added a little extra to set aside for home repairs and maintenance (like when the lawn mower breaks down). We kept the thermostat a little lower in the winter, and a little higher in the summer. We got a very basic local phone plan, for about $20 a month, with no long distance. We have a great cell phone plan with unlimited anytime minutes, and no roaming charges and free long distance, so we used that for our long distance calls. That helped keep our cost down, as both the cell phone and land line are only costing us about $50 a month combined. We looked back over out electric and water bills, figured out the previous years average, and set that as our monthly budget for each item.

The car category covered our car payment, car insurance, and fuel costs. We were a little tight income wise, so we opted not to have a car repair fund, and relied on our emergency fund for the time being). The big challenge was fuel, primarily because of the fluctuating prices in gas. We started putting into practice some of the tips we previously outlined in this post. I remember one week, we ran out of cash, and just BARELY made it to the next payday on fumes. Lesson learned there...plan a little more cushion in the gas fund...if you have left overs, add it to the next month (normally, if you over budgeted, I would say, reduce the amount budgeted, and put that extra money to work somewhere else, but with gas prices the way they are, I recommend keeping it and carrying it over to the next month, if it is under $10 extra).

Debt is the big hang-up, where most people get off track. First, it took a while to get in debt, it will take some time to get out. Do NOT be discouraged. Second, this requires an attitude change. I am not in anyway shape or form telling you to NOT honor your debts and pay them off. You made a contractual agreement to pay them, you have that moral, legal and ethical obligation to pay them. Bankruptcy (other than for massive unexpected legal or medical bills) is in my opinion, stealing. If you are at the point you have to declare bankruptcy because of consumer debt, you are stealing. Your choices got you there, you need to make the right choices to get out (the right way). That said, we had to make a choice about our debts. We finally decided to pay our debtors last, with what we had left over, not first, leaving us with nothing left over (one month, we had $40 for food for the whole month). Now you have to pay the rent and the car loan, because you need to get to work, and you need a place to live. This meant taking the risk that we would damage our credit rating. Once we made that decision, we felt a tremendous weight off our shoulders. It might hurt us in the beginning, but we knew that eventually we would be better off, and have a stronger score in the long run.

If we had enough to meet all our minimum payments, we did that. If we had extra, we threw all of it on the smallest total balance we had, and paid that off as fast as possible (I'll cover that strategy in a future post). IF we didn't have enough to meet all the minimum payments, in the interest of being fair, we listed all our debts, figured out the percentage of each one compared to the total, and then figured out the total we had available to make a payment with. We then broke down the available money we had to make a payment, into the same percentages that each debt formed, of our total debt. That was what we sent in to the creditor that month. We would call them, or write a short note explaining what was happening with all our payments that month. Guess what? We never had a problem...most were actually happy to help (lowering percentage rates, lowering minimum payments, waiving late fees, etc), and glad they were getting something, instead of being the last one or two who got nothing that month. We only had to do this one or two times, if I recall correctly, and we made it through just fine. Our credit score only dropped a few points, and is now actually higher than before because of lower balance to credit limit ratios, and consistent monthly payments, without being late (we thought we were being fair by rotating which payment would be late each month, so we always had a huge late fee somewhere, every month). That was the hardest part, changing our attitude about our debt, and being willing to sacrifice our credit score if necessary. You can always build it back up, and do it with a stronger foundation, once you change your attitude, and get financially straight.

After those main areas, we didn't have any money left over each month, the first month or two, and we did make some major changes the first few months, as we learned what we could live on, and what our true spending needs (not wants) were. The picture soon started to come into focus, and we actually started making some headway
in cutting our debt down. We started to increase areas of spending (bigger food budget, entertainment, clothing, etc), but making sure we always put most of the extra money into savings and debt reduction. A quick example to hopefully motivate paying that extra money into our debts, not only did we free up those monthly payments, but I figured we saved approximately $1800 in interest payments, our first year. Think about that...$1800 that stayed in my wallet, not the creditors wallet. How long would you have to work to make an extra $1800 a year? See what I mean when I say SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Budget?!? I don't need no stinking budget!!

"It's too hard..."

"I get confused trying to figure out how to set it up..."

"It never works the way I planned it..."

"What happened to my money? It worked on paper!"

"Isn't that a car rental company?"

Ahhh...the wonderful world of budgets. Just say the word budget, and you think overspending governments...nerdy accountants with glasses, pocket protectors and adding machines...denying yourself the fun things in life.

I'm here to tell you different.

The first two (overspending governments and nerdy accountants) are a given. The third...denying yourself, doesn't have to be. Budgets are a template, a road map...think of a budget as your very own financial GPS system - it tells your money where to go.

I think the problem most people have with a budget, especially one they can stick with, is they are unreasonable about what they want it to do.

First off, know that it won't work the first month...or the second...probably not even the third or fourth. Actually, your budget is a living, breathing document, and needs to be adjusting and evolving each month. Your life doesn't stay the same, so your budget can't stay the same. Just make the decision to do a budget, and see how it goes for the month. After the first month, you'll see where you over budgeted some items, and didn't budget enough for others. Make some adjustments as needed, and see how it works the second month. Tweek it again, and again, and again, and again, and get the idea. For example, once you pay off a credit card, you'll have that monthly payment you budgeted for suddenly available (that is a GREAT feeling). The next month, you'll have that money free - you need to adjust your budget to tell that available money where to go, and what to do. It could be used to pay another debt of faster, or to save for vacation, or put into a retirement or investment account, or any of a multitude of things. As each month is a little different, you'll have to adjust accordingly...that is what makes your budget a living, breathing document.

In order to be the master of your money, you need to know where it is going and what it is doing. To do that, you need to tell it where to go (I don't suggest actually telling
it where to go, as people might find it odd seeing you talking to a couple of bills). Whether it's paying a utility bill, paying the mortgage or rent, going into savings or investments, renting a movie and going on a date, or paying off all those pizzas you put on the credit card back in college, you need to have a plan on how much money is going to it, and where it is going. If you fail to plan where your money is going, than plan on failing in most, if not all your financial matters.

"But what about denying myself? I NEED that organic tofu seaweed, facial cucumber seed, cleansing, wrinkle reducing cream I just saw on the late night infomercial!", you say. Well, just put it in your budget! This is one of the BIGGEST lessons we learned...budget money you can "throw away", "blow", "waste", "have fun with"...whatever you want to call it. You know you're gonna spend just may not know what you are going to spend it on yet. By putting it in your budget, you have a plan for it, so when you do spend it, there is no guilt with it, AND you haven't thrown your whole budget out of whack, by spending money you had allotted for something else.

In other words, if there is something you really, really, REALLY want, do not deny yourself, just include it as part of your budgeting strategy. It will keep you motivated, and keep you budgeting. And when you know where your money is going and what it is doing, you actually end up saving money in the long run, and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Money Saving Secret - FOCUSED EMOTION

So, I was sitting in my easy chair, surfing the web, trying to decide what I was going to blog about today. I like to multi-task, so I was catching up on the news, visiting some airsoft forums, checking out what tomorrow's CrossFIT workout was gonna be, etc, and I decided to visit a favorite site of mine...Dave Ramsey's site.

For those of you not familiar with Dave, he's a heavy hitter in the world of personal finance. He is the author of "Financial Peace University", and outstanding 13 week course on getting your finances in order. This is what jump started my wife's and my financial journey. He has his own radio show, and makes numerous guest appearances on television, including Oprah. I do not agree with him in everything he says, but most of it is great stuff.

Anyway, he was able to put into words, something I had been thinking of a way to describe, but I couldn't figure out how to do it(maybe it's the sleepless nights with a 3 month old). Saving is simple, but it takes discipline. Anybody can do it, but what motivates the actions of saving and the discipline to put them in to action (as Jeff Olsen says, "Something that is easy to do, is also easy NOT to do!")? Dave has the answer:

Saving money is not a matter of math. You will not save money when you get that next raise. You will not save money when that car is paid off. You will not save money when the kids are grown. You will only save money when it becomes an emotional priority...The secret to saving? FOCUSED EMOTION. The secret to saving money is to make it a priority, and that is done ONLY when you get some healthy anger or fear and then focus that emotion on your personal decisions...
Read Dave's full article here.

Eureka (there I go using that word again), that's it!! That was what I was trying to find a way to express. Ask anyone, and almost all of them will tell you they want to be wealthy. Many even have the knowledge and skills to get them there. But they lack the emotional motivation to do what needs to be done (legally and ethically) to reach their dreams. As a friend of mine, Darin Kidd says, "Their why isn't big enough!" other words, what they want do be able to do with that wealth (or whatever else their dream or goal is), is not tapping and driving their emotional level to the point that they take action to do the things that need to be done.

Fuel your emotional drive, and you can save money, and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Get up to $80 from the government

The digital age...gotta love it! From iPods, bluetooth technology, high speed internet, and yes, the blogosphere, everything is going digital. You can even get a digital picture frame with a LCD screen, that you load your digital pictures into, and it rotates them like a slideshow. What will they think of next? Anyway, what we're going to talk about to day, is digital television, and how to save some money...namely, $80.

Starting in February 2009, all broadcast stations in the US will stop using analog signals, per the federal government. That means no more getting to use those nifty rabbit ears on top of your tv, unless of course, you just LOVE to watch static and snow on the tube. What to do?!? Do you rush right out and buy a brand new high definition (HD) tv, with built in tuner? You can...if you have the cash (remember, we don;t use credit cards unless we actually have the cash to pay it off, in hand), and if you want to take the time to find a good deal (I saved my cash, and found a deal on a sweet HD LCD, and saved $300). Or, you can just connect a digital tuner/converter box to your current television, and continue watching on your old tube tv.

HEre's the is different from high definition. It's basically the way it is broadcast. So while you need a digital signal to get HD, you do not need HD to watch digital - Clear as mud? Good. All the converters do is capture the digital signal, and convert it to play on your old analog television. And you can even use the ol' rabbit ears as your antenna - I did (they look marvelous resting on top of my sleek, 3 inch deep LCD). Seriously, I still use my rabbit ears...I went from 5 channels I could pick up and watch (with static) with analog, and with digital, I get 15 channels, and they are all clear, with no static. It's great! And cheap, because I'm not paying for cable or satellite, either.

Here's the money saving info. Visit and you can apply for up to two coupons for $40 each, good towards the purchase of digital tuner boxes. The site also has a list of approved converters. It appears the boxes will be on the market in a month or so, and the coupons will actually mail out then. Prices appear to be in the $60-$100 range, before using the coupon, depending on the make of the box.

So, do yourself a favor, and save some money, and get the coupons...that's $80 still in your pocket, plus the cost of a new tv with built in digital tuner (hundreds of dollars), and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY. Plus you'll keep your faithful, bulky tube tv from sitting in a landfill somewhere, growing bitter that you left it for the newer, sexier, SLIMMER models on the market.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gonna be a little selfish with this post

So, to be honest with you, I struggled with today's post. I've been wanting to hit the importance of budgets, and how easy they really can be, but I also needed to do something to help myself out a little bit as well. So, I wondered, how can I work this where I get done what I need to get done, but can tie it into the blog...hmmmm.

EUREKA!!! Holy cow, did I just actually type "eureka"?!? Who uses that word anymore? Apparently I'm stuck in some time warp of old cliches and archaic words and phrases. Anyway, back on topic.

Let me lay it out for you all...this little blog of mine will someday, I hope, be a resource for many, MANY, MANY people such as yourself. In order to do that though, I need traffic.

Now, how do I get more of it? Seeing as this site is about saving money, I'm sure as heck not going to be paying a lot for it ( a lot = just about $0.00), not to mention, those companies that claim to deliver thousands of visitors for a small fee are not what I'm looking for...I want great quality readers, like yourself, who are actually interested in the material...not people being slammed onto my site who don't plan on staying. Quality or quantity? I'll take quality, thank you!

So, I stumble across rssHugger. It appears it costs $20 to get started. Oh well, not gonna save any money there...but wait a tic', what is that I see? The $20 is waived, if you post a review of rssHugger on your own blog? Now that is what I'm all about! All I gotta do is write an honest review, and I'm in? Well let's go...this is the answer to my dilemma. A means to possibly generate some quality visitors, while saving money (it's cool to practice what you preach)...because SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

So here's the skinny on is designed to serve both bloggers (like yours truly) and readers (such as fine upstanding folks as yourselves).

For bloggers, it can help with traffic, backlinks for search engine optimization, and hopefully building a list of rss subscribers, who just can't live without their daily money saving tip fix, courtesy! For readers, it helps to categorize blogs by topic, and make their search for their areas of interest that much easier. Find a blog you like, and subscribe to the feed, and voila (there's another one of those obsolete words), you get updated info from that blog instantly. It also has a "Top 100" list, which apparently resets every month, giving even the little guys (like me) a chance to get ranked, as it is based on views for that month - very cool feature! You click on the blog you want to read, and it lists all the updated content, click on the headline you want to read, and it takes you straight to that page. That saves the reader time as well...not that time IS money, but time is money, and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY, so I guess following that logic, SAVING TIME is MAKING TIME!! (Ok, cut me some slack, I've been up since before 5am, and I've only eaten a frozen pizza seemed profound at the time).

So in closing, rssHugger appears to be a solid idea that is working. Will it work for this blog? I hope so, as it appears to be a unique way of generating traffic. I'll keep you all posted.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Can't see yourself saving money?

Here is a SUPER deal all of us vision challenged folks need to use. If you can't see yourself saving or making money, maybe you just need your eyes checked (or perhaps you really don't have much of an imagination...I'm willing to bet though, you just need some glasses). This is where Zenni Optical comes into play.

Zenni Optical is one of those places that just makes me smile...after all, where else can you save so much money on an item that is VASTLY overpriced. The suggested retail of most glasses on the market are rip offs. I mean, really, hundreds of dollars for a little wire and some plastic lenses? The amount of money people pay for brand name frames is crazy! Honestly, who is going to come up to you and say they just love those brand name frames? No one, that's who! So why waste the money?

Alright, are you sitting down? Zenni Optical offers complete single vision eyeglasses starting at $8.00. That is NOT a typo...$8.00!! Now you can add features (such as the lenses that darken in sunlight, for an extra $37.00), or even get multiple vision lenses (bifocals for $25.00, progressive vision lenses for $37.00, etc), and they are a little more, but the savings are still huge. Think last pair of glasses cost about $150.00, for a no-name frame, and single vision lenses. Looking at Zenni's selection, I could have gotten a similar frame with lenses for $8.00...over a $140.00 savings! How long would you have to work at your job, to make that much money? Quite a while, i would wager. Starting to see the big picture here (ok, maybe you still need the glasses, but you get my point)? Anyhow, use Zenni for your next eyeglasses purchase, and keep you wallet fat and happy, because SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Stop pumping extra money into your gas tank!

It is affecting everybody from truck drivers and taxi companies, to soccer moms and vacationing families; from daily commuters and vacationing families, to police and fire departments...the high price of gas is hitting everyone.

While we can not do a whole lot about the actual price of gas itself, here are some ways to stretch the mileage you get from each gallon, and to find the lowest prices in your community.

First, get your vehicle tuned up...if it runs smoothly, it burns less gas per mile, so you get more bang for your buck. Also, keep your tires properly inflated. If the tires are too low, or two high, they will wear out prematurely (causing you to buy tires more often, which costs you more money). In addition, by not being properly inflated, the vehicle has to overcome more resistance when moving, so it needs more power - which comes from using more gas.

Try to run all your errands at one time...combine things to do, so your only out driving once.

Shop at wholesale dealers. More and more stores like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, etc, have gas pumps now, and offer lower prices on their fuel. My wife and I buy our gas at Kroger. By using our Kroger Plus card, we automatically save between $0.03-$0.05 per gallon, depending on what grade of fuel we purchase. But after we have reached $100 in food purchases in a given month at Kroger, we get $0.10 per gallon! At today's prices, that $0.10 adds up fast!

Finally, you can check out It is a website where you can check out the prices of gas of almost anywhere in the United States. Just choose the location you want to check out, and you'll get a list of stations and what their current prices are, all submitted by members of the site. Become a member, and if you find a good deal, post for others to check out as well. This helps you avoid running all over town looking for the lowest price.

All these tips, by themselves won't save you a lot of money, but combine them together, and the savings start to add up significantly, and SAVING MONEY is MAKING MONEY!!

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