Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Two Months to Christmas

Have you finished your shopping yet? Have you even started?

Plan gift-giving well in advance. That will give you time to decide on the most thoughtful gifts, which usually are not the most expensive ones. And if these gifts are products that must be purchased, you will have the opportunity to look for sales.

Take time through out the year to buy a little at a time and put it away. My bride has dozen's of gifts hidden away that she uses for birthdays and Christmas.

Consider giving your kids just 3 gifts this year. If 3 were good enough for baby Jesus than they should be good enough for the rest of us.

We used to do the 3 gift rule, then someone I'm related to by marriage decided we were Rockefeller's. So the kids actually get more than 3 now, why? Beats me. Supposedly we are going back to the 3 gifts per person rule for this year, we shall see.

Got a big old family? Pick names and just give one gift. Or do one of those silly gag present exchanges than my in-laws seem to think is so much fun but is really annoying and tired. 

Buying for someone that has "everything"? Give a gift to a charity in their name.  Or a subscription to the Jelly of the Month club.

Need something for your bride? Don't want to spend a lot? Write her a letter, give her coupons for: walks, dessert dates, back rubs creative.

Bake for people. Especially for guys. Need gifts for mail man, trash men, teachers, delivery guys? Fire up the oven and get baking.

Beware saying yes to every event, cookie exchange, caroling session, party, play etc...try and chill a bit and enjoy.

Don't forget to shop the after-Christmas sales, but use self control. Great deals can be found on wrapping paper, gifts and lights. You really think you lights will be working next year after sitting in the basement for 12 months?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tip of the Day

Instead of going out to dinner with friends, take turns hosting dinner parties.

Have an afternoon cookout with the adults and the kids. Or do a later in the evening dinner party just for the adults.

Host family supplies the main dish. Have others bring the sides, salad, desserts and drinks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tip of the Day

Extending the life of your cell phone battery.

  • Turn the phone off
  • Stop searching for a signal.
  • Do not follow the method of full charge and full discharge. Avoid letting your cell phone's battery run all the way down.
  • Turn off your phone's back light

See the rest of the tips Here

or just

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tip of the Day

How much to save? Aim for 10% minimum and try and increase it from there. But have a method to your madness. Have a down payment, car, retirement, emergency fund. And have a plan to reach that goal.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tip of the Day

Make your monthly loan payments forever. That;s right, never pay that car off. But pay yourself instead of the lender. Many of us have monthly loan payments, whether for a car loan, credit card debt, a mortgage, or all of the above. When you’ve finally paid off a debt, try to keep it up. But instead of sending a check to the lender, deposit the money into a savings account. You've increased your net worth by paying off the debt; now keep up the good work by building up your assets.

Say you've got a car payment that is $435 a month and you finally get that sporty Camry you bought paid for. That car is gonna last another 10 years if you care for it. Keep "paying" that $435 a month, but dump it into a savings account or a mutual fund, depending on your goals. In another 10 years that payment will be worth over $52,000 even if its sitting in a crappy savings account and over $60,000 if its in a mutual fund. Unless of course the economy goes into the crapper.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tip of the Day

"Crooks are taking advantage of the difficult economy, including tighter credit and higher unemployment, to trick people into accepting fraudulent and deceptive offers that seem beneficial on the surface but actually could cost a lot of money or result in identity theft," said Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's Financial Crimes Section.
Here are some common schemes being reported:

Mortgage rescue schemes

Other credit-related scams involving upfront fees

Work-at-home scams

"Mystery shopper" scams
As in anything finance related, use common sense, and realize if it sounds to good to be certainly is.

Never give out personal info, such as: social security number, account numbers, credit card numbers etc...unless you are positive you are dealing with someone reputable. When in doubt walk away or hang-up. Better to be thought rude than be in the poor house.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tip of the Day

Be sure to take advantage of discounts and/or incentive programs provided through your employer. For example, the company I work for offers discounted rates for computers, fitness center memberships, movie tickets and passes to summer festivals. We can also join a credit union, which has decent rates and fees. I don't use the credit union because I like my online bank better.

Check your corporate intranet or talk to your human resources representative.

And don’t forget the best deal of all – investing in your 401(k)! Most companies match a certain % of investment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekly Web Roundup

From Money Talk News

15 Low- and No-Cost Ways to Reduce Your Winter Energy Bill 

"As you dig out your sweaters and winter coats and prepare to ward off the cold, you also should think about ways to ward off higher energy bills in your home.
More than 90 percent of American households can expect to pay more to heat their homes this winter because of higher fuel costs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration."

From Daily Finance

Retirement Planning With Just 3 Numbers 

"Professionals love complications. Trust me. I'm a lawyer. I know. We love using fancy words and really long sentences. Uttering something in Latin is even better. "Nunc pro tunc" is my personal favorite because it makes me feel like a time traveler.

Retirement planning should not be so complicated. We can put away the Monte Carlo simulators and fancy calculators. We don't need a thick, smartly-bound plan from a financial adviser. In fact, all we really need to understand are these three numbers:"

From Daily Finance

5 Reasons Why You're In Debt Up To Your Eyeballs 

"We've all seen the LendingTree commercials where the guy sarcastically says: "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges. Somebody help me!"

If that sounds like you, read on. Here are a few reasons why you're swimming in debt and what you can do about it."

From The Simple Dollar

Quickly Figuring Out the “Best” Option When Buying a Small Item 

"Many times in the past, I’ve talked about my process for figuring out a major purchase. I’ll consult Consumer Reports, I’ll talk to my social circle, and I’ll usually end up buying with reliability as a primary factor.
This process really helps for anything that’s expensive, because the time you invest in figuring out the right purchase, but what about a spur of the moment purchase?"

From Wise Bread

6 Reasons You're Not a Millionaire 

"In 2012, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart was officially declared the richest woman in the world, boasting assets of more than $26 billion. Not long after, Rinehart took heat for an article she wrote for the Australian Resources and Investment Magazine, where she suggested that those who wanted what she had should "spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing and more time working."



Tip of the Day

Enjoy going out but trying to save money? Check for local free events. Look in your local newspaper, if they haven't gone out of business yet. Check at the local library or with city hall or look on your town's website.

Use those resources to learn about free or low-cost parks, museums, concerts, film showings, sports events, and other places which you and your family would enjoy.

Go to a town hall or city council meeting and heckle the politicians. Ask your mayor why your town doesn't have its own tanks and fighter planes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tip of the Day

It pays to practice preventative dental care, since a good cleaning routine helps prevent fillings, root canals, and dental crowns, which are expensive and no fun, This is especially true if you have dental insurance that pays for cleanings every 6 months. My company provides good dental insurance that pays for the cleanings in full. So all 14 of us get our teeth cleaned twice a year, not all at once. We should do that one day, schedule 14 cleaning appointments for the same day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tip of the Day

Cancel or let your magazines subscriptions run out, especially if you hardly read them. I've let my car and my running magazines run out. Almost all the material is available online for free.

For example both Runners World and Running Times post their articles on their websites.

Same applies to newspapers. The content is free online, stop paying to have the paper delivered. Sure all those philosophy majors will have to go find new jobs, maybe Starbucks is hiring.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tip of the Day

Turn off the TV and radio, especially during ads. Or change the channel. Or just go out and do something.

Seeing all those ads isn't helping your budget.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tip of the Day

Plan your weekly meals around what's on sale in the grocery store's ad. Not by what you want to make. We see what meat's are on sale each week (meat being the most expensive thing we buy) and stock up on those meats. Ground beef on sale? Well then it's burgers, meatloaf, tacos and burgers for that week.

We also eat whatever veggies and fruits are on sale each week. Kids want pears but apples are on sale that week? Then apples it is and the kids will just have to wait to have pears when a sale rolls around.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tip of the Day

Buy a pair of hair clippers and cut your own hair and the hair of your boys. Ladies/girls are exempt from this tip. Unless you want to do the bald chick thing.

We have 8 sons. Clippers have saved us a small fortune over the years. Eventually the boys get older and start making some $$$ and decide to pay for haircuts themselves, but as long as we are footing the bill they get the momma mauling them.

I buzz my own hair off about every month or so. A set of clippers are around $20-$30 and seem to last forever. Even if they don't last forever, they pay for themselves after a few haircuts. Go checkout Amazon or head over to Walmart (at your own risk).

Trust me nothing can go wrong.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekly Web Roundup

From Bargaineering:

Struggling financially? The stress might hurt your decision-making

"One of the tenets of the “American Way” is that anyone can “make it,” no matter how dire their circumstances. While this is a comforting thought, the reality might not play out quite so nicely. According to research from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, there are indications that financial stress can reduce the ability to make good long-term decisions."

From Daily Finance:

5 Counterintuitive Financial Tips That Work

"Russell Holcombe, a certified financial planner based in Atlanta, says he's tired of constantly warning clients against making bad money choices. Part of the problem, he says, is that popular financial advice is often wrong. That's why he finds himself urging people to rethink purchasing houses that would max out their budgets, or putting so much money into retirement accounts that they're unprepared for emergencies."

From Wise Bread:

40 Ways to Use Spray Paint for Cheap and Easy Decorating

"What's super cheap, highly versatile, available in every color, and something that anyone can use to make beautiful decor? The answer is spray paint, of course.
Whether you are looking to restore a great flea market find, simply touch up an existing item, or go for a dramatic change of color, spray paint gets the job done. While you can spray-paint just about anything, here's a host of suggestions, sorted by color, to help you start putting this awesome and affordable DIY tool to work for you."

From Wise Bread: 

Boost Your Retirement Savings Fast With This 6-Step Plan

"What do you do when you're in your last decade of your working life, but you don't have enough money saved for retirement? Sausalito, CA financial planner Bob Goldman shared his top tips for maximizing savings during the home stretch. (See also: Essential Truths for a Successful Retirement)
Goldman created this step-by-step list for Carol Dorsett, who relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area after being laid off as photo editor at a Midwestern newspaper. Carol moved in with her sister and began training in computer skills and started job hunting."

From Money Talk News:

You’re Probably Trusting Your Teen Driver Too Much 

"No friends in the car? Home by 9? No texting? Really?" A recent survey conducted by State Farm finds a huge disconnect between what parents think their teen is doing on the road and the behaviors that the teens themselves report. The survey focused on the key provisions of graduated driver licensing laws that introduce driving privileges in stages with the goal of keeping inexperienced teen drivers out of dangerous situations."


Try and DIY before calling in the pros. Got a broken appliance, car? Plumping problem? Have a go at it yourself before paying someone to fix it. Do a search on Google for how to fix it. I've found lots or articles and videos that show you have to to basic repairs.

Last week we bought a new dishwasher, no not a second wife, and I looked up a how to install video on YouTube. 1 hour later the dishwasher was installed and actually working and not leaking,

I've also found videos that helped me put in a new garbage disposal and do various car repairs.

Just  be careful and don't totally screw it up.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vote for Your Favortie Toy

The National Toy Hall of Fame wants you to vote for your favorite toy for the 2013 induction.

This year's nominee's are:

I voted for Little Green Army Men. So far Chess has gotten 3% of the vote, probably homeschooled dorks.


Tip of the Day

Invest in a full size freezer. You can stock up on meat when it is on sale, boneless chicken was on sale last month for $1.69lb, my bride bought 100 pounds. Our freezer is currently the Dolly Parton of freezers.

You can also make meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer. Running late or don't know what to have for dinner? Whip out one of the meals.

If you join the Mob, having a large freezer can be indispensable.

Look for used or frees one's before buying new. We got ours about 10 years ago for free. From a friend of a friend who was moving and downsizing.

Or use it to stash your liquor.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Junk by Any Other Name is Still Junk

Storage Units?! Really?

You have so much crap that it won't fit in your house and you have to pay to have it stored? (I'm not talking about people in the process of moving and between homes, or those in the Mob who need places to stash bodies, guns and drugs. Storage units are great for those needs.)

Paying $100-$400 a month (the going rate around here for a storage unit depending on the size) to store your material excess is insane. Sell the junk on eBay, at a garage sale, on Craigslist. Donate it to Goodwill or some other group. Throw it in a freaking landfill. Just quit paying all that money to store your grandmother's "antique" furniture she left behind. It was cheap then and it is junk now. Your grandmother wasn't a Rockefeller, she was a tightwad. She is rolling over in her grave and cursing your name that you are paying a small fortune each month to house her Montgomery Ward catalog furniture. Just let it go.

Are you really gonna use that Bowflex or thigh-master 2000? Will you ever fit into your clothes from college and are they even in style anymore? Your bobblehead collection of the characters of Joanie Loves Chachi? Get rid of them.

On the other-hand owning and renting them might be a good way to make a buck. So many people have so much stuff. It's probably a good business to invest in.

We have a ton of junk too, but it's all in our attic, closets, garage, shed, and every room in our house. But that's an issue for a separate post on detachment. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tip of the Day

Accelerate your equity. Make bi-monthly payments instead of monthly. With bi-monthly plans, you make half a house payment every two weeks rather than a whole payment once a month. You'll build equity faster, save tens of thousands of dollars and pay off your mortgage years ahead of schedule. Talk to your mortgage lender and see if they allow this, but make sure they don't charge you a fee.
This is a simple way to save money that doesn't cost you any extra out of pocket money each month.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rethink Your Eating-Out Attitude.

Rethink your eating-out attitude.

Food! I love eating! And I love eating out, though we do it rarely. It is awesome not having to cook and having someone to wait on you and clean up after you. It's like being a king and having your own personal servants.

But I have to have a plan when I head out. Pack food and drink and bring it with you when you head out into the world. Otherwise you will end up starving and settling for eating at any old place and paying $20 for some greasy fried food and sugar water. I hate paying more for crappy food that I can prepare better and cheaper at home.

I prefer to make eating out something special I do with my wife, and on occasion with some good friends or family. Plan it out ahead of time and be careful of spur of the moment eating out decisions. Make the good money you are spending worth it. Don't settle for second rate food and service. Your wallet and waistline will be grateful.

Tip of the Day

Pack food before you go on a road trip. Heading out on vacation or to an activity that is gonna take a few hours?

Pack some food and drinks for the trip. You know you and the kids are gonna get hungry and thirsty. That way, instead of stopping in the middle of the trip, driving around looking for a place to eat, spending a bunch of time there, and then paying a hefty bill, you can just eat on the road or, better yet, stop at a nice park and stretch for a bit. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money and a fair amount of time this way.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tip of the Day

Don't have your own teens that can babysit for you for free? Setup a babysitting exchange/swap/co-op with other parents of small children.

We now have 7 kids that are of legal babysitting age (13 years old in the People's Republic of Maryland) so we are set. Now we just have to find the extra money to go out with.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tip of the Day

House hunting? Buy a fixer-upper or foreclosure. Im not suggesting you have to buy a total wreck of a house that needs major repairs. But buying a house that needs paint, carpet and minor repairs can save you a bundle.

Here is a personal example: we bought a foreclosure that was $75,000 below market value. It was pretty beat-up. We put about $25,000 into and a whole lotta sweat. And we ended up with a nice large house that holds all our kids.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Windfall Advice

Use Your Windfalls Wisely

There are probably a few times in your life when you are gonna get a financial windfall; really large bonus at work, inheritance, insurance settlement, proceeds from a real estate sale. I'm talking 1000's of dollars not 100's.

So when this happens, what are you gonna do with it?

1) Buy a new pickup, some jet-skis, new wardrobe, take a cruise, platinum-plated golf clubs.

2) Pay down your highest-interest outstanding loan, pay down your mortgage, invest it in your retirement account, invest in a rental property?

Number 2's are gonna achieve their financial freedom a lot sooner than number 1's (if the 1's ever actually achieve it). You have to make the choice of immediate gratification now or long-term financial stability.

If/when you get a windfall, splurge and go to Chipotle and get a burrito, chips, salsa...heck you can even splurge on guacamole and a soda. Then invest/save the rest.

Tip of the Day

Thinking of buying a non-essential item, take the amount the item costs and divide it into your hourly wage. If it’s a $125 golf club pair of shoes and you make $25 an hour, ask yourself, is that golf club really worth five long hours of work? It helps keep things in perspective.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tip of the Day

Think first, then think again and then act.

According to Connie Kilmark, a financial counselor and consultant in Madison, WI. Consumers’ spending decisions are processed “5% by the numbers and 95% by emotions".

Before making any purchase, especially the large ones, ask yourself if this is a want or a need. If it's a "want" ask yourself if you can really afford it and if you could make do with something you already own or maybe borrow. Will you be jeopardizing your financial stability because you can't control your purchases? Wait a few days/weeks before making the purchase, then see if you still really want it. Impulse buying is a curse that most of us seem to suffer from at times. I have at least 25 pairs of running shoes in my closet, now I do use them and pass them on to my kids when I have worn them out, but still, 25 pair! Really? Really!

The reality is, that with a large family you are gonna have to purchase less of your wants. This may change over time as the kids get older and move on and as your income rises. But for now we are playing it safe and being careful with our purchases and maximizing our retirement savings. No living in a trailer park and eating Alpo for us.....I hope. But once the kids are out of the house I'm getting a dozen more pairs of running shoes.

If it is truly a need, then ask yourself if you are getting the best deal possible. Could you get a less expensive one (house, car, appliance etc...)? 

 And don't kid yourself, not everything on your "need" list is really a need.






Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nick Cage and John Candy are Taking it in Stride

Is this the lamest shutdown ever or what? 80% of the federal workforce is still going to work? How is 20% a shutdown? Guess it stinks if you are one of the ones told to stay home. It means that 80% of your coworkers are more important than you are. But look at it as an unplanned vacation....I mean seriously, you know when congress gets their panties un-bunched and works this out, they are gonna back-pay all the furloughed employees, so enjoy your paid break (at our expense).

Shaving Update

This is an update to my Shaving post from August.

I took the advice of a commenter and switched to a Safety Razor.

This is the type of razor your dad or granddad probably used. I remember my old man using one. I'd never tried one before but after reading up about them I decided to give it a try. It seemed that it would be a better shave and even cheaper than the disposables I had been using.

So I bought a cheapo one from Amazon, this is the one I purchased. Yes its really only $2.08 (as of today) and it comes with a blade to get you started. I've used this razor about 30 times now and it works great. Someday I may upgrade to a nicer one but this one is just fine. And the blade that came with it lasted for 15 shaves before I changed it. I have no idea how they can sell this razor for only $2.08, made with slave labor I guess. The $2.08 includes shipping, be forewarned it will take a few weeks to get to you from Hong Kong.

I bought these blades which were $6.00 at Amazon at the time of purchase. That is for a box of 100. They have since gone up a few dollars at Amazon but are still a bargin.

I am getting at least 15 shaves out of each blade, and since I shave every other day, it should be 100 months (over 8 years) before I have to buy blades again.

There is a bit of a learning curve with using a safety razor. Just use Google for suggestions on how not to slice your face off. I've shaved about 40 times with the razor and have yet to cut myself.

You can use regular shaving cream, which is what I did at first. Then I decided to try the old-style soap in a cup and brush way. I bought this starter set from Amazon for $8.99. It has one block of shaving soap, a brush (boar's hair, how cool is that) and a mug. And it's working great so far. I also got a case of shaving soap through Amazon's subscribe and save program for $16.31. One block of shaving soap seems to last forever, I'm thinking I will get 4-6 months out of each soap stick/block.

I fogure I have enough shaving supplues to last me at least 5 years. All for a total cost of $33.38. And going forward the costs should be even less unless I have to replace the razor or brush.

As for the shaving itself, its actually fun to use this setup. The shaving soap works great and so does the $2 razor. The learning curve is not difficult and the shave is closer than with a disposable or electric razor.

Tip of the Day

Got a crock pot? Use it.  A crock pot is perhaps the best deal on earth for reducing cooking costs in a busy family. You can just dump in your ingredients before work, put it on simmer, and dinner is done when you get home. There are countless recipes out there for all variety of foods, and every time you cook this way, you’re saving money as compared to eating out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tip of the Day

Don't go shopping. Procure goods. Change your attitude and purpose when going to a store.

Don't go to Stuff Mart and browse. Go with a list and a purpose. Stick to the list. You are there to procure needed goods and food.