Monday, September 30, 2013

Working from Home

The Benefits (and some cons) of telecommuting aka Working at home.

No not everyone has the option of working from home, but if you get a chance to do it, you need to seriously consider it. The Pro’s outweigh the cons. At least they have for me.

6 years ago I started working from home 2 days a week, then 4 years ago I started working from home 3 days a week and 3 years ago I started working from home all the time.

Benefits, economic and otherwise:

It saves gas and wear and tear on the car. I was spending $200 a month on gas. And that was with an average commute and free parking. Plus I was adding over 1200 miles per month to my car.

It saves on electricity. I seem to be the only one capable of turning off a light in this house. My bride and children have some genetic disorder that prevents them from turning off the lights when they leave a room.

It saves on food. I never went out to eat lunch that often, but there was always some event that came up that I felt obligated to go to. No more going out for silly luncheons.

My office is my computers, 2 laptops. I can work wherever I can get an internet connection. Is the weather nice? Why not work on the back porch and get some fresh air and sunshine.

Don’t feel like shaving or showering? Don’t have to. Want to work in your boxer shorts? Sure, that’s allowed. Want to sleep in until 8:59am and still be able to start work at 9am? That will work too.

You also get mental benefits from avoiding traffic and all the crazy drivers out there. No putting up with traffic jams, thunderstorms, snow, ice etc…or the crazy co-worker that wants to tell you about the great weekend he had building a new climbing toy for his cats.

You get time for “free”. My commute was 35-45 minutes each way. I now have an extra 70-90 minutes each day in which to do something I want to do, or to sleep.

Taking a work-from-home job with a lower salary may be worth it. Do the math and consider the fringe benefits.

It’s not all ice cream and cheesecake though. There are some issues that have to be dealt with.
Especially in a homeschooling home with 12 kids still living here to one degree or another.

It can be difficult to stay on task and focus on work. It is easy to get sidetracked and start doing other things around the house: little projects, watch TV, work on the cars or yard. BS with the wife and kids. Take kiss-breaks with the Misses.

The spouse and kids will think you are fair game and that you can be asked to do things or help with school. Especially if you are working in a common area of the house like I do at times. I have a desk setup in my bedroom but like to work in other areas of the house. Since my office consists of 2 laptops it’s pretty easy to work wherever.  I just have to make sure I focus and get the work done that is expected of me.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Tip of the Day

If your city has a good public transportation system, consider using it. It may save you money.

Same applies to carpooling to work. See if that is an option for you.

Personally I'd rather set my hair on fire and put it out with a hammer than do either of those things, but that's just my personality.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tip of the Day

Put it on Autopilot

Investments, savings, utility and other household card. mortgage and other loan payments.

Setup to have as many bills, loans and investments paid automatically out of your paycheck or checking account as you can.

Save time, save on checks, save money on stamps. Never have a payment late again or pay a late fee. Keep your credit nice and pristine.

Skip all the above if you'd rather spend a few hours each month going through bills and writing out checks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekly Web Roundup

From Money Talk News

Why You Shouldn’t Bother Earning That Bachelor’s Degree

"We all know the routine: You graduate from high school, head off to the college or university of your choice, and graduate four years later with a boatload of student loan debt.
But it all pays off in the end, right? That bachelor’s degree is the only way to land a prime job, and employers won’t give you a second glance without one. It’s the line we’ve been feeding ourselves and our kids for at least as long as since I was in high school.
What if it’s not true?"

From the Simple Dollar

The Fear of a 401(k) 

"When I was in high school, my father’s employer launched a 401(k) program. He’d been there for twenty five years (off and on) at that time and was getting fairly close to his retirement, so it wasn’t a huge deal for him.
Still, my father has always been pretty careful with his money. Aside from their mortgage, my parents have never been in significant debt, even during periods of unemployment. They put money directly from their pay into a credit union every pay period and treated it as an emergency fund, saved up for major expenses like Christmas, and completely avoided the desire to spend to “keep up with the Joneses.”"

From Christian Personal Finance

5 Financial Arguments and How to Avoid Them 

"Let’s face it . . . financial arguments can put a strain on our relationships. It’s not that money itself causes financial fights – it’s the way both parties handle the situation.
Since you don’t always have a say in the way someone else responds, the best way to control a financial argument is to reshape your approach and to avoid getting defensive right out of the gate."

From Money Talk News

10 Tips to Make the Most of Your High-Deductible Health Plan 

"As employers cut their costs for providing health insurance to their workers, they’re offering more high-deductible health plans. The premiums are lower, but you’ll pay $1,000 or more out-of-pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in — sometimes a lot more.
Not only are these plans gaining ground in the workplace, high-deductible health plans will be one of the options available to those who buy insurance on their own when the state online marketplaces open for business on Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

Tip of the Day

If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down.

Or you could just double-up.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Teaching Kids About Money

Topics to discuss with kids:

  • Saving vs spending. You have a limited amount of money. You can't spend all of it. You need to save some of it, at least 10%.
  • Delayed gratification. "You can't always get what you want" Jagger/Richards. They need to learn patience and how to save up for something they want to purchase.
  • Savings - get them a piggy-bank or an old jar to save money in. Open a savings account and teach them about interest.
  • We don't do allowances, they get fed. But consider allowances, and use them as a way to teach them to work for money and what to do with the money they make.
  • Teach them to give of their money and time. Have your kids give away some of their own money.
  • Be careful using credit cards around them. They will think that whipping out a card is all you have to do to buy things.
  • Teach them about credit cards. Make sure they know not to use them unless they have the money to pay them off in full each month. That they will have to pay interest (a lot of interest) if they carry a balance.
  • Teach them that it's better to use cash or debit cards for purchases.
  • Teach them how to shop (take them to the grocery store). I know shopping with kids can be more painful than watching a Miley Cyrus video, but take them with and teach them how to comparison shop and how to stick to a list of items that you need. This will also teach them some math skills. Have them hand the money to the cashier, not a credit card, and make sure they get the correct change.
  • Teach them how to balance a checkbook.
  • Teach them how to make a budget. And why one is important.
  • Teach them to protect their financial and personal, data. Be careful who has your SSN and account info. Be careful shopping online.
  • Teach them about legalized thievery. Taxes.
  • Explain how loans work: mortgages, cars, student loans. 

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tip of the Day

Be Realistic

Be Realistic when creating a budget - if you are currently spending $1,000 a month on groceries to feed the family, setting a food budget goal of $500 is not realistic. Work on getting the monthly food expenses down to $800-$900 first and then keep cutting costs when you can.

Be realistic when paying down debt - Paying off a $10,000 credit card balance or a $25,000 car loan is going take some hard work and some time. Set up a realistic pay-down plan and stick to it. Be patient, you will see progress.

Be realistic when setting savings goals - A goal of building a $20,000 emergency fund in 3 months is probably not a realistic goal for most people. Figure out how much you can reasonably put into savings each month and do it.

Don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean you set supper easy goals, you want to make your financial goals a bit of a reach, just don't make them outrageously so.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different*** 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Pros of Homeschooling:

  • Parental control of what kids are taught and how it's taught.
  • Get to teach your value system to your kids, not the government's "values".
  • You can teach to your kid's learning style. There are no learning disabled kids, just teacher disabled adults.
  • If you want to spend all day learning about how caterpillars become butterflys or how to conjugate verbs you can. 
  • Better socialization skills (home-school kids being un-socialized is one of the great lies). Our kids interact with kids and adults of all ages, not just with kids their own age. This is of particular importance for boys.
  • Lots of time and freedom to pursue other activities. Homeschooling allows them to do much more if the parent so chooses.
  • Takes about 1/3 of the time of regular schooling. My kids, if motivated, are done school in 2-3 hours tops. The lazy ones can take all day.
  • Can do school in your pajamas.
  • Don't have to get up super early to meet a carpool or the bus.
  • Lots of time to play outside and just be a kid. 
  • No getting dropped of at 7am for before-school care and picked up at 6pm from after-care.
  • Lots of one on one time with parents. Builds better relationships with parents and siblings.
  • No busywork and filler in the classroom.
  • Kids learn at their pace not at the pace of the slowest kid in the classroom
  • Costs are very low, much lower than private school and about the same as public school. We spend less than $200 to school our k-8 kids (high-school homeschooling costs more and will be covered in a future post). This assumes you aren't using some expensive curriculum package. My bride does up her own curriculum. But even the packaged curriculum is affordable for most.
  • Safer - we have had no bomb threats, school shootings, stabbings, drug use, bullying...
  • You can take vacation whenever you want. We get to go to the beach when its the off-season. Beaches aren't crowded and the rents are a lot cheaper.
  • You are there to help you kids through the "big issues" in life and can decide when they learn about them.
  • The person who loves the child most in this world is also their teacher.

Cons of Homeschooling:

None. Well none for us. I hear other people comment on the downside of homeschooling but this has always been from people who have never tried it. I have no time or patience to deal with these objections and people any more. We've been doing this for 20 years and have heard it all. If you have problems with the idea of homeschooling try sitting down with a veteran home-school mom (like my bride) and talking about it. We have dealt with all the objections over the years. Or better yet give homeschooling a try. You can always ship them back to the public school, they would love to get their meat-hooks back into them.

Results so far - My oldest graduated college 2 years early and got her masters in a year. The next 4 kids are in college currently, 2 will graduate in the spring. All of our kids have finished high school either 1 or 2 years early. 2 kids are doing high school currently. 1 is middle-school age. 3 are elementary school age. And 2 are too young for school and terrorize everyone else.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Tip of the Day

Save the raise/bonus/tax refund.

If you are lucky enough to have a job that still gives raises and/or bonuses, save them.

If your pre-raise salary is enough to make ends meet, save the extra you get each month from your raise. Have it automatically transferred each pay-period into a retirement account or savings account.

Get an annual bonus? Put it into a retirement or other savings account.

Large tax refund? Bank it. Then adjust your withholding so you break even at tax time the following year.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tip of the Day

You don't need a high-priced photographer to capture important family memories. Everybody and their grandmother has a digital camera, plus one on their phone.

Sure for a wedding you are gonna want a pro. But for birthday's, Christmas Cards, can do-it-yourself with a your own camera. Or ask your weird uncle who has a dozen different cameras to take pictures. It will keep him out of trouble and hopefully sober.

Heck we use even used our camera phone for our daughters First Communion. Personally I think the pics came out just fine. (she's 2nd from the left)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Be Stronger than Achilles

What is your financial Achilles Heel? Where is your weak spot?

What is the one (or two or ten) thing that is putting a major hurt on your budget?

Look through your spending, or in your driveway maybe, and figure out what is it that you keep spending money on that is dragging down your financial stability.

It could be one big thing; car, truck, boat, vacation home etc...

Or maybe it’s a bunch of smaller expenditures that add up over time; golfing every weekend, expensive hair salon visits, eating out, excessive actives for the kids or maybe a combination of things.

What is mine you ask?

But at least they are pretty. And as my wife says "for a mid-life crises, its better, and cheaper, than a 25 year-old blonde".

Those cars are one of the benefits of working from home. I do not need a newer reliable commuter car. These cars combined cost me less than a used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Plus they are fun to work on with the kids. We spent last summer redoing the interior of the white one. The boys got to learn some new skills and some new words.

At least that's how I'm justifying their purchase.

Remember, everyone has a weakness. Achilles, Superman...even Batman.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tip of the Day

I am responsible for my own financial future. I must make sure that I have enough to live on for years to come. No playing the victim, I will make my own future.

It's not my parents, my kids or my friends responsibility. And I certainly can't count on the government, the lottery or the kindness of strangers.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lightening Up the Weekend



Tip of the Day

Credit Card Fast - Try going a few weeks without using a credit card. Just to see what its like and to learn some fiscal discipline. Use cash and debit cards instead and think about each purchase long and hard before making it.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekly Web Round Up

Recent articles from around the web.

From Money Talk News

The 10 Commandments of Personal Finance

"Maybe you heard about that Kelton study from 2007 that found Americans were more familiar with the contents of a Big Mac than they were the Ten Commandments.

It’s true, folks. Eighty percent of Americans knew there are two all-beef patties in a Big Mac — but just 6 in 10 could identify “Thou shalt not kill” as one of the Ten Commandments. I know."

From Money Talk News

Why Your Retirement Won’t Be Like Your Parents’ — and What You Can Do About It 

"When retirement rolled around for my parents, they had it licked.
My father, a World War II and Air Force Reserve veteran, got a small monthly military retirement check, along with a pension from his career with the federal government. My mother was a retired teacher with a state pension and Social Security."

From the Washington Post

"Think managing your finances has to be complicated? Wonkblog contributor (and UC Chicago social scientist) Harold Pollack doesn't. After a talk with personal finance expert Helaine Olen, Pollack managed to write down pretty much everything you need to know on a 4x6 index card. And it would probably fit on a 3x5 index card if you really crammed (that last point, for instance, is probably not strictly necessary for managing your money). He explains:" 

From The Cash Money Life

Nervous About Stocks? Here’s What You Can Do About It  

"This is something of a tense time if you’re a stock market investor. After hitting record levels this past spring, the market is now languishing just below peak, and has been for months. Meanwhile, the prospect of the Federal Reserve tapering it’s purchases of mortgage securities and federal government debt has caused interest rates to rise. For the first time in about four years, the stock market is looking… vulnerable."

 From Market Watch

Portfolio killers: 6 newbie investing myths

"Even though they may not have many dollars to put away, investors who are just starting out have a fabulous opportunity: The chance to compound money for a very long time.

Perhaps even more important, they have the opportunity to create the habits and attitudes that will shape their investment returns — and thus will eventually help shape their lives as retirees." 



Some Benefits of Being Debt Free

  • You will sleep much better at night.
  • Your marriage will improve; the #1 reason given for divorce in the U.S. is money arguments.
  • You can take advantage of good deals or investments that arise. Chicken breasts on sale for $1.69lb? You’ve got the funds to buy a few hundred pounds if you want. 
  •  More freedom to move or change jobs if you want/need to. 
  • Graduating with now student loans will enable you to start saving sooner and investing in your future.
  •  You are not paying interest to The Man on stuff that you probably can’t even remember purchasing. 
  •  You will be able to establish an emergency fund and start saving for retirement, vacation, new home or car etc…
  • You will be able to help others more easily, Donate to your church, favorite charity etc…            

  • Since you will be sleeping better you won’t be able to watch all those late-night infomercials.  How will you know which new product will be the next Pillow-Pet or Snuggy?
  • With no money problems, you will have to find something else to fight with your spouse about…maybe he/she squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle.
  • You will no longer get to keep eating non-sale $5.99lb chicken.
  • You won’t have an excuse to keep living in that house you are upside-down in and keep working in that sucky job you hate.
  • Since you didn't borrow for college, you won't get to pay back $50,000 in loans over the next 20 years.
  • You won’t get to pay 18% to Visa and MasterCard for those carbon-fiber golf clubs that are gathering dust in your garage, sitting next to a financed sports car.
  • You will have to find your excitement elsewhere since you will be missing out on the excitement of living paycheck to paycheck and being on the financial edge.
  • You will have to say yes when someone knocks on your door collecting for the Association to End Cat Juggling